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20-40-60 etiquette: Offensive body odor presents etiquette conundrum

The women of 20-40-60 answer your etiquette question. Clytie Bunyan has the guest answer
by Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman and Callie Gordon Published: June 16, 2014
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QUESTION: I was on a trip to Australia and took the bus to one of the points of interest. One woman who sat next to me reeked of offensive body odor. What should I have done? Another time I was on an airplane and the same thing happened. The person next to me should have used deodorant before he traveled. In close quarters, it seems to me that everyone should be cognizant that they should at least be clean. Any ideas?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: UGH! This is one thing that REALLY BUGS me. I bring a nice smelling spray with me when I travel. I spray it all around me, anything is better smelling than BO.

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Oh, yuck. I can imagine how horrible that smell in tight quarters was, where you couldn’t move away from it. However, even though the other travelers’ lack of hygiene affected you and the people around you, there’s not much you can do about it. Whether you wear deodorant or not or bathe every day, like most Americans do, is a matter of personal preference, culture, access to soap and clean water to take showers, a long day of traveling or maybe even an unknown medical condition. You don’t know the circumstances that led to it. If you encounter that again and can change seats without making a scene, then do so. Unfortunately, you probably have to live with it. While it’s too bad that other people’s body odor or lack of cleanliness is causing discomfort, and many of us can empathize with you, you could pass the time by consciously empathizing with them and trying to understand a little bit more about their world.

HELEN’S ANSWER: Odor of any kind bothers me in close quarters, even perfume if it is too strong. One friend of mine who was traveling in a car threw up when she encountered the strong perfume of one of the other passengers. Be aware of others when traveling.

Travel with and use a light scent of air freshener or cleansing towelettes if necessary. You can always ask for a seat change.

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by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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by Callie Gordon
Freelance Writer
Callie Gordon, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, is working at Chesapeake Energy in the Environment, Health, and Safety Department. She was previously an event coordinator for Chesapeake Energy.
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