As a culture, we have a problem with honesty. We cheat, steal, manipulate, and rarely come clean until push comes to shove (or until we are caught on a wiretap). When it comes to sex (our desire to have it, to end it, to get more of it, or pleasure from it), we would rather stay silent than reap the benefits of speaking up. Now I am well aware that we aren't exactly taught how to say these things. However, part of engaging in an adult relationship includes using your voice and owning your feelings. If you can't do that...why engage in the first place?
In light of recent public sex scandals -- John Edwards' extramarital affair, Elliot Spitzer's affinity for expensive prostitutes, Mark Foley's desire to communicate with underage boys, Larry Craig's toe-tapping in a men's room, and Bill Clinton's notorious womanizing (am I missing anyone else?), it has becoming increasingly clear that honesty is not something people seem to care about these days. Or perhaps we care about it, but only when it's too late -- when there is no going back. But the novel idea of honesty is by no means limited to politicians and adulterous relationships.
This morning, I attended a screening of the new Woody Allen movie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Within the first thirty minutes (not a spoiler, it's in the trailers), Javier Bardem approaches Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall and presents them with the following proposition: "Come away with me and we will all make love together (I am paraphrasing.)." While we may jump to conclusions and perceive this as a sleazy come-on (which one of the girls does), we would be wrong. It was breathtakingly honest. He was forthright about his desires. He acknowledged his attraction to both women. It wasn't that he wanted sex and either of them would do. He wanted a sensual experience. The exchange proves that there is beauty in saying what you want without being apologetic. You can be genuine even in the most complicated of circumstances. In fact, most of the film encouraged me to think about whether or not I live honestly, because I am starting to believe that's the only way to have true fulfillment.
I have found myself asking my friends the following questions: When was the last time that you spoke up for what you wanted? Have you ever walked up to a stranger and asked them to spend the night with you? Have you ever told your partner that you were unhappy -- before you acted on your feelings? This isn't simply about extramarital affairs -- though if we actually talked to our partners about whether or not we were happy, we wouldn't have the betrayal that seems so prevalent today. We would be able to move on (together or separately), but it wouldn't be so humiliating or duplicitous.
Now I am by no means suggesting that I am perfect. Don't get me wrong, I speak up a lot, but it took me a long time to do so within the context of a relationship. Finding my voice evolved over time.
So why are we so afraid of being honest (either with ourselves or the people in our lives)? Is it that we are afraid of the consequences? Fear of the unknown? Or fear that once we take the leap we will be unable to fall back into our old life? Or could it be the fear that our authentic self is not good enough? I mean, how many of us (in the hopes of finding "Mr. or Ms. Right") pretend to be someone we're not? Putting on a show in an effort to land a mate often leads to relationship failure because it is disingenuous.
I propose that we all start living honestly. Own your feelings, be yourself, and don't apologize for the choices that you make in life. Our experiences (good, bad, or ugly) make us the people we are today. And in the end, that's what's really important.
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