update: my coworker won’t stop telling me that I smell

Remember the person whose coworker kept insisting that she smelled? I really wanted an update on this one, and here it is:

So, this is actually hilarious. After posting to AAM, I decided to try one final de-smellification and see what happened. I found a relatively cheap unscented body wash, and, since the weather had finally turned hot for the summer, got my summer clothes out of storage. I don’t wear any of my “heavy” scents in the summer, so none of those clothes have been touched by the foul scourge that (apparently) is patchouli. All my coats, gloves, scarves, etc, went into storage.

Monday: I go into work wearing summer clothes – coworker makes a comment. I go into my manager’s (who is fortunately a super chill lady) office and ask her to smell me. She knows what’s going on with coworker, and agrees. Gets very close, sniffs, confirms that I am “almost creepily unscented” (her words).

Tuesday: coworker says something again. I ask another coworker who didn’t know what was going on if she will sniff my cube. (Thank goodness all this happened during a slow week!) In front of coworker, she walks around my cube, sniffing my chair and desk. Coworker looks embarrassed.

Wednesday: coworker says something AGAIN! I lose my patience and tell her, “Look, [coworker], you are clearly the only one smelling anything in this cube. Maybe you should go to the doctor and get checked for a brain tumor or something. Maybe you’re pregnant.” Coworker doesn’t respond, and so I look up to find her looking absolutely STUNNED. Like, the world could have exploded right then and I doubt she would have noticed. She’s super distracted the rest of the day.

Thursday: coworker calls in sick.

Friday: I wake up to a $50 gift card for my favorite indie shop in my email. I come in and coworker literally hugs me. Turns out — she’s pregnant! Apparently she and her partner have been trying for a while and it finally took, and sometimes pregnant women just develop insane senses of smell. I didn’t even actually know that, one of the commenters here suggested it and I was just so irritated that I threw it out there without thinking.

The weird thing is that she swears she does actually smell something. I believe her, but have literally no idea what it could be. She was just being kind of a jerk with the sniffing thing, even though she can smell it, it doesn’t bother her and she said she thought it was funny to watch me freak out. Manager has talked to her about not taunting the coworkers. Right now she’s so overjoyed that I don’t think she could be mean to anyone, but I guess we’ll see what happens after about month five or six!

Anyway, thank you for your advice and the really helpful comments on your site!

{ 324 comments… read them below }

  1. Yep, me again*

    This is the second update involving a preganancy. It makes me wonder if AAM has something to do with this (maybe have a co-worker write in to invoke the fertility gods or something?????) lol.

      1. CatCat*

        How amazing would it be if OP’s coworker were to show up in this thread under the username “Prega Nancy”?

            1. Ganache*

              Same. My partner and I now call our stretch marks ‘starch masks’ and joke about trying to get either prengran or pregante all the time!

            1. Amber Rose*

              That video gets funnier the longer it goes. I remember catching it on TV a while ago and literally rolling on the floor. :D

            2. Princess Cimorene*

              Before I ever saw this video on YT, I had seen something linking to the yahoo answers forums and laughed for years. Still laughing actually. Just watched this video again and my spleen just exploded.

            3. DeeC*

              OH MY GAWD I’d never seen/heard that video before……sitting at my desk (at work) crying and almost peeing at the same time. :D


      2. LadyCop*

        This is in my top 10 of updates! Yay OP, OP’s co-worker, and unknown forum postee! This could have devolved into an awful mess, but it’s so nice that not only did things turn out well, but everyone can move on with their lives (and have a good story to tell). Good feels.

    1. Candi*

      Well, there was a story years ago about one dentist’s office and a specific stool used by the hygenists, assistants, etc.

      Every single woman (single meant as in individual) :P who sat on that stool fell pregnant in within six months.

      They fell below the FMLA fifty, but the dentist who owned the practice was very nice about working around their pregnancies. One woman who left for two years was hired back (and got pregnant again).

      The part that made me cry was a hygenist who had been trying to get pregnant for years. No one told her about the stool, reportedly out of respect for her situation.

      …Three months. Unfortunately, that’s where the story ends.

      But just saying, these weird things happen.

      1. TardyTardis*

        We had the Water Fountain of Fertility in our building when I was in the Air Force. Most of the men’s wives became pregnant during a four-year period, as did one new sergeant and myself (though I come from a family where ‘I think I want to be pregnant now’ usually works within a month). A new male sergeant came through, didn’t believe it, we told him to keep drinking from it (he was doubtful because they had been trying for years), and in three months, you guessed it.

  2. Interviewer*

    My most favorite update so far. I wish I could hug her, and you. I’m so glad you had the outburst!

    1. cheeky*

      I think that outburst was terrible, even if the outcome wasn’t. What if she wasn’t pregnant? What if she did have a brain tumor? That was inappropriate.

      1. Anon Marketer*

        I agree with this. I’m glad for the good outcome, but the brain tumor bit, in particular, crossed a really hard line in terms of work decorum.

        1. Red 5*

          I think it could depend actually, in this case it doesn’t sound like they were good enough friends to have that kind of joke between them but my friends and family make jokes like this pretty consistently and I wouldn’t be surprised if a co-worker I was close to picked up on that part of my sense of humor and made a comment like this.

          And I am saying this with utter seriousness because I have been noticing that I’m weirdly sensitive to smells that never used to bother me and whenever I bring it up somebody makes a joke about my possible brain tumor. Sometimes that somebody is me.

          I’m not saying it wasn’t inappropriate in this instance, just that it’s not as hard a line as it might seem.

          And before anybody fusses about me not understanding the heartbreak of cancer or something, the _reason_ my humor is this dark is because of how many times my family members have battled cancer and the couple scares I’ve had. Sometimes you gotta laugh at something or you’ll just never stop crying. Obviously I try to be sensitive to new people who don’t know this about me because I don’t know their histories etc. etc.

      2. Viktoria*

        Yes but… it was an outburst, caused by a long pattern of extremely frustrating behavior. I’m sure OP doesn’t think this was the best thing to say but sometimes in frustration we all say things that we might regret later. In this case we can just be happy it worked out ok!

        1. AMPG*

          Especially since it turned out the scent-sensitive coworker was just messing with the OP the entire time. I say she deserved it.

        2. Jo*

          I agree, I don’t think the coworker was being fair at all. It’s not nice to make someone insecure like that. I’m glad it seems to have a positive resolution though.

      3. Ganache*

        Well if the coworker knew she had a brain tumour she’d have known that was a likely symptom and not bugged the OP nonstop about her imaginary scent. And if she didn’t know, and DID have a tumour, I’m sure she’d have been extremely thankful for the heads up. I mean she didn’t know she was pregnant and was thankful to OP for telling her that was a possible reason. I’m sure she’d have been even more thankful had the reason been a potentially fatal illness she didn’t pick up on in time.

        Coworker was a jerk, on purpose, for a sustained period of time. I think we can forgive the OP for finally cracking. She did everything she could to handle it professionally first.

        1. Ted Mosby*

          Please, this is getting ridiculous. A coworker getting annoyed and snapping “maybe you have a brain tumor” at you isn’t medical advice. It’s not a “heads up” about a possible condition. No reasonable person is going to take it seriously.

          OP didn’t behave perfectly in this situation either. It’s fine if you think her rudeness was well deserved, but there’s no need to pretend she was being helpful by accusing people of having serious and scary health problems.

