There’s this one weird thing that I’ve been doing this year. Here it is:
I know, some of you can understand why I do this just by looking at that photo; but for those who think it’s just plain wacky, I agree, because that’s how I felt too. The first few times I did this, I felt overly self-conscious and a bit ‘wacky’ about the way it may be perceived. Maybe people thought I had a germ phobia. Or maybe they were thinking: What a weirdo! But you know? How could I even begin to assume what each and every individual could possibly be thinking? I had to hold my head high and do what I had to protect my health: put something between my clothes and any chair where someone may have sat while wearing fragrance or clothes freshly washed in fabric softener!
This year at VU, I only did this for the first semester because by the second, people actually treated the room like it was an actual fragrance chemical free room. Just like the sign on the door said. Not once this year did I have to throw out my clothes because some type of musky fragrance had adhered to them. Can you imagine being chemically sensitive (or allergic, even) to fragrance and sitting on something that a fragrance wearer had just sat on? And then getting into a hot car. Sans mask? I mean, you go to all this trouble to avoid chemicals (by sometimes wearing a mask, asking people to help by not wearing fragrance chemicals (that impact on others health too!), sitting near air-filters, only going to areas where it’s perfume free, or by being as quick as I can if in areas that are choked with it) and then you forget and go and sit in the stuff? Awful!
Musk based fragrance is one of the worst for me: my eyes dry out, stinging, itching until it feels as if there is something in them, burning the skin around my inner eyelids. Nostrils burning. Head aching. Later, tiny red rashes around my eyes map out their own story. Driving in sunlight hurts… on go on the hat and dark glasses; or I try to stay indoors and avoid light.
And, it’s not like I can wash it out of my clothes, either. One of the worst things someone with this condition can do is to go around sniffing things that have fragrance on them. Avoidance of chemicals means to avoid coming in contact with them in ways in which they effect the sufferer. And besides, quite often, it won’t wash out. And how do I find out when it’s gone? Keep sniffing the bloody thing, inhaling more fragrance chemicals into my system? Wear it for a while and see? Not likely! Experience tells me, it may fade after 15 or so washes (I shit you not.) along with the fabric’s colour and quality)), especially if soaked in bicarbonate of soda, but it doesn’t go away. Not for me.
Last year, 2012, I tried to keep aside the same few sets of clothes to always wear out; while just airing them in between washes. (Note: keeping just a few sets aside is difficult for a chemically sensitive person who loves clothes. Clothes are for wearing, right?) These clothes ended up in the charity-giveaway pile. On a few occasions, I tried using a towel but that was dumb because it went through it. And stupidly, I felt embarrassed. Come 2013, I hatched the plan to always, always, put foil down on chairs before sitting on them. First, I imagined myself doing it. I pictured going into class, putting down my bag, then pulling out the foil and covering the chair like it was the most natural thing in the world to do. (I mean, surely there are others who do this too?) After 2-3 classes it felt natural and I did it without thinking about it.
Sometimes, just imagining doing something that is frightening to do, can help calm any nervousness surrounding it, therefore, making it easier to do in reality. I use this trick on myself all the time.
Does anyone else go to these lengths to avoid getting fragrance on their clothes?
If you think this IS weird, just say it!
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