Recently, I had a friend of mine ask me if she smelled bad. This particular friend actually typically has a scent combination of Chanel perfume and champagne, in addition to being obsessively clean, so she had nothing whatsoever to worry about. Unfortunately, there have been a few cases where somebody I knew had a decidedly unpleasant scent.
In my larger friend group back at college, there was a girl who smelled very, very sour. She was fairly liked by people and had a few closer friends in the circle, but nobody felt comfortable enough to tell her that it was very difficult to stand close to her or sit next to her because of the strength of her bad body odor. I’ve never been great with confrontation — including “carefrontation” — so I, nor anybody else who has noticed or mentioned it, ever told her about this. We didn’t run around making fun of her, but we did try to figure out how to go about discussing it; since she was on the sensitive side and prone to tantrums, it was decided to simply ignore it and spare her feelings. We were never close, as she was actually always rather rude and competitive with me, so I didn’t find myself particularly responsible to fill her in. Nevertheless, I still felt unkind letting something potentially detrimental to her social life go unmentioned.
I, for one, would want people to tell me, and hope that in the event I am ever especially gross-scented, somebody would. I’ve definitely overdone it on the perfume factor and wound up smelling like the back part of Sephora threw up on my neck, and I was grateful that a friend pointed it out so I could amend it (by showering). I think that sometimes it’s easier to deal with criticism ourselves than to dole it out towards other people. It’s like when you brush your own hair and you pull super hard because you can handle it, whereas when you’re styling another person’s hair, you go much gentler because you’re afraid of hurting them.
In general, it’s awkward to have to tell somebody something that sounds so cruel as, “You smell bad.” It feels mean, and it sucks because you know it would hurt the person, and it never feels good to make somebody feel bad unless you like to savor some bizarre schadenfreude at the expense of others. But there are some factors and tips to consider on how to go about it, if you so choose…
Photo: EvelynGiggles / Flickr