Friday, October 10, 2014

A cynic's guide to social noise

Many of the people I know have tastes in reading (and movies) different from mine.  When a neighbor lent us a favorite video, which not something of interest to us, I returned it recently, with thanks. He asked how I liked it.

Suddenly I was faced with the familiar dilemma of making white lies sound like polite social noise. "Very enjoyable," I said. "Well done." (I had not bothered to play it, knowing it was not worth my time.) He went on: "We loved it. Would you like to keep it a white longer?"

I would rather spend an hour in the dentist's chair, but I smiled politely and said something about being busy getting ready for an upcoming trip (the truth).

This prompted me to think of all the times in the past year or so when I have been confronted with familiar situations, in which the devilish side of me wants to be cynical (though I never am), as follows:

1. I routinely say, "how are you?"  (Do I really want to know? Do I want an organ recital--what a  friend calls chatting with people of a certain age who immediately list their ailments?)

2. "So glad to see you."  (I really mean, I hope this chat is brief and less boring than the last one we had OR I was enjoying the quiet time to think before you appeared.)

3. "You look wonderful" (despite the weight gain/wrinkles/age spots/ missing teeth/ thinning hair)

4. At the end of a phone call, I will say, "So glad you called."  (Please don't do so for another year or more; in fact, not calling at all would be ideal.)

5. Or if I missed a call, probably because I use an answering machine to screen those who phone us: "Sorry I missed your call."  (Actually, I am happy to have had some time to think of a polite way to get out of the invitation you put on my machine; or: I wish you hadn't called at all since I know you always complain about something.)

6. And of course, on receiving a gift, "How thoughtful." (Better than the old "just what I always wanted," which is both sarcastic and trite; yet thinking of me at Christmas is thoughtful, so I should be grateful, but why do you always get things for me that either don't fit or that I don't want? Give me cash!")

Ah, the pain of being polite and feeling guilty for being hypocritical; yet the truth would be worse than the lie, however much fun it might sometimes be for me to be honest.

No comments: