Friday, 15 August 2014

Smell You Later

I was doing all right there for a little while until the fridge went kaput (it was a Monday, of course) and for extra fun my environmental sensitivities also went ahead and levelled up. I've had difficulty tolerating perfumes, colognes, hairsprays, scented lotions, bodywashes and other fragranced products since serious illness required lengthy toxic treatment - my office has been posted "scent-free" for ages while as a whole my workplace is currently just "scent-reduced" in policy - but recent exposures are making me more acutely ill and resulting in longer-lasting symptoms. 

After a bad week and a half of multiple scent incidents, one morning a coworker wearing "body spray" stepped into my office and within a minute I was overcome and lost a day's work and a second day's better functioning. So frustrating! And isolating - a wedding without hugs and with waves of intense unwellness and having to deek out, limiting occasions I risk going out into our heavily-fragranced world, becoming too afraid to invite family over for a birthday. 

grey / red / orange winged scarf: Saachi, My Habit
silver scales and teardrops necklace: ebay
olive green drawstring-waist midi dress: Joe Fresh
orange ankle-strap flats: Cydwoq Instinct, ebay, worn here (see some of my '80s hairdos!)

During last year's month-long escapade, Hideous Rash Of Unknown Origin (of which my favourite part was the eyelid hives), the prevailing wisdom was that if I hadn't recently changed laundry / cleaning / personal care products, during a new-onset reaction would not be the time. I've since been guided by this list of products generated by the Environmental Health Association of Quebec as I continue to detoxify my practices at a much faster pace than before. A bit of excellent news: Penny Lane Organics Deodorant actually works! 

antique orange amber bracelet: a gift from my mother, and
watch: Stuhrling Tuskegee Skylancer, both worn here

oatmeal layering tank: Joe Fresh, several years old

But just yesterday, I accidentally poisoned myself with the ordinary weekly chore of replacing the garbage bin liner. We'd kept using the same brand of kitchen trash bags without taking notice of their increasing toxicity - instead of just being a gross scented-smell for a few seconds, now they cause me an acute reaction, and I can't believe I ever paid money for them or had them in my house. That short article I linked, 11 Disease-Causing Ingredients Added to Garbage Bags, is also worth a read for its concise articulation of how "fragrance" impacts health. Even for us no-TV and trend-resistant folk, the power of marketing to affect ideas of "normal" is incredible. 

Returning to my other recent preoccupation, I am mystified that high-maintenance stainless steel finishes are the current standard in major appliances, but somehow not surprised that the really good fridge options are limited to units so giant they'd require kitchen renovation. Dodging perfumed customers and cologned sales associates in the cornucopia of off-gassing that is the furniture / appliance store experience was super exciting, let me tell you. I am sad having to replace my old almond side-by-side fridge with its fake wood-grain handles that is so perfect in my 1950-built kitchen (shown here on last fall's applesauce-making day): 

Despite the general consensus on side-by-sides, I never had trouble fitting plenty in this fridge, and the narrow doors were ideal for its location adjacent to our entrance-and-basement-doors nook. Alas, no way could I justify the quadruple prices of gorgeous retro style (oh North Star, oh Big Chill, oh Smeg), but by the time I need to revisit this issue, hopefully a long long way from now, maybe GE Artistry will be available in colours, in Canada, and with reversible door hinges. Unfortunately, I can't wait that long, and a hunk of energy-efficient and apparently "smudge-proof" stainless steel arrives tomorrow. 

Going way back, I regret that I was ever so stinky with perfumes and scented crap myself - those '70s and '80s gems Love's Baby Soft, Bonne Bell Lipsmackers, Dewberry products from The Body Shop, then there was Dior's Poison (predictably!), Laura Biagiotti Roma, Givenchy Organza Indécence, and also tangerine-patchouli-rose and vanilla massage oil mixtures. And candles and incense and aromatherapy. And high-potency Venus lotion from the local hand-made soapworks. Never mind the essential big hair products: Dep gel, Final Net, Aussie Mega Scrunch spray. I wheeze, remembering. What are your scent stories?

