Dear Hobie & Monk,
In the past week, I have attended two community events and had the unbelievable misfortune of sitting next to men who smelled awful! One event was a public performance in a city building; the other was a school function. Their stench was so powerful that I had to discretely breathe through my mouth so as not to gag.
In both cases, these men were well dressed, groomed and accompanied by their wives. (Why didn’t these wives do us all a favor and take a whiff?) What can one possibly do in stinky situations like these?
– Breathless in Alexandria
Monk: Twice in one week is unlucky! If you’re a canary in the coal mine like me, just a whiff of funky smell will make you queasy. My advice: Be prepared!
For example, I learned on the Old Town Ghost Walk that 18th-century Alexandrians had all kinds of tricks to support polite respiration in public places. Scented sachets, handkerchiefs and hand-held fans took the stinky edge off socializing with noisome neighbors. Because of bad teeth and unfortunate misconceptions about submerged bathing, body orifices and the pox, our founding mothers and fathers were pretty rank.
As you have discovered, contemporary Alexandrians can be smelly, too. Be prepared next time, and if it’s really bad, don’t be afraid to excuse yourself and head for the 21st-century exit sign.
Hobie: I’m pretty sure that everyone who already was paranoid about not smelling fresh is now dousing himself or herself in Chanel (one can only hope). But honestly, it’s summer in swampy D.C. Few of us are likely at our flowery best at the end of a sweaty day in this town, but you did the only polite thing possible in each situation by mouth-breathing until you could evacuate.
And stop holding their wives additionally responsible. Maybe, like those people who don’t seem to realize that their houses reek of cat/dog/ferret/teenage boy (the latter two being somewhat indistinguishable), they have become oblivious to their husbands’ odors. Where are those pesky department store perfume spritzers when you need them, anyway?
Hobie and Monk are two Alexandria women with husbands, children, dogs, jobs, mortgages, unmet New Year’s resolutions, obsessions with impractical shoes, English novels … and Ph.D.s in clinical psychology. Their advice, while fabulous, should not be construed as therapeutic within a doctor-patient context or substituted for the advice of readers’ personal advisors. To submit questions to Hobie & Monk, email email@example.com.