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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)

Try this: BODY SHOP COCONUT BODY BUTTER. Then buy it for everyone you know. The world will thank you. So will your nose.
August 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynda
Oh, yes, there has to be a balance between BO and over-perfumed and you hit the balance perfectly.
August 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShellie
Amen. And, yes, let's not forget the havoc too much scent can wreak on people with allergies, asthma and generally sensitive sinuses. It's an ongoing problem
August 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter--Deb
Urgh, I agree. And now that I have a partner who's immunosuppressed in ways that include chemical sensitivity, I get how other people can be made miserable by what merely annoys me.

Here's how I like perfume: a single-drop dab on your throat or the nape of your neck. Only someone who kisses you should know. And even they should get to say no to it if it makes them sneeze.
August 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
Oh my gosh! I'm so with you on this!! My sister is one of those nasty nose offenders. She came and stayed at our house for a long weekend at the same time I was just barely pregnant and experiencing pretty normal morning sickness ickyness. She knew her sticky scent of choice was making it worse so she was trying to avoid me when she doused herself. One morning she was getting herself cleaned up for the day while I was downstairs on the couch praying for the ickyness to pass and I caught this HUGE whiff of her sugary sweet perfume. She was upstairs on the other side of our house so she thought she was safe from my offended nose and stomach. So did I. After, how shall I say this nicely, losing my dignity on the floor, I yelled up stairs at her informing her, in a not so nice and gentle way, that she was trying to kill me. Turns out she had sprayed her layer of sugary sweet perfume right under the air conditioning intake in our house spreading her swill throughout. It was bad enough in person but pumped out full force onto my pregnant self was too much to deal with.

And yes, she is one of those who ALWAYS says and honestly believes, it fades after a while. (That's why I could never convince her to not wear it while around me) I think it's more a case of her sense of smell is shut off by her brain for lack of pure oxygen. Because that stuff doesn't fade but only gets sweeter and more sugary as time goes on. It's like a floral spray paint.
August 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoy @ Mommys Joy
I swim laps for exercise, and when somebody else in the pool is wearing perfume it's really annoying. You can tell every time you pass them, even though they're two lanes over and your goggles are completely fogged, because you pass through their big cloud of smelly water (chlorine doesn't enhance any perfume, by the way).
August 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLinda S.
Hear, hear! I don't have allergies but the stuff makes me gag.
August 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawn
Ahhh, to be a (dorm-dwelling) sophomore in college once again, where, after walking through Seattle's early morning rain I find myself in Psych 208...along with approximately 250 sorority-dwelling young women, their body wash, their cologne, their hair spray and their damp, moist clothes. Close the door and try to concentrate.

Or, imagine you are a fundraiser for a Seattle arts non-profit. Also a rainy day -- assemble 20 wealthy, high-dollar perfume wearing society lady board members. Close the doors, turn up the heat. Now, try to take notes!

But, it's the sensible 00's these days, my Unitarian fellowship, my yoga studio, my doctor's office, are all scent free! Smell the love.
August 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTracy T.
I have multiple chemical sensitivity and one of my triggers is perfume. Smelling someone's overbearing perfume literally makes me sick. Your scent should be a gift to the (wo)man you're dancing cheek to cheek with, not an assult on the world.
August 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlauria
My boss at work was really asthmatic and the smell of perfumes and scented stuff would totally set him off so I ended-up wearing unscented deodorant and being really careful about the shampoo that I used for years. I noticed that during that "scentless time" (which was 10 years) I was MUCH more sensitive to other peoples perfumes and deodorants than I was afterwards. A person's nose becomes used to what it smells. However, I still think that people who take a bath in fragrance from the duty free store or buy a bottle ON THE PLANE and then spray it need to be sent to a very special hell...
August 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Jane
I had a co-worker who was very sensitive to smells, so no one was allowed to wear perfume or cologne.

Thankfully, because who wants to be stuck in an office with usually overpowering scents (men are the worst victims).

To try to feel more like a lady though, I try and remind myself to spritz something light on...outside of work!
August 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina
Bossy's first job was spraying perfume in a department store. They had the nerve to call it Modeling. Bossy hasn't mustered the nerve to be around perfume since.
August 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBOSSY
My dog rolls in crap. My baby craps in a diaper. I clean out the cat box filled with crap.

I feel the need for a perfume with the "essence" of crap.

I think I have a winner of an idea here.
August 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
Well I might for once will be a lone disennter but seriously I think many here are all in a palaver over nothing.

Sure some might go a little heavy sometimes but sheeesh they haven't murdered your babies!
August 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCanadaSteph
The two times I have actually worn perfume-I kept thinking damn it- what is THAT SMELL? Where is it coming from? It seems to follow me everywhere....all recollection of having put it on myself-gone (dang short term memory).
August 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
After my mother visits, my infant son smells like a woman. A heavily-perfumed woman.
August 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDana
I love the second to last paragraph. I also love moist clutches. You are a funny gal.
August 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMamaCass

Thank you.
August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNancy R
When my daughter was born, a lady randomly walked into my hospital room. It was night time. Both my baby and I were sleeping, all I could smell was a cloud of strangling Estee Lauder perfume and my own fear. It turns out she was a friend of my mother-in-law's coming to see the baby, but still. Stranger with too much perfume that might have stolen my baby. yuck.
YES GOD YES. Pet peeve over here as well. It's meant to be only just detectable when you get really close to someone, not as a deterrent and/or insecticide.

I think it's a territorial thing: my first office job, by which I mean job in an airtight hermetically sealed environment with no opening windows, was dominated by this silverback of a woman called Carol who would spray clouds of Eau de Gag all over herself IN MID-OFFICE, several times a day. It's like dogs peeing on lampposts. She even did that thing Charlie does, kicking her legs out behind her after each spraying.
August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAntonia
I also hate it when someone farts up ahead of me on an escalator, but I have to admire their evil genius.
August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAntonia
Agreed so much! Most perfumes give me such a huge and throbbing headache for the rest of the day, but that's nothing compared to this: I once knew a girl in high school who would go into anaphylactic shock if she even caught barely a whiff of any scented product. Epipens abound. She couldn't go into her favorite store in the mall because they would spray the scents in there before buying them. Ugh.

Short version: perfume is fine to wear, as long as you don't REEK of it. Would you like to be responsible for someone having an extreme allergic reaction and possibly dying? Thought not.
August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJules
This reminds of a Terry Pratchett character called Foul Ole Ron, whose scent is so pungent that it not only lingers after he's gone (ensuring flames burn with a blue edge) but also arrives before he does.

August 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterQoB
I am just happy you've started showering babe and promise not to suffocate you with my fabulous smell next time we see each other. I smell damn good as you well know... In the lovely city of London, I prefer the smell of perfume than the smell of those on the Tube who believe washing/use of deodorant is optional. Irene xx
August 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterIrene Ilias
Ahmen. I think perfume is like homeopathic medicine. Dilute it first a 1000 times with water and only then is it probably ok, but consider using a water placebo instead anyway (as long as you're washing regularly, you probably smell fine) ;-)
August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

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