I love this site and have spent many a free hour enjoying (and cringing at!) the many stories.
I don’t have a story to share today, but I do have a question that’s been bothering me for a while.
How do I tell my friend that she smells really bad?
I’m 25 and she’s 18. I’ve known her since she was 13, when through a mutual riding instructor friend, we made arrangements for her to come ride my horse after school and at weekends as my time was taken up by studying and work and my horse’s fitness was suffering for it. She’s an excellent rider and she needed a more challenging horse than the ones at her riding school.
Over the years we became good friends. She’s a brilliant, funny and intelligent girl with a heart of gold. I only started noticing how bad she smelled over the past year, as we’ve started meeting each other socially away from the equestrian center – to go out shopping, to the cinema, out for drinks (she’s of legal age to drink in the UK, I promise I’m not giving alcohol to a minor), etc. I don’t know if she’s always had an odor problem and I’ve just never noticed before, since we were usually around horses and farm animals, which don’t exactly smell pretty themselves, or if it’s something that’s just started happening to her (perhaps hormone changes due to adolescence?), but it’s a very pungent, sickening smell of stale sweat and dirt that is only becoming worse.
I find it difficult to eat when she’s around, and I try to avoid being in closed spaces with her. Other friends and a few family members that have met her have noticed her smell too, and the general consensus is that she needs to know she has a problem. I’ve even had to wash my cushion covers and spray down my sofa with cleaner after she’s visited my house, because the smell has clung to the fabric. I know that sounds quite mean and picky, but the smell is THAT bad. Friends have refused to go out with us once they learn she is coming along too, but I really like my friend and I refuse to stop being around for her or inviting her to social occasions just because she has a problem that she’s not aware of. The smell doesn’t effect her wonderful personality, and that’s all I really care about, though the smell is becoming very difficult to ignore.
I’ve tried different tactics to get her to perhaps use deodorants and bathe more, like buying her fancy perfume gift sets and bubble baths and soaps from nice boutiques for her birthday and Christmas, and offering her use of my body sprays, deodorants and perfumes when we’re getting ready to go out (which she usually declines).
She’s at college now and she’s mentioned to me that a few other girls are bullying her, though she didn’t say why (not that bullies need a reason!) I hope it’s not because of her smell, and I’d much rather she was told gently and kindly by a friend, than by a cruel bully who’d do it to humiliate her.
How can I tell her and spare her feelings? Is it my place to tell her at all? I know it’s not really any of my business how someone smells, and I’m not even sure that I’d want to be told if I had the same problem, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want people to think I was dirty or talk about me behind my back. I think that if I had the same problem and had to be told about it, I’d much rather hear it kindly from someone who I know cares for me, than by a group mean girls or a stranger. Please, please, please help. What is the etiquette around this problem? Any and all advice welcome! 0415-16
You just tell her in as straightforward manner as possible. I had a dear friend who developed the worst halitosis ever. Being within 3 feet of her when she talked was excruciating because it smelled like something had crawled into her throat and died weeks earlier. I finally was the one who told her and it was as simple as, “Donna, I’m not sure you are aware of this but you’ve developed horridly bad breath. Are you having a problem with post nasal drip?” She hadn’t noticed and asked me how bad. “Really, really bad…like you ate a rotting carcass.” I don’t recall what she did but within 2 weeks the bad breath was gone and hasn’t returned.
Good friendship can withstand the truth, particularly when the relationship has a foundation of each other looking out for the other person. My best friend whom I have known for over 40 years is someone I can hear the truth from because I know she has my back always. You should trust the friendship and tell her that she needs to address the issue of her sweaty smell.
I own driving ponies, btw, and I happen to like the smell of pony poop and sweat but after messing with the ponies for a few hours, it’s time to shower and wash the “eau de barn” scent down the drain because most people don’t appreciate the smell out of context.