Smells Belles in Smithsville

Dear Gabby,

This is awkward, but here it is: My dear friend and co-worker, who I’ll call Madame X, has body odor – all the time, rain or shine. It’s not the kind that would set off security lights or trip metal detectors, but still it arrives in the room just slightly before she does, lingers when she leaves and I have to work alongside her. She is such an attractive, intelligent well-dressed person with gorgeous hair; it’s hard to believe she doesn’t know she smells. She doesn’t have a boyfriend and I wondering if this has something to do with it. I feel bad knowing this and not saying something, but I can’t imagine the alternative. Do I need therapy? Help!!!!!

Smells Belles in Smithville

As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman without discretion.

Proverbs 11:22

Ho boy, what a stinker of a problem. Gabby would rather deal with just about any other problem than this one. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t really address the issue of BO – probably because those shepherds were curling up with their sheep at night and the rest of the town wasn’t showering – ever. Smells were relative I guess. But now-a-days, they’re trouble with a capital T that rhymes with P that stands for P-U! So what to do? Well, the only therapy that Gabby might suggest for this problem is aroma therapy. Maybe you could try putting one of those little scented trees that hang from your car’s rear-view mirror in your workspace. But that really doesn’t get to the root of the problem, which might as you suggest, be interfering with her love life. That leaves the tough road to take, so put on your work boots and roll up your sleeves, ‘cause we’re going in!

The long and the short of it is that you have to address this with her. That uncomfortable feeling that prompted you to write in sounds to me like the Holy Spirit urging you to “do unto others as you would have them do to you.” If you had some easily remedied hygiene issue that was causing others to look less favorably on you and you were the only person who didn’t realize it, wouldn’t you want someone, anyone to tell you? If you don’t address this, it could haunt you the rest of your life. If you do, it could be the beginning of a unique ministry that is greatly needed in the world today – that of compassionate honesty.

So the Bible doesn’t really address BO, OK, but it does give us plenty of advice on discretion. There’s absolutely nothing wrong in being honest with someone about something uncomfortable. We don’t need to avoid uncomfortable situations, we just need to exercise tact and do so in the kindest manner possible. Of course, that’s good advice for all situations, but telling someone they have ketchup on their shirt isn’t nearly as sensitive as telling them they smell. Proverbs 11:22 says that “as a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman without discretion.” How you handle yourself in difficult situations is either an accent to your inner beauty or a detraction. A lot of ugliness can come out of a situation like this and stick all over you if you don’t handle this with grace. So what Gabby would suggest finding a quiet moment without anyone else around – go to lunch together or if you socialize outside of work, that’s even better – then start with a question like, “Have you changed soaps or detergents lately?” Even if the answer is “no” you can use this as a springboard to suggest something you think might remedy the problem. Just this dialog alone will probably not be effective, unfortunately. So Gabby says you drive the point home in compassion by handing over a little brown bag of a couple of products that you think will solve the problem. If you don’t do this, you’re leaving it up to her initiative to change her routine and if she honestly has never smelled herself, not likely to get off her haunches to do anything. Fast forward to the next day: Does your coworker still smell? If so, just ask, “Did you try that stuff I gave you?”

No? Encourage her again – “I really think you’ll love it. Try it tomorrow!”

Yes? “I love the way that smells on you! You have to keep using that. I bet the guys will be falling all over themselves to get a whiff of you now!”

And very worst case scenario: Yes, but she still smells? Try this, “Hmm. I don’t think that is the right product for you after all.” Your friend’s got a tough case of BO, and now that you’ve put your foot into it, you can’t step out. Go on a quest together to try every powerful deodorizing product ever made until she finds one that does the trick. If you like this gal, the experience will further bond you as you share in her intimate process of self-improvement. The hardest part of this whole thing will be breaching the subject. You’ll think of a hundred reasons why today is not the day. And it will torture you! So just do it!

I hope this experience goes well for you and that it teaches you that honesty with discretion is truly an act of love and compassion.

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