Monday, October 28, 2013

Perfume Overload

by Kate Collins

Zenia, which is not her real name, is one of those genuinely nice, sincere, sensitive women who is always ready to lend a helping hand or a supportive shoulder. I see her once a week in a group of women who meet for dinner, where we eat and talk and laugh a lot.

There's just one thing wrong with this happy scene: Zenia's perfume. She douses herself with it. The scent is so overpowering that I have a hard time enjoying my food. It doesn't matter where I sit, the smell envelopes me like a cloud.

I've had conversations with her about it -- in my head. But somehow when it comes time to have it for real, I chicken out.

Me: Zenia, I know you've said how much you treasure your perfume because your departed husband liked it so much, but …..

See what I mean? How do you end that sentence in a way that doesn't make you feel like the biggest jerk wad ever?

….it makes me so sick to my stomach I lose my appetite.

….. I'm a bit sensitive to scents, so if I sit at a table across the room, don't take it personally.

….. if you could dial it down twenty degrees or so, the air would be breathable again.

…..well, um, here's a link to my blog. Read it and try not to hate me.

There you have it. Pathetic, right? So I either keep swallowing the bile or I stop joining them for dinner. Or maybe one of you can come up with a better idea. I'd really appreciate it.


12 comments:

SueAnn said...

sneezing....little snits of sneezes....and clear your throat, apologize..say you have an allergy to something in this restaurant that has been bothering you...you may not be able to come back for dinners with them.....that you are sensitive to odors...and it has been driving you crazy whatever the odor has been during dinner, it makes you not feel like eating...and then little snits of sneezes, ever so polite. Let your friends discuss your "condition", you just listen......they may be able to give you a list of things that smell....process of elimination.......you could add you changed your shampoo and stopped wearing perfume......hint hint..ever so nicely. If that does not work...then..skip the next dinner. See who calls to ask after you- throw a bone, but not necessarily, THE bone.....let your friends deduce for you...short of saying- man! Your perfume is strong! I cannot hardly breathe!!!!! I am allergic to strong odors.....It is one way, or the other.....

Charlie M said...

"So, what do you ladies think of this idea I had for a book....", and describe how a character keels over dead from the strong scent of someone's perfume. Gets it out there without directly pointing the offensive odor to her. See if others pick up on it...especially Zenia.

Aurian said...

Just ask the other guests in private if they are bothered by it as well, and then have one of them ask Zenia to put on a little bit less. Ask the waiter if he can turn on the airconditioning above the table a lot higher.
Or: Hi Zenia, please don't take it personal, as I really like you as a person, but I am allergic to strong scents, and your perfume is really making me ill. Could you please use something else next time, and a bit less? Or just slip her a note.

Pamela Hargraves said...

I am allergic to any perfume that has a floral base. First, I told my really close friends and explained how it affected me. They could see that for themselves but never hurts to explain. My friends took it from there and told everyone else. Now that everyone knows I no longer have a problem.

Leann Sweeney said...

Kate, I totally sympathize. Both my sister and I have multiple chemical sensitivities. She once had a severe asthma attack in a restaurant--an expensive restaurant I'd taken her to when she came to visit. A woman walked in and the place was bombed by her perfume. My sister had to leave while I took care of the bill. She has also had trouble at work and told people her problem. It made no difference to them. From the way you describe your friend she sounds caring. But here's what I would do. Confide in one of the other people in the group and give them a script. Ask them to casually mention to this person how they found out accidentally that you are allergic to perfume . Don't have them tell the perfumed one to stop, have the one you confided in say THEY will stop ever wearing perfume around you. Hopefully the perfumed one will take the BIG hint. Some people have a very hard time confronting others. (My husband, for one). So, this is a way to ask for help. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I sympathize, too! My sister is highly allergic to several different perfumes, and this is often an issue for her. Her approach has been fairly direct, blaming the allergies. You could just point out to Zenia that you've recently found out that you have some new allergies (given the changing of the seasons---not out of the line of expectation, really), and one thing you seem to be allergic to is certain perfumes, especially strong ones. The good news is that you're not allergic to Zenia! The bad news is that you seem to be allergic to her perfume, so would it be possible for her to abstain from wearing it when the two of you get together? Big smile at the end! A conversation like that might be a helpful way to approach it.

Kate Collins said...

Charlie, that actually IS a great idea for a book. LOL. Love it on both counts.

Kate Collins said...

These are all great ideas! Keep em coming!

Barb W said...

Buy her a new, lighter scent. Sometimes we get so used to our old standard perfume, we are no longer able to smell it, so we use more. Also, it may be old and "turned."

Diane LaBrie Leverson said...

Many years ago when I was a working young woman, I had to ask a girl who sat next to me not to use her hair spray. I had allergies and it was really bothering me. Several years late, I had a neighbor who must have taken her bath in perfume. I just sat as far away from her as I could...Try to say, "Are you trying a new perfume? It smells really strong to me." Perhaps she will get the hint. Also, does she subscribe to this blog? Maybe she will read it and realize you are talking about her...Also try saying you that you just read where the correct way to apply perfume or toilet water is to spray the air and walk through it.. That is true and that is how I put on my perfume. It just adds a slight smell and that is all you want...Plus your bedroom will smell nice when you get home.

Rachelle21 said...

I often have a problem with strong perfume. Sometimes, I just have to move and I will explain why. I have become physically ill from strong scents as paint and had to tell the principal of the school. I did come in for parent/teacher meeting and he wondered why.

Debra said...

I sat next to a young woman on a plane who had doused herself in scent. I smelled it before I saw her. It was the end of the day and she was no longer fresh. Ugh!
I would lie to Zenia. Tell her you were recently diagnosed with asthma and perfume is a trigger. You could address the whole group so she is ot singled out, but maybe give the others a heads up? I feel for you. I thought I would gag on that plane ride.