        1. Gloucesterina*

          sure, apologizing makes a lot sense if it would help repair the relationship and communicate good will. I’m surprised that this suggestion didn’t come up earlier. This strand of the thread seemed more focused on arguing that the OP should go back in time and make the decision the commenters would have made. I don’t think anyone is saying that the takeaway of this letter is that speaking hastily out of long-simmering frustration is A-OK Nobel prize-winning professional behavior.

        1. LBK*

          I highly doubt someone is going to take an outburst by a coworker as inspiration to get a brain scan (is phantom smells even a real symptom of brain tumors? sounds plausible but I don’t know).

      4. Amy*

        I mean, it wasn’t ideal professional behavior, but it was in response to a long period of less-than-ideal, less-than-professional harassment from her coworker. Situationally, I don’t think it’s that big a deal.

      5. Gadfly*

        I have a brain tumor. It happens. Not great to discover it that way, but tormenting a co-worker mostly to be an ass is worse, imo. People break.

  3. ArtsNerd*

    She was just being kind of a jerk with the sniffing thing, even though she can smell it, it doesn’t bother her and she said she thought it was funny to watch me freak out.

    Wow, that’s really cruel. I’m glad the update resolved well but…. wow.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I liked everything about this updated except this part. OP went way out of her way to try to “fix” the problem; it annoys me that the coworker was just messing with her.

        1. bookartist*

          You are 100% correct to call me out on that; thank you. There are plenty of other ways to express my meaning; I won’t be using that way again.

            1. Madison King*

              Same! This small exchange restored my faith in humanity! bookartist and Hurricane Wakeen, you both rock!

          1. Candi*

            I like “brat” for the coworker’s type of behavior.

            I do “dolt” for someone’s who is behaving stupidly, since I haven’t been able to find a bad history for it. Just related to “dull”, lack of use as a slur, etc.

            Correct me if I’m wrong!

            1. Close Bracket*

              IME, “brat” is pretty gendered, too. It’s not specifically feminine, the way b!tch is, but it’s overwhelmingly used to describe female people.

              I like jackass or knucklehead, depending on my audience.

        2. Super Anon for This*

          Eh, not to derail, but I see lots of people use “d*ck” and “as$hole” exclusively for men and no one gets upset about it, and yeah, I get the “men have the power, women don’t, punching down” thing, but, in such a minor, personal thing, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Either men and women should be treated equally or they shouldn’t.

          TL;DR I (and lots of feminists) don’t think there is anything wrong with “b!tch”, and other gendered slurs, like “d*ck” and “as$hole”. There is no One True Feminist Way on this.

          1. Quinalla*

            Of course there is no one true feminist way, but there are plenty of people that don’t like gendered slurs and female gendered slurs are used in a way that has all the misogyny behind it as you agreed with. It is fine if you are personally ok with them, but plenty of people aren’t for good reason. It’s not a minor thing when piled up with all the other microagressions women deal with every day.

            And no one was arguing that it was ok to use male gendered slurs, not sure why you are setting up this straw man argument to knock down. And how is the second one you listed a gendered slur? That and jerk are what I use when I want a nice non-gendered slur.

          2. Sue Wilson*

            There really is one “bitch is a contextually gendered term and pejorative use to anyone contributes to female oppression,” feminist way which makes any exclusive use of “dick” and “asshole” irrelevant, but there’s no way for us to be feminists all the time so feel whatever way you want

          3. Anonymousaurus Rex*

            Wait? How is “as$hole” a gendered slur? I use it for women all the time. I actually use “d*ck” for women too, but of course I know that’s inherently gendered… But everybody’s got an “as$hole” right? (I also never use “bitch”, skeeves me out when I hear others do it, so I don’t know. I guess I’m full of double standards.)

            1. JTD*

              My rule is (nearly) everyone’s got an arsehole and shit comes out of it. Ergo, it’s an ideal insult.

          4. Delphine*

            There’s a difference between a slur and an insult (and you actually pinpointed why there’s a difference), and neither of those words are slurs. B*tch is a slur, whether or not some women choose to reclaim it.

    2. Specialk9*

      Yeah. My mouth was hanging open at that. I’m thinking… Hard-boiled eggs, peeled and eaten in front of her. (The Office reference)

      I’m actually getting more annoyed at her as I think about her behavior. I have scent allergies, and the lady across the hall leaves a sillage – perfume vapor trail – that is almost visible in its density. I know if she’s passed by my door even with the door closed. But I haven’t said anything yet. And here’s this cruel person making her co-workers contort themselves for her amusement. Wow.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        SOMEONE in my building wears so much aftershave that the elevator will make your eyes water for some indeterminate period of time after they have left it. I have never actually shared an elevator with the person (fortunately, since I suspect I would have an asthma attack) but I have been in the elevator after they’ve been there, and YIKES.

        If someone can taste your aftershave in the back of their throat after you’ve left, you are wearing too much. Although now it occurs to me that this lovely individual may be applying cologne in the elevator, in which case, may they burn in the special hell reserved for people who talk in the cinema and shop ladies who spray perfume at me without asking.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This happened a lot at Exjob. And a person at OldExjob would douse himself in cologne as well. Re the latter, another coworker and I were moaning about him in private and coworker said, mocking him, “Hi! My name is Bob and I stink like a French wh*re!”

          I know that’s problematic, but I couldn’t stop giggling for a good half hour.

          1. Julia*

            At my toxic ex-job, we had a co-worker who rarely ever came to work, but if he did, you could smell it immediately. Ugh.

        2. boop the first*

          Ugh there was a brief time that someone would spray just the most awful cologne in the hallway of my apartment building. It smelled like it happened just outside my door, very early every morning. It was so bad that it lingered the entire day and night and wafted into all of the apartments.

          Thankfully, it stopped the moment someone complained, which is kind of a miracle for the kind of apartments where no one talks to each other.

      2. pope suburban*

        That’s me as well. There’s a particular species of perfume (Chanel No. 5 and Chantilly, and their knockoffs) that makes me feel like I’m coming down with hay fever. Unfortunately, people seem to apply these scents by the bottle, so I have literally tasted it on more than one occasion. It makes my eyes water, I cough, it’s unpleasant, and…I work with the public. I deal with it kind of a lot. I don’t really have much choice but to power through it and hope that the offender isn’t in my office or in our restroom for too long. The idea of someone acting out this way for shits and giggles is revolting.

          1. circus peanuts*

            I have many scents that trigger migraines but there is a ring of hell for people who wear Estee Lauder White Linen. Who in the world wants to smell like cat peee and why did they make a product that smells like that?

            1. Julia*

              Oops, my mother wears that. I guess it smells good on her? Sometimes, fragrances smell different on different people – citrus smells absolutely vile on me, for example.
              And of course, some people just use waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much.

            2. JeanB in NC*

              Someone at an old job used to wear perfume that smelled just like Raid. I can’t even imagine how they thought that smelled good.

      3. Anion*

        I cannot imagine what kind of person would think that was funny. I mean, I honestly just can’t think of how petty and malicious you would have to be to do something like that, on an ongoing basis, because it’s hilarious to watch someone turn themselves inside out to try to make things easier for you.

        I agree, I worry for that child (and for anyone unfortunate enough to have to go to school with/teach it, especially), because that kind of “other people’s feelings don’t matter, they’re all just here to amuse me and be my playthings” attitude and behavior that promises a healthy upbringing.

