OPINION – The Eleventh Commandment must be: “Thou shalt not hurt thy brothers’ feelings.”
If you want to be a social butterfly, you cannot afford to be unstrategically honest. A phenom must gently cradle others’ frailties – except when throwing an emotional midget under a bus might be perceived as a mercy killing or just dessert.
I am not a social phenom and I am not going to the Valentine’s Day party this year.
An acquaintance asked me what kind of treat I’m bringing to the party – a party to which I have not been invited.
My facial expression obviously sent him to faux pas hell, as I refrained from answering.
“You are going aren’t you?”
Again, I responded with blank expression.
His face bleached out, he knew he had stepped in it. Yet, like a kid reaching out-of-control speed, running down a hill, he blundered on.
“You did get your invitation didn’t you?”
One last deadpan, before I condescended to answer.
I said it quick and clean, like the safety being clicked on a handgun.
“It must have got lost in the mail?”
“Maybe Dorothy (my wife) put it away somewhere ….”
And then I gently squeezed the trigger: “We weren’t invited.”
He took the impact of the round. I let him fish-gasp for a few moments.
“I know why and I’m OK with not going,” I said, breaking the now awkward silence.
It was last year’s party. The hostess asked me how I liked her jalapeño dill marshmallow bunnies and I told her that I didn’t like them at all. I remember she began to ice over and I attempted to redeem myself by telling her I had got them past my eyes, past my nose but just couldn’t get them past my tongue. She said that everyone loved them and she was going to put out another tray. “That’ll teach them,” I had said, groaning palpable sarcasm.
There are ways to avoid fatal bluntness of course. In some situations simple can get you past dishonesty: “That’s a beautiful red rhinestone heart dress you’re wearing,” for example, omitting the “too bad it’s too small for you” part.
Or attach some variation of “bless your heart” to the end of an honest dart and you can make it slide home smoothly: “You should give up cooking and work for the IRS, bless your heart;” or: “She makes Gordon Ramsay look like Julia Child, bless her heart.”
Don’t ask about my run-ins with new mothers looking for oohs and aahs over their new babies. Ignore the lessons I’ve learned from chatting with moms about how smart their kid is – the one she ought to be watering instead of feeding. I can’t teach you about diplomatically responding to somebody’s grandkid pictures – pictures that look like promo cards for carnival freak shows.
Nope. I’m grateful that my name is disappearing from party lists.
Fudging the truth makes life too hard because I have to remember what I said and to whom I said it.
I’m glad Moses dropped the tablet that contained the Eleventh Commandment because I’ll always run afoul of it and end up in hell. The Tenth Commandment is hard enough to keep what with the neighbor’s ox, his wife and his brand new car.
Note to self: Call Ernie and ask if he wants me to gather some grubs out of my garden to take to the say-what-ain’t partiers at the Valentine’s Day party, he can ell them it’s my special recipe of red dirt organic escargot.
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Bruce Solomon is a developing columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and may not be representative of St. George News.
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