Updated: March 18, 2014 4:15PM
How do you tell a friend she needs a makeover because she has personal hygiene issues? That was the question Awkward asked.
Her friend Katy, a married high school teacher with three little kids, always looked “really grubby as though she just came in from cleaning out the garage.” Her masses of hair is “so dirty and matted it looks like an inverted dirty string mop.”
Awkward was afraid Katy’s personal grooming was affecting her health. She was scratching her scalp. Awkward assumed her unkempt appearance might be affecting her professional appearance and her marriage to a clean-cut guy.
“I’m torn between thinking it’s none of my business and thinking that this is what friends are for.”
I said, “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.”
Today we hear from some readers who seem to think Awkward and I are both off base.
MAITA: She could have lice. While sleeping, you don’t realize that you’re scratching your head and your hair mats and looks dirty. A good friend would offer to check her head for her. As she’s a teacher with young children, she very likely comes in contact with these little critters.
ARIAL: Are you sure your friend doesn’t have dreadlocks? If she’s Caucasian and blondish, she may not be able to pull them off very well. The description you provide sounds more like dreadlocks than unkempt hair.
Are you sure her looks are affecting her marriage? Has she confided any marital problems to you? Or are you basing your conclusion on the fact that her husband has a different “look” than his wife?
Are you sure her looks affect her professional appearance? It doesn’t seem like you see her at work, so you don’t know how she looks at work. Personally, when I go to work, I put on makeup, I wear a suit, nice shoes, and some low-key jewelry, and I style my hair.
On weekends or on the days when I work from home, I pass on the makeup, pull my hair up into a ponytail or a loosely held knot to keep it out of my face, and I wear old jeans (yes, some of them are ripped) and T-shirts that, I’m sure, some people would consider grubby. I like to be comfortable, and with two little kids, I don’t want to worry about possible stains and rips ruining my “good” clothes.
If you looked at me when I’m not in the office and jumped to the conclusion that that’s what I looked like all the time, you’d be way off and way out of line.
Follow Cheryl Lavin’s advice, but be prepared to get a puzzled stare and to be told that your friend’s personal style is none of your business. The description you provided makes me think of a casual style and dreadlocks, not poor hygiene.
HARLEY: I think the letter writer is looking for reasons to intervene. “It affects her job. And it probably affects her marriage.” Not necessarily, sweetheart.
Go ahead and ask. Suggest that your stylist could do a cut that would really play up her elfin features. But do listen if she tells you to bug off.
Have you ever told a friend or partner they needed a make-over? How did it work out? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out my new website askcheryl.net.