30 January 2007

Bad breath

We've all been there. You're at a work gathering, or a party, or the supermarket, and someone leans in to share a thought. The message they are trying to convey is lost, however, in a flood of raunchy breath. You smile, nod, and attempt to casually move to the farthest corner of the room, or smell a flower, or subtly breathe through your mouth. Anything to escape the torture.

And it's not just the physical discomfort that bothers you. I mean, what do you do? What do you say? It's not like they have something stuck in their teeth, or food on their chin. Those problems are easily solved with a quick, "Oh, you have something there..." and the conversation carries on. But bad breath? Especially if you have no solution at hand (i.e., breath mint, gum, toothbrush)? What are your options - point out the problem and then watch the offending person back away in horror, hand covering their mouth? Or if the person is exceedingly drunk, just laugh at you and make a point to exhale more heavily in your direction? I'll bet most of us suffer silently.

From a very young age, my mother taught me how to ensure that close conversation partners would only get a whiff of mint, or cinnamon - even fruity flavors were acceptable. Her favorite story - one that will stay with me through all time - was of an encounter she had with an acquaintance when I was still a little girl. They had been talking for a few minutes, and the other woman casually offered my mom a mint. She responded, "Oh, no thanks," and the woman's face fell as if she'd just heard that her dog had been hit by a car. My mom grimaced inside and realized her mistake - but by then, it was too late. The moral of the story? Always take a mint when offered, even if you don't want it. There might be a hidden message within the offer.

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