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Previous installments of The Toast’s advice column from two disparate and imperfect persons can be found here. (We are STILL open to better names for it.) [Ed. note – It’s fine.]

What is the best way to call out someone who has been flirting shamelessly and you think is really into you, but who has a girlfriend, but you think if they left their girlfriend, you would totally date this person, but only if, so you need the call-out to be kind of flirty but not homewrecky. Asking for a friend.

Nicole: AHHHHHHHHHHH. IS YOUR FRIEND ROBYN? If so, she can’t help it and neither can he and he needs to call his girlfriend and tell her so. But there are also people who are just super-flirty? My all-time favourite thing is to tell attractive people they’re attractive. Mostly they just blush and look happy! My babysitter’s boyfriend is gorgeous, and he came by with her and I was all LOOK HOW HANDSOME YOU ARE! and he shuffled and looked pleased. Does this person (who could also be a woman, of course, I don’t know your life) flirt outrageously with other people, or just your friend? If it’s just your friend, then your friend should say “hey, I’m getting some weird energy here,” but you have to have kind of a sexy-hippie thing going to pull that line off. A few months ago, I would have said “tell your friend to find an available person to date,” but the current best couple I know fell in love and disentangled themselves from their existing relationships and are now blissfully happy. I think I’m getting soft on people who fall in love with people who are in low-level goofy HIMYM-esque two month relationship arcs. Unless you’re friends with the girlfriend, in which case, no, don’t do that, check yourself.

Mallory: I don’t want to answer any more questions about romantic grey areas for at least a month after this. We are now closed to questions related to romantic grey areas. Thank you for your interest in receiving clarification in regards to your particular romantic grey area. Your romantic grey area is very important to us.

I have no interest in this kind of person (not you, darling letter-writer and reader of this Toast; you are a delight and a joy and a thing of beauty forever and you are probably Still Figuring It Out and find sexual attention intoxicating, as is your inalienable right as a Whimsical Young Person). This kind of person is deeply and congenitally uninteresting, this person who enjoys signaling vague but deniable romantic availability to the hopeful and the nearby. He (or she, or xie, but let us be frank and let us be honest and say: this is a he) lives in constant fear of being found out. If he did not fall asleep watching something on his laptop to distract him every night, he would fall asleep weeping with horror.

I can give you the breakdown of every tawdry, boring thing he will do in an attempt to mine your attention and interest, if you like. At some point he will confide in you a minor secret, which you will take as a disproportionate sign of his powerful feelings for you. At another point he will say something that darkly hints at trouble in his relationship, which you will believe to be deeply significant at the time. In retrospect you will realize it was an almost offensively generic statement of malaise that could apply to almost anything. He acts bold and charming around you because he knows within his safe and secret heart that he will always choose comfort over honesty. He is risking nothing. You will both drink a great deal too much whenever you are together and his girlfriend is not present. You will feel both wretched and sexually powerful, neither of which will be exactly true. You will think about him roughly 400% more than he thinks about you.

It will fizzle out in a confusing and almost imperceptible fashion. Pleasantly but determinedly ignore his half-hearted attempts to stir your feelings, and he will vanish like the fog in the heat of the noonday sun. Goodbye, fog.

The brand of deodorant I’d been loyal to since 7th grade has changed its formula, somehow, and now it neither keeps me from sweating nor does it vanquish odors. As an experiment I tried a day without deodorant at all, and I can swear that the same beast that got me through middle and high school has betrayed me, in that I smell worse and more onion-y with it than without.

I am bereft. So I guess I am looking for recommendations, and I KNOW that there are other long ago comment chains about this elsewhere on the internet, but I just want you guys to talk me through this and maybe make some recommendations.

a) I would strongly prefer that it come in a stick form and I don’t have to apply it with my hands, nor make it myself, sorry okay I’m sorry.
b) I would like it to stop me from sweating AND obscure funk. My Late Beloved Deodorant was unscented, but I can bear fragrance as long as it’s good fragrance, you know, and not febreeze flowers over a distinct layer of BO.
c) Not prescription-level shit.

Frankly the selection at Target et al. overwhelms me so please remotely hold my hands and walk me through the ridiculous number of choices?

Nicole: I reject your first principles, because I love the prescription-strength stuff. I mean, it’s obviously not actually prescription-strength, because you can buy it over the counter, but I will assume you mean the stuff labelled, like CLINICAL STRENGTH, and which has all the aluminum, which does not actually cause cancer.

But maybe you do actually mean prescription-strength stuff, which must exist, in which case we are back to our starting point. People say great things about Soapwalla, but you do have to apply it with your hands. WOW, I hope Mallory has better advice than this. All anyone wants is a clear stick that works and makes you smell like a human person, so let us know!

I do want to step in here before the non-deodorant-wearers arrive to place this down gently: you cannot smell yourself reliably, and your friends will NOT necessarily tell you if you smell even if you ask, and I do have one male non-deo friend who actually does just smell sexy and amazing, but the rest of us live in the modern world and should wear deodorant.

Mallory: Your great-great-grandmother did not die of dysentery and puerpal fever both at the same time so that you could worry about whether or not you’re allowed to smell nice. There is no reason to double-check whether or not the human body produces unpleasant smells when deodorant and antiperspirant are removed from the equation. This was not a worthwhile experiment. Trust that the human race has conducted a generations-long clinical trial on “Does sweating make me smell better or worse?” and that the results were conclusive. Imagine God in a long white lab coat looking down at our smelly dark crevices and saying “Hmmmm” repeatedly, if that is helpful.

I reject completely this modern delusion that we are too good for chemicals, which still persists among certain segments of the population. Rub your body with chemicals (within reason. DDT is still bad, I am sure). Put real shampoo in your hair. Apple cider vinegar is thin, sour nonsense and your scalp smells terrible. It’s a macerated mess of old fruit. That’s not for you. If your mascara has a preservative in it, you will not die in your sleep. Go to a Target, or a Walgreens, or some either giant chain that’s poisoning the earth. Smell the air conditioning and be grateful you don’t have cholera. Buy a stick that’s brightly colored and smells like something. Not lavender. Lavender is not a smell you can trust. Lavender is for the half-hearted who wish to bridge the gap, and you are no longer of that tribe. Supplement this with Certain-Dri. The Certain-Dri you put on at night before bed, after your shower (shower before bed, never in the morning. This is just common sense) and it keeps your armpits from sweating quite so much. You can sweat through the other 98% of your skin. The brightly-colored stick full of scented goo is so you don’t smell like an onion. That is what onions are for.

You’ll be great. Buy yourself some gum, while you’re there.

What would be a good birthday present for a gentleman turning 22 that I can ship cross-country via the US mail? He is not that into videogames, I regret to inform you.

Nicole: Deadwood DVDs. Justified DVDs. Or Tolkein-inspired beer steins, all of which are things my little brother likes.

Mallory: My little brother likes surfing and hiking with the family dog, which is not very helpful as you cannot mail either of those things. Does he enjoy reading? Men seem to enjoy humor. My first book recommendation is Baratunde Thurston’s How To Be Black, as it is a very humorous book.  My second book recommendation is Jerome K. Jerome’s (real name) Three Men On a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog). He will enjoy them. This is all I know about men, I think.

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