You stink. Yes, you.

A few decades ago the tide started rolling over cigarette smokers. More and more places set aside non-smoking areas indoors.Then smoking was shunted outside, until eventually more and more municipalities ultimately legislated bans on smoking in public places. A decisive win for people who recognize that their health is threatened by smoke, and for those who just don’t like it.

Perfume is the new cigarette smoke. Or, it should be.

You who wear too much of the stuff are torture to be around. You assault my nostrils, and through them, my other senses. I get a whiff of that overbearing stinkwater and my eyes water, my vision goes blurry, and my head starts pounding. My very equilibrium is thrown off. And I have to function like that all the time, because you are everywhere. You come into my office, your perfume announcing your arrival 25 feet in advance. You leave a cloud behind you that open windows and oscillating fans can’t get rid of. You sit next to me on the train, gagging me so much that I will move, clutching a strap and standing for the 30 minute trip if that’s what it takes to get away from you. You are 10 feet away from me outside, downwind, and I can smell you.

You’re wearing too much.

I’ve had good restaurant meals ruined by You Who Bathe In Your Perfume. Your chemical miasma wafts into my face. It coats the back of my throat so I want to gag, and I can’t taste my own food. If I still smoked, I’d happily light up and blow clouds right in your face. I’m tempted to anyway. It would be worth getting kicked out.

You’re wearing too much.

My grandmother, a true lady, taught me about personal scent. The thing to remember, she told me, is that it is personal. It allures, it teases, it creates a subtle note of mystery. It doesn’t overwhelm. Other people shouldn’t be able to smell you unless they are right up close to you – we’re talking inches, not feet. If you are putting on real perfume from the tiny bottles, moisten your fingertip and apply on your wrists and at the pulse of your throat. If you are using spray cologne, spritz a mist in the air and walk through it. That’s all you need. You should only be able to smell your own perfume if you hold your wrist right up to your nose. If you can smell yourself without trying, you’re wearing too much.

Smelling good is good. But when you make people’s eyes water, you are not attractive. You are the opposite of attractive. Pay attention. Do people cough or fan in front of their faces when you walk by? Do they raise their necklines to cover their noses? It’s you. They’re not acting like that because they find you delightful. You reek.

Is there something you’re trying to cover up? Do you not bathe? Are you that afraid of your own natural scent? The beauty and hygiene industries make billions of dollars by convincing us we smell bad without their chemical-laden products. I’d bet you own every “deodorant” or “fresh scent” or “spring meadow” version of every hygiene product you use, but it’s hard to tell through the cloud of cologne. Oh, and here’s a news flash:  if you’re drenching yourself in perfume to hide the fact that you smoke, it’s not working. Now you just smell like stale cigarettes and cheap perfume. (The breath mints don’t work either.)

You don’t smell anything like Marilyn looks.
Trust me.

I’m not against the concept of perfume.  I like to smell good, to smell sexy.  Perhaps it’s the alcohol used to set perfume oils that gets to me.  I make my own scent, my unique combination of essential oils that I dilute in distilled water and dab on like parfum. It doesn’t cause problems like commercial perfumes do, so maybe that’s the answer. But I also don’t pour a tub of it over my head.  It drives my husband wild, and part of that may be because he has to nuzzle my neck in order to smell it.  That’s what perfume is for.

If you don’t care that you annoy the hell out of people, consider that you are a hazard to other people’s health. For many people perfume is a bona fide medical concern, a severe one, triggering everything from sinus attacks, nausea, and migraines clear on up to anaphylactic attacks. Most commercial perfumes smell the way they do because of the chemicals that are in them, that the manufacturers aren’t even required to divulge under the “trade secret” doctrine. Chemicals. Toxins. Poison. Read this if you don’t believe me. Read it anyway. More and more workplaces ban the use of perfumes, for good reason. (Maybe not the altruistic reason of caring about their employees’ health, but the practical reason of not wanting to lose a lawsuit.) Health care providers are number one for banning the use of perfume or scented products on the job, because they know better. Why do you insist on making other people breathe that?

Still. I’m not going to allow you to save face by claiming I have an allergy. I suspect a lot of people say they have an allergy when they really don’t. They probably hope you’ll take them more seriously. It shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t take believing that you are adversely affecting someone’s health. The simple knowledge that you are offensive should be enough.

Easy does it!

Oh, wait…maybe I can use that allergy bit. Maybe I should claim I’m allergic to bigotry…and people who yap on their phones in public…and door-to-door religion peddling…hmmm…

Marilyn photo:  scarletSmth@flickr-Creative Commons.


Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

2 thoughts on “You stink. Yes, you.”

  1. I wish you could see me right now – because I'm applauding and giving you a great big ole' standing ovation! Amen to everything you said, Deborah! I have bronchial/breathing problems and suffer with asthma attacks now and then. Perfume/cologne (especially when used by others excessively) is a very real problem for me. It's like Kryptonite was to Superman. Breathing in perfumed air will reduce me to fits of coughing and gagging. It's not at all pleasant and for the life of me, I can't understand why so many people insist on bathing in the stuff when wearing it? Have they no common sense at all … or concern for others? Not everyone wants to smell their perfume of choice! Not everyone can handle it. Like your grandmother, my mom had the right idea as well: “A little dab will do you.”

    I am going to share this post all over the place: G+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & StumbleUpon. I hope zillions of people see and read it … and that it makes them stop and think before they once again decide to dump half a bottle of perfume or cologne on themselves and go out in public!

    From the very bottom of my heart and with all the capacity that remains in my lungs, I thank you for writing this awesome post, Deborah. It needed to be said!


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