The Best Policy

Ann's photoWhen I was about six years old, I desperately wanted a pair of glasses.  And not just any glasses, I wanted  the “cat eye” framed glasses that were so popular at the time.  My older sister had a pair and so did Susan Breneke, who I thought was the coolest kid in the entire first grade.  I wanted those glasses so badly that I actually lied to my mother, telling her that far-away objects looked kind of fuzzy to me.  (My sister had described her vision problems to me in detail, so I knew just what to say.)  Unfortunately, my mom didn’t rush out and buy me a pair of glasses, which is what I thought would happen.  She took me for an eye exam, and I passed with flying colors.  I never did get those glasses.

I’m an adult now, and I no longer believe it telling lies to get what I want.   But there are still times when I think it would be easier to lie than tell the truth, and sometimes I struggle with being completely honest.

For example, I may want to tell a lie in order to spare a person’s feelings.  I know that people do that for me now and then.  When my husband and I are getting ready to go out, I’ll often ask his opinion of my outfit, sometimes even uttering the dreaded question, “Does this make me look fat?”  The closest he’s ever come to saying yes was the time I had just bought a new dress with lots of pleats at the waist and he asked me, “Have you seen the back view?”  Which was his subtle way of letting me know it made my butt look bigger than Cleveland.

Other times, I’ll hedge a little bit on my honest opinion when I’m talking to someone I know holds completely different views from me on a sensitive subject.  I’ve seen so many people become deeply offended, or even enraged, when someone dares to disagree with them that I’ve become a little too cautious in my responses.  There are times when telling the truth is harder than it sounds.

But I also know that I want to live my life as honestly and openly as I possibly can, and that means that I need to tell the truth about who I am and what I believe.  I need to accept the risk that there are going to be people who don’t like what I say or do, and that the loss of those relationships will probably sting, at least for awhile.  But the fear of rejection doesn’t outweigh the value of being true to my real self.

Like my husband, I need to always temper honesty with tact and sensitivity.  Honesty is never an excuse to run roughshod over someone’s feelings.  But handled correctly, telling the truth is actually easiest in the long run.  I don’t have to worry about keeping track of any little white lies I may have told if I always give an honest answer to a direct question.  If I admit to the many embarrassing things I have done in my life, there’s no need to worry about anyone “discovering” them.

And best of all, when I am honest with my friends and family, I know that those who stay in relationship with me like me for who I really am.  Any way you look at it, honesty really is the best policy.

Character Judgement

aunt-mickeyI was watching a show on HGTV the other day, and the couple that was house-hunting described the house they were being shown as a “mid-century modern with good bones.”  They went on to lavish praise on the house’s classic lines, its solid foundation and minimalist charm.  Next they were shown an even older house, which they also liked.  They thought it had tons of potential, and it was described as an “aging beauty” whose creaky floors, cracked walls and and other flaws gave it a “timeless charm and character.”  They couldn’t wait to restore it to its former glory.

And that’s when it hit me.  I want people to judge me by the same standards they use to judge houses.

Think about it.  I was born in 1958, which means that I’m not really old, I’m just a “mid-century modern.”  And I’m sure I have good bones, even if they are covered up by drooping muscles and sagging skin.  My beauty is certainly minimalist, but if you think of me the way you think of a house, then that’s actually a good thing.  Even better, when I’m a bit older, I can look forward to being thought of as an “aging beauty,” whose wrinkles and creaky joints are simply considered charming.  I won’t be old, I’ll just be historic.  And possibly valuable.

If I were a house, people would think that the fact that my bottom half is significantly larger than my top half only meant that I have a “good foundation.”  My age would mean that I was “solidly built” and well put together.  When I approach the make-up counter at a department store, the clerk would be eager to bring out my hidden potential and restore my former beauty, rather than simply recommending a very strong anti-aging cream combined with a really good concealer.

The benefits of being judged by the same standards as a house are many, but if that’s not possible, I can also still think of other alternatives.  These days, trendy neighborhoods abound with vintage clothing stores, and they aren’t especially cheap.  If the same standards were applied to me, I’d be a “vintage” woman, not a middle-aged or old one.   Or I can be thought of as a fine wine, which we all know improves with age.  I like to think that I’m improving as I grow older, even if it doesn’t particularly show on the outside.

I know that judging others is something we all do occasionally, despite our best efforts to the contrary.  It seems to be part of human nature.  But since it’s so easy to see the value in older houses, wine and clothing, I can’t help but think how of nice it would be if we could see that same value in older people….