Thursday, October 27, 2011

In all honesty.......

I had lettuce in my teeth and thankfully C told me while we were in the loo.  Now mind you, she didn’t tell me when we were in the giant luncheon room but at least she told me (and in her defense, she may not have seen it in the darkened room.) I was not the least bit embarrassed (after all, who hasn’t been there?) and I thanked her profusely.

How do you handle those awkward conversations or comments with friends?  Have you ever answered “yes” when a friend asks, “Does this make my ass look huge?”  I have an old friend who once said she self felt it was her “job” to be that brutally honest with her friends and to tell them what they might not necessarily want to hear – even if it was just her opinion (which she felt was perhaps more factual than others.)

Telling a friend something that may be hurtful or even embarrassing is so hard. I try to ask myself, “would I want to know?” and “will knowing this make a difference in what s/he may do?”  Now of course, some of these may be life altering – an unfaithful spouse, a job in jeopardy or a particularly malicious rumor.  I know that someone recently said something to me that was definitely in the realm of inappropriate. I already knew that little nugget (directly from the source) and knew that the subject of that comment would not have wanted it shared.  Will I tell that friend? Probably not. Not because I don’t care but because I won’t repeat it so it’s not going any further. And, because it will cause unnecessary angst. 

But I’m not just talking about a confidence. I’m talking about lettuce in the teeth, toilet paper on the shoe, tags exposed, fat ass – those kinds of social or personal faux pas.  How do you answer those loaded questions like, “Do you like my new hair color?” and “Does this make me look fat?”  Do I want to know? Absolutely. 

I came out of the loo at work one day and was feeling pretty sassy. Lots of people moving around, a few behind me were talking about work. I was half-way to my desk and felt a breeze. Turns out my skirt was caught up in my panties. Lovely. No one said a word and frankly, that’s pretty damn rude.  I’ve gone up to total strangers to let them know of a potentially embarrassing exposure of some sort.  I’ve always been sincerely thanked.

Now, T and I are pretty damn honest. She tells me what works and what doesn’t. It’s not always easy to hear but we share that with humor and kindness. It really is all in the delivery.  Others offer feedback – solicited or not – with slightly less finesse.  One of my sisters will reach out and gently touch my hair saying, “So, that is what you’re doing with your hair these days.”  This is her way of saying, “I hate your hair.”  As you can imagine, this is less well received but all these years of hearing it have built up an emotional callus of sorts.

I’ve had some of those awkward talks. I’ve told a hairdresser that I was very unhappy with what she did to my locks. I was very clear and honest and at the end of the talk she said, “Well, it does seem a little dark and you don’t seem happy,” and then charged me full price. WTF? Needless to say, she lost my business.  I’ve discreetly told friends, co-workers and total strangers that exposure was imminent or underway.  No need to shout it from rooftops or make a public spectacle out of it – just a quick whisper or email. It’s like 21st century Emily Post.

But overall, I’m gentle with my friends. I love that dress and the new style you are trying with your hair.  Those pants are great and I love that top with it.  Your new baby is the most gorgeous thing ever (sigh…they all look like little old men) and hooray for you wearing skinny jeans. They make my ass look huge and do nothing for my thighs. And, I really do mean what I say. If I don’t like it, that is my problem. If they love it and it makes them feel good – more power to them. I refuse to burst that bubble.

Secrets and gossip are a hot commodity. I’ve learned (long long ago) the hard way that paying those things forward will win neither friends nor favor. So now, I’m a vault with a confidence and I know who my fellow vaulters are.

But in the day to day world, where the next embarrassment is right around the corner – I prefer the honest and upfront approach. Discretion and a sense of humor are a must.  Are you that friend? If so, can I sit next to you?

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