No, not proverbially. Literally. Last night was another reminder of the challenges of my autism that seem to grow larger with age.
One of PanKwake’s friends comes over every Tuesday after school. Usually, one of his parents picks him up. On rare occasions, he will walk home alone. But it is fall, the days are getting shorter; it is getting dark earlier. And while it is only a five-minute walk, the area between our home and theirs is rife with bars, rowdy students, and homeless. I insisted on walking him home.
We took the back street as far as we could. Sounds, especially traffic, bothers me more and more. It is not simply the noise of cars. My mind rebels too at the pollution they emit, the damage to the environment. I deplore too the arrogance of drivers who never stop, as the law demands, for pedestrians.
Cars, to me, represent the worst of our society. Ostentatious, a symbol of wealth and prestige, the classiest marker of haves and have-nots. Isolating and insulating us from our environment, from the beauty of the world around us. Rushing us from one place we do not need to go to another. Spreading urban and suburban sprawl into the very wilds of nature.
But last night, it was not cars, traffic, or even noise that overwhelmed me most. It was smells. In particular one smell, a woman’s perfume.
Sensory overload and sensory processing issues are, of course, common in autism. I have always felt that many, if not most of PanKwake’s behavioral issues were not at all behavioral, but rather sensory in nature. I remember one time when she was six or seven getting on a bus. We had to get off two stops later. Because a woman four or five rows back was eating an orange and PanKwake could not stand the smell of it. I reminded her of that when she laughed at my story last night.
My own sensory issues seem to be getting worse as I age. I sometimes wonder how did I manage for so long. How did I dampen the overwhelming feeling of my hair on my neck? (I usually wear it in a ponytail or braid for this reason.) Or the feel of a rock in your shoe? Yes, that one bothers us all. But it can drive me to the point of tears. Or in this case, strong smells. Back to my story…
I had walked our friend home and returning to @HomeCrazzyHome. I had stopped at the crosswalk. Two women and man, about my own age, come out of the newest bar in an overly developed Uplands area full of them. They stop close to me. Too close. Unnecessarily close, in fact.
And I almost vomit. My head bounds like I am standing right next to speakers in a nightclub blasting Hard Rock music. Overwhelmed. Assailed. Those words do not adequately convey what it is like. I am ASSAULTED. Yes, assaulted with the smell of perfume.
It overpowers my sense. The world blurs. I can barely breathe. I dare not inhale. The next two minutes seem endless torture. I begin to cough and gag. I cuss. Yes, I cussed. And screw you, if you have a problem with that. It is better than what I wanted to do. Which was hit the woman.
This is not the first time that I have had this experience. Twice now, I have gone to the theater. Only to have the experience completely ruined by women, always of ‘an age’ who seemed to think it is classy or sexy or appealing to bath in the strongest, sweetest, most sickly perfume, they can afford.
Mind you, even as a stripper, I was taught that the correct way to wear a fragrance was subtle and at pulse points. A single drop on the inside of both wrists, behind the ear, along the veins in your neck, and just between your cleavage. Even then, the rule was – someone should need to be in your personal space, within eighteen inches, to smell your scent.
So, why if strippers know this has someone not informed these old biddies?
Honestly, I would rather smell a homeless person who has spent three days ripening in their own urine. Or the inside of a food waste bin that has been sitting for two weeks. Or a man’s smelly socks – the same pair they have worn for a week. All of those are more natural and appealing smells than this horrid assault on my olfactory sense.
But no one seems to care. It is another instance of societal norms that dictate that middle and upper-class neurotypical people have the right to not give a damn about anyone else. They can do what they like without thought to the needs of others. Because it is ‘socially acceptable.’
Growing up, my Nanny had a phrase for it…’smelled like a French whorehouse.’ But knowing what I know about strip clubs, I’m betting my money that those whorehouses were not nearly as offensive to the nose.
So, here’s the bottom line…
Fat, old women (like me) – Don’t bathe in perfume. It is not sexy. It is not classy. It does not show your wealth or prestige.
It is offensive. Inconsiderate of others. And IMPOLITE.
And that was me saying it nicely. Next time, I won’t. Especially if you get in my personal space on a street with more than enough room. Instead of making a pretense, have real manners. Show respect for others. Including the neurodivergent.
I choose this photograph of flamingos that I took this summer on our trip to Folly Farm for a reason. It represents these women so well. Flamingos are supposedly graceful and beautiful birds. But their pins are always among the most obnoxious smelling at the zoo. They may look nice, but they stink. And so do you.