Though not always able to take the place of a warm embrace, in case they could be useful, here are some potentially affectionate and enthusiastic ways to greet people with a not-hug: jazz hands, high-five, an arm's length hand clasp and eye contact, a sassy wink, finger guns, some jumping, a fist bump, exchanging bows, curtsies, or self-hugs, and of course the namaste. I will be very glad to see everyone when I'm chilling out and breathing easy at upcoming link-ups: Sheila's Shoe Shine at Ephemera, and Share-in-Style: Summer at Mis Papelicos. *** Edited to add: Over at Spy Girl, it's 52 Pick-me up: Goddess, and my outfit honours the winged ones - Nike, Victoria, Aurora, Isis, Ma'at, Nekhbet, Nut, Inanna, Siris, Lilith, neolithic Bird goddess, Ariel, Anat, Artemis Orthia, Badb, and of course the Harpies, Furies, Sirens, and Angels - and this resident of my garden:

Do you experience newer (increasingly artificially-formulated, less biodegradable, engineered for time-released dispersal and greater broadcast) fragrances as more toxic? Does your workplace have a policy? Have you had to or chosen to make changes due to care for the environment or other reasons? You can also talk to me about major appliance woes, or, even better, just outfits, accessories, and shoes are really good too.


  1. Our workplace has a scent-reduced policy and I think it's really helpful to everyone.

    On the shoe front, I love yours but the scarf is really what did it for me. Gorgeous!

  2. I'd say you're ready for takeoff in that last photo - it is absolutely beautiful, the wings on your back. This is a sober topic but you still look dazzling.

    Scentwise, I am subjected to pot and crack and possibly meth smoke wafting into my home from surprising sources, and softening toxic dryer sheets. I don't wear perfumes and avoid scented products - my tolerance is decreasing dramatically each year.

    I am very excited for the arrival of your new "smudge-proof" appliance but sad that you must bid adieu to your lovely almond piece. Perhaps you should put twinkle lights on your fridge to warm up to it.

    Your salutation solutions are wonderful! I think curtseying should make a comeback, for men and women. How civilized - I bow to you, good day.

  3. I do so hope you find some long-term solutions to your sensitivities. My issues are less problematic but many perfumes and chemicals make it difficult for me to breathe or give me instant headaches; if I were Queen every Sephora store on the planet would either have to close or install Hepa filters. ;-) Wishing you the best!

  4. I loathe personal scents, and never wear them, and buy unscented versions of most products. My work doesn't have a scent-free policy, but I wish it did. There is one man who reeks of cologne. Gah, makes me want to gag. And one of our people makes popcorn all the time - I've told him if I get a single complaint, he has to stop. I hate it, but I guess others don't mind.

    But enough of that, let's talk about those fabulous clothes.

    Love love love the Cydwoq shoes! What a glorious colour and shape. That scarf is also stunning - you've taken wing! Thank you for linking up to Shoe Shine!

    We found a faux stainless steel fridge (nice and small) from Sears that has the most important property for me: the ability to hold magnets. Our fridge is the story of our lives: all of our friends, our concert tickets, silly magnets, family photos (on the side), and drawings by my WW group's kids. I love it. I would hate to be wiping fingerprints off a SS one.

  5. Sorry to hear about your scent-sensitivities troubling you all the more lately! I had no idea about the toxicity of garbage bags, ugh. My Primary Care Doc is also extremely scent- sensitive following her chemotherapy. I have learned no to apply even lip gloss when I go to see her. You look fabulous, natch, in take-off mode! xox

  6. I'm always stunned when I'm confronted with excessively engineered products like those garbage bags you describe. I find it especially disconcerting that the "new/improved" versions are even worse. Although my reactions aren't as severe, I still find perfumed, overly sanitized products problematic. I never use soaps, detergents, and other cleaning products that contain sulfates, synthetic perfumes, etc. And that's just the beginning.

    I'm happy that you were well enough to post, however, and I'm particularly enamored with the bracelet from your mom and those fab shoes. The winged scarf is also a treasure. Playing dress-up is always therapeutic. Thank you for the joy. XXOO

  7. Now this has been an education, I had no idea about scent sensitivity, other than as a personal preference. I am probably in a minority here as someone who likes perfume (on me, less so in household products) and wears it daily. Which means I couldn't give you a hug, and that gives me pause and makes me thoughtful... I also had no idea that workplaces could establish no/reduced scent policies. I am so sorry you are finding the scent-saturated world very difficult just now, Amber, I can only imagine the challenges that brings. But I am also delighted to see you, looking cool and rocking the best accessories, as always! Your winged scarf, that glorious necklace, and the amber bracelet are wonderful pieces, no to mention the shoes!
    What a great kitchen you have. And at least your new fridge will be smudge-free... Who knew that was a possibility? See? Educational!
    Sending a virtual curtsey and blowing you a kiss. xxxx

  8. Let me tell you first how much I adore your necklace, those wings of yours are beautiful and the colours of your outfit are fabulous.
    I loathe synthetic smells, I'm fortunate that, unlike you, they don't make me ill, they just make me retch. xxx

  9. The scarf is wonderful! It was totally unexpected, and I love the way you saved it for the last photo!

    As for scents, I do use an eau de cologne very lightly. I think perfumes are almost always too heavy, and some people really overdo it. Lotions can be worse. But I never thought about garbage bags. We always buy the cheapest, so no added scents - just your usual toxic plastics. It's horrible we have to put up with so many poisons.

