In the eighth grade I went for a haircut and a friend called to ask how it turned out. “I love it! It’s great!” I shared.

When I got off the phone my mom told me it was impolite to be so boastful about one’s appearance. I was raised to be nauseatingly polite, often sacrificing truth for niceties.

“Sure you can have the last chicken wing. (Even though I was about to reach for it.)”

“Yes, I’ll drive you home. (Even though I never go that way and I don’t feel like it.)”

“Absolutely, we can see that movie. (Even though it holds zero interest for me.)”

The problem with all of this harmless lying is this:  I assume you’re all doing it too. I’ve stopped trusting people’s words and developed a habit of Jedi mind-reading situations where TELEPATHIC INSIGHT INTO WHAT’S REALLY BEING THOUGHT AND FELT might be required.

You say:

“I’ll help you pack.”

I hear:

“PLEASE GOD DON’T TAKE ME UP ON THAT.”

You say:

“You’re beautiful.”

I hear:

“You’re not hideous.”

You say:

“You’re funny.”

I hear:

“You scare me.”

You say:

“Dinner is on me!”

I hear:

“You’re an asshole who didn’t think of paying first.”

A special kind of crazy, right? What started out (seemingly) harmless, has become over-the-top dysfunctional.

My own “white lies” make it hard to believe in anything kind and good thrown my way. I was invited to a going away party and EMAILED TO CHECK IF MY INVITATION WAS A MISTAKE.

The mental energy it costs to consider all possible angles is ridiculous. Olympic-level brain gymnastics. In the desert. Wearing wool spandex.

I remember talking to a friend about this. She said her reason for trying to infer meaning came from fear of being made the fool. Looking silly for believing something untrue. Being a burden. I can relate. But… fuck it, man. If I’m going to let you believe I want to give you a ride when I don’t, I’m the asshole, not you.

I want to retire from speaking in the verbal equivalent of a muddled up rubik’s cube. Also, I’m done riddling-out your words. If you ask me out, I’m going to trust you want me there. If you invite my kid for a sleepover and offer to keep her until supper the next day, I’m going to believe it’s because you enjoy her. If I offer you a ride home, I want you to trust I’m cool driving you, because the times I’m not, I’ll say no.

This isn’t going to be easy; I’m a Blue. If you know anything about Colours (one of many personality inventories), you know blues hate to be hurt and hate to hurt (but moreso the BEING hurt). It’s all about feelings and intimacy and connecting and belonging. The thought of having my feelings hurt is so debilitating that I project that same stunted thinking onto you. As if not sharing your taste in movies or being busy when you spontaneously want to hang is SOUL CRUSHING.

“Your beliefs about your stupidity and brokeness run so deep that I don’t even relate, and I feel pretty broken.” This was part of a friend’s recent text message to me. The truth of it whipped around my amygdala like sperm in a petri dish. Being acutely aware of my brokeness makes me dizzy. I don’t want to be broken. And I don’t think I need to be.

I have to be in constant pursuit of health; it’s not one of my natural states.

I sent a new friend a text today: “Let’s start this friendship off right: No guessing. Just mean what we say and trust the other to do the same. If one of us slips up, THE OTHER IS NOT RESPONSIBLE TO TELEPATHICALLY KNOW. Yay for safe places.” She’s game.

I want to be a safe place. I want to say what I mean and worry less about hurt feelings. I want to be okay with being hurt and hurting for for the sake of authenticity. I want to surround myself with people I trust do the same.

I’m 38. It’s time to grow up.

Also: MY HAIR HAPPENS TO BE FUCKING FANTASTIC. Suck it, polite.

“I have learned that I would rather be maladroit, or even rude, than dishonest.” Lying by Sam Harris

“Lying is, almsot by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship. ” Lying by Sam Harris

Shannon Fisher
Author

Shannon has been writing on the web since 1998 when you could make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich before your page loaded. Her work has been featured in print and online and she blogs at truthfully.ca. There, Shannon writes about vulnerability, courage and mental health. Before content strategy, Shannon spent nine years leading classrooms of small humans.

13 Comments

  1. I love your post, Shannon! I also was raised to be very polite (still am), and I totally see myself checking that invitation for being true! I agree with you: a certain degree of directness is very useful! You don’t have to be rude but it is good and healthy to assert onself. And it is something I am still learning.

    • Shannon Fisher

      Thanks, Olga! I’m amazed at all the things I’m still learning. I remember thinking as a teenager people my age must have all the things figured out!

      • Right? I always thoght like this: “When I will be 18, I will be an adult and I will know what to do”. I never did, no matter the age. Loved the test by the way, I am green (which is cool becuase it is a colour I like a lot)! I guess the beauty about life is that we are always learning!

  2. Geez. Welcome to my brain. I am just 40 and only just starting to get my head around this. Loved this post. Thank you.

  3. Tara Wilson

    I can completely relate to this Shannon! Right down to the party invitation. Great post!!!

  4. You really hit it with this one. I have friends and family that I feel I have to dissect “what did she mean by that” all the time. It’s exhausting. I’d way rather have the kinds of conversations that I do with my best friend. “Do you want to do this? Nah, not my thing, but thanks for asking. Okay.” No B.S. And she loves my fabulous hair!

    • Shannon Fisher

      I’m getting better since I wrote this piece, but I still struggle in my most comfortable relationships to just say it!

  5. Amen. I must be a ‘blue’ too. I was raised this way too but lingering effects of all this politeness comes back to haunt in those, “Olympic-level brain gymnastics” as you say, in trying to figure out what everyone’s saying/meaning!

    • Shannon Fisher

      I love the colours personality test. It gave me more information than any of the others I’ve done. Yay for blues! 🙂

  6. Amen. I do not have the energy or personality for that BS. I just cannot hide what I think. I’m not a bitch, but I do like honesty, otherwise, what’s the freaking point? Then we’re all running around lying and doing stuff we don’t want to do and it’s all a sham. Honest, direct, you don’t have to be a bitch to be honest and clear. Just say what you feel and think. Oh, so refreshing. And, it’s OK to like your own haircut for heaven’s sake.

  7. You are talking about me. I’m in my 50s and still live the repercussions of childhood events that have made me extremely sensitive and craving to please others. I can’t seeing that ever ending.

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