The Time I Told Her: How To Speak About Touchy Topics Like Body Odour

Nobody likes to be told they smell of body odour, would they? I then thought that if I reeked of sweat, I would wish to know.  How do I tell her, though? I supposed the best way would be to say it directly but politely.

We had been acquaintances for a few years. We would bump into each other a few times, and every time we hugged hello, my nose crinkled. Likewise, we all sweat, whether we are women or men. It’s a natural thing. I ignored it, chatted for a few minutes, and we parted ways.

However, the incident lingered in my mind a few minutes, and then was forgotten.

A couple of weeks later, I was at a party and this acquaintance was there. I noticed that when someone else hugged her, they too had a slight disgusted expression.

That was it.

My Dilemma

I decided to let her know. If she was offended, I thought it would still be okay. If she took it well, then I was happy to have informed her.

Nobody likes to be told they smell of body odour, would they? I then thought that if I reeked of sweat, I would wish to know.  How do I tell her, though? I supposed the best way would be to say it directly but politely.

Moment of Truth

Whomever she interacted with, touched their nose. The time had come for me to tell her, but now? Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long.

She was leaving the party, and after she said her thank-yous to the host and hostess (this time there weren’t any hugs) I caught her outside and told her we should meet.

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It’s time for the truth. A little anxious myself, I looked at her and said, “Rathi could I tell you something a bit personal?” She looked surprised, as if to say, what would you possibly have to say to me?

I took a deep breath and said that what I had to say could be offensive, but I hoped she would not take it the wrong way. I said that she had body odour and needed to take care of it because others were shying away, and even commented about it.

Not only that, but I also told her that other people’s business is not mine, but in this case I couldn’t ignore it any longer. She looked at me, turned around and left. Needless to say, I imagined kicking myself but didn’t feel too bad as I shamelessly thought that I had done my good deed for the day.

Surprise Call

Two days later I got a missed call. I True Caller’d it and found out it was Rathi’s number. My heart beat a little faster and I cursed into the universe. I called her back, anticipating an earful of abuse.

To my surprise, she was very nice. She thanked me and was genuinely grateful that I was forthcoming and honest with her. She acknowledged that it must’ve been difficult for me to mention such a thing, and wasn’t angry with me.

Furthermore, she was surprised and thought about it when she got home that night. She said she didn’t use any antiperspirant because she would remove her hair and didn’t realize that she perspired enough to have body odour.

The day after the party she said after she bathed, she didn’t put on any antiperspirant as usual and later in the day smelled herself. Although I wondered how she had never noticed before, I was glad she did so now consciously.

I smiled knowingly to myself. She bought an antiperspirant and she hoped it worked. She recently was going through menopause, and she now realized that her body odours changed. 

We chatted for a while about general things, made plans to meet the week after, and then hung up.

All’s well that ends well

Things would’ve been different had she mistaken my help as offensive. Sometimes it’s okay to be honest and let them decide how to receive the news. I lived to tell another day.

Image source: Alena Shekhovtsova from corelens, free on CanvaPro

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About the Author

Chitra Govindraj

Chitra Govindraj grew up in Dubai, was educated in the US and now lives with her family in Bangalore, India. She dabbled in the corporate world as a banker and a soft skills trainer and read more...

9 Posts | 4,379 Views

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