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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Don't ask. Don't tell

Today, a friend on Facebook mentioned that he went to lunch with a female friend and it didn't go well. More about that at the end of the blog.
I remember a few specific incidents, both early in my life and very recently that point out something about certain types of people. Me being one of those types, and others being the other type. Knowing who you are, and who you are dealing with is key to managing these types of situations.
We all had dates and girlfriends in high school, of varying degrees and seriousness. Some of us had more of those, and it came easy to us. Some, it did not.
One of my friends in high school had a tough time finding his way in that respect. He wasn't a jock. He wasn't great looking. He wasn't especially funny, but he was--and still is--super smart, a great guy and friend. Certainly, his friends that knew him, and still know him, know he is fun to be around and certainly worth your time. But in terms of getting girls, that didn't really mean jack squat in high school. He sort of reminded me or Rattner in Fast Times In Ridgemount High.

So, Grade 12 had rolled around and I don't think he'd had a girlfriend yet. Or even any dates. 

Then came Grade 13. Another friend (more like the Damone character in Fast Times), who didn't have any of those problems with girls, had a real fantastically hot girlfriend who had a friend who was just about the total opposite. To say she was unattractive would be flattering to this girl. But, as Kenny Rogers said in "The Coward of The County"...'there's someone for everyone.' As I remember it, they all hung out together one night at the arcade, which was the cool place to hang out that year or two. Then there was a double date after that, and my friend ended up dating this girl.
We were all happy for him. He was a good guy and he deserved to have his share. He seemed happy. She was happy. He treated her well, and she made him feel good about himself, a confidence he carried forward in future encounters with the opposite sex. Everybody was happy.
As high school romances go, it petered out in a few months. We got around to talking about it...and her..and he mentioned that he realized that she was not Miss America. But he was happy. Everyone has to start somewhere.
I remember at one point, he did ask me what I thought about her. I remember saying something about that she was a nice girl. He didn't ask about her looks, and I didn't mention it. We were both happy to avoid that topic.
When we talk about it these days, the word dog comes up. It didn't then. He didn't ask. I didn't tell.
A few years ago, I was at a party with a girlfriend.  One of her male friends was dating a new girl, and my girlfriend asked me what I thought about her. I was pretty direct and flip when I said: "there isn't enough money in the world to pay me to date her." But the guy liked her and they seemed happy and got along well. Did I say anything to him or his date about that? Certainly not. Would I have if he had asked me? Probably not. I didn't know him anyway. But my girlfriend knew me and she was shocked when I whispered that in her ear. She said "you are bad, that is a terrible thing to say." So, I asked her what she thought about the girl? She looked at me, and without saying a word, I knew she was thinking exactly the same thing. The only difference was that I would say it, and she wouldn't. But, only to each other. No harm done.
Eventually, the guy broke up with the woman, and the topic has never come up. Nor should it. He liked her. That was enough for him. What I think about her is neither here nor there. I am sure there have been lots of women who thought that about me. Or some guys who didn't see much attractiveness in some of my girlfriends. I am fine with that. And I have never asked.
Then, a few months ago I was playing Lexulous with a woman who was somewhat entertaining, yet very sensitive. She was a good player, maybe not as good as me, but capable enough to beat me once in a while. In this particular game, she was close to beating me.  Then, she made a foolish play, and she even mentioned it in a comment. She actually phrased it as a question.
"I probably shouldn't have done that,  should I?"
So, I replied.
"What can I say? It was a really bad move."
To which she replied, "Well, you don't have to be so rude about it."
She promptly deleted the game and she was gone for good.
The point of those examples is that, pretty much, people aren't stupid. If your girlfriend is not attractive you know that. You don't need others to tell you. If you play a stupid move in Lexulous, you know you did that. Nobody really needs to discuss it. But if you ask, some people are going to answer honestly. Others won't. But in most cases, the person on the other end would just rather not be asked. Don't ask. Don't tell.
If you don't want it to be a topic of conversation then don't bring it up. That is the best way to avoid it. If you start asking about it, then trouble will follow. Avoid trouble. Or, accept that you brought it on yourself.
Now, back to the example from this morning.
The guy got to the restaurant first. Then the woman showed up. She had just gotten her hair cut. Apparently, it was an awful haircut. The kind you wear a hat to cover up until it grows out and you can get it re-cut. She knew it was bad. Certainly. But, she asked the guy anyway. Put him in a bad position. So, he told her how bad it was.
She got offended and stormed out of the restaurant. I am guessing that the friendship is now over.
Could he have handled it better? Sugarcoated it a bit? Maybe. But what would you do?
Really, the problem rests with the person who asks. If you put someone on the spot, then you are asking for trouble. And you will get it.
There is some sensitivity involved, but you can only be so sensitive. Not to the point that you will lie when asked a direct question. If you don't want the answer, don't ask the question. Especially to someone who isn't likely to humor you. Someone like me. When you ask someone like me a question, you are likely to get an honest answer. An answer you may not like. Even though you know that answer already yourself.

If you know your friend is the type of person...the type of person I am, you know not to ask them a question like that. If you are the type of person who can't handle the truth like that, the brutal truth, then even more reason not to ask.
But if you ask, you are likely to get told. So, don't ask, don't tell. And everybody stays happy.
Except when you look in the mirror, and your haircut still sucks. Mirrors don't care. They just tell the truth. Without being asked.

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