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So really, truly, do you tell someone if they smell?

(134 Posts)
awkwardsis Fri 05-Apr-13 20:35:01

Am faced with a dilemma. I have a sister 10 years younger than me. She started university in September, wanted to come home pretty much straight away as she was struggling being away from home. She is a very very young 19. My parents live rurally, she has been very isolated and is very unwordly. I had her to stay with me a few days this week. When she arrived she smelled badly of BO. It lasted the 2 days she was here, and I've had to wash all of the covers on my sofa now she's gone as the smell just clung to it sad She's having difficulty making friends which tbh I had put down to her being very unlike the ones she's sharing a flat with. The pictures I've seen on her facebook show them as the 19 year olds I remember from my first year at uni, very into their clothes and make up. But now I'm wondering if there's more to it and they're actually picking on her and making her unhappy? She's about to go on placement as her degree is in teaching and I'm agonising over wether I ought to have a word with her about looking after herself a bit better? She's gone on and on about making a good impression at these schools but tbh I am worried that it won't go unnoticed. I adore my sister and feel an absolute bitch for even having an opinion about how she presents herself. I can't comment on her clothes and lack of make up as I know that's her choice, and yes I know we shouldn't feel we have to wear make up etc. But the smell? Would you want to be told? And how to I phrase it so I don't massively hurt her feelings or make her feel bad about herself?

cantspel Fri 05-Apr-13 20:38:12

I would sit down and have a heart to heart with her. It wont be easy but it needs to be done for her sake and the sake of people around her.

HollyGoHeavily Fri 05-Apr-13 20:40:47

It is a hard thing to broach withsomeone but it's better coming from someone who cares about her than a classroom full of kids.....

Grockle Fri 05-Apr-13 20:41:52

Yep, you need to say something. I'm terrible at things like that though so I have no idea how you tell someone that.

numbum Fri 05-Apr-13 20:42:08

Yes you should tell her. It might hurt her but people bitching behind her back and laughing at her forever will hurt more

peggotty Fri 05-Apr-13 20:43:53

Yes you absolutely have to tell her. Just use sensitive phrasing and words 'I've noticed that you have a little bit of body odour' or something like that. If you help her now it could make all the difference to her uni experience. Good luck!

awkwardsis Fri 05-Apr-13 20:44:01

cantspel, I'm just worried this will give her more to worry about. I've been there,a teen with low/no self esteem. I gave her a whole load of gorgeous clothes before she left for university as I desperately wanted her to feel good about herself and not turn down invites out as she had nothign to wear. She's not been wearing them at all, which again is none of my business and I have no right to an opinion about it. But she dresses like a ten year old! Very unself conscious which in a way is great I suppose. But teenage girls cna be ruthless and I know she's had few friends at school, which is probably worse now at university. It's difficult to get her on her own as well as I have a brother a year younger than her who was here as well, and 3 young dc of my own! I might try and gt a day with her next week. Or failing that, I might get my dad to have a word <chicken>. She's very close to him and it might be better coming from him.

When she was with you, did she shower and change clothes or wear the same ones?

It is difficult to start that conversation.
If she's washing and it's not helping then surely she must know.
If she doesn't care about personal hygiene then she doesn't care.
It's less embaressing for a family member than a friend to say it.
(I tell my teen son when he's a bit manky .
"I'm your Mum and I can tell you because I love you. Your friends won't tell you. They'll just avoid you" )

Dogsmom Fri 05-Apr-13 20:45:21

It's difficult but better than other people telling her our talking behind her back.
Maybe say that her deodorant has worn off a bit, that way she'll get the hint she smells but it implies you think it was a one off and that she usually wears it.

As a teacher you have to tell her - the kids won't hold back and their comments can be brutal. Does she think she has difficulties makin friends or chatting to new people? If so could you invite her to stay again and offer to show her some skills to help her perhaps?

HomeEcoGnomist Fri 05-Apr-13 20:45:45

Yes, you should say something

It's not going to be easy - but I've just had to have a conversation with someone at work about how they dress (appreciate this is different subject, but similarly sensitive)

At the end, she thanked me for taking the time to tell her and be honest...when nobody else would

awkwardsis Fri 05-Apr-13 20:46:16

70, i like that actually, about friends not telling you, just avoiding you. I might say that. She did wash (I think) but didn't change clothes. Certainly not her jumper, I didn't notice the rest. It was noticeable as soon as she arrived though, which makes me wonder if she even knows.

williaminajetfighter Fri 05-Apr-13 20:46:36

Family members tell family members!!

Geordieminx Fri 05-Apr-13 20:47:08

If your sister can't tell you something like this then no one can.

Please talk to her,suggest some of the better anti per-spirants, a friend if mine has Botox injections to stop her sweating..

Did she get washed/showered while she was with you?

DoctorAnge Fri 05-Apr-13 20:47:27

Oh bless her. Yes in these circs I think you should say something to her.

