I'm surrounded by teens with uncommon scents

I walk into the house and sniff. Yes, Miss Sunflower Extract is home.

These days my eyes mist whenever I'm around my teenage daughter and her friends. It's not mushiness; it's scented and flavored bath gel, deodorant, spritz, spray, shampoo, conditioner, lotions, moisturizing potions, and lip balm, all topped off with perfume. Sometimes I think I'm living in a botanical garden.

It's, eau, too much.

"What in the world stinks?" her brother asked the other day when he got into the minivan.

"I gave the botanicals a ride to the mall," I said. "Dewberry, jasmine, and vanilla bean sat in the back."

As if he has any right to complain. One of his pals smells like two-day-old Stetson. The fellow has reached the age of aftershave, but hasn't mastered shower-before.

Not so long ago, teens were seen and heard, not smelled. I remember journeying through teenhood with just a dab of Mom's Este Lauder Youth Dew on my pulse points for special occasions. In fact, Mom dumped baking soda in the tub water to eliminate odors. She dumped it in the kitchen sink, too, after gutting fish.

Now the trend is to layer the odors on pulse points and everywhere else, beginning with the bath water. Our tub is an oil slick. I don't know what the bath gels do for our skin, but I do know that a glob of juniper rejuvenator sloughed the nonskid seashell decals right off the tub floor. We don't soak in the tub anymore. We ski.

It's quite time-consuming and perplexing, too, for a teen to mix and match all these fragrances. Miss Extract agonized for five minutes in the deodorant aisle about which member of the breeze family to dab on her armpits.

"Oh, great," she said. "I can't remember if I like morning breeze, natural breeze, or spring breeze." When she saw a new one, ocean breeze, she broke out in a sweat.

I tried to help. "Forget ocean breeze. I don't know any CEOs with armpits that smell like sea gulls. Give this cool citrus a shot and let's get out of here."

The girl is earth-friendly, too. Translation: She prefers to pay double for hair goos and lotions distilled from exotic nut oils and endangered fruits certified to be from the rain forest. "Maybe you would be earth-friendlier if you didn't drain the rain forest of its irreplaceable shampoos and conditioners," I've suggested, but it's like talking to a papaya.

Adding to the aroma overload are celebrities. As soon as anyone is someone, he or she bottles the smell and dribbles it out by the pricey ounce. I have no desire to smell like Michael Jordan, but apparently lots of people do. Liz Claiborne, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren all have signature scents. I suspect that chemists right now are squeezing coconuts and grape seeds to concoct essence de Sammy Sosa.

One good thing about this teen aroma is that I can always find my daughter. I simply follow my nose to the roots of the tropical petals mousse.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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