Sierra’s Spicy Takes: Bad hygiene and age gaps


Photo and illustrations by Emily Rabasto - The State Hornet

Meet the face behind the new advice column at The State Hornet "Sierra's Spicy Takes," Sierra Savage.

Sierra Savage, Distribution manager

Reader be advised: Sierra’s Spicy Takes is, as the kids might say, NSFW. Read at your own discretion.

Everyone is special in their own way, but sometimes, two questions are so similar that it would be silly to answer them both individually. This week, we bring you the hygiene double whammy! In addition, I discuss how big an age gap is just too big.

Q: “I love my coworkers, and they’re genuinely really nice and funny people, but how do I politely tell them that their breath stinks? Not just they ate something bad kind of stink, more like a ‘they haven’t brushed their teeth in a couple days’ kind of stink. I try to carry around mints or gum for them, but I don’t always or they don’t take the offer. I personally feel that since they’re adults, they should be taking care of their own hygiene, but they’re not and my nose can only handle so much.”

  • Smelly Nelly

Q: “How do I tell my best friend that she reeks of BO? Whenever I go to her house or hang out with her, she smells like onions and it’s so potent that other people make comments when we go out. I always have a little travel bottle of perfume or lotion in my bag and she asks to use it, which I gladly let her and she even has perfumes because I’ve seen them, but doesn’t use them. She’s not allergic to them, she just doesn’t use them. I just don’t understand how she doesn’t notice how bad she smells! How do I approach her about this, or should I just keep my mouth shut and stick with buying her perfume/body wash/lotions for Christmas?”

  • Sensitive Nose Sally

A: A weird but fun fact about me is I don’t have a sense of smell, so I find it a little hard to personally relate to these questions in the typical way.

I was raised by a loving but erratic mom who didn’t always have the time or money to make sure that my siblings and I were the cleanest. We were smart and fed, but sometimes you just have to settle for two out of three. Or at least my mom did.

These bad habits have plagued me well into my teenage years, and are honestly still a struggle for me sometimes.

I shower most days, but I didn’t always, and if I’m having a rough time with mental health, my hygiene always goes first. I can’t smell myself, so it goes to the bottom of my priority list when I’m struggling to get out of bed and to make it through the day. It’s my absolute worst habit, and if I could pay to make it just go away with no effort, I would. Life just isn’t that easy though, and humans are habitual creatures.

Plus, there’s really not a nice way to tell someone they smell bad or have rank breath. Nobody is trying to smell bad and be gross. I can only assume your friends/coworkers aren’t the first.

Your feelings are valid, but there are a lot of reasons that someone might struggle with hygiene. My best advice would be to support your friends/coworkers in whatever way you can.

If you think your best friend could use support in other areas of her life and that may be contributing to her problems, I would suggest trying to help and see if that improves the situation. If it doesn’t, I would have a loving conversation where you let her know the problem and offer some solutions that you can help her with (going shopping for new shower stuff, creating a morning routine board or even just helping her come up with a rewards system for herself.)

In the case of your coworkers, I would mention something vaguely to your boss or manager so they can make a general announcement. That puts all the rude vibes on your manager so you can still be cool with your coworkers. I don’t think there is a huge need to call someone out, specifically in those kinds of situations. It will only create a weird work environment and no one wants that.

Good luck to you both!

Q: “What do you think is too large an age gap in any kind of romantic or sexual relationship? I know there are always those weird equations that are supposed to tell you, but are those actually helpful?”

  • Salt ‘n Pepper Sweetheart

A: I’d like to start with acknowledging that you are absolutely correct to include both romantic and sexual relationships in this! While the law only really puts harsh boundaries on sexual relationships, romantic relationships can be just as harmful.

I presume you’re a college student looking to date someone older than yourself so this probably won’t apply to you but it needs to be said. DO NOT DATE KIDS. It seems like a really simple concept, but it’s one that a lot of people argue with. I’m looking at you, guys with 15-year-old sophomore girlfriends, even though you just graduated and you’re 18 years old. Not only is it illegal, it’s also just weird. If you really love this person, give them the time to grow and experience high school without the pressures of dating an adult.

Once people are consenting adults who can support themselves outside of the relationship both emotionally and hopefully financially, so that it’s not just a Hugh Hefner situation, I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong with a larger age gap.

I know a lot of us are poor college students but my best advice would be to never let anyone have power over the basic aspects of your life. Don’t let your older partner force you to do things so you’re still allowed to live in their apartment. Vice versa, don’t date someone younger who needs significant financial support. In my experience, it only leads to heaps of resentment when they’re not able to pay you back immediately.  

Dating someone older can also be a really cool thing. They can show you things that you peers aren’t into yet and they’re hopefully more on top of their life so you don’t have to worry about it. I’ve also heard they’re better in bed so…

At the end of the day, to avoid judgment, I would say within 10 or so years. Any more than that and I think it becomes more difficult to relate to your partner.

As a 23-year-old, my rule of thumb is to not date anyone you can’t take to a bar, and do not date anyone older than my dad, who is 51 years old. Realistically, I probably wouldn’t see anyone older than 35 years old.

If you find yourself in a position where you’re interested in a consenting adult who is differently aged than you but doesn’t hold power over you, I say go for it. If worse comes to worst, you have a wild story to look back on!

If you have better advice for me or for my readers, please write in and your responses may be published. Don’t forget to submit your questions here or below and come back next week to read more Spicy Takes with Sierra!