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Carolyn Hax: He shows up unshowered for dates. Is that a deal-breaker?

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
3 min

Adapted from an online discussion.

Hi Carolyn: I’m dating someone I really like, a potential boyfriend, but he has come to a few dates without showering, and if this continues, I’m wondering how best to tell him?

— Uncomfortable

Uncomfortable: How bout: “You have come to a few dates without showering first, and I really like you, so I actually posted to an advice forum to ask how I should bring this up. Then I realized it would make more sense if I just asked you how you would want me to mention it. If it became an issue.” Or whatever your words would be for wrapping complete, hard honesty in the lovely compliment of wanting to see him again.

Re: Smelly: Don’t bother asking him; drop him. If he comes to the first few dates unwashed, imagine what he will do when the “honeymoon” is over.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Hm. Maybe. But not everyone has had the benefit of competent socialization.

No one has to date someone who smells bad — so if it persists, then, yeah. But I’d like to think there is also a world out there that is forgiving enough to deliver a useful message to people straight-up in case they need to hear it. And I don’t mean a boundary-crossing message, where Person on Date feels a pedagogic responsibility to teach hygiene to the unfortunate unwashed — but a straight, “I’m not okay with this, just so you know, but I do like you,” after which they can each figure out their next steps.

Dear Carolyn: I am in a writing group and thinking about leaving it. A woman in the group just can’t stop talking, mostly about herself, her daughter, and being a single mom. I am closer to others in the group and would like to hear their voices. Would it be weird to stop her and try to move the conversation around to others? Any suggestions on how to do that?

I talked to two group members after the last meeting and they also felt exhausted after “The [insert name] Show.” I get that she is probably neurodiverse, and I’m trying to be sensitive to that. But I’m really dreading these meetings and think it might be time to move on. Suggestions please?

— Desperate Writer

Desperate Writer: Before you abandon the group, try a gimmick. An hourglass, an egg timer, a “talking stick” — whatever you think you can integrate the least awkwardly into your group conversation, to regulate when and how long someone has the floor. Maybe more focus would elevate all.

Also, consider giving kind bluntness a try. When that feels mean, it can help to think of what you’re planning to do — ditch this person, essentially — and recognize that she might actually prefer a chance not to get ditched. “[Talker], thanks — I’d like to hear what [other person] has to say now.” Grabbing the reins of a runaway talker is actually an acquired skill, so if you stick with it, I think you’ll be glad you did.

A reader’s thoughts:

· I always appreciate when someone helps me “pump the brakes.” Yes, I may be neurodiverse (doing some testing right now), or just a bit flaky. I don’t mean to dominate the conversation, and often look back and think, “Dammit. I did it again.” Because I do care about others. So, yes, the person might be embarrassed if you step in. But she might already be embarrassed by her runaway brain.