The hygiene inspector
There is a guy I see now and again, a friend of a friend or a friend of my crowd, who wears brightly woven tops, the kind you buy in Mexico, and beaded necklaces that make him look like more of a hippie than he actually is. He has a round, boyish face and close-cut blond hair. His eyes are light blue and he smiles often. He says he’s a good hugger. He would be cute — not my type exactly, but still in the range of possibilities — if not for one thing: his fingernails. They are long-ish, which is forgivable, but they are also dirty. Whenever I see him, my eyes go first to his nails, and there is always a layer of dirt — sometimes thicker, sometimes thinner — just beneath the surface. I’m sure he showers, but those dirty nails make me doubt it.
I’ve been inspecting fingernails since high school, when a fastidious boyfriend gave my own nails the onceover. We were swimming at the time, and thankfully the waters of the Gulf had lifted out any muck that may have been trapped beneath them.
“I’m glad you keep your nails clean,” he said.
I pulled my hand away and plunged it back under the water, secretly relieved to have passed inspection. In the way that many off-hand comments from early relationships influence our romantic patterns for ages, that one stuck with me. Since then, dirty nails have been on my list of dating deal-breakers.
On Knol, Google’s user-generated content site, one poster has created a dating checklist for men that includes personal grooming tips. “Nose hair!!!” he writes. “Please make sure that you get rid of these guys.” And, “If your eyebrows are grossing people out, you might want to get them trimmed.” My favorite tip reads: “It surprises me that there are guys out there who never consciously wash their ears. While it’s fun to have your ear being nibbled upon, I would think that it is not as fun to nibble on an unclean ear.”
Despite all my nail gazing, earwax is, for me, the true measure of a new beau’s hygiene. I could get past a man who didn’t trim his nails or someone who forgot to dig the grime out from under them, but I could never love a man with crust in his ear canal.
In a weekly class I attend, I sit next to a well-read young man with a swoop of blond hair and black-rimmed
glasses. He’s always well dressed, and he comes in smelling of soap, so I have the impression he showers regularly. But when I glance to my right, I inevitably stare into the dark recesses of his inner ear, and it is caked with yellow chunks.
So it was with great relief that I made a dis
covery during my first visit to the Captain’s house. On a trip to the restroom, I had a casual peek around the shelves of manly products. There, beside the stick of deodorant and the bottles of cologne, I spied an earwax cleaning system, the kind with “irrigate” and “flush” printed on the box. This is the stuff of my romantic—and hygienically maintained — fantasies.
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