Wedding Woes

Where's your partner here? Is he concerned?

Dear Prudence,

I have been with my partner for five years. His parents live 15 minutes from us, and we get along well; we frequently go over to their house for dinner, to watch a sports game, or just spend time with them. I enjoy this and their beautiful, well-kept home, except for one thing: My partner’s mother is quite fond of home scents like Glade plug ins. I’m quite sensitive to scents, and exposure to intense fragrance products often gives me debilitating migraines with nausea. After all these years of lovely visits, I’ve said nothing about this to his parents—I have no idea how to tell them without feeling rude! I’ve taken to simply unplugging the one in the guest bathroom while I am there, and plugging it back in before I leave, but most of the house is still quite heavily scented.

Part of the reason I have never said anything is it just feels rude to say “the smell of your home, which you find pleasant, makes me terribly sick.” Another part of the reason is that my partner and his family are POC and I am white, and I worry about the problematic dynamic a white person communicating to a person of color that their home’s smell is sickening—even if it is from an artificial source and not cultural such as cooking or religious incense, and there is truly a medical issue at play.

Lately I’ve been growing more and more sick from the fragrance—sometimes a migraine is triggered by even the smell left in my dog’s fur hours after he has been in their house. I work with my medical team to manage my migraines, but despite all the medications one of the most important ways to manage this condition is identifying and avoiding triggers. Can you help me with a script to ask for some sort of accommodation while I am there without coming off as rude or entitled?

— Scents-Itive Soul

Re: Where's your partner here? Is he concerned?

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    Have you partner say the strong scents make you sick. 

    But also- how have your survived this long? Keep unplugging it if you don’t want to bring it up. 
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    If you aren't comfortable saying anything yourself, maybe your partner could mention it? People are often more understanding than you think, and your partner's folks may have no problem with unplugging the Glades during your visits. You could also invite them over to your place more often. 

    I think you are overthinking the racial difference here. This is a legitimate medical issue, and there's no need to use language like "sickening" if you decide to talk to them about it. Just explain that you're very sensitive to the scent and it gives you migraines. 

    If you generally get along well with them, they'll probably be more upset that you didn't speak up sooner than anything else.
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    My goodness, LW.  Stand up for yourself already!  I'm also disappointed in their partner.  Surely that person knows how sensitive the LW is to scent.  They should have said something to their parents a long time ago.

    My mom is extremely sensitive to normal, every day chemicals...and smells.  Before I visit her, this is the ritual.  My H and I will pack our suitcase a few days ahead of time so we know exactly what we are taking.  Then wash EVERY clothing item in one of those "clear, fragrance free" detergents.  No perfume/cologne around her either.  But it's okay and we do all that because we love her.  I'm sure the LW's in-laws feel the same way.

    I also have a scent annoyance story.  At a previous job, I was moved to the receptionist desk after she was laid off, jic a rare visit came in.  I also ordered office supplies for the office.  Two of my coworkers wanted me to order a fragrance thing to put on the table in that room.  Didn't even understand why they wanted that, since they are rarely in that room but, whatever.  My choices were only what Office Depot had on their website.  Which wasn't much.  They had one that either came in Berry or Vanilla.  The only scent I absolutely can't stand is Vanilla.  So Berry it is.

    The first day it is there, they both come back to me with "oh, ugh, that is such a horrible smell, it is making me sick, you need to get something else".  I inform them there is nothing else to get, except vanilla.  And vanilla is the only scent I can't stand.  They look at me a little pleading and say "that's too bad, vanilla would be a lot better".  Yes, that is too bad (inward eye roll).  But I'm the one who sits here all effing day and we aren't using a scent I don't like.  I make two offers:  1) I use work time to go somewhere and buy something else, then expense it or 2) one of them brings in whatever they want, as long as it isn't vanilla.  They didn't like either of those options.  So we went back to nothing and they didn't bring it up again.  
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
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    LW, just tell them.  I have very similar issues and I just tell people.  Work had to order special flowers for me, they had to change the flower bouquets at the front desk (stargazer lilies almost make my throat close up, the allergy is so bad), most of my friends turn off incense burners and the like when I come over, people in general care and will try to help. 

    I don't know how she's even hidden it, my eyes usually start tearing up and I start sneezing and coughing.
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