Home - Top Row


Home - Bottom Row

Let's Panic: The Book!

Order your copy today!

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

Some Books
I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

Home - Middle Row

Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

« Do you doubt that he can make the seas part? You should not. | Main | Eye of the tiger! »


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)

We are not allowed to wear perfume at work. Now after 11 years of working perfume free, if someone has too much on, I am overly sensitive to it, and I never was before. I must say that there is nothing nicer than hugging someone and getting a whiff of something yummy. (as in..."mmmm, you smell GOOD). Perfume should be a private surprise.
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
Oh dear goodness, we went to the theater to see a play Saturday night and through the whole first half I was distracted and quite nauseated by the lady in front of me wearing very strong perfume. Who kept fanning herself with her Playbill. It "faded!" a little the second half but I still had a headache. Short answer - amen, sister!
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
I couldn't agree more...
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle
I love Girl Friday's comment. It made me think about my MIL and dude, she is totally right. The people that wear gallons of perfume tend to have a personality that is just as rude and abrasive as their perfume cloud!
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKarly
I work with a lady that sales Avon. I love her, she never smells of too much Avon. However, she breaks out the samples, and the entire building is overwhelmed with 50 different perfumes. What's worse, is she sells the stuff to a guy at work who showers in it. You can smell him if you walk into a room 30 minutes after he left. We beg her to stop selling it to him. She says she will if we buy enough to replace the income she is loosing. She can pay her car note with the amount of Avon he showers in.
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRenee
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commentershokufeh
so weird that you posted this today! i walked into an empty elevator that was FILLED with cologne and peppery goodness. i traveled 10 floors with it and my eyes are still itchy...
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterroni
The perfume in the humidity is the worst, because not only are you smelling someone else's overapplied scents, you're also tasting it. I mean come on. As if trying to breathe in damp air isn't bad enough, it has to be flowery scented and flavored damp air.
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin @ Fierce Beagle
this always bothered me as well, but i must say it gets so much worse when you are pregnant. i am 8.5 months pregnant and have been trapped in an elevator with a perfumed person!i swore i would throw up on them if i indeed could not keep my lunch down :)
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkim
Oh yes, Hollister and Abercrombie! I don't mind a light sent on people, but those two stores douse the air with such horrid, overpowering stench that I can't spend more than a minute in them.
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDiane
When will people realize that the sexiness of scent is to get too close to barely catch a hint.

That's what makes it sexy..the thought that you crossed personal boundaries..a touch, a hint...that's what does it.
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra
My boss' wife wears too much perfume. If you walk in a room you can smell her if she has been there. I like her perfume, so its not so bad. But she is definitely potent...

August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
Try explaining that a little scent goes a long way to middle schoolers... in particular, sixth grade boys. You can TASTE it in the air after P.E. We keep trying to explain that after you walk by someone should think that "gee, what is that lovely scent"- not be knocked out 20 feet BEFORE you arrive at the person.

August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathy
People who think heavy fragrance is no big deal are like smokers who think their habits are nobody's business. "It's just smoke, relax." "It's just perfume, relax." (Obviously, there's a serious long term health difference for everyone with smoking, but for me and many others there is a short term similarity between the two).

Either way, I'm going to avoid you because I'm going to be dealing with a stuffy nose, persistent cough, itchy eyes, and a headache if I don't. Allergies are just so much fun to *pretend* to have. Gah.
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAli
I've always loved perfumes but a certain smell. I actually like the smell of freshness, like you just got out of the shower. I love perfumes that say powder fresh, light and clean!
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRoya
I think I'm going to make a flier out of this post and hand it out to those who need it.

It's a ministry, yes?
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTSM Oregon
ALEXANDRA! You hit the nail smacko on the head! I am going to write this down and hand it to both my sons. Who do not wear any type of fragrance, as I've mentioned, i cannnot tolerate it.

But, subtlety? Is so so sexy. And that's the key!

I find that smokers tend to be the VERY WORST offenders. I think their impaired nasal (and taste, btw0 machinery makes them think that they are not soaking in perfume. They just don't have the mechanics of smell anymore, due to their filthy disgusting habit.

Ahhhh, I grew up w/smokers. And stunk like them until I moved out at 17!
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
The airplane thing just happened to me last week. Part of the woman one row in front of me across the aisle's prep for arriving (after a transatlantic flight) was to spray herself, and all the rest of us unhappy enough to be within range, with a liberal dose of some godawful eau de something sick making. WTF???!!!
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim
the worst is when you are trapped on an elevator with someone who took a bath in perfume, then you get off alone at another floor when someone else is getting on. As the new arrival enters the lingering cloud, I always want to say "It wasn't me!! I swear!"
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterR
I think people don't understand that over time, you get used to certain smells, especially your own smells, and so after a while they apply enough perfume or cologne for them to smell it on themselves all day, but they don't realize they've used half the bottle.

This bugs me so much too, as my husband is SUPER allergic to perfumes and whenever we're in public and someone who doused head to toe walks by, he's reduced to a sneezing, coughing mess and we usually have to go home. And sometimes it's just someone we walk by at Target, but sometimes it's been our cashier, our ticket taker, our WAITER. So I just beg of anyone in the service industry: LEAVE IT AT HOME.
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth in SF
Artificial manufactured scents... gross. I can't fucking stand it.

And my fiance, with that FUCKING AXE bullshit... Seriously, I don't want to jump your bones when you wear it! When he sprays it, I gag and run away. It smells like he is killing me slowly with alcohol spraysmellhlakdjfdlsiyogg...

Stop it people.

oh and while we are on the subject...In the ladies room at work, don't take a "number two" and then proceed to SPRAY THE SHIT (literally) out of the bathroom while I'm trapped choking in the stall. Now it just smells like FLOWER SHITS, no make that chemical FLOWER SHITS.

Ah, this one struck a nerve, can you tell?
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCC
Hmmm. Well, I love perfume. I mix it up, I have many, many, many kinds. However, I put hardly any on. How do I know I put hardly any on? Because I too have severe allergies, to perfume even. So I am very judicious in what I wear, and how much of it I wear. I totally understand people who suffer sneezing fits when they inadvertently walk into a cloud of someone else preferred scent. When that happens to me, I have to break out my inhailer. That is just downright miserable. My dear sweet husband used to be one of those offenders. I love his cologne, but I swear to god I COULD NOT BREATHE after he put it on. I could never figure out how much he was wearing, because I was never there to see him bathe in it. The poor guys suffers from what I call a "Broke Nose" meaning he can't smell ANYTHING. So I soon realized what he was doing was putting on cologne, squirt after squirt after squirt, until he could smell it. OH MY GOD. So we had a powwow, and I showed him the proper appropriate amount to use (hint: next to nothing), and he's been no longer knocking over the masses ever since.
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachael

August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSwedish Pankakes
It's no worse than body odor and just like perfume, most people are unable to smell themselves. They become accustomed to it, but rest assured the rest of us can smell you quite readily. Often even their spouses can't smell it. Gross.

As for allergies, sure, it's a real thing but so too are environmental allergies to pollen but we can't eradicate all pollinating plants. I think in private spaces there should be policies against perfume (I don't wear fragrance, personally) but in public places it's just an unfortunate part of life. Until they can prove second hand fragrance causes cancer, or another terminal disease, I don't see anything changing.
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteramy
Amen squared! I especially hate when nurses in hospitals are drenched in perfume. All our hospitals have "no scent" policies, which apparently don't apply to staff. Hmmm... really?
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGinnie

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>