        I hate to be the comments-overreactor (“This person must be EVIL!”) but sheesh. That’s just scummy asshole behavior.

        1. PlainJane*

          Right there with you. There are quite a few horrible humans who post videos online of themselves tormenting their kids for the “fun” of getting a reaction. This co-worker sounds like she’ll be one of them.

      4. Tiny Soprano*

        I’m very good at identifying scents too, so frequently if I meet someone with a perfume or cologne that I associate with someone else it’s very confusing. Particularly if they’re wearing Dior Homme (a creepy old conductor I worked with once, and also later one of the most horrible people I’ve ever met). I don’t think I could work in close proximity with a guy who wore it now.

    3. Nerdling*

      Seriously. She was intentionally screwing with the OP, making her doubt herself and all her senses, plus creating massive headaches in time/effort/money to eliminate a scent that never existed. I hope the coworker is nauseated by scents for at least as long as she tortured the OP.

    4. Jennifer*

      I have a coworker who is always being bothered by the slightest of sounds out of me, so this is giving me unpleasant deja vu.

    5. JulieBulie*

      I had to reread that part of the letter a couple of times to be sure I understood it. How obnoxious.

      I wonder if she’s going to have triplets. (In my imagination, several recent letter-writers all work in the same office.)

  4. Gabriela*

    Happy for your coworker, but…she’s kind of a jerk? “she thought it was funny to watch me freak out” Meanwhile you were jumping through hoops, thinking you smelled bad? She kind of sucks.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Also agreed that she kind of sucks. But maybe her heart will grow three sizes over the holidays.

      (Happy for OP, though! “Creepily unscented” might be my fave.)

    2. Snark*

      When my son was something like a month or two old, I was carrying him in a baby bjorn, and I heard a sort of muffled “phthbptptptptptpttpt” and I tried to get him out to began to scream bloody murder and then I realized it had exploded all over me and it smelled like a thousand small creatures had died and…..

      Well, long story short, I expect gloriously karmic and symmetrical comeuppance for her.

      1. Alli525*

        I don’t have kids, but I used to work in the infant division of a daycare, so I know that that muffled sound is absolutely TERRIFYING. I hope to have my own baby (or two) someday, but poo that explodes up the back of a onesie is not something I’m looking forward to dealing with again.

        1. 42*

          The long, drawn-out-for-eternity “phthbptptptptptpttpt”.
          Wondering when it will end.
          Fun times.

          Not a haiku, but ought to be.

        2. Science!*

          For future reference: Baby onesies are designed in a way that you can pull it down over the body instead of having to pull it up over the head…just in case of a poosplosion so you can semi-mitigate the poop spread.

      2. BePositive*

        My nephew was a super pooper and exploded in his car seat. My sister in law called for help. It looked like someone squatted and pooped on him. I shudder you had that in a body carrier

        1. Snark*

          I know a guy who had that happen in the car seat, and he kept getting whiffs, and realized it’d run through the seat and into the car’s upholstery and down through the cushions.

        2. Rachel*

          That happened once to me too except that it was summer and he was only wearing a onesie, so when it leaked through the sides of his diaper it was in the perfect location for his hands to reach it and smear it around. Then he got upset and was crying and flailing his arms and rubbing his hands into his eyes… And I didn’t realize why he was upset until I got to daycare 10 minutes later. Suuuuuper fun way to start off the day.

      3. Nita*

        Yikes. That sound is terrifying. I had my son in my lap once, and I heard that noise. After I got him undressed and cleaned up, I realized it was down the front of my bathrobe. I took off the bathrobe to wash it. Realized it’s on the shirt underneath also. Then spotted it on the leggings. On my socks. On the inside of my slippers. On… well… everything…

        I can’t recall when it happened, so it may or may not have been caused by my being a clueless rookie mom who thought that Size 1 is the smallest diaper.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          When my nephew was a baby, I was holding him once not long after he’d had a bottle, and he whoopsed it back up all over my front. (I SWEAR I was not joggling him!). It went all the way through to my underwear.

      4. Arya Snark*

        No kids but I have a cat with IBD, which means his poo smells beyond horrid due to his inability to break things down properly. We were returning from the vet on the day he was diagnosed and he lost it less than a mile from home. He was in his carrier so it was contained but the smell had us driving with the windows down (in December) and our heads hanging out of them. Me, throwing up, and my husband attempting to drive despite the retching and the tears in his eyes. Got home and pulled him out of the carrier, flailing limbs and all, then had to bathe him which is no small feat considering he was already angry from having been poked and prodded at the vet. This was made only somewhat better by the tranquilizers that are required for such things (he really, really hates the vet). Then I doused myself in bleach, seriously considered cutting off all of my hair and took off several layers of skin in what surely must’ve been the hottest shower I’ve ever taken. Our car smelled for a week despite not getting any of it in there. Good times!

    3. Antilles*

      Yeah, that’s a total jerk move.
      That said, if you wanted to give it right back, you could start actually producing smells just to really drive her nuts. Eat popcorn or fish at your desk. Bring perfume and ‘accidentally’ spill it in your cube. Crop-dust her cube any time you walk by.
      Since everybody has already mentally written off the co-worker and she’s already admitted she’s intentionally overreacting, even if this actually DOES bother her, it won’t matter because people will just roll their eyes and assume she’s just being ridiculous again.

        1. Antilles*

          I was exaggerating a little…but I’d certainly stop going out of my way to avoid producing smells or appease this co-worker: If I switched body wash (like OP did), I’d go back to my preferred brand; if I stopped wearing perfume, I’d start wearing it again if I liked it; etc.
          As I read it, OP made these changes *specifically because* coworker complained. The complaint apparently was phony (“it doesn’t bother her and she said she thought it was funny to watch me freak out”), therefore the rationale for changing my routine to address the complaint no longer exists.

          1. Tabby Baltimore*

            I have to admit that I would probably do this, too, were I the OP. Because it was never very clear (to me, at least) *exactly which scent* was causing the problem. They all were! Or none were! I couldn’t tell. So, yes, I would go back to using (okay, but maybe not the patchouli) my previous lemon body-wash and whatever else you used detergent-wise, hair-wise, etc. before all this started.

          2. Candi*

            I can see going back to the original products and cropdusting once (although that’s pretty juvenile). The rest? Uh-uh.

            I’d go back to the original products precisely because she openly stated they didn’t actually bother her.

            Her deliberately tormenting the LW with ‘you smell’ is awful, awful behavior.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yeah, don’t do this. She’s a jerk, and her “joke” or “teasing” cost you money, time, effort, and worry. But setting up bad smells could literally make her sick; depending on how hyper-sensitive her nose is (apparently very!) and how much nausea she experiences, strong scents could in worst case put her in the ER. Far more likely is that it would just make her miserable or send her home for the day, but that’s still overkill for what she did to you.

        I would be *really* tempted to find some way to go back to her and say, “You were…really just teasing me? Because I’ve spent a *ton* on these unscented things….” But not to make her actually sick.

        1. Snark*

          In fairness, OP was made miserable and probably wasted at least a few hours trying to run it to ground. And I really, really doubt she’d go to the ER. But you’re right, it would be a really bad idea to sprinkle a few drops of fish sauce in the trash can.

