Refrain from telling small, white lies to friends and family (including insincere compliments). If you do tell one, admit it and apologize right away.
Once a friend of mine asked me about a girl. I didn’t lie. I still regret it.
He was an exchange student, and his year in Norway was almost over. We often talked about life and the universe, being philosophical the way two self-proclaimed artistic teenage boys can be. I remember mentioning Nietzsche a lot; he talked about his favorite poets a lot, and even tried to teach me Spanish so I could read them in the original.
It must have been in May: I seem to remember Norwegian flags and drunk russ everywhere. We were in a garden or park somewhere, we sat on a fallen log by ourselves while the others, our class mates, sat on some benches some meters away. We could hear they shouts and laughter, but they couldn’t hear us, we didn’t shout and they felt more like partying than eavesdropping in on a quasi-intellectual (or proto-intellectual) conversation anyway.
I must ask you something, my friend said and drank some more beer.
Sure, I said, and expected something deep about life and suicide and absurdism and existentialism.
You know X?
Yeah, she’s in our class. You know her too, right?
Yes, but you know… How do you like her?
Now, whenever a man asks you about a girl in this way, you should tread very carefully. If you like that girl too much, two friends can suddenly become bitter enemies. And if you don’t like her at all, you might destroy a friendship in just a few seconds. Say you like her, but not LIKE her, that’s she’s a wonderful person, but just not your type.
My exact words were, if I remember them correctly: I don’t like her. Y and Z, her best friends, are OK, but I just don’t like X. She’s a bad person.
Oh. Oh, OK.
Why do you ask?
Oh, nevermind. Nevermind.
A few weeks later, he went back home, and we lost all contact. We never called each other, we never e-mailed, and I never found out how his life turned out. I tried, but he had a common name, and I always gave up before I found him.
If I ever find him, my first word will be I am sorry. I am sorry for not understanding why you asked about that girl. I am sorry for being too honest, so honest that I wasn’t very honest after all (I didn’t hate that girl, she wasn’t a bad person, but the words slipped out, and I wasn’t man enough to take them back).
I am sorry for not lying to you. I am sorry for not being mature and wise enough to tell you a white lie. I am sorry for not telling you that, for keeping it to myself for fifteen years. Oh, I haven’t been thinking about it the last fifteen years, not constantly, but whenever I think about my friend, that episode is always present, colouring all memories from the entire year he stayed in Norway.
I would much rather have told a white lie and then tell the truth much later (at their wedding: “I didn’t like you at first, but I now realize I was wrong; it was just my own immature, narrow-minded stupidity”) than being over-the-top brutally honest and regret it for the rest of my days.
But it’s probably too late now. I will probably regret it forever.
The next time someone asks me about a girl, I’ll be very, very careful.