Body Odour Bylaw?

Here’s an issue we have been struggling with since time immemorial – what should we do with someone who smells like a stinking garbage can? A woman writes to a daily newspaper and urges politicians to enact a bylaw against body odours, to protect citizens from those among us who consider personal hygiene not a rule but an option and taking a bath nothing more than a weekly trip to a nearby lake or river for the body cleansing ritual. Yes, it this day and age there are those who think that the big city is a sprawling desert strewn with a handful of oasis and water is so damn hard to find.

The woman recounts her 6 hour bus ride experience of sitting beside a woman who smelled of “stinky socks, musty body odour and rotting flesh, all mixed together “. That must be one heck of an endurance flight, breathing with half of your lungs for the duration of the trip. Was the woman carrying a dead cat in her tote bag? Did she sleep on top of garbage bags in a dump truck the night before taking the bus ride? Was she just a skunk that mutated into a human being? Or was she suffering from a rare disease called fish odour syndrome , an incurable disease short of a death sentence, that makes a person’s pores secrete a foul smelling odor resembling rotten fish?

It is known that eating lots of spices can cause our skin pores to secrete the odor of spice. I had a colleague a few years ago who smelled of curry that everywhere he went – his office, the small meeting rooms and even the water cooler area, he left a trail of that curry smell. I could consider this one an exception but the most common problem really boils down plain and simple lack of personal hygiene. You can also throw in the odd Pinoy cultural superstitious beliefs – like taking a bath at night will cause the muscles to atrophy or sleeping with wet hair could lead to blindness. If that were true, Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway would have been a blind jellyfish when he was rescued from the high seas.

Must we just cover our noses or have the person fined or arrested for the aggravation his stench causes to his fellowmen? If we choose the latter we are faced with an even tougher challenge – what exactly is offensive body odor? Must we invent a stench meter to separate pigs from sheep? Is the lady taking things a bit too far?


20 Responses

  1. While it’s true that some people may suffer from a rare genetic disorder such as that described in the link you gave, a LOT of those with body stink are just really lousy when it comes to their personal hygiene.

    I remember many years ago, there was this guy who would often come into our office on business, and boy did he stink! Often, the secretaries, would make excuses to go out for some fresh air as the enclosed and airconditioned room only made the odor worse. LOL!

  2. I used to work with this lady, she was a very nice lady, but boy did she stink. I think it was a matter of not using deodorant. But we couldn’t tell her how it bothered us. She was recently widowed and very nice and she baked these delicious pastries. We just wondered if none of her family members smell her or have the heart to tell her that she stunk.

    What’s the proper decorum in this situation? Should we have told her? But then she would have been humiliated. Or probably one of us should have pulled her aside and told her, “Have you ever heard of deodorant? We think you should use one.”

  3. OA na pag may ganyan pang law, in my opinion. Mas marami pang dapat pag-ukulan ng panahon.

    Body odor is a stark reality. Let’s learn to live with it.

    (P.S. When I went to Ukraine last year for a seven-week missions trip, marami sa mga tao doon may body odor. Not because hindi naliligo but because they wear the same clothes for one week or even more. I learned that many people didn’t have the means to buy clothes. But I guess I digress.)

  4. every now and then I meet people who “smell” and it bothers me a lot

  5. Snglguy – it’s bottom line an issue of personal hygiene of course. I remember that ad ” if it’s you they’re talking about”…
    But sometimes you wonder if these people really don’t even have an inkling that they stink or they’re simply too slob to act on it.

  6. Niceheart – it’s very difficult to tell people that they stink.. Some try to joke about it to make the person think but it doesn’t work all the time.

    At the office just last year, one of our women wore perfume that was very offensive to her neighbor. This guy developed some kind of an allergic reaction and told their boss but he was too hesitant to approach the girl because others weren’t that affected. The following the day the guy brought a small electric fan to alleviate the situation. I agree it is very difficult but in office situations I believe management must do about it if people are bothered.

  7. Jayred – it’s going a bit too far I think. The only possibility that such a bylaw could take effect would be aboard public transportation.

    Talking about body I read in a magazine that the French actress Brigitte Bardot was one celebrity who didn’t use perfume. She had a unique body smell that turns the opposite sex on.

  8. Jairam – thanks for stopping by. Yep we ocassionally encounter these people. In a humid place like RP where people are likely to prespire, use of deodorants and fragrance greatly helps.

  9. There’s a lot of those people here. I can’t breathe and feel sick just thinking about it.

    I think though that Filipinos smell better than other people because we like taking showers (and not just baths in stagnant tub water) two or three times a day.

  10. It’s Pinoy culture to bathe in the morning before going to work which is great because it freshens you up. In other countries people give emphasis to bathing before you sleep which makes sense because it cleans you up for a good night sleep. I say both would be a much more sensible practice.

  11. Well I make it a point to bathe twice a day for good measure. Once in the morning, and once in the evening. And if it’s really hot, like this summer, 3 times.

    I don’t know if that’s an overkill but hey, it feels good everytime I come out of the shower. 🙂

  12. With the hot and humid weather that makes sense. In a 4 season country like Canada, almost every house have heated water so even in winter, a hot bath is available 24 hours. Problem is in winter clothes don’t stink easily but if you use them for too long it would start smelling funny.

  13. When we were kids, one of our cousins refused to take regular baths. What we did was surprise him by pouring a pail of water over him in the afternoons.

    Never had any co-workers with body odor, but had one with bad breath — definitely a case of chronic halitosis. It got to be so revolting that no one wanted to join him for lunch. I didn’t have the gall to confront him about it, either.

    But luckily for me, my headhunter called one day and hooked me up with a better job.

  14. Goats are always around, aren’t they? LOL.. What perplexes me is for people who have persistent odor problems -hasn’t anyone from the family – spouse, siblings or parents ever confronted them?

  15. you know what? here in the philippines there was this proposal to give deodorants to all public vehicles drivers for them not to smell bad 🙂

  16. Considering the extreme humidity and their 12 hour shifts that’s not a bad idea! This is also where you’ll find the Pinoy myth of not bathing at night fearing to have “pasma” being practiced. Taking a quick bath wouldn’t hurt. No one says you’d have to spend an hour to cleanse yourself.

  17. Gee, I never thought that laws could be needed to protect the public from very foul body odour. Never had that much experience with that. Although I could remember riding some public transport and someone beside me just awfully stunk like hell. I tell yah, it ain’t such a nice feeling.

    But in my mind, the lady is just taking things too far. I still believe that it ain’t everyday you meet stinky people. Although at rare times, you could.

  18. Once I saw a vagrant take the subway and almost immediately people sitting beside him moved away. The stench was just awful, almost unbearable.

    A couple of stops later, the train stopped and subway police went in and took him out of the car. He wasn’t arrested or anything but he was told off not to take the subway. Kinda extreme I think but when a sweaty construction worker or a drunk person climbs and sist beside you there’s really not much you can do.

  19. Bayani Fernando of MMDA – Philippines has the anwser for that. But that is for public transport drivers.

    Here in the place where I am in now, having body odor seems to be the norm. Nakasuka lalo na pag buwan na tulad sa mahal na araw sa Pinas. Grabe.

  20. Water is darn hard to find in the desert so bathing isn’t part of their daily ritual!

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