Dear Carolyn: I’ve never been much of a perfume wearer, but recently I found a scent that I really, really love. My mom complimented me on it, asked what it was, and immediately went out and bought it for herself. I’m fine with copying in a lot of areas, but perfume feels so … personal. Scent is just so strongly tied to memory/association, even if it’s subconsciously.
Not knowing your mom, I don’t know if this would work or if it is worth a shot. Sadly, this doesn’t usually work with my own mom! But it has helped with disagreements with other family and friends. Vulnerability can be disarming and can sometimes curb people’s instinct to be defensive. I respond better personally to people sharing their honest feeling with me, too (“I statements” help).
Anonymous: I’m probably the last one to ask, because things like this don’t bother me at all (I’ve shown up wearing the EXACT same shirt as one of my friends, and even my mom, before and find it hilarious … and proof I have good taste). However, I would like to point out that the same scent rarely smells the same on two different people, given your different natural scents and pheromones. Case in point, my one friend has the same body spray as I do, and it’s always smelled fruity to me (while I’m wearing it), and it smells more floral on her. We didn’t even realize it was the same scent until one of us saw the other use it.
Anonymous: The problem isn’t that your mom is wearing the same perfume. It’s that you know she’s wearing the same perfume, and you feel self-conscious about it. So this is more of a you problem than a mom problem. Scent may be personal, but rationally, you already know that at least thousands of other women wear that same perfume. But your mom is the only one you know personally, apparently. So you focus on her wearing it because you know about it and because she’s a family member, and for some reason this interferes with your enjoyment of the perfume. A better question might be: What can you do to get it to bother you less?
If your mom is wearing it while at your house, you could mention to her that it weirds you out a little to smell “your” perfume on someone else. If she stops wearing it at your house, that’s all you can expect in any reasonable way. If she doesn’t wear it at your house, you might have to find some thought-stopping technique to help your mind switch gears when you start ruminating on mom and the perfume. If you need to read up on thought-stopping, Google is your friend.
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