Several years ago, my husband went through a beef jerky stage. Actually, it was more of a preserved meat stage, because he didn’t just eat beef, and he didn’t just eat jerky. We had beef sticks, horseradish salami, summer sausage, pepperoni, turkey bites, steak strips, garlic infused pemmican, hot and spicy links, Slim Jims, barbecued bacon chunks, jalapeno pickled sausages, chili-mango pork nuggets. Open our snack cupboard and you’d see the equivalent of Bubba Gump’s shrimp products in dried flesh in there.
I have nothing against these products, and in fact, enjoy them myself from time to time. However, all of these spicy meats were causing Joel’s breath to smell like curried road kill. Since we hadn’t been married that long, rather than come right out and say, “Based on your breath, I think you are decaying from the inside out.” I decided to be what some people might refer to as passive aggressive. I prefer the term “tactful.”
I started by mentioning that I’d read an article about halitosis that recommended the use of a tongue scraper. “What’s halitosis?” asked Joel.
“It’s persistent bad breath, dear.”
“Oh. Why didn’t you just say that?” No splash yet. This is a deep well.
I purchased a tongue scraper and put it next to his toothbrush in the medicine cabinet. After two weeks, I took it out of its package.
Meanwhile, I threw some more hints into the dark void by purchasing gum, mints, and mouthwashes with which I stocked every cupboard and drawer. Whenever he went in for the lips, I gave my cheek. I even went so far as pulling up a halitosis quiz on my phone one evening and saying, “Hey, everyone! Let’s take this fun bad breath quiz and see if anyone here has it!”
In another two weeks, I casually mentioned that I really liked my electric toothbrush. I talked about how the rotating head and vibration, coupled with my minty whitening toothpaste, really made my mouth feel clean. In the spirit of making relevant conversation, Joel said his new power sander had a rotating head and vibration as well.
I finally decided that subtlety was not working, so I went for the direct approach. I threw Joel’s old toothbrush away. The bristles had frayed into a bouquet of yellowed stems by this time anyway. I purchased an expensive toothbrush that fit into a recharging base. He loves gadgets, so I knew this would appeal to him.
That night, as I was sitting at my dressing table, I noted with satisfaction that Joel was brushing his teeth with his new toothbrush. Then, I finally lost it. The guy did not have it turned on!
I threw down my jar of moisturizer, jumped up and yelled, “That’s it. That. Is. IT. Now who’s being passive aggressive? Really? Really? I am so done with this.”
Joel slowly lowered the toothbrush with a stricken face. With streams of white foam smeared across his lips and dimpled chin, he said, “Honey? What on earth? What did I do?”
“Don’t play stupid with me. After months of telling you about tongue scrapers and mouthwashes and mints, I finally buy you an electric toothbrush. Yet you are so determined to blow me off the planet with breath that a maggot would avoid, that you won’t even turn it ON? And you ask what you did?”
His shocked eyes slowly left my angry face as he looked at the gadget in his hand. All he could say was, “This is an electric toothbrush?” Splash.
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