Sweaty shirtless Chris Evans you're welcome
Even Mr. Mountain Lodge Candle himself needs a bath sometimes.

Hi Captain,

So I just started officially dating this really sweet guy, and it’s been going really well! However, he is a huge runner and usually runs every night. We are both in college so we usually hang out after he runs, but he never showers before we hang out! At first I thought it would be a one time thing but it keeps happening, and I really don’t like cuddling with him all sweaty. How should I approach this? We just started dating and I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I really wish he’d just rinse off or something. Am I being too picky?



Agent Carter, sweaty, punching a dude. You're welcome.
“Agent Carter walloped the bad guy and then she sank into a satisfying hot bath.”

Dear Not-About-The-Sweat,

Within relationships, sometimes you have to communicate awkward things to the other person. It’s also very normal for things that weren’t issues in the first heady rush of “You like me? I also like you!” to become issues the more time you spend together. The best approach, I’ve found, is to be very brief and direct. “Boyfriend, so glad you’re coming over tonight. Could you rinse off after you run?

See also:

“Oof, you’re sweaty. Can you jump in the shower for a second before we cuddle?” 

Bad ideas:

  • Cuddling, etc. when you are unhappy and stressed about bringing something up with him.
  • Silently accepting his musk all over you in the hopes that the situation will change on its own.
  • Hints.

I’m glad things have been going well so far. The most likely outcome is that your boyfriend says, “Of course!” and does the thing. He might get embarrassed and wonder why you didn’t say something before, to which you say, “I thought it would be a one-time thing and then when it wasn’t it was time to speak up. No worries!”

If he laughs at you for asking…

and/or tries to cuddle anyway…

(or treats you like it is an unreasonable request and that there’s something wrong with you for asking)

(like ranting about “society” and its fake/commercial/arbitrary/silly/over-zealous hygiene rules and how they don’t really apply to him)

…then you’re probably gonna want to re-evaluate being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t think you’re allowed to want things. That would not be a problem you of being “too picky,” that would be a problem of him turning his momentary discomfort about something he did into being a jerk to you.

People live in bodies and bodies sometimes stink or need a quick teeth-brushing or need their nails clipped. People have different tolerances for funky body stuff. Intimacy with another person means being gentle and loving and accepting of each other’s bodies, and it also sometimes means communicating things like “That aftershave smells great but I am sadly allergic to it” “A little to the left” “Let me move my snuggling position so your chest hair doesn’t go up my nose” “Wait, nope, that’s your armpit” “Nope, chest hair again” “Armpit” “Let’s try a spoon” “That’s better!””EEP! TICKLISH! BELLY BUTTON AREA IS A NOPE!” “I would like to make out with you but I’m afraid I will fart let’s try later.” 

If communicating about things like that horrifies you, dear reader, try asserting yourself positively when positive things are going on. “That feels great!” “You smell fantastic!” “You look wonderful in that!” “I am happy to see you!” It will get more comfortable to express preferences and feelings over time.

You are allowed to want things and ask for those things.

192 thoughts on “#759: U R NOT 2 PICKY IF U HAVE PREFERENCES

  1. Maybe try modelling the behaviour you want – come back from somewhere and say “Ugh, I’m all sweaty – I need to jump in the shower before we cuddle!” and then dash off to the bathroom before he can raise any objections. Then afterwards say “OK, I feel really clean and MUCH nicer to snuggle!” When he DOES shower, compliment him on how nice he smells “Oh wow, you smell SO GOOD – I want to snuggle you so much right now!” It really worked for me when I was dating a train driver who got incredibly sweaty and funky when he’d had a shift on a hot day. It only took about two times for him to get the message, and he was really concientious from then on – well, about showering, anyway! 😉

    1. I find this idea a bit patronising. The LW isn’t dealing with a small child. All the guy is going to learn from this display is that the LW likes to be clean, not that they want *him* to be clean. This is something that can be spelled out in words to a fellow human adult without resorting to pantomime.

      Sorry if my comment sounds harsh – I know it is hard to be direct. It’s just frustrating to me, the knots people will tie themselves into in order to avoid just saying, “Hey! Could you not do X thing?”

      1. Seriously. I do not see how taking a shower that you don’t need/don’t want and then having to do shower-aftermath stuff (for me that’s hair and makeup and that can a be process) is easier than asking the smelly party to shower.

        This type of behavior works great on children and dogs. I don’t think it should be necessary with an adult.

        1. Aside from being patronizing, it establishes a pattern of undercutting your own boundary setting–both in this current relationship and just for yourself, in general. Asking for things is hard if you haven’t had the practice (and frequently even when you’ve had the practice). It’s better to practice on lower-stakes requests to build your confidence and to teach your partner that you have boundaries that you expect to be honored.

          Being the Chill Partner who never articulates their needs helps no one.

          1. Being Chill Partner who never articulates their needs SUCKS!!!

            I did it for so many years hoping that she would catch my subtle hints or realise that the things I kept doing for her were the things I wanted her to do for me. For me it just bred resentment, frustration, and abdicated personal responsibility. If I had acted like an adult and said “These are things I need from you that are non-negotiable” and “These are things I’d like and wish could happen, would you be willing to discuss what we’d need to do for that to happen” then I would have gotten to the point where we both recognized that what I wanted and needed out of the relationship was not what she was willing or able to provide without spending years hating myself for being a doormat and blaming myself for not ‘modelling’ the behaviour I wanted and expected well enough.

            It is much better to articulate your needs even for small stuff because relationship patterns form off the little things and keep propagating through the relationship into the big one. Being alone isn’t the worst thing in the world – I much prefer it to being lonely in a relationship and constantly resenting my partner and hating myself.

      2. Agreed! It is super patronizing, and basically amounts to hinting. Just say what you mean. And half the time the other person has no idea that it’s directed at them and interprets it exactly as you said: that the LW likes to be clean.

      3. Also, it’s not kind to confuse people. If what you want him to grasp is “I am not so into your post-run aroma”, but what you convey to him is “I take a lot of showers and am otherwise extremely personally dainty”, the poor dude, who for all I know has had a string of partners who were all “mmm, healthy boy-sweat, take me NOW”,and will happily leap into the shower the moment he discovers that LW is not so inclined, is going to be horribly horribly confused about why the sex has dropped off, and will not have the data he needs to fix it.

        I mean, the part where when he does shower you express enjoyment and appreciation, I’m there for that. It’s nice to be catered to, and assuming we’re talking ‘clean sweat’ this is in the realm of ‘catered to’ not ‘ew, dude needs to learn how to Human’, and it’s pleasant to be appreciated, and positive feedback loops are enjoyable.

        But don’t give a person positive and negative feedback and make him try to figure out what it’s FOR. That’s just generally unkind.

        (It sounds liie your guy KNEW he should do this but was lazy about it; I’m glad that this was so.)

    2. Seconded

      My experience is that cuddle-partners get at least a +1 Sexiness bonus when freshly showered, even without having done anything disproportionately sweat-generating that day. Conveying this idea by any reasonable means will definitely help your case.

      1. Especially then LW won’t have to wait two times (or however long it might take this dude) for him to translate “Gosh, I need a shower” into “gosh, I really wish YOU would shower”?

        And honestly, I’d find it a red flag to find out that I had a partner who tried to communicate with me by modeling and little hints like this instead of directly telling me there was a problem.

        1. Yeah, if someone did this to me, I would feel way more embarrassed than if they asked me directly. I would much rather know for sure what they meant instead of having to wonder if they really meant it as a hint or not, and I would also like to have a chance to apologize without making it awkward by bringing up The Thing We’re Apparently Not Saying Out Loud.

        2. I remember hearing a story once about a boarding school for girls where you weren’t allowed to ask someone to pass you things during a meal. You’d have to do this awkward sort of “Oh, there’s butter just there if you wanted some on your potatoes!” and wait for them to reply “No, I’m okay. Did you want some butter?” (And of course, if someone was being snubbed everyone got to do the fun passive-aggressive “No, I’m okay!” without follow up, yay!) It just sounds… not fun.

    3. That is patronising as anything…

      I see a different problem, though, I assumed that LW is a woman, that boyfriend has probably been socialised to believe that it is normal and expected for girlfriends to make themselves ‘pleasant’ (and not think about it very much), and if he does think about it at all, will almost certainly not think the same standard applies to him. At most, he’ll be writing to CA saying that he’s trying to get his girlfriend to be more relaxed about her hygiene.

    4. I would not take that hint. In my experience, everyone has a personal level / schedule /method of bathing they require to feel clean, and everyone has a preferred level of sweaty/dry/wet/scented/unscented for their partners. I haven’t noticed a close relationship between behavior and expectations. I’ve had a girlfriend who washed twice as much as I did, and one who washed half as much; neither of them had a problem with me doing me.

  2. I’d suggest “Let’s take a shower together.” 🙂

    Showers are actually a great nonsexual form of intimacy; you’re naked together, you’re touching, but it’s not typically sexual, and it’s relatively private as far as conversations go, if you’ve got people around. We shower together 99% of the time.

