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There may be more to pal’s sloppy appearance

Updated: March 18, 2014 4:15PM

Dear Cheryl,

Is there a tactful way to suggest to a friend that a makeover would do wonders for her?

My friend Katy is in her 30s. She’s petite and pretty, slim with delicate features. She’s a high school teacher, so you know she’s smart. She’s married with three little kids. In her spare time she and her husband contribute time and money to worthy causes.

So what’s the problem? Her personal hygiene is so poor I can’t believe it. She always has a really grubby look, as though she just came in from cleaning out the garage or something. She has masses of longish hair. It’s so dirty and matted together it looks like an inverted dirty string mop on top of her head.

I see her several times a week. I know everybody must wash their hair at some point, but every time I see her, she looks like it’s been weeks.

At this point, her lack of hygiene seems to be affecting her health. I saw her two days ago, and she kept scratching her scalp. I could easily believe she has some kind of scalp disease.

Her unkempt appearance must affect her professional appearance, and probably affects her marriage, too. Her husband has the same well-scrubbed Midwestern look everybody around here does.

My judgment is that she gives so much to other people all day long that she doesn’t even have 15 minutes a day for her own health. This is not good. I have a wonderful hairstylist who could give her a great wash-and-go style, but she’d have to wash.

I’m torn between thinking it’s none of my business and thinking that this is what friends are for. Any suggestions? — Awkward

Dear Awkward,

This is what friends are for.

This is way beyond not caring about your appearance or being sloppy. This is a mental health issue as well as a physical health issue.

I’d start gently. Tell her about your great stylist. Tell her she could do wonders for her.

What’s her response? She doesn’t have time? Tell her it’s important to take time for herself. It will make her a better wife, mother and teacher. Say, “Don’t you want your kids to be proud of your appearance?”

Keep going. Tell her you’re concerned about her. Tell her she looks like she isn’t taking basic care of herself — bathing, shampooing, wearing clean clothes.

And then listen to what she says. She may get defensive. She may get angry. She may break down. But at least you’ve opened up a dialogue.

Keep in touch and let’s see if we can get through to her.

Dear Readers,

Traci recently said her stepchildren had turned against her and her husband. She wrote, “Don’t get too attached to the stepkids because a jealous parent can take them away and make your life a living hell.”

H.H. responds: “While I realize Traci is in immense emotional pain, this is horrible advice. Love is always risky because you make yourself vulnerable.

Would Traci advise not having children because they might get hit by a car and die or succumb to mental illness and end up living on the streets or drug addicted?

She needs to remain confident that time is on her side. She and her husband should continue to keep love flowing through birthday and Christmas gifts, cards, emails and yes, unacknowledged texts.

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