Advice

Miss Information: Can I pursue a relationship with someone I only know through work?

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Dear Miss Information,

My significant other of about a year and a half has recently started to complain about the way I smell. It started with complaints about my scarves, moved to coats and then whenever he came over, he would dump some of the more offending items in the dryer along with some of those stinky Bounce dryer sheets that I can’t handle smelling myself. Of course, it didn’t stop there. At one point during oral sex, I had myself strategically positioned in front of his face when he told me to go take a shower. This was after I had a bath, a wash-up, and a finger sniff test. I got up, got dressed, and left.

We did have a bit of a shift recently in a relationship where we started to talk more about long term goals. Otherwise, he has lately been super sweet and attentive. I’m thinking he subconsciously wants out. What do you think? — Smell Hell

Dear Smell Hell,

I’m not sure, and I won’t be sure until they invent scratch-n-sniff email. The fact that you hate the smell of dryer sheets does give me pause. Are you one of those toothpaste and deodorant conspiracy theorists who dabs a little essential oil behind her ears and chews on a sprig of fennel after a long session of Bikram yoga? Then again, I had an ex-boyfriend who hated (hated!) the aroma of fresh baked goods and he had no issues as far as hygiene goes. Smell is one of the most subjective of the five senses. What smells lovely to one person is to another person god-awful.

There’s also the fact that you actually get used to certain smells after a period of time, especially if you’re getting constant exposure. Sciencey types call this olfactory fatigue and it’s why people who live with multiple cats wonder why no one wants to come to dinner parties at their houses.

Is there anyone you can count on to give a honest, unvarnished opinion? A best friend? A sibling? If not, what about strangers? Go to a tiny bookshop or take a crowded bus and watch people’s body language closely to see if you get any negativereactions. Kids, with their complete and utter lack of a filter, are excellent sources of information. Sadly, I can’t recommend you go approaching tots on the street. That’s a fast track to getting arrested. If you’ve got the insurance, seeing a doctor to rule out any odor-causing medical conditions is easier and more expedient.

I do think there may be some truth to your theory about your boyfriend trying to nit-pick his way out of the relationship, especially if he’s the only one giving you complaints. People often become more critical when they’re feeling threatened. These serious conversations are taking him out of his comfort zone and he could be questioning whether he wants to flee or stay. Instead of expressing those fears and anxieties, he goes for the easy jab.

You guys need to talk. Tell him all the Febrezing is hurting your feelings and making you wonder if he’s committed to the relationship. He needs to open up about whether it’s truly just a nasal issue, and if it is, be clear and realistic about his expectations. You can’t ditch your whole wardrobe, but maybe you can get rid of a few of the more offensive items in question. Your letter doesn’t say anything about this, but I’m guessing you maybe wear a lot of vintage? If so, cheap vodka in a spray bottle works wonders. On the clothes. Not you.

Readers, has a significant other ever made you paranoid about something related to your appearance? How did you deal with it?

Dear Miss. Information,

I just got out of a very shitty relationship with a coworker who didn’t deserve my attention. He was a total flake and blew me off constantly. I broke up with him but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him until recently. Needless to say, it was a ridiculous waste of time.

So while I’ve been trying to keep things from being totally awkward at work, I’ve been on the prowl for someone better. Asking guys out is easy for me, I’m a real flirt and not afraid to make myself vulnerable. I’ve gotten a few dates but no one special.

However, one of my customers whom I have a huge crush on came into the store the other day and I asked him out. To my disappointment he said he would like to but is in a "complicated situation" right now but thinks I’m cute. I felt rejected, of course, but I’m not quite ready to give up. I have a good feeling that he likes me and I want to pursue him. Any suggestions on a tactic that won’t make me look desperate for a boyfriend? — Woman Who Wants a Man But Pretends She Doesn’t

Dear Woman Who Wants a Man,

I’ve got the perfect tactic:

Step 1: Find someone who’s not this guy.

Step 2: Ask him out.

If you don’t want to look desperate, don’t pursue a person who’s already turned you down. I don’t care how cute he is. I don’t care how cute he thinks you are. I don’t care how half-assed his rejection sounded. No means no. Too bad there’s no self-esteem equivalent of a rape whistle, because I’d be blowing on that son-of-a-Boehner really hard right about now.

Why? Because at a time when you should be taking care of yourself, you’re putting yourself right back in the danger zone. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the progression:

- Girl dates guy from work.

- Girl dumps guy because guy is emotionally unavailable.

- Girl asks out work regular.

- Work regular gives clear sign he’s unable to provide proper emotional attention.

- Girl decides to go for it, anyway.

Do you see the flaw in this pattern? How you’re essentially turning around and making the same mistake twice in a row? Even if you could win him over, why would you want a guy who’s fresh out of some bullshit? No one’s free from issues or neuroses, but use those bad-ass flirting skills of yours to go after a fresh new guy with the tags still on, not some cut-rate Romeo off the damaged rack.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a man. Or woman. Or gender-transcending hybrid. It’s habitually wanting people who aren’t good for you that’s the problem.

Readers, what’s one romantic mistake you’ve made again and again? How did you hop off the pink plaid banana seat of the cuckoo cycle?

Email erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.