    1. While this is a great idea once a relationship has reached the point where there are regular mutual-naked-times, I’m not sure the LW would immediately go there. For one, it sounds like this relationship is still pretty new, so LW and their boyfriend might not be that comfortable together. Additionally, if either or both of them live in a college dorm, taking showers together might be a complete no-go. Many dorms still have communal, single-gender bathrooms. Even without the single-gender bit being an issue in this relationship (since LW’s gender is not specified), I think it would be pretty weird for other users of the bathroom to be subjected to a couple’s shower. Besides, when I was in college those dorm showers were barely big enough for one person and had terrible temperature control and water pressure! Finally, suggesting that the LW and their boyfriend shower together only works if the LW also wants to shower; it doesn’t really solve the problem of Boyfriend being sweaty all the time, because it doesn’t directly address the sweatiness issue (which is Boyfriend’s responsibility to change once the LW finds a comfortable way to say something).

      1. Having been subjected to a dorm bathroom being used for a couple’s shower, can I just say “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

        It has been ten years. I am still grossed out. In part because our showers were all moldy and funky and who would want to get it on there. My roommate, apparently. Who felt I should be grateful that she was getting it on somewhere other than our room.

        1. I’ve only ever lived in dorms/dated people who lived in dorms where the bathroom was shared between two dorm rooms. I feel like when it’s a situation like that, where the two to four people sharing the thing are responsible for cleaning it (and actually do so), it’s not gross. However I did have a suitemate who would take hour-and-a-half-long showers with her boyfriend, which always seemed to happen right when my roommate or I had to pee. So that was less than optimal.

    2. So, am I alone in that I rather hate showering with my partner? I’m short (5’1″) and he’s tall (6’1″), so when showering together, one of us is always outside the water stream (either he’s blocking it with his tallness, or the position where I stand so the stream hits me means he’s only getting wet from his thighs and below), and having to awkwardly slide or scoot around each other to wash. It doesn’t feel intimate, just annoying. And don’t even get me started on trying to do shower sex with such a height discrepancy…. 😀

      1. Or the water bounces right off his shoulder and directly into your eyes and/or mouth! (I prefer to do my washing alone, but enjoy the occasional encounter as I am about to get out of the shower and he gets into it, or vice versa, but we have to be careful because he’s JUST the wrong height compared to mine.)

      2. Partner and I can’t agree on a water temperature. I like Mostly Hot and he likes Scalding Lava from the River Phlegethon. I look like a boiled lobster after a shared shower.

        1. Same, he like Scalding Lava, I prefer tepid babbling brook with occasional firehose bursts of hair rinsing, so shared showers are rare. Shared showers can be hot if you both enjoy them, but so is our annual skinny dip in the pool at midnight of the hottest night of the year when the kids are away. (Isolated backyard…. hahahaha… glorious)

        2. Heh, I’ve always been the Lava Monster in my relationships. In a roommate situation, where there was no question of occupying the same shower, this resulted in the house rule of Lava Monster Goes Last, so the others could have their more modest hot water needs met before the Lava Monster emptied the tank.

      3. I love showering with my partner but I can absolutely understand why other people do not. 🙂

        1. I think I am weird in a different way: I find shared showers quite fun for sex-type purposes. But they’re kind of only good for that; what am I supposed to do wth this extra grownup while I condition, exfoliate, and file my heels?

      4. Husband loves showers together! I’m “meh” leaning toward “no thank you”. But he loved them so we did them periodically. One of the selling points of our new house was the huge luxurious shower. (I’m guessing previous owners who did the massive remodel were big co-shower types). It has multiple shower heads and tons of room (like it is bigger than our previous shower/bathtub combo)! It solved many of my issues with showers.

        Not an option available to most people sadly.

        1. Part of the reason we bought our current house is that it is has a shower that’s literally big enough for three, plus it has a seat and stuff. I too had primarily been with people for whom showering together was sexytimes, but after seven years I’m really hooked on having this intimate time together.

          Also, fwiw, I don’t have to tell my partner to shower, but I do tell him, hey, your fingernails need clipping, your toenails need clipping, your nose hairs need trimming (they’re white and very conspicuous and I got him a very nice nose hair trimmer for Christmas one year), and it’s time for a haircut. And he has his own things he does with me. I sometimes say, ok, the romance has gone out of our relationship 🙂 but to me it’s just part of the job of being a partner.

          1. That sounds really nice, actually. Being that comfortable and close with someone that you can do those little reminders for each other and it’s not criticism, it’s just part of caring for each other.

          2. We sometimes say “as your spouse I have been specifically enjoined to advise you that … (Your hair is coming down, you need a shower tomorrow morning latest, your new piercing appears infected, your roots are showing…)

      5. I haven’t found a standard shower stall that’s big enough for two people. You either worry about putting your elbow through the glass door, or you drop the soap and crack heads going for it.

      6. While I can enjoy showering with a partner, I’ve always made a distinction between “cuddling shower” and “hair-wrangling shower”. The latter is NOT a spectator or group sport.

      7. I enjoy it ONLY when the entire point of the shower is to have sexy times. When it comes to getting clean, I am a firm believer in “everybody cleans their darn self on their own.”

        1. Same here! I was surprised above when somebody suggested co-shower as intimate nonsexual times, and was like…oh, I guess that’s true for other people! I don’t really want anybody else in there when I’m trying to get clean but sexy showers are fun sometimes! (Especially in the summer when it feels too hot and gross to be sexy anywhere but the shower)…

        2. Yeah, my husband used to ask why I wouldn’t let him shower with me before work, and I’d say “Because I’m planning to wash more than just my boobs.”

          1. Quite. And I don’t find it erotic watching a man do the necessary to clean every fold in his bits – especially as I’m in the UK so all my partners have been uncircumcized. Oiling someone erotically with soap – nice, if that’s your thing. Actual cleaning for hygiene reasons – not erotic at all in my book.

            I’m quite comfortable washing or using the loo etc with someone else in the room, but by no means is it sexy, it’s just a necessary function.

            I say, get sweaty partner to wash asap… Then it is a quick wash, and you can get into sexytimes much more quickly!

        3. Agreed! Although, when we renovate our bathroom in the next couple of years, we are debating putting in a double shower – mostly for the fact that it would halve the time the bathroom process takes in the mornings.

      8. HATED it with my ex. But he was pushy and invasive in a lot of ways. (And yeah, height difference existed too.)

      9. I hate showering with a partner. I have a sensory thing, and I just want to get in and out and over with and NOT BE TOUCHED WHILE I’M WET OH MY GOD.

        This goes double for kissing in the rain, another thing people go on and on about that sounds horrible to me.

      10. One of my partners owns a walk-in shower that is two showers next to each other in the same cubicle. AMAZING for sharing showers 🙂 Although obviously still a personal preference thing. Shower sex is super hard with height discrepancy 😦

      11. which is why.. I plumbed the shower in my bathroom with… two shower heads! It’s not that hard, plumb to each head after the mixing valve, put a second valve on the second shower head so when there’s only one person, the other one doesn’t spray. Voila!

      12. I had my sister recommend to me a few years ago to not try shower sex especially in a small stall bc when she tried with her ex girlfriend she ended up falling out of the shower and hitting her head 😛 so I’ve never really been inclined to do so. imo it sounds more fun to fantasise about than actually attempt.

    3. That only works if LW wants to shower every time they feel their BF needs a shower. If this is the only way LW is comfortable asking BF to shower, and then one day BF comes over needing a shower and LW would rather not have one, LW is back in this awkward position. And it could be even more awkward if that doesn’t happen until several weeks from now.

      Also, suggesting they take a shower together doesn’t let BF know that LW would specifically like him to take a shower. If BF would rather not shower together one day, for whatever reason, then LW is again back in the position of having to ask the awkward question. It might just be easier in the long run to ask the awkward question now.

      1. Yeah, showering for me means committing to a minimum 30 minutes of post-shower routine, unless I want to have super wet hair for the rest of the night (which my partner doesn’t tend to appreciate for cuddle time). He, meanwhile, can jump in the shower and be fully dressed and back to normal within about 10 minutes total.

        I get the appeal because I love shared shower time, but practically speaking I wouldn’t want to do it every time we hang out.

    4. “it’s not typically sexual”

      YMMV. I don’t think I’ve had a single experience of showering together where dud I was dating didn’t attempt to turn it into sexy times.

      1. Same here, even when the shower was specifically meant just for washing. It’s like, “Hey, I’m washing here!”

  3. Dear LW:

    Telling people they smell bad is hard! And the Captain was gentle.

    Here’s something to think about: is his (possible) embarrassment at hearing he needs to shower after he runs more important than your actual disgust with his stank?

    Didn’t think so.

    So anyway, while showering together might be fun, it also falls into the “hint” category. This is one of the times where directness is better. It’s faster.

    When he calls to come over: “Great! Can’t wait, but please shower first”. If he drops by without calling: “honey, you’re pretty funky, take a shower please”

    And really if he goes on about how showering daily is bad for the skin (and he might), you can say “post workout sweat is bad for my nose”

    As an aside, people I’ve really been into smell good to me when they’re really smelly. In fact if they don’t smell good to me I take it as a clue there’s something off about our interaction.

