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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,
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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)

Meh. Doesn't bother me. No, I don't wear fragrance. I'm happy the way I am and I've never found a scent that appeals to me, but it doesn't bother when I smell someone's cologne. I far prefer it to body odour and that is a far more common scenario in my experience.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteramy
oh yeah - the men's "fragrances" are the worst. I can kind of understand the grannies with their estee lauder - heck, they're old - their noses are non-working, but guys, SERIOUSLY? Most women I know are totally turned off by the heavy, cheap scent of most men's eau de toilette - Man up and wear your own natural scent proudly!!

August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkaren l
I've never been able to put my finger on what so many dudes smell like -- you put it perfectly: "musky den of sexual transactions." Ew.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
AMEN. I really wish a certain person in my office would read this. I don't wear perfume for exactly this reason (one of several).
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPatti
Is it a regional thing? I remember living on the East Coast and practically everyone I knew had a 'signature scent.' Now that we're in the Midwest, I almost never come across someone heavily perfumed (of course it's also not the 80's or early 90's). Except in Saugatuck last weekend - whew - the man walked past and you could practically see foliage wilting in his wake.

I have to admit that I'm hooked on Narcisco Rodriguez, I spray a single shot into the air and walk through it before I dress on days when I'm looking for a pick-me-up. Yes the scent is usually unnoticeable, so why bother? Because every once in a while, there's just a tiny hint of the scent and it puts me in a good mood. If I've gotten any comments on NR - I've had a few people ask what shampoo makes my hair smell so good.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterperfectionorfailure
Amen, Alice! Perfume is every bit as intrusive (and offensive) as cigarette smoke.

Y U L K.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkate
Could you please mail this to the lady who douses herself in perfume before she gets in the pool at the gym at 5:30 in the morning? Seriously, who is she trying to impress?
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMissusB
When I stop wheezing with laughter over "musky den of sexual transactions," I will tell you that I am in complete agreement. My 11-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, from inside their respective clouds of American Girl perfume and Axe body spray, are less enthusiastic. They are killing me. And my husband. And the dog.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCyndi
Could not agree with this more.

Especially considering I have allergies.

I'm pretty sure there's a TSA Homeland Security loophole so that you can press your flight attendant button so that the Air Marshall Knows What to Do.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKate S
If I ever get my hands on the makers of Axe Body Spray, I will tie them up and force them to sit in my classroom full of middle school boys who believe that the solution to post-PE stank is to soak themselves that crap. Awful.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSuperfantastic
Basically, if you can smell your own perfume/cologne/what-have-you, then you are wearing Too Much.

I wear high-quality perfume oils -- mostly because I do not like the after-smell that alcohol-based scents have (even the good ones). This means there is no spraying, no being unsure how much you are applying -- I put a dab on the spots where I want it, BEFORE getting dressed (I can't stress this enough for everyone, no matter what sort of scent you are wearing) and that is that. You can't smell me until you are in actual physical contact with me. I wear scent because I enjoy scent (some scents) -- this is the same reason I burn stupid amounts of incense at home. But I do not enjoy smelling someone -- even if they are wearing very nice-smelling stuff -- from across the room, thanks.

And also, yes, there is a time and place, no matter how discreet you are about your perfumes -- I would never wear any to my long appointments at the hospital, or on an airplane, say. But then, there is a time and place for everything (I'm looking at _you_ people who think wearing jeans and sneakers to the opera -- to the OPERA! -- is perfectly acceptable. Hmmmph.)
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMiss B
What I don't love is when someone holds my baby, then hands him back to me and instead of delicious baby smell, I now have Chanel No. 5 in a diaper.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjessica
Perfume in movie theater: nastyPerfume on airplane: also nastyBut has noone else been accosted by the lady who sprays the stuff on and then gets on the treadmill next to you at the gym? There is nothing worse, people. She sweats and the smell gets stronger. Meanwhile, you're gasping for air (or is it just me gasping for air on the treadmill?) and you're gulping obnoxious amounts of her stink. Makes me crazy. One of these days I'm going to pass out and roll right off the treadmill. And I'll have the perfume to blame, not my utter inability to get in shape.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmail From The Embassy
Eh, I'm a perfume wearer...but, I sincerely hope I am not offending anyone with it. I do understand that overwhelming stench of "old lady perfume" trying to hide the already disgusting scent of cigarettes. I sincerely hope if my perfume is revolting to anyone close to me that they'd tell me.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDenise C.
OH MY GOD PLEASE HELP ME, my husband is one of these people. He uses enough AXE body spray for the entire JV football team. Seriously. First of all, really? AXE? Can we not find something for you in the grown up aisle? Second, your manly man smell is quite nice actually, not gross at all. Stop trying to cover it up with gallons of the stuff. Sadly, I have come to realization that I don't actually have any control over my husband. I can't MAKE him do what I want. Shhhh. Don't tell our husbands. Ladies, how do I get him to stop? How do I get him to tone it down about a ten levels?

