i have a very serious problem

I've been spending a lot more time at home lately, and with that, a lot more time with M.  As awkward as it is to just hang out while she cleans my house, I know her employment with us provides her with what is considered to be a very good job as well as a place to live, and I don't have to clean toilets or deal with Max, so it's a win-win.  But lately I've encountered a problem, and I have no idea how to deal with it.

M. smells.

Some days she smells so bad I can't even be in the same room as her.  When those days coincide with the days she folds my laundry I cringe.  Sometimes when we come home from vacation, when M. is gracious enough to stay in the house with the dogs, the upholstery on the furniture reeks for weeks.  Usually I throw the cushion and pillow covers in the washer, but that doesn't help remove the stench from the backs and arms of the furniture that can't be washed, and Febreeze only goes so far.  Yesterday she smelled so bad she left a trail of B.O. wafting behind her and today it reeks as if she still hasn't showered.   Lately I've found myself feeling hostile toward her because she smells so bad when really I'm the only one to blame until I tell her that she stinks.  But how do you tell someone they smell without hurting their feelings?

I'm not usually one to go out of my way to avoid hurting people's feelings.  I'm pretty blunt and mostly tell it like it is, but in this case I just feel so uncomfortable.  I actually like M.  I just want her to magically start showering before work and putting on deodorant and a clean shirt.  Is that too much to ask?  

So instead, I've been nagging my husband.  People here are very blunt with each other, and I know many Nigerians would just come straight out and say, "M, you stink.  Go bathe."  Joey has told me to do the same.  He's also come up with great ideas like explaining to her that Americans are very sensitive about how we smell and giving her some deodorant to use before work.  I just don't know why he can't tell her that.  It's not like he's busy with anything else.   

I'm know I'm not the only one who has a hard time telling people I like about something awkward.  Take, for instance, my 100% granola phase when I wore organic deodorant.  I'd like to think that since I still showered at least twice a day and wore clean clothes that I didn't smell quite so bad, but I'm pretty sure I didn't smell good - it took months before anybody was willing to tell me.  I certainly appreciated it when someone was finally honest with me, so why is it so hard for me to do the same favor for M.?


  1. Hate to break it to you, but this is one of the hazards of living in the third world. Don't you love how they all wear sweaters when it gets down to 65 degrees, too.

  2. I have seen families who designate a bathroom for help and in it they provide a container that has all the showering items needed and expectations regarding washing their own uniforms are directly stated. They also keep their bags there - it is their space. I hope you find a solution that works for you, I think if you approach her out of love, your message will be favorably received.

  3. Make her a beauty gift basket and put in some of the items you'd like for her to use. Then share with her your customs in the USA about showering/bathing and wearing clean garments daily. Give her clear expectations and she won't disappoint you. She wants to make you happy.

  4. I had the same problem and more or less dedicated one of my bathrooms to her. I went and bought her a bunch of different smelling soaps and deodorants and stuff and a new towel just for her and a new toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. I hoped that because it was all new and different that it would motivate her to use it and thankfully it does. I also have my housekeeper bring her clothes over to wash in our machine (she has to hand wash them at home) and so her clothes smell nice and Tide-y fresh and that helped too. Good luck!