    Another aside (can you tell that smell and bathing are important to me?), I’m surprised when people don’t bathe as soon as they can after a workout. Certainly before a date!

    1. ‘As an aside, people I’ve really been into smell good to me when they’re really smelly. In fact if they don’t smell good to me I take it as a clue there’s something off about our interaction. ‘ Hmmm, I kind of know what you mean! Especially if that smelly time is sexytimes. Like after sex I like to nestle my face into my boyfriend’s shoulder/armpit area and he always says ‘don’t know why you’d want your face in my smelly armpit!’ and I’m just like ‘naaaah come on you smell nice.’ XD Though I have learned from the way my lovely, fat, boyfriend acts around his personal hygiene (he is very, very careful about it, never even pops out to the shop in the morning without showering first and never goes out for the day without deoderant or body spray) that this is something fat people have to worry about way more because of the nasty stereotype that fat people are inherantly smelly.

      I think workout sweat is different, though, it’s much more exertion and therefore the sweatiness and smell is worse. I think the boyfriend may not quite have made the ‘shower after exercise’ connection yet if he’s quite young. After all at my school there were showers in the changing rooms that presumably were from decades ago because no one ever, ever used them. The teachers just expected us to continue school all sweaty after P.E. I would probably have made the same mistake if I ran. (I swim and you don’t really get sweaty swimming)

      1. For me it’s a fresh/not fresh distinction. I actually don’t think most people stink too bad immediately following a workout/sex/other vigorous activity, but I can’t stand it when someone smells, shall we say, fermented. Not many people shower before a workout, though, so sometimes you get that day-long reek mixed with lots of sweat, which is pretty gross.

        1. However, the phrase “Smell Ya Later” appears to be declining in popularity since the turn of the millennium.

        2. This. My problem (with a fat husband, and I am a fat wife, so no hating here) is not that my husband smells. He is very conscientious about showering, rinsing off if he doesn’t need to shower, deodorant and antiperspirant in the manfolds, etc. The problem comes in that he has a certain sport he LOVES, and goes to twice a week, and he only washes his workout gear for said sport once a week. So he goes Tuesday, doesn’t wash the gear Wednesday, goes Thursday….and while his fresh sweat is not bad to me, after it has sat and festered, it is rank. He also prefers morning showers before work, but we have negotiated quick shower terms because I can’t sleep next to him if he smells like fermented gym clothes.

          1. Husband and I regularly go hiking. And since day 1 of living together, the rule was that a shower was compulsory the minute you walked in the door, because chances were you wore the same clothes for both days hiking, which means even if you changed into travel clothes to come home, you smell bad.

          2. @basketcasenz (end of nesting reached, sorry!)

            Your comment reminds me of when my dad and I go camping. We wear the same 2-3 sets of clothes over the course of a week or more–no washing them since you’re in the middle of the woods–and no matter how many times you take a bath, the stink of the clothes wears off on you and by the time we get back to civilization it’s positively rank. The outfitter we use sells showers, I think they’re like $20 a pop (including soap, fresh towels, etc.). When I first saw that, I was like “$20 for a shower? That’s so expensive!” but when I got out of the woods I was like, “I would cheerfully pay 3x that for a shower RIGHT NOW, this is the greatest deal ever!!!”

      2. Additionally, my sweetie loves it when I come home from an intense concert and I’m all sweaty and I jump him. I’m usually so high on endorphins from dancing that I don’t really notice what I’m covered in, but when I go to wash my clothes the next day I think they *reek*. So it can be very much a personal thing.

      3. I’m with NorahMancer on this. Fresh sweat is mostly ok (on someone whose smell I like) Sweat from hours ago, or sweat on a body hours from its last shower is hard for me.

    2. My skin is a delicate flower. I get contact dermatitis from a distressingly long list of things. I’m sensitive to so many ingredients in cosmetics that I can’t even narrow it down to which specific things I need to avoid because it’s something like 80% of them. And yes, showering too often upsets my skin.

      Which is why if I am engaging in sweaty exercise I rearrange my shower schedule so I ONLY shower post exercise. Then my skin is not enraged and neither are other people’s noses.

      (True fact: if I am greeting my boyfriend after he’s been running but before he showers and he is therefore a gross sweatball we do “long distance kiss”, in which we stand a couple feet apart and both lean way in for a tiny peck on the lips. It’s actually super fun.)

      1. Ha, yes, I do the same with arranging work-outs and showers. I just don’t like showering every day–yeah, my hair and skin dry out, and my hair takes forever to dry, and I Do Not Blowdry, but mainly I just don’t like it. There are exceptions, of course, especially during the summer. I’m glad to have a body chemistry that makes this socially acceptable.

        And my sweetie and I also do the lean-way-in-kiss after he’s been running! I make this horrible face, and many giggles are had.

        No advice for the LW, but two observations:
        1) I love the advice further down to make comments that assume he will take a shower. “After your shower, come tell me all about your run/day/etc!”
        2) Being able to have relatively (though still potentially quite stressful) Little Awkward Conversations like this will bode well for having Bigger Awkward Conversations as your relationship moves forward. One of the things that sets my current relationship apart from all my past relationships is that in the past I really could not imagine initiating Little Awkward Conversations like this with exes, but sweetie and I do our best to be honest, loving and kind with one another so that these conversations are navigable.

      2. I agree with The Captain’s advice, and I seriously do not wish to change the subject, but I have to ask: have you found any shampoo, conditioner, face cream, body lotion, or soap that doesn’t irritate your skin and scalp? I’m desperate. Also, I’m a redhead and I almost never go outside because I’ve already had one skin cancer removed and every sunscreen I’ve tried has triggered my eczema.

        1. I’ve had good luck with coconut oil as a moisturizer, and the Aveeno-for-babies sunscreen. My skin can tolerate Aveeno-for-adults sometimes, but not other times (I think it might have to do with meds I take for unrelated stuff), and I generally wash it off when I come inside. If I’m not going to be out long, I rely on my broad brimmed hat.

        2. http://www.chagrinvalleysoapandsalve.com — I haven’t been able to use their shampoo bars, because my hair gets too greasy and I haven’t been patient enough to go through that phase, but I do use their soap (a lot of soap makes me itch and some of theirs did too, but the ones that don’t are AMAZING. they have trial sized bars) and moisturizers (for hair, body and face — the whipped squalane is the only thing I’ve found that moisturizes my face without making me break out) and salves (for cuts and other skin irritations). I use either shea moisture raw shea shampoo (I don’t have much luck with their other shampoos, and most of their products I find too strong smelling) or desert organics shampoo. I like some of http://www.oyinhandmade.com also.

          1. I’m using the Shea Moisture black castor oil shampoo and it works okay but good lord, it makes me smell like a coconut for the next 3+ days. I hate smelling like coconut but I have fussy curly hair AND seborrheic dermatitis on my scalp (so no-poo is not an option) and it does not destroy my skin or my hair so I use it even though it makes me smell like a Pina Colada.

          2. Stellanor, I can’t nest another reply, but I’ve noticed that my highly flaky scalp cleared up entirely and my aggressively curly hair turned well-behaved once I went no-poo and conditioned both hair and scalp with plain coconut oil from the baking aisle. If you DON’T get the organic virgin stuff, it smells less like coconut. And when infants have seborrheic dermatitis, they call it cradle cap, and the treatment is to massage it with oil! It did take a week or two of daily scalp massage to get my scalp to stop flaking, so this may not be something you want to try, but I’ve had great results.

          3. rikibeth I went no-poo for 6 weeks once and only used argan oil and conditioner, and it was an itching, flaking disaster. I kept waiting for it to get better. People told me it would get better. It did not get better. 😦 It got itchier.

          4. I tried no-poo too, a few different times, and it didn’t get better for me either (although I didn’t last longer than 3-4 weeks at a time). My scalp was itchy and flaky and my hair was greasy. I find my scalp gets worse if I use anything medicated or meant for flakiness/itching. Moisturizing shampoos, with less harsh detergents/ingredients (can’t use tea tree oil either), have worked the best for me so far. My scalp/hair seems to be less picky about conditioners. Also showering with lukewarm or cold water — hot water exacerbates my problem.

        3. Every sunscreen I’ve ever used has given me Death By Ten Thousand Pimples. I’m pale and freckly so basically I don’t go outside anymore because sunscreen and my skin have irreconcilable differences. As far as I can tell *every* ingredient that actually protects one from sun makes me break out ferociously. I can SOMETIMES tolerate SPF15 or less as long as I don’t wear it too many days in a row.

          I have never found a shampoo I was thrilled with. I’m using a SheaMoisture one now and it’s tolerable. I’m not in love but it’ll do. I usually do okay with conditioners, for whatever reason. With face/body lotions I can use Kiehls or Eucerin, but anything with added scent makes me go all red and blotchy. (And the Clinique sensitive skin hypoallergenic face regimen made my skin FREAK OUT. Sigh.)

