Only the very old and the very young can truly get away with being blunt and have their forthrightness laughed off. But sometimes, it’s not just a fear of being impolite that makes us bite our tongue or tell little fibs, but a well-meaning desire to spare someone’s feelings.
I once watched with wonder when a friend bumped into someone she knew on a night out and greeted her with a hug and an enthusiastic: “It’s so lovely to see you” followed by a panicked: “We must catch up for a drink sometime” on departing.
“I thought you couldn’t stand her” I hissed when her acquaintance had gone.
“I can’t.” she replied. “But I can hardly tell her I’d sooner stop in and wash my hair than go out for a drink with her!”
I myself am guilty of feigning enthusiasm when, in reality, my eyes are glazing over with boredom.
One of my friends, who has been a vegetarian for years, told me the tale of how, when she was younger, she once went to a boyfriend’s house for tea and forced herself to eat a lamb stew as she didn’t want to upset his mum who had been slaving in the kitchen to produce it.
Although I’m not a vegetarian, I have experienced similar situations when I’ve had to keep up the pretence of being a vegetarian for people who mistakenly believe I am one.
For years, one of Hubby’s grandmas would present me with a box of chocolates every Christmas and tell me: “Now, I checked with the shop and they’re definitely suitable for vegetarians and vegans, so they should be OK with you.”
Every year, I’d thank her profusely not wanting to hurt her feelings by telling her I wasn’t a veggie and I’d happily scoff any choccie going, even if it was filled with corned beef.
On another occasion, someone who had been convinced for years I was a vegetarian and who I hadn’t bothered correcting, looked at me in horror when seeing me at a wedding buffet and exclaimed: “That’s got chicken in it! You shouldn’t be eating that.”
It was easier to spit the offending food into a napkin and say: “Oh dear, I didn’t realise.” than tell the woman I’d been living the pretence of being a vegetarian for years rather than correcting her.