Monday, June 6, 2011

Tact

It's been brought to my attention recently that I lack in um...how do you say?...tact.

Shocking, I know.

But hear me out...

Always one to prize complete disclosure with regard to one's thoughts, feelings, beliefs and judgments, I was recently appalled to learn that being completely forthright about where one stands is generally embraced by modern society with the overwhelming exuberance usually reserved for, say, leprosy and child molesters.

Simply put--and as my dear, deceased grandma would say--"you draw more flies with honey than vinegar"(and as someone who inherited said grandmother's sense of tact, the irony of this statement is not lost on me...)

Yes, my friends, apparently if you want to have...oh, I dunno...friends and shit...you have to learn to shuck the criticism and "play nice." Because, you see dears, everyone loves rainbows and kitties and unicorns. Smiles and fireflies constitute universal "happy places." And "Kumbaya" ain't a classic for no reason.

Thing is though, rainbows and smiles fade, kitties and fireflies both die when placed in jars, and "Kumbaya," while great with smores, loses its luster on second-singing. Put simply, just ask Charlie what happens to unicorns when they abandon their common sense, opting instead for the sugary-sweet joys of Candy Mountain. (For reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5im0Ssyyus)

Bitter? Yeah maybe. Or maybe I'm just "being real."

Growing up I was lied to. A lot. And that early exposure to the duplicity inherent in human nature had a profound impact on my psyche. I watched as the adults society designated for me to emulate said one thing and did another. I saw rewards for lies and delight in deceit, and I suffered in silence as the injustice of it burned in my tiny tummy. As a result, I doubt my age had reached double digits before I made the decision that, no matter what, I was going to be frank and forthright with everyone, consequences be damned. To me, this manner of living was a refreshing alternative to the syrupy sweet taste of bullshit to which I was accustomed...but to others...well, it seems my tendency toward the bitter truth may have proven equally unpalatable.

Some people just can't take it.

I used to be okay with that fact.

Now I am not.


With furrowed brow I ask you, "When is the time for tact?"

...

I always justified my "being real" as either refreshing honesty or a dose of tough love--both happy alternatives to what I always saw as the deluded nonsensical swill bandied about by miscreants with either less backbone or less scruples than the true humanitarians (like myself, of course) who see fit to "tell it like it is." But lately I have been wondering: At what point does "being real" translate into "being cruel"? And when does "tough love" cross that gossamer boundary that separates "helpful" from "hateful"?

When does "brutal honesty" become...just..."brutal"?

...

When Tennessee Williams penned his masterpiece, "A Streetcar Named Desire," he placed at its nucleus the iconic characters of Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski, two diametrically opposed powerhouses whose interactions literally explode from the page. Blanche, a world-worn southern belle, is prone to illusion and exaggeration (ie. bullshit)--continuously repainting her melancholy world in self-deluding rose colored hues. Stanley, corporeal to Blanche's ethereal, is no-nonsense. Brutal honesty. Love it or leave it. Talk about a clash of the Titans.

The two cannot coexist.

Honesty destroys the illusion.

Every time.

But the thing is...when confronted with Stanley's honesty and Blanche's illusion, I pull for Blanche every time. I, who in demeanor and belief mimic Stanley to an astonishing degree, must admit that reality is much more palatable with perfume and paper lanterns thrown in to dim the harsh light of reality.

So what does that say about me?

In one of her final speeches, Blanche famously relates,"But some things are not forgivable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable! It is the one unforgivable thing in my opinion, and the one thing of which I have never, never been guilty."

Cruelty. Unforgivable.

Am I deliberately cruel?

...

Yesterday I jumped out of an airplane to overcome a physical fear. Today I confront a psychological one. And while both involve falling headfirst into open space, I must confess the psychological fear is proving more disorienting than uncontrollably plummeting 14,000 feet.

Only 24 hours ago my body landed firmly on solid ground. Be brutally honest with me--will my brain do likewise?

3 comments:

  1. I feel a similar tug for Martha near the end of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" I know the baby has to be "exorcised" and that false illusions must be set aside and yet there is such a level of baseless cruelty in what George does (and how he does it)...

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  2. I’m not sure what is less disquieting: the perpetual state of fantasy which Disney wrought in a sober generation next to The Dark Crystal and The Little Mermaid, or the acknowledging force of realization that these ideals are fictitious.

    I bought into the Shera lore; the blond warrior who triumphs in the face of adversity was a hero until stereotyping was discovered. I don’t know when I started to realize that these characters on T.V. didn’t look like me. I can’t imagine how other people felt. The second wake-up call was at twelve when I realized my knight in shining armor is never going to whisk me away on a valiant steed, nor am I sure I would really embrace this illusion.

    As for mitigating between complacent stares and bubble-gum compliments, I still refuse to candy-coat anything. American culture wants “Superwoman” but when she reaches the heights expected, she is ripped from the sky with snide comments of this is not a women’s world. The spit of deceit is a reality no feminist appreciates, but….wait for it…now you are just a femi-Nazi.

    As for Blanche, I appreciate her bipolar nature. She has the gumption to speak the truth, if not only in a coy determined tone. She has and will always be one of my favorite characters; this may be due to my own idealization or pedestal pushing. She "possesses" the performance many are afraid to embrace. Movies taught us that drama was acceptable, yet in the real world it is something misanthropic—not seized.

    The (dis)illusionment of reality is Baudrillard speaks of in Simulacra and simulations. My own personal obsession with untangling his coded mystique has broken my man-made attachment to what they can “reality.” In simulations he explains, “it transfers the symptom from the organic to the unconscious order: once again, the latter is held to be true, more true than the former but why should simulation stop at the portals of the unconscious? Why couldn’t the ‘work’ of the unconscious be ‘produced’ in the same way as any other symptom in classical medicine? Dreams already are?”

    We deliberately manufacture our own fear; culture injected into expectations.

    Deliberately cruel…yes!

    But like a cat, you’ll land on your feet with grace—and lunge.

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  3. To me the dividing line of truth and cruelty comes out of intention. If your reasoning for harsh truth is to help and make the other person's life better then you can't go wrong in being honest. If your goal is to make yourself feel superior or to make the other person feel like shit then it is always going to be cruel. Unfortunately life is not so simple that anyone can choose being brutally honest or bullshit. Every situation calls for a different tact. If we are to be successful in life we have to be the most honest bullshitters in the world.

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