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Smelly Situation

Monday, December 10, 2012
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Dear Miriam,

I went on a date last week with a wonderful guy. He was smart, funny, good-looking, we had a lot to talk about, etc. Sounds perfect, right? Unfortunately, he also smelled awful. I don't mean this in a petty kind of way. He actually smelled like urine. We had a great time, but I was afraid to get too close, and I'm wondering whether I should see him again. What do you think?

Smelly Situation

Dear Smelly,

In my brief tenure as an advice columnist (and my longer tenure as a giver of advice), I've learned that it's really important not to laugh at people asking their most intimate questions. I've also learned that sometimes it's terribly difficult to keep a straight face. There you are on a first date with so much potential, only to wonder where that darn smell is coming from. It's very Woody Allen-meets-Larry David, and though I'm sorry it's causing you angst, I hope some part of you can see the humor in the situation.

Now that I've gotten that out of my system, my short answer is yes, you should see him again. A one-time offending odor could have a lot of causes, including the person sitting behind you in the restaurant. I'd hate for you to dismiss someone so promising based on something that might have nothing to do with him. 

If, on the second date, he still smells like urine, consider the following possibilities: 1) He has a pet who spends a lot of time snuggled in his clothes, 2) He sat in something and doesn't have a good enough sense of smell to recognize it, 3) He frequents the City Hall subway station. Any of these could be deal breakers, but none of them has to be. I would explore the pet theory first because that would be an explanation that, theoretically, could be dealt with through changing a few habits. If it's not that, see what other probing you can do to determine what's going on. You could even go as far as to say, "Do you smell that?" and see how he responds.

All kidding aside, this guy could have a medical condition that causes him to carry around such a smell. Because that's a possibility, I would encourage you to reserve judgment as much as possible. Even if you decide dating this guy is more than you can handle, learning, or even speculating, that he has to live with such a condition should evoke some pathos. 

Finally, there are scientific theories about smell and sexuality suggesting that physical attraction and even genetic compatibility can be determined by reactions to potential partners' natural scents. If this guy's smell turns you off for whatever reason, it could be a sign that you're not meant to be. (Google "smell compatibility" for a sampling of these studies.) To go back to my short answer, though, you won't know if the smell is a chronic problem until you give the guy a second chance. Hopefully, date number two will be much sweeter.

Be well,

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