If you’ve got a friend with offensive body odour, how are you supposed to deal it? I used to have this friend, a girl in her 20’s, named Priya. When I first met her, I noticed a slight unpleasant smell, but I did not think much about it. It’s easy for me to sack and excuse these smelly public infractions because it is a common problem. Priya’s smell required no hyper caution. It got a little worse each time I met her, until it was a bad sour cloud of smell travelling with all the time.
I decided to meet up Priya for some coffee and cinema as she forced me for it. Priya surprised me by turning up in the afternoon; she asked if she could sleep on my bed as she worked the previous night till morning. I made a lame excuse, and felt like a jerk about it. I’m just not that kind of lie-teller, game-player; I’d rather just shoot straight. But I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, and I didn’t want my one decent piece of bedroom furniture contaminated with that awful smell and it was awful. It made me think of decomposing vegetables, and the smell of certain varieties of baby food. No, not in my bed.
We both went to the coffee shop in her bike, I sat behind her, and the disgusting odour was stomach-turning. And I meant this exactly. I could feel it crowding around me like a lecherous ghost, clinging and stifling, licking at me, laying upon my skin. I wondered if I’d carry it with me into the coffee shop, wondered if people would smell it and think it was me. I felt the urge to vomit rising from those deep pink trenches under my tongue, and I swallowed hard. The mall was only five minutes away — I could hold it.
At this rate, I didn’t think I could tolerate being around her again. She suggested subsequent get-togethers. I made more dishonest excuses, and couldn’t bear doing it. I talked the situation over with others. If I tell her she smells bad, her feelings are going to be hurt. There’s just no way they won’t be. Besides the fact that almost nobody likes to smell bad, I thought Priya might be especially sensitive to the issue, because she’s obese. She was already self-conscious about the size and shape of her body — I didn’t want to add another layer of shame.
I sent my life’s kindest e-mail my heart could compose. I told her I couldn’t stand the thought of hurting her feelings, and how hard it had been for me to broach the subject. I told her I was worried that the smell might be a symptom of something internal gone awry. I reminded her that as a fellow woman, I was mindful of keeping certain fleshy places clean and dry, powdering under breasts and bellies and such, and that I understood how some places on the body might be difficult to reach if you were obese. I offered her links to web sites that offered extra-long back brushes and other grooming products for large people. I reminded her that I wanted her for my friend. I told her I wanted her to have every opportunity for friendship and employment in her new community, and that I would hate to imagine anyone being distracted from her wonderful qualities by a mere smell that might be easy to take care of.
Priya did not take it well. She said she felt humiliated. She even remarked that it was ironic I should say these things to her, considering I did so much fat writing. Fat or thin, if you smell insufferably nasty, I’m going to tell you so I don’t have to lie about why I’m not hanging around with you anymore.
I might be really uncomfortable if someone told me I smelled. But if they delivered the message as kindly as I had, I imagine I’d sooner or later get over it and be able to face my friend again. If you don’t tell a person they smell, then they’re left to think poorly of you when you suddenly stop spending time with them.
It turned like a no-win situation, but there was a potential positive outcome. The message was heard, and Priya started doing things to eliminate her smell problem to make it possible that she wins in the long run.
This is written as a part of a contest conducted by Racold and Indiblogger.