Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
March 23 2006 5:12 AM

Halitosis Hell

How can I help my husband deal with his awful breath?

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Dear Prudie,
I need your help with a stinky dilemma. My husband has horrible breath. He brushes his teeth twice a day, but he refuses to brush his tongue (which is where the bacteria that cause bad breath grow). Sometimes his breath is so bad that I have to roll down the windows in the car. We went to the dentist together and, while my husband was in the waiting room, I asked the dentist to discuss this problem with him. The dentist told him the same thing I did—that he needs to brush his tongue. He still refuses to do it because he says it makes him gag. I don't know what to do.

—Holding My Nose

Dear Holding,
Before you start wearing a surgical mask and telling him he has driven you to become a Michael Jackson impersonator, you have to insist your husband get a thorough checkup. There must have been some change in your husband's habits or health that needs identifying, because I assume that if this were a pre-existing condition, he wouldn't have become your husband. According to Cornell University's medical school, the causes of halitosis bad enough to drop a moose are numerous. They range, for example, from hygiene, to diet, to respiratory infection, to diseases of the liver or kidney. If your dentist can't do more than suggest tongue-brushing (which is a good idea), the dentist needs to refer your husband to someone with expertise in this problem. Unless your husband's judgment is as bad as his breath, he will want to get this situation cleared up.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
My older sister recently had a surprise baby. While I am happy for her, I am also frustrated and apprehensive. She has been living with my parents in an already cramped house, and there is no more room for a baby. Did I mention she also has an older son? He lives with my parents as well. My sister can't hold a job, so her finances become the burden of my parents. I'm almost certain that when the baby comes home and my sister goes back to work, I will be expected to care for my niece. Since I'm a stay-at-home mother of two, everyone seems to think I am the logical child-care solution. I love my family, but I have no desire to care for my niece. I cared for my nephew while I was pregnant with my first and after I had him. I can't take on the responsibility of another of my sister's children while caring for my own two young children. There is a chance she will have special needs that I have no idea how to deal with, as she was premature. No matter what I say, my family will not understand that I cannot care well for the new baby. How can I get my family to respect my wishes, while still keeping the peace?

—Torn

Dear Torn,
Even if your sister leaves her child in a basket on your doorstep like Moses in the bulrushes, you cannot be forced to care for a baby against your will. When the issue comes up, simply say, "I'm sorry, I can't. I have my hands full with my own two," then repeat as needed. You might canvass friends to see if they know of any good babysitters or day-care centers, and give your sister a list of names. Perhaps forcing your sister to confront the consequences of her actions will result in fewer "surprises" in the future. That said, these children have been given a rough start in life and they are your nephew and niece. Could you set up a regular, but limited, schedule for spending time with them—with the understanding that if your sister abuses this privilege it will end? Your own kids will surely adore seeing their cousins, and over the years you will be a source of stability and solace for these two.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
I belong to a small group of women who are mothers with children all within a few months of each other. Most of our children will be entering preschool in the fall. One friend has asked me to fill out a recommendation form for her child. I looked over the form and realized that if I were to fill it out honestly and she were to see it, she would be less than thrilled. Most of the behavior I would be called to comment on is not entirely age-appropriate. Is there any graceful way I can tell her to ask someone else to fill it out for her? Should I fill it out honestly and send it directly to the school, hoping she'll never see what I wrote?

—Perplexed

Dear Perplexed,
At an age when many of the students are still pooping in their pants, how age-inappropriate could this child be? It doesn't sound as if you think he has some serious disorders that aren't being addressed, it's just that he's, well, immature. That happens when you're 3 years old. Surely you can write something pleasant about his "energy" or "curiosity" or his "ability to turn a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into an inexpensive way to redecorate the home" or whatever it is that makes this little guy unique.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I am engaged to be married in May. The problem is with my fiance. Although we have a wonderful relationship and are very much in love, he neglects to remember me on my birthday, holidays, etc. We have discussed it over and over and he keeps repeating the same mistakes! It hurts me so much when I have to remind him to just get me a card. We had a huge argument four weeks ago because he didn't do anything for my birthday. And then he did nothing for Valentine's Day! Just a card would have made me so happy. Right now, I don't want to speak to him and our wedding is not far off. We are not kids, we are both in our late 40s and this will be a second marriage for both of us. I have told him this hurts me a lot, so why does he keep doing this? We have a great time together, he has a great sense of humor, but I don't think I am overacting to this. I cried most of the day on Valentine's Day.

—Wants a Valentine

Dear Wants,
Do you have a wonderful relationship with a great guy who simply lacks the romance gene and feels you have turned this into such a nagging melodrama that he doesn't want to deal with it? Or are you about to marry a guy who won't do something trivial (buy a Valentine's card) that would make you happy because he gets a passive-aggressive kick out of disappointing you? You need to decide this before the wedding date. If everything else with the relationship really is good and this is your biggest problem, then you should accept the fact that your fiance is just not a special-events person. When you have to hound someone into making a romantic gesture, doesn't that take away the meaning of it, anyway? So, if you want a lovely evening out on your birthday, tell him to mark in his calendar that you're making reservations at the new Italian place for that night. If you ratchet down the pressure and expectations, you'll be happier, and he might even surprise you. That is, if you conclude this is just one of those quirks in an otherwise good relationship.

—Prudie