Doing a few laps…on my wrist

August 18, 2005

Sometimes I learn the most interesting things from my wife. She is, after all, an educator. And a voracious reader. So whenever she picks up a fascinating tidbit of information, she is usually eager to share the knowledge. She’s generous that way.

Sometimes I learn things about myself, things that my darling spouse learned even before I do. Sometimes she’ll learn things about me without the aid of a book. For example, we’ll head up to the movies, stop for cheeseburgers and fries, and we’ll be watching the flick while munching on sweets, and I’ll lean over to make an insightful comment, and my angel will frown and reach up and aim my face away from hers, and say something like, “Have you been eating dead cats?” At that point, I have learned my breath is unpleasant, and because of that knowledge I have become a better person. At the very least, I have spared my wife from the further onslaught of noxious vapors. And isn’t that what love is all about?

It’s inevitable that at certain times, certain parts of the human body will emit certain odors. This may be more inevitable with some people than with others. But while some certain parts benefit from the shielding process by articles of clothing (e.g. shirt sleeves over armpits, socks over feet), one’s mouth does not, unless one sports a bandana, at which point one suffers tremendously from one’s own breath and/or for being mistaken for a bank robber.

Hence, unless one has particularly pungent problems with an armpit or foot, one is most likely to offend another with one’s mouth and the breath that emits from it.

So how does one effectively gauge the potential for offense with one’s breath? There is the time-honored method of turning away from public view (or so one hopes) and breathing into one’s cupped hands, followed by a quick sniffing of the captured fumes. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that a nose that has become acclimated to vapors seeping out of one’s mouth is not the most accurate tool for detecting sour breath emanating from said mouth.

So what can one do? Do a few laps, that’s what.

My mate recently read a book (How Come?: Planet Earth) that tackled the odd questions everyone wants answers to, ranging from How does quicksand work? and Why are butterfly wings so colorful? to How come chopping onions makes you cry? and Why do people burp?

Though I can’t for the life of me determine why, there was one section of the book she took pains to share with me. According to this chapter, entitled “Why does our breath smell bad, especially in the morning?”, the best way to find out how bad your breath is doing is to lick your wrist, making sure to apply the tongue from back to front, wait 10 seconds, and then take a nice whiff.

Do not try this on a first date. Or any date, for that matter. Or in any social situation, barring “alone time” in the bathroom or any other private chamber. First of all, questions are raised when one is seen licking one’s wrist. Secondly, one is likely to end up with a smelly wrist. I know. I’ve tried it. And the results were discouraging. In other words, it works.

While it’s upsetting to think I’ve gone 41 years without knowing how to properly gauge the acceptability of my breath, I’m pleased that, with my wife’s kind input, I can go through the rest of my life with greater confidence and a wetter wrist.

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