Saturday, September 08, 2007

How I could have fewer friends [by telling more truth.]

"No!" you say... "How could that even be possible?"

This is how, and it's... tempting.

The half-assed way I naturally do it already causes rancor and strife though...

But I've seen this book/article name-checked a half dozen times this past week. Universe is trying to tell me something, clearly.

I Think You're Fat:
"...What I mentioned to my boss was this: a movement called Radical Honesty.

The movement was founded by a sixty-six-year-old Virginia-based psychotherapist named Brad Blanton. He says everybody would be happier if we just stopped lying. Tell the truth, all the time. This would be radical enough -- a world without fibs -- but Blanton goes further. He says we should toss out the filters between our brains and our mouths. If you think it, say it. Confess to your boss your secret plans to start your own company. If you're having fantasies about your wife's sister, Blanton says to tell your wife and tell her sister. It's the only path to authentic relationships. It's the only way to smash through modernity's soul-deadening alienation. Oversharing? No such thing.

...[Blanton says] "You'll have really bad times, you'll have really great times, but you'll contribute to other people because you haven't been dancing on eggshells your whole fucking life. It's a better life."

"Do you think it's ever okay to lie?" I ask.

"I advocate never lying in personal relationships. But if you have Anne Frank in your attic and a Nazi knocks on the door, lie....I lie to any government official." (Blanton's politics are just this side of Noam Chomsky's.) "I lie to the IRS. I always take more deductions than are justified. I lie in golf. And in poker."

...No topic is off-limits. "I've slept with more than five hundred women and about a half dozen men," he tells me. "I've had a whole bunch of threesomes" -- one of which involved a hermaphrodite prostitute equipped with dual organs.

What about animals?

Blanton thinks for a minute. "I let my dog lick my dick once."

If he hadn't devoted his life to Radical Honesty, I'd say he was, to use his own phrase, as full of shit as a Christmas turkey. But I don't think he is. I believe he's telling the truth. Which is a startling thing for a journalist to confront. Generally, I'm devoting 30 percent of my mental energy to figuring out what a source is lying about or hiding from me. Another 20 percent goes into scheming about how to unearth that buried truth. No need for that today.

...Now, my editor thinks I'm overreaching here and trying too hard to justify this article's existence, but I think society is speeding toward its own version of Radical Honesty. The truth of our lives is increasingly being exposed, both voluntarily (MySpace pages, transparent business transactions) and involuntarily. (See Gonzales and Google, or ask Alec Baldwin.) For better or worse, we may all soon be Brad Blantons. I need to be prepared. [Such bullshit. -- Ed.]

...In his book, Blanton talks about the thrill of total candor, the Space Mountain-worthy adrenaline rush you get from breaking taboos. As he writes, "You learn to like the excitement of mild, ongoing risk taking." This I felt.

...The next day, we get a visit from my wife's dad and stepmom.

"Did you get the birthday gift I sent you?" asks her stepmom.

"Uh-huh," I say.

She sent me a gift certificate to Saks Fifth Avenue.

"And? Did you like it?"

"Not really. I don't like gift certificates. It's like you're giving me an errand to run."

"Well, uh . . ."

Once again, I felt the thrill of inappropriate candor. And I felt something else, too. The paradoxical joy of being free from choice. I had no choice but to tell the truth. I didn't have to rack my brain figuring out how to hedge it, spin it, massage it.

"Just being honest," I shrug. Nice touch, I decide; helps take the edge off. She's got a thick skin. She'll be okay. And I'll tell you this: I'll never get a damn gift certificate from her again.

... It reminds me of an issue I raised with Blanton: Why make waves? "Ninety percent of the time I love my wife," I told him. "And 10 percent of the time I hate her. Why should I hurt her feelings that 10 percent of the time? Why not just wait until that phase passes and I return to the true feeling, which is that I love her?"

Blanton's response: "Because you're a manipulative, lying son of a bitch."

Okay, he's right. It's manipulative and patronizing to shut up and listen. But it's exhausting not to.


One other thing is also becoming apparent: There's a fine line between radical honesty and creepiness. Or actually no line at all. It's simple logic: Men think about sex every three minutes, as the scientists at Redbook remind us. If you speak whatever's on your mind, you'll be talking about sex every three minutes.

...The thing is, the separate cubbyholes of my personality are merging. Usually, there's a professional self, a home self, a friend self, a with-the-guys self. Now, it's one big improper mess.

...I inform our twenty-seven-year-old nanny that "if my wife left me, I would ask you out on a date, because I think you are stunning."

She laughs. Nervously.

"I think that makes you uncomfortable, so I won't mention it again. It was just on my mind."

...Blanton says he doesn't believe sex talk in the workplace counts as sexual harassment -- it's tight-assed society's fault if people can't handle the truth -- but my nanny confession just feels like pure abuse of power.

...In fact, all my relationships can take a whole lot more truth than I expected. Consider this one: For years, I've had a chronic problem where I refer to my wife, Julie, by my sister's name, Beryl. I always catch myself midway through and pretend it didn't happen. I've never confessed to Julie. Why should I? It either means that I'm sexually attracted to my sister, which is not good. Or that I think of my wife as my sister, also not good.

But today, in the kitchen, when I have my standard mental sister-wife mix-up, I decide to tell Julie about it.

"That's strange," she says.

We talk about it. I feel unburdened, closer to my wife now that we share this quirky, slightly disturbing knowledge. I realize that by keeping it secret, I had given it way too much weight. I hope she feels the same way..."

And here's a slightly more balanced approach...

Approach Anxiety » Blog Archive » Do Something Awesome For Yourself: Stop Lying:
"...I never lie.

You see, I realized that when I did lie, 95% of the time I was lying to make someone else feel better.

If I was tired and didn’t feel like going out with a friend I’d made plans with, I’d make up an excuse instead of saying “I’m tired and don’t feel like going out.”

If a girl I was seeing asked me how I felt about her, I’d tell what I thought she wanted to hear, rather than how I really felt.

Once I started not lying, I felt this huge rush of relief.

Because you know what? FUCK EVERYBODY.

It’s not my responsibility.

...It doesn’t always mean I go around saying the truth to everyone every time I see it (”Wow, you gained weight.”) Or even that I need to answer someone if they ask me a question.

But I won’t say anything that I know to be untrue.

It really makes things a lot simpler.

...It isn’t always totally comfortable. Once in a long while it hurts a bit. Or leaves me slightly embarrassed.

But not as much as you might think.

I feel it’s an important step to shaking the Nice Guy Syndrome, that voice inside my head that wants to please everybody, be all things to everyone all of the time.

You can’t do it.

All you can be is you.

And if somebody doesn’t like it, well… fuck them..."

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