Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: Whenever my children are at home during the weekends, they don't think they need to bathe. My kids are teenagers, and my son is an athlete. Translation: They all need to bathe, or else my house smells sweaty.

Not only do they not bathe, they also do not put away their dirty clothes. They have become slobs. I did not teach them that they could have weekends off, but somehow they got it into their heads that this is OK. How can I get them to go back to practicing good hygiene? I can't take the smell or the lack of regard for me and my home. What can I say without starting a big argument? -- Clean Up, Brooklyn, N.Y.

DEAR CLEAN UP: It is time to reset house rules. Sit down with your children and be direct with them. Tell them that you realize that they want to relax on the weekend, but that they have taken it too far. Point to the dirty clothes. Move on to the lack of cleanliness on their part. Be honest -- they are not bathing, and it is affecting everyone. Break it down so that they understand that their poor hygiene is making the house smell, and you are putting your foot down on this one.

Even though they are teenagers, you may have to take away privileges if they brush you off. Good hygiene is important at every stage in life, including the wildly independent teenage years. Give your children weekly chores and responsibilities, and limit their ability to do as they choose until they have completed their tasks, including bathing.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was just reading your column about the store customer who was being disrespected. It reminded me of a store here in Rochester where a salesperson would "bird-dog" you while you were shopping. I don't know if he was worried about his commission or whether you might be shoplifting, but he would stand right behind you while you were looking at merchandise, even looking over your shoulder. One day my brother got sick of it, turned face-to-face with the guy and asked him: "Am I in heat or something?" The guy walked away. -- Sick of It, Rochester, N.Y.

DEAR SICK OF IT: Sometimes face-to-face confrontation can work to get a salesperson to back off. Other times, it can cause more friction. I am all for letting the employee or the manager know that you feel you are being followed. When you don't say anything, you run the risk that the employee believes this behavior is acceptable.

There shouldn't be such a fine line between attentiveness and imposition. Salespeople are supposed to be trained to care for their customers, not intimidate them.