          1. sap*

            It’s not pregnancy-related, but I’m sensitive to a lot of weird scent-diffusing chemicals that are in a lot of cheaper scents (Glade plugs, some cheap perfumes/cologne, car trees, anything that’s intentionally pumped into the mall), and I have in fact had to go to the ER for uncontrollable vomiting or migraines so bad that I literally can no longer get up to use the bathroom. So, yes, totally could go to the ER (if she’s vomiting uncontrollably and losing hydration rapidly while pregnant she could lose her kid if she didn’t, so…)

            But it sounds like she didn’t actually have a scent reaction beyond “I don’t like that,” so no sympathy there. But serious side-eye to “she wouldn’t actually go to the ER.”

      1. Gabriela*

        yeah, that wasn’t a good look. I guess I give the OP more slack, because it was said in exasperation. She had done SO MUCH to not offend her coworker’s delicate sensibilities.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Hard disagree. Sometimes all it takes is that one comment to show you what someone is really like.

          That said, OP’s comment was mildly jerk-like, and not at all on the level of how her co-worker behaved.

      2. Kyrielle*

        I agree, that wasn’t very kind, but it was a single comment in the heat of the moment. That doesn’t make it right, but it makes it less-bad than the coworker’s ongoing campaign, specifically because the latter was ongoing. (If the coworker had made one joke on one day when she didn’t smell patchouli, that she did, that would have been different than continuing and continuing it.)

      3. Say what, now?*

        Not to pile on, but the OP was jerk-adjacent in the heat of the moment. Pregnant coworker was intentionally doing this for kicks. She’s definitely well across the line and OP isn’t even skirting it.

      4. Candi*

        I think this is a STELLAR example of how a jerk in the office can bring everyone down with their behavior.

        The coworker’s constant harping about something that she eventually admitted didn’t actually bother her piled and piled and piled onto the LW until she snapped.

        And that’s why verbal bullying is an awful thing.

    4. Nunya Bizness*

      If you look at it from the coworker’s perspective: she smells something, she KNOWS she can smell it, she doesn’t *hate* it but here’s this person INSISTING it’s her imagination. If it were me, I’d think I was being messed with and might mess back

      1. Alice L*

        Plus she is pregnant, and she didn’t know it yet. That changes your hormone balance. Does the coworker not get any slack too?

        1. Anna*

          Except for the times the coworker didn’t smell anything but pretended she did to screw with the OP. No, not much slack at all, actually.

          1. Alice L*

            I must have read incorrectly then. I though she could smell something that others couldn’t, because her sense of smell was heightened from being pregnant.

      2. Ro*

        Yeah, that’s how I read it too. Nothing malicious about her intentions (and the conclusion of the story shows more why she acted as she did).

        Also, this is one of my favorite follow-up stories! Thanks for coming back to share.

        1. Super Anon for This*

          But . . . she said she intentionally told OP she smelled bad not because she actually did, but just because she thought it was funny to mess with her. That IS malicious!

    5. D.W.*

      I don’t believe OP is saying coworker intentionally messed with her for kicks. I think she is saying that * in hindsight* the coworker thought her final “freakout” was kinda funny.

        1. D.W.*

          “She was just being kind of a jerk with the sniffing thing, even though she can smell it, it doesn’t bother her and she said she thought it was funny to watch me freak out.”

          Ah, I get it now. Yea, that’s not cool at all.

  5. CatCat*

    Love this update!

    Glad the manager talked to the smeller about not taunting coworkers (since that was just absurd on the smeller’s part *facepalm*) and that all’s well that ends well with this one.

  6. Samiratou*

    I was worried the rest of the update would see LW written up or something about the outburst. So glad it went the way it did!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I was worried we were going for the brain tumor answer. (I know someone who was pregnant and developed a brain tumor, and it was only after the baby was born and the double vision didn’t go away that they realized something else was up.)

      1. JulieBulie*

        You know, even though the outburst wasn’t very nice, it occurred to me that it might take a comment like that to get me to go to a neurologist and say “my nose is hallucinating, can you check?” In other words, if the coworker really did have a brain tumor, it’d be better for her to be alerted to the possibility this way than not at all.

  7. Zip Silver*

    This update could have gone totally the other way if the coworker had a brain tumor rather than a pregnancy, haha.

    1. Emi.*

      Yeah, or if she wasn’t pregnant, since it sounds like she might have some fertility issues. OP, I’m glad it worked out in this case, but I do think that was a really insensitive thing to say.

      1. Elsadora*

        Of the OP? I think the OP was at her wits end. I would have likely had an outburst too at that point

        1. sunny-dee*

          Yeah, but I think it’s still legitimate to point out that making a crack about pregnancy with someone who has been going through infertility can be really painful. Like, if the OP were really at her wits’ end (legitimately) and then made a comment about her coworker’s weight, would that have been okay, just because the coworker was being a jerk?

            1. Anna*

              Except you’re assuming there were fertility issues simply because the coworker had been trying to get pregnant and didn’t right away. That’s pretty common.

          1. Ganache*

            It wasn’t a crack. A crack would be ‘well you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be really sensitive to smells seeing as you can’t get pregnant!’ or something nasty. Saying ‘you might be pregnant or have a brain tumour so you should get that checked out’, while said in frustration, is neither a crack nor unkind.

            1. neverjaunty*

              It’s both. Just because you can come up with an alternative phrasing doesn’t make what the OP said perfectly reasonable.

          2. The OG Anonsie*

            Even if there are no fertility issues– I really, really do not appreciate people chalking anything weird that happens to a woman up to “mystery lady biology.” Especially speculating that people are pregnant, like, for god’s sake. Every time someone has a anything unusual happen someone’s gotta go “lol maybe she’s just pregnant.” Yeah maybe, and maybe I’d rather not be a uterus with a mouth to people, thanks.

            Although the coworker is such a turd that I find it hard to be miffed, so hey.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          I think I empathize with OP a lot because one of the lower points of my professional life was on day 197 of my desk neighbor food-policing my lunch (scolding me for eating something “unhealthy”, praising me for eating something “healthy” by her personal ridiculous standards) when I looked up from my food and snapped, “Shut up you eat nothing but kale.”

          It was not strictly speaking true — she also ate grilled chicken. But the spirit of the outburst was accurate and she never commented on my food again.

      2. Anna*

        “Trying to get pregnant before it took” is not the same as fertility issues. Let’s not read more into the OP’s update than is actually there.

      3. Ladybugger*

        Ugh, just…so what? How long are regular people expected to put up with bullshit day in and day out from an office jerkwad before they’re allowed to make a single rude comment in a moment of weakness?

        I really hate the pile on in this blog sometimes about people not behaving perfectly. Was the comment rude? Yes. Was the OP’s coworker spectacularly unkind over a period of time that might have driven a saint crazy? Also yes. Can we move on from chastising OP over a single moment of fed-up-ness?

        I’m so happy for you that you’ve never snapped at someone after weeks or months of harassment, but some of us are human.

        1. Emi.*

          Dude, what? I’ve snapped at lots of people. That doesn’t make it okay. It’s not the least-okay thing going on here, but that also doesn’t make it okay.

          1. Ladybugger*

            So what are we gaining here by showing up in the comments to be like “BUT YOU TOO HAVE FAILED IN PERFECT PROFESSIONALISM, OP”? Honestly. Better people than us have been known to lose their cool for a moment in a situation of sustained harassment. OP did all the things she could have reasonably done to make the smell not happen and appease her coworker, coworker still harassed her daily and apparently was doing it for kicks the whole time.

