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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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I do not understand perfume. I do not understand people who wear perfume.

If you are walking around right now enveloped in a cloud of manufactured scent, and I happen to smell you as I pass, I will think you might be a jerk.

I stress might. Look, I have relatives who wear way too much perfume (or cologne). Some of them I love. Some of them are jerks. Some of them are jerks whom I love. It's complicated.

I admit that I wouldn't be writing this if it weren't hot and humid out there. If I hadn't just been walking the dog, both of us staggering in the heat and humidity, gasping for air, only to twice get nosefuls of someone else's idea of a fantastical flower garden, or musky den of sexual transactions.

(I realize this comes shortly after I posted about how rarely I shower. ) (A habit which, I should mention, has changed since I started going to the gym so much.) (You really do have to shower when you've been Pushing it to the Max and the like.) (My point is, this is not an ongoing Campaign in Defense of Body Odors.)

I am not completely Anti-Scent. You want a scented lotion, you go right ahead. If you want to apply a scent to your pulse points such that you gift your smell only on those in your moist clutches, that's your prerogative. But when you are applying enough scent such that people not in your embrace are left smelling you after you've gone, that is wrong on so many levels.

I know someone who shrouds herself in her signature eau de toilette before going out, leaving everyone in her vicinity coughing and teary-eyed. "Oh, but it fades," she says. "That's why I have to put on so much." Ah. So. For an hour or two, you blind everyone in your vicinity. But at least after that you won't have to deal with the horror of faded scent. The shame! How could you stand it?

Not to mention, why would you douse yourself with odors right before going out? You realize that other people are making the same mistake, right? Did you know that the only thing worse than overly strong perfume is competing perfumes? Do you want your stink to overpower theirs, is that it? Is this some kind of domination thing?

Also, if you're reading this thinking, "I know! I hate those other people's scents –but MINE! Oh, mine is an exquisite commingling of basil and mint with notes of an animal-like rawness," you may be right. Most people might think you are an olfactory delight. But you're still probably grossing someone out.

In short, you may wear scent if you want, but please do not have a smell that other people have to smell whether they want to or not. That's just basic civility. I thank you.

Reader Comments (162)

I love perfume. On me. Quietly- or the scent equivalent there of-When I was pregnant I couldn't go into any store that had a perfume section, because the smells would make me puke.The worst thing ever was I had tickets- GOOD tickets, 5th row, center, to Miss Saigon, one of my favorite musicals of ALL TIME and I sat directly in front of a man wearing an entire bottle of SKUNK JUICE. He smelled awful. And it ruined the performance for me.I'd still like to shank that bastard.Also, another gross thing- when you wear cologne to the gym and you sweat and you don't wipe down the machine and then I come along and sit down at the machine NOT REALIZING its drenched in your permafunk and then I smell like your nasty smell for the rest of my workout. GROSS. And inconsiderate. Shudder.

August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAriel
You are my new personal hero. Thank you.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKirsten
The worst for me is when people in child care wear perfume, even just a little. Then my child comes home smelling like them! Eew! Bath time!!
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer L.
THANK YOU! Most perfumes make me sneeze, several give me a raging headache. Now as Jennifer L says my baby comes home from day smelling like cheap perfume. Hate it - but what do you do?
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelly
yes yes yes!!! way back yonder when I was but a child and worked at the venerable Hampton Inn, a man came down for the breakfast bar (which was AT LEAST 35 ft away from the front desk her I was) and his cologne was so strong I thought it would knock me down. I seriously kept looking for a stenchy person hiding under the counter because I could not believe he could smell that strongly from that distance. My eyes were watering, and i spent the entire time he was in the lobby willing him not to have any questions for me so he wouldn't come any closer. bleck!
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlonek8
Perfume doesn't fade, people think it does because their noses get used to it. Blech.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenn
My favorite is when I'm swimming laps at the gym and someone GETS IN THE POOL WITH THEIR SUFFOCATING CLOUD OF STINK. Every time I come up to breath I'm accosted by their chemical funk. Damn all the swimmers who feel compelled to wear perfume into the frickin' pool. Damn them.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmyAnne
I use perfume SPARINGLY because I get so angry when I am out and a wall of scent hits me like a brick to the face. I see it a lot with really young girls and older ladies. My mom, for instance soaks herself in Ciara and then soaks her hair in weird hair products that also have their own scents. It's a strong and gaggy smell. However, like some other commenters, I am most physically bothered by men who bathe in their body sprays. Someone should tell them that smelling like a medicine cabinet is not the only cure for man-stink.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSomer
i could not agree more.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkate
And what the HELL is up with those rank stores in the mall featuring half-nude, barely pubescent models, and a cologne stench so bad I have hold my nose even when I'm two stores away? I'm looking at you, Hollister.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterYolanda
We had a no-perfume policy at the hospital I used to work at and I never understood why people were complaining.I think that if someone has an issue with body odor, the smell of their body odor only sticks around for a tiny bit of time, whereas someone wearing a lot of perfume to cover up their body odor is actually doing much more damage to the senses.