    We have stainless steel appliances, and I usually just use my dishrag to wipe them off. Every so often I do a polish with the chemical-infused cleaner, but not often. I would have preferred the lovely coppertone color we had in the early '70s, but no one does that anymore, do they?

    Keep well!

  10. Everything in this post is so lovely. From your orange accessories and shoes to my shared sympathy with scented things. The only scents I love are natural ones - the smell of henna on my hair, tea tree shampoo, my pine soap (even that can get strong). I hate scents in the office.

    But I'll recommend the story La parfum I believe it's called. It was made into a movie something like the Scent of a Murderer. It's amazingly written story about a boy growing up with an obsession for scents. He becomes a well know perfume maker in France until he tries to bottle the scent of woman.

  11. I am so sorry you've been suffering so - we have a scent-free policy in our office, as a few of us have reacted very severely to perfume worn by some of our students. I tried to explain to one of the regular perfume wearers that if she is coming in the office to please not wear any scent and she was very offended, meanwhile, I am coughing like crazy. People don't get it. I've noticed the scent in the garbage bags that was never there before.

    I think your suggestions for alternative greetings are great, but I would miss not being able to hug people. Perhaps you could single-handedly bring back the curtsey? I can't avoid mentioning those fiercely awesome shoes...

  12. Loving your Cydwoq shoes! Also that fabulous necklace and your scarf!!!
    I have a sister with multiple chemical allergies in food and products, and I get a sore throat from perfumes while my husband gets a headache. Those perfume displays in malls where they spray unsuspecting customers are lethal. I also find the manicure shops very difficult to walk past, let alone visit!
    Hope you have some recovery soon, and that your fridge is more than you hope it will be. JJ

  13. How interesting_ I get nasty headaches and a lingering taste in my mouth from such smells. Not as bad a reaction as you, thankfully. It's not too bad in our workplace, but if someone sprays perfume/deodorant/hairspray/airfreshener in the ladies loos I am quite vocal about it. No policy against it here. Lucky it is uncommon. I hold my breath and exit quickly to another loo. And I am the only female in my office, so no worries there!
    I am adoring your colours and most of all that divoon necklace, darling! XXX

  14. Gosh Amber - so sorry to hear of your ordeal with fragrance! It must be frustrating indeed and my heart goes out to you. Your post is timely for me. Although I don't suffer any allergies I recently have been alerted to the toxicity of artificial fragrances in so many everyday products and after doing lots of research online have been making switches to my toiletries and household items accordingly. I do love scent (I was a Dewberry girl for years and then after that switched to Angel) but I have switched to products that use essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances from companies who I've written to and got confirmation that they don't use the chemicals I'm trying to avoid. But from what I read even essential oils seem to be able to cause allergic reactions for some people. For all your suffering you continue to look wonderfully fresh faced in your photos - I hope the allergic reactions settle down soon xx

  15. I too am scent sensitive...not as bad as you....they give me "nerve" pain..banging neck ache..severe joint pain..head fuzz..I was once off work for 2 days after walking thru just sprayed fly spray!

  16. Hello kiddo - haven't seen you in awhile and am sorry to hear of your travails. I work in a scent-free workplace, which is fine by me. I do adore scented handmade soaps, so you can send those all my way! ;0)

    You are looking very goddessy BTW ~

  17. So sorry that you continue to suffer health issues - and I know chemical and environmental sensitivities can be fraught with difficulties as they have become so infused within our lives. As I work from home, I have control of that part of my environment, though it has poor design in relation to airflow, so is not perfect. I'm lucky that my sensitivities, while encouraging me to avoid scents as much as possible, don't seem to be resulting in illness that I've noticed. I do have a very receptive nose though, so can often smell things others can not, and as such have been reducing chemicals in my home for many years now. We were offered some washing detergent recently, and I had to refuse the offer and place it outside as I could not stand the overwhelming scent. Where I can, I clean with bicarb soda and white vinegar, and I make my own washing detergent from less toxic ingredients. I really feel for you and all of those for whom these chemicals and fragrances are debilitating.