          Often after 18-24 months of being totally fine with something my skin will turn on me and decide it hates whatever I’m using. Right now I’m using Dr Bronner’s for all my soap needs (and also shower time reading material) but I figure I have 3-6 months before my skin decides that’s unacceptable.

          1. For moisturizer I use the Udderly Smooth udder cream. It’s the only thing that actually doesn’t feel like it’s coating my skin and doesn’t make me break out (yay for adult cystic acne that didn’t respond at all to medication or BC.).

        4. This isn’t exactly any of these, but: in my quest to cut out standard anti-perspirant I have found that if I either

          a) take 2 5 mg zinc supplement tablets/day or

          b) apply zinc oxide ointment (diaper rash ointment) or zinc sunblock (less messy because a solid stick, harder to find, basically same stuff) under my arms (in summer, also my bikini line) once every three days, roughly 10 minutes before showering,

          I have little to no odor to my sweat – one application works for 48 hours minimum, 80 hours max. You sweat bormally, but odorlessly.

          This may be useful to some or all of you in reducing the soap/detergent/deodorant you have to put on your skin by quite a lot; if I am basically clean but just want to get rid of sweat I can get away with just using water, these days.

        5. Olay complete for sensitive skin has been very good to my easily irritated skin and has no dyes or fragrances. It comes in spf 15 and spf 30. And I second the Aveeno for babies line, though I haven’t tried their sunscreen yet. Their eczema cream is fantastic, though, and I love their eczema body wash. I also didn’t have luck with the Aveeno adult line. For shampoo, I’ve used the Jason fragrance free and desert organics fragrance free, and I like them both. I also found out that unscented can still have fragrances that irritate my skin, so I have to get fragrance free.

        6. I like Avene, it’s specifically for sensitive skin and is very gentle. It’s a French company; available on amazon and some stores like those fancy Walgreens.

    3. I don’t even think this has to be about smelling bad – when I run, I don’t really get stinky, but I am usually covered in a layer of (non-stinky) sweat – the communication about this could really just be as simple as “dude, you’re covered in sweat, please hit the shower, thanks,” without having to bring up smell at all.

      1. Same for me! I have very little body odour and can technically go with just changing my clothes afterwards (smelling-wise), but a shower is still the way to unstickyfy myself.

    4. That was my thought too. I can’t imagine working out and then not wanting to go scrub clean.

    5. “As an aside, people I’ve really been into smell good to me when they’re really smelly. In fact if they don’t smell good to me I take it as a clue there’s something off about our interaction.”

      Same here. Smell is The Biggest Deal Breaker for me and most of my friends are completely perplexed by this. To them everybody “stinks” (including themselves) unless they are freshly showered and doused in deodorant/cologne/perfume/scented lotion. Whereas I HATE scented stuff on humans and I need my Person to have a natural musk that smells good to me. Trying to explain “no, they do not have BO, they don’t just need to shower, they don’t smell *bad* – they just smell bad TO ME” has proved an impossible conversation.

        1. Just here to say me too! Smell seems to be the thing that makes me attracted to people, more than anything else. And people who cover their natural smell with a lot of scented cosmetics usually smell pretty gross to me. Happy to find other people who get that 🙂

          1. I ask all my boyfriends to quit wearing cologne, scented deodorant, etc. I can deal with natural smell a lot better than fake smells.

  4. First – yeah to the Captain’s advice! Speak up!

    Second – over the years I’ve been a runner/exercise walker outside, year round. And for better or worse, there are definitely times where I assume I’m “ok” after a quick rinse of the face and changing my clothing. To put this into further context, I live in one of the South’s humid/sticky cities and during the summer, I continued to walk the three miles to work. Now, I work in a building with sub-artic air conditioning, I would wear my hair up, had a ‘office cleaning’ routine, and would change out of my clothes immediately.

    Now, my cleanliness status (or the status of the clothing I change into) has never been brought up to me by either my office friends, bosses, or HR. At this point, I’m assuming that my system is working and either my smell and/or the smell of my office meets appropriate professional standards. This doesn’t mean it would work for everyone in every situation (i.e. cuddling, an office with a different temperature, etc.). While for the cuddling girlfriend, the post run smell is noticeable – when he does the same thing to hang out with his friends – it may not be. And sometimes for those of us doing workouts that aren’t always immediately followed by a shower, the assumption is that because in situation A we’re getting away with it, ergo in situation B it’s also fine.

    1. Yes to all your points, but especially this:
      “And for better or worse, there are definitely times where I assume I’m “ok” after a quick rinse of the face and changing my clothing.”

      I work with garbage. Literal garbage. Piles and piles of garbage. At the end of the day about all my nose can tell me is “you’re not walking through actual piles of shit! Yay!” Unfortunately this means I am thoroughly incapable of telling whether or not I stink (probably yes) or to what degree (probably lots). I know the same was true with sweatiness when I did lots of sports. It’s astonishing how quickly we acclimate ourselves to what we deal with every day. BUT. Most people know this about themselves and will take reminders in stride. If they don’t? Probably not good relationship partner anyways.

  5. Yes! Totally say something. It can get really awkward if you don’t. Like my first boyfriend, who had horrible breath. We were together for 8 months and for the first 7 or so it was ok because he was a smoker, and then taste of a mouth that just smoked a cigarette is, to me anyway, way more bearable than bad breath mouth. But towards the end of our relationship he decided to quit smoking ‘for me’ (note: I never asked him to or ever said I didn’t like him smoking so it was baffling, actually looking back it seems a bit ‘I want to quit smoking anyway but I’m going to try and look like an amazing boyfriend to everyone around me by saying its for you!’) and after that I couldn’t kiss him any more without being grossed out. Our relationship ended soon after for unrelated reasons (like how I was 17 and in my first serious relationship and had no idea what I was doing or how to break up with someone, despite having felt trapped in the relationship from literally day one), but it was sooooo nice not to have to deal with the awkwardness of having to avoid kissing your SO. I don’t feel guilty for not saying something because it was a shit relationship anyway, but if it had been a good one I hope some word using from me about brushing teeth more often/using moutwash could have saved it.

    Also, body language hints alone do NOT work. Like flinching away from kisses (or in your case cuddles) actually don’t communicate anything about what the problem is. Word using is the only option, even if it’s about something potentially embarrassing like personal hygeine.

    1. :0 ARE YOU ME?? I had this EXACT experience at 17 in high school. straight down to the quitting smoking ‘for me’ (and his friends never let me forget it either – ‘HE’S QUITTING FOR YOU, AREN’T YOU GRATEFULLLL????’)

      1. Sounds like he was trying to avoid a while lot of crap from his smoking peer group. If he’s quitting for someone else, he’s not criticising their smoking. And I’m guessing people are extra defensive and pressurey about behaviors that they know are problematic.

        1. As someone who smokes on-and-off, i.e. someone finding quitting reaaaaaallllly haaaard:

          Falling for a non-smoker can be very motivating.

          Also, even if you never ask us to quit we will assume ( usually rightly, I’m afraid) that you hate the smell and hassle and so forth and are just really polite. Which can also be very motivating!

          ( When I quit, people are frequently impelled to tell me how much better I smell. Which is kindly meant, but secretly awkward, because for about the first month after a person quits smoking almost everybody (and everything) else suddenly smells *dreadful*.

          1. Fair enough. Could it be both, though? Like, this happened suddenly at a time when even he knew we weren’t happy, or at least that I wasn’t. ‘I’m doing this big thing, ostensibly for you, that is societally a big deal! Perform the necessary display of enthusiam, confused teenage girl who I practically proposed to on the first date who has no idea how to break up with someone!!!’ I’m afraid I didn’t perform it, nor was I appropriately supportive of his big quitting plan, probably. I really don’t care, he was a jerk who was taking advantage of me. If he wasn’t so convinced our relationship was perfect in every way I might say he needed a better motivation to give up than me. Also I’m not that into the idea that as a non-smoker I was providing some sort of pressure without even realising. I smoked with him frequently when offered, despite never buying a pack or doing it at any other time. Sorry to dump that on you, I know what you say is not personal to me. in trying to tell a slightly related story initially I may have opened a bad relationship can of worms in my brain. :S

  6. My stepmom had a pretty good strategy that you could try. We’d walk in and she’d say, “After you wash your hands, can you make the salad for dinner?” This was her nonchalant, yet in insistant way of saying, “You WILL be washing your hands before you prepare food.”

    Maybe next time he comes in all sweaty and gross just say, “OK, after you take a shower we’ll head out to the coffee shop.” or “Good! You’re here and you’ve got exactly 12 minutes to shower before that show we’re gonna watch comes on!” Or if it’s you going by his place, same thing, “Whoops, looks like I got here before you had a chance to shower. No worries, I brought some studying I can do while you rinse off” or whatever.

    Some kind of greeting where you assume that he’ll be jumping in the shower. Now if he says something along the lines of not needing one, I’d give a winky kind of look and say in a teasing voice, “Are ya suuuure?” If he doesn’t get it after that that you are nicely trying to insist on a shower, then you need to either get more direct/blunt or think about moving on. Good luck!

