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April 12, 2017

Should I Call Out My Prof's B.O.?

Hey, Bonita…

One of my professors has terrible body odor. Students talk about how bad she smells. She's also really disorganized, and her office looks like a trash heap. I think this is terrible, and feel that if she'd just work a little bit on her hygiene, folks wouldn't feel the need to criticize everything else about her. Also, I think it's just extremely unprofessional. I went into the bathroom in our building today after her, and the smell was incredible. Can you recommend a way for me to try to address this with her? Should I just send an email to our department chair?

I definitely don't think you should bring it up to her yourself. The professor/student relationship can be very delicate, and I think she'd interpret your comments as being out of line. She might wonder what her B.O. has to do with the quality of her lectures, and she might ask if you really care about your studies if you're so distracted by her hygiene.

We must always tread lightly when it comes to people's bodies, and especially those of people who hold power in our lives. So, I think it's best for you to go to her direct superior and describe the problem. It's definitely not professional to show up at work smelling so bad that she’s not able to properly do her job, which is teaching students, not grossing them out with her body odor. If y'all aren't learning because you can't breathe, she's not a very effective professor.

Are there other students who share your concern? Go with them to see the chair of the department. Who knows, the chair might share your concern and could very well be waiting for an official student complaint so she can address it professionally with this instructor.


A friend of mine recently got over some pretty serious health stuff that caused her to lose a heap of weight. Now she's all over social media showing off her weight loss as if she's been working out or something. It's really annoying! I'm starting to dread scrolling my timeline because I'm gonna have to see this girl prancing around like she's earned something, when the truth is that she was just in the hospital.

Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow. It's her body, so it's her business, and it's only social media.

I get it—it's obnoxious, because her weight loss didn't happen in a socially-approved-of way, but she's allowed to enjoy her body and this unexpected consequence of her illness. Perhaps being sick for so long really sucked for her, and this is one of the very few bright sides she can find. Let her enjoy it, and understand that she's not doing anything with the intention of annoying you or poking at your disapproval.

Basically, it doesn't have anything to do with you, and you should ask yourself why it annoys you so much to see a friend enjoying herself and feeling pretty and confident. Just unfollow her and mind your business.


One of my best friends is always struggling financially and getting involved in some “get rich quick” scheme. Last year it was selling cheap jewelry, and now it's those overpriced vacation packages. She's also tried selling me body wraps, weight loss shakes and smoothies, clothes, makeup, healing magnets, insurance—you name it.

I'm running out of money and patience with her, Bonita. I wish she'd stop going for pyramid schemes, or better yet, stick with a regular job and stop pestering her family and friends. How can I get through to her?

Sit down with her and ask her to list all of the multilevel marketing campaigns she's been involved in. Ask her what they all have in common—like having to make a large initial buy-in to a “great business opportunity”—and ask her how many have actually made her rich (none, I assume). She's gonna need to see the writing on the wall herself to stop going for those schemes.

I'd also recommend putting a lot of energy into helping her find steady work outside of home. Since she seems to enjoy selling stuff so much, point her in the direction of a dope boutique that's hiring. If she likes the challenge of commissions and sales goals, many boutiques have those in place. But they don't require an initial buy-in—the biggest indicator of a pyramid scheme—and that makes all the difference.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use the anonymous form at flagpole.com/getadvice, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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