On the subreddit r/AmITheA**hole, people can submit their stories and get feedback on their behavior after they’re not sure if they acted like an a**hole or not. There are a lot of rules to the sub, but the basic shorthand is YTA or NTA, meaning you are or you’re not. Someone going by the handle u/gratedsplitters recently posted about having a hygiene conversation with their niece that they thought was appropriate and respectful. Their niece’s parents absolutely did not agree.
The background is that the OP picks up the niece from school or dance practice when the parents are working. She’s 12 years old, which is about the age that puberty starts working its magic by making everyone stink. The OP had noticed their niece was smelling “very ripe.”
I was driving her home one day and said (this is abridged) “Hey I know you’re going through a lot of bodily changes right now and you’re really growing up. I think it might be time to start wearing deodorant.”
She said “I smell?” And I said “Yah, just a little. No big deal. Just pick up some deodorant, your mom has some.”
Sound fairly reasonable. When I was 12, our homeroom teacher had a hygiene specialist come in and teach us all about cleaning ourselves and handed out sample deodorants, I guess because she literally couldn’t stand the collective stink anymore. Everyone has to learn sometime. But the girl’s parents were not pleased with how their daughter found out about her body odor.
Her parents called and were furious saying she’s going through a difficult and sensitive time and how dare I make her insecure about her natural bodily functions.
I said “Sorry, I thought if roles were reversed I’d want someone to tell me. Are you really saying you didn’t notice her smelling like BO all the time?”
They said she had to come to them and ask for it because someone pushing the issue would make her insecure. And by circumventing her psychological timeline I’ve given her a complex for the rest of her adolescence, maybe beyond.
I can sort of understand the parents’ point of view, but the reality is that if you’ve never had intense body odor before, you might not realize you’re suddenly emitting it. It’s like a frog in a slowly boiling pot of water. You’re in too deep.
Now the OP wants to know if they messed up. They feel terrible that their family members are so upset.
I didn’t think it was a big deal at all, but now my niece and her parents are so upset, I feel awful! I’m wondering what I missed here. AITA?
The responses are firmly “NTA.” Most people agree that no one wants to find out later in life that they were the stinky kid, as entopar said:
I tell my daughter that it’s fine for her to be the quiet kid, the loud kid, the sporty kid or the bookish kid. What’s not OK is being the stinky kid. We all remember the stinky kid.
A lot of folks suggested the parents are lashing out because they’re actually embarrassed they didn’t handle it themselves. NUTmeSHELL wrote, “Not teaching your child proper hygiene is a major parenting fail. They should be embarrassed someone had to do this for them.”
If anything, people thought that the parents escalating the issue and making it into a huge deal splitting the family apart will be the major problem the niece remembers. Be proactive with your kids, they’re discovering reality at such a different pace from you. Smells are just the start of it.
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