Q. Freshman Roommate's Foul B.O.: I am a college freshman. My roommate Maggie does not use deodorant and has pretty strong B.O. If she walks past me, I get a pungent whiff. Our tiny dorm room always smells of her. My friends don't like spending time in there, and neither do I. I have read stories where people mistake another person's smelliness for uncleanliness when in fact the person had a medical condition. I am hesitant to talk to Maggie because I don't want to be rude if she can't help her smell and because she's an adult. As much as I would like to, I can't make her wear deodorant. How should I broach this subject with her?
A: I can understand how difficult it is to find yourself a young person living with a stranger and not knowing how to clear the air. But enough of this miasma. I'm doubting your roommate has one of those sad, rare conditions that make them exude offensive odors. She may just never have gotten basic lessons in hygiene. It's also possible that now that she's responsible for her own laundry, she's not doing it. But living with this funk is going to put you in a funk, so you have to address this. Start by talking this out with your resident adviser. You could ask her if she would be the one to take this up with your roommate, since people other than you have noticed the odor. If she won't, she should be able to help you with strategies for discussing this. If you have to have the talk yourself, you do it as straightforwardly as possible, say you know this is an awkward conversation, but she needs to attend to her personal hygiene because it's easy to take care of and something like this shouldn't be getting in her way in life. Suggest she try changing her deodorant, showering daily, and making sure her clothes are clean. If this doesn't send a fresh breeze through the room, this is a fair complaint to take to an administrator.
Q. Re: Bathrooms and young children: My son stopped using the bathroom at school (and refused to drink liquids) because the older kids convinced the little ones the boys' bathroom was haunted. So, yes, there are a lot of reasons he might not be going at school. (He could also have a urinary tract infection or something medical. So a visit to the doctor is the first stop!)
A: Another possibility given the closeness to Halloween timing!
Q. Great Husband, Bad Habit: I love my husband (isn't that how these always start?), but he has one bad habit I can't seem to break. He doesn't brush his teeth before coming to bed. He's a once daily in-the-morning brusher. He goes to the dentist twice a year and always has a clean bill of oral health, but I'm tired of being in bed with his foul breath. Obviously this curtails snuggling and sex. I've told him more brushing means more hanky-panky, but not even that was enough to convince him. Should I just give up?
A: When a husband's dislike of toothbrushing trumps his ability to have sex, you do have to wonder about his hygiene and his libido. When you're not heading for bed, you need to have another discussion about this. Tell him that like anyone else, his mouth is full of bacteria and food odors by the end of the day. Say that you are simply asking him to take the two minutes necessary to come to bed with fresh breath so that you both enjoy each other's company more. Explain you just can't kiss him at the end of the day when you can smell his lunch on his breath. If he doesn't care enough about you, or his own self-interest, to break this habit, suggest some sort-term counseling because you can't go through life holding your breath in bed.
Q. Gym Etiquette Question: I go to the gym nearly every day. Nearly every day, a neighbor who also goes says somewhat snidely as I leave, "Done already?"—you'd think I'd be used to it by now, but it always catches me off guard. We are both seniors, and she is a bit older. I sometimes just smile, sometimes I garble some reply. What I'd like to say is "Yes, and you are welcome to try to keep up with me next time," but I don't want to be rude. I do a much more intense work out than she does. Any help?
A: Since this happens nearly every day, I'm wondering how it manages to perpetually catch you off-guard. Since you know it's coming I suggest you either continue to give her a wan smile and a wave. Or simply tell her: "Eileen, do me a favor please stop saying, 'Done already?' I would really appreciate just a simple, 'Goodbye.' "
Q. Breaking Up With Doctor: I have a doctor who I adore and respect. She's helped me through difficult times over the eight years I've been seeing her. She always makes time for urgent same-day appointments even if her calendar is packed, and her office staff is exceptional. Unfortunately, Dr. Amazing stopped taking insurance some years ago, and my health insurance company is reimbursing less and less of out-of-network costs as the years go by. In short, I can no longer afford to see her. I'm wondering about the etiquette of breaking up with your doctor. Like any respectable breakup, I'd like to do it in person—maybe with flowers!—but my husband thinks that's over the top. Should I just send a note explaining? Move on without saying anything? I miss her already!
A: I don't think you want to book an appointment you have to pay for out of pocket to explain that you're leaving. But you could ask to speak to her on the phone, or even write a heartfelt letter. I'm sure your doctor will appreciate hearing how much you have meant to her, and that your decision is purely financial. I also think flowers are a lovely gesture. Doctors hear a lot of complaints, but it would be meaningful for her to get a symbol of your gratitude. And do not be afraid to send her the list of names of doctors who take your insurance and ask her advice on who you should see.
Q. Re: Great husband bad habit: Maybe buying him some mouthwash to gargle at night will help?
A: Gargling would help, and I agree she should get a bottle and put it by the sink. But that's not a substitute for brushing, which is brief and basic.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.
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