            This reminds of the “bad behaviour on both sides” argument.

            1. Candi*

              To repeat what I said above, I think this is a STELLAR example of how a jerk in the office can bring everyone down with their behavior.

              People act differently when constantly harassed. The stress alone screws with the brain.

              Add to that humans make mistakes plus human, and snapping will happen.

              So LW may have said something rude, but coworker had, in the end, commited sustained verbally bullying. And yes, I will call it that.

            2. The OG Anonsie*

              *SNORTLAUGH* I know, I know. This has gotten so bad lately. Like yeah it’s not great, we acknowledged it, can we get back to main topic of this coworker nonstop screwing with the LW every day just for giggles?

      4. aebhel*

        I don’t think it’s really on the OP to be perfectly sensitive after an extended campaign of harassment by the coworker.

        1. sap*

          Yeah, the tendency to jump up and down on OPs who respond to patently unreasonable behavior with slightly unreasonable reactions, rather than focusing on the patently unreasonable, is… Really reminiscent of tone policing.

          I wouldn’t say it is tone policing because that’s a thing specific to privilege differentials and “pointing them out wrong,” but it displays the same underlying impetus to focus on the person making an admittedly imperfect fuss about something being wrong rather than the thing that’s wrong.

    2. FTW*

      It could have also meant they caught the tumor early… So not entirely bad if it’s the other way around.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        One of my friends only realized she might have a brain tumor after watching a TED talk that mentioned how smelling weird things was a symptom. Got to the doctor early enough that she basically saved her own life. So… I’m with you on that part.

    3. Enough*

      Usually with a brain tumor the smell will be really bad. Like smelling garbage or sewer gas.

      I have a benign olfactory issue that usually occurred at night. Occasionally I smell smoke like from a fire. It was scary the first time it happened. I woke up and thought the house was on fire. Fortunately once I get up the smell goes away.

      1. Victorian Cowgirl*

        I get this as well, but as a prodroma for a migraine. It smells exactly like someone is smoking crack :/

        1. JulieBulie*

          I get it too. Usually smells like smoldering vinyl, though sometimes it smells like orange blossoms.

          Considering I’m about to get a migraine, it would be nice if I could at least have a pleasant prodrome.

          1. Lefty*

            I have experienced smelling a light orange/citrus smell and what I described as “burning plastic”- something strong and acidic- before migraines. I’ve had doctors tell me this isn’t a typical symptom or must not be related… it’s reassuring to know that there are others who have similar experiences, though I’m sorry you deal with the scourge of migraines!

      2. Julia*

        Thank you for explaining this. For a moment, I was a little panicked here because I often smell things other people can’t, even though I have a chronically stuffed nose. They’re usually normal things like cigarette smoke on the elevator, plus I had an MRI last year, so I hope I’m good.

      3. WhereThere'sSmoke*

        Wait. Other people get this too? Do you mind telling me what it is? I thought I was going crazy for the last year or so because I routinely smell cigarette smoke in bed. I don’t smoke and neither do my neighbors (it’s gotten so bad that I asked).

      4. The OG Anonsie*

        What what what is the cause of this? Recently I’ve been picking up on a scent that smells like gas– not the rotten egg smell they say you’d smell if there was a gas leak, but the brief smell you get when you light a gas stove or lamp.

        It started after I moved into a new apartment and I was at first scared that there was a gas leak, but no one other than me could smell it. Then I started sometimes getting it at work as well. I have chronic sinus problems that usually prevent me from smelling anything, so I figured it was something dumb misfiring (this happens in folks with chronic respiratory issues) but now I’m concerned there could be something else afoot.

        1. sap*

          Get the gas leak checked out. I smelled gas for months that my parents, my husband, and my friends couldn’t smell, and eventually we called the gas company just for peace of mind, and the stove had a loose valve that was in fact leaking. Prolonged, low-dose exposure is harmful, too.

          I also would smell it other places. I think that maybe some of the particles were getting trapped in my nasal fluids–I also always have a stuffed nose.

          1. The OG Anonsie*

            Well. Yikes.

            But doesn’t household gas have that egg scent added to it so people will notice? What I’m smelling is like those propane tanks you get for portable stoves.

    4. my two cents*

      Friend of mine had a scare at only 28 – started smelling phantom smells, feeling light headed, etc.
      Got the scan done…and…wasn’t cancer, but he did have calcium deposits in his sinuses that were causing immense pressure and needed to have them removed.

  8. Lil Fidget*

    Man, as I was reading this I was thinking it was almost like the coworker has a scent association with OP, and every time she sees OP she *thinks* she can smell the original perfume. However, it ended up sounding like this coworker has a really weird sense of humor.

  9. MuseumChick*

    When a friend of mine was pregnant, oh lord, she would walk down the hallway in her apartment building and tell you what each and every person living their had had for dinner for the past three days. Her sense of smell just went out of this world.

    I’m glad things worked out. She still sounds like kind of a jerk though.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      I remember my sister telling me that her MIL had used a new furniture polish, which is not a thing she is remotely interested in normally; two weeks later, SURPRISE!

      1. Cb*

        The night before I found out I was pregnant, I sat in the cinema trying not to be sick because I could smell the hand soap in the theatre bathroom.

    2. Specialk9*

      My non pregnant nose is as sensitive as a car tire. My nose is basically a bumpy appendage that inhales and warms air, that’s it. Pregnant, I’m a flippin bloodhound. A bloodhound that vomits a lot. Pregnancy is super weird.

      1. Snark*

        One evening when my wife was pregnant, I was reading, and my GI tract did what it do. She was watching TV across the room – like 20 feet away. Half an hour later, she yells incoherently and hucks a magazine at me. “You FARTED.” Death glare.

      2. Tap Tap Jazz*

        My husband has bloodhound nose, and honestly it’s a huge pain. We have left many restaurants, theaters, and concerts because he was unable to tolerate the skin/hair products used by others. I am a flaky, dried out husk of a person because I can’t find products that I can use and still live with him.

        1. Miss Herring*

          Eeesh. Have your tried plain mineral oil applied to your still-wet skin after bathing? Not the stuff for babies, but the take-by-mouth-to-poop stuff. Because it is meant to be ingested orally, they don’t add any scents to it.

    3. Jubilance*

      That was me during pregnancy, especially the first trimester. I could smell EVERYTHING, even if it was far away. It also made things like walking into the building cafeteria impossible – the smell of bacon would make me nauseous and it felt like I ran into a WALL OF BACON every time I even walked past the cafeteria.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        It actually is creepily unscented, though. Like there is an unscented scent. And then there is doe urine.

      2. nonegiven*

        They have special clothes, scent lock camo, also detergent, deodorant, and stuff to spray on their boots.

    1. Miles*

      It reminds me of the book Perfume: the Making of the Murderer where the main character is rejected by a caretaker as a baby because he is creepily unscented and freaks her out.

  10. Starryemma*

    The $50 gift card was a nice touch, so at least I guess she recognized that she was in the wrong/was thankful for your suggestion. What a crazy update!

  11. Higher Ed Database Dork*

    Phantom smells and scent memories – that’s what I started thinking of. I’ve experienced phantom smells when I go certain places or see certain things – like glass block walls, I instantly smell the dentist office I went to as a child, because they had a big glass block wall. It’s a huge rush of “dentistry smell” whenever I see glass block.

