Food for thought – I wonder what the world would be like if everyone was brutally, inescapably honest, all the time. Social niceties be hanged, it might be uncomfortable but at least you’d know where you stand.
Last night I mingled with an assortment of pre-divorce-mutual-friends-and-acquaintances, many of whom I’ve had minimal contact with since my personal life went publically nuclear. Everyone was polite and friendly, although in some cases I just wasn’t sure if it was simple public grace. (To be fair, in many, the warmth was noticeably genuine.)
The reality is there are socially acceptable answers to basic questions. When someone says – how are you – for example. They prefer, and expect, to hear, “fine” or “hanging in there” delivered with gaiety, forced or candid – it matters not. It makes people uncomfortable when your response is: “oh you know, the crushing, soul-searing agony of betrayal is a little less oppressive… but I still have some really dreadful days, triggered by the strangest things. And I’m depressed that my marital drama has made my life socially awkward, so I tend to spend a lot of time alone. Oh, and I might drink too much.”
Can you imagine the reaction to that kind of naked honesty? Uncomfortable truths are expected to be dealt only to your bestie in private tête-à-tête, not at social gatherings. Honesty is important to me, especially as the burns of deceit and perfidy are still fresh. But can anyone really make it through the day without a single white lie, no hedging or dishonesty of any kind? We’re not talking profound dishonesty, but lies in the name of social grace…
It starts with the how are you question. We’ve already seen the landmines there. It only gets worse.
- Next comes, oh you got your hair cut – cute!
Oh my goddess, your head looks like a poodle with the mange.
- How about – I sent the check last week.
I’ll write it tonight and back date it in hopes they’re stupid enough to think it got lost in the mail.
- There’s the ever present – no I’m not busy, how can I help?
Thanks for having no respect for my time. I am only operating on a deadline that’s looming frightening close.
- On the choosing of restaurants – I’m not picky, where would you like to eat?
If you suggest that cockroach infested cesspool that you know I hate there will be consequences.
- Your new boyfriend? He seems nice.
If you like narcissistic meatheads.
- On the subject of babies – I’d love to hold him.
Please. No. Babies puke on me. Invariably. He’s cute; you keep him.
- Of course there’s mothers golden rule – if you can’t say something nice, shut it.
You really left the house in that? If you stood on the corner in those shorts you’d likely get propositioned.
- At get-togethers – nice to see you!
I don’t like you and I’m having trouble making convincing small-talk. Can we agree to converse with other people now?
- And the grand poobah of all social lies – it was a pleasure meeting you; sure you can call me.
I just gave you a fake number because I would rather stick myself in the eye with a fork rather than have to spend another minute with you. If I am so unfortunate to run into you again I will pretend I didn’t recognize you.
I know it sounds awful, but you know what – I would actually like to know if my shorts make me look like a hooker or I’ve made a bad hair choice. Please save me from the public humiliation. And if my presence makes you uncomfortable – why are we wasting each other’s time with the banalities of small-talk? Why can’t people cope with this kind of direct honesty?
Unfortunately (or not), the edicts of social correctness are well ingrained. The occasional slips, attributed to being overtired and jacked on caffeine, are graciously, studiously ignored. It’s one of the rules – overlook the faux pas in the moment, but call your bestie later to tell her all about it.
It so happens that today I am over caffeinated and exhausted. Beware of random acts of brutal honesty…