Bringing Neutral Back: The Fragrance Faux Pas

Avoid being an amateur diner in just one easy step.

Picture it: You’re a perfume expert, and you’re the buyer for several prestigious accounts…..perhaps for the royal couple before their wedding. You find yourself at an intimate trade show of designer fragrances, where it’s crucial that nothing encumber your sense of smell as you focus on sampling some of the world’s very best offerings. Early in your mission, in walks an infamous colleague—a loud and slovenly man in a heavy jacket, who had been smoking cigars for an hour while driving to the event. He is accustomed to his own reek, and his ability to smell the subtleties of perfume is only marginally affected. But his very presence in the space of the room is a shock and a hindrance to everyone’s olfaction, and you can no longer perform your duties in that space.

This scenario might seem like a far-fetched analogy to what commonly occurs in more public spaces—particularly in restaurants, but it captures precisely the kind of game change that takes place when one’s fragrance enters the equation. The cigar man I mentioned is an amateur in his field, and although the smell of cigar smoke has become less common in modern society, the prevalence of cologne, perfume, scented anti-perspirants, and aromatic hair treatments has reached epic proportions, potentially making you an “amateur diner”. These aromatic accessories surely have their place, but the restaurant setting is not it. That notion, unfortunately, has not sunken in with our culture as of yet.

When we dine out, particularly at fine restaurants, we tend to get “decked out” so to speak. It’s customary to dress as to “make an appearance” on the scene, to the degree that it’s become a sport of sorts. In our culture, getting dressed up means not just appealing to others’ sense of sight, but also their sense of smell. We tend to define ourselves by the fragrance we wear, but it is that very component of our outfits that is inappropriate for many social environments.

Plain and simple: If your destination is a restaurant, or any social setting that involves food for that matter, ditch the fragrance! The chemical compounds in perfume, mostly synthetic, are created with the intent to be assertive. They directly compete with organic aromas for your senses, and are in complete contrast to the aromatic compounds that compose food, which, aromatically speaking, is no match for perfume. Going neutral will not only improve your ability to smell and taste food and wine by a thousand percent, but it will allow others in your surroundings, many of whom are paying big bucks to enjoy and/or assess their meal, to do the same. Think of it this way: Nobody cares “whom” you are wearing; if you are penetrating a restaurant environment wearing even a touch of fragrance, at the very best you will be considered the parasite in the room.

Whether you are dining for sport, for hobby, for a celebration, as part of a business meal, as a reviewer, or simply for nutrition, remember: don’t be an amateur! Put designer fragrance into the past where it belongs, like cigar smoke. Besides, think of all the money you’ll save by not spending it on those pretentious brands….now you can afford the $200 bottle of wine at your next meal.

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