I’ve always had a healthy respect for the Little White Lie. Truth be told (pun totally intended), I’ve found medium and big lies useful on occasion as well. Unrestrained candor is best used judiciously.
I entered adulthood with a long history of fibbing under my belt. I learned early on that telling the truth usually got me in big trouble. Of course that may have had something to do with the thing I’d done wrong in the first place but regardless, the lesson stuck – spilling the beans never turned out good for me, so I had very little incentive to be forthright when I blew it as a kid.
So while I wouldn’t describe myself as a compulsive liar in my teens, it’s fair to say I spent a good deal of time living in the gray areas. It was an effective peace-keeping strategy.
And then I met BrightSide.
I’ve already mentioned how extraordinarily different our upbringings were in a number of ways. Towns. Interests. Attitudes. High school. But I don’t know that I’ve ever truly tried to describe what I can only refer to as BrightSide’s Home Environment.
To get why BrightSide’s upbringing came as such a shock to me, I’ll have to give you some broad strokes from my own. I was raised in a traditional home that fell under the patriarchal authority of my father. It was pretty much a “we’re the parents, you’re the child, here are our rules, no discussion” kind of household. My parents stood as a united front, but when push came to shove it was my dad who took point on laying down the law.
Perhaps the best example of this would be the time I tried putting Sun-In on my hair in a vain attempt at creating highlights. (Important side note: Sun-In was not designed for brunettes, or at least the formula in the ’80s wasn’t. Any minute changes in my hair color after sun exposure were less sun-bronzed and more burnt orange.) At any rate, my most vivid memory from that particular experiment in personal expression was my father’s explicit dictate that as far as he was concerned, my hair was his until I was eighteen and out of his house.
BrightSide’s parents were a bit…unorthodox in their child rearing approach. (He keeps saying he grew up in a “normal” family, but I’m fairly certain if we polled friends from our generation their experiences might disprove that theory.) Overall I guess you could say they believed in parenting with nurturing guidance without enforcing a parent-child hierarchy dynamic. Pretty cutting edge for the time, really.
His mom and dad held meetings so they could get their kids’ input on decisions like family vacations. When there was money left over from a summer trip BrightSide’s parents split it between them with only two requirements: they couldn’t spend it, and they couldn’t put it in a bank account. This was the challenge that kicked off BrightSide’s interest in finances.
They gave their kids an extraordinary amount of independence. When the kids were younger, BrightSide’s parents would let them ride their bikes to the corner store together. BrightSide and his sister went to Europe on a school trip, despite more than a few raised eyebrows about the wisdom of letting them travel overseas when they were only in middle school. And after he got his driver’s license, BrightSide’s mom and dad had no problem letting him visit his sister at college.
Then there’s the matter of communication – the range of topics that have been discussed in that home is staggering. BrightSide’s mother worked as both a school counselor and a nurse, a combination that can only be described as the perfect storm when it comes to (ahem) invasive questioning. (Seriously, the CIA should consider consulting with her on interrogation techniques.)
Nothing is off-limits in that family. N-o-t-h-i-n-g. Sex, drugs, politics, rock ‘n roll…I still remember staring at BrightSide’s mom in horror as she told me how glad she was that we were “of age” since we were crossing state lines for spring break. I have no idea what nonsense I mumbled out loud, but inside my head I was shrieking, “Oh-my-god-you’re-my-boyfriend’s-mother-are-you-talking-to-me-about-SEX?!?”
So you can see how there might have been a bit of a culture shock. Secretive, circle-of-trust girl with privacy issues and a fierce discomfort with frank discussions attempting to acclimate to a free wheeling, no-holds-barred, kids-as-equals family…it took years, people. Years.
Now, after all this time invested in becoming comfortable in my own skin, open and straightforward -after finally being able to catch a curveball like “What’s an orgasm?” without my head exploding – I’ve been bit in the ass by the ultimate irony. It turns out this stupid honesty thing of BrightSide’s can be my kryptonite.
No brainer, throw away questions that would have been easy white lies for me in the past make me stumble now. “Why can’t I sleep over at my friend’s house?” “Why aren’t we going to the party?” “Is Mrs. So-and-So still your friend?”
All simple inquiries that could be quickly brushed aside with a little fib, but now I stutter and stammer and then usually end up telling the truth. Truth that’s often a whole lot stickier than a slick line, which means a lot more work for me in the end.
Sure, the gray areas can be murky. Little white lies (along with the medium and big ones) can pile up and become minefields if you let them get out of hand. But hair-trigger honesty isn’t doing me any favors either.
Looks a little like damned if you do, damned if you don’t to me.