Allergic to life: The Arizona residents "sensitive to the whole world"

Susie had warned us that Deb, a sort-of-roommate who lived in her driveway, was extremely sensitive to scents. In order to protect her, we’d agreed to various terms: we would not a get rental car or stay at a motel, because those were places where chemical cleaners were used. We would wear Susie’s clothes, and sleep at Susie’s house. She also made us swear not to get any perms before we came, which made me think she had been in the desert for a long time.

For weeks, Mae and I avoided makeup, lotion, perfume, hair products, scented detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets. We used fragrance-free soap and shampoo, as well as a natural deodorant, which, according to the description on the box, was basically a rock picked off the ground with a cap on it.

Despite our best efforts, Deb’s sensitive nose picked up our body odors. For her, we reeked like a Bath and Body Works store flooded with vodka – or as she put it, “floral, with chemical solvents. You’re fragrant.”