Ask Alison: Finding Out You Smell

Good advice from someone who is terrible at dating


I went out with this guy a few times, and then he stopped calling. I thought things had been going really well, and I wanted an explanation, so I called him to ask what had happened. At first he just gave me a line about being too busy with school and work but I wouldn't let it go. He finally told me that is was my smell. MY SMELL. I am a very clean and tidy person so I was hurt and offended by this. He told me that he just has a really strong sense of smell and something about me was off, at least for him. That's bullshit, right?

It sucks when someone doesn't like us back or changes their mind, but for the life of me, I will never understand demanding an explanation out of the person. Like, I know I have an annoying laugh and it's probably caused a few second dates not to turn into thirds but I don't need the dude to tell me that. Why would you want to know the specific reason why someone passed, when you can go on blissfully through your life assuming they either fell off a cliff or were intimidated by your intelligence?

It's not bullshit because you called, he gave you a polite answer and you didn't accept it. Did you think that if you pressed the issue, he'd realize that there was nothing wrong with you? As though you can debate someone into a relationship. Sure, I have a scent that affects your delicate sense of smell, but have you seen my record collection? There isn't anything wrong with you. You're probably fine. Just not for him. And I'm sure you smell fine, definitely better than I do right now, that's for sure.

Maybe the smell thing is real, maybe he just wanted to shame you off the phone, but either way, he's not into it. There are plenty of guys who will be into you and your stink. And you won't even have to talk them into it.

My ex-boyfriend of three years and I broke up about six months ago. It wasn't a particularly bad breakup, we just both agreed that it wasn't working. I ran into him a few nights ago and he looked good. Really good. I texted him, and since then we've been sending flirty messages back and forth nonstop. There are no real feelings there on my end, but I do miss having sex with him. I'd like to again. Bad idea?

I am incredibly jealous of you. Having sex with someone after a breakup is all I want to do, and I've never pulled it off. I've tried to passionately kiss a man while he's trying to dump me on several different occasions. Something about a relationship ending that makes me want to squeeze the last bit of life out of it, carnally.

Your situation is obviously a bit less manic. You ran into an ex, you're both still attracted to each other and presumably unattached, go for it. There is nothing wrong with casual sex, and there is nothing more ideal than casual sex with a partner you know and like. But there is some prep before you go down this path.

You say in your question that there are no "feelings" there anymore. One, that is not true. You were with this guy for three years and unless you're a robot or heavily medicated you absolutely still feel for this person. I know that you mean that you don't have long-term romantic feelings for him anymore, but I just wanted to point out that there is most likely a deep care and respect for one another and you should try to protect that. Make your intentions very clear from the beginning and make sure that he also doesn't have any "feelings" for you anymore. He will be crushed if you two are on different pages about what this is.

Know the reasons why the relationship didn't work. The thing with having sex is that you have to talk, even if you're trying to be cool or mysterious or leave right after or whatever. You're going to talk and if this happens repeatedly, you're going to bond. In your case, re-bond. Relationships come out of casual arrangements fairly regularly. There's nothing more charming than a naked man in your bed who knows you and knows how to talk to you. I'm assuming a recent ex of three years knows the right things to say. So, if you know this would never work as a relationship, really remind yourself of that. Write it down somewhere you'll see it if you have to, so you don't end up going through the same break up, or in that weird "what are we?" purgatory.

I introduced my girlfriend to my family a few months ago, and my mother hates her. Her reasons (stated or unstated) are superficial, petty things: she doesn't dress well, she makes less money than I do, she didn't go to an Ivy League school like I did. I'm in love with this girl and could see myself with her long-term, but is it worth the fights with the family?

It's really up to you if the pros outweigh the cons, or vice versa. I always try to take the opinions of friends and family very seriously because across the board, they are all smarter than me. Especially when it comes to the people I'm dating because they're not clouded by visions of sex and brunch naps. But reading your question, I do have to say that your mom sounds awful. Are you sure that's what she means? I guess you'd know.

RTR2LF0F.jpgFred Prouser/Reuters

If your mom had something like, "It doesn't seems like she listens when you talk," or "She seems manipulative," or "I think she's a ghost," and then backed those statements up with examples, maybe there would be some validity to what she's saying. But whatever her motives are but it doesn't seem like she's concerned with your feelings. I have friends with significant others that I can't stand. Can't stand their voices, or their dumb stories, or their weird little faces. But I put up with it like a brave little soldier if they make my friend happy. You should see me trying to smile through a conversation about a craft fair or some other nightmare thing that horrible girlfriends always want to talk about.

The point is, your mom hates your girlfriend. Sorry, that's going to make Thanksgiving hard for you. Your mother will eventually come to terms with it, or get tired of complaining about it. It's just not a sustainable behavior. If you want it to stop sooner, call her up, or better yet, take her to the Cheesecake Factory because moms love that place. Tell her that the insults stop or you'll stop being around.

If you have questions about relationship etiquette, please send them to Ask Alison [at] The Atlantic (.com).