Honesty is the best policy. Except when a girl asks you if she’s put on weight. Or the boss asks for the report that was due three weeks ago. Or when your kid reminds you of the promise you made about playing cricket with him in the afternoon. Or when the cop asks if you overlooked the signal turning red just as you were shooting across. Or when your wife asks if you have been smoking again. Or having a few large ones for that matter. Or when the teacher asks if you have done your homework. Or when the friend who’s worried about her looks asks if you noticed a pimple that’s staring at you.Or when the doctor asks you to recall every symptom and be completely frank. Or when you are asked if the neighbours’ children are cute.
So, we don’t tell lies, we make Beautiful Excuses. They help us and others save face. They make us feel good about our lives and our friends. Just look at the comments on Facebook where people tell each other what a whale of a time they are having. Or about the trip where they seem to be holed up in some nondescript hotel and are really trying to live it up. Or posing for the camera to show how they are ‘bonding’ (how I hate that word) – as if we are strands of glue that need to be stuck to one another. It’s fine to use the word in some abstract academic concept of human relationships but people saying these things in real life is icky.
The other night at a restaurant, there was a group of six young people and they spent all the time taking photographs of themselves to get over the fact they weren’t comfortable with each other. The strange part was that conversation moved in fits and starts. There was no camaraderie, no easy repartee, no resonant silences. There were huge awkward pauses, then somebody would make a random comment, there would be a few seconds of hysterical laughter before a lapse back into complete awkwardness. But the poses looked as if they were ‘bonding’ till kingdom come. Cheek to cheek, funny faces, hats being passed around. Like husbands and wives on the brink of a divorce making a show of being very intimate in public.
We can’t handle the truth if it’s in our face every day. Not in its brutal, unforgiving light. We need the refuge of beautiful excuses. Because we all can’t be beautiful people. The good looking girl in class has lots of admirers. But even she’s insecure the moment someone she likes ignores her. The plain one has to struggle to be noticed. But can she be honest about it? No, she has to make excuses. These guys are losers. They don’t understand the value of inner beauty. And so on. Pretense and maintaining appearances is a part of daily living. The truth won’t set us free. Not with all our imperfections and insecurities.