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If you had an odor emanating from your nether regions and couldn’t really tell just how bad it was, would you want someone to say something? What if it isn’t a consistent odor? What if it has been around for some time? You know, something your friends notice but try and deal with because they love you? Some would say if you really care about an individual, you wouldn’t let them walk around in such a way. But is there really a nice and less than insulting way to inform one that they have a smell going on that’s on the pungent side?

Probably not. And that’s presumably why some don’t say anything at all.

I thought about this after an intense smell ended up coming out of the bathroom recently installed on our office floor. As the ladies went in and out to use it on a particular day, they came back into our corner of the room asking, “Did ya’ll notice a smell in the bathroom?” At the mention of the mysterious odor, eyes popped and each one said something to the effect of, “Girl, I was wondering what was going on!”

As previously mentioned, I have an odd penchant for holding my bladder for a long time so that I can get as much work done as possible. So I was the only one who hadn’t gone into the restroom by that point on that day. When I finally headed in, Pou-Pourri in my hand so I could be prepared for whatever extreme scents might waft in my nose, I opened the door and there it was. Incredibly strong when compared to the odorless bathroom we had all dealt with the day before. After spraying my Pou-Pourri in the toilets to help with the smell and then doing my business, I went back into our corner of the office.

“Did it smell like sour vagina to you?” A colleague whispered. And when I thought about it, it hit me that that was exactly what it was. And then I felt bad.

I’ve smelled that redolence before, back in college, and even in high school, and I also didn’t know how to handle it then. A girl who lived on the same floor as me had that scent a lot of the time, so much so that you could smell it in her room when you went in to chat. As did a young woman I played volleyball with and was close to for years. I assumed the odor came about because of their periods, but every time they sweat hard, there it was. I wasn’t 100 percent sure I smelled like a bed of roses myself, so I tried not to judge and assumed I was overreacting. I mean, no one else said anything outright about it.

But as I got older, I realized that was probably because people were hoping women like the two I knew would figure it out for themselves. No one wants to tell anybody they smell. While we’ve all had a moment where we’ve put our heads down and noticed something less than pleasant, there are people who either don’t realize their own odors, or just don’t know how to take care of it, so they don’t. And when that happens, you don’t know how to tell them. You don’t want to run the risk of being offensive, but you also don’t want to be the one who knew they smelled for years when they had no clue.

Like a friend of mine who knew a girl in college whose odor was so bad, she literally almost threw up when it was particularly strong. A fellow friend inevitably noticed the odor, and while my colleague and the shared friend knew how bad things were, they still didn’t tell the young woman. They just couldn’t. But the good news is, it didn’t seem to hold her back. The young woman had no problem moving about at work, meeting guys, and eventually, getting married. As Mrs. Pearly from Friday After Next once said, “Somebody like it!”

But how do you go about such a situation when you think it’s bad enough to hold a girlfriend back?

“I worked with a lady once who had bad odor and some snickered behind her back about it, and others avoided her,” said a woman in a forum, “meaning this lady had virtually no friends. It took a brave co-worker to tactfully take her aside and speak to her about it. She said the lady acted totally surprised and seemed to have no clue. Turns out she also had sinus issues and her sense of smell wasn’t very good. She immediately remedied the situation.”

Could it be that easy?

Many people recommend just outright telling a friend and actually helping them with the issues behind why they may not have taken care of the odor. Others suggest telling the friend to drink more water. And a few actually said a fishy smell is more common than we think. But what do you say?

I do think pulling people to the side and having a conversation with them is probably the best and most genuine way to go about it all–but then again, based on my own experiences, that’s easier said than done…

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