The Bitch Please Advice Column
I have a friend (not a good friend, more of a regular acquaintance) who absolutely honks. Now, I’m not talking foul odour once in a while (we all have smelly moments), I’m talking the most rancid smell you can imagine, pretty much on a daily basis, to the point that sitting next to her makes me gag. She wears the same clothes, day in day out, and never does any laundry! My friends and I have all noticed the smell (everyone does) but no one has the guts to say anything to her. We don’t want to hurt her feelings, but we are getting really fed up coping with the smell. Also, we don’t want other people to think we all stink.
She has had a boyfriend for 18 months, and he probably should say something about it…. but he doesn’t seem to mind. Basically, my question is: how on earth do we get her to stop smelling badly without being cruel?
Dear A. Noseholder,
Well, this is a tough one. Most people are gonna say just tell her she reeks and be done with it, but let’s be honest – it’s not that easy, is it?
I once had a good friend who seemed immune to showering on a regular basis. She had a somewhat musty odour that was hard to take. I didn’t feel as though I was close enough to her to tell her, but there were discussions about it among the group of friends which made me think other people who don’t know her as well must discuss this too and the thought of someone speaking about your friend like that is pretty awful. So given my time over again with that friend, I would probably find a way to mention it, even if it meant I was in the bad books for a while.
There are people though who are wildly over sensitive and cannot take the mildest form of what they perceive as criticism (although this isn’t really a criticism so much as a helping hand). I suspect any grown person who doesn’t understand the importance of bathing daily has issues over and above simply not being able to make a decision about which soap to buy. Just as being overweight is symptomatic of deeper emotional issues, so is this. So, whichever way you do it, you must be careful.
You mention that she wears the same clothes day in and day out, so there may be socioeconomic factors to consider here too. You could go the classic route of buying her a nice set of soaps and bubble baths for her birthday and maybe even spring for some clothes, if that’s something she can’t afford. Either way, you want to avoid the ‘she stinks and that’s gross’ angle, even when discussing it with friends – the fact is, no one may truly know or understand this girl’s circumstances.
In the meantime, I’d talk to the boyfriend. Let him know you’re concerned, other people have mentioned it too and you don’t want people to talk about your friend behind her back. If they’ve been dating for 18 months, he’s probably one of the closest people to her and she may take him saying it to heart more, as it may be seen as bitchy coming from her girlfriends.
Tread carefully young grasshopper.
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