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The Ethics of Perfume

Matron: Sir, you smell.
Dr. Johnson: No madam, you smell, I stink.
~ Samuel Johnson (1709-09-18 1784-12-13 age:75)

The Skinny

Wear only soft fragrances. A soft fragrance is one that magnified a million times would still smell pleasant.

My idea of hell would be to be trapped in an elevator with a woman drenched in White Shoulders perfume. Most perfumes are so harsh they feel like an ice pick being driven up my nose. Perfume is so pervasive. It snakes its way right inside me. Science tells us the sense organs in the nose are actually tendrils of the brain reaching out like a snake’s tongue to sample the general environment. I wish people would be more polite with perfumes. Here are some suggested rules of etiquette.

The Etiquette

If you use perfume, you should have at least three kinds:
  1. One to use when you are alone. You can slather it on all you like when you nose goes numb. It does not matter if, to everyone else, it smells like cat pee.
  2. One to use when you are with your lover. Both of you should like it. It is your signature he remembers you by.
  3. One to use when you are in public. It should be mildly pleasant to nearly everyone and highly offensive to no one. It should be subtle. It should be chosen just as carefully as the other two. I’d suggest experimenting with some of the Body Shop soft fruity scents. The Fruits And Passion Orange And Cantaloupe would be a safe bet to start with from my own experiments. I found it was the fragrance that most men commented on positively of all those I tried during massage. Put on only the tiniest dab. You are not trying to overpower everyone else in the olfactory symphony, just play one instrument. Perhaps some day perfumes will come with a seal of approval stating elevator tested. Don’t reapply perfume just because you personally can’t smell it. Your nose gets used to the fragrance and quickly goes numb to it. If you think you might need to reapply, check with several other people to see if they agree you should.


I had a conversation with a group of men about the perfumes their women used. In general they were not all that impressed. One man said that one perfume had set his knees knocking. His wife had been out in the garden pruning lilacs and she was covered in lilac and perspiration.

In some cultures young women are taught to dab a little vaginal secretion behind the ears. I know of no culture where young men are taught the analogous trick. Nature works best.

Some years ago Dennis Lewsey left behind a blue handkerchief with white dots. My lover and I took turns sniffing it. It was utterly intoxicating. The odour was lush, soft, rich. He told us it was an oil-based fragrance, but maybe the magic was his natural body odour. I have sniffed hundred of potions sold at cosmetic counters trying to find it. Nothing comes anywhere close. Dennis is now dead, so what it was will likely always remain a Jitterbug mystery.

There is a very good chance your lover finds your natural body odours quite appealing. That is part of the unconscious reasons why he picked you. Don’t go to crazy covering them up even if the ads tell you that underarms are not supposed to smell appealing without help.

Scent should be mysterious, organic, subtle, changing, not a poke in the eye. What I don’t understand is why so many commercial scents smell like the test tube washings from an organic chem lab. They are way too sharp.

According to experiments, the aphrodisiac odours for men include pumpkin pie, anise (liquorice), lavender and nutmeg. For me personally, it is fir needles. It blends well with body odours. Cucumber works best for women.

Why Less Is More

A perfume is designed to blend with your natural body odours to create a unique subtle scent that is your signature. Anyone smelling it again, immediately thinks of you and all the good times you have had together in past. Smell bypasses logic and goes straight to the emotion and memory centres of the brain. If you use so much that there is 99% perfume overwhelming 1% of your natural scent, it is like a song with only one note. It is flat. It is no longer uniquely you. It lacks subtlety.

Further, the nose tires easily. Any scent always present eventually disappears from awareness. You want a subtle scent that appears and disappears — that flirts with the apprehender, thus keeping his interest. To do that you need the merest touch of perfume so that it disappears and reappears only when you move, letting off a tiny burst of fragrance. Keep in mind that the smell of perfume by itself is not sexy. It is only in combination with your natural scent does it come alive. It is not a deodorant to cover up your natural fragrance.

As you get older, your sense of smell fades. This is why older people often overdouse themselves with perfume. Don’t trust your own sense of smell to decide how much is enough. It will always smell less intense to you than it does to others and, of course, it will smell nicer to you than to others since you picked the fragrance. To get a more honest answer from others ask Do you think this fragrance would be better more or less intense? Beware particularly of reapplying because the scent has faded. It has not faded so much as your nose has become exhausted.

Smoking Analogy

When I was growing up, people smoked anywhere they pleased. If I did not like it, tough. Today, smokers have been banned from public transport, pubs, restaurants, theatres and the work place. Though perfumes don’t hurt everyone, certain perfumes can give some people migraines, nausea or moodswings. We are gradually seeing a shift in attitudes. Hospitals are now asking visitors to refrain from using perfumes. The new thinking, fired perhaps by smoking, pollution and global warming concerns, is you don’t have the right to stink up the air for others. Ironically, perfume is supposed to make you more appealing. If you are using so much it is making others ill, it is failing miserably for its intended purpose. People who use too much perfume tend to be self centred. They presume that because their dosage of perfume smells good to them and does not make them nauseous, that it must be the same for everyone else. Common sense says you should go extra light on your perfume for an airplane, train or bus trip, or any other time you will be confined with others, even a long elevator ride.

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