Sunday Times


There are tough dates, and then there are those evenings that are just the pits

- BDSM · Tinder · Lewis Hamilton · Jimmy Carr · Christopher Newport University

Mem­o­ries of good smells — and bad ones

Any­one who has ever watched a ro­man­tic com­edy or has an ac­tive Tin­der ac­count will know that the dat­ing game is a kalei­do­scope of mis­ad­ven­tures. If you are lucky you find some­one who finds your face and per­son­al­ity pleas­ing and grants you ac­cess to their se­cret gar­den. If you’re not, you end up like me. As is the case with many of these things, this im­pend­ing mishap started the same way most dat­ing de­ba­cles do, with match­ing right swipes on Tin­der. Af­ter a flurry of mes­sages spent ag­o­nis­ing over how to come across as non­cha­lant and witty, a meet­ing was con­firmed. It went well enough but a fol­low-up was re­quired to con­firm the first date’s re­sults, so I in­vited her to the movies.

The plan seemed sim­ple enough: leave work a lit­tle early, change at home, ar­rive at her house smelling like some­thing you would want to put your tongue on (thanks, new cologne) and whisk her off for a night of laugh­ter and ro­mance.

The span­ners had other ideas.

Hav­ing left work much later than an­tic­i­pated, I ar­rived home with just enough time to re­alise that I needn’t have both­ered. With no time to do any­thing other than fran­ti­cally fail to lo­cate my bot­tle of smell­nice, I fled my house hop­ing to make it to hers be­fore re­ceiv­ing a pas­sive-ag­gres­sive text ask­ing whether or not we were still on for the night. For­tu­nately, a string of Sun­day af­ter­noons spent watch­ing Lewis Hamil­ton en­sured that I was out­side her gate just three min­utes af­ter I had said I would be.

The prob­lem with be­ing ner­vous is that it throws off your comic tim­ing. Hav­ing spent far too much time rac­ing the clock, my nerves had be­come par­tic­u­larly frayed. As my gor­geous part­ner for the evening slid into the pas­sen­ger seat she made some off­hand com­ment. Do­ing my most in­com­pe­tent Jimmy Carr im­pres­sion I cracked a joke that she didn’t hear and topped it off with a high five … as she was com­ing in for a hug. Awks.

There is un­doubt­edly some pop psy­chol­ogy quote about los­ing when one ad­mits de­feat and I was not ready to give up. A few deep breaths reme­died my jokes and by the time we ar­rived at Sand­ton City, I felt like I was back in good form. The con­ver­sa­tion flowed like a sur­pris­ingly good wine given its price point.

The Devil, how­ever, was not fin­ished with me yet. At some point dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tion I made a ges­ture that in­volved me lift­ing my arms, and was gut-punched by the smell of con­cen­trated man­ual labour. It evoked mem­o­ries of a high-school gym af­ter a rugby match in 34° weather. It smelt like I’d used a cologne called Sex Pan­ther whose in­gre­di­ents in­cluded triple-dis­tilled sweat from that burly Scot­tish bloke in those old Lunch Bar ad­verts.

Panic sta­tions.

Spend­ing the night with my arms pinned to my sides was not a work­able so­lu­tion. A friend who was at­tend­ing the screen­ing no­ticed my predica­ment but, in what I felt was an act of ex­treme care­less­ness, had left her un­der­arm spray at home.

Emer­gency lights were flash­ing so brightly in my mind that I couldn’t con­cen­trate on what my date was say­ing. All I saw was the mo­ment when her sump­tu­ous mouth would con­tort it­self in an at­tempt to fig­ure out where that smell was com­ing from.

Some­thing had to be done, so when we found our seats, I ex­cused my­self and high-tailed it to the men’s room. I con­sid­ered rush­ing to Clicks, but it was far enough away that I would re­turn hav­ing to ex­plain why I had taken so long in the bath­room, and that’s al­ways awk­ward. I at­tempted a few splashes of soapy bath­room wa­ter to no avail.

Things were get­ting des­per­ate when my brain latched on to an idea.

The thought process went as fol­lows: the sweat was be­ing caused by the con­tin­ual se­cre­tion of mois­ture. Baby pow­der works on the un­der arms be­cause it ab­sorbs mois­ture, thus I needed to find some­thing that ful­filled a sim­i­lar func­tion. Salt causes de­hy­dra­tion and there­fore must ab­sorb mois­ture. Be­ing at the movies, there was an abun­dance of salt. If I could just ap­ply some to the af­fected ar­eas, all my prob­lems would be solved.

So with the clock tick­ing, I dashed off to the salt counter, shook lib­eral amounts of my pow­dered saviour into both my hands and pat­ted my armpits like a grate­ful puppy. The lady sprin­kling but­ter flavour­ing onto her pop­corn looked at me like I’d just sprouted a sec­ond head.

Eu­reka! A quick cou­ple of smell checks con­firmed my hy­poth­e­sis. It was mildly sticky and un­com­fort­able but I no longer smelt like Frodo Bag­gins when he reached Mount Doom.

To make a long story less long, that was the last day I ever saw that girl, and men­tion­ing “salt bae” to my friends leaves them curled on the floor rolling around like de­ranged ten­nis balls. LS


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