Fragrance Free



I have always been the recipient of hair/smell comments and unwarranted hair smelling or touching and as a black woman with “natural” hair I had to accept it. Curly hair or unique hair is a "touch" or "comment magnet."

However, I believe some (if not all) women don’t want to be told they smell.  Luckily most of my smell or hair comments have been positive, but what happens when the comments are “out of place?”

Black women especially want to stay away from the “smell” issue, because of being seen as “dirty,” “unclean” and overly sexualized (even in society today). The past only evolves, it never goes away.

I started thinking about the “smell” topic after one of my yoga classes.  It reminded me of an article from my research.

During a class a yoga teacher approaches me in twisting half moon pose.  I look up at him expecting an adjustment, but instead I receive a comment.

He asks, “Are you the one wearing perfume?”

Slightly embarrassed and confused, I said, “It could be my jacket?”

Then I'm told, “I really smell something its like, ‘woah’ and well this is a fragrance free studio…”

I was insulted.

At the end of class I inquired “do you smell me or are you wearing perfume?”

She sniffs and smells nothing and replies with a “No, but if you did smell of perfume it would sure help the place.”

On my way out I mention that I thought the smell wasn't me. Then I get “sniffed” and told “It is you, I just smelled you.”  It was so weird and off putting.

I was on the defensive about my smell. He continued to explain “some women wear more scents so with the packed rooms/heat it just gets overwhelming for people.” So, “we try to keep it a fragrance free Studio.” I was staring with my mouth open and confused trying to comprehend being told about the scent of women in a yoga class and that I smelled, but not to worry today... The women next to me looked just as bewildered and I left.

"Fragrance Free Studio" my a$$!! I frequent a teacher at the same studio that walks around with incense in her class.

I have practiced yoga next to white guys in dreadlocks that have not showered for days/weeks and reek of sour milk... No one ever told them to shower for the sake of my nose.
Lancome: Tresor Midnight Rose or Kerastase Paris Curl Hair product... That is my fragrance that drives people to speak.

For further reading on the topic of “scent” and the construction of the African American Female take a closer (more constructive) look at the media and Carol Duncan’s "Mammy" in the Erotic Imaginary of Anaiis Nin. She quotes, "stereotypic representations of blackness which have their roots in constructions of racial difference [is] on the basis of claims that black people smelled fundamentally, "different" (presumably more "animalistic") than white people."

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