Honesty is not the best policy. Being in the middle of the life, I should know. I can’t call my mother old, and I can’t call those tiny bumps on my daughter’s face acne unless I want to offend them and prepare for an in depth review of my own physical appearance. But I still do, anyway.
The other day, I was in the car with my daughter, discussing the happenings of the day. I like to pick up my children from school/ after-school programs, always. It is that ten minute chatter while riding home that spills the most secrets. Once they have calmed down, composed themselves, they think and sort what they want to share, and what needs to be hidden.
“You know, my friends say I look like you, except for the wrinkles”.
She didn’t stop at that.
“When you smile, there are lines at the end of your eyes, but I don’t have those”.
We look alike, my older daughter and I. Same eyes, same smile, and the same height these days, at least until she grows taller. Once when I went to the school office to page her for a pickup, the lady mentioned “I don’t know your name, but I know whom you will page” and paged my daughter.
This year, during our India trip, we confused everyone in the family. We wore almost similar clothes, we moved around at the same pace, same length and texture of the hair. People wouldn’t stop commenting on how similar we looked. Of course the similarity was very evident when mother-in-law walked towards me with rare love in her eyes, thinking it was her grandchild.
So, I am wrinkle faced.
Age is relative I wanted to say, age is a number. If this had come in comparison with anyone else, I would have snapped and given a fitting reply. But coming from the daughter, it didn’t warrant any feelings of insecurity. Compared to an eleven year old’s still baby-smooth face, I was wrinkly. May be not so compared to other mothers of the eleven year olds. That was an honest truth.
I laughed at her comparison, and drove on home listening to the rest of the chatter that didn’t involve my face, or the lines on the ends of my eyes when I smiled.
This honesty isn’t something new. For years, I have tried to teach the kids to be truthful, share everything that feel with the family without sugar coating their words, picking and choosing them to sound politically correct. Make life simple, I tell them, tell the truth, that way you don’t have to spend your energy into building up a story to hold that lie.
Of course, I can’t follow the same rule when it comes to my life.
No, there aren’t any shoes in the closet that the husband doesn’t know of, or a secret wardrobe.
I lack courage telling the other mother that a career, and a parenting rule that calls for ban on excessive intrusion in my child’s “outside” life prohibits me from droning in the classroom, checking on the child every minute of the day, comparing their performance with other children. I end up thanking her for spending time in my child’s class and enriching their learning experience.
I lack courage telling the spinster calling me aunty that it’s high time she addressed her own insecurities about marriage and the life, and stopped putting down the people a few years older than her by calling them aunty. Married women are boring she says, they talk only about their husbands and children, hanging out all married women because technically almost all women her age have married. Instead, I tell her that this is what a husband and couple of children will do to you, travel, and enjoy your life while you can.
I lack courage being honest about simple things involving people that I don’t consider my family and friends so close they are already family. I was amazed at the brutal honesty of a friend snapping at a woman who passed some remarks on the friend’s amazing ability to handle two children and a career while she could barely manage to get dressed and drop off the children in the mornings. My friend had told her that if she has problems in her life, it wasn’t her problem.
I fear that if I end up being so honest, I wouldn’t be left with a single person to smile at when I walk out of my car. Brutal honesty has no friends. It has family, but no friends. I will continue my dishonesty, calling everybody special, beautiful and talented, and thanking them for the same lies that they tell me, mostly scared like me about the consequences.
Happiness today is being dishonest, slightly, so that I can continue smiling at people.
Happiness today is for the dishonest people in my life, who tell me I am beautiful, I am intelligent, I am talented even on the days I am lacking those traits.
Happiness today is having an honest child, even though they were the lines on my face she was counting.