Friday, February 4, 2011

Too nice to be honest

Hi, my name is Brook, and I am addicted to everything bagels.


They have sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, little onion bits, and shoot, everything. As someone who goes for the savory over the sweet, it is quite the perfect meal. It also enables my inherited cream cheese addiction - in which scientists believe there is no cure.

I was in the restroom washing my hands when I decided to do a teeth-check. There it was. A massive, stubborn, in-your-face poppy seed stuck between my two front teeth. After the initial “oh, gross” wore off and I maneuvered that beast out of my teeth it occurred to me....

I ate that bagel over an hour ago. Since the bagel, I made small talk with the check-out lady while purchasing lighter fluid and kiwis (don’t ask), conversed face-to-face with my sister, and gave a super huge smile as I held the door open for a guy carrying a colossal amount of groceries. Why didn’t one of them bother to tell me, “Hey, person, you have a big black thing stuck in your teeth?” And don’t tell me, “Oh, I didn’t see it” because of course you did! There’s some jerk working for NASA analyzing satellite footage right now and getting a big laugh out of the meteor wedged between my teeth.

This moment is by no means out of the ordinary. Sometimes it’s a little crusty bit on the rim of your nose. Sometimes it’s food in the corner of your mouth. Sometimes it’s something in your hair, or a thick clump of mascara, or your fly is down.

I have always prided myself on being one of those people you can count on to tell you, “Hey, you’ve got some crud on your face.” I would want someone to tell me, so I’m going to tell you, right? And I stand by my word. I lean in to my friend, family member, whoever, and give a subtle acknowledgment. There is zero embarrassment to be had because we have all had these moments of food-in-teeth, and the like.

That’s right. I won’t let you walk around with mustard on your chin or that awkward lip-goop-build-up. I am your friend.

At least I thought I was until my pal, Candice, got out of my car with a toilet seat cover hanging out of her pants. There was a twinge in my stomach as the “tell her, you idiot!” instinct hit me. My mouth opened, my jaw slacked, and the moment passed. She had closed my car door and I watched as the white paper strip dangled from the back of her pants.

Sure, I could have rolled down the window and yelled for her. There’s always a choice. Fight or flight. And I was in the middle of my flight like no body’s business. Why didn’t I do something? Why didn’t I stop her? Why didn’t I tell my friend the truth? It’s because I didn’t want to embarrass her. I didn’t want to be responsible for her moment of shock when she realized she had the toilet seat cover in her pants ever since we left the restaurant. I wanted her to have this awkward moment alone, in the privacy of her own home.

It’s because I was too nice to be honest.

But was I really protecting my friend? Just like when I had the poppy seed in my teeth, were these people really doing me any favors? I still felt embarrassed and silly. If someone would have told me about the boulder in my teeth it would have at least cut down on the exposure time.

We think we're doing the right thing by keeping silent. But what are we really doing? We are being too involved with images and self-perceptions that we lose the basic truth to it all: it's just a poppy seed. It's just a mustard stain. It's just an open pair of pants. It's just a toilet seat cover. In the scheme of life it is one of the smallest details, and if it's the worst thing to happen to you then that's one lucky day.

So, shoulders back, chin out, no smiling, and tell your human neighbor to get that stuff out of their teeth.

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