In my Critical Thinking class, I routinely assign an essay about Herman Rosenblat. (For those who haven’t heard about him, he wrote the book Angel at the Fence, which he claimed was a true story about his experiences during the Holocaust but which turned out to be fiction.) After my students read the essay, they are often outraged by Rosenblat’s lies, and it sparks an interesting conversation about truth versus entertainment, and our general expectations for honesty in the media.
However, when I taught the class (and the essay) last quarter, I had an entirely different experience. Much to my surprise, these were the final results, some of which I paraphrased when I wrote them on the board in an effort to emphasize to my students the ridiculousness of what they were saying. They didn’t seem to notice.
-According to them, it’s okay to lie if it’s not a big lie.
-Since people lie sometimes, you might as well lie sometimes.
-Certain types of stories are okay to lie about.
-If enough time passes after the actual event, it’s okay to lie about it.
-If your lie has a positive impact, it’s okay.
-If involved parties are dead, it’s okay to lie.
-If you make money off the lie, it’s okay, especially if you then donate that money to charity.
-You can blame the media for spreading your lie.
Obviously, there are many reactions to be had from these points, and many different conversations that can—and should—ensue. However, I’m not going to talk about politics or morality plays or the disappearance of integrity.
I’m going to talk about dating.
Because I am frustrated by the lack of honesty in dating.
I was recently pursued by a man in his mid-forties. I only mention his age to emphasize that he is of sound mind and body. He is not a teenager.
After our third date, he decided he was no longer interested.
How did I know this? Well, I didn’t. Because he wouldn’t tell me.
Instead, I had to play Sherlock Holmes and figure it out.
He kept scheduling dates and then canceling them. His text messages became less and less frequent. I’ve been around the block, so after his text message telling me that he was too busy to have dinner this week, but that he’d love to have dinner next week–this after several days of not hearing from him–I didn’t need Watson to tell me what was going on.
Last year, I went on a few dates with another guy. We’ll call him Scott. I got Holmes on his ass and figured out he wasn’t interested because of the time lags between text messages and a general lack of proactivity. But Scott wouldn’t let the affair die. Whenever I’d write him off, lo and behold, there’d be a message waiting for me. Finally, I just texted him back and said, “Look, I can tell you’re not interested. So let’s just let this die and stop wasting each other’s time.”
Scott’s reaction? The most enthusiastic protestations of his affection for me! He pulled out all the stops, we had a magnificent date—and then I never heard from him again.
Last year, I also had the fortune to date another guy who started off our brief affair by telling me about his crazy ex (we’ll call her Anna). She was legit crazy—as in, she would call him at work and threaten suicide, and she would go to his house and break windows. I told him that I wasn’t really comfortable hearing about her, so he stopped talking about her. After about a month, though, he started to get a little distant. Again, he wouldn’t let our affair die. He kept texting me, but the texts got further and further apart and more and more superficial in nature.
So I got Holmes on his ass. After one particularly superficial text, in a very no-nonsense moment, my feminine intuition blaring, I wrote back, “Did you get back together with Anna?”
His response: “Yes.”
I never heard from him again.
So what is it? Is it just a general reluctance to give up on options? An emasculating fear of confrontation? Or is this symptomatic of a trend towards dishonesty and the easy way out?
Because I don’t think there is anyone out there who enjoys being kept on a “low simmer” as a “potential back-up plan.” And I suspect that most people can figure out when this is what’s going on.
Maybe I’m just being especially demanding, but here’s what I would like.
- Don’t waste my time.
- If you don’t like me, just tell me. (See number 1.)
My students, with utter sincerity and curiosity, were shocked that I manage to be a functional adult without lying. Our class actually took a total sidebar where they threw scenarios at me and asked how I would deal with them without lying.
Is telling the truth really that outdated of a concept?
Because while I’m all about fiction on my movie screen and in my books, I’d like to put honesty back into dating.
Thanks to the crutch of technology, you don’t have to be a man and tell me in person. You don’t even have to be man enough to tell me over the phone. Just send me a text and tell me that you’re not feeling it. Or, if you really can’t handle that, stop texting me entirely, and I’ll figure it out. Because, newsflash, you’re not “protecting my feelings” by pretending that this is ever going to be something it’s not. Don’t pretend we’re going to have dinner next week. Don’t pretend that we’re friends because you text me three times a week. And please don’t pretend that you’re a “man” because you’re worried about my “feelings.”
Honesty. It’s pretty awesome. You should try it.
I’ve been on a lot of dates in the last couple years and lying is an equal opportunity sport for the women as well. I watched as one woman habitually lied on the phone in front of me. She lied to her kids, her friends, her ex… she lied when the truth seemed better than the lie… so why was I so stunned when I finally caught her lying to me? Yet I was.
Now that’s funny.