Recently, my husband and I had an argument. He had taken a few days off from his exhausting work as the owner of a business and wanted to share in the decompressed and perpetual leisure of my beachy days.
I knew enough not to fill our schedule with social commitments, but how to avoid them became an issue. I proposed the method.
"Your brother and sister-in-law will want to drive the four hours to Fort Lauderdale if they know you're here. And Dennis and Orson will want us to spend time with them by their pool. And there's Pieter and Rob. We can't not tell them you're here, so I think we should tell them that we've already booked day trips that will keep us from spending time with them."
He flatly refused this solution. "Have you got a better idea?" He didn't. His solution was to do nothing, to say nothing and to anticipate nothing.
I protested. "When they find out you were here, they are going to be very disappointed and they will take it personally. "
He shrugged. "Not my problem." Oy.
I then delivered a defense of the white lie. "It's a gift we make to those we value. It says I don't want to hurt your feelings. It's an aromatic social lubricant. It's a gracious thing. It is nothing like the real lies people tell for selfish reasons."
He wasn't buying it. He's the kind of man whose response to the eternal question "Do these jeans make me look fat?" is to walk to our closet and say, "Well what are your other choices?"
In the course of his vacation, Dennis and Orson called. They wondered "Isn't this the week when your hubby is in town?" I mouthed their question to him with a hand over the phone, and his answer was to go into the bathroom, leaving me to deal with it. I took a breath and announced the truth. "Yup. He's here, but he doesn't want to plan anything. He just wants to relax."
After the week was over, I got a text from them proposing we meet for coffee. It contained the following sarcastic note. "Of course we wouldn't want to force you to see us and we will certainly understand it if you have no interest in spending time with us...." Just as I had predicted, they were going to kill the messenger - and over a message that they were misinterpreting.
When I met them for coffee, we got into a fully tilted and spirited discussion about this. I begged them not to personalize it. I could not say that we had not socialized with anyone else because we had, (and in this town, word travels) but only on a spontaneous basis, with no advanced planning and at the tail end of his sojourn when he was more rested.
It didn't help that I had posted a photo of us on an excursion on the boat of Bilerico's Mark King and his partner Ben - a spur of the moment adventure, as I explained. We parted amicably but they remained convinced that they had been marginalized as friends and they also made it clear that I was complicit in this act. Oy.
On the phone to my husband, I brought home my case. "See? I'm paying the price. The white lie is a good and helpful thing. We are all imperfect as social creatures and friends and lovers. We actually want and need the little illusions that are created by the white lie. It's like adjusting the lighting in a room to make it more complimentary to our faces. No one wants the harsh light bulb." His response was to ask me to define when the white lie becomes the black lie. What is the point where the whiteness is stepped down to gray and the gray to grave?
I reiterated my opinion that we all know the difference. The bad lies are the ones told by presidents who make us think that they are our advocate when they really have no desire to work for repeal of things that oppress us, like DADT. The bad lies are the ones that cover things we regret doing. Things that gnaw at us forever.
I'll never change my husband. He is who he is. He won't eat fish or seafood. He won't wear jewelry. He doesn't like to shop or dance or watch TV. I could have married someone else. Someone who'd perfume the kitchen with the aroma of a perfectly grilled salmon that we'd share with forks held by hands bearing matching wedding rings. Someone who cared about the next episode of Glee. Someone so skilled at the white lie that you'd say thank you when receiving one from him. Obviously, I can laugh about the worthlessness of these little discontents, but would it kill him to just play along with my idea of social mechanisms once in a while?
I'll put it to you, wise Projectors. How do you feel about the merits of the white lie?