Ask Auntie Aggie: Were you people raised by wolves?!
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We have a couple of really difficult questions this month, and one that’s more lighthearted. Questions have, as always, been anonymized and edited for length and clarity.
Let’s get to our first two askers.
Dear Auntie Aggie: I work with a woman who smells. She’s very nice. We don’t know why she isn’t washing enough. She smells worse at that time of the month, and it’s starting to affect the rest of the nurses. What do we do?
And number two:
Dear Auntie Aggie: My coworker is gross. He cleans his ears with a paperclip during report, and last night he took off his shoes and started clipping his toenails right at the nurse’s station. How can we approach him about this without hurting his feelings?
Oh, my God. This will put an end to the people who think I make up these questions. Even I could not imagine a person clipping his freaking toenails at the nurse’s desk.
Okay, questioner number two: Because you missed the opportunity to scream “EWWW! YUCK!” when your coworker started in with his aural excavations, you’re going to have to handle this carefully. It might be time to ask your boss to take him aside and review the rules for decent body-management. This is why we have bosses, right?
If you don’t have a boss who will handle this, or don’t have a boss at all, it’s time to draw straws. The person with the short straw gets the job of telling your colleague, “Jim, it’s great that you’re concerned with personal grooming, but please don’t do it here at work. It’s inappropriate.” And yes, I’d put it just like that: calm, cool, professional and without any “ew.”
As for questioner number one: This is trickier. There might be a cultural issue (I don’t know, maybe some people don’t bathe during their periods?) or some weird metabolic thing that makes your coworker smell. You can’t give her a bar of Irish Spring as a present, so it’s off to the boss you go.
Bosses have to deal with this stuff all the time. It’s best that an issue like this is approached by a person in authority and of the same gender. Go to the boss, or to the nearest female thing you have to a boss, as a group. Explain the situation. Let her handle it.
And good luck. You two have left me gobsmacked.
Dear Auntie Aggie: I’m a new grad starting my first job. What do I do about makeup and nail polish? I really like makeup.
Darling, my fairy godmother was a drag queen and my patron saint is Divine, so you’ve come to the right place.
First, check your facility’s policies about nails. Some places don’t allow nail polish at all. Some don’t allow bright colors. Nobody allows those weird plastic nail extensions, so you’re out of luck if you like looking like a dragon lady. (This is an issue of hygiene and safety, not looks. Those acrylics catch bacteria like crazy.)
Next, see what the other nurses do. At my hospital, we run the gamut from fresh-faced 20-year-olds to elderly biddies with drawn-on eyebrows and too much sparkle (me). It’s best to skew conservative, at least at first, until you’ve got a clue as to what other people do. If you’re in Seattle, say, and you love a full face of slap, you might have to perfect the natural look so you don’t get weird looks.
You can go a little wild on weekends and on night shifts, by the way. I don’t mean face tattoos and piercings, but I did work with a nurse on nights who would wear fascinators for the heck of it. And, let’s face it, a good winged eyeliner never goes out of style, especially with a neutral lip. Plus, it’s tricky enough to keep you occupied for at least the next few months.
Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Agatha Lellis