I don't remember when I decided to stop using perfume. I still have a tiny bottle of Jolie Madame, which I can't seem to throw out–twenty, thirty years old; I can't remember. Certainly before I understood that I was old. At the same time I started using unscented everything: soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, fabric softener. I don't want to constantly smell anything.
Maybe it began with those nasty perfume samples they put in magazines and mailing pieces. I had a subscription to Bon Appetit. It came with a picture of a slice of wonderful chocolate cake on the cover, but it smelled like a perfume sample. (I don't think any perfume really smells like that–at least, I hope not.) It ruined the chocolate cake, and the magazine, for me.
I like smelling aromas that appear and then leave; a person walking past with an almost unobtrusive scent, bread baking as I walk past a pizza place or bakery, garlic from an Italian restaurant. Even the smell that clings to a person after they have a cigarette is interesting, if they quickly move away from me.
Why am I thinking about this? It's not that I've become more sensitive to smells. I'm sure there are many smells I never register. Smells seem to have become more important to my brain; every time I sense a new one I pay attention to it; play with it, almost like gently tossing a ball from one hand to the other and examining it carefully. So in my old brain, which strongly prefers handling only one thing at a time, smells become a distraction–OK when I'm out for a walk, but not OK when I'm driving, or watching a movie, or anything that requires concentration.