    All that to say – your coworker was being a jerk. She even admitted to hassling you about it just because she thought it was funny to freak you out. Legitimate smell or not, she shouldn’t have done that. I say this a currently pregnant woman with serious scent sensitivities! So hopefully she will knock off that behavior for good since management talk to her about it.

      1. Anion*


        (JK, mostly. But some people in haunted houses do report smelling particular scents or perfumes that signal the ghost. I choose to believe in ghosts but I know their existence has never been proven. Anyway.)

      2. Kirsten*

        I get that too! No idea what it’s called, but very weird when out of the blue I “smell” the guy I used to ballroom dance with nearly ten years ago, my 5th grade classroom, or other random things.

  12. Mallory*

    coworker still seems like a total jerk. she thought it was “funny” to watch you freak out? that’s incredibly obnoxious.

  13. Hills to Die On*

    When I was pregnant, I thought:

    Diet vanilla Pepsi, Ivory soap, and vomit smelled identical.

    I could not tell the difference between freshly mowed grass, ham, and pot.

    It’s a legitimate thing, but I WAS aware that it was just hormones.

    1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      The bane of my existence during my first pregnancy was chicken, especially raw chicken. We did not eat chicken at home for nearly the whole nine months. It will be interesting to me to see what I find abhorrent the second time around!

        1. Anion*

          When pg with my second I developed this intense aversion to the scent of green apple; it made me want to puke. (I still don’t like it, but had never had an issue with it prior to that pregnancy.)

          Second just turned 13. The other day I gave her a conditioner that smells like green apple (I didn’t know that when i bought it). She immediately was like, “What is that awful smell? It’s making me feel sick.”

          I was pretty amazed by that, I have to admit.

      1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

        Mine was bread. Funny story: I was newly pregnant and in the supermarket with my husband. We moved through produce and into the bakery section where I discovered that the smell of bread made me want to vomit. I don’t know why but I decided that the smell was like smoke and that I had to get low to the ground to avoid it. Yep. I literally got down on all fours and then laid on the floor of the supermarket trying to avoid the smell of bread and also trying to avoid vomiting. My poor husband was horrified and begged me to get up. I wouldn’t so he dragged me by ankles three aisles over where the smell wasn’t bad. After that I started carrying a mint scented lotion bar in my bag that I would rip out to sniff when a smell made me sick. LOL!

        1. Alison Read*

          Oh! Me too!!!! The worst thing was due to a high risk pregnancy I spent almost a month in the antenatal dept. of our local high risk hospital … on the first floor … right down the hall from a Subway sandwich shop that of course baked their bread there on site.

          So glad it was pregnancy not brain tumor. Perhaps the mad sniffer was grumpier than normal due to hormones? I have such a hard time understanding intentionally nefarious actions in others.

        2. Specialk9*

          Oh god this is hysterical and awful. Were you visibly pregnant? I’m just imagining this pregnant lady lying on the grocery store floor moaning about the bread, and then a man dragging the pregnant lady on the floor by the ankles. The other shoppers must have been agog.

          1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

            I was starting to show so yes – visibly pregnant. My husband has told this story to the non-pregnant person who tells us they’re expecting. His female boss announced that she was pregnant last month and he gave her a congratulations card with this story inside along with the advice that her husband “find a smell she likes and keep something that smells like that on you at all times because it will come in handy. I promise!” LOL!

      2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        OMG – Chicken. To this day, 14 years post pregnancy, I cannot enjoy chicken like I did pre-pregnancy.* It was pretty much the only meat I ate until I got pregnant and then just: NOPE. I couldn’t even see someone else eat chicken. It was ridiculous. I thought pregnancy was supposed to cause cravings, not aversions. Was I ever wrong.

        *It’s not that it still makes me sick, it’s that the sickness while pregnant was so severe I still have that moment of panic that I’m going to get sick before I remember, oh yeah, that only happens when you are pregnant. To add more context, I had my kids back-to-back so it was 18 months in a 3 year period where the sight, smell, and thought of chicken would make me horribly ill.

        1. Future Analyst*

          SAME! Hasn’t been that long for me (it started when I was preg with my youngest, he’s now 2), but to this day, I can’t even look at raw chicken.

        2. Higher Ed Database Dork*

          I’m the same, I still have a hard time cooking chicken, because it brings up those terrible memories. My daughter and husband love it (and it’s basically the only meat the child will eat), so I don’t want to ban it, but I’d probably be happy never eating chicken again in my life.

    2. Arjay*

      I must know, in both cases, which one of the three all the others smelled like. I’m rooting for Ivory soap and ham.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I got pregnant with my oldest son right around this time of year, 21 years ago. Someone gave me a freesia scented lotion and soap gift basket that year. To this day, freesia makes me nauseous. (I had puke 4-5x per day morning sickness with him.) The hormones left a long time ago, but the impact is lasting.

    4. Katniss*

      Before I got my abortion, I realized I was pregnant solely because of my sensitivity to smells. I remember the moment I realized: my mom poured herself a glass of red wine and I smelled it from across the room and wanted to throw up. Was literally at Planned Parenthood the next day.

      1. Annabelle*

        This happened to me too! Not the wine thing, but the super smell pre-abortion. I could smell my neighbors making tacos one night and I called the clinic the next day.

        1. Ganache*

          I just wanted to thank you both for being so chill about talking about abortion. It goes a long way to reducing the stigma. I hope it’s not inappropriate to leave this comment :)

      2. Enni*

        I got mine right before my sister’s wedding, and so was pregnant when I went to all the cake tastings with her. I couldn’t eat cupcakes for a year afterwards.

    5. Nita*

      There used to be an organic food store next to my office. They sold curry and other highly spiced food, and when I was pregnant, just walking past their doors made me so nauseous. It’s been a few years, the store has long since closed down, and I still feel a little queasy when I walk by that spot.

    6. BritCred*

      I have this fun about a week of every month… yep.

      I think with mine its a neurological symptom linked to hormones and my ME/CFS though.
      The days I can’t go near my fridge as even if nothing has gone off it stinks enough to make me sick are horrid. And thats after its been cleaned right out regularly!

    7. ValkyrAmy*

      When I was pregnant, yogurt and raw cucumbers were the worst smells in the world. I still can’t eat either of those food items (and my kid is almost 6).

      I also get olfactory hallucinations right before a migraine – typically sour milk or that horrible ammonia-smell of a chicken coop.

    1. sunny-dee*

      Ugh, agreed. Patchouli is the worst. I’d probably be giving side eye to the OP if she were wearing a cloud of patchouli-based perfume.

    2. lcsa99*

      I agree completely. I remember at OldJob, we had given a client their file with all the work we had done for them and when she brought it back it was like she had soaked it in the stuff. It was pretty terrible turning pages to do my job.

    3. Wendy Darling*

      I quit going to a nearby coffee shop because they’re attached to a new age store that sells patchouli stuff and I can’t deal with the smell long enough to purchase coffee. They have nice baked goods but the smell sticks in my hair after I leave.

    4. hhunter*

      Just piling on the patchouli train (that sounds like it should be a real thing somewhere – “All aboard for the patchouli train!”). I have a co-worker who wears it and being around it gives me migraines. I finally had to tell her. She’s been mostly cool about it, but also loves to stir up drama, so she brings up my “bizarre sensitivity” when she’s on a tear.

