I just met a nice man who wears cologne that smells like bug spray. The fragrance was popular in the mid-’90s, but now it is not working. We have gone out on three dates, and now I am wondering if it is OK to tell him, or do I just suggest some of my favorite fragrances to him? The other day I went to the mall and was tempted to get him some samples, but my girlfriend said that my actions may offend him. … Help!

– N.J., Jacksonville, Fla.

You know, there is a school of thought that espouses the theory that a guy who wears cologne is simply a narcissistic poseur who thinks he’s too good for a bar of Irish Spring and an occasional spritz of Right Guard. And for many years we were enrolled in that very school of thought (remedial night classes, if you must know).

But then something happened to change our view: We ran out of Right Guard. Just kidding! We can still get a few drops out of the can if we heat it on medium-high for three to five minutes.

No, what we realized is that most women really do dig cologne on a man. But as your question suggests, it’s all a matter of degree and quality.

First, though, you should check his medicine cabinet. It’s quite possible that after the last infestation of ants across his bathroom floor, he left the can of Raid behind by mistake and has been using it for deodorant ever since. It’s not an unpleasant fragrance, after all. Plus, it keeps the flies away.

But assuming that’s not the case, and your new friend is just using a 10-year-old bottle of Stetson he got from a well-meaning but dotty aunt at Christmas one year, then an intervention of some sort is indeed in order.

After only three dates, however, this could be a delicate matter. On the one hand, most guys would happily switch to Jean Nate After Bath Splash if it meant a chance at getting closer to you. Emotionally, we mean, of course.

On the other hand, men are fragile creatures, and to be told you smell like insecticide could potentially be a bit deflating. And that’s not going to do anyone any good.

If you had been dating longer, certainly we would encourage you to be honest about it and simply tell him his cologne makes you want to vomit. But given the newness of the relationship, here are some more subtle suggestions:

• Go through some men’s fashion magazines with him. When you find one of those scratch ‘n’ sniff card advertisements for cologne, open it, smear it all over him and say, “Wow, I love that smell.” Then attack him, you know, carnally. Out with the Raid, in with the Cool Water. Promise.

• After he arrives to pick you up for a date and gives you a hug, go into another room and rub your neck raw with 60-grit sandpaper. Come back out and tell him you think you’re allergic to his cologne. Ask him to wash it off, then attack him, carnally.

• Buy a pair of those swimmer’s nose plugs. Put them on. Then attack him, carnally.

Male Call answers questions from men and women on etiquette, relationships, men’s style and more. Write to [email protected] urynews.com.