Thursday, September 12, 2019

Honesty Is the Worst Policy

I offer this letter in evidence. I offer it as a symptom of a culture that is in very serious trouble. As we will see, Carolyn Hax understands perfectly well that wife Becky violated the most basic rules of ethics and etiquette. And she sees that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men might not be able to put this one back together again.

As often happens in today’s advice columns, the gender of one or the other participants is left ambiguous. In this case we do not really know the letter writer’s sex. He or she is married to Becky, and we might normally assume that he or she is a he, but the temperament, the sensibility and the prose style suggests that he could well be a she. If that is the case, then perhaps more is at issue than the egregious breach of decorum.

Anyway, here is the letter:

“Becky" and I stayed with my brother, "Dan," and his wife, "Mae." Becky and I are recently married and this was her first stay at my brother's place.

Later she texted Mae a thank-you along with some helpful hints about some slight hosting deficiencies — nothing too bad, just that the guest room mattress needs to be replaced, the drain in the bathtub is slow and that a lot of people can't eat carb-heavy meals first thing in the morning. Becky would sincerely welcome it if someone did this for her and thought she was doing Mae a favor.

Mae is livid and has banned us from visiting. I wish Becky had checked with me before sending the text, but Mae is really overreacting. We were really good guests — we only stayed three days, took everyone out to meals, did all the cleanup after a big meal and always cleaned up after ourselves, so this was a minor annoyance at best.

I said so to Dan when I was explaining that Becky meant no harm, and now he's mad at me, too. My mom lives with my brother and has asked me to mend fences so Becky and I are welcome to stay there again. Where do I start fixing this mess?

— Banned

Good manners requires Hax to say a few words about how Mae might be overreacting. But, clearly Becky has no manners and no sense of decorum. You do not include a critique of your hostess while writing a thank you note. Texting makes it more impersonal, and thus, worse.

Strangely, Banned does not understand what the problem is. She (assuming that Banned is a she) does not really think that Becky did anything wrong. 

Anyway, Hax is not very hopeful. Neither am I. In her words:

I don’t know how else to say this to you. Becky just drove a spike into the hull of your relationship with your family, and you and she both need to admit that out loud to your whole family and then start bailing as fast as you can.

Evidently, Becky has overdosed on critical theory. She believes that she is simply being honest. She is following rules that our therapy culture has enshrined as the path to mental health. And she thinks that she is being helpful. Nothing is quite as bad as making a fetish of honesty. And using it as an excuse to trash another person’s hospitality.

Surely, Becky counts as an uncouth clod. Surely, she should have asked her husband or wife whether the text was appropriate before sending it. But, then again, this cannot possibly be the first time that Becky has shown her abysmally weak character. If such is the case, how did it happen that Banned married her in the first place?

A complete trainwreck….


Anonymous said...

Helpful hints? Did she think it was a hotel and she had to give a rating?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Good point... she thinks that life is Yelp! Yikes!

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Another blog yesterday featured a troll commenting disingenuously about 9/11. People objected, and started piling on. Another commenter jumped in, saying that the troll's comments weren't wrong, that they were logical and honest. My objection was in the form of an analogy: One does not go to the funeral home for a new widow and tell her that her late husband was a jerk. That may be true, and one might have verifiable proof that he was a jerk, but you don't say it. You just don't.

There are certain things that you should not have to contextually explain. It's just bad manners. Who cares what your reason is?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

In terms of the comment about Yelp, you're spot on -- social media has lowered the bar. Communication is now so pervasive, constant and informal. And there is a level of separation to communication that makes things weird, in the sense that it lets out-of-touch people be more bold. Or too transparent about their personal lives.

Had something come up with friends on Facebook. I don't check Facebook, but my wife does. She told me that there were weird postings from our friends about a biopsy and a possibility of cancer, and asking for prayers. On Facebook. They have thousands of Facebook friends.

This is an example of what happens with too much time on Facebook. You lose your understanding of boundaries. It’s a pixelated mirage of intimacy. You get sucked into this world of knowing what’s going on in your friends’ lives, and suddenly they’re all fair game — because they’re your FRIENDS. Therefore, everyone needs to know what’s going on in your life. In fact, they MUST know, or you’re not being an open and transparent friend to them. Yet in the end, it’s you broadcasting the intimate details of YOUR life. A creepy thing happens when you start to think of your Facebook friends as family. And you lose sight of the fact that the VAST majority of people don’t really care. That’s when it gets weird. I think that’s where these friends are. I suspect they’re bored and lonely empty-nesters. Life events are happening, with no one to talk to but each other. So the next-best outlet is Facebook. Except it’s not...

Anonymous said...

If Becky had been given a gift, would her thank you note (text) have criticized the color, the fabric, and the fit?

A person without a sense of generosity.

Sam L. said...

"Becky" is toxic.

Anonymous said...

Oh,wow. So rude.And the guy's just as clueless, with his "she didn't mean any harm."Sounds like he could work for the intel agencies since he thinks "intent" is the only thing and believes anyone who says they did not INTEND to.

I bet you're right, and this is not the first time.....

Commenter right -- cannot believe anyone uses FB. Even before we know how creepy it was, with their following us around and selling our data, when I first checked it out and saw personal questions like your real name, occupation, personal phone, relationship status...WTH? None of your biz!

Then I saw what dumb stuff people seemed to of food? Seriously? Never dreamed of joining up and still haven't.

BUT I disagree about asking for prayers. I think people do care, even when they've only corresponded, that others they're in touch with have cancer and are asking for prayer. I pray for such strangers all the time and bet we all do.

Finally, "empty nesters with only themselves to talk to?" Sounds like a crummy marriage, if you don't enjoy being with your husband or wife. Bizarre.

There ya go....JMHO, as we say online. But I dunno if that family will ever recover.