Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Co-Worker's Lunch Smells Horrible

DEAR HARRIETTE: We don’t have cubicles or private offices at my job -- more of an open area with desks arranged in pods. My “pod” consists of the five people on my team and me. The girl I sit directly next to brings her lunch each day. Now of course I don’t have a problem with her bringing in her lunch -- I pack mine every day -- but I have a problem with the smell of her lunch. I’m not sure what it is, but something that she brings turns me off. I can’t get used to it, and it has come to the point where the smell makes me nauseous and gives me a headache. I now take my lunch break outside of the office just to escape the smell. What do I do in this situation? I know it might just be me being sensitive, but I also don’t want to keep having to leave the office each time my team member eats her lunch! -- Dealing With a Smelly Lunch, Pittsburgh

DEAR DEALING WITH A SMELLY LUNCH: Why not speak to your co-worker? Tell her that you do not mean to be insensitive, but that there is an ingredient in her lunch that you think you are allergic to. Explain that whenever you smell it, you become ill. Admit that you leave the office at lunchtime because you keep getting sick. Ask her if she would help you to figure out what the ingredient is, and, if possible, not bring that to work anymore. There is a good chance that she has no idea that her lunch is bothering you. If you handle this discreetly, chances are she will try to accommodate your request.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was at the bar the other night, and I saw my brother’s girlfriend cheating on him with some other guy. My brother and I are extremely close, but I don’t know how to tell him. He is so in love with his girlfriend, and this will absolutely break his heart. I know she didn’t see me. I want to tell my brother, but I think it should come from her. Do you think I should confront her and tell her that I saw her? -- Concerned Sister, Denver

DEAR CONCERNED SISTER: Your allegiance is to your brother. As hurt as he may be to learn about his girlfriend’s behavior, he will be more devastated to learn that you witnessed her cheating and said nothing. Tell your brother what you saw -- with no embellishments. Tell him where you were and describe who she was with. Do not try to reach any conclusions. Just report what you saw. It will be up to him to decide his next steps. Be prepared, by the way, for him to stay with his girlfriend. Do not judge him if he makes a choice that is different from what you think you might make.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)