Thursday, 23 May 2013

Things I Don't Understand - Number Four

The last time I flew in a plane, I went sardine-class. After that experience, I thought first or ‘business’-class had to be much better. Until recently that is, when I read one Aspie’s complaint on Facebook of how first-class passengers so often seem to drench themselves with perfume. My immediate thought was – argh! No first-class for me then! I have always had real problems with strong perfumes. Once, many years ago when I was extremely ill with the CFS, I was visited at home by a woman from the agency supplying household help to me. It was one of my ‘bad’ days, and I was in bed. She stood in the doorway of my bedroom to talk to me, about ten or twelve feet away, yet even from that distance I was overwhelmed by her perfume. It was as if she’d bathed in it. By the time she left (only about 5 or 10 minutes later) I was half-fainting, even though I was already lying down! It was so bad that after she’d gone, my partner ran around opening every door and window, even though it was a chilly day, just to get the smell out.

Perhaps it’s just me, or my generation, but I was taught by my female relatives when young that perfume was to be sparingly applied, at wrists and behind ears, etc, as an alluring hint – not a portable stink-cloud that assaults the noses of anyone within twenty feet of you. (I was also taught to only wear one of each category of jewellery. My grandmother’s generation would not have understood bling!) This thing of smothering yourself in scent seems to be very much a recent phenomenon.

And then there’s the fragrances in things like soap, shower gel, shampoo, etc – why is it necessary for them to be so strongly perfumed? I have real trouble finding toiletries with perfumes/perfume levels I can tolerate, which are also relatively cheap, readily available, and without ingredients I react to. (Not to mention every time I do, they seem to change the brand or formula, but that’s another whole set of complaints.) Some have even been known to make me want to vomit, or give me headaches, and I avoid the really cheap-and-nasty shampoos, etc, for this reason.

There’s also the reek of cleaning products and disinfectants – another aspie also commented on those on Facebook recently, as she’d realised a particular disinfectant was causing her meltdowns at work. Again, why is it necessary to have them stink so strongly? Surely they could formulate products without these horrible stinks that assault the nostrils and sting the back of the throat. It seems to me that these, along with toiletries and fragrances, have all got stronger and smellier too, over the last forty years or so.

So why? What is the reason for the overwhelming amount of perfume, cologne, etc, some people use? I really don’t understand why they insist on liberally slathering themselves with them. Is it some kind of status thingy again? (I never noticed such strong odours in sardine-class.) Perhaps if people are able to afford such expensive scents, they want everyone within twenty feet to know it? (I’d be inclined to say “yeah, yeah, we get the message, you’re loaded, now can you please go and wash off at least half that stink?”)

And why is it so hard to find toiletries etc, without strong scents? Is it just my imagination, that these have been ‘amped up’ in recent decades? I don’t think this is an issue only for aspies either – with that over-perfumed woman above, my partner didn’t have to be asked to open those windows and doors, she found it overwhelming too. And surely there must be others who feel the same.

Once again, I’m left not only reeling from the sensory assaults, but from not understanding something that perhaps ‘everyone else’, or at least every NT, knows without saying.

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