      1. urban teacher*

        Again, piling on. I’ve had to move seats in a class to the farthest point away. I don’t care if I’m considered rude, I consider it rude to trigger migraines.

      2. BritCred*

        An ex coworker of mine had a hand lotion with something in it (I think it was Jo Jo beans or something similar) that I couldn’t be around several years ago. Strange looks all around when I mentioned what it was doing to me.

      3. Red 5*

        Yeah, I have to agree here too. My sense of smell is pretty terrible, but patchouli is one of the things that I will usually smell from pretty far away and really don’t like. No idea why that one in particular.

    5. katherine*

      the funny thing is, patchouli is one of the more common notes in a lot of modern perfumes (rose/patchouli, fruit/patchouli, all practically cliches) so a lot of people probably smell it regularly without realizing

  14. Duck Duck Møøse*

    Is there such a thing as baby patchouli? I’d get a big bottle for her as a shower gift ;)

  15. Heather*

    I remember when I was pregnant, I could smell the air freshener of the car in front of me in traffic. In the winter. With all the windows closed. Super pregnancy smell is legit.

  16. AnonAcademic*

    I also find that my sense of smell heightens at certain points in my hormonal cycle, yet I have never harassed a coworker because of it, including my male coworker who douses himself in cologne and also talks too loud on the phone in our open plan office. If I can be civil to That Guy your coworker can chill the F out. I’m glad there is an obvious medical explanation but she really needs to learn some boundaries about what can and can’t be controlled in a workplace. Teasing you about fragrance after you made major efforts to go fragrance free is juvenile and cruel. I hope she gains more self awareness and doesn’t blame you for other pregnancy symptoms (e.g. you ate onions 2 days ago and the phantom smell is making her nauseated or something).

    1. Julia*

      Well, some workplaces are scent-free because people get migraines from strong smells. FWIW, I think you’re well within your rights to call that guy out.

  17. pj*

    wow. i will say that the smell thing while pregnant is definitely true and was one of the first things i noticed before i even got the positive test. In particular, things i normally didn’t care about started to bother me. my partner likes to drink redbull sometimes, and I had to ban it during the whole pregnancy. i could smell an open can across the room. i could smell it on his breath if he had one at work. as soon as the baby was out, i stopped noticing it again.

    1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

      My heightened sense of smell has never gone away. I did have one side effect that came and went with my second pregnancy. I’ve never liked egg salad but while pregnant with my second child I was making an egg salad sandwich for my daughter. Suddenly the sandwich looked delicious. I tried it, loved it, at them all through my pregnancy. Three days after I delivered my son I tried eating egg salad and nope… I hated it again. Pregnancy is weird.

      1. sap*

        My mom was like this with shrimp. She’s always hated shrimp, and does now again, but apparently when she was pregnant with me she just could not get enough of them. Specifically, Red Lobster shrimp (she also hated/hates again Red Lobster). She made my dad go to red lobster with her like 2-5 times per week.

        I came out hating shrimp too.

  18. Non-profiteer*

    Okay, so this is basically the plot of each of the three episodes of Gilmore Girls in which Sookie discovers she is pregnant, except with her sense of taste, not smell (she’s a chef). The first time, the story was cute. The second and third time they used it, it got ridiculous. Not just hackneyed writing, but – seriously, this doesn’t really happen to people, does it?
    Okay, writers of Gilmore Girls – you are vindicated, just a little bit.

    1. CR*

      Very real. My pregnant coworker walks into the break room every day around lunch and announces what everyone is having.

    2. Non-profiteer*

      I should have been more clear. I wasn’t questioning that the hyper-sense of smell or taste was real. I was questioning whether someone could be completely unaware of their pregnancy until someone made a comment about how they were seasoning their food weird (on the show), or smelling phantom smells (in this post) – and then have this big, dramatic AH HA moment when it all makes sense. Remember, this happened to the same character three times.

      1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

        It’s true. I knew I was preggers with my son when I started gagging at the smell of something in my mothers kitchen. I gagged, she gasped and we locked eyes and knew that I was pregnant. I took a test later that day to confirm. My mom loves telling that story. LOL!

      2. Julia*

        Yeah, by the third time, she should have known. Then again, the third time should have been impossible…

  19. Rachel Green*

    I didn’t know that pregnancy messed with your sense of smell so much, so all these comments are pretty interesting. I wonder if the coworker was just smelling the OP’s natural musk?

    1. Edina Monsoon*

      When I was pregnant I could smell a single slice of white bread 2 rooms away, I literally had to stick my head out of the window whenever my husband ate anything for 3 months (I barely ate anything for the first 3 months)

    2. Boris*

      The OP said she used oil-based perfume. Oil does linger sometimes even after laundering clothes – maybe there’s the tiniest smidge of the smell left on some of the things she wears?

    3. BritCred*

      So does being on a period too btw. About one week a month most females have a somewhat heightened sense of smell and possibly taste. Most don’t track it enough to realise why though in my experience – lots of bitching about extra smells but no awareness its the same time every month!

  20. Roz*

    I will concur that before I knew I was pregnant I was convinced my area of the office smelled like dog poo. I was going around sniffing things and asking people. They all thought I was weird.

  21. zapateria la bailarina*

    this was pretty amusing to read, but

    She was just being kind of a jerk with the sniffing thing, even though she can smell it, it doesn’t bother her and she said she thought it was funny to watch me freak out.

    yikes. what a horrible thing to do.

    1. my two cents*

      pregnancy hormones make even the most rational women have random outbursts, up to and including sobbing-while-laughing like the one receptionist I met while on sales calls last week.

      1. Murphy*

        I was waiting on line to get a new ice cream flavor. By the time I got to the front of the line, they’d run out of that flavor. I nearly burst into tears.

      2. Anna*

        That’s not even remotely like purposely pretending to smell something bad to watch your coworker freak out.

        1. Ganache*

          +1. Let’s not stigmatise women and reproduction even further by pretending that pregnancy makes someone unable to control their behaviour/into a nasty and cruel person.

        2. sap*

          +2. Plus, this explanation doesn’t actually make sense. Even the most uncontrollably hormonal pregnant woman has SURGES of hormones that cause SPORRADIC over-poignancy of a feeling. That usually looks like being really mad/sad/excited about something really suddenly and disproportionately and impulsively responding to that, for MAYBE a whole day (but, really rarely that long) not a sustained, weeks-long, campaign. That is… Different from a hormone swing.

      3. aebhel*

        I mean, yeah, but you don’t get a pass on acting like a decent human being because you’re pregnant. And this doesn’t sound like a hormonal outburst; this sounds like messing with the OP for the fun of it.

  22. Louise*

    Oh my gosh the sent thing is SO REAL. When I was pregnant every single smell made me nauseous… except for limes (thank you to internet pregnancy forums for the suggestion). I would literally carry around frozen lime wedges and hold them up to my nose, particularly when I was on public transport. Maybe something to suggest!

    1. Specialk9*

      I also read to have those little individual rubbing alcohol wipes. I was all about those! And ginger chews.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      What really got me was the smell of boxwoods! I swear they smell like cat pee. I would dry heave when I passed boxwoods on my morning walk!

      1. Yalanna*

        I’ve never noticed the smell of boxwoods, pregnant or not, but my husband freaks out if we’re near them because of the pee smell – he rejected a wedding venue because of all the boxwood bushes!

