Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Go Ahead and Tell Acquaintance About Food in Teeth

DEAR HARRIETTE: How do you tell someone you recently met that they have food lodged in their teeth? This dilemma happened to me yesterday with the hostess of a holiday party, and I ended up staying silent. Would I have embarrassed her if I had spoken up? -- Broccoli, Meet Teeth, Cincinnati

DEAR BROCCOLI, MEET TEETH: Put yourself in that person's situation. Wouldn't you want to know that you needed to clean your teeth rather than continuing to engage people all evening -- as host, no less? Of course. That means, under nearly all circumstances, it is a great idea to speak to someone, whether you know the person or not, to indicate that she or he has food stuck in the teeth.

The tricky part is figuring out a discreet way of getting the message across. Attempt to get the person's attention, and use hand gestures to point to the teeth. Ask the person if you can have a private word for a moment. Walk up to the person and deliver the message quietly. If you are sitting across the table from someone, just say "You have food in your teeth." As awkward as it may seem in the moment, trust that it is better to speak up soon to help the person avoid further embarrassment down the line.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My wife hates the band I want to play at a party we're hosting. I have been listening to this band for decades and have even taken her to multiple concerts. I always thought she liked them until she started putting up a huge resistance. She said that she can be subjected to it because she loves me, but that her family shouldn't have to suffer through punk rock music. I can't believe she never told me this before! Does this kill all hopes of my favorite band playing? -- Let Them Boogie, Dallas

DEAR LET THEM BOOGIE: The sad thing here is that in her effort to be supportive of you, your wife didn't create the space for the two of you to have an honest conversation about musical choices years ago. You could have learned a lot about each other's interests rather than experiencing a one-sided musical engagement for so long.

That said, you should thank your wife for being so accommodating for so long. Also, tell her you regret that you did not know earlier, as the two of you may have expanded your musical tastes together. If your wife really is repulsed by your favorite band, you probably shouldn't bring them into your shared life. That is, unless you can import two bands -- one that she likes, and your faves. More important is for you to talk about what your interests are and how you can marry them in the months and years to come.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)