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Sweet Smells of Romance

Dear Philippa:

I was dating a great woman for a month or so, taking things slowly after both our divorces. We both wanted to be sure we really liked each other before getting physical, so we waited and planned a romantic dinner at her place. I had never been in her house before. We had always met at restaurants and other places so we wouldn't be tempted to go further than we were ready to go. Everything seemed perfect until I saw her place and how she lived. She had a parrot that flew free around her place and it wasn't house trained. I think she never even changed her sheets because there were crumbs everywhere. And the bathroom-phew! How can I tell this woman we can't go on seeing each other because she's a slob?

�Ron, Berkeley, California


Dear Ron:

I am sure that once you got past the shock of seeing her place, you were also disappointed that you are obviously incompatible. I'm sorry this happened, but better you found out before getting further involved. Maybe next time you can casually drop by a new woman's place during the day to drop off something and get a glimpse of how she lives before planning the big romantic evening.

Your story reminded me of the time I went into someone's bathroom and saw strange green organisms reproducing before my eyes. That can really kill a mood if things like that bother you. Let's face it, we all have different levels of hygiene and housecleaning. Maybe you have to look closer for clues about how a person lives. Notice if their car looks like you need a garden rake to clean it out, or if after a meal there is more food on them than in them.

Now, the hardest part for you is to inform her that the relationship will not work, and to do it without hurting her feelings. You could say you're not ready for this relationship-but this could open up a conversation that you don't want to have. You could tell her that you are such a clean freak that you make Felix Unger of the Odd Couple look like a slob, and you know it would drive her crazy (indicating that you are the one with the problem). But with this explanation, you could risk the chance that she would love to have someone like you to bring sweet, Lysol-smelling order into her life. If all else fails, tell her you have a bird phobia. If she has to choose between you and the bird, pray that she chooses the bird.


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