Stinky Friend

31 Mar

Letterbalm Man with Clothespin on NoseDear LetterBalm: My friends and I have a situation and we don’t know how to handle it. One of our friends is a great guy — but he’s a slob who smells. His job as an auto mechanic keeps him dirty enough. That’s part of the job and not the issue. The problem is he rarely takes a shower, doesn’t brush his teeth, use deodorant or wash his hands in general. He’s greasy because of his work, which makes it worse. We’re all guys, and maybe we don’t always smell like a rose, but we make the effort. We don’t know how to approach him.

–Holding Our Noses

Two assumptions here: Your friend isn’t married or living at home or his smelliness would have been challenged long ago. And, he hasn’t had much success with romance, since he can’t get close to people without making them gag. Is there any reason to suspect a psychological aversion to bathing or a sensory disorder that makes him dislike the touch of water on his skin? Ms. L.B. notes that both of these syndromes are more prevalent than you think. Can you and your friends apply some serious peer pressure – a friendly but frank talk with him as a group (not over alcohol and out of earshot of others)? Does he know he smells? Does he care? Alternatively, you can take him aside, and say this privately, but understand that unless it matters to him, there’s little likelihood the state of stinky affairs will change:

Pepe, the guys have asked me to talk with you about something that bothers all of us. Is there a reason why you don’t shower or take care of yourself? I’m not talking about you getting dirty on the job, that’s normal. I’m talking about basic cleanliness. Is there something that disturbs you about showering or cleaning your teeth? Because you get so dirty, you smell and it’s not good to be around you. This is a problem. Hey, none of us is perfect in this department, but we try. Want to talk about it?


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