    1. Assuming he’s going to do it first- great idea.

      I personally wouldn’t be able to pull off a teasing “are you sure?” and would stick with, “yeah, you do need to shower.” Or “I need you to shower.”

      1. “(like ranting about “society” and its fake/commercial/arbitrary/silly/over-zealous hygiene rules and how they don’t really apply to him)”

        The trick to avoid this is to not try to invoke “society” in the first place.
        Just say “I have a sensitive nose and you smell sweaty to me.”

        If he then tries to tell you that he doesn’t, he’s the type of person who tells other people what to feel, and you should run, fast.

      2. Or “I need you to shower.”

        Yeah. This is not something where the LW has to break the news that their boyfriend has a body odour problem in some grand objective sense (the LW doesn’t even mention smell). It’s not “DUDE YOU STINK AND EVERYBODY AGREES ON THIS”.

        Just that he’s sweaty from exercising (which he has presumably noticed!), and the LW doesn’t like snuggling while sweaty. That’s the key element.

        1. “he’s sweaty from exercising (which he has presumably noticed!)”

          Word. People who are big into exercise culture are pretty used to being to being told to clean up; it’s just an etiquette and hygiene thing, like when gyms provide towels for cleaning sweat stains off the equipment. I think there’s a good chance he’ll read it as a good-natured heads-up, not a baggage-laden commentary on him as a person.

    2. Thats good. Ive found it hard to tell a friend something similar. I tried saying “thanks for fixing that thing, that was hard work! There are flannels and towels upstairs for you to have a quick splash.”

      I got the “nah, its ok” and said “um, are you SURE?” and he went off and did the necessary.

      And then pointedly commented on how he values our friendship because Im always so clear about how Im feeling. Oh. Oops!

      But the next day it was forgotten, and Im sure he made the mental note to wash, too.

      LW, dont panic if hints dont work, be blunt if necessary. If it is a problem when you raise it, just wait till all is calm, then say “Im sorry I had to do that, I hate to be personal, but I didnt know what else to say. Is there a way you prefer me to mention if it happens again?”

      I also had to do this with my first “real” boyfriend, age 16, him 18, when my mother made me change because of his stale sweat on my clothes. It has to be done. Just do it – and afterwards I hope youll wonder why you worried about it!

    3. This is super YMMV, obviously, but I’d be kind of annoyed by this approach but totally fine with “Hey, could you go shower before we cuddle?” Like, it’s a strange blend of “hint” AND “order,” to me! HOWEVER if it makes things easier for the LW they should definitely try it, but idk, I’d be annoyed at the “Are you suuureeee ;)???” rather than just being asked to go do it. Like it’s somehow my personal sense of rightness that’s off rather than it being a preference of my partner’s that I need to meet, y’know?

      1. Yeah, I would far rather just be told “Hey, I’ve realised I don’t enjoy cuddling so much when you’re sweaty. Would you mind showering when you get back from a run?” than have someone take the hinting approach. Hints do sometimes work as a way for both people to save face. But here (where it *is* a matter of personal preference – some people would be totally fine cuddling up with a freshly-sweaty partner, it’s not the same smell as day-old BO), I feel like hinting turns that personal preference into a “you should know this already and the fact that I’m having to even point it out is way awkward”. That would be more embarrassing, to me, than a straight-up request to do something because it just happened to be what my partner preferred.

    4. This would freak me right out. My mom is really passive-aggressive, and she uses that tactic ALL THE TIME, and I’m not talking about washing your hands before you make the salad. I’m sure it’s fine if you have no such history, but I’d hesitate to.

      1. It wouldn’t freak me out but there’s a high possibility I wouldn’t get it at the time, and would cheerfully say “oh, thanks but I’m OK!” and then later on, by myself, realize it was a hint and spent several minutes wishing I could become one with the floor tiles…

  7. Long time reader, first time commenter! Mr Rhi is a wee bit obsessed with the gym (but hey, it works for him), and I am a bit sensory particular and smell particular, so I feel you, LW. Sometimes it’s not even that they smell at all, but that they’re just plain SWEATY–leaning in to kiss someone’s forehead or cheek but getting a faceful of sweat is suck. It happens a lot around our place, by sheer accident alone.

    Anyway, I just had to stress what the Cap’n says above regarding being pushed into cuddling regardless, or being laughed at, etc. because when you break it down, it’s really just them saying your feelings don’t matter or aren’t as important to them.

    It’s really important to stay tactful, like several people have already said–Mr Rhi is really sensitive about being sweaty/smelly, and going GAWD YOU STINK would really upset him. But at the same time, he sure as heck doesn’t want to inflict sweat & stink on me because he knows I don’t like it. He’d much rather have a cuddle where both parties are enthused.

    Hopefully, LW, your boyfriend does too.

    1. I’m not sure there’s a tactful way to put this. Yeah you don’t have to retch and go on endlessly about the foul stench. Nonetheless I think it’s best to go with straightforward rather than look for some secret gentle formula that will avoid bringing up bodies.

      Story time.

      I practice a martial art. Theoretically a person could wear their uniform multiple times without being foul smelling. Practically however, the people who shouldn’t are the ones who do.

      I have several times said to people “Please take your uniform home and wash it”. People have asked in response “Do I really smell that bad?” They clearly expected me to say of course they didn’t, but I pushed my inner appeaser out of the way and said, yes, you do smell that bad.

      This was very hard, but the end result was nicer training for everyone.

      1. I used to do judo, and there was a day when the sensei pointedly told the entire class, “For the love of god, wash your gis already.” He didn’t use those words, but he clearly communicated that sentiment.

        1. Sometimes I’ve pointed out a book by a very high level teacher in my art. He wrote that keiko Is very important and that it’s disrespectful to your partners and to the art to train in a dirty gi.

  8. Oh man.
    I dated a guy who was a total sweetheart but a rugby player who would never shower after practice and fall asleep all sweaty. His sheets always smelled like something had died in them. I remember laying next to him at night, trapped inbetween his funky smelling body and and his disgusting sheets and thinking I was gonna barf.

    We had other, bigger, problems, but I really wish I would’ve spoken up asap and at least saved myself nights of breathing shallowly as possible through my mouth.

    1. My bf plays hockey. Hockey gear *reeks* no matter how well you clean it. He has had his gear long enough that it is super-reeky. He won’t even bring it inside his place–he keeps it in the trunk of his car and cleans it in the garage.

      When he comes over after a game, I can’t even kiss him, because his face smells bad from the helmet. I just point toward the bathroom and say, “Go wash off the hockey funk.” He’s never argued because he knows how funky one can get just wearing the funky gear, even if you just sit on the bench.

      1. Communal fencing kit has the same problem – at the university club where I used to practice, we frequently joked about “kit stink”, and I’m sure we all radiated it for ages afterward.

        1. A couple of years ago, there was a thread on Apartment Therapy where a reader was asking for advice on rigging up storage for hockey gear in a tiny apartment when she and her bf moved in together. There were several suggestions that amounted to either a display or some kind of open storage. Then the comments section exploded in a shower of, “Um, have you ever SMELLED hockey gear?” Then there were tons of suggestions on creating separate closed storage for the gear, fitted with an air purifier or activated charcoal packets.

        2. Yep. Putting your head in an old, communal mask… Ugh. This is why new fencers are encouraged to buy their own mask and glove asap.

          I was the armourer for our team and never solved the Stale Ick problem.

        3. Boxing gloves. The ones at the gym I attend get so bad that the gym provides medical grade gloves for you to wear before you put them on.

      2. This. My husband plays a sport where in he wears lacrosse gloves to protect his hands, though it isn’t lacrosse, and there is NO WAY to get those clean. I have charcoal packets that i shove down in them to try and help, but he isn’t allowed to touch me or the cats until he washes his hands and arms after practice with the dish soap (it gets the smell off better than the bathroom soap).

        1. Tangentially, do the charcoal packets work? I recently took up swordfighting (German longsword, through HEMA) and I’m new enough that I don’t have any gear of my own. (We also wear lacrosse gloves, though I’m told there’s better finger protection in trading up if you intend to get super serious.)
          In consequence, I’ve been smelling a fair amount of other people’s face sweat and holy shamoley is it pungent in those masks. There’s no leaving them off, since I’d be short a few teeth right now if I had done that, so if I can suggest anything to the friend who holds onto the gear that would be a treat for my nose.

  9. Captain is spot on as usual here. It is awkward to tell someone or to hear “Ugh, you are sweaty, go take a shower!” or “Before we cuddle, please rinse off.” or “No more kisses until you get rid of that morning breath!” but sometimes you gotta say something. Imagine yourself in his place, would you want him to be uncomfortable with sweaty, stinky cuddles or would you want him to say something kind, but direct to you? Sure, the latter is awkward for everyone, but better than the other person suffering in silence.

    You are not being too picky and while it will be a little awkward, your boyfriend should be happy you brought it up, I always am if I didn’t realize how stinky I was or whatever on the rare occasions my husband and I have to call each other out on it. It’s like telling someone discreetly their zipper is undone on their pants. Sure it’s super-awkward, but better than walking around any longer like that!

