I Don’t Love You, and That Dress Sucks
“The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind”
If you reach your hypothetical hand into the big bag of proverbial sayings, you’ll quickly come across one that takes what’s hailed to be the purity between people and simplifies it to pain. And truly, it’s a saying we know all too well. For only one thing out there can confirm all your fears and extract your insecurities only to pound your head in with them. One trait specifically of humanity, for I challenge you to find me an animal that cries to its dearest friends about a bastard cheating husband, has the ability to turn denial (it’s not just a river in Egypt!) or ignorance into the most frightening thing since an Olsen Twins movie. That thing, which affects each and every one of us on a daily basis, is truth. For as the saying goes, “The truth hurts.”
But please, don’t get all bent out of shape. The truth certainly is a wonderful thing, and I’m a big cheerleader for honesty. Yet when I discuss the painful truth, I can’t help but think of a situation that contradicts on nearly every step, has been explored on innumerable levels, and still manages to maintain a lingering question-mark when it comes to sincerity: relationships. Really, what other circumstance calls for honesty, but in the grand scheme, doesn’t receive it nearly as much as it should? Politics have created a foundation upon lying, and many businesses have built themselves into conglomerates through a chain of large fibs. But relationships? You’re supposed to be completely honest in a relationship, right?
When I started thinking about all of this, the first question that came to mind was if it healthy for a relationship if the people involved are one hundred percent honest with each other one hundred percent of the time. Thus, I went around and posed to a large variety of people just that inquiry, almost all of which came back with the same intriguing answer. They all began by stressing the importance of truth, and why each and every one of them would eagerly be the poster-boy (or girl) for honesty. Yet after the truth had been sufficiently praised, nine out of ten followed their statement up with BUT, and told me exactly why honesty isn’t always so fantastic. A few even went as far as to say that a little white lie is required to keep a relationship alive sometimes.
So, just what is wrong with honesty in relationships? If one were to enter the world of give-and-take with someone that has a mutual fancy for them, it would seem to be best to always be as forward as possible with one another. For each side of the relationship has to be comfortable with their partner, and nobody’s comfortable with someone who’s lying to them.
Shakespeare wrote that “When my love swears that she is made of truth, I do believe her, though I know she lies.” Good ol’ William understood the unspoken truth; that which is comprised of two people lying to each other, both knowing full well that they’re being lied to. For if you know you’re being lied to, the lie is no longer a biting escape from reality. Yes, it certainly does avoid fact, but it gave William and his love the option of both knowing the truth and living the more appealing lie. For our favorite playwright, the lies were on the table while the truth was told under it as a discreet game of footsie. An extreme case, certainly. Yet in a way, every relationship visits this formula.
Especially when she puts on a tight dress and asks, “Do I look fat?”
Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once noted that people subconsciously choose whom they go to for advice based on the kind advice they want. If you know anything about a person, you’re going to know what kind of advice they’re going to give for a certain situation. Therefore, if their advice is what you’d like to hear, you’ll go to them so they’ll impart upon you what you already know they will. If you want to hear something different than what one person is going to tell you, you’ll come crawling to another who you know will give you the direction you desire to be set in. What this all leads up to, of course, is that a woman knows she’s going to hear that she’s not fat when she asks her significant other. That’s why she asks.
But God bless the man who has the courage to tell her she put on a few pounds.
Feeling comfortable with a partner is, at times, more important than being honest with them. Yes, the painful truth might point out what someone knew all along (“yes, honey, you’re busting out of there!”), and ignite some kind of change, but does someone really always want to be insulted when they ask such things? Honesty, in this case, is imparted by good friends and disliked relatives. For when that tight dress is about to be ripped apart under the pressure of a weight-watcher program gone awry, a partner should just be supportive. A cushion, if you will, that one can rest their weary head and escape reality for a bit.
It doesn’t stop at the result of a few extra Twinkies, though. What of the too-often-used saying, “Oh, honey, you’ll do WONDERFUL!,” uttered right before your significant other, the same person who peed themselves in high school public speaking classes, shuffles off to make an ill-prepared speech in front of the company president and their mindless loyalties? Don’t forget the time you’ll be choking down an over-salted meatloaf surprise that your partner slaved over all day, as they sit there with folded hands in anticipation of your delighted face. This is no time for an honest “I’d rather eat my own foot.” This kind of situation calls for a forced smile, an honest-sounding “Mmmm!,” and a silent prayer that next week doesn’t bring Grandma’s old recipe for pot roast.
What we seem to be heading towards here are lies that maintain a nice comfort level, so that the two people involved will feel like they can go to each other with all kinds of bad situations, awful feelings, shaky ideas, and insecurities. For what they’ll find is a hug, a shoulder to cry on, a hearty smile, and an over-all pillow to rest their soul. Which, many times, is just what someone needs.
But then there are those times that a lie isn’t going to save any relationship. In fact, this lie is going to abruptly end the relationship, but it still better than the truth. Here’s my example: A girl, who has been involved with a boy for over a year and a half, goes on vacation. On this sabbatical from normal life, she meets another boy, and as movies have portrayed to no end, quickly falls in love with him. Upon her return home, her ecstatic boyfriend embraces her and tells her how much he had missed her. She, in return, tells him she found someone else.
She certainly told the truth, and her boyfriend has a very good understanding of why this relationship just disappeared, but was that truly necessary? If you’re going to cheat on someone, you might as well not completely crush them. Save agony-inducing news flashes for someone you hate. For really, nothing can bring on a quicker whirlwind of emotions sprinkled with inadequacy, jealousy, anger, and depression faster than news of the such. In this case, honesty definitely isn’t the best policy. Instead, a little white lie might just do more good than the truth.
Don’t go telling them that you’re still in love with them, however. If you’re going to lie, lie in the right direction.
Thus we’re lead into over-truth, which is really where “one hundred percent honesty” falls short of its idealistic ring. Over-truth comes with no tact, for it is completely brutal candor. And deny it all you’d like, but nobody wants to hear unfiltered frankness. With the lack of tact, a simple “Honey, you look nice!” turns into “You’re not looking as fat today!” Over-truth offers a road map for everything that ever bothered you, every time you’ve thought someone hasn’t looked as pleasant as they thought, and every inappropriate comment that we all think to ourselves on occasion. Most people, of course, have enough problems with telling the truth as it is. But after a couple downed bottles of grampa’s old cough medicine, you’d be surprised how much over-truth is spilt.
Over-truth makes people feel uneasy, and it destroys that comfort level that was so cleverly set up by Shakespeare. If a significant other were to lovingly rub one’s arm for a while, only to be met with the truth that the rubbing gets aggravating after a while, what would they do? They would be uncomfortable rubbing your arm, and would probably never do it again. Bring that out to a larger scale, and you are no longer getting home cooked meals, getting asked advice, getting a pre-screening of the evening’s attire, being the one to cry to when things go wrong, and so on. Sometimes the truth really just makes people feel a little bad. And if the truth is given without tact, then it’ll make people feel downright miserable. This isn’t what you want in a relationship. As great as it is to be truthful, over-truth is probably the quickest way to piss someone off.
To make an understatement, truth is a very pleasant thing. But moreover, relationships are based on trust. And when it comes down to it, trust just isn’t always based on truth. When I tell you that one hundred percent honesty isn’t healthy for a relationship, I’m not saying to start lying about what really important. Because, really, is it that important if that meatloaf you just consumed is calling for a bottle of Pepto Bismol? These are the kinds of lies that just make things more comfortable for both parties involved. It a little brush with bliss. And the result? To quote Shakespeare once more, “Therefore I lie with her and she with me / And in our faults by lies we flattered be.”