Hey everyone, happy post-eclipse! We were at around 80% coverage and my entire office trooped outside to watch the highlights. I was surprised and heartened to see so many random folks outside watching it. Was anyone in the “total eclipse” swath? What did you think? I’m kind of kicking myself for not flying/driving somewhere I could see the total eclipse.

So, a question. I have a coworker who loves wearing patchouli. I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s some essential oil; it seems pretty straightforward, and it’s the only fragrance she wears. My coworkers are generally unscented, aside from maybe their hand lotion. The only thing I pick up on regularly at the office, besides Miss Patchouli, is various inoffensive men’s colognes. I myself try to dial it down at work and not wear anything too ridiculous, since I share an open office with someone who sits right behind me. I’ll admit that I’ve worn vintage killers a couple of times (Poison, Paris) when I knew I was going to be alone for the day in my stretch of the office, which happens if everyone else is at a conference.

But back to Miss Patchouli. I hate that smell. I like patchouli well enough at the base of any number of powerhouse scents, but the smell of it alone is like nails on a blackboard. It’s so pervasive.

A couple of times I’ve been tempted to say something to her; what stops me is knowing what a hypocrite I am. I’m not allergic to her dumb hippie love-oil. It doesn’t trigger watery eyes or a migraine, just a constantly fluctuating level of resentment. If I walk into, say, the company kitchen I know she’s been there recently because I can still smell her. I studiously avoid sitting near her at meetings. None of this is impacting my job. I don’t work with her directly. I just …. hate it. I hate it and I’m kind of embarrassed about how much I hate it.

One other (minor) scent experience – I went out to lunch with friends recently, and after a few minutes I asked for a booth in another room because the scent of eucalyptus was so intense, although I looked around and couldn’t see it anywhere. From the smell, you’d think they’d tied a bunch of dried stems to the back of my chair. Nobody I was with even knew what I was talking about, of course; they just cheerfully picked up and moved.

Would you say anything to Miss Patchouli? Would you imply that you were sensitive/allergic? Would you try to engage her and see if you could get her to start wearing something you liked? Would you grin and bear it? Something else?

And have you ever run up against some perfume-ambiance in a restaurant that vexed you? I’ve been overwhelmed by the offgassing from other diners, and occasionally by the servers, but I can’t recall another time the restaurant itself seemed to be the source of the smell. Would you have said anything to the host on your way out?


  • Kate E. says:

    I probably wouldn’t say anything, but I like the first suggestion you got to steer her toward something less offensive. I once worked with a woman who bathed in Avon Odyssey and reapplied liberally at her desk. It was such a piercing scent–I felt like I was getting stabbed in the eye. You have my sympathy and I hope you can get some relief.

  • taramm says:

    I hate the head shop smell of patchouli oil. It is just miserable. I would do exactly what you do and avoid her at all costs. But would I say something? Probably not. I am sure that when I take the commuter train every morning, some mornings I offend people, but I really try not to. What really drives me crazy are the people on the subway and commuter train on the way home that smell as if they just applied 12 spritzes of Angel or Poison. Who puts on perfume to go home?

  • Musette says:

    I say GET A FLAMETHROWER AND SET HER DESK ON FIRE! then again, my back still hurts a bit. So don’t mind me.

    On the other hand, I’ve been known to bomb the F outta some Carnal Flower. Mitsouko. Just. Because. I. Can. But usually the only being I’m gassing is The Girl – and she just goes into another room.

    The eucalyptus is puzzling. Wth? You didn’t get lost and wander into a spa, did you? Are you sure? Sure you didn’t end up going back to the office in a terrycloth robe? Check your closet. Stuff happens, y’know.

    Okay – I’m stoned on Tramedol. Time for me to stop babbling.


  • Ann says:

    Oh, I feel you, March!! I’m with the others who suggest a very gentle, polite approach. But if it (and other scents) start becoming more widely irritating to folks, you guys may end up with one of those scent-free offices. Mine did that after we had a very allergic co-worker and someone else kept wearing their scent irregardless and down came the ban. Now the sensitive co-worker is gone, but the edict is still firmly in place, probably for forever. 🙂

  • DinaC says:

    My teen DD likes fruitichoulis, but thank goodness doesn’t have a desire to wear pure essential oil. I’m not a patch fan either. Feel badly for you…I’d be avoiding Miss Patchouli, too.

    Last week I was hospitalized for a couple days, and one of my male nurses’ aides reeked of what seemed like after shave each time he came to help me. Fortunately I didn’t say anything, because I figured out it was the hand sanitizer that they use! There was a dispenser right outside each patient room, so he had just put it on. Man, who was the idiot who signed a contract for the entire hospital to reek of that stinky stuff?!? Seems like unscented would be the way to go in that setting.

  • eldarwen22 says:

    Hence why I can’t wear anything that Mademoiselle in any form. I can’t wear any kind of perfume that is patch dominant. Good thing that my coworkers are generally unscented. I try not to wear anything too loud, too weird or skanky to work. Let her know discreetly that her oil is bothering you.

  • rosarita313 says:

    I used to have a coworker who wore clouds of Angel, Euphoria, Poison…ack. The first part of the day was really difficult, we had a locker room to keep all our stuff and a really tiny bathroom, but it was a hot and busy kitchen and I couldn’t smell her at all after the first couple of hours. The boss had an aversion to anything patchouli like Angel but her only action was to complain about said coworker behind her back. Not effective and this comment isn’t helpful except to tell you that I feel your pain, March.