    And little things like this are good practice for everyone for when they need to speak up about the big things. I think most of us need more practice speaking up about our needs.

  10. Rip off the band-aid and tell him. It can be hard to be assertive and advocate for your own needs so, if it helps, try putting yourself in his shoes (not literally, they are probably gross stinky running shoes).

    Which is more embarrassing – new partner says she doesn’t like cuddles when you’re sweaty and asks you to shower after running OR partner you’ve been seeing for 6 months tells you they don’t like cuddles when you’re sweaty and asks you to shower…after 6 months of silently putting up with finding you smelly/sweaty/not fully enjoying your cuddles? The first one is embarrassing – the second one is bordering on humiliating.

    If this relationship sticks around, you’re going to need to mention it at some point. If you’re worried about his feelings, sooner is definitely kinder than later.

    NB: You don’t have to worry about someone else’s feelings when it comes to advocating for your own needs and preferences, but I know from personal experience that it can be incredibly hard to get over feeling mean about it without practising actually doing it. You can ease yourself in to getting used to doing it by thinking about how this is good for them too.

    1. “Which is more embarrassing – new partner says she doesn’t like cuddles when you’re sweaty and asks you to shower after running OR partner you’ve been seeing for 6 months tells you they don’t like cuddles when you’re sweaty and asks you to shower…after 6 months of silently putting up with finding you smelly/sweaty/not fully enjoying your cuddles? The first one is embarrassing – the second one is bordering on humiliating.”

      YES. It was embarrassing to get told something by SO the day after I did something he didn’t like, but I promise you, it would have been so much worse to get it after 6 months. Rip off the band-aid, and both of you will be so much happier.

    2. Or if you’re like me you’ll put up with it for 6 months and then it will be a horrific day and I will have stepped in catpuke and bumped my head and found out that my favorite show was cancelled and he’ll come in for drippy swampbutt hug and I will go “EFF NO I HATE YOUR SWEATY SWEATY SWEAT SWEAT!!” And he will be hurt and I will be angry and hurt and it will be a bad scene.

      Don’t let it be that bad scene. Ban the swampbutt ASAP. There’s a good chance it’s not as big a deal for him as for you. (There’s sometimes socialization where men are supposed to be proud of their funky musk and so there is a chance he might be proud he’s managed to horrify you with his Eau du Jogstench, which is fine as long as he respects that the correct response to that horror is a shower)

      1. I have nothing of substance to add but wish to state that your comment sent me into hysterical laughter.

      2. YES. This is a really big thing for me, slowly becoming one of my biggest motivators to speak up about stuff immediately. A lot of stuff doesn’t have to be that big a deal, even if it is a little awkward and embarrassing, but the longer it goes on, the more resentment I build up about it, and the higher the odds that it will be the straw that broke the anxious, resentful, exhausted, panicky camel’s back.

        Please tell him, LW. Just do it now and let it blow over quickly.

  11. “I would like to make out with you but I’m afraid I will fart let’s try later.”

    The truth. It is here.

    1. Manfriend and I like to torture (not really) each other by purposely farting while smooching. It’s VERY romantic.

  12. Ah, the nail thing is certainly something I identify with. I always tell my self I should trim them weekly but then I start procrastinating and the weeks fly by until I end up in what I call Wolverine mode, and I start scratching everything, the case for my glasses, doors, my guitar’s fretboard and people too, and gods forbid I go bowling because breaking a nail with a bowling ball is not pleasant. So that’s when it becomes apparent I have to get the little cartilage bastards under control.

      1. This maaaay explain why older keyboards I’ve used (including my current work keyboard) have gouges in them, especially where my ring fingers go. And index fingers. And… okay, it’s most of the keys. I don’t even realize it until typing becomes oddly uncomfortable.

  13. Slight diversion, but did you know that the reason Mr Mountain Lodge Himself is actually very sweaty in that picture is because there were not one but TWO people (one per boob) spritzing him down with little droplets of fake sweat? Can you imagine going out with your mates after work and being asked how things were going on set, and being able to reply: “Pretty good, today my job title was Chris Evans’ Left Hand Torso Spritzer.”

  14. “Let me move my snuggling position so your chest hair doesn’t go up my nose” “Wait, nope, that’s your armpit” “Nope, chest hair again” “Armpit” “Let’s try a spoon”

    I identify with this so much.

    1. I’m just thinking of the Teen Wolf scenes where Stiles and Malia are trying to find a comfortable way to sleep.

  15. LW, my Darth Vader ex had questionable oral hygiene, and then would treat me like a weirdo and a prude when I asked him to brush his teeth before any kissing commenced. This made me a) not want to kiss him; and b) weird about wanting to kiss anybody for an awkwardly long time after we broke up.

    Our good Captain is correct as usual. There is nothing wrong with you wanting your boyfriend to not be stinky and sweaty, and if he makes you feel like YOU’RE the one with the problem for asking, run far far away from him. Get good and sweaty from how fast and how far you are running. And then take a shower. 🙂


      Also, LW, if your person does what my ex did, just… just run.

      My marriage was my first time realizing that not everyone has the same standards of basic hygiene that I assumed all humans had been told. He NEVER brushed his teeth it was SO GROSS. When I finally forced him to… well, it ended in a sink full of blood is all I’m saying. So my logic was “Looks like you’re seeing a dentist and brushing twice a day, then,” and his logic was “If I brush I bleed so I’ll just stop brushing.”

      (Also I don’t think he took showers unless he was with me, so he covered up his stank with patchouli. The smell of patchouli now fills me with rage.)

      Now, my current BF sweats a lot. He works at a physical job and he just happens to be a sweaty guy. It happens. I’ve had a 100% success rate with just saying “Honeybun, you’re gross. Go shower.” Sometimes he does it to me. So we put sexy/cuddle times on hold and go right back to it when we’re clean and not stinky.

      1. Ack. I’m sort of in this boat, in that I will (more often than I like) get caught in a loop of “doing that hurts, let’s not do that” with regards to tooth-brushing. I know that I need to brush my teeth, I know that continuing on through until the bleeding stops is the only way to actually fix that problem, and it’s still – “it hurts, don’t do things that hurt”.

        Flossing is even harder, because of the way my teeth crowd together; the floss often gets caught in between and creates a combination of pain and embarrassment. I’ve had those little disposable flossers get stuck and spent what felt like an hour, unable to get it out and feeling like a dog who’d gotten its head caught in something.

        All of which is to say that I can understand where your ex might have been sitting, but it’s still not something that a partner should be required to endure.

        1. The sensation of flossing sets my hackles up something fierce. I tense up and shudder and twitch and can barely refrain from gagging. In short, we hates it, precioussss.

  16. I once got quite specific when a man showed up at my apartment for dinner not smelling as he should. I said “Uh-uh. Here’s a towel and a clean t-shirt. Go into the bathroom, take off your shirt, wash your arms, underarms and chest over the sink, dry off, and put on the shirt.”

    He said “Really?” He was genuinely puzzled, but I’d been so specific that he complied. We sat down to eat, and there were no more hygiene problems after that.

    It really wasn’t that hard after I got started. I took my cue from a restaurant management class where we were told that a lot of the time you think an employee is being non-compliant it’s because you’re assuming they know something when they actually don’t. Nothing wrong with giving someone the tools and instruction they need. It really sounds like this guy runs over to your house and then isn’t sure of the etiquette of helping himself to your shower and towels unless he’s invited.

    I also like the shower together idea– if you’re comfortable getting naked with him.

    1. That advice from the restaurant management class is really on point. Thanks for sharing that!

  17. When I first met my husband I liked many things about him, but one thing I most decidedly did not like was his cologne–Gray Flannel, for those of you who are old enough to remember it. Oh, how I hated that smell! But it took me weeks to work up the nerve to suggest he try a different scent. When I did–nervously, haltingly, so afraid of offending him–he was shocked that I’d not said anything earlier! Turned out he like a lot of things about me, too, and was happy to change such a small thing in order to make me happy.

    We’ve been married 24 years, and I love the way he smells. 🙂

    1. My husband lived alone for a long time before he met me. So when we first met face to face, he smelled like Polo cologne, I think to try to impress me, the sweetheart. I asked him not to wear that. He stopped. I also had to ask him to shower more. He did. I love snuggling with him even more now. It happens.

  18. Speaking up as someone who has been asked, by a partner, to shower. I was dating a guy years ago who asked, with lots of hesitation and shame, if I wouldn’t mind showering before we cuddled. I sweat easily, and was wearing a close-fitting cotton shirt, so yeah, I probably smelled. I was embarrassed, but in the end, glad he spoke up. The guy will survive being asked to shower before cuddling. 🙂

  19. So I highly doubt this is an issue in the particular case, but since the conversation is encompassing asking people to shower in general – I’m invisibly disabled. Showering takes me several hours and help from a caretaker, and absolutely no one would know this by looking at me. I still fully support people telling me if something is bothering to them – it means we can try to figure out strategies (l have no problem keeping distance if needed) or realize it’s just an incompatibility. And it is absolutely true that people not caring about the other person’s comfort enough is way more of a problem. But this is a thing that exists and is the case for some people.

