DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my friends told me about this guy that she has been dating for a while. She really likes his company and how much of a gentleman he is. The only downside is that he smells. I asked if he had any religious restrictions to washing, and she said he doesn’t. She says his odor is so bad, it fills up a room and people avoid them. It sounded a bit extreme, but now she’s saying that it’s hard to be near him, and she is starting to be self-conscious. She worries that she smells bad when she’s around him. This is a bit rough, but now that I think about it, how do you tell a person they smell bad in a nice way? Is there any way my friend can nicely tell her date about his body odor? -- What to Say
DEAR WHAT TO SAY: One of the steps of intimacy is figuring out how to address tough subjects with each other. Hygiene is one of those extremely touchy subjects. What I have seen over time -- and I hope this doesn’t sound sexist -- is that women can be positive influences on men in relationships in this way. Sometimes when men have been single for a long time, they have not paid close attention to things like body odor. Being in a relationship makes that a glaring concern. Your friend should tell her boyfriend that she has noticed that he sometimes has a strong scent. She can ask him what products he uses to bathe and potentially recommend or even give him products that may be helpful.
Your friend should know, too, that beyond religious concerns, sometimes people smell like the food that they eat. Depending on his diet, the smell may be exuding from his pores. That requires a completely different level of engagement to address. But basic hygiene is a good start. Chances are, he will be more mindful of bathing if she brings it up to him.