Can You Handle The Truth?

Mar 20


Can you even TELL the truth?

Jack Nicholson didn’t think so in A Few Good Men. And who are we to argue with Jack?

The truth is that in our brave new world of alternative facts, no one looks fat in those jeans, every child is a genius, every dog is adorable (Or is it the other way around?), and everything you serve your guests is the best Whatever It Is You Cooked that they’ve ever had in their whole lives.


What would happen if people, you included, started telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but? Total chaos. Hostility. Wars. A Prozac Nation. Wait a minute. We already have all that. I guess it would just get worse.

Sometimes the truth is the easiest—and the hardest —way to go. Easy, because you don’t have to make anything up or remember what you made up. Hard, because, well you know. It would hurt someone. Possibly you!

We get incredibly good at avoiding the truth, not exactly lying, but not dealing with reality either. My favorite is the use of the word “interesting” especially when applied to art. Sometimes it is just that, interesting. But sometimes. . .

It’s a cop out.

But where would we be without cop outs? In a mess. I’ve already told you that. Please pay attention, people.

In one of my favorite movies, The Big Chill, Jeff Goldblum poses this idea to Tom Berenger:

Jeff: I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.

Tom: Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.

Jeff: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?

Substitute “little white lie” for “juicy rationalization,” and you get the picture, so to speak.

But back to lying. What’s a basically honest person to do? Forget about habitual liars and certain persons currently in high office. We’re talking about us the people —grammatically correct, but so awkward sounding. Sorry about that.

Here’s a little quiz I just made up. Don’t bother taking it because I won’t know if you’re lying or not.

Is it okay to lie in any or all of these situations?

1. You really really don’t want to do something, and you make up an excuse. Or, you say you “can’t make it,” which is not exactly a lie. If you went, it would cause you deep psychological distress, so you “can’t” make it.

You’re not buying this, are you? All right, on to the next one.

2. Someone has cooked something for you that you don’t like. Love me some homemade food, but sometimes, not so much. You do not, never, ever, want to discourage people from cooking for you, unless, of course, they are notorious for being terrible at the culinary arts or have been convicted of serial poisonings. So what do you do? Is it okay to lie? I have no idea.

3. You are asked to read something and it is, frankly, dreadful. Big problem. When I was in publishing, I wrote what I call the “editorial sandwich letter,”  first pointing out what’s good about it (There must be something!), then making a lot of suggestions, and ending with a positive point that you pull out of your derriere.

Quick! Before you jump to conclusions! Anyone reading this who has sent me anything to review is NOT in this category. I swear I’m not lying, although I wonder how far can you trust me at this point.

These days, people mostly ask me to review their applications to college or graduate school, and I am blown away by how articulate they are. I make a few suggestions and have no need to lie. Phew! And if there is something I really don’t like, I’m honest, because I want them to get in to that school. I also admit that when it comes to critiquing poetry, I wouldn’t know an iambic pentameter if it bit me in the rear end.  It’s easy to be honest in these situations.

So let’s try something harder: What if your girlfriend/wife/boyfriend/husband/significant (or even insignificant) other really DOES look fat in those jeans?

I guess it depends. On lots of things. Like whether you want to live or not.  Or whether the person is armed with a sharp instrument. Or, and this is one I find useful, whether it’s too late  to do anything about it. If you’re about to leave, and you’re late anyway, the jeans (or whatever) are just fine.

“Fine” is a relative word, right? Safe with that.

But what if there is time to change? And it really isn’t fine. And that muffin top has gotten seriously out of control. What then? Suggest not tucking in the top? Say the color is flattering? (Is weaselly sometimes wise?) Is this a time when a “little white lie” is not only justified but kind?

I wonder, dear readers, what you’d do, and what euphemisms  you use to get around the (Gasp!) truth.

And most important . . . I’d like to know what you think of my blog?

Tell me! I can take the truth. And if you believe that . . .





  1. “deep psychological distress” – Wait, your question just caused that.
    I just posted a quick post about liars. I didn’t dive into it much. I’ll write this off to both of us being exposed to the same sad national news.

    • I didn’t consciously write this in response to all the lying that’s been going on in the public arena, and was thinking more of the “do I look fat in these jeans” situations, but the bigger picture must have been on my mind. Thanks for pointing this out. I’ll check out your post.

  2. Over the years, I have discovered that people handle the truth rather well. We may feel uncomfortable telling the truth anticipating an adverse reaction. But once the truth is told, we then discover that there was no adverse reaction. Also consider the alternative. Frequently, the cover-up lie sounds like a cover-up lie and one’s reputation is then tarnished – the “white lie” simply was not worth it.

    For example, I can say “Really Pat, the last part of the second paragraph of this blog could use some additional commas” and Pat would not mind at all, right Pat? AHH Pat, is that right 🙂

    • I not only not mind, I’m flattered that you read it so carefully! However, comma, you need to be more specific when telling the truth, because, comma, as you know, comma, bloggers are very sensitive souls and are serious about punctuation. And some of us like commas more than others.

  3. Great one, Pat.

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