Touchy Subject

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Question of the evening: how do you negotiate the delicate marital matters of personal hygiene?


I ask because I just begged my husband to wash his feet before he settled into the sofa for the evening. My bloodhound nose is out of control and it seems to me his feet smell like vinegar, or sour pickles.


But he can’t smell anything. He stuffed his big toe up his nostril, a feat I was pretty impressed he accomplished, and found no offensive scent. I’m not sure if this result is a sign my sensing insanity has rooted and started to bloom, or proof humans are fans of our own stink.


The incident brings to mind the touchy subject of telling others they smell. When I was in college, one of the Resident Assistants I supervised was struggling with a resident. The dude was from another country, had a broken command of English, and didn’t follow the same washing habits people from the U.S. tend to observe. These facts added up to roommate conflict with a side of floor tension.


His odor really bugged his roommate and the room was emanating a funked out smell you could whiff from 15 feet down the hallway.


Yet no one had the nerve to talk to the guy about why they were treating him like he had a contagious disease. Enter the RA supervisor (me), who had to require a sit-down with the RA and roommates and lay down the law of odor respect to the rest of the floor.


Practical solutions about how frequently to shower and launder. Using air freshener after cooking foods. Investing in deodorant, the simple things Americans have come to expect when living in community.


It was not my most comfortable conversation. Ever.


But it did give me a firm opinion for my personal life – if I smell, I want to know. If I have something caught in my teeth, someone needs to have the nerve to tell me. It’s better to be bold (and possibly rude) than stinky.


This philosophy carries over into our marriage. From both directions, if there’s a body odor problem we acknowledge it. When the breath is putrid, we gently suggest a minty tooth scrubbing is in order. On the occasion someone passes gas, we claim it as our own.


But tonight, after feeling like a jerk for asking the man of the house to change his socks and wash his feet when he doesn’t smell anything… well, I’m wondering if it’s gone too far?


How do you observe these niceties with the people closest to you? Are you bold or do you swallow hard and use a clothes pin?


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One thought on “Touchy Subject

  • April 10, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    We have a mutual agreement that if it lingers or is noticeable, it must be confronted! No hesitation, No hurt feelings…Pure Marital Honesty and Saving from Embarrassment outside the home.


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