Many many years ago, there was a group of young girls on a school bus trip from New York City to Washington, DC. The girls were giggling as seventh graders are wont to do. The boys sat nearby acting annoyed but trying to figure out which girl liked them. Those were the years of wonder. Ah, so sweet. Those were the days of mean girls. Have they never been such days? It is not just a phenomenon from the age of social media. Although, most assuredly social media has made mean girls even meaner with a wide arsenal at their disposal. Back to the giggling girls on the school bus. They were excited to be on their first trip to another city without their parents. Sure it was a geeky trip to a bunch of museums. That didn’t matter to them. The excitement was palpable. They started snapping photos of each other. Not a ton as film was precious. Then they all saw it at once. There on their friend’s cheeks was some snot. The eyes flickered throughout the group and one took a photo of that friend. She didn’t know she had snot on her cheek and she posed enthusiastically for the photograph. No one said anything.
Now fast forward to a decade or so later. All those girls are now in the workplace; some in positions of power. All carrying lipstick, blush and a mirror in their handbags. None would be pleased if someone were to take a photo of them if they had snot on their cheek. Most assuredly such an incident would not occur currently. Or would it?
One of the girls, now a woman, met a rather odd colleague who often said crazy things just to say them. Unlike others, she was amused by such craziness. Then one day he said something profound. He noted that he loved his wife because “she was the only one that would tell me if I had wax falling out of my ears.” I laughed. That was gross. I laughed some more. Then I nodded. It was a good reason as any to love someone. I mean, who dares to tell you that you look horrible or gross? Someone that cares, right? I once ran up to a woman who was walking down a New York subway platform with half of her dress up in her underwear. No one had bothered to tell her. I ran and let her know. She was mortified but grateful and mortified. Wasn’t it a good thing that I did?
Then there are the endless lunch meetings I have to attend. Why must meetings involve food? So much food? I like food. I am a foodie. However, lunch meetings can be dreadful. I once found myself eating a horribly dry red velvet cake just to keep busy and entertained. My stomach hated that business lunch partner thereafter. I hate even more when people order a salad. I love salads but I try to keep that a secret as I have a reputation for eating rich, fatty foods. My street cred would markedly decrease if people found out I eat about 3-4 salads a week. Occasionally, however, I do want one at lunch. Here is the problem, though. Salads, inevitably, get stuck in your teeth. A piece of lettuce or a sprout like to find their home wedged in between your teeth. It happens to everyone. Sometimes, the salad dressing drips down people’s cheeks. It may seem like I eat with totally uncouth people. That is not the case. It is just what happens.
Question is how to handle that moment when that business colleague clearly (for all to see) gets food stuck in their teeth. Obviously the nice thing to do is to let the person know. But it can be so awkward. The again, it can be complete non-matter if one lets the person know matter-of-factly and just move on in the conversation. Yet, that scene from Pretty Woman sticks in my head. You know that scene where Julia Roberts’ character is embarrassed to be caught flossing her teeth by Richard Gere’s character? There is something intimate about flossing or brushing one’s teeth. Or it can be according to Pretty Woman.
The truth is I just want to have a good meal. I won’t be rude and not let someone know when they get items caught in their teeth. However, I did see such a scene at another table across the way a few days ago. I just shook my head and thought “there is no love lost there.”