Sunday, September 27, 2009

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say...Come Sit By Me

Have you seen previews for that new movie The Invention of Lying? It looks hilarious and has a star-studded cast, as they say. The premise is that no one in the world lies. They just tell the ugly truth bluntly all the time. I saw a preview where a waiter walks up to their table in a restaurant and says, "I can't believe I work here. You're pretty. Too pretty for your date. Can I take your order?"

Sometimes it's good to lie. "No, you don't look fat in that." "Yes, I did all my homework." "I'm sorry." (Isn't the worst when someone says - "I'm sorry you think that" or "I'm sorry you're upset" Empty apologies are infuriating!)

And sometimes, you just wish you could tell the absolute truth with zero consequences.

Sometimes I'm too honest, and sometimes not honest enough. I guess that's a fence most of us straddle delicately. As I've said before, I'm not good at fighting. After a fight with someone, I usually kick myself for the dozens of things I should have said but didn't. I think of great comebacks and snarky zingers that I didn't think to say or maybe didn't have the guts to say. Probably the latter. And I always take things personally, even when someone I don't like doesn't like me or when someone says something that I know isn't true, it hurts.

There are people I know and have known that I sometimes have the urge to tell the truth to. "When you said that, it really hurt me." "I think the real reason you're upset about this is that you have dangerously low self-esteem." "The reason I stopped talking to you was because I think you're a bad person."

You can't say these things. I mean, some people do, but most of us who want to keep our friends keep our mouths shut. The classic example, I think, is when you don't like your friend's boyfriend/girlfriend. You keep your mouth shut because you hope your friend will figure it out on their own and you want to keep the friendship. Any story I've heard about someone being honest about whether or not they like the person their friend is dating has ended badly.

That's happened to me a few times, though I never ended a friendship over it. No one liked the Awful Ex because he always acted like such a jackass and a few of my friends had the unfortunate experience of actually seeing one of his temper tantrums. Not a good way to win them over, buddy. I did date one guy that a lot of my friends liked, but, not so much. She only expressed her disapproval once, but that was all it took.

See, the truth is that rather than being bold and honest, I actually clam up. I made a point not to talk to her about him because I knew I'd never get a fair audience.

One of my good friends just got engaged (yay!), and a week ago, she and her fella were in NYC visiting friends. One night, they went out with his sister and one of her good guy friends...who happened to be an ex. There were a few other people there, but at the end of the evening, her friend started hitting on her boyfriend's much younger sister. Creepy. She pulled him aside politely and said it was making her uncomfortable. He said no problem, then stepped up his game by rubbing the sister's back, playing with her hair, whispering into her ear.

They ended up leaving the bar, and she decided her friend was an asshole. He was obviously trying to upset her, which friends just don't do, so that's that. She said, "Maybe because I'm dating ____ right now and he's so great, and that's why I never saw it before, but I think my ex might actually just be a bad person." She decided rather than have it out with him, she'd just stop talking to him.

Maybe that's why I didn't respond to the Awful Ex's stupid email. Maybe that's why I moved out instead of fighting again with that terrible girl in college. Maybe that's why I gave up on a friendship in DC a few years ago. We should only share our lives with good people, we should put in effort where it's reciprocated, and we should weed people out of our lives who don't deserve to be there.

Sometimes we don't say things because it's just not necessary. Sometimes we don't start a fight because we already know the ending. Sometimes keeping your mouth shut is better than using the best zingers anyone could ever think of. And maybe that's what distinguishes the good people from the rest.


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