    1. I would think that this is a case where the direct asking would work much better than hints, because that means that it’s not burdening _you_ with needing to bring up the subject explicitly. True, in your experience?

  20. I also find that “let’s shower together!” can be an easier sell than “go shower, you are sweaty.” If you like showering with your sweetie this could be an approach to take sometimes as well.

    1. This isn’t a bad suggestion, but I think it’s a little too much of a hint if it’s said on its own. Boyfriend needs to know what the actual issue is.

    2. I think this misses the point though. It means that instead of this guy learning that his partner doesn’t like him all sweaty and (hopefully) starting to be a bit more considerate about hygiene, partner (girlfriend?) doesn’t state their need and ends up in some weird sexy performance instead.

      1. Yeah, one shouldn’t be obligated to trade nakedness/sexiness in exchange for their partner’s cleanliness!

  21. Communicating a low-stakes preference like this to a new partner and seeing how they take it is a GREAT way to figure out how they’re going to respond to higher-stakes requests and boundaries. And being direct about what you want, what the other person wants, and what you both can do about it is a huge intimacy-builder. Conversely, abusive partners or people with poor boundaries often show their colors early, making fun of someone for requesting a preference or shaming them for it, because with the stakes so low, they have “plausible deniability” about whether they’re being inappropriate and disrespectful.

  22. So I had basically this exact situation happen with someone (otherwise lovely!) I started seeing recently. We had gone on a handful of dates and like, 2 times out of 4 he smelled…bad. Not sure why.

    I AGONIZED over what to do, called a full on Consortium of the Girlfriends, debated various strategies up to and including just ghosting on him, then finally gathered my courage and told him what was preventing me from getting closer to him via a very hilarious and awkward text conversation (I prefer text/email-based communication for stuff like this over face-to-face for various cognitive reasons I won’t get into here because they’re not really relevant).

    Anyway. I told him, we laughed about it, he switched up some stuff with his shower and laundry routine, everything is all good and we’re still happily cuddling. All that AGONIZING seemed really laughable in retrospect when all I had to do was…say something? And he was totally cool about it, which won him like +1000 points in my eyes. If he’d been super angry, defensive, or hurt, I would have been like, whoah, maybe this is not the guy for me? But all was well and it actually made me way more comfortable with telling him stuff in a direct and non-hinty way, which has worked out really well in other areas too, ifyouknowwhatimeanandithinkyoudo.

    1. I, like you, am an AGONIZER about problems both large and small (although my personal specialty is “problems that are small if answered one way but potentially large if answered in another”) and in general the outcome is the same: the agonizing makes no difference. If something bothers you, it is a problem, full stop. If your partner is willing to bend on a small matter for your comfort (esp. if you feel it was so small you shouldn’t mention it!), the problem is resolved, yay! And if your partner is not willing to bend for your comfort, you have a new and bigger problem.

  23. I recently discovered that the wife of an acquaintance smells really bad. I don’t even know the acquaintance very well, and I know his wife much less well. I don’t know if she doesn’t show regularly (no judgement, neither do I!), just has really pungent BO (again, no judgement, bc so do I!), or if it’s something else. I assume my acquaintance either doesn’t notice/care or likes it, and so he never says anything to her like, “hon, why don’t you grab a shower before guests arrive?”. I honestly can’t think of anything to do besides breathe shallowly and avoid getting too close while remembering that *I* need to grab a shower before I arrive. I REALLY don’t think it’s my place to say anything to either of them. Awkward. Very awkward.

    1. I feel for some reason that I need to clear this up: Neither Wife nor I work outside the home, and we are both people who spend most our time only in our own company (and in her case, her husband’s company). Not showering nor caring about your own funk are easy habits to fall into.

    2. Kind of off topic, but it could be trimethylaminuria, a genetic disorder where the body can’t break down a certain compound so it causes bad body odor.

    3. If she has had a child recently, it COULD be hormones.
      I was showering every day when I had an infant, and I would still stink to high heaven within an hour or two – the slightest need to sweat and I stank. Unstoppable, and I hated the way I smelled.

  24. It was an awkward thing at the beginning, but these days husband and I are very comfortable. Especially now that we have babies and our schedules are all shot to hell, we will often check in with things like,
    “Have you showered recently?”
    “Did you sleep in that shirt?”
    “Mysterious substance on your clothes, maybe go get changed.”
    “That kiss was 80% mustache, maybe a trim soon?”

    Body stuff (that isn’t shaming or controlling) is part of the day-to-day stuff of life and relationships so it’s helpful to cultivate an openness with it.

    1. “Your moustache is going up my nose when we kiss, go trim.” Said every 3 weeks or so at our house…

    2. For the fiance-creature and I, my reaction of, “Okay, you need to trim like tomorrow, because your mustache just fucked my nose. Not my kink!” The result is usually giggles, and it gets taken care of the next morning. (The next morning because I usually don’t want to wait for him to trim, I just change kissing angles *cough*.)

  25. LW, for what it’s worth, every dude I have dated has been happy to shower after a long hot day/ brush teeth after garlic extravaganza/literally sprinted for the beard trimmer when I complained that it was interfering with makeouts. A cool guy is not going to want anything getting in the way of your sexytimes or grossing you out/making you uncomfortable. And real talk- if you guys are together for a while, body stuff will inevitably come up. Maybe see this as a way to set the precedent you want?

  26. When this happens with my husband (so, granted, I can get away with a little more), I use one of two phrases…
    1. “Oof, you’re sticky!” That’s a reaction to texture and sometimes it’s a thing I just blurt out because it’s a thing I notice when I try to touch him. Sticky isn’t the same as stinky, it’s just like…a gross texture you don’t want touching you! (In fairness, I also describe myself that way when I just feel dirty after too long in a muggy subway station or whatever).
    2. “Are you going to shower [before bed/before work/this morning/tonight]?” Sometimes this is a logistical question — am I going to need to plan my own schedule accordingly? — and sometimes it’s a not-subtle hint. If he wasn’t planning to anyway, he’ll respond, “Do I need to?” at which point I’ll nicely say something like “I would recommend it, yes.”

    1. Completely unrelated to your full-of-wisdom comment, but just had to say it’s fun to see a fellow APWer here!

  27. The captain’s right just be direct and tactful about it. It may be a slightly weird conversation to have, but it might help you to remember this is a slightly different interaction then criticizing someone’s daily hygiene choices, or having to tell someone they have an odor problem when you don’t know the cause. Everybody, especially runner’s like your boyfriend, know you get sweaty when you workout and it’s not the same level of embarrassment for someone to say yeah you need to shower after working up a sweat as it is having someone just randomly tell you to hit the showers because you stink.

    Since he runs at night I would guess he’s not use to worrying about how he smells/looks after since it marks the end of the day for him so if he’s like most college kids he’s probably just use to relaxing or studying after and not being in someone else personal space.

    Though if he makes a big deal about this and says anything about not getting that sweaty after working out, or my sweat doesn’t smell that bad run for the metaphorical hills immediately. Having spent a few years running cross country competitively I can tell you that the guy who doesn’t think he needs to shower after a workout or that running clothes are just going to get sweaty so you don’t need to wash them, or leaves nasty running shoes in a space you would actually like to inhabit is a particular breed of ass you do not want to date.

  28. Oh boy, I get to tell Ex stories again (because it is cathartic and my life is clearly A Cautionary Tale and this is part of my reminding myself that I am not, in fact, an unreasonable person with unreasonable feelings).

    Ex hated it if I ever said ANYTHING about him regarding his appearance, hygiene, what-have-you. If I mentioned his tie was askew and offered to fix it, he’d yell “NOPE” and run away. If I suggested his hair should be brushed when it had grown long enough to stick out Doc Brown style (I didn’t say that to him) he’d yell “NOPE” and run away. If I offered to wash his gym clothes (which were soaked in sweat daily) he’d yell — well, you get the idea. If I suggested the large amounts of ear hair/nostril hair were less than sexy I was a MONSTER. If I was offended he was clipping his toenails at the coffee table, if I was perturbed that he refused to clean his retainer that he wore every night and I was secretly cleaning with Polident every night, if I was upset about him pooping and then jumping in the shower refusing to wipe and getting dingleberries everywhere (this is where pooping IN the bathtub and bypassing the toilet entirely started), I was too picky, I was unreasonable, I was horrible and judgey and an awful person who didn’t love him for who he was or was trying to change him.

    Basically, I needed this letter oh, seven years ago. Sunken cost fallacy, gaslighting, trying to be the Most Understanding And Easygoingest Partner Ever, all of these things snowballed into the house of horrors I left a year ago. Don’t be me, LW. If someone says your feelings are unreasonable, SOMEONE is not cool in that relationship, and it’s not you.

    I’ve never actually had these issues with anyone else I’ve dated long-term. I HAVE had these issues show up in other dates (not all together) and have heeded the giant waving red flags because NOPE.

