Saying What We Mean

As part of a 30-day rail trip around America last May/June, I couch-surfed in Los Angeles for a night. I was staying with a 30-year-old woman in North Hollywood whose boyfriend was out of town – he didn’t particularly want her to host while he wasn’t there so I ended up talking on the phone with the girl, Jessica, for almost an hour while I was in Balboa Park in San Diego trying to convince her that, no, I wasn’t likely to rape her, kill her, or rearrange all her furniture while she wasn’t looking.

Sometimes I just can't help myself.
(image courtesy of smoMashup_)

She agreed to let me stay, and a few days later I met her and after taking me out to dinner, taking me to her amateur dramatic group in a library, and then out to a couple trendy Hollywood bars, we ended up sitting on the floor in her apartment talking at great length about life and love and spirituality. I don’t recall much of what was said other than what I managed to write in my journal the next day, but I do remember one thing quite clearly.

The exact wording has long since been lost but she spoke passionately about how confusing we all are to each other in terms of saying how we feel, expressing what we want, and how we should just lay the facts down straight as early as possible. She spoke with regards relationships but it could equally be applied to almost any social interaction – telling a friend you’re sorry you couldn’t make it to a party when actually you just didn’t want to go; lying to your doctor about how much you’ve been drinking; even bragging online to strangers about how many times you’ve jacked off in a public toilet.

Sometimes we gain something out of lying or avoiding the question, but she was adamant that no relationship, however fleeting or platonic, should be based around anything other than complete honesty. As a prominent spokesperson for Amnesty International in Southern California and as a very spiritual person, perhaps such a mindset should come as no surprise. I agree with her in principle — although I hold a lot back from almost everyone I meet, depending on the nature of the relationship.

Despite my inherent inability to subscribe, it’s a mindset to be admired. The world would be a better place if people didn’t stay married to people thirty years after the love had faded; if we told people we were only dating them because we were desperate and we felt sorry for them; if we could just tell someone we loved them, would love them forever, had always loved them, and would love them without question until our heart gave out after loving them just too damn much. But that’s never the case. People stay married out of security and fear, a man’s libido often gets the better of good morals, and if you tried telling someone you loved them so much your heart would surely soon explode you’d get a playful punch on the shoulder and told to stop being such a clichéd twat.  That’s just how the world works.

It’s fine though, I’m not criticising human nature here, because that’d be like walking up to Everest base camp with a pair of sandals and a bottle of Lucozade – you’d be commended for your optimism but ridiculed for your stupidity. Let’s face facts here: we humans are horrible. I bet even the most kind, generous, warm-spirited person you know – your nan, maybe – hasn’t at least thought about what it would be like to be raped by that dashing young Ryan Gosling fellow…

I mean, who hasn't?
(image courtesy of discutivo)

…and I’m sure she’s put great thought into the best way to make the sudden death of your grandpa look like an accident (tragic sugar overdose after using the regular amount of squash when it’s a double-strength bottle is the bookie’s favourite).

What we have to do is manage our lies, our resented compromises, and our sneaky subtle backstabbings in a way that doesn’t hurt those we love the most. Under no circumstances ever, ever tell your cancer-afflicted mum she should hurry up and die because you’ve been waiting on your inheritance for far too long. But you might consider telling that ugly bint who always gives you extra whipped cream with your hot chocolate where she can take her creamy mess. I’m not condoning such behaviour, not least because I don’t want you to get banned from your local Starbucks, but you need to let out your inherent bad side somewhere.

I spent too much time reminding you you’re a horrible person just like everyone else in the world, but I want to end on a positive note. It’s rare that we say what we actually mean to people for fear of the consequences – a rebuttal from the girl you’ve been in love with for years, or a peculiar, salivary taste in your hot choc, for example. But wouldn’t it be better to know that girl who comes to you for advice about her love life doesn’t actually love you back? You’d save yourself years of heartache, and besides, you never know, she might just feel the same way you do, and within eighteen months you might’ve gotten married, had a beautiful little kid, and moved to Salisbury. You won’t know if you keep those feelings bottled up.

Tell them how you feel; who knows what could happen?
(image courtesy of Ed Yourdon)

One thought on “Saying What We Mean

  1. Pingback: In Defence of Anders Breivik | In Before the Cynicism

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