You sound like such a lovely sister btw

awkwardsis Fri 05-Apr-13 20:50:17

She's going to primary school so maybe not as bad as if it were secondary. The thing is, I am worried I am going to become her critical older sister and I don't want that. I want her to know I love her as she is, but the world at large has certain expectations, namely to be presentable and not to smell! Our mum has a similar attitude to clothes and make up, so she's never seen a reasonable example I suppose. I've made her up for fun before, but she scrubbed it off before she went home. We're not a strict family by any means, there's no reason she cna't do this stuff. I gave her a lot of my unused make up too. But the issue isn't her face, so I can't comment on that. I'm just going to have to braoch the subject as best I can. Can't begin to know where to start.

cantspel Fri 05-Apr-13 20:54:24

It wont be very easy if she is very unself conscious as she has no idea of the image of she self she wants to project to others/employers.

can you not just be straight with her and say you have noticed she seems to be struggling with a problem with her body odour and then pull out a couple of products you have bought in advance and tell her that these have helped you in the past when you found your own bo to be becoming a problem. Even if you have never had bo can you pretend so she doesn't feel she is suffering alone.
If you also tell her bo can get into clothes and even if she deals with the bodily problem it would be best to bin some of her more worn items and you would love the excuse of a shopping trip with her.

specialsubject Fri 05-Apr-13 20:55:12

tell her. You're her sister and she will know you still love her.

casual clothes, no make up, so what? But washing is a must.

ElsieMc Fri 05-Apr-13 20:55:59

You need to tell her because this could damage her placement and damage her self confidence further. I say this for a clear reason. I managed a home care business with social services contracts. We had clear info on personal hygiene, wearing of jewellery etc, appropriate clothing. Unfortunately two of our workers had a similar problem to your sister. Polite hints and requests did not work.

SS contacted me and told me I must take these workers off contract and I had to tell them both following a complaint from a service user who had to open his windows after they left. One took it fairly well, but the second left immediately, followed by threats from her husband towards me who could not failed to have smelt how bad it was (I can only describe it as off meat).

Although this may not be much help to you in your quandary, I am coming from the perspective of future employer's reactions.

You sound such a lovely, caring sister. Please tell her before she goes to her placement.

cantspel Fri 05-Apr-13 20:56:27

Primary school kids might not be a cruel as secondary but they can speak without thinking and so be just as hurtful so the issue does need tackling now.

Grockle Fri 05-Apr-13 20:57:51

It WILL be as bad as a secondary school - children say things without thinking... if she smells & they don't like it, they will say. On my first day, one of my 8yr old boys said, 'Oh, You look like MissX...she had spots on her face too!' grin I didn't even have loads of spots sad

Could you buy some nice bath stuff & deodorant as a gift before she goes on placement & say how important it is when you are a public sector worker to be clean & sweet-smelling so you thought you'd spoil her with some nice bits & bobs? I don't know but please don't let her hear it from the children.

Also, if she's good on her teaching practice, there are sometimes chances of a job. And, I know it shouldn't make any difference at all but if she smells, they won't want to work with her.

marriedinwhiteagain Fri 05-Apr-13 20:59:26

OK - I'm an HR manager and occasionally I have had to deal with this.

It goes like this:

"I have noticed that you have a problem with BO. I wanted to mention this to you before anyone else mentions it to you. I am sorry if this offends you but I want to help you and to give you some practical advice.

Would you like a glass of water; cup of tea, etc..

I understand it can be hard especially if you live on your own or you are stressed but it is really important to wear clean tops/shirts/blouses every day and underwear and wash the rest of your clothes too. You might not know but man made fibres once they warm up get stinky again even if you have only had BO once and are perfectly clean. It's also important to know that you can't always smell your own BO.

You can avoid BO by showering or even just washing daily and using a 48 hour anti-perspirant. Sometimes of course there can be underlying medical reasons but there are solutions for this nowadays and I can refer you to OHP (in your case come to the doctor with you).

I really appreciate this hasn't been easy to hear but I thought it might be helpful before your colleagues start noticing - if you have any worries, please come and talk to me, I'm always here"

Good luck OP. I know it's tough. But if you do it you won't have the me thinking WTF didn't this poor woman's/man's family (mum, dad, sister, etc) ever care enough to help him or her.

awkwardsis Fri 05-Apr-13 21:01:22

I don't feel like a caring sister, I honestly feel like a horrible person for having an issue with this. I'm sat on my sofa and I can still smell it, I'm going to have to wash the cushion covers and blanket too. Cantspel, I actually had a problem with massively sweating after my youngest was born so that might not be such a bad idea, I could definately go and buy some of the stuff that helped me (thank you Mitchum!) I know mum (can you tell our relationship is a bit toxic hmm) won't let her shave so she goes intermittently for waxing. My attitude to that was sod it I'm shaving anyway but I bet she's just waxing every term. I imagine having stubble would make the smell cling worse? I might just buy her a razor too and tell her to go wild. I'd love to take her shopping but she's just not into it. I am worried about her prospects though. Tbh, I have primary aged dc and I'm not sure how I'd feel about her teaching mine. Obviously she has 2 years to go but she's just so unwordly. I think it's fair to tell her it might affect the impression she makes on placement though.

Snoopingforsoup Fri 05-Apr-13 21:01:54

I think if you approach a conversation with her as you're concerned the problem is linked to her worries about college etc. it may sound more gentle. I've known a few people have problem sweat that had help from their GP. Do you think it's a hygiene issue or could it be medical?
She may already realise and not know how to handle it. I'm sure she'd appreciate your help.
I had to tell my brother he was a stinker, but he was a big burly bloke who'd previously been through the dog on string dreadlock look and was used to it! He's a right peacock these days!

It's hard but the right thing to do as you care about her and can handle it sensitively. Could you maybe say that you are worried about where she is living, is it damp? Because you can smell it a bit on her clothes....something like that if you feel uncomfortable mentioning BO.

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