What? I interrupted impatient to get to the heart of this meandering story. There followed a brief silence, like the kind you used to find in a doctor's or dentist's waiting room where everyone idly flicks through dog-eared magazines as they strain to catch the crackly announcement of names over the loudspeaker. Would so-and-so please go to room 5.
I made the other tea and coffee drinkers jump with my next exclamation: You didn't??
I did, said my friend, nodding sagely like the Churchill dog, I told him he smelt of meat and so I just couldn't. I mean I couldn't just keep fobbing him off, inventing excuses or putting in obstacles. It was wearying, you know, withholding intimacy. It's not like I didn't like the guy, but physically the stench proved overpowering. I mean he really reeked of meat. I was convinced if he invaded my space I'd pass out.
Quite, I said, but couldn't you have let him down gently? I don't know, made up something. Told him you'd taken a sudden vow of chastity.
How's that better? If anything that would have been worse.
She gave me that defiant look, daring me to rise to her bait. Instead I played the stubborn card, much to her annoyance.
Oh, come on, what about that guy you said leached yeast though his pores like a carbohydrate-fuelled brewery. Once you discovered that you avoided all bodily contact. How's this different? She challenged me.
Yeah, but I didn't tell him I was repulsed by his odour! Or that we weren't odour compatible.
Maybe you should have. I mean what's wrong with saying that? I quite like that – we're not odour compatible... That's a great line, do you mind if I use it sometime?
*Perhaps she has a point. Or perhaps without realising it I did.
And there will be a next time. Another reason to give – be it false or brutal in its honesty – as to why you don't think you're compatible with somebody if you're a serial dater, which I hasten to add I'm not; not that there's anything wrong in taking this approach, but I prefer to be a voyeur of other people's attempts. Witnessing a date a few steps removed is more enjoyable, and brave are the people that agree to be matched, to be filmed.
There are so many issues you can be incompatible on that can be a real deal breaker. Yet how many I wonder consider odour until the inevitable: the first embrace, the first kiss, the sleep-over, the living together. Odours can of course be masked, think garlic with mint or other breath-freshening herbs, sweat with the application of deodorant, or confusing our natural smell with a commercial scent as if we were flowers wishing to attract bees. Could the latter be why we often pull in the wrong sort and repel the right ones?
The question, I feel, is two-pronged: Is fragrance in the nose of the smeller? And is there such a thing as odour compatibility?
Because it seems to me that if science emphatically proved there was it might answer a lot of my revulsions. Unless what I'm revolted by now never used to seem so disgusting. Your parameters narrow as you get older and more wise to your ways which considerably narrows the field. And these constrictions tend to go over and above set tolerance levels, which too substantial lessen as age encroaches. You cannot compromise on a trait, a habit, an odour if it's deeply embedded, and it's abhorrent to attempt change in anybody – get rid of what you perceive to be another's flaws – for if anyone did that to me it would chafe. Create sores and ever-widening chasms.
The import of odour has been underestimated and yes, it can be diet related, but isn't that also part of the person? Nobody should have to give up their likes because of someone else's dislikes, and yet if it assaults one of the senses there has to be a separation.
Picture Credit: The Joint of Meat, 1864, Claude Monet