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A plea against perfume

Now that smoking is banned in most US restaurants, it's time to stamp out another scourge of civilization: wearing overpowering perfume and cologne in public.

In centuries past, heavy perfumes masked body odors of the masses, who bathed only occasionally, if at all. Today, most Americans shower daily, and, if my nose is any judge, too many then liberally douse themselves with strong scents.

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This is more serious than just a few misguided folks slathering on cheap cologne. It involves whole roomfuls of people whose scents battle for dominance in a choking haze of Guerlain, Opium, and Obsession.

It's a mystery why people must dredge themselves in odoriferous potions before going out to dinner or to the theater. Who wants to smell Old Spice while eating roast beef, or breathe patchouli fumes at the theater?

True, what constitutes a pleasant aroma to one person can be intolerable to another. A male colleague says the fragrance most attractive to guys is that of leather-upholstered new car, although I don't know a single woman who would try a cologne called Eau d'Auto. However, I prefer new-car smell to the musk-based, he-man colognes that some guys wear. As the same colleague put it, "Men shouldn't smell. Period."

And what traveler hasn't had the misfortune of being buckled into an airplane seat next to someone who reeks of Tabu?

It's time to revive the old rule of thumb: Perfume should never be smelled more than an arm's length away.

* Write the Homefront, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail us at

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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