Do you know how much Americans spend each year on cologne? Me neither, but I bet it’s a lot. It’s too much money, and there’s already plenty of cologne in the world. I know. I’ve smelled a lot of it. Some is fine, but too much crosses personal boundaries and may be life threatening.
Some years ago, it was my job to squire an overnight business guest around Fort Worth, showing him the cultural elements of our fair city from the Kimbell art museum to the Stockyards. Arriving at the appointed hour, i knocked on the door of a detached guesthouse. Upon hearing “come on in”, I opened the door. Good thing the guesthouse was detached and wished my generously-sized nose was as well. An 18-wheeler of olfactory overload hit my system. You really can’t imagine.
The ground zero of this scental radiation walked down the stairs and got into my car. Though it was a bit chilly I told him Fort Worth is best seen with the windows down.
As I drove, we talked. Simultaneously my mind ticked through possible reasons any member of our species would use this much cologne. Was it a cultural custom? Are there cultures where lavish personal scent adornment conveys status? I didn’t know of any. Was it a personal habit that over the years eroded all boundaries in the brain, chasing the “whoa! Too Much!” scent receptors in retreat to a vestigial level? Perhaps it was the Middle Ages use of scent to cover some less desirable smell. If so, this much cologne would require an original undesirable smell on the level of massive farm animals dead for a very long time. I never asked, never knew. We ate lunch al fresco.
A more common experience of too much cologne is the handshake. As an active church member, I shake lots of hands. Each Lord’s Day some guy shakes my hand, and I know what I’m in for. On approach, I can smell the cologne about three feet out. With a full hale and hearty handshake we exchange deeply authentic “Good Morning, Brother”s. Non-verbally this guy also says “Smell my rich, full cologne. I like it. I want everyone to like it. It’s the best, or I wouldn’t use it, so I use a lot. And I want you to share in the blessing. I put it on my face, my neck, my upper shoulders. I put it on with my hand. This hand, the one you’re shaking. Take it, touch your face, your nose, pass it around”.
I can’t refuse a handshake, we’re an inclusive religious organization. Off to the lavatory to wash up, we have restrooms nicer than most people’s homes. Restrooms are a lifesaver in this situation. As a sidenote, I’m on the ministry staff of this great church, and a church needs a minister like me in the same way churches need a restroom; not advertised as your most attractive feature, but hard to do without.
Final note: the too much cologne experience does not apply to women. Don’t know why, but I’ve never smelled a woman with too much cologne. It always seems just right to me, in fact it’s fabulous. My mother sold Avon beauty products in a rural setting. She sold Skin-So-Soft to farm women wearing skirts over denim overalls. They smelled fantastic to me. On a woman, cologne mixes divinely with other subtle scents to create a cornucopia of enchantment. Again, don’t know why, but bring it on, ladies.