Social Commentary – Volume 1

 In our Social Commentary series we polled people from two totally different age groups – 20-somethings and 80-somethings – to find out how they'd handle some of life's more … shall we say … challenging situations of etiquette. Who answered them best, the Millennials or the Silent Generation? The results may surprise you.  In this issue: Smelly roommates, what to do if your significant other calls you by their ex's name, and the check on a first date.

Q: How do I tell my roommate that they smell?

A: People who smell, unless they are cognitively impaired, know they smell.  If the cause derives from a condition or circumstance beyond their control of which I’m aware, nothing need be said.  If the cause is self-imposed poor personal hygiene which I find troubling, I would be inclined to comment after considering what might prompt the behavior.  My objective is to prompt a change in behavior without eliciting anger or anxiety. – Howard Chase, Silent Generation

A: Hold my nose and pretend vomit in their presence? Better to pick new roommates or live alone. Smelly is unacceptable. – Jo Ann Chase, Silent Generation 

A: Yikes, this one is a toughie. I want to start by saying I would try just about everything before having to directly tell my roommate they smell. I would test out ideas like “Sephora was doing a giveaway do you want this perfume? I already have a really similar scent.” Or “I got this two pack of deodorant and I think something about the scent is irritating my skin, do you want the unopened one before I toss them?” You get the idea. If you have exhausted all other options I suggest approaching this situation very casually. The bigger deal you make it, the harder it will be for your roommate. I would swing by her room one day and as kindly as possible say “Hey I think your deodorant was letting you down a bit the other day and I wanted to give you a heads up because I know you have (date, work event, party, etc.…almost anything would work in this situation) coming up.” It also helps to relate it back to a personal experience you have had, this will make your roommate feel a bit less uncomfortable and you can then smoothly transition the conversation off of the topic. – Paige Heilbrun, Millennial

A: Ask them if they’d like to use your deodorant. – Annette Kiddie, Silent Generation

A: Odor is always a tough subject. As I’ve learned, one person’s funk can be another person’s pheromones. I’ve also learned some individuals can’t control their odor, no matter how much deodorant they wear or how many showers they take. In the end, the only thing you can do is let them know what you’re experiencing.

Try to be as considerate as possible. No one likes to be told something about them is offensive. If they’re aware, but have no control over it, they’ll tell you and you both can work on other solutions. If they’re not aware then they’ll usually do what they can to fix the problem. If they are aware and aren’t going to change then you have a whole different conflict on your hands. – Michael Lang, Millennia

A: Telling your roommate they smell is a multi-step process. Begin by placing small hints, such as spraying air freshener when they walk in the room or lighting scented candles. If the subtle tactics aren’t working, it’s time for the big guns. I always enjoy going the ‘joking around’ route, but it honestly depends on how bad the smell is. If it’s intolerable, let them have it. Stink is nothing to play with. – Gianluca Russo, Millennial

A: I have two suggestions. Fun Suggestion: Start off by just leaving deodorant around, ALL around. So much so that they’re tripping over your deodorant; they’re spraining ankles over your deodorant. There’s just so much of it. Maybe they’ll get the hint and use some of said deodorant. Maybe they’ll just evict you because you’ve become a hoarder.

Adult Suggestion: Just tell them. It’s going to be a little awkward but as long as you’re good-natured about it, they’ll probably appreciate it. Be honest and on their side. Say something like “Hey, roomie, I know this is a little awkward but I’ve been noticing that there’s been kind of a funky smell every time you come home from the gym. Let me know if there’s a time I should keep the bathroom clear so you can shower.” It’s gentle and direct. – Audrey Schreiber, Millennial

A: If a family member smelled I would simply ask them if they were bathing and using deodorant because their body odor was offensive. If it was a roommate, I would put a can of deodorant on their bed and hope he or she would take the hint.  If the roommate did not get it, then I would explain why I sat it in the room where they would notice it. If it was a friend, I would try to be tactful and simply say “I’ve noticed lately that you have body odor. Perhaps you need to change soap and deodorant. I am only telling you this because I care about you and don’t want others to avoid you.” – Barbara Smith, Silent Generation

A: It’s hard, but the answer is to just tell them. Grit your teeth and rip that Band-Aid off. It’s going to be uncomfortable. They won’t react well, but it’s the right thing to do.

If they smell bad enough that you’re asking advice from an internet stranger, then they probably smell bad enough that it’s impacting other things, like work or their love life.

I was a smelly kid. In eighth grade my teacher pulled me out of class to tell me very frankly that I stunk and that I needed to get it together. It is the single most embarrassing event of my life, but she was right. I was a little stink fiend. It was embarrassing at the time, but it worked and now I’m not a smelly adult.

They’ll thank you. (Eventually.) – Glen Tickle, Millennial

Next Up: My significant other called me by his ex’s name. Now what?