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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)

August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKingsmom
I spent a whole semester in college sitting next to someone who bathed in cologne. really, I think he used a bottle every morning. so, I spent every class breathing through my hand. he never got the hint.

I hate perfume and cologne
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea
Alice,This entry immediately made me think of a substitute teacher I had in the 7th grade. She passed behind me once while I was standing at my locker and I literally choked. She also had quite the abrasive personality and would have taken great offense to any negative comments about herself or her obscene amount of perfume. Her obsession with angels was also a topic of great conversation considering she ALWAYS wore a GIANT angel pin on the back of her left shoulder. (Yes, the back) She said it was watching over her. She was quite the character.Anyway… the point I’m trying to make is that despite the not so good day I had, your blog made me reminisce, laugh and cheer up. I appreciate your sense of humor!

August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulia
I have two things to say: first, there is a temp at my work who sprays cologne throughout the day at his desk (which being a temp is right beside the copier anf fax machine so of course you can't avoid walking past his desk as you go about your day) and it is so vile and overpowering that I can't help but make weird nostril flaring and eye bulging faces whenever I go by there.Second, I suppose I was one of those young obnoxious girls when I was 17 who oversprayed my many scents (one at a time, but still...) and my father, who like you and your commentors find other people`s perfume so offensive, in a fit of olfactory induced rage packaged up all my perfumes one day in a shoebox, sealed with duct tape and drove the box out to the country, and let them out in the middle of a dirt road somewhere (he told my mother this, and my mother told me)... it was as if he was afraid they would somehow find there way back to the house if he had merely chucked them in the dumpster behind the corner store (or some other place equally as close). Of course being 17 and always right, so hard done by etc etc, I did make it my mission to replace each and every bottle he had liberated... I never did spray perfume in the house again though. In fact to this day I hestitate before wearing any sort of scent to my parent`s house.
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbecks
I have yet to find a scent that doesn't give me a massive headache...
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJasmine
Hear hear!

August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVeronica
Thank you! On more than one occasion I have had to break out my inhaler because someone around me was wearing perfume and leaving clouds of scent behind them. It's awkward for me to tell someone their fragrance triggers my asthma, but I should not have to seek medical attention just because someone is overly fond of their perfume.
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermosker
Since most perfumes trigger a migraine I'm not a big fan, especially when I smell like someone else's Opium or Angel just because I rode the elevator with them.

Rule of thumb: if you can smell the perfume on yourself you have too much on. Try a spritz, not a shower.
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusie
I'm starting to think my nose must be broken, because I never notice the clouds of perfumey stench that everyone else is talking about. I hate the scent of the floral section at the supermarket, though -- I like flowers growing in a garden, but florist flowers are cloying and gross.

(Oh, and I do wear perfume sometimes, but just a spray on each wrist. My mother always said any more than that was too much.)
August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa
Definitely agree. The thing that makes it worse is that people don't realize they are ALREADY wearing layers of scent before they apply their perfume - if everything from soap and shampoo to lotion and hairspray has an odor and then you add your perfume? You can wind up smelling like a floral fruit salad doused with alcohol. Is that supposed to be appealing?
August 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNTE
I had to come back and comment again. A customer just came in my office with perfume so strong that it is burning my nose, throat, and even my ears from 25 feet away. *gasp* I can even taste it and it does not taste very good. It is very possible I may pass out at some point from lack of oxygen.
August 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelinda
AMEN.. and please! If you are wearing perfume, don't go around asking to hold someones baby! Ugh, not only did my baby loose his cool in the arms of an uber-scenter but he would smell like them for hours! YUCK. I wanted to kill my sister-in-law when they came and stayed with us while my son was 6months old. EVERY DAY WITH THE PERFUME! and we weren't even GOING anywhere.
August 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBecky
August 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber Smith
I made this mistake recently. I was on a motorcycle tour and knew I wasn't going to be bathing for a few days so I went with the old high school practice we called "Italian Showers". I went into the store and picked up the first spray cologne I could find, which was Axe Body Spray.At the campsite the next morning I could be smelled from 30 yards and everyone thought I was putting on bug spray.
August 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGrizzly Kitteh
I also work in a hospital. There is only one floor using those scent machines like those in public restrooms. The one time I made a "suggestion" (our hospital's complaint form) about the particular scent being used in the halls, I was called and sarcastically asked if I had any better ideas on how to cover the poopy smell?? Other floors (there are 7 others) somehow figure it out. I cannot believe I am the only person to complain. The smell is a cross between baby powder and hmmm maybe gun powder? Horrible! And rude! And after many emails with housekeeping, I just gave up. Sad.
August 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGretchen
I totally disagree with you. I like it when people smell nice. Not overpowering, but nice, and I don't mind smelling it even when not being embraced by them.

I think it's part of some people's whole "look", and I'd rather they smelt slighty too much of perfume then too much of old sweat...
August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHelen
I think more often than not I smell someone's perfume on the street or the train and think, "That smells divine! I wish I was brave enough to ask them what perfume they're wearing."

The allergy thing is real, though: my husband's mum and sister both suffer from asthma which is triggered by strong scents (candles, potpourri, perfume).

I've also heard that women are more sensitive to smells/scents at certain points during their menstrual cycle. I'd be interested to hear if any anti-scent commenters go through phases of sensitivity or whether heavy perfume's an issue it's all the time for them.
August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMrsA
There used to be a director at my company who wore so much perfume it was overwhelming. I hated it if I had a meeting with her first thing in the morning in a small enclosed conference room!

I admit to wearing perfume but only at the aforementioned pulse points. Also, I can't stand even smelling it on myself so it has to be something fairly mild and unobtrusive.
August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMauigirl
I'm always suspect of people who don't like dogs and people who wear too much cologne/perfume. I have to assume they're hiding something.
August 13, 2009 | Unregistered
I don't want to smell anyone's body or perfume smell. Stay clean so your body doesn't stink and knock if off with the perfume. I'll do the same and we'll all be happy.
August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeenThere
I had a boyfriend in college who wore so much of his "signature scent" that it lingered hours after he'd left the room. It was like dating the nursing home elevator. You could track him around campus by smell alone. I've always been against manufactured scent, particularly now that I'm cooking professionally and we're not allowed to wear anything that interferes with the food (is this milk still good? I don't know, let me smell it. Smells like lily of the valley...)Anyway, one break this fellow sent me a stuffed bear sprayed with his terrible perfume, to "remember him" while he was across the country. I recently found it in a box in my parents' garage, and IT STILL SMELLED LIKE PERFUME. Almost ten years later. Disgusting.
August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlison
I agree 100%. I actually avoid the make-up/perfume counter at department stores for this very reason.
August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAsianmommy
I once read that you should spray the perfume in the air in front of you, above your head, and then walk under it. That is how much you should be wearing. Here in Canada, the use and wearing of any scented products in hospitals has been banned and signs are posted in businesses asking that scents not be worn. I worked in a government office that had a scent policy that had to be adhered to or it was punishable by death. It's the only time Canada actually uses the death penalty. So be very careful what you smell like when you are here. Bacon is ok though, as long as it is Canadian bacon.
August 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLinda
AYMENKeep on preaching, sister.
August 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCalamity Jill
The tragedy of it is that people quickly become incapable of smelling their own perfume. Once they're used to it, they can't smell it AT ALL. That's why they can saturate themselves with it, leave the house absolutely reeking, all the while completely unaware of how offensive they are being.
August 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentervictoria

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