Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I'm just being honest here

The ability to say whatever comes to mind is not necessarily the best reason to actually say it. I've turned this idea over in my mind for years. Now, in a venue such as a weblog or among groups of close friends, one needn't weigh so very much one's words. Over the years, however, I've discovered the defense of "It's the truth!" or "I'm just being honest" is used as a thin gloss coating for general rudeness and self-aggrandizement.

I don't know why I'm on this particular soapbox today, as nothing in particular has taken place. There is no visible catalyst. I have no person(s) in mind. This is just a freebie, a bit of wisdom, something to be tattooed on the foreheads of generations to come, backwards so they can read it in the mirror each morning.

Just because you think something does not mean you should say it.

There's a corrolary to this, which could merely be embroidered on one's undewear.

Never ask a question to which you really don't want an answer.

Face it, there are questions people ask to which there are no "good" answers, no matter how insightful or honest the person answering may be. Top most in my mind is the perennial favorite "Do I look fat in this?" I've given my husband complete permission to leave the room if those words ever leave my lips. He can't win. If he says "yes" I will be crushed, immediately diving into a muumuu and crawling under the bed, never to see the light of day again. If he said "no" I will not believe him and will watch him closely for signs that he's just trying to get me to shut the hell up. Even a qualified answer of "You never look fat to me" will meet suspicion. There simply isn't an answer to that question I want to hear.

This works on other questions, semi-innocently asked. Just because I order a salad for lunch, saying "Oh, are you on a diet?" is not necessary. Trust me, the many answers I can develop, none of which are as simple as "yes" or "no", are not answers you wish to hear.

Now, back to that "being honest" thing. Absolutely, the ONLY people who should ever have their clothing critiqued directly to their faces are celebrities, because that's the only thing keeping Joan Rivers employed. Celebrities have this as part of their function, and being told "the honest truth" (as opposed to that other kind of truth) is just built in to counterbalance the priveledge of their lives. For the rest of us -- really, not nececssary. Either we know and have no choice, it's all a matter of opinion, or telling us isn't really going to make us change.

And that's the issue. When you tell someone something out of the honest goodness of your wee little heart, there's often another motive at work which will be exposed in its bloody, ugly entirity with just a little analysis. Telling peole they are rude SOBs is only useful if 1) they are capable of seeing the error of their ways 2) they will allow the humiliation 3) they feel the need to make a change. Otherwise, chances are good that those rude SOBs do not agree with your assessment of their behavior, will take a hearty and perhaps violent affront, and will proceed to demonstrate to you just what exemplars of rude SOBness they can be.

Remarking to a shy friend that her new dress makes her look "kinda slutty", saying "Hey, your die job almost covers all the roots" or "that tooth bleaching really made a difference" serves no purpose except to crush the delicate lily of her soul and make the speaker feel superior. Very often, words of "honesty" are spoken for the sole and exclusive purpose of raising the speaker to a higher social strata by creating a pile of mangled bodies upon which to climb.

I am as subject to the stones and arrows of "honest" words as anyone else, but I find that a little analysis (once I've recovered enough composure to make it) can often save me from complete humiliation. I'm not necessarily a great wit (although I have moments), but the simple reply of "Does it make you feel better about your flaws to point mine out publicly? So happy to serve." can often be quelling, and once rehearsed requires no thought to slam out. When that is not sufficiently satisfying, a pleasant smile and a reverse compliment often does the trick. "Does this dress make me look slutty? I really liked the style on you" or, more directly "Well, no more taking fashion cues from you, dear!"

Better off not to even have the verbal sparing. Except for those poor souls who will take damage to last them the rest of their lives from the self-aggrandizing words of unthinking companions, most people aren't going to change anyway. Why waste the breath? After all, there are defenseless celebrities to scourge!

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