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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?

AnyoneforTurps Sun 07-Apr-13 20:22:09

Sometimes BO can be a sign of untreated diabetes or other fairly serious health problems so you owe it to her to tell her just from that perspective

Er really? I must have missed that lecture at medical school wink

There are medical conditions that make you sweat excessively but, even then, you will only smell if you don't wash. From everything the OP has said, her Dsis is neglecting her personal hygiene. That is why she smells. There is no mystery and no need for medical tests.

It will be a hard enough conversation (though a necessary one), telling the Dsis about the smell . For gawd's sake don't traumatise the poor girl further by making her go to the GP too. As a GP myself, I would not be doing any tests for underlying medical conditions on someone who smells because she does not wash/change her clothes enough!

OP, you sound like a very caring sister. I'm afraid you have to have this talk with your Dsis. Don't let her go on her placement without warning her - it's tough enough learning to teach without the kids picking on her.

formicaqueen Sun 07-Apr-13 21:20:30

Shes your sister, tell her in a loving way. Talk about all her positive points but say that you really have to mention the smell.

goingupinfumes Sun 07-Apr-13 21:38:45

great advice here and I'm coming at this from the other side, I went to uni and made some friends but noticed that people were sort of turning away? I couldn't work out what I was doing.. but the first break I went home and my mum after a few days sat me down and asked if there was a dentist locally to my uni i was confused why would she be asking me.. and she said the reason being that my breath was a bit smelly!! I was so blush she said when I was younger and nervous or just not eating a good diet my breath went a bit funny, but as a mum she always looked after me and sorted out diet / teeth and it went away.

I was never aware of this at all, so getting to live away from home clearly it had flared up and I was the girl with stinky breath...

so a quick trip to the hyginest to make sure it wasn't anything nasty, stated eating well, drinking lots, always have gum and flossing and all sorted!!

I'm late 30's now and love my mum for giving that information, she's saved many a potential situation as I'm always so careful to have a fresh mouth.

VerySmallSqueak Mon 08-Apr-13 00:04:28

Soaking clothes in a solution of white vinegar and water before washing is excellent at removing persistent sweat smells from armpits.

awkwardsis Tue 09-Apr-13 21:36:10

I just wanted to come and update before I namechange back into oblivion. Thank you so much to all who added to this thread. I met my brother and sister in town today, and I asked my brother if he'd mind taking the 2 older dc while I took my sister shopping. He was happy to, and what a star he was, definately the favourite uncle after the toy shops he took them in today! I told my sister I had been thinking about her since she'd said she intended to wear her suit to placement and realised no teachers I knew wore them, so I wanted to take her to H & M just to look for some ideas. She was happy to do so, to my massive surprise. I took her heaps of clothes into the changing room and she got some absolutely stunning stuff, spending over £100 on a complete wardrobe for her placement. I am actually pretty jealous of it all! I told her I was a bit worried about her not looking afer herself, that I'd bought her some deodorant as she was a bit whiffy. I made a joke about it, it was much much easier than I thought it would be, and said she smelt fine today! It turns out it's the big bloody jumper she's been wearing that stinks, apparently mum and dad got it for her for Christmas to keep her warm. I've told her to burn it. As soon as she saw how bloody marvellous she looked in her new clothes, I saw her literally grow that teensy bit more confident, she took her jumper off to put a new t shirt and knit over the top, and she just radiated a bit more confidence. I took her to get some decent underwear in TK Maxx, another £50 down but 6 decent bras (she'd been measured in M & S apparently, and was wearing a baggy disaster) and again, a noticable adjustment in her posture. Last shop was Superdrug to pick her up a razor and some makeup. She was beaming. I'm so so glad she was responsive to it. I think it was actually a bit of a relief to know she had something to wear on placement, and also on her downtime. I got them both to come back here and took her upstairs to make her up. I plucked her eyebrows into oblivion, and mentioned that I would like her to see a doctor to check her hormone levels because of her excess hair. She absolutely bawled when she saw her made up face. Glowing does not begin to describe it. She had a damn good cry about mum and not feeling allowed to make decisions about her own appearance and body. My heart actually breaks for her, I was brought up with the same constraints I suppose but I didn't feel by that age that mum had any kind of actual say. She also opened up a bit about feeling picked on and not belonging in her halls. She's desperately worried about using the razor, and what mum will sayabout her eyebrows when they come back on Thursday. I've just told her to be strong and to remember how confident and just wonderful she felt about herself today. She went from someone who looked like they didn;t care about themselves, to an attractive young woman. I am so so pleased that you lot helped me feel it was ok to say something. Hopefully she'll keep it all up. She asked if she can go out wiht me next week after her student loan's been paid in to get the rest fo the things she needs makeup and skin care wise (she doesn't even wash her face!) and to get the last few bits liek tights and earrings to make sure she has enough of everything to always make some outfits. She was only doing her washing every 2 weeks, I've told her that her tops must be washed after one wear so they'll not get stinky like her jumper. But I think if anything today helped her see that I am there for her, and that she is worth the effort.

IdaBlankenship Tue 09-Apr-13 21:40:55

Oh awkwardsis your update has made me well up - what a lovely sister you are.

ekidna Tue 09-Apr-13 21:43:34

Lovely !!!!!!! Bless you op

DontSHOUTTTTTT Tue 09-Apr-13 21:45:27

smile. What a fantastic update. It bought a lump to my throat.

thanks. You all sound lovely

saycheeeeeese Tue 09-Apr-13 21:48:51

Awh OP that's just so lovely, she's so lucky to have a big sister like you!!

