The Vine: August 23, 2006
I recommend American Apparel's Sheer Jersey Cap Sleeve Raglan. It's in the Short-Sleeved section on the website, but it fits like a tank top. It's lightweight, hides a bra perfectly, and comes in all kinds of fun colors. Plus, sweatshop-free!
Thanks for the tip. Other recs appear below; the ones I got more than once have an asterisk.
Ann Taylor Loft
Old Navy Perfect Fit
Mossimo tanks at Target*
H&M's $8 tank tops*
American Apparel men's muscle shirt
American Apparel sleeveless baby-rib crewneck
I work in a great place. I love my team, the people on other teams around us, the environment, the work itself, the great pay, the advancement opportunities, the management support. It's the kind of situation most people spend their whole working lives trying to find.
"What could possibly be wrong here?" you ask.
We'll call him Mitch. Mitch is a guy who works in a different department and, through the luck of the draw (or the office plan obviously thought up by a senile monk pickled in lambic), sits right outside my office. Mitch is a nice enough guy, he does his work well, but he's quite possibly the filthiest person I've ever met. Pig Pen from the "Peanuts" cartoon strip would look on in awe.
Mitch continually smells. You know that hamper smell, when you're trying to ignore the towering pile of dirty laundry but you are spiralling uncontrollably to the Day of the Palm Tree Panties (or, in my case, the "51% nice, 49% naughty" boxers)? Mitch smells like that EVERY DAY. We have a very strict dress code, so there's no chance of grotty sneakers or old jeans with the crotch chafed out, but he appears to own three pairs of trousers and two of those knit block-pattern sweaters that were popular for about ten minutes in 1983 — and we work four days a week in the office.
He's overweight — not that I'm Marcus Schenkenberg, mind you — and it's a long walk from the entrance of the building to our little enclave, so he arrives sweating and panting and more often than not, fragrant with body odor. (One of our co-workers is a little person and says that Mitch's navel is overpoweringly odoriferous.) His hair is usually lank and hangs in greasy shocks from his head. When he takes off his glasses, you can see the black marks where they press into his temples, because his glasses are always dirty. He eats non-stop and there's always crumbs in his beard and his sweater, or stains on his shirt. He farts so often the poor soul who sits next to him calls him "Seventy-Six Trombones." He clips his fingernails in his cubicle (snip snip snip snip snip SNIP); he hawks loogies into his (metal) rubbish bin (hock hock hock hock hock ptui CLANG). One day he got up to go to the printer; he was wearing light-colored khakis and there was a vertical streak — well, you know exactly where there was a vertical streak.
It's distracting. Nobody comes to my office for work sessions because they have to pass the Man-Eating Pong of Dismal Swamp. I tried Glade Plug-Ins, which I hate, though they smell better than Mitch; all they did was make my office smell like the love child between a plumeria and a durian.
I've talked to his group's management on my level; I've talked to HR. Neither group has the coglioni to actually say anything more direct than "make sure you are following the grooming code." His boss mentioned the odor to him once and he said that, like his parents, he views water as a precious resource and so it is recycled — first it's used for washing bodies, then for dishes or laundry, and finally used to water plants. (…the hell?) I even petitioned to have my office (or his cubicle) moved, but there isn't any room to move around and I don't want to inflict this on someone else.
What do I do? Do I confront him? I'm management; he's not, and he doesn't work for me. If I say something, how can I phrase it? (I'm from New Jersey; tact is not often part of my repertoire.) It may be medical, in which case I'm going to feel like a giant jerkoff for saying anything. Do I keep pounding on HR (whose job it is in the first place to deal with s*** like this) until I get satisfaction? Do I encourage him to take up smoking on the chance that it will make him smell better? Or am I doomed to come home every day smelling slightly of someone else's dirty laundry and methane byproducts?
Help me, Sarah-Wan! You're my only hope!
Waiting With Bated Breath (And Not By Choice Either)
I feel like I answer this question, like, every six months or so, and I never feel quite satisfied with the answer, because I don't know much about employment law, and while my response is usually along the lines of "talk to HR, pointedly mention the words 'hostile working environment,' and keep calling meetings with senior management and personnel until something gets done," I don't think that even works, necessarily.
Because that's what I'd tell you. I'd tell you to tell Mitch directly to can it with the audibly disgusting behaviors — next time he's hocking one up, or clipping his nails, go up to him right then, inform him that you find it enormously distracting, and ask him to stop. Then document it and report it. Get your co-workers to do the same thing; document the ways in which his hygiene lapses make it difficult for you to do your jobs, and keep telling HR about it.
But…I just don't know if they can do anything, and more importantly, a lot of them just won't, because they don't want to get sued. So I'm going to ask the readers.
Readers: Please send me your first-hand experiences with offensive co-workers. Do you work in HR, or a field of law related to these problems? Have you had a stinky or rude co-worker, regarding whom you and your colleagues had to take steps? Email me and shed some light here, because my stinkiest "co-worker" is Little Joe.
Please put "HR" in your subject line. Thanks.
So, I've seen a lot of questions (here and elsewhere) about significant others pressuring letter-writers such as myself towards having sex. I have yet to see a question about friends doing the pressuring, though.
My boyfriend and I have been dating for a little over a month. We're both freshmen in college, and this is a first relationship for us both. We were friends for a while before we started dating, and between the two of us, things are great. However, our mutual group of friends is starting to get annoying. Apparently, there's something horribly wrong with us, since we haven't had sex yet. Several of our friends — both single and dating — have repeatedly told us we should be having sex by now. (A few have given us deadlines.)
I'm not a terribly confrontational person, so I tend to just laugh it off and ignore them. Occasionally I'll tell the sex promoter to lay off, but most of them don't seem to get the hint. This is, to me, a pretty personal issue, and while it may not be for others, losing my virginity is kind of a big deal to me. I have some intimacy/trust issues as well, so it's probably gonna be a while before I'm ready for anything. (Thank you, therapy.) As for the boyfriend, he's pretty ambivalent; if I offered, I think he'd happily jump me, but he's not pushing me into doing anything.
So, how do I tell my friends, concisely and (somewhat) politely, to shove their inquiries/demands about my sex life up their asses? I'd really like them to just leave us the hell alone — it's not like I'm refusing to put out for any of THEM.
It's Not Any of Your Business, Thank You Very Much
Tell them exactly what you just told me. It's not their business; you don't appreciate their applying their own deadlines to your personal choices; if they're concerned about your happiness, the best way for them to do that is to stop hectoring you about doing the deed.
It's probably partly relatively innocent interest and partly the way that people tend to look at other people's choices as having to validate their own (see also: When People Get Salty About Married Women Changing Their Names), so it's probably not so much that they're judging you — but it's no longer appropriate if you've already told them to mind their own.
Thank them for their concern, tell them it's misplaced and not up for further discussion, and change the subject to something everyone can enjoy, like shoes. Oh, wait. That's a subject I enjoy. Still.
Tags: Ask The Readers etiquette retail sex workplace