  23. SallytooShort*

    “She was just being kind of a jerk with the sniffing thing, even though she can smell it, it doesn’t bother her and she said she thought it was funny to watch me freak out.”

    Hahaha it’s funny because it’s causing co-workers needless distress when they are just trying to do their jobs. Hahaha

  24. Amie*

    Before I knew I was pregnant with my first (and before I had even missed a period) I got into an elevator at work and the smell of somebody’s perfume almost knocked me over. It was so out of the usual for me I bought a test and peed on it in the office bathroom. Boom, pregnant. Almost seven years later and I’ve had super smell powers ever since.

  25. Susana*

    Yes, she was being a jerk, but I really have to give annoying co-worker props for getting you the gift card and the hug. At least, too, you now know she was not making it up to be a pain. Congrats to both of you!

    1. Nerdling*

      Except she was.

      “She was just being kind of a jerk with the sniffing thing, even though she can smell it, it doesn’t bother her and she said she thought it was funny to watch me freak out.”

  26. brushandfloss*

    Since your coworker was being a jerk I hope you back to your normal hygiene/scent routine. If she really does have a problem with the scent no one will believe her.

  27. Misquoted*

    This update made me so happy I got choked up. I’m emotional anyway for reasons unrelated to Ask a Manager, but…yeah. I’m glad there was a happy resolution — it’s not often that I end up feeling super happy for the Annoying Coworker.

  28. Katie the Fed*

    This happened to me! But as the pregnant woman!

    I smelled an atrocious chemically perfumey smell wafting around for a few days. I finally traced it to a cubicle about 20 cubicles away, where a woman was spraying some kind of air scent for some reason. I asked if she would please stop because it was really bothering me. She said she couldn’t believe I could smell it, and that everyone liked it. I politely said “well, I really don’t – can you please not?” and she sighed and stopped.

    A week later I found out I was pregnant! I had a crazy sensitive sense of smell and sensitivity to go with it (chemical smells all made me sick!)

    1. Nita*

      Spraying stuff in offices should not be a thing. This sort of reminds me of something at my husband’s old job. This lady had some kind of bugs in her office plants, and a coworker gave her a spray bottle of a “very good pest repellent from China.” The repellent-supplying coworker then went on a month-long vacation, and was not around when the spray was first applied. From what DH describes, it was either concentrated chili extract, or Mace. There was a wave of hacking and coughing rolling all the way down the office, and all the way at the source of the wave was the happy owner of the spray, very confused about why everyone was staring at her.

      Thankfully no one had an asthma attack or anything…

  29. Tammy*

    Yeah, count me in as another person who doesn’t find this a cheery update. Causing someone else needless distress because you think it’s funny – what a cruel individual. I wish her a difficult, miserable pregnancy.

    1. Tammy*

      I mean, I know that’s harsh and petty and mean of me, but wow. I just… what? “She was just being kind of a jerk with the sniffing thing, even though she can smell it, it doesn’t bother her and she said she thought it was funny to watch me freak out. Manager has talked to her about not taunting the coworkers.” What an awful thing to do. I’m glad OP wasn’t too hurt by it, but still that is a deeply shitty thing to do to someone.

  30. phedre*

    When I was pregnant, my sense of smell was so strong and so many things made me sick, even things that previously never had a noticeable smell. Once my roommate boiled pasta – just dried pasta, no sauce, no seasoning – and the smell made me throw up. I’ve never thought of pasta without sauce/seasoning as having a smell, but while I was pregnant it did and it was awful.

    I’m glad 1) the LW doesn’t actually smell and 2) the coworker is pregnant after years of trying. But I do wish the coworker hadn’t been a jerk and spent all that time needling the LW. Glad to hear the manager spoke with her about her taunting – let’s hope it doesn’t continue!

  31. Princess Cimorene*


    I wondered in the last update about the pregnancy if it was a result of, well, being pregnant!

    This is so funny and great to read! Happy for her and happy for you too LW… and well, YOU are the first one to have told her she was expecting!! Look at you, changing lives and stuff OP!! haha.

  32. Princess Cimorene*

    I’m also going to assume the tone of this letter is cheerful and that LW is happy about the way things turned out. I know co-worker was wrong for how she behaved prior, but she made up for it and I think LW is happy about it and happy about her pregnancy (so wishing the co-worker a miserable pregnancy is pretty cruel, upthread)

    She was wrong, and hopefully learned a lesson from it. The boss talked to her. She gave a kind gift to LW in apology and gratitude. I think we can forgive co-worker and hope she is more mindful of how she is being.

    Also, some relationships are lighthearted enough to be able to say “it was funny seeing you freak out like that!” without it being this big offensive OMG WTF moment between the parties involved and I feel like LW would have said it was, if it was.

  33. Former Prof*

    Can I just add that I love all the posts talking about being able to super-smell during pregnancy. Do you realize, this means that we humans have the capacity to smell REALLY KEENLY–like bloodhounds–but most of the time, it’s masked, or we can’t access it? It’s so cool! I love those stories! It’s like how babies can tell instantly if someone is good-hearted or not, and we still have that instinct, but it’s gotten masked by years of cultural training–it’s still there if we really work to access it.

    1. Ine*

      It’s called sensory gating. You can actually smell all those things all the time, but your brain actively works to disregard and filter out unimportant information to prevent sensory overload.

      The mechanism is impaired in people with schizophrenia, autism, and ad(h)d, and people suffering from migraines or epilepsy also have trouble when there’s an attack coming on. It can also manifest as ghost scents when your brain misinterprets the sensory information it’s receiving.

      For pregnant women, turning “off” the sensory gating system makes a lot of sense, because sensory information that might be unimportant when you’re not pregnant could be a huge threat when you are.

  34. Oh you!*

    I have a disorder that causes me to smell phantom smells. Usually it’s something nice, like a faint incense. But sometimes it’s cigarette smoke. I know that pregnant women are more sensitive to smells but that usually only applies to smells that actually exist. Maybe it’s something more and she really should consider seeing a neurologist after the baby is born.

  35. Misquoted2*

    How do you ask a co-worker if she uses deodorant/anti-perspirant? Person bathes himself in perfume but she reeks of the smell of sweaty armpits (onion smell!). Some days it’s bad, on some days it’s not so bad (but still the smell is there). What is so weird is that this person loves to comment on how bad other people smell. I wonder how can she not smell herself when she’s alone in the car, in the bathroom stall, etc? Maybe medical condition such as bromhidrosis where the sweat glands are too active and no amount of antiperspirant can help? The only bad smell she gives off is sweaty armpits like someone chopped some onions and stuck it in the armpits. Imagine that smell plus the smell of fragrant perfume she wears.

  36. Dust Bunny*

    I have to confess that I *loathe* the smell of patchouli, so, yes, if that’s part of your scent (I wouldn’t go around sniffing and being a weirdo about it but) I would definitely find it annoying/slightly nauseating if we were in close proximity. We used to have a client who wore patchouli perfume and she was very nice but I dreaded seeing her because I’d smell her the rest of the day, my lunch wouldn’t taste right, etc. And she didn’t wear a ton of it, either. It’s the *type* of smell, not the intensity–I can handle skunk just fine but patchouli is one of a few smells that kind of turns my stomach. I’m definitely not pregnant, either.

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