I hate hate hate having to smell other peoples choice of perfume/cologne. I want to live in a perfume-free world.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkaylen

But how, how, I wonder, could you write something like this and neglect the horrible, dreadful, awful (etc. ad NAUSEUM) invention which goes by the name patchouli?

Perfume gives me a headache. Patchouli makes me throw up. toss-up (heh) as to which is worse.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErika
I wear perfume daily, 2 sprays max at pulse points...and I VERY frequently get compliments on my "scent". Just goes to show me that my 1-2 pulse point dots are MORE than enough to last me for the day :)
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie
also SOME people have ALLERGIES. if I pass someone walking around in a halo of perfume, I go into a sneezing fit.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteralphafemme
Amen, sister. My 93 year old grandmother wears so much perfume that I can smell the scent on my furniture DAYS after she has gone home. I can smell the scent from OUTSIDE the car she has been riding in. That is probably one reason I never wear perfume.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna Marie
OMG yes! And if I may also address the over-perfumed population of the world? My toddler has asthma. Every time we pass you in the mall/street/supermarket/what-have-you, I have to break out her inhaler. You suck.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercindy w
I think I disagree -- people shouldn't wear strong scent if they will be seated in close proximity to others for an extended time, but otherwise, I think that we have to get used to the fact that we don't have a right to smell whatever we like whenever we like it. Life smells! And far fewer people have allergies to scent than claim to, in my opinion. Mostly, we wish to pretend we are ALONE at all times.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnn
(edit: we don't have a right to smell OR NOT SMELL what we want, when we want it)
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnn
Oh my goodness, I couldn't agree with you more. Only I disagree with the previous poster who stated that the worst place to encounter this phenomena is in a movie theater. I give you this: AN AIRPLANE. Yup. In front of me. TWICE.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
I am surprised that you are not offended by scented lotions. Some of them are so completely overwhelming - sickly, sweet. Ugh. They can be just as bad or worse than perfumes b/c they are slathered all over the body. Ick, ick, ick.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRitamarie
I agree.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBobbi Janay
I think perfume is sort of an advance personality warning system. You can tell a lot about a person from the sent they chose and how much they feel necessary to slather on. Sure, some are pretty offensive but so are people's clothes and hairstyles and speaking voices and grammer and manners. I guess what I'm saying is why bother to be bothered when there is SO MUCH to be bothered about?
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGirl Friday
Alice: Don't ever step foot in an Abercrombie & Fitch store. Or walk by, for that matter. They pump fragrance out at you. It's so bad that you end up smelling like A&F for hours after just walking past the open doors.

I read a blog quote once that said after spending time in A&F the write felt like, "the unwitting participant in a boy-band gang bang." So, you know, STAY AWAY.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermadge
I also hate men who drench themselves in chemically badness. My last boyfriend used to wear something (I don't know what) that smelled, well, just like every other gross men's scent, but had the added benefit of numbing my lips whenever I would kiss his neck-area. Yuck! Once he stopped wearing it, per my request, he smelled so much lovelier. Like a person. And pheromones. Which is waaay more sexy, even with a bit of (gasp!) B.O. thrown in the mix.

The worst place I've ever been as far as gagging misty clouds of manufactured smell was southern Spain. The toilet paper was pink. And scented. The yogurt was artificially flavored. Riding the escalator in the mall was like rising through cloud after cloud of the intermingling, breath-taking offal from an abattoir-cum-glade plug-in factory. Blech!

Also bad? Axe body spray. Lush cosmetic stores (especially kiosk ones like in airports).

Alright, time to stop.

August 10, 2009 | Unregistered
Ann, consider yourself lucky that you're not affected, but the allergy thing is real.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTraci

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