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home : columns : dear harriette November 17, 2019

10/12/2019 3:31:00 PM
Parent wants to give history to daughter's language

DEAR HARRIETTE: My teenager comes home almost every week trying out new slang. So far, nothing is profane. Some of the sayings hail from back in my day, a thousand years ago. She hates when I tell her that, though. She wants to think that she and her friends are original. Should I just let her think that her new words are new to the world? Part of me wants her to have a sense of history, but I don't want to spoil the moment when she is sharing her discoveries with me. -- New Slang

DEAR NEW SLANG: Right now, what's most important is for you and your daughter to enjoy your time together and for her to feel open to sharing her experiences with you. Bite your tongue until a moment comes when you can share a story with her about your life and the ways in which you expressed yourself. There is no need to rush. Feel comfortable letting her have her space to try out the sayings that she is bringing home. Let her define them for you, based on her generation's understanding of the terms.

Consider that you have plenty of time to tell her what happened when you were growing up. When you do, trust that she will take in your stories, even if she doesn't react to them in the moment.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I totally disagree with your response to the person who stated that her workplace -- which smelled of body odor due to people not wearing deodorant -- does not allow employees to wear fragrances. You advised her to wear it anyway.

This is a hygiene issue. Administration should clarify that deodorant can be worn. Advising a person to wear fragrance is not advised. There are more people allergic to fragrance than to deodorant. -- Follow the Rules

DEAR FOLLOW THE RULES: Several readers wrote in about this question and my response -- pointing out that many people have allergies and other sensitivities to fragrance, and I was not right in saying it is OK to wear fragrance. You are right.

And yet, I will just say that sometimes one action can provoke another. It might be easier for a company to address a fragrance issue than a hygiene issue -- at first. Why? Because whether or not it is correct, it can be difficult for people to tell each other that they smell bad due to body odor rather than an abundance of fragrance. The conversation starter could be about fragrance and then it could lead to cleanliness. People smell lots of different ways, and I have learned that where people come from often affects their body odor, mainly due to what they consume. This is a difficult path to navigate without hurting somebody's feelings. But you can do it. And a good human resources team should be able to speak to cleanliness in a general but direct way, hopefully leading to a fresh-smelling office.

In my book, the reader should do whatever it takes to get the company to double down on hygiene. But it is true that there are plenty of people who cannot tolerate strong fragrances. Let's make sure that when the issue is addressed in a work setting that poor hygiene is considered as seriously as strong fragrance. Otherwise, I am not willing to say that the fragrance wearer has to succumb to peer pressure.

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