June 9, 2010

U Stink But I Luv U

As I recall, "U Stink But I Luv U" was a single recorded by the fictional Billy and the Boingers, a musical group composed of Opus, Bill the Cat, and other characters from the cartoon strip Bloom County. Bloom County was a favorite pleasure back in the 80's before the writer Berke Breathed refused to let it die a natural death and parts of it ended up becoming the best-never-penned Outland. But--you know--I digress.

This song title popped into my head when a therapist asked my advice on what to do when I client smells really, really bad. Well, I haven't had that many stinky clients, really. Sometimes I think I've been lucky. Years ago, I overheard a post-session conversation between two therapists where one gasped, "Oh my god!" and the other asked, sympathetically, "Armpit, ass, or something else?" So apparently stinky clients show up often enough.

And really, all you need is one smelly massage to keep you reliving it vividly. One of my few stinky clients smelled so bad that after he left, I had to fumigate the room--and the hall--with citrus spray. So, I told the therapist seeking my advice that a good thing to do is to dab something under your nose that will cut the odor and get you through without gagging. I did warn her, though, to learn from my past desperate mistake and avoid using a large gob of Tiger Balm unless she wanted her lips and nose to ignite as well (a tiny smear is just fine).

So dabbing something under your nose can work quite well in these kinds of situations, as long as you're careful of type and amount of the chosen substance. A favorite essential oil (e.g. lavender, lemon, bergamot, rose) can not only mute the odor, but flood your brain with whatever good feelings those scents evoke for you. And if you don't want oils on your face, your shirt collar can work, or a scented hankie tucked into your shirt collar (one of the many reasons ladies used to carry handkerchiefs). As a bonus, lightly scenting your face or collar will work without exposing the client to your own new perfume. Now, you'd think breathing your lavender oil would be a good thing for Mr. Sweet-Yet-Stinky, but most of us now work in scent-free environments where ironically, in the interest of avoiding asthma attacks and migraine headaches, people still have the right to exude "armpit, ass, or something else" if they desire.

You can also get more creative, and keep a few vapor cough drops on hand or pin fresh rosemary to your shirt if you know a known stinker will be arriving. Other than that, I'm not sure there's much else to be done. The therapist asked if therapists should talk to stinky clients about their odor problems. Mmmm, I'm going to say no on that one, unless their toes are black and you attribute the putrid stench to gangrene, which is life-threatening. While I realize that the therapist's client had had breath that seemed life-threatening to HER (she could smell his breath even when he was face-down), chances are he would have been really hurt, offended, and/or incapable of addressing the issue without clouding emotions. On the other hand, there may be times when therapists have to speak up about odor . . . case by case, I guess. One day at a time!


Anonymous said...

My least favorite is cigarette smoke. I have one client who apparently smokes right before he comes in. In CA everything seems so smoke-free that one forgets how strong smoke smell is until someone reacquaints you. In this case I try to spray the room before the next client arrives. I also try to get as much air flow through the room as possible to clear the smell. A friend who did bodywork at a yoga studio showed me how he "cleared" the room after a client by buying sage in the room (just a tiny bit, like incense). Sometimes I wonder if I should ask the smoker client to not smoke right before he comes for an appointment, but I haven't done that yet. What would you do?

Sue Peterson said...

I whip out the warm moist towels for clients with a bit of stinky.