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Dotty LaFou is here to answer your questions. This week, she addresses the problem of approaching a colleague about their terrible body odour.
I work in a small company in a close-knit environment. One of my colleagues develops strong body odour after a few hours on the job. It’s very rank. I brought in an essential oil diffuser in an attempt to cloak the musty scent but he complained that he found the smell of essential oils too confronting and that my lavender oil brought up uncomfortable memories of his grandmother force-feeding him marzipan as a child. I want to tell him that his odour is really off-putting, but I don’t want to be rude. Can you help?
I can’t tell how thrilled I was to receive your missive, it’s always gratifying to hear from my precious devoted readers. I do so love you all down to your little cotton socks.
Now, yours is a situation we can all relate to. How many times have our nostrils been assailed by a malodorous colleague or friend? Heavens, my own son-in-law Dennis could benefit from a generous application of deodorant. He gets very whiffy indeed, but my darling daughter Clémence says Dennis is “earthy” and that his particular musky smell is inordinately attractive. “Animal magnetism” she calls it. I’m not convinced about the “magnetism” but am fully on board with the “animal” because Dennis has a distinct farmyard pungency.
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Come to think of it my teenage nephew Byron (he’s my sister Euphonia’s boy) has a similar smell. Unfortunately adolescent boys can be a little on the stinky side. Byron also thinks that using a particular spray-on scent makes him irresistible to girls, something of a furphy I venture to suggest. Let me tell you my darling Jenny that the combination of body odour and cheap scent does not make for a fragrant bouquet, not by a long shot. Byron’s “aroma” used to drive my beloved late husband Edouardo to distraction because he had a finely-honed olfactory sense. And by the way, you could never accuse him of having “animal magnetism”. He knew things like how to pair wines with food, how to tie a bowtie and who won the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race in 1999. I was 20 and he was 48 when he swept me off my feet using a mix of sophistication, savoir faire and fine dining. But animal magnetism? No, I’m afraid my darling Edouardo had none of that. Mind you, I’m grateful – just imagine if he smelled like Dennis. The horror! Oh my, I do rather have a habit of going off-topic, so now dearest Jenny my attention is totally focused on you.
What a wonderful plan it was for you to bring an essential oil diffuser to work: all that ylang ylang and what have you. Such a pity your smelly colleague has a problem with lavender oil but not with his bromhidrosis (isn’t that the most fabulous word, darling? It’s the scientific term for BO: I found it on the Internet, isn’t it positively marvellous?). His experiences with grandmotherly marzipan are unfortunate and I feel deeply for the poor chap but it doesn’t justify personal rankness. So what to do? Plague masks come to mind – you know those beaky-looking things filled with herbs or flowers that doctors wore in the Dark Ages or Middle Ages or whenever it was so they could avoid the stench of their patients. But that’s rather an extreme solution for the average 21st century workplace darling Jenny from Wherever, isn’t it, and besides it would play havoc with one’s hair and makeup.
You know, reminiscing about my late husband Edouardo and his trademark charm has given me a splendid idea. Why not charm your reeking colleague? Ask him if he’s just been to the gym, tell him how good he’s looking then innocently ask if he forgot to have a shower after his work-out. Once he puts his own nose to his armpit, his foetid fragrance will have him reeling back in revulsion and dashing out the door to the nearest shop to buy a good antiperspirant. Oh yes, I do think that’s an excellent solution. Sometimes I amaze even myself.
Glad to have been of help. Ta ta for now.