Picture this: you’re out at a delightful house party in a post-COVID world, taking a moment to chill out on a sofa as the tunes and vibes buzz pleasantly around you. Suddenly, a couple of friends – let’s call them Morgan and Sam – plop down next to you, laughing as one of them takes a phone from their pocket. “I’m showing Sam this hilarious YouTube video,” says Morgan. “I wanted to play it on the big screen but I couldn’t figure out how.” Morgan proceeds to blast the video at full volume on the phone as the two watch it and intermittently react, and although you don’t dislike the video per se, you really just wish it wasn’t playing.
Even though you’re not the direct target of the video, it has been forced into your airspace, and soon enough, the good attitude you had has whittled down to annoyance. Finally, the video ends, you breathe a sigh of relief, and turn over to Morgan only for Morgan to select another video and loudly play it for Sam and others to hear. “Isn’t this YouTuber hilarious?” says Morgan, looking at you, waiting for you to agree. And you sit there, mouth slightly open, wondering how you’ve become the asshole in this situation.
This is essentially the experience of being around a perfume over-sprayer.
It’s Ok to Love Perfume!
Here at the Fandomentals, Kori and I absolutely adore perfume. We spend countless hours hunting down new fragrances, and when we find something we love, the first thing we want to do is share it with others. It isn’t hard for me to understand why people overspray – the more perfume you put on, the more people around you will experience it. The real problem is that you have no idea whether or not they want to.
When we think about others smelling our perfume, we do not often talk about consent. After all, consent is a loaded word, as it’s most often associated with sexual contact. I’ll be very clear in saying that consent in relation to perfume is absolutely minuscule compared to sexual contact. Furthermore, I also want to establish situations in which consent does not quite come into the picture.
People smell. We smell after we’ve exercised, we smell when we’ve been around odor-rich environments, and we smell after going throughout our daily routines. When someone hugs you or snuggles up to you on a couch, they are inherently saying, it’s ok if I smell you during the duration of our time together. If you smell nice and not overwhelming, you better believe that the quality of that shared time is only going to increase.
With all that being said, there are a few key caveats.
When It Comes to Consent, “Quality” Doesn’t Matter
There are plenty of situations in which people might not have the choice to be near you – public transportation, being in a workplace, or attending events with close seating, for example – and it becomes our responsibility to take their lack of ability to consent into account. Going back to my opening example of blasting the YouTube video on the couch, the quality of what you’re blaring doesn’t matter. Anyone who is forced to experience something against their will is going to be annoyed, and the louder, more distinctive that thing is, the more unpleasant their experience is going to be.
And this is ultimately why I’m writing this article. I have lost track of the Facebook posts, the Reddit threads, the Youtube videos, and more where fragrance fans brag gleefully about over-spraying. Twenty sprays of this oud-rich beast mode fragrance into my classroom! Fifteen sprays of this club monster on a flight! Or even perfume YouTubers showing themselves applying so heavily that it becomes difficult to count. Yet more baffling is when people comment on such posts with supportive posts that are legitimately difficult to distinguish from parody.
Many of us who went to public school have traumatic memories of the locker room warfare committed between body odors and supermarket fragrances. A name that especially gets dragged through the mud is Axe body spray, which was often the key weapon of choice at my school. However, if you go into the supermarket today and get a whiff of an Axe body spray or deodorant, you might be surprised at how decent – and almost always unoffensive – the fragrances tend to be.
The problem isn’t that middle schoolers use bad fragrances, though admittedly, part of the issue is the substitution of fragrance for other hygienic practices. The biggest issue is the sheer volume of fragrance used in such a small space.
You Can Literally Hurt Someone
This might sound ridiculous to those without direct experience, but perfume – especially when applied heavily – can trigger adverse affects in those around you. The most obvious of these is allergic reaction; if you’re pumping molecules into the air and someone around you is allergic, you’re flooding their body with harmful chemicals. Perfume has also been proven to be an asthma trigger for those with the condition. And then, there are scent-related migraines, which is why you won’t catch Kori reviewing white florals. It doesn’t matter how much people aesthetically appreciate your perfume if they’re literally in pain because of what you’re wearing.
So What Do I Do With Beast-Mode Fragrances?
I’ll end with this: I am absolutely fine with, and even quite love, strong fragrances. Hell, I own bottles of Interlude Man and Black Afgano, and I’ve got so many Montales that I could spend months reviewing that house alone. But I’ve found so many more positive reactions when I wear them lightly – just one or two sprays. No one wants to find themselves forced to hear a phone-blasted Youtube video, but when you wear fragrance at a polite, inviting volume, it’s more like holding a book with a beautiful color.
Read it snuggled up with a loved one, share a memorable quote during a hug. Maybe even find yourself approached at a party by someone who glimpsed the cover when they were passing by. “That looks amazing, what is that?” they might ask, sitting down next to you on the couch. And then, once you’ve both signed on, you can share that story together.
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