(How) should I try to rehab a bad kisser?
October 4, 2019 11:23 PM   Subscribe

I had a first date yesterday. Dinner conversation was good, kisses afterwards were double plus ungood. Halp?!

When we walked around after dinner, he kissed me a couple of times, once on the walk and once when he dropped me off at my car. He had horrendously bad breath; I mean, truly awful, like I wonder if something is wrong with his digestion rather than that he just needs a good tooth brushing. He also shoved his tongue into my mouth immediately without any lip kissing to speak of. The combination of bad breath and giant unwelcome tongue actually made me gag the second time and I cut the kiss short. I am not sure whether he picked up on my reaction or not. I'd already said I needed to get home and we were right by my car.

He later texted me asking for a second date. I am a middle aged lady but feel like a silly schoolgirl because I just don't know how to deal with this. I've been avoiding answering his text but I don't want to be one of *those* people. I suspect this should be a red flag, but then maybe I'm not giving him enough of a chance? If it is a red flag, what should I say? Should I make vague references to chemistry? Should I be any level of honest? If it might not be a red flag, what should I do to try to fix his breath and kissing style?

Has anyone dealt with a similar situation and did you feel in retrospect that you made the right decision? Any tales of bad kissers who were or were not fixable?
posted by nirblegee to Human Relations (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, you didn't really speak to this, but did you want to kiss him? Did he seem attuned to your desires and boundaries? Because from reading your account, it sounds like he wasn't. And like he wasn't even very aware of what was happening for you or maybe even that you might have boundaries, which to me is definitely a red flag. In other words, was he practicing good consent?

It also sounds like you're open to the possibility of going on another date with him, which is also important to notice. In your shoes, I would ask myself: assuming that those issues can be dealt with, would I want to kiss him again?

In terms of giving him feedback on kissing, that can definitely be sensitive subject. One approach that I think is great is to make it flirtatious and say something like, "Let me show you how I like to be kissed." If he doesn't respond well to that, well, I think the combination of 1) bad kisser and 2) bad at receiving feedback is for sure a red flag.

I'm not sure what advice to give about the bad breath--you might just need to have a frank, awkward conversation about that piece. If you decide you want to go out with him again, that is.
posted by overglow at 11:35 PM on October 4 [4 favorites]


If you go on another date even if you say something there is a chance that you might wind up experiencing that a second time. Does that sound like something you could live with? To me it would be a hard no. So are you looking to see if you're "allowed" to say no or how to say no in general? Because I don't think you need to say anything other than what you would usually say.
posted by bleep at 11:58 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


Yeah no. Any guy shoving anything during the very first time you kiss is going to be a boundary crossing terrible lay. You want someone who is flowing with what you want and where you are at. You don’t want someone deciding what he wants and just Doing It. A first date is your very best behavior. It will get worse from here.

I would respond that while dinner was pleasant, you just aren’t feeling it enough to go on a second date.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:19 AM on October 5 [29 favorites]


As a general rule, if you are wondering if something is a red flag about sex - it’s a red flag about sex.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:21 AM on October 5 [8 favorites]


The way you describe his breath makes me think he has bad dental hygiene and is now old enough to have the corresponding gum issues. This is something that can only be addressed through extensive dental care. It’s not a brush and breath mint thing. It would be a deal breaker for me if, immediately upon meeting and having one date with them, I’d have to address a potentially serious medical issue with the corresponding awkwardness.

And, that’s only one of the red flags here.

I’d say no thank you.
posted by quince at 12:44 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


I think if his kissing made you gag, which it did, that's all the info you need. He is middle aged with horrendous breath and is a bad kisser on top of that. These are his problems to address, not yours to worry about after one date. And they are definite red flags. You could wish him luck, but you're sorry, you're just not feeling a second date.
posted by fourpotatoes at 2:19 AM on October 5 [11 favorites]


I think if you enjoyed his company, give it one more chance. His bad breath could have been a one time thing or maybe he has a tooth infection. Two, in terms of the aggressive tongue action, if he tries it again, just explain that high school is over, way over, and you much prefer the soft gentle touch. Either he catches on or he doesn't. I would make the decision to bail or not after one more date. If he is still the same, just tell him you are not feeling the chemistry and move on.
posted by AugustWest at 2:32 AM on October 5 [6 favorites]


Honey. You do not have to fix him. This was at best a mediocre date. He was clueless and boorish. Give him your best wishes and let him go. It will not get better and could get unpleasant fast.
posted by LaBellaStella at 3:56 AM on October 5 [22 favorites]


I feel like people are being a little harsh. Maybe he did eat something that gave him bad breath.

I also think there are differences is kissing styles. I've definitely experienced full tongue initial kiss dudes vs lip to increasing open mouth. This has not tracked to pushiness emotionally or in bed.

If the emotional connection showed a lot of potential, I'd see him again!

You can change his kissing style by saying, hey, I really like this type of kissing, can I lead for a minute? You can also just slowly start pushing more lip action on him. I also wonder if this kissing style happens when someone has really thin lips or is with someone with thin lips. If there has been a lip mismatch. But I don't know.
posted by Kalmya at 4:22 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


First observation: bad breath on the level you describe is not fixable by non-professionals (and often not even by them), and certainly not by second-date persons.

Second observation: it's not so much his kissing style but his poor sense of timing and bad reading-the-room [ha] skills that seems to be an issue here (I mean: with a nice-breath guy and a few weeks down the road, maybe a bit of tongue won't be all that bad). So the point here, that stuff has already happened and thus isn't fixable.

I would interpret all this as the universe clearly showing you something about this dude that conversation alone wasn't able to show. Write him a short and polite note of no thanks and move on. Don't provide any details: smooth surface, provide no foothold for further exchanges.
posted by Namlit at 4:22 AM on October 5 [6 favorites]


I have reformed bad kissers. "No tongue, sweetie. Not so quickly."

If they're a keeper, then they can take feedback and adjust. Some people are just insecure nervous kissers who try to imitate television.

Bad breath is a bit more difficult. But you can see if that was a one off with a second date.
posted by frumiousb at 5:15 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


He also shoved his tongue into my mouth immediately without any lip kissing to speak of.

Hard no. Such, such, such a red flag. As another middle-aged dating lady, my personal experience has been that men who are currently 45-65 years old are the worst in terms of entitlement with women (social, sexual, financial, etc.). Their formative years were the late '60s - late '80s. Too young to have grown up when a certain level of "respect toward women" was taught and expected. Too old to have benefited from re-education and messages around consent, rape culture, and women's social & sexual parity. I have found it more humane to date younger or not at all, but of course YMMV.

As for what to respond to him: "Thanks but I'm not interested in another date. Good luck!" The only time I recommend 'honesty' and 'educating' the guy is when you feel sure you can disengage from what he might do next (anything from rage texting back at you to becoming a puppy who uses your guilt that you said anything to make you feel bad and keep attending to him.) If you're just getting back to dating, I suggest thinking about what some of your own red flags will be, before you encounter them. We have been trained to ignore them.
posted by cocoagirl at 5:45 AM on October 5 [21 favorites]


This guy can either be a project for you to reform which will probably take months/years, or a near miss that you avoided in order to get on with your life. This is the first date and you already have a clear indication of what it's going to look like if you stick him out. Are you really interested in being this guy's mentor/tutor/mother to fix his shit so that he might ascend to acceptable at some point in the unknowable future?

I'm thinking NOPE.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:24 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


I suspect this should be a red flag, but then maybe I'm not giving him enough of a chance? If it is a red flag, what should I say? Should I make vague references to chemistry?

It took me awhile to learn this, but: you really don't have to give people a chance. If there are one or two good things about the date but several bad things or if overall I'm just not into them, that is enough to not go forward with them.

What to say: Text something like, "Hey, I enjoyed dinner the other night and getting to know you a bit, but I'm just not feeling a romantic connection. Take care and good luck with [something coming up that you two talked about]!"