Uppatreecuppatea Tue 09-Apr-13 21:49:35

You are a wonderful SIS! I think you're wonderful and what you did is just terrific.

Grockle Tue 09-Apr-13 21:50:13

Well done! Thank you so much for updating. You sound like a wonderful sister & she sounds lovely too. What a fabulous thread.

AnyoneforTurps Tue 09-Apr-13 21:51:07

Well done - she will remember this with gratitude for the rest of her life!

awkwardsis Tue 09-Apr-13 21:52:45

I just wish they could all have stayed tonight but they had to get back as she has some kind of test on Friday and my brother starts back at school on Monday and has exams. I'm deasperately sad that her confidence is so low. I've told her that any negative comments she gets about her new clothes or appearance are jealousy pure and simple. Her skin is a real mess, so so dry and looks as old as mine even though she's 10 years younger so I've sent her away with a bottle of cleanser tha's far soo harsh really, and a big tube of moisturiser and told her to just drink lots of water to get it up to scratch before we go shopping again. But I'd like to buy her some really nice stuff so perhaps I'll look into some things that might work on her skin and treat her that way. Even just the tinted moisturiser covered up the blemishes and made a difference. The positive comments from my brother helped too, he was literally speechless when he saw her. I'm hoping he'll back her up if mum decides to stick the knife in.

WipsGlitter Tue 09-Apr-13 21:58:52

You are an amazing sister. x

thezebrawearspurple Tue 09-Apr-13 22:00:36

You're an amazing sister, she's so lucky to have yousmile

BornInACrossFireHurricane Tue 09-Apr-13 22:03:55

Brilliant update!!

Hope everything goes well for your sister

thermalsinapril Tue 09-Apr-13 22:42:30

Wonderful to read your updates smile So glad it all went well, and so pleased that your sister has you caring about her.

HavingALittleFaithBaby Tue 09-Apr-13 22:53:34

What a lovely sister you are thanks. Well done for having the courage to deal with it so tactfully smile

sjupes Wed 10-Apr-13 00:14:11

Aw i'm so glad it went well - my older sister 'moulded' me from an unkempt stinky mess to a not too bad looking young person when i was 16 - i appreciate it to this day almost ten years later!

Alanna1 Wed 10-Apr-13 00:45:37

A friend had to deal with a bad BO situation in a line management capacity. She dealt with it by sending the team on a self presentation skills course which included 1:1 feedback from the course organisers. They dealt with it. Other sessions on how to dress / meeting client expectations etc. Worked brilliantly. It's not uncommon for young male employees to need some guidqnce apparently. Could you adapt the idea for your sister? My husband and other friends have used professional interview and image training consultants for coaching before major interviees. Quite a few firms practice in the area.

LeoandBoosmum Wed 10-Apr-13 02:08:12

Honestly? I think you have to. If you, her loving sister with her best interests at heart, don't then someone else probably will! Either that or she'll be avoided...
I would be totally straight with her:
(Name), I'm telling you this because you're my sister and care for you. You are probably completely unaware of it but...there is no nice way of saying this: you have very bad BO. I am telling you because I don't want somebody to point it out to you in an unkind way, and I don't want people to avoid you because of it (point out that as she's going into teaching, it is likely that staff will avoid her and some children will latch on to anything they can to make a teacher's life miserable, especially older kids!)
It is better that you tell her in a kind and loving way than the likely alternative. As her older sister, you can point out that hygiene is crucial but makeup/ fashion/ styling is not... However, you are willing to help her out on that front if she wants you to (you could offer to go to a makeup counter with her where they'll usually do a free makeover - even subtle - in the hopes you will buy a product or two. Or offer to go the salon with her... If you get a makeover and haircut too then it'd be a nice bonding thing! smile
I'd also kindly point out the importance of washing clothes regularly with detergent.
I think you are a nice sister to do this. It's not easy but she will go through life with people giving her a wide berth or ridiculing her to her face or behind her back if keep schtum!

LeoandBoosmum Wed 10-Apr-13 02:22:10

Awkwardsis...I just saw your update (why do I always read the thread after I've posted confused)
I just wanted to say what a lovely sister you are! You have made a huge boost to your sister's confidence and I expect she'll go into her placement feeling much more optimistic about making that good impression!!
It sounds like you handled the situation perfectly! Every cloud has a silver lining: the issue provided you with a lovely opportunity for a bit of sisterly bonding smile
If she can afford it or you can afford to treat her then it might be nice to take your sister to get a nice hair cut (from what you've said, I'm guessing she's probably not been to a nice salon for a professional cut before) or a nice bottle of perfume to add that finishing touch.
I'm so happy it worked out so well... You absolutely did the right thing!
Just one thing: it does sound like your mum is a little overbearing. She must understand that your sister is trying to become independent and carve a life out for herself. Maybe you should have a word with her and tell her it's hard enough at nineteen to leave home and embark on a teaching course without extra pressure. Is your sister the youngest? Sounds like your mum is having a hard time letting her go and grow up.
Anyway, ten out of ten for sisterly awesomeness! wink

CalamityJ Wed 10-Apr-13 02:22:54

Thanks for the update. I'm so pleased it went so well. You obviously have a great relationship and handled it sensitively. Hopefully you can update us once she's back at uni and tell us if she's making more friends, seems happier, is more confident etc?

MsBella Wed 10-Apr-13 02:24:05

Try and make friends with her, id personally tell her I had the same problem even if its not true, it'll help her not be embarressed

MsBella Wed 10-Apr-13 02:26:29

Oh just read the update, well done! As a big sister these things need to be done sometimes and I'm sure she appreciates it

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