Introduction: My alter ego, Alecka Zamm's goal is "no more freakin' fragrance." Unfortunately she only watches over my desk. I wish she could watch over us all.
I’ll Take the Laughs But Not the Fragrance
By Alecka Zamm
I always carry Evian spray in the handy purse size.
In acting class we bring props. For this particular scene between another actor and myself, our characters were onstage. We had set-up a pretend hotel room and were getting ready for an important meeting downstairs in the casino. My scene partner yanked on his suit jacket. Tension filled the air. I stood in front of a mirror “reflecting” while delivering lines and digging through my purse. Using whatever was at hand, I brushed my hair, put on lipstick, touched up blush, and so on. My scene partner adjusted the perfect knot in his tie and reached for a cologne bottle. He squirted a shot of some noxious scent on his neck. I snatched up the Evian water spray and blasted it all around my face. A refreshing mist—not this time. This time I needed the millions of micro-droplets to create a barrier between me and the asthma-inducing, odiferous chemical descending on me. The entire class cracked-up. It was a big laugh out of nowhere.
Time stopped in that moment—I broke the imaginary fourth wall separating the stage from the audience seats to glance at the animated faces. Why was this funny? I use the water mist reflexively as protection from pollution of all sorts, yes a weak Band-Aid, but it’s something.
The misting was quite the unintended sight gag. I liked the laugh. It felt good. The laughter came at the expense of my health. Didn’t know what to think of it then, still don’t.
Ten years have passed. Evian couldn’t protect me enough from the LA smog and fragranced everything-everywhere people, so I moved to the country. Even out in the sticks, when a neighbor does laundry I close my windows. They have no idea what their scented product spewing from the dryer vent does to a person with MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities: a severe allergy-like sensitivity and/or asthmatic reaction often including cognitive symptoms to pollution, VOCs, perfumes, smoke, etc.)
My world narrowed to nature, away from anything that spews, reeks, or leaves scent trails. I love natural settings, so not too bad. Where there is fabric softener, pesticides, plug-ins, scented shampoos, lotions, potions… I shouldn’t go. I miss a lot, but breathing means more to me than that once exciting city life, even suburban life.
I still keep the Evian spray in the car. And at home I use it like everyone else—as a refreshing mist under my fragrance-free moisturizer.
Fragrances are invisible and come from all directions. Defending oneself from an invisible foe is challenging. Because of the fragrance trail, going out into the world in general means feeling sick. Some days I’d rather feel good and stay in my small world away from toxic people and things. I do miss people. There’s always the Internet.
Sometimes “strange” behavior isn’t so odd, if the situation is understood. The laughs did feel good. I’ll take the laughs, but not the fragrance.
For further reading:
Here is the Center for Disease Control’s fragrance-free policy. See Appendix A, C. 1.
Here is information on Chemical Sensitivity.
Here is a website loaded with Nontoxic and MCS resources.