    And yet despite it all, you always manage to look so classy and artful. Your parents really know you well, when I think of all the wonderful jewellery they have gifted you - and you always bring such a freshness to how you style the pieces in different outfits. And your shoes! And the scarf! Oh, my!

    I'm sure you will find a way to make the new fridge fit your aesthetic, even if not quite as the old one did. If only all products were repairable, but some things have changed in manufacturing, and some are now made for obsolescence.

    I hope that life gives you a breather and lets you begin to feel a little more fully recovered.

  18. I love your scarf and your necklace!

    I have always been a bit smell sensitive, huge perfume clouds have given me headaches as long as I can remember, but in recent years it has gone up and I am now able to sniff out the fakeness in most body lotions. Not all, as some are well done. And it's nowhere near your level.

    For me and our home I've started to switch over to natural products and I've completely stopped using cheap scented candles, artificial essential oils and the likes. No one needs that shit.

    I like to think that the reduction of problems with ekzema partly comes from those changes.

    Alex - Funky Jungle

  19. Amber, I want your wings! Or some just like them. I am coveting. sigh. In terms of smells, I'm glad you brought that up. ugh. I never wear perfume. Only fragrance-free shampoo, conditioner, lotion, deodorant, laundry stuff, soap, since I can remember. I don't think I get sick from it, I just don't like layers of competing (fake) smells. I don't want to smell like anything else. And that's the truth.

  20. I do hope you are feeling better! I work in an ND clinic, and although we have a polite sign saying no scents, so many people come in with no sense! It's as though they think the request applies to everyone except themselves? Whaaatttt??!!! Chemical sensitivities and scent sensitivities are REAL, and debilitating, and I have total empathy for your struggles Amber! Sorry for my rant! You look lovely, and I absolutely adore your angel's wings wrap!!!

  21. Amazing post, amazing you every time.
    Thank you sooooooooooo much for being part of the Share-in-Style family.

  22. Just by your mere mention of Poison makes my nose curl. And don't say Georgio of Beverly Hills I may vomit
    I think I need to get more serious about these things myself. I've had chronic sinus issues for about 2 years and the naturopathic doc didn't really help things. I know now a lot of it is scents. I can't even walk into some stores. And like you I hate taking medication for it but when my ears are ringing and my sinus headaches are so bad I can't see I have to take a decongestant and then put up with heart flutterings.

    By the way, your shoes are fabulous! Love your kitchen too. I have a tiny space to fit a fridge in my 1916 tiny craftsman and I hope it doesn't go out soon. There are only 2 models that fit there.

    So nice to see you again! I took a long break from blogging and it's taking me a while to get around again.
    Take care!

  23. You have 'sensitized' me to the possibility that my intermittent watery eyes may be the result of toxic scents. Many thanks! You are always an inspiration. Your writing. Your style. And always, your shoes.

    I found a pair of vintage Norma Kamali flats in Minneapolis, similar to your ankle-strap flats. I couldn't resist, and I thought of you as soon as I spotted them.

  24. Oh Amber I am so sorry about your experiences-the fridge and the fragrances. I confess I love fragrance, though only certain things and many I don't. Because I live alone and am home all day without going out I can sometimes indulge and I do. Although I don't get as ill from it as you do, many chemical scents do make me ill generally on the level of headaches, nausea and sometimes upset stomach. I moved into a rental apartment a few years ago which on the plus side had been recently renovated but on the con side had major off-gassing issues. I was sick from it for months with nausea and vertigo. I am okay with most perfumed personal products though I find many of them quite unappealing. I do understand what it is like to have a medical issue that people don't understand well and which is debilitating on a regular if not daily basis. You have my sympathies and cyber hugs which are safely unscented. If we ever meet in person I am just dying to do Jazz hands!

    Good luck with the new fridge. I too drool over the pricey and thus unobtainable retro look appliances. My fridge is falling apart due to cheap plastic parts but so far runs fine and I would not really like to have to choose a replacement.

    Last thing: You look amazing and the world deserves more Amber in it so it had better unscent itself. You have the most beautiful skin and arresting eyes, so they almost distract me from your fantastic style! I hope you are feeling better at this point.

    *i* This is my emoticon for jazz hands. Not sure if I have invented it or someone else beat me to it.

  25. I hope, you are right and wish you a great and peaceful Dark time (Happy Halloween?)
    Unscented hugs

  26. Dear friends, visitors, commenters - your staying in touch despite my online absence means so much to me! My hope, desire, and intention is to resume posting at Butane Anvil as soon as my energy level allows. All best, xoxoxo


Thank you for your comments!
- Amber