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The question

I'm dealing with a stinky situation. What should I do when my boyfriend farts in my company? We're talking the "silent but deadly" variety. We've been out in public when he's produced such a stench that others have commented. I feel embarrassed for him, but I don't know what to say to assuage the situation. At the start of our relationship - we've been together for more than a few years now - I got into the habit of saying nothing in response to his gas. I don't know how to change tactics this far along.

The answer

Madam, it's possible your boyfriend is suffering from an acute but not-so-cute condition that's very close to my heart.

In fact it's one that, before proceeding further, I would like to make a short PSA about.

Yes, like all celebrities, I have one pet cause that, over time, has become something of a crusade for me. For Brigitte Bardot, it's PETA. For the rapper Ludacris, it's literacy. For me, it's Fartington's.

Fartington's is a genetic condition, passed down from father to son, that unfortunately affects 97 per cent of adult males (and scientists at the hermetically sealed Fartington's Awareness, Research, and Training facility located deep in the mountains near Portland, Ore., believe the other 3 per cent may have "repressed" or "withheld" Fartington's).

There is some anecdotal evidence of women with Fartington's, but so far flatulentologists have been unable to isolate any confirmed cases.

The saddest part is: It's their loved ones who suffer most - the families, friends, even pets who have to blink back the tears as they grope around in the sulphuric mists unleashed by the Fartington's sufferers in their midst.

Please give generously, so that these unfortunate souls, etc., etc.

Okay, sorry. Just horsing around. On to your problem, madam - seriously this time.

Have you ever heard the saying that, in a relationship, "the first time you pass gas is a bigger milestone than the first kiss?"

It's true that it's reassuring to think that, in the privacy of your home, you can throw off the shackles of polite society, uncork your inhibitions and revert to a semi-savage state - and your significant other will still love you.

It can even be funny, if well-timed and executed. (My wife and I had a pretty good laugh recently when we were out in the park and I tried to use the explosion of some Victoria Day fireworks to cover one.)

But your boyfriend has taken this notion way too far. Even in the healthiest relationship, some activities are best performed, for the most part, in isolation or out in the open air.

Certainly, when in the company of other people, passing gas is absolutely déclassé and infra dig. Especially if it's at a point where people have begun making comments. Then I'd say, yes, it's definitely time to switch tactics and unbutton your lips. Your silence could be deadly for his reputation, social standing, even career.

In fact, I would say it is your obligation, when a nauseous odour of none-too-mysterious origins starts to tickle your nostril hairs, to uncork your inhibitions and let rip some home truths.

Of course, be gentle about it. As with all unpleasant, hard-to-deliver home truths, so much is in the delivery.

But be firm as well. Something to the effect of: "If you feel one coming on, just exit the room and come back when the fumes have dissipated. Don't try to get away with it, because they're just too rank."

Don't say "rank," though. Maybe le mot juste here is … "irrefutable." There's a funny line in Martin Amis's novel Money. The main character is on a first date when, he notes, "Silently but irrefutably, I farted in the cab back to her duplex."

And he knows something is deeply wrong, that something sinister is afoot, when she has sex with him anyway.

And that's definitely one tack you could take: Remind him it's unromantic in the extreme. Tell him if he wants you to continue to find him attractive, and his friends to find him suave, urbane and dashing, he must vigilantly eschew public flatulence henceforward and forevermore.

Tell him the barnyard fumes in his vicinity may cause people he cares about slowly to edge away.

Was it Confucius or Jerry Lewis who once said: "He who passes gas in church may wind up sitting in his own pew"?

True not just for church, but any social gathering. Tell your boyfriend that unless he wants to wind up wandering lonely as a cloud in an unsavoury, regret-filled fog of his own making, he should keep a cork in it, at least in public.

David Eddie is an author and the co-creator of the TV series The Yard , airing this summer on HBO Canada.

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