I would like to address something we are bound to rarely come across in the literature: In what manner is a consultant to deal with a student’s halitosis? What about an impermeable membrane of body odor? Is it, at any time, appropriate to say to a student, “excuse me, but I believe you may have stepped in dog dung”? And if the answer comes back, “no, I haven’t,” how does one recover form such an offensive misstep?
All joking aside, this is something we don’t discuss. This offensive matter cannot be relegated to the realm of “take a deep breath and start again” (this strategy will invariably make the situation worse). A student’s “aura” so to speak is far beyond the topic of misappropriation, far from the context of colonialism, feminism, or any ism within the center.
Some will accuse me of insensitivity. But it is the oversensitivity of my olfactory that helps bring this issue to smell. Who among you hasn’t pondered a similar topic? Have you not had a consultation with the football team’s lineman who hurried from practice in order to make the consultation on time? What about the culinary arts student who has not yet learned of their overuse of garlic?
Now be advised: I am no theorist. But I have devised a couple short-term strategies that you may find helpful. To avoid overt discomfort, mix and match the techniques so as to appear most natural.
1). A common non-verbal sign of analytic thought is the “stroking of the beard or mustache.” This ancient gesticulation indicating wisdom is simple, and you needn’t even have a beard. It follows as such: at a particularly engaging moment in the text, raise a hand and, with brow furrowed, stroke the area around the mouth (yours, not the student’s). To use this movement to blockade a stench, use the hand to rub the area directly below the nose. Some variations include a slight humming sound to indicate deep thought. This works well for extended periods of silence.
2). It is not uncommon for college students to rest their elbows on table-tops and in turn rest their chins on the propped, closed fists or happen hands connected to said elbows. This position alleviates strain on the neck by supporting the student’s head. But, with a little tweaking of this common form of informal posture, you can block a student’s odor without offending them at all. Simply turn the open hand outward so that the fingertips are directed at the ear and rest the mouth in the palm of the hand. If placed correctly, the far side of the hand will rest directly below the nose; the smell will be blocked. Your head is also supported in a comfortable way.
I’m sure there are many more techniques out there. I would love to read your thoughts on this topic. If you have yet to encounter a smelly consultation, be ever alert—they come as quite a surprise.