Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Lending a Dress Carries an Awkward Risk

DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my friends asked me if she can borrow a formal dress for an event that she is attending. She has a limited budget and really can't afford to go out and buy a gown. Under normal circumstances, I would be OK with that. She seems responsible, and I hardly wear my formal clothes.

My issue is that she has significant body odor. I think that she does not wear deodorant. She is one of those earthy-crunchy type of people who like to do vitamins and everything all-natural. For the most part, I don't care so much about that. But I fear that if I let her wear my dress, there will be an odor in it that will never come out. How do I address this with her? -- BORROWING A DRESS

DEAR BORROWING A DRESS: Usually I steer clear of body odor conversations, as they are so incredibly personal and often have to do with more than simply using deodorant. The way people smell is often associated with the food they eat and their overall health. That said, in this case, you have a very specific reason to open up this discussion. There is no easy way around it.

In private, you need to speak to your friend and tell her your concerns. Acknowledge that you would like for her to be able to wear your dress, but that you have some reservations. Be direct. Tell her that you notice that she sometimes has a strong body smell and you are concerned that it will linger in your dress. Ask her if she wears deodorant or if she is willing to wear it in your dress. Tell her you do not mean to be rude, but you are just being practical. This will likely be a bit of an awkward conversation, but the alternative is either that you say no without explanation or say yes and accept that you may have to forfeit wearing your dress again.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm planning to retire next year. I have saved my money and invested fairly well, so I am prepared to make this move. I feel confident about my decision, but my friends are giving me grief. They think I am crazy to retire in my 50s.

When I listen to them, I hear the choices they have made along with the challenges they have faced that have derailed them financially. But that is not my story. How can I get my friends to lay off me? We all have our individual lives to lead. Why can't they trust that I am doing what is right for me? -- READY TO RETIRE

DEAR READY TO RETIRE: Your friends are projecting their fears onto you. That is natural for people to do, though it is not helpful to you. What you should do is verify your financial situation with your financial adviser or consultant, where you review what you have and what you think you need for the projected remainder of your life. If you are still confident about retiring, stand in that conviction.

As far as your friends go, be definitive with them about your choice and let it be. You can thank them for their concerns as you assure them that you have made your decision. You can also ask them to stop pestering you about it. Point out that you don't chastise them about their finances. You want them to do the same for you.

(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.)