Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Advice Columnist Steers Widower to Certain Disaster

Okay, so it’s not exactly I Smell Dead People—more like “I smell my late wife’s perfume on my new girlfriend and it’s a problem.” Advice columnist Jann Blackstone tells the guy to avoid being truthful because “rarely do women like to be compared to one another” and because it might look like problematic devotion to his late wife.


Blackstone advises the widower to shop for a new perfume for the GF, and perhaps even “take her with you and actually spend some time together in the process.” This sounds good at a theoretical level: use the power of scent to create positive new associations. But at a practical level it is a recipe for disaster.

Choosing a fragrance for another person is difficult enough; add the emotional undercurrents of this relationship and it’s fraught with peril. Secondly, Blackstone is directing the guy to the women’s fragrance counter: seldom a comfortable situation for a male. All we know is that the widower liked his wife’s perfume, not that he is knowledgeable about or even interested in women’s perfume in general, much less at ease browsing for it. So Blackstone is recommending that the guy give style advice, no matter how indirectly, to a woman he doesn’t know that well yet, and do it in the live-fire zone of a fragrance counter.

This strike me as well-intentioned but terrible advice.

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