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Thou Shalt Not…

November 19, 2010


Powerful words. Strong words. Emotional Words. Words to live by.

Far be it from be to imagine myself omnipotent, but if I could be omnipotent for just a moment or two, I’d like to add one more “Shalt Not” to the list and that is, “Thou Shalt Not Wear Gobs of Perfume or Cologne in Public”.

I don’t understand why some people have to bathe themselves in scents and it amazes me how these people presume that everyone who smells them will enjoy their choice of fragrance as much as they do. It’s bad enough when you’re walking outside and you pass someone on the street and they’ve overdone the scent because you pass out of the ‘Aroma Zone’ soon enough, but get stuck on a bus or in a small room with one of these intemperate Esprit de Parfumers and it’s grueling. If you have allergies, forget it. And if you don’t have allergies, you will shortly.

Are the body’s natural smells so bad that they need to be covered up?

Another “Shalt Not” I think I’d like to add is, “Thou Shalt Not Tailgate Drivers Who Are Observing the Speed Limit Whilst Driving in the Right Lane”.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. CELT permalink
    November 19, 2010 10:55 am

    “Are the body’s natural smells so bad that they need to be covered up?” you ask. Maybe not but society today (or is it just Madison Avenue?) has made us THINK we should make sure nothing natural shows up in the air we breathe. I mean if you watch TV nowadays we are assaulted with commercials trying to get us to wipe out all naturally occuring odors, be they dog, cooking, gym shoe, cat box, whatever with Febreeze, scented candles, Lysol Spray, whatever. etc., ad nauseum.

    Like you, I hate cloying scents that swill around people in a cloud that often preceeds their entry into a room and outlasts them when they leave but I will admit I DO enjoy wearing a LIGHT scent – the key word here being LIGHT. That means light enough to be undetectable unless you are hug/kiss close and not intrusive and overwhelming. Personally I feel semi undressed unless I have some sort of scent on and even though when at home for the day I never wear makeup, I DO wear scent for my own pleasure because I may be half blind with nearsightedness without my glasses and slightly hard of hearing (in the high range) but damn, my scense of smell is acute and it is comstantly craving stimulation, be it that morning pot of Vanilla Coffee (or Raspberry Chocolate, or Irish Cream) teasing my taste buds as I wait for it to brew or the tantilizing smells of a pot roast cooking, or the scent of a mandarin orange as you peel it.

    Taste is closely linked to smell and so with food that’s a good thing. I cannot truly say that I have ever “tasted” that cloying perfume that some women (and men) wear but I sure as hell have almost TASTED the body odor of some people whose pores seem to ooze onion, garlic, curry, or whatever other chemical from their food that their bodies are trying to expell through their skin or lungs and we won’t even get into plain ordinary sweaty body odor which I personally find more nauseatingly objectionable if I am forced to endure it in a closed space than any perfume.

    I DO understand allergies – Heaven knows I have a few of those myself – and if I have ever triggered anyone’s allergies I truly and humbly apologize – Mea Culpa – but I suspect that I have rarely done this due to my awareness of how much is too much – something that many people do NOT understand.

    Scent is magical. It can transport you to another place and time and trigger memories (good and bad) that register as strongly as being there, at least for me. Some scent memories can make me close my eyes and be a kid again. In Winnipeg there is a sugar beet refinery across the river (miles away) but in the winter when we were outside at recess we used to smell the evidence of them working – a smell exactly like baked potato smell and now every time I bake a potato I think of cold crisp sunny days on the playground when I was about 9 or 10 years old. The same is true for the scent of fall – yes it has it’s own special scent – that makes me think of walking to school at the beginning of a new school year when the leaves are turning and the mornings are chilly and slightly damp. How about the smell of burning leaves and grass – something I AM allergic to if I can’t get out of it like when the farmers burn their stubble off the fields – in small doses it makes me think of the lake and people who used to rake their yard waste into the ditch and burn it. These are for the most part good memories but scent can also trigger the bad ones… the chemical, so called “hospital smell” that you can still smell when entering older institutions that may bring bad thoughts of dying loved ones or painful 1st hand experiences as a patient or perhaps a whiff of a scent an old boyfriend/girlfriend used to wear in a relationship that ended badly. The memories are no less vivid when triggering the bad ones.

