October 3, 2018

My Friend (Literally) Stinks

Hey, Bonita…


My friend is a lovely person and functioning adult, but they stink horribly. I don’t know if they simply don’t bathe often enough or have some sort of medical condition. This person is at least somewhat aware they cast a foul scent over the room and will acknowledge it casually: “Hi! I smell so bad right now!”

Hanging out together can be tough. Confined spaces are brutal. I don’t even know what kind of advice I seek. Being stinky isn’t cool to me, but I don’t know if I have the nerve to tell them how bad it is.

Do I have my nose in the air over something I shouldn’t?

Stunk Rock Girl

When I lived on the East Coast, I had a roommate who only brushed her teeth about once a week. I would often drive us to work together, and she would fill my car with a scent so wretched I would gag. So, I began rolling down her window during the drive. Sometimes it would be raining or even snowing, and she’d inch her window up, and I’d roll it right back down.

One day, she finally got frustrated and asked why I was freezing her out every morning. I told her the truth, and she didn’t speak to me for the rest of the ride to work, but she started brushing her teeth whenever we would carpool. I didn’t care if she brushed her teeth at all, but she finally realized that she had no right to gross me out of my own vehicle when I was the one doing her a favor.

I don’t know that I would advise you to say anything, but you don’t have to choke while trying to hang out with your buddy. Maybe just stop hanging out in confined spaces with them. When the room gets too funky, move the conversation out to the porch. If you’re in a car with them, roll down the window, no matter the weather. Eventually, they will notice that one of their besties refuses to breathe their air, and hopefully, they’ll take that seriously.

Hey Bonita,

About the letter from “Is my roommate trying to sabotage my relationship?” [Sept. 5]:

A person who keeps a bottle of shampoo in the bathroom is not a “guest.” They live there. A person who lives in a place where they have no financial stake (deposit), make no regular financial contribution (rent, water, power bill, cable, internet) and have made no formal commitment to the property owner or the residents may not be as respectful and honest as a person who has discussed house rules, writes a rent check and has signed a lease. Unfortunately, people don’t value “free” as much as they value something they have paid and planned for.

To let someone live in your home just because you like them is risky behavior. An individual has the right to take that risk for themselves. Risk is sexy. I get it. I’ve enjoyed some risky behavior myself, and I regret only what caused harm to others. But no one has a right to take risks for other people—or with other people’s homes or property—without those people’s consent.

Bonita, I never miss your column—except when it’s not there, and then I really miss it. I’ll be honored if Flagpole prints my letter, and if you will share your perspective on my perspective.

A Loyal Reader

Y’ALL. I want you to know that the letter above was handwritten and mailed to the Flagpole offices. Honestly? I’m touched! I’m blushing! Who cares if we disagree? That is SO SWEET OF YOU.

And perhaps we don’t actually disagree on this, because I’m also no proponent of a roomie’s boo becoming a de facto roommate. Anyone who is regularly using a house’s utilities and facilities should be paying rent, and in hindsight, that shampoo suggestion was definitely not one of my best. The person who wrote in was describing a situation that felt more like shade than a legitimate household concern, and I think she had good reason to doubt her roommate’s sincerity.

It’s important to note that the information I receive is always one-sided, but it’s what I have to go on when I give advice. Who knows what’s actually going on in that house? A candid conversation is in order, if you ask me. The writer should ask straight-up if her roommate is worried about the water bill or her own ego.

Need advice? Email, use our anonymous form, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.