August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBecky
Recently I was in the grocery store and I encountered a cloud of mustard gas, I mean, a floral-ish yet chemical scent that made me literally gag. Imagine my horror when, several aisles later, I encountered the lady who was spreading this scent everywhere she had been as much as several minutes earlier. I literally could not be in the same aisle with her. NOT something you want to run into in the grocery store where FOOD is involved. It was horrible.

Also my sister-in-law insists on immersing herself in some horrible odor (perfume? hairspray?) that lingers after she has left the room and ON MY CHILDREN after she has hugged them. Now, I'm not a freak, but I bathe my children after they've been near her because I just can't stand it.

WHY do people do this??
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter3 to get ready
I always get a headache if I wear even "natural" scents, like honeysuckle. Oddly, I do enjoy the scent of Desitin--and receive absolutely no headache at all from it. Hm. Perhaps Desitin is my destiny scent?
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPB Rippey/sleepless mama
have this problem with my bro in law!! whenever he comes over i smell him long after he's gone. not only does his scent linger in the air but my 6 year old's clothes smell like him because she climbs all over him (okay, he's a tree. whatever.)
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjessica
I used to wear perfume. Remember Opium in the 80's? I bought the perfumed lotion. It was STRONG. I thought I was all that. The more it cost, the better I felt.

Then, I got lyme disease, and my nose took a swan dive into the shitter. I could not tolerate even a scented lotion. I think it was tied into the years of antibiotic taking to get rid of the @#$% disease.

What I was left with is only being able to tolerate certain scents. Like lavender. Some shampoos, some organically made lotions. But all lavender.

My husband's nephews wife came over for a visit, and she stunk to high heaven of vanilla and coconut. I think it must have been her hair products. Her stink ruined my night, and I felt a panic come over me. Like, I just could not take being in the same room with the overwhelming stink of that cloying double scent! I remember the panic most of all. I knew a headache would most likely come along shortly, so I made polite excuses and got myself out of my own house pronto!

I could smell it in the upper parts of my sofa back cushion, and in the living room where she tucked herself in for the evening.

She had no idea that I wanted to club her over the head with a baseball bat for wearing, or using, such a violently powerful scent. I don't know her well enough to speak up, either, if she were to come back to my house to visit.

I hate overpowering/strongly used scents. i believe a man should smell of himself, too. Much more sexually alluring than some artificial sex call potion.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
THANK YOU. A few women who work in my building wear heavy, pungent scents in cloud form, and I can TASTE the perfume. Literally, it's so powerful that if I catch a whiff, it's in my sinuses all day long and leaves a lingering taste in my mouth. What is wrong with people??
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
Oh, I forgot to mention: dryer sheets? Do they even still make these?

I used to use these also, before the @#$$ lyme disease. I liked the way our laundry smelled after I used them, and for many years, I had no issue witht the smell of our clothes on our bodies.

As I found myself becoming more and more unable to tolerate any scent for a period of time, I tossed the dryer sheets out, and everyone raised a stink (oh, lol here).

But, I also read an article not long after getting rid of this habit, to the effect that the chemical in this product caused some sort of ill effect on the body, so I was happy I'd stopped using them.

Then, my kids started going to grandma's on a regular summer basis, and she loves to do their laundry for them. And guess what she uses? Yep, either dryer sheets, or fabric softener, and I have to immediately dump all of their freshly laundered clean clothes out of their suitcases (I think the thinks she's doing her daughter in law- me - a favor by doing my kids laundry before they come back home) and into my washer, and wash them at least twice, before I can get the stink out.

Perfume is more than what people spray on their bodies!

One last thing to leave you with--while I can stand/tolerate the smell of Cheer laundry detergent, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the smell of a powdered laundry detergent from Europe called "Persil". I found it at an appliance store that sold front load washing machines. It's beyond pricey (it's insane how much this stuff costs) but when I smelled it in the store? I knew. I just knew. I love that stuff. It will give me great memories when my kids leave home.

Scent does play a part in memory, I've found.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
When I was teaching, I would have to ask the boys who doused themselves with Axe body spray to go to the school nurse and get a new shirt to wear. The smell was so horrid and strong that I would get a headache, become nauseated, and not be able to teach for the rest of the day. I have no tolerance for strong smells, and feared for the students I had who had asthma.

Thank God most of the parents were understanding when I called to tell them that Axe was not allowed in my classroom. Fifth graders do need to wear deodorant so they don't smell like wet dogs after PE, but its smell doesn't need to announce its presence to the whole world.
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteralanaransley
August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
I will join the chorus of AMENs! When my MIL stays here, I have to wash every fabric item in the guest room (curtains included!) to get the old lady perfume smell out. *vomit*
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEOMama
PS. Scented lotions are just as pukey. Sometimes more so, especially if they come from Bath & Body Works - gag!

Oh, and Ann? Frangrance allergies are very, very real. Come over and watch my daughter have a sneezing fit then break out in eczema patches if you don't believe it.
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEOMama

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