Perfume Puke
September 4, 2009 8:35 PM   Subscribe

How do you deal with excessive levels of perfume?

There's a family reunion in my immediate future, complete with some women who, to put it frankly, wear enough perfume to qualify as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions on Chemical Warfare, and are going to want to get all huggy and touchy-feeley with me. I can't stand the petrochemical after-effects of that activity. How can I tactfully avoid that contact?

The perfume gives me an immediate headache, and if I actually get rubbed up against it seems to transfer the stink to me, which is just horrible.

I'd like something or some tack that will avoid World War III in my family.
posted by pjern to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Walk around with an inhaler and as one of the stinky people approaches make a big show of inhaling, saying "excuse me a minute, I need to clear my lungs before I make contact."

This will send the message.

Actually it probably won't but it can't hurt.
posted by dfriedman at 8:38 PM on September 4, 2009

When they go in for the hug, put a hand out and a little apologetic frowny-smile on your face and say, "Oo, I'm just recovering from a nasty head cold, and I'd hate to give it to you, sorry!" No one will insist on hugging you. Remember, though, that you can't then immediately hug their husbands.
posted by palliser at 8:39 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't know how touchy your family is, but I'm allergic to perfumes and I'm always just really honest about things like that in a nice way. I say something like, "Oh it's so nice to see you. I'd love to give you a hug, but I am allergic to perfume." Or you can say you recently discovered your allergic or whatever will work with your family. I don't know if there's a sympathetic family member you could ask to spread the word for you.

It's rough, they're going to take it how they're going to take it, but I've had those headaches, I get nauseated, I've passed out a couple of times so I just kind of put myself first in those situations.

Good luck!
posted by Kimberly at 8:43 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

fuck it. just tell them you have bad allergies or have chronic migraines and can't be around strong smells, including perfumes. they're the ones with bad manners for wearing too much strong scent to social gatherings.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:44 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

As an allergy sufferer, I'm very sympathetic and I don't blame you for avoiding them, but try not to judge them too harshly. When you wear any scent regularly, you can't reliably smell it yourself anymore, and it can be difficult to gauge how much is too much.

Just a reminder to be tactful and gentle in your approach to the problem.
posted by hermitosis at 9:55 PM on September 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Compliment effusively -- what is that lovely scent? Really? Because it is delightful. It reminds me of when I visited Paris and it's just full of happy memories for me blah blah blah and then roll out the "But you know what? The irony is I was always dreadfully allergic to it" apology over not getting any closer.
posted by kmennie at 11:02 PM on September 4, 2009

Send a family-wide e-mail about your sensitivity, asking relatives to minimize their use of scents.
posted by Carol Anne at 4:39 AM on September 5, 2009

If there is a person who is the main organizer, email that person ask them to ask people to not wear perfume to the gathering, because a family member has recently been diagnosed with allergies to common ingredients in perfume, and it would be very very nice if people would refrain from wearing perfume to this gathering, so that all family members can be comfortable and enjoy the gathering. If you are okay with being identified, fine, if not, fine too.

If there is no such organizer-person, perhaps your family - your mother or father, whomever is the family communicator - can send such an email. I have a mildly similar situation -- I mean, honestly, I am not even allergic to pork, I just eat it so incredibly rarely that it hurts my stomach, and my husband just always gently reminds his parents to have chicken or turkey or a vegetarian option (much less common, ha!) so that I do not spend the entire gathering trying to figure out how to not be sick the rest of the night. Everyone is cool about it, and this is a CHOICE I've made, not an actual allergy. Good luck.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:35 AM on September 5, 2009

Graaaaa! Pre-emptive strike. Go in hard with the flamethrower.

Oh, sorry, I just told I what I usually want to do rather than what I usually do do, which is load up with antihistamines (Telfast works for me) beforehand, and shower and launder and swear and shower and launder and swear afterwards.

I loathe those chemical stenches.
posted by flabdablet at 8:10 AM on September 5, 2009

There was a recent meta thread where a MeFite asked others not to use flash photography in her presence at a meetup, and there was a fair amount of argument. I think you'll meet the same opposition from a percentage of the family. Even so, make a badge saying Allergic to Perfume, and wear it for at least the 1st 45 minutes. You can claim it's some ingredient in perfume that your doctor has tested you for, or you can just be honest and say it gives you a headache. Tell Cousin Violet that you would love to give her a big hug later in the day when her perfume has had a chance to evaporate. Make sure you find her and hug her, preferably before she reapplies it,

You will generate tons of discussion, which is a good thing, giving everyone something to talk about.
posted by theora55 at 2:25 PM on September 5, 2009

You're talking about a family reunion. That's really not the time to be intolerant of other people's styles and fashions and tastes. It's a time to overlook differences, not to point them out and complain about them. If you make an issue about their perfume, that's probably going to be the main way you are remembered.

The idea of perfume allergy probably doesn't exist in their world. They interact with people all the time who don't complain, so it's unlikely you are going to change their minds. They are going to think this is your problem, not theirs.

Do the gracious thing - suck it up and remember that you probably rub some people the wrong way without knowing it, too.
posted by conrad53 at 3:47 PM on September 5, 2009

The idea of perfume allergy probably doesn't exist in their world

This is dead right. The perpetrators of this horror are quite anosmic, and they remain utterly oblivious to the foul and reeking stench that creeps octopus-like under your door while they are still fifty metres away down the corridor, and clings to all your furnishings for a good week while you shiver under three layers of cardigans with all your windows open.

Whatever the common ingredient is in Impulse, Lynx, Red Door and Joop ought to be banned by the UN.
posted by flabdablet at 1:53 AM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't go.
posted by Muirwylde at 3:22 AM on September 6, 2009

Get a cute charcoal mask from I Can Breathe and wear it.
posted by x46 at 3:41 AM on September 6, 2009

One thing that conrad53 isn't taking into consideration is that this isn't an issue of graciousness or politeness because of some annoying trait--perfume causes the poster real physical distress that can't just be "sucked up". Just the thought of being hugged by someone wearing a lot of perfume is making me a little nauseated.
posted by Kimberly at 2:59 PM on September 14, 2009

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