Steel Advice: Clear the air over co-worker's perfume

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DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I work in a large office where we each have our own desk but share a row of computers. Twice in the past several weeks I have had to leave the office to get fresh air because of the overpowering perfume smell on one of the women. My work was disrupted when she came and sat next to me at the computer station, and her stinking smell almost made me throw up. It is not as noticeable all of the time, and I am trying not to be a complainer. Should I say something to this co-worker or mention it to my boss? I am able to do some of my computer work after hours, and I have started coming in to the office at the end of the day when I know she will not be there.


DEAR VICTIM OF TOO MANY SQUIRTS: Start a conversation with the woman and tell her the difficulty you are having with allergies and headaches. Take a deep breath and say you think you are allergic to her perfume. If you ask for her help and are not accusatory, you may stand a chance of having her tone down or eliminate her perfume. Do not use words like “your stinking smell.” Explain how awkward the conversation makes you feel, but say it is not as bad as having a migraine. Assure her in advance of your appreciation of her cooperation. She would have to be a pretty hard-hearted person to say “no.” On the other hand, she may have invested heavily in her products and couldn‘‍t care less about you and your allergies. She may be layering lotions, colognes, sachets and perfumes to make her aura last 24/7. If the situation continues, you can speak to your boss, or if that makes you uncomfortable, keep a little face mask at your desk and wear it when necessary.

DEAR STEEL ADVICE: A dear college friend of mine married this past May in Texas. After some serious deliberation and consultation with the bride, my husband and I decided to forgo the wedding and reception because our time with the couple would be extremely limited and the cost of the flight/hotel/etc. would be exorbitant. My dilemma is how to mark the occasion of the nuptials with my friend and her husband appropriately. They’‍re in their early 40s, and they are well-established — not needing a toaster or tea service. Their wedding invitation said "no gifts." How can I, as a close friend, commemorate and celebrate my friend's wedding from afar?


DEAR CHALLENGED GIFTER: Wedding invitations should never mention gifts. The “no gifts” memo on the invitation, however, was quite clear. Follow the directive and do not send a wedding gift. Your relationship and history are with the bride. Use her wedding as an opportunity to send her something special and personal. Browse an antique shop or book store and select a small but memorable gift like a brooch or book of poems celebrating friendship. It is not necessary or possible for good friends to be with each other at all of life’s passages. Let your friend know you look forward to a time when distance does not prohibit you and your husband being together with her and her new husband.

Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.

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