I have a hypersensitive sense of smell, which means I can smell a lot more than the average person, and most aromas are like “smell concentrate” for me. That’s a really big problem, especially when I’m in public and people are wearing perfume. In fact, the perfume thing is so bad that I sometimes have to leave stores and restaurants because of the smell — and I bet I’m not alone.
Just to give you an idea how much of an impact this has on my daily life: I had to find soap that doesn’t have any scent at all. Essential oils count, too, so that really limits my soap choices. I can’t go down the detergent aisle at the grocery store, so I have to find someone to grab my laundry soap off the shelf for me. If you’re smoking in your car with the windows rolled up, I can smell you in my car. With my windows rolled up.
And then there’s perfume. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, if you call it perfume or cologne, the stuff is like an airborne toxin to people like me. It leads in ahead of you like a burning wall, and trails you like tentacles that wrap around everyone’s throat while sucking the air out of the room, blanketing everything with its clingy-heavy smell.
Just because you can’t see perfume doesn’t mean it won’t hurt people
I’ve been asked several times what perfume smells like to me. It smells like breathing kerosene, gravel and barbed wire. If it’s supposed to smell really sweet, or baby fresh, add in the sensation of snorting granulated dish washing detergent.
It’s a show stopper, and on more than one occasion has led to awkward moments when I have to get up and rush out of a conversation or meeting because I simply can’t catch my breath. Saying that you “only put on a little” is akin to saying “I only dropped a small bomb on your house.”
Perfume: It’s like breathing kerosene, barbed wire & gravel
When perfumed people come into my local coffee shop I usually have to hold a napkin over my nose and mouth to breathe, and if the scent is really strong I end up having to rush outside and brave the cigarette smoke until they’re gone. Looking through the window at my drink while I wait is more common than you’d think because remembering to grab the cup while my lungs and throat feel like they’re collapsing is pretty hard to do. Turns out that’s an amazingly distracting sensation.
Drinks don’t taste as good when you can’t get at them
Abandoning my groceries because someone with heavy perfume is in the store? Yeah, I’ve had to do that. When I could finally go back into the store my groceries were still waiting, so that was cool because I didn’t have to start my shopping over.
There are times that I really wish I had a space suit I could wear when I go out just so I wouldn’t have to deal with overpowering perfume smells I face every day. OK, and let’s be honest: wearing a space suit would be really cool.
I know some people really like wearing perfume, and there are people that really love those scents on their friends or significant other. I’m OK with that, and I don’t have any problem with people wearing as much perfume as they want as long as it isn’t in public. The grocery store, the office, at school, your favorite coffee shop, restaurants… those aren’t the places for perfume.
If you enjoy perfume, try thinking of it as an accessory for intimate experiences. The kind of experiences that we associate with the privacy of our homes and bedrooms, not a deep conversation at the coffee shop. Just as I don’t want to be exposed to your perfume over lunch, I’m betting you really don’t want to see me ordering a sandwich while wearing nothing more than naughty underpants.
So how about we agree to keep our intimate stuff, whether it’s perfume or sexy knickers, for our special personal encounters?
And I’m not asking just for me. I’m also asking for everyone else that’s afraid to say something, kids that don’t realize they shouldn’t have to be exposed to smells that burn their eyes and throat, people with asthma, and everyone with allergies.