  • Tara C says:

    I would just let her know that it is too strong for you and ask her to apply more sparingly. I have had issues with people using those noxious scent diffusers on their desks and asked the woman to stop using one that made me nauseous. If you are polite about it hopefully she will respond nicely.

  • Fabs says:

    A local gentleman and his former lover ( both from the 60”s) are are chronic abusers of patchouli. You always know they’re somewhere near by their sharp aroma. One Christmas he was shopping at the store where I work. Before leaving he hugged my co-worker wishing her happy holidays. She then later hug me at the end of our shift. That Christmas Eve I went home smelling of the “patchouli spirit”. It’s like a communicable disease, jumping from one person to the next… argh.

    She later told me she went home took a bath and scrubbed. She and her husband jumped in the car to drive 3 hours to go spend Christmas with the kids. At some point during the drive her husband complained of some awful smell. LOL it’s such a tenacious scent.

    Fun fact: when I lived in Switzerland back in the 80’s people called patchouli “the perfume of the drugged”. Must have been all the pot smoking hippies giving it a bad name.

    • March says:

      Ah, patchouli as a contact disease…. makes sense to me! I feel like dry cleaning wouldn’t even remove it. You just have to wait for the evil spirits to depart. I can definitely see the relationship between it and pot-smoking hippies.

  • Bee says:

    I had to work closely with someone during a long hot summer and they wore heavy doses of Kenzo L’Elephant every day. I found it sickening but the sad thing was I had worn it once and she had asked what it was – the very next day she was trilling ‘Thank you! I have found my signature scent! I’ll never wear anything else’ and my heart sank but what could I say? I did try ‘O you’ll love it so much more in the winter’ but it didn’t work . I put up with it til she moved to another job and then I vowed never to talk about fragrance at work – ever.

    • March says:

      HAHAHAHA that’s TERRIBLE! I have a bottle of L’Elephant and I think it’s a hoot, but I wear it veeeery sparingly and never to the office. It really is an elephant of a scent! And the thought if it in summer is nauseating.

    • MMKinPA says:

      I will never talk to anyone about perfume again. Yikes. I love that one but it sits quietly in the closet until winter evenings!

  • Sarah says:

    UGH. Patchouli oil. My sympathies. I despise it. It gets in everything, on everything and near impossible to get away from. LisainDenver is such an adult. Subtle kind advice. I’d buy a gallon of Acqua Viva Profumum Roma and scent mark over it everywhere. But I suspect I have dog in my DNA.

    • March says:

      Well,yeah, I could GAS her out. But maybe I’m already offgassing too much and Miss Patch and I are secretly known around the office as “the stinky twins.”

      An aside: the other gal in my office and I delicately discussed food odors and it was great. I mostly bring my lunch and it’s frequently something like a salmon salad. I checked in with her early on about whether fish smells make her gag and fortunately she likes them too! Don’t worry, I’m not microwaving it 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    Lol. Your story reminds me of the times my husbands niece would babysit our daughter. Patchouli was all she wore as well and my daughter reeked of it when she came home. Gah! Like you, I like it well enough in the mix but never by itself!
    If this is all she wears she may be quite anosmic at this point and a gentle reminder of the potency of patchouli may be all she needs to tone it (way) down. I’m sure your fellow co-workers will applaud!

    As to the restaurant, if it’s one you frequent often I think I would say something. Strong non food odors are kind of an appetite killer imo.

    • March says:

      Yep, I’m voting for anosmic. And your story about your niece made me laugh, that’s awful! The restaurant isn’t one I go to often, but if I go back and smell it again I will say something. I am NOT a fan of those kinds of ambient scents in a restaurant. Right up there with the smell when they mop the floors.

  • LisaInDenver says:

    Do you have any samples of perfumes with a patch note that you could share with her, under the guise of “I notice that you’re a patchouli lover! I thought you might like to try a few samples of some fragrances that feature this note in different ways. It’s amazing how many perfumes are doing interesting things with patch!” Maybe you can move her in the direction of a more tolerable patch scent? I’m okay with patch when it’s artfully employed in a fragrance, but I can’t imagine having to work around pure patchouli oil everyday ?.

    • March says:

      loool these responses are making me feel less guilty about my patch loathing. I have thought about doing this…. thing is I don’t really know her so it feels a bit odd. And also I’m terrified that if I got her hooked on something else she’d wear it in such quantities that it would be even worse!

    • shiva-woman says:

      I thought the sane thing! Try to move her thou a different patch!

    • aimtx says:

      I second Lisa. Give her some other ones and also give her some samples of things that might lead her to other notes.

      There’s a woman in my office who wears Dune. Exclusively Dune. Exclusively Dune for a lot of years, so I think she’s pretty much anosmic to it and I think that because she wears SO MUCH OF IT that I can literally taste it five minutes after she’s walked past. (Additional weird note – she’s French. She’s the least French French person I’ve ever met – besides the ‘fume she’s unbelievably LOUD. I’m convinced she was asked to leave France.) I’d give anything to be able to turn her on to something new (something that didn’t require eleven spritzes for her to smell it) but I don’t see that happening.