Awkward Moments When You Need to Lie

Caroline de Braganza

Or dance around the truth

“Thank you. I appreciate the gift.”

That’s my subtle way of not saying it sucks, but accepting the grace with which a person gave it. It’s not an outright fib—I won’t gush over the gift but express gratitude at the act of giving.

Friends once gave me a set of ugly soup bowls for my birthday. We’d started a dinner club with three other couples wherein we’d meet once a month at each other’s homes to enjoy a meal created and served by the fourth couple. Long story short—the gift of the soup bowls.

This thoughtful gift was not to my taste—floral patterns in green and yellow—but I had to bring them out when hosting my dinner. The club dissolved a year later, and I donated the chintzy china to our local hospice.

(The secret is to not give an unwanted gift to someone in the same social circle—it’ll come back to bite you. “Oh, those are the same ones I gave Caroline for her birthday.”)

But sometimes honesty is the best policy.

“Thank you so much…..”

My brother and his wife gifted us with a coffee filter machine one Christmas. They’d noticed we didn’t have one and thought it a good idea. Unbeknownst to them, we’d just bought one the month before.

I smiled as I removed the gift wrap, then hesitated as I detected what was inside, still smiling.

What to say? I’d be lying if I said I loved it, because I didn’t need two filter machines. As they were family, I felt comfortable telling the truth.

I thanked them for remembering, then said there’s a problem as we’d purchased one expecting an explosive response for telling the truth. But my sister-in-law said, “That’s fine. I’ll exchange it? What do you need for the kitchen?”

Whew! She exchanged the gift for a food mixer, which I still have!

Sometimes we sidestep the issue

Do you tell your GP you’re not happy with them? Or do you leave the last consultation, never to return? The first time I did that, I tore up his prescription and threw it in the nearest rubbish bin in the car park. Another prescription for anti-biotics, after five months of them was the final straw.

I’ve changed GP’s (plural) since then but never once told them my intentions. If the new GP wants my medical records, I refer them to my earlier one for access, but stay out of the line of fire. They’ll know when they receive the request.

Changing dentists is easy because the first thing they do is X-ray your mouth—they don’t need old dental records.

Changing psychotherapists is more challenging–, you’re feeling vulnerable anyway and terrified of being censured. I was fortunate that we clicked from the first appointment, though I often wonder how I’d have handled it if we hadn’t agreed we could work together.

I’ve given advice before that you’re not obligated to stay with the first therapist if you sense it’s not a good fit. But I have to admit that if you’re an introvert, as I am, it takes a container-load of courage to speak up.

Another strained situation - hairdressing salons.

It’s fine if you never return to the same salon, but what if the stylist you left bumps into you at the shops?

A neighbour had recommended him when we moved here two years ago. The location was convenient—the small local shopping centre only a 15-minute drive away.

I have nothing against him as a person, but he is not a skilled hair stylist. After my third hair-hacking appointment, I decided never again. I couldn’t bring myself to be open and honest with him—a young lad with previous drug problems who’d moved out of the city, out of the influence of the gangs, to live clean.

Switching to another stylist at the same salon wouldn’t work—I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

I frequent the local centre once a week to fill our water bottles (the borehole water has too much lime for drinking water—it’s a dolomite region) and who did I bump into, six months after deserting him?

My ex-stylist!

An embarrassing moment. I greeted and hugged him, then stepped back. He was talking but checking out my hair. I knew he knew, so the cat was out of the bag without my saying anything. What a relief!

(Now I frequent a salon at the mall where do my monthly shopping. What a blessing that my new stylist knows what to do and cuts and styles my hair the way I want. Yay!)

Our nature is to avoid conflict

When we receive poor customer service, our default is never to return, though we complain about the company on social media and to friends.

On an individual level, whether it be doctors or dentists or hair stylists, we keep quiet and move on.

With gifts from friends or family, we either pretend, lie through our teeth or tell the truth.

And that’s okay.

“Sound judgement, with discernment is the best of seers.” - Euripedes

Sometimes, it’s best to dance around the truth.

(Image source Simone Garello on Pixabay)

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Published essayist. Follow me for local news that impacts our lives, plus stories on public and mental health. Through writing, I also share my passion for music, politics, our environment and social justice, and hope you find value in my words.


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