You don't say if this is online dating situation or not, but if so, politely telling someone you're just not feeling it after the first date is 100% normal and par for the course and totally not something to feel bad about. I mean, that's true in IRL dating too, but it is extra true in online dating.
posted by aka burlap at 6:34 AM on October 5 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the varied perspectives. It may sound goofy, but it helped to have several folks absolving me of responsibility for fixing him. I just texted him a no thanks saying I didn't feel chemistry. I know I did the right thing because I feel relieved. Yes, it was an online date (okcupid). Yes, he's in that age range (59). Alas and alack, I am 46 and am essentially never interested in men younger than me.
posted by nirblegee at 6:50 AM on October 5 [26 favorites]


Good for you. Looking back on it, all the times I was wondering “should I give this bad kisser another chance?” were really me wondering “should I go out again with a guy I should like on paper but who I just don’t.” Because somehow even the most inept kiss from a guy I really like doesn’t strike me as “bad” in that “oh nooooo” way.
posted by sallybrown at 7:14 AM on October 5 [10 favorites]


i have never been able to reform terrible kissers and even putting up with them bc i was otherwise very physically attracted to them was a waste of my time bc the kissing was so repellent, and it was extremely indicative of their overall personalities. like having an entire dead trout thrust into one's mouth in the midst of its traumatic death throes. god. why.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:28 AM on October 5 [10 favorites]


Do you have your age ranges set to 35 or so? I’m the same age as you and have had better luck with men a bit younger. I’m wondering if you’ve gone on a few dates with younger guys?
posted by bluedaisy at 8:35 AM on October 5


FWIW, I'm a woman in my late thirties, and I'm friends with a lot of men a decade or two older than me who very much do "get it" when it comes to rape culture, #metoo, toxic masculinity, white privilege, etc. It's not a function of age, per se, it's a function of being able to pay attention to changing cultural norms and to adapt alongside them. I'd say that sort of adaptability is in and of itself an essential quality in a partner. It says a lot about their capacity to be adaptable to you as (if the relationship continues & flourishes) your lives intertwine and you begin having to negotiate making [healthy, positive] compromises with one another.
posted by tapir-whorf at 9:51 AM on October 5 [11 favorites]


It's not necessarily bad dental hygiene-- it could be tonsil stones or a sinus infection, or a number of other medical conditions, diabetes or digestion-- or he may have eaten something bad. To immediately jump to, 'he probably has periodontitis and can't be reformed from that,' is a bit unforgiving, given we don't know unless you want to try again and see.

But do you? Forced tongue is ooky...like on a first date? It feels like he was really trying to push your boundaries, and I find that off putting personally. But as others have said, younger people tend to push a makeout style of kissing, I find, so it's not necessarily a red flag... maybe just a yellow one. But the important question is, how into him are you that you wanna try reforming him? Did you really click or otherwise get along? I'd go with your gut. If the bad kiss was a blight on an otherwise incredible date then sure, give him another chance. But I suspect it was an awful end to a 'not bad' date, and in which case, maybe not worth trying again. I feel like you don't wanna see him again. And if the bad kiss was enough to make a great date bad, that's ok you know. Sometimes stuff like that can ruin your first impression of someone and there's no coming back from that. And if that's the case, don't feel bad. You have this internet stranger's permission to let things go.

But to answer the actual question. I reformed my SO of his 'bad' kissing (not sure if it was 'bad' per se... we had different styles of kissing) by just literally telling him his kisses were too forceful (he almost bowled me over) the first time we kissed. I just stopped him and said, 'hey, slow down, I'm not used to being kissed so intensely,' And then just asked him for more gentleness and less tongue, and it worked. I tried to make it lighthearted more than a reprimand, but he never did it again. I think his exes were more 'make out' style kissers than me, so that was part of it too. Mine's a unique case maybe, but, if someone truly likes you, they shouldn't be too put/off embarrassed if you just tell them how you like to be kissed.
posted by Dimes at 12:40 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


if you already kissed a guy, there's no such thing as a "vague" reference to chemistry! it is as specific as can be. if you message him Thanks for the date, I had a good time talking to you but I don't think we (have chemistry/are a good match/felt a spark/ etc.) that means I didn't like kissing you. no other interpretations.

is it possible someone this bad at kissing will also be bad at understanding simple messages? sure. but teaching him tact and subtext is even more of a chore than teaching him kissing, and no more your job.

somebody who makes one simple easily explained correctible error can be corrected gently, sure. like if he ran off to brush his teeth before kissing you and used cinnamon toothpaste and you hate the faint aftertaste of cinnamon, could you tell him that? Absolutely! could you expect him to change that one small thing for you? fuck yes you could!

but can you tell a man he's viscerally physically repulsive and expect him to fix it? no. that is not a kissing style, that is a kissing identity. leave him to it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:35 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


I have never regretted turning down a second date in this instance. I have regretted every single time I didn't listen to myself and went on the date.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:43 AM on October 7 [2 favorites]


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