I have no one to blame but myself. Years ago, my husband who was not my husband at the time, took me to a Bruce Springsteen concert. It was an amazing experience although it ran very long. I think The Boss played for 4 hours straight: the guy was and still is a musical phenom. So about halfway through the evening, my husband/boyfriend turned to me and said (rather loudly because, of course, the air was vibrating), “You have bad breath.” To me, it seemed like he shouted it.
Cue sound of needle scratching record album.
If I recall correctly, Bruce stopped mid -Thunder Road, wiped the sweat from his brow, looked Barney directly in the eye (even though we were 140 rows back), and said, “Dude, not cool”.
At least, that’s how I choose to remember it.
I popped a stick of gum in my mouth, tuned out Born to Run and Jungleland and began pouting. So I had bad breath. So what? We paid a lot of money to get these less-than-amazing seats and we were having a terrific time and then that. You might say I was too sensitive. You might be right. Keep in mind, I was 20-years-old and insecure and even the smallest slight felt like a huge dig. I don’t remember much after that, except I think I tore through a whole pack of Freshen-Up and then moved on and consumed an entire roll of Certs. I’d show him!
And now here we are 27 years later. I think in all of those 27 years, my husband has told me I have bad breath once. I suppose it’s possible that my meticulous dental hygiene has rendered me unable to harbor breath demons. I find that to be highly unlikely. I think it’s more that Barney would rather succumb to my dragon breath than make the mistake he made years ago. He may be slow at times, but he picked up on that one real quickly.
Unfortunately, Barney’s hands off approach has translated to other areas of my well-being. We were at a party recently, and I was yucking it up with some people I knew. Laughing, feeling confident in my appearance, having a good time. Noticing that dessert was being served, I excused myself to use the restroom. I washed my hands, smiled at my reflection in the mirror and noticed a huge black glob stuck in my teeth. “Ack!” I silently shrieked. How had Barney allowed me to go on and on while half my dinner was on plain view for all to see? What kind of spouse does that? I took a deep breath, yanked my earring out of my ear, extracted the wedge of food, pulled back my shoulders and rejoined the goings on. My only hope was that alcohol had blurred everyone’s vision just as it had clearly done to my husband's.
On the ride home, I mentioned the infraction. “Oh, I seriously didn’t see anything, but even if I had, I wouldn’t have said anything. You know, Bruce Springsteen and all.” I couldn’t see how one followed the other. Besides, that’s why we get married: to have someone in your life who will tell you the truth – most of the time. Of course, I don’t want to hear that my stomach is getting a little poochy, and I don’t want to know that my bottom is sagging. He doesn’t have to cough up that information. There is honesty and then there is honesty.
But what Barney failed to see (besides the hunk of food) is that I am a different person than the one he married. The overly-sensitive person that was me way back when is not me anymore. My skin is thicker, my priorities have changed. I may not like to hear what he has to say, but I can take it. After all, the truth is better than being left Dancing in the Dark.
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