    I’ve also had to tell people in a professional setting “Hey, you smell” in a way that doesn’t mortify them and hey, they’ve been more than happy to comply and glad someone told them early in (there is ONE exception, but he came to a week-long conference with just the clothes he stood up in and I had to send him home the second day). It helps that our office now has showers, but I’ve done the wash-up in the bathroom/change out your stank shirt for a fresh one dance more than a few times because I walk to work and sweat like a hippopotamus (with fewer natural sunblock effects).

    So LW, it’s totally cool to not like things and express these dislikes, and someone who cares about you will like, listen. If not then you can make decisions accordingly and it will STILL be okay!

    1. “this is where pooping IN the bathtub and bypassing the toilet entirely started”


      OMFG! I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. All the ew, and jedi hugs for your past self who felt like zie had to put up with *literal* shit from that creep.

      1. Same – I was sort of nodding along until that and then went “OH NOOO.” Trundlebear, you were most definitely reasonable, and many kudos to you for leaving that house full of bees.

        1. Things my Ex did not believe in:

          – Bacteria
          – Mold
          – Dirt
          – Sodium
          – U-bends
          – Physics
          – “safety”
          – other people
          – basically anything that was inconvenient to his version of life

      2. Yeah, my mouth literally dropped open at that one. I mean . . . my daughter used to do that, but she was only about two, and she didn’t mean to. I want to ask if he at least cleaned it up himself but I think I’ve decided I don’t want to know. I’ll just assume he DID and go about my day.

        1. This was mister “I forget how to sweep can you show me again”.

          I’m pretty sure most kids do it at some point, and then we tell them not to, and they stop. That’s… the LOGICAL progression, as far as I’m concerned, but logic and ex were barely nodding acquaintances.

        1. That’s what my brain started doing. I’m pretty sure I was caught somewhere between weeping at snaking up poop and shock that THAT’S what that horrible smell was.

          It’s when I started googling “why husband poops in tub” and DID NOT GET HITS that I realized that maybe, just maybe, this was not another “regular” thing that I was being unreasonable about.

          Also I have to have baths vs showers due to my back, so like, I am hoping I figured this out the first day it started but… I… don’t… I will never know. I kinda never want to know.

          I have a lovely tub all to myself now, and it is squeaky clean! I don’t have to scrub it BEFORE I get in! It’s magical.

  29. *warning: dick talk*

    My partner is uncircumcised, which means that he needs to pay a bit more attention to keeping his dick clean. When we first started hooking up, he wasn’t always as clean as I would have liked. I suffered in silence for a while, and it was NOT ok for me. When I gathered up the courage to tell him, he was incredibly gracious about it, and has always made a point of uncomplainingly going to clean up – usually before I ask, and always when I ask. His reaction was consistent with his overall niceness, and a major reason that we are still together 3+ years later.

    *end of dick talk*

    I think it’s really important to use words, rather than modeling good shower behavior or faking the desire to shower together. Both of these situations mean the LW has to take unnecessary showers, and the latter creates the possibility of sexualizing the shower situation, when the LW might not want to cuddle or have sex. The LW has a right to ask for a clean partner without having to take a shower or (potentially) offer sex/nakedness in trade for cleanliness.

    1. *warning: more dick talk, pretty much entire comment because I’m having a similar issue*

      I’m curious how you brought up this particular issue. My fiance has a similar problem, and while he’s been working on it (and he really is trying), it’s obvious that nobody ever taught him proper care because he was surprised when we shared a mutual bath that I made sure to soap around and under the foreskin. And I’m like… um. Um. You’re in your 40s… and… how? Y’know, I should probably just google foreskin care 101 or something and send it to him… (not passive aggressive for us, he’d probably find a link helpful). I’m just worried about coming across nagging, even though I *know* he won’t view it that way. Argh, jerkbrain. I probably answered my own question writing this comment, though, so… thanks! ^_^

      It also doesn’t help that he has no sense of smell (this is probably why he can eat literally almost anything; the only things he won’t are because of mouthfeel issues, like water chestnuts — more for me!), so he doesn’t realize when he needs a shower, because he doesn’t actually produce much body odor (normally, it’s when the hair starts getting greasy that I or someone else in the polyfamily brings up that he really needs a shower), and, uh, finding out by going down during sex and tasting days of urine build-up… I’m pretty “whatever” in general but ACK. It’s not really a “suffer in silence”, more a minor annoyance, except when the ACK occurs… and even then, it’s still relatively minor.

      1. *dick talk*

        The thing is, while it’s his body, you’re the one affected by his foreskin cleanliness – thus, it’s within your rights to ask for improvement in this area. He would probably never dream of shaking hands with others if they were similarly dirty! It just happens to be a body part that he hasn’t thought about in the same way. Your needs around cleanliness are super important. Share the information in whatever way you think he’ll hear best, and – this was hard for me but important – if sexytimes start and you realize he’s not clean enough, feel free to ask him to go and wash up quick so you can resume.

        *end of dick talk*

      2. I just wanted to say, my hubby has pretty much no sense of smell, but he is super hygiene conscious because of it; he doesn’t know if he smells so he showers every morning and often every night
        Too much showering for me but anyway, my point is that lack of a sense of smell doesn’t necessarily mean less rigorous hygiene. I realize people’s standards of hygiene are different but if you would prefer more showering, maybe just tell your fiance you’d appreciate it if he showered (daily / every other day / whatever)

  30. So timely! I just fired my therapist over this very issue! Her office is not close. I used to drive there, and then park at work on the days I had appointments. But then I moved out of my house into a little apartment and left the car behind. So I’ve been biking the 6 miles to my appointments all summer. And arriving sweaty, but what can you do? After all, my therapist had made it clear that only morning appointments after the commuter bus hours (which is the only time a bus ran past her office) were available for me, so bike it was.

    Anyway, midway through my appointment with her in September, she interrupts me to ask if I am aware of my body odor. And then proceeds to order me out of the office to the bathroom right now to deal with the stink. And carry on about how bad my smell is, and how they’ve had to Febreze the pillows behind me, and I probably am not aware how much I am alienating the people around me, and have I considered alternate biking clothes,deodorant, wiping down, talcum powder…at that point I interrupted her to tell her that I got the message, that there wasn’t much I could do in the present moment as there were no showers there, and I don’t need her to suggest solutions as I am an adult and can do that on my own and will be less stinky last time. And if this has been a repeated problem for them, why wait so long to let me know? Well, it’s so uncomfortable to bring up! Eventually, we get back on topic, but then she interrupts me a second time after I change body position to tell me once again just how much I stink and how much it’s affecting her. Okay then. session is done. We’re done. Because she just wasted half the session making it about her discomfort and seemingly unhappy that I wasn’t more ashamed, upset, embarrassed about it? I wasn’t defensive, lady, I was irritated because you keep going on and one already.

    I then checked in with partner and workout buddy to get some perspective, read up on the latest research on axilla bacteria, and am now experimenting with a few different products, plus tightening up my hygiene game, which can get a little slack when I am on my own. Totally willing to take feedback. Totally not willing to be shamed for having a body that sometimes stinks.

    So yes, bring it up sooner rather than later. Make it simple, direct, matter of fact. Make it clear that it’s a problem for you in terms of your needs and preferences (which are totally and completely valid!), rather than his problem he’s too clueless to realize.

    1. Go you Solecism! I’m so sorry that happened to you, and with a therapist! The one person you should be able to trust to be able to bring up uncomfortable subjects with you. But it sounds like you handled it superbly.

      1. Thanks! And now have hilari-terrible story to share with everyone for the next month. I haven’t yet had somebody say, you know, she had a point. Or, you know, maybe you were being a little oversensitive. Mostly, that was your therapist who said that? Talk about failing Therapist 101!

        There were plenty of red flags from the therapist before this spectacular fireworks display of red painting the sky in a gory phantasmagora of going down in flames. Like the time before when she interrupted me to tell me that my desire for connection with my partner didn’t seem particularly autistic. Sure, interrupt me to invalidate my self-perception (however, tentative and uncertain it may be) based on your understanding of common stereotypes and no actual training or direct knowledge of this. Way to create a safe, supportive environment. I saw that. But hey, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Nope. I finally noped out of there.

        I guess this is yet another cautionary tale of having too high a tolerance for bullshit for too long and not demanding better of people who should be treating me well.

  31. About a year ago, I was very tempted to write in with a letter almost exactly like this. Except instead of “Captain, my boyfriend smells bad, can I ask him to shower without being horrible?” it was “Captain, my boyfriend smells bad, and when I asked politely asked him to shower, he got indignant and acted like it was an unreasonable request. He told me I was being a terrible girlfriend, and stormed away. I think he’s being irrational, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings. How can I nudge him towards showering without upsetting him and triggering all this bullshit?”

    I left him about three months later for related reasons (all relating to this deffensive “whenever I feel bad about something, it’s because YOU are a BAD GIRLFRIEND and you should be SORRY” bullshit). I left him about four months too late.

    1. …but you still left, and good on you for doing so! In this scenario, your ex sounds like the horrible one, not you.

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