Dear Abby: My problem is my mother-in-law and her abundant use of perfume. The last time she visited, it was so bad we had to open our windows to air out the rooms.
(This was in January in Minnesota.)
My husband addressed the problem with her when I was pregnant, but now that the baby is here she’s back to her old habits.
We are all sensitive to perfumes and get headaches when exposed to it.
When she visits, we can’t get away from the smell. I don’t wear perfume, but was always told that “perfume is to be discovered, never announced.” However, when I say that around her, she dismisses it.
What’s the proper etiquette in addressing the perfume cloud that surrounds her?
The Nose Knows
Dear Nose: I receive complaints about perfumes almost daily. Perfume “in abundance” can cause serious allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to it.
And when they are exposed to it in enclosed places (elevators, airplanes, houses with storm windows, gymnasiums, etc.), it can cause real problems.
Your mother-in-law should be reminded again that her perfume is causing headaches and asked to please not use it around you. Depending upon how old she is and her sense of smell, she may not realize she is using as much as she is.
Women’s perfumes and men’s after-shave lotions and colognes can also cause problems at the gym. When people who are exercising begin to sweat, the smell can become overpowering and a nuisance to others. Scents that were applied the day before can turn rancid, so a shower before working out would be considerate if this could be you.
Dear Abby: I have a son, “Billy,” who will be 9 soon. He was conceived through rape by a man who was physically, emotionally and sexually abusive, as well as controlling and manipulative. He threatened to kill me and Billy, but I eventually got free. I have a criminal no-contact order on him, and he has no legal rights to Billy.
I have raised my son without any knowledge of his father. I feel it would be cruel to tell him how he came into the world. My mother disagrees. She thinks it will backfire if and when Billy finds out. She points out that Billy has two half-sisters he doesn’t know about. I don’t like to keep that from him.
I need to protect my son, no matter what. But am I doing the right thing? I sometimes question what is in my son’s best interest and that of our relationship. Please give me some advice.
Living in the Present
Dear Living in the Present: I’m surprised your son hasn’t already asked about his father, because surely he must have questions. When Billy asks, he should be told some of the truth in an age-appropriate way. He does not need to know about the rape, but he should know that his father was violent, so for your safety and his, the courts decided Billy’s father should not be in contact with the two of you. Billy should also be told that until he is an adult it will have to remain that way.
When he’s older, he can be told that there are half-siblings. (I agree with your mother on that.) While you can’t protect your son forever, you can keep him safe until he’s old enough to process the information
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.