    Scent is powerful, invasive, overwhelming, and a part of life. We need to learn how to embrace it’s power and yet not use it as a weapon. We need to know when one person’s pleasure become another’s revulsion. It’s almost impossible today to be totally scentless since almost every toiletry has its own scent and scentless products are rare to say the least although they do now sell unscented detergants and a few other soaps but try to find a scentless shampoo. I think the key lies in being aware of our surroundings and where we will be affecting others in our “smell zone”. If we take the bus, lose the heavy perfume and if you must wear a scent, instead use scented talc or body wash that leave a light hint of scent that only you may be aware of and not the whole bus/office/elevator etc. and when you are in an intimate situation, make sure the object of your affection actually LIKES the scent you know they will be very aware of in a clinch.

    In conclusion, wearing scent is a personal thing but it comes with the responsibility of making sure you RESPECT the all too often captive noses of those around you if you choose to indulge.


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      November 20, 2010 7:54 am

      I agree with everything you said Celt and I especially like this: “Scent is powerful, invasive, overwhelming, and a part of life. We need to learn how to embrace it’s power and yet not use it as a weapon.” Isn’t there an entire field of alternative medicine (aromatherapy) based on scents? I don’t have it with baked potatoes, but I do have experiences with certain smells reminding me of the past. My jr. high was about a half mile away from a Skippy peanut butter plant and on certain days the entire school would be filled with the smell of peanut butter and I think that’s probably why I like peanut butter (probably as much as ketchup!) today. Freshly cut grass, gasoline, and some others all bring up memories. I don’t like bad body odor and to me that’s not a natural human smell but for the most part, I’d prefer natural human smells over manufactured scents.


      • CELT permalink
        November 20, 2010 2:05 pm

        Your Skippy peanut butter story reminded me of something else. The Health Sciences Centre – our major teaching hospital here – is where we had to go to get our pediatrics experience at Children’s Hospital even though I trained at another hospital to get my RN status. One block over from the hospital (and close to where I had to park to go to that hospital for pediatric ward experience was the local McGavin’s bakery factory and of course the fresh baked bread smells eminating from that location in the early morning as we walked past it was intoxicatingly good and 30+ years later when I actually was employed as a pediatric nurse at Children, the fresh baked bread smell permeated the building as the hospital’s fresh air intake in their ventilation system sucked it in greadily when we were downwind of McGavin’s. Just a whiff of that smell took me back 30 years to early June perfect morning walks at the dawn of my nursing career (just like the chocolate milk I used to buy out of a vending machine there still invokes memories of training there on the rare occasion I drink chocolate milk today). As I noted before, scent is a very powerful memory trigger.


  2. November 19, 2010 11:29 am

    I like you’re shall-nots.


  3. November 19, 2010 11:55 am

    Let me start by saying I work in a church office… a church with an older congregation. I often text my husband warning him that I am succumbing to “old lady perfume” or “old man cologne” and instruct him that if he hasn’t heard from me in 10 minutes, call 911.

    Of course, I am extra sensitive to it because I get migraines from powerful smells. But yes. Yes, yes, yes.


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      November 20, 2010 7:41 am

      I don’t know that I get migraines, but really strong smells give me headaches. I always know when I’ll get one because my sinuses will get really dry and hurt first. I don’t know what “old lady perfume” is but I know the smell when I smell it!


  4. November 19, 2010 12:36 pm

    Agreed. Less IS more, people!


  5. November 19, 2010 12:37 pm

    And also I would love to know why is Sarah Palin a tag for this post?


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      November 20, 2010 7:42 am

      I figure Sarah Palin is probably a pretty popular search term so maybe someone looking for an article about her would stumble onto my blog if I used her!


  6. November 19, 2010 4:40 pm

    Michael, I just love this post. I stopped wearing perfume years ago because my sister gets migraines from strong smells. I wear lightly scent lotions occasionally. Recently I spent the good part of four months with my Mom when she was in the hospital. It was amazing how many of the nurses wear obnoxious heavy colognes around sick people. And there are no windows to open in hospital rooms. I

    When one of my sons was young, maybe about 5 or 6 he hugged me and told me I smelled soooo good. I asked him what I smelled like….and he smiled and said….”You smell like my Mommy” I wish I had a bottle of that.



    • Michael Fishman permalink
      November 20, 2010 7:43 am

      Thanks, Mo! ”You smell like my Mommy” What a great comment! I don’t know what scent you were wearing but my bet is that it’s a smell he’ll remember for the rest of his life.


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