Phipps Tips: Stinky

Oh no, anonymous help-seeker. Oh no. This is a terrible situation to be in, because you’re right, there isn’t really a nice way to tell someone they smell bad. Unfortunately, in situations like this, there also isn’t really a subtle one.

Sure, you could try being sneaky and hinting at it. Sing loudly in the shower about how much fun it is to clean your entire body every day! Leave love poems to soap lying around the apartment! Stage fake phone conversations with loved ones bragging about how much laundry you’ve done recently! Rent out an empty office space to use as a shell corporation for the fake dentist office you will create to send yourself an endless stream of expository Charlie-Brown-themed cards demonstrating your undying commitment to dental hygiene!

But those options are time-consuming and expensive, and at the end of the day, they might not even work. If your friend-cum-roommate is oblivious enough to not realize that he should be brushing his teeth every day, he probably won’t pick up on even un-subtle hints.

This leads me to the nightmarish truth of your situation. You must confront him directly. You must be honest, but kind. You can’t be in charge of the minutia of how he lives his life, but to the extent that it affects your enjoyment of your new home, you’re allowed to set standards for his conduct. If he’s a big-time stinky boy, make it clear that you would like him to clean up his act (literally). You can also cushion the blow by telling him that you have an extra-sensitive nose. This is an old trick used by many people who have been socialized as female — transition some of the blame onto yourself to preserve the egos of the men in your life! It’s not totally his fault that his stench is permeating your entire apartment. You just have a delicate schnoz. You’re like a bloodhound! You can smell a dirty sock from a mile away. It’s a blessing and a curse. It would mean a lot to you if he would make a bigger effort to stay clean and tidy.

As a last resort, if he either doesn’t take the hint or you’re not comfortable confronting him, just be aggressive about keeping as much of the space smelling nice as you can. Febreze everything and leave the bottle lying out so he sees it. Keep your room sealed shut and full of pleasant-smelling, odor eliminating candles and air wicks. When you come home after a long day of work, bust through the door like the Kool-Aid man, but instead of saying “oh yeah,” say, “oh my god it smells like the dark lord satan’s armpit in here.” If he insists on taking up your space with his smell, you’re allowed to take up space with your objections to it.

If you’re worried that this might put a strain on your friendship, remember two things: first of all, it’s already putting a strain on your friendship. The longer you let this go on, the more you will come to resent your stinky friend, and the less he will be a friend. By not doing anything about it, you’re making a choice to keep being uncomfortable in your own home because of him. Second of all, you put the friendship in jeopardy as soon as you moved in with your buddy! Are you kidding me? There’s no surer way to slowly dissolve a friendship from the inside out. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying, it was never gonna be smooth sailing. Especially since boys are disgusting and filthy. Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

If you have a question for Phipps Tips, submit it anonymously here.

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