Friday, December 18, 2009

Reindeer Games

Yesterday one of my coworkers gave all of us tree ornaments she made - reindeer made from wine corks. I usually love homemade tree ornaments, but not this one. It was well made. Obviously she had put a lot of care into it. I just didn't like it. Four wine corks glued together with plastic eyes and nose and pipe cleaner antlers and tail just look like a Kindergarten project to me.

Naturally I thanked her and brought it home safely (I thought) tucked into a gift bag with a gift one of my little kids gave me. When I got home, the reindeer was in three parts, the front leg and head having broken off in transit. So that should have been the end of the story. Just toss the three pieces in the trash. My coworker will not be visiting my house at Christmas, and even if she did, I had a handy and true explanation for the ornament's absence.

For some reason, I couldn't do it. The pieces had been hot glued together. I have a hot glue gun (somewhere), and could see where to glue them together to put them back. I dithered back and forth between fixing the ornament and tossing it out. It sat on the kitchen counter all night. By morning I had come to my senses and tossed the reindeer remains in the trash.

In the meantime, I've been reflecting on white lies and pretenses. Would it be a better or worse or just different world if we always told the truth about what we think about things? There are people who think it would be better. They have no hesitation about telling you that the ornament that you spent time and thought creating for them is not to their taste. I've noticed these people tend not to like it if you are honest back. So I'm not sure I want to see a world in which we don't say we're thrilled with the present, or that a friend's new haircut is becoming, or that our children's artwork is the cutest ever.

On the other hand, we all work at honing our listening skills to sort out the real from the insincere. One of my social worker coworkers is so obviously tactful in her dealings with me that if she says, "Susie's mom has some concerns she expressed to me", I automatically translate that into "Susie's mom showed up in my office with a lawyer and a gun". I think most people would know not to give me 6 more assorted wine cork reindeer ornaments after hearing me say, "I wonder where people get those ideas. I would never in a million years have thought to make something like that." Unfortunately, some people are no good at reading the subtle signs. It would be easier to negotiate through a world in which people say what they really think, but it would be harsher. I've seen that world on message boards I frequent, and I don't want to live there.

But occasionally, especially at Christmas, I might want to visit.

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