Michelle: Enzo asks how he can politely tell his new girlfriend that she’s got bad breath aside from saying, “Please wear your mask?” Bad breath is hard to talk about, especially if one is talking to someone who has bad breath! Seriously, didn’t Enzo notice his girlfriend’s breath before she became his girlfriend? He could have saved himself the trouble if he asked her before if she ate poop for lunch and offered her a breath mint!
DJ: The situation must be bad. Enzo mentioned in his email that he’s wondering whether she needs gum or a roll of toilet paper. While he’s probably just trying to inject humor, I wonder if that works. It depends on the level of their relationship. But he still has to take a deep breath—no pun intended—and tell her. How? Comparing her mouth to a sewer won’t help. Asking her whether the pork she ate had bad breath is an indirect approach that’s likely to just add salt into the wound. Be direct but gentle. He can say her breath is perceptible instead of saying that it’s stinky. Make a point but give her a little dignity.
M: It is a sensitive topic when we have to tell someone that they have bad breath or body odor. Because they are mostly unaware of it and maybe in denial when they are told about it. I remember when I was in grade 6 and my classmates were talking about our classmate who had bad breath. They would talk behind her back and I pitied her because she was the butt of jokes. So one day, I decided to tell her (privately) that she had bad breath. She got angry at me and never spoke to me again. But it was okay. I didn’t have to smell her breath ever again. But even with my good intentions, it backfired on me for being honest. Enzo has to find the right time and place to tell her the truth because the truth hurts. And in her case, it smells too.
DJ: Extending help is the next best thing after breaking the news. Offer her a mint or walk with her to the nearest convenience store to get a gum or accompany her to the dentist. Not everyone with bad breath has less than stellar oral hygiene. It might be health-related such a problem with the liver or even diabetes. The discussion has to come from a place of concern rather than disgust. Enzo’s got to be prepared for her reaction, too. She may hang her head in embarrassment, make excuses or even deny it. Whatever she does, it matters that he’ll assure her that he is on her side.
M: Yes, I agree. What I learned from my grade 6 experience is to be more gentle when breaking bad news. I could have asked her if she had cavities or gum problems and maybe tell her to go to our school dentist. And then I’m sure if the dentist checked her mouth, she would tell my classmate to brush her teeth because she has a medical condition known as halitosis. And when my classmate would ask the dentist what is halitosis, the dentist can then tell her that she has bad breath.
DJ: Every good relationship, between lovers or friends, has honesty and truth at its base. They’re fundamental. What can’t break a relationship will make it stronger. There’s got to be something deeper that’s holding them together that halitosis can’t break. Enzo is actually doing her a great service by telling her something that potentially affects her health. And if he’s going to do it right, I’m optimistic that she won’t harbor any recent mints.