Do you have an annoying signature scent?
I'm not talking about women who wear a tantalizing hint of fragrance. I'm talking about ladies who wear buckets of perfume. The gals who drench themselves in "their" scent before heading out the door each morning, resulting in an olfactory wallop so powerful you can smell them coming blocks away.
I blame perfume ads, in which a single squirt of "Eau de VaVaVoom" instantly turns an ordinary woman into a sensual temptress.
And if one squirt can do that, five must be better, right?
Yes, perfume ads are oddly compelling. Decades later, I still remember -- but can't resist mocking -- these classics from my youth:
"Want him to be more of a man? Try being more of a woman."
.... and wear heaps of perfume! Something really girly. So he'll be absolutely sure you're the right gender.
"If you want to capture someone's attention, whisper..."
... and wear scent so strong it'll make his eyes cross.
"I can't seem to forget you. Your Wind Song stays on my mind."
.... and you've used so much I need to breathe through my mouth.
What woman wouldn't want to live in Perfume Ad Land? All you need to attract Mr. Right? Just choose the right scent. Voila -- you're alluring! No need to have a personality. Or even a life. Just bathe in a bucket of "Eternity" and you're good to go.
And yet, from my point of view, blasting on the perfume doesn't turn an ordinary woman into a sexy temptress, but into a malodorous disaster.
I'm Environmentally Sensitive, one of those hapless folks who suffer a variety of adverse symptoms and reactions to perfumes, fabric softeners, dust, vehicle exhaust, molds and -- oddly -- florescent lightning.
For someone like me, a little scent goes a very long way.
Thankfully, a little scent is what most women choose to wear.
But not the Scent Drenched, who prefer to surf through life on powerful waves of "Chanel Number 247." Being on the receiving end of this tsunami of fake aroma, particularly in an enclosed space, is excruciating.
In an elevator. Or an airplane. Worst of all, at the theatre. I'll arrive at my seat only to find that the woman next to me is Drenched in Scent. Which, for me, is like sitting beside someone just sprayed by a skunk.
At which point I've got just two options. Hold my breath for the next two hours. Or move.
Years ago, I shared a workplace with another Environmentally Sensitive woman. We'd warn each other of the approach of a Mega-Scented client or co-worker with a quiet, "Uh-oh. Here comes TMP." (Too Much Perfume.)
These days, I work at my local public library, where several co-workers are members of Team Stinky. As a grownup with excellent manners I can't just turn to a colleague and say "You Reek." or even "Becky, you are wearing too damn much 'Eternity.'"
Recently, though, after a long shift with a co-worker whose powerful perfume had given me a pounding headache, I finally spoke up. "I really don't want to be rude," I said, "but would you consider wearing a little less perfume when you work with me? Like maybe 90 percent less?"
It worked! She cut down on the scent. I was able to breathe again. And we've remained workplace pals.
What if more of us were bold enough to ask the Excessively Perfumed to dial back on the scent? (We could even start a movement -- "Just Say No To TMP." )
It could happen. In the meantime, if you use heaps of perfume on the assumption that it's making you irresistible, consider that it may actually be making you repellant.
How can you tell if you're wearing too much? When co-workers see you coming, do they moan and back away? Have your loved ones begun to wear nose plugs? When you get on an elevator, do the folks inside take one whiff and stampede for the door?
You might consider cutting back on the Wind Song.
(This essay first appeared on Zestnow.)