When perfume becomes a source of air pollution

Judy Markey

January 16, 1991|By Judy Markey | Judy Markey,United Feature Syndicate

IT'S NOT A QUESTION of sticking your nose in somebody else's business. It's a question of somebody else's business sticking in your nose.

And the business is perfume. Or more precisely perfume abuse. Which nobody to date has addressed in a serious fashion. Nobody has said, look this is reaching epic proportions. My nose is being assaulted every day by some personage who, unhappy with her own smell, has DOUSED herself in a substance that should have been DABBED.

Such as the lady who just sat down in front of you. Who has drenched herself in such a megadose of perfume that if you don't get a hit of real oxygen in about 10 seconds, it is just possible that the 911 folks are going to be cordially invited to come and work you over.

Man! Does that stuff sear out your head, throat and chest area.

Which is pretty amazing considering that you are not in some tiny enclosed dressing room, or airplane or elevator. I mean all of us, at one time or another, have been in an elevator when some overly odorized person steps in and insto-converts the space into a lung-clogging, mobile version of your average magazine.

But that's not where you are. You are in a gargantuan sports arena. A huge cavernous space filled with all sorts of people and, more germanely, all sorts of smells. Smells such as pizza, peanuts, beer, hot dogs, mustard and, let us not forget, some extremely sweaty athletes. Lots of legitimate, normal smells. And not one of those smells is even mildly detectable if you are within a 10-foot range of this nostril-numbing female.

Who walked in with what must be a nostril-numbed male. I mean the resident husband has to live with this, deal with this, drive in a hermetically sealed vehicle with this. It is hard to imagine what that must be like. I mean ask your average, even above-average, guy what he likes his woman to smell like, and the guy will not say "Undeniable" or "Uninhibited" or "Mischa." And yet those are all the names of real perfumes. Men do not want their women smelling like abstract adjectives or perspiring Russian ballet dancers. Perfume ads do.

Right now Americans are spending a cool $4 billion a year on smells in a bottle. At this very moment there are about 800 different ways a person could choose to smell; 801 if you count clean. But clean doesn't seem to be enough for a lot of us. We want more. We want different. So we read the perfume ads, and we see that all you need is a dropette of this stuff, and shazam! you're in the big-time allure biz.

So I guess a lot of women -- and some cologned-up men -- figure if a little dab will do that, imagine what a lot will get me. Well, what a lot gets you is the ability to put everyone around you into olfactory meltdown. What a lot gets you is the ability to watch everyone around you turn a nice shade of puce. What a lot gets you is a sincere wish on the part of those around you that there was a polite way to tell you to shower.

That's what a lot gets you. And what a lot gets us is a deep gastro-intestinal understanding of why one of the steadiest selling perfumes is called Poison.

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