I always know something is going to be good when I start to cry as I write it.
Honesty is often painful, but it is also the key to living a meaningful life.
I’ve loved Billy Joel’s song, “Honesty,” since I was a kid. If you browse the YouTube videos, you see Billy Joel himself making it more and more of a performance through the years, and less of the heartfelt, emotional plea the song once was.
The Western world has gone down that same spiral. Everything has become a Big Show.
I listened to the song over and over again, trying to discern what is so much more dishonest since I grew up in the ’70s.
Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.
It wasn’t just one thing; it’s nearly everything.
We have sexualized bodies up for display everywhere, but women can’t pull out their natural breasts to feed their babies.
Facebook often bans breastfeeding images on their pages while allowing all sorts of other dehumanized images of women. Apparently, nothing is more offensive than a non-sexualized breast.
We Photoshop everything to the point that our kids don’t even know what a real person looks like. Even our dolls are crazy looking. I played a game with a five-year-old girl recently where I mimicked Barbie and told her, “I’m so hungry! I’m going to eat you!” She laughed but insisted, “She’s not hungry. Women really do look that way, and she’s not too skinny.”
I looked around at the other women in the room, many of whom were very fit, and saw no one who even remotely resembled Barbie.
We contribute to this illusion by smearing make-up on our faces filled with toxins ranging from lead to arsenic, all in the name of looking “pretty.” We shave our legs, our pits and our pubes as if we were still little girls instead of grown women. In case you haven’t noticed, Barbie is completely hairless, in addition to being completely out of proportion. If you want to have a grown-up doll, with curves and makeup, she should be realistic. However, pubic hair would be considered obscene on a doll.
What is really obscene is that these dolls have been marketed and purchased by the billions since 1959. I for one have never bought a Barbie for my daughter. But I routinely throw them away in batches of five to six.
Willa Cather’s phrase “an orgy of acquisition” continually comes to mind every time I attend a birthday party. Who needs five Barbies? Who needs one? We talk about not having money for schools but where is the truth in that? The money is there, but we misspend it on crap to re-create this cycle of insanity.
We eat genetically engineered food so that we don’t have to deal with our apples turning brown after we slice them.
In fact, our entire food supply is becoming so unreal that “Lunatic Farmer” Joel Salatin recently stated:
“Many think our culture is approaching the zenith of food production through genetic modification, chemical fertilization, and factory farming, when these things are actually the beginning of collapse…The real terrorism in the world is being visited upon the American people by their own government, at the behest of timid citizens with a victim mentality who think giving up their freedom will buy security. It never has, and it never will.” (The Sun Magazine, October 2012)
In short, we don’t honor ourselves or even life itself. We worship fantasy.
Honest living means refusing to dye your hair and pretend to be younger than you are. It means refusing to remove hair that is there for a reason. It means not spending hours straightening your curly hair every day. It means not covering your face with makeup. It means not living in a house or driving a car you can’t afford. It means leaving the unflattering pictures of yourself up on Facebook anyway, because really, who the f*ck cares?
The Body is Not an Apology has a feature I really appreciate: “Bad” Picture Monday. Women send in pictures of themselves at their worst: double chins, guts, unmade faces. It’s refreshing and, surprisingly beautiful.
Check it out here.
It’s sad to think that the most political act most women now engage in is being truly themselves.
We have become such a self-absorbed nation that the political is now almost entirely personal. We forget the consequences of our apathy on the world at large.
We are too busy watching an average seven-hours-a-day of television to care that we are killing people the world over. Pakistan. Afghanistan. Iraq. Palestine. Somalia. Yemen. Will Iran be next?
Drone attacks kill people.
Usually brown Muslim people.
They often kill civilian women and children.
Acknowledging that Muslims are somehow less-than in our national consciousness would be a first step towards truth-telling.
Until we get to a point where we value all children equally, we will still be dropping bombs. We will still turn our backs on the millions around the world living in a poverty that we helped create.
Perhaps this focus on making everyone look the same has caused us to devalue those who don’t.
We don’t know what is real anymore. TV and video games begin the desensitization of our children early. The military has used video games to recruit and train for years.
“It doesn’t take much to confuse some in the 13-to-24-year-old demographic that’s the prime audience for the video. Many are consumed with playing video games—the more violent, the better. They equate the virtual thrill they get from the video game to real-life situations. Some tragically play them out in real life. For too many, the game gives an illusion of competence and control over their circumstances that kids who lack self-esteem or live in challenging situations badly need.”
If there is an honest way to kill someone, it should be face-to-face, as a means of self-defense. Not at the end of a remote control button. At what point do we say, enough?
Honesty means not making excuses for yourself, an abusive partner, or a country that has less than a stellar history. It means speaking out. It means calling people on their bullshit.
It means not working in a job you hate to pay for things you really don’t need.
It means spending time with your children instead of buying them shit. Listening to their stories. Relating to them. Sharing yours. Answering questions honestly when they ask you.
It means refusing to take pain meds or antidepressants to be more available or pleasing to other people, and not drinking alcohol to tolerate an annoying family member.
Honesty comes from listening to yourself and others, and saying “I don’t know” when you don’t.
It means owning your sexuality and not faking pleasure or orgasms.
It means eating food that will support your body and not deplete the Earth in the process.
It means not taking or hoarding more than you need.
It means saying no when you mean no and yes when you mean yes.
It means telling your partner what you really need instead of making them guess.
It means allowing your children to tell you what they think, no matter what their age is, or how “inappropriate” it is. I actually even allow my nine-year-old son to scream, “F*ck!” at the top of his lungs when he feels he needs to get it out of his system. Unconventional parenting? Probably.
I’d rather have him get his frustrations out of his system now than let them build up slowly until he’s a teenager, snuffing them out with drugs or alcohol. I tell my son, “You have a right to talk back to me. You have a right to tell me I am wrong. Perhaps, I am. You have a right to have your own opinions and feelings.“
When children cannot talk to or relate to their parents bad things happen.
It’s not surprising that truth is hard to find. We socialize our kids from the get-go to be polite. We suppress their gut instincts about people to make ourselves more socially acceptable. No one wants to have the “disobedient” kid. Believe me, I know.
We must get beyond worrying about dirty looks and actually be parents. Parenting is not about producing a robot. Parenting is giving your children the tools they need to survive and live contentedly.
People don’t like to hear the truth. They are not used to it. Criticism is hard to take. What we forget is that someone who tells us the truth is doing us a favor. How many people smile to someone’s face and complain to everyone else about how moronic they are?
People who tell the truth usually have a good intention behind it. Why else would they face scrutiny for doing so?
Honest women in particular are usually called bitches. We are cut off. We are ostracized. The fear of that alone keeps many of us silent.
“We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silences for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”
~ Audre Lorde
I believe when you really care about something or someone, you tell the truth.
At some point, all of this dishonesty will catch up with us and tank the Western world as we know it. Our lifestyles are not sustainable. We our building our society on the individual lies we tell ourselves day after day.
We must begin a collective change, but that can only come when we start telling the truth about our individual lives. The small white lies take time away from what matters. They add up and rob us of actually living.
Do I get it right all the time? No. Of course not. None of us do. And my version of the truth may be different than yours.
However, I hope to come closer to complete honesty and move away from this goofy reality show our country has become.
It is our quirky uniqueness that endears us to others. The large crooked nose, the horrendous chuckle, the inability to put down the cookie jar. It is what makes us different from others that causes death to be painful for those left behind.
People remember the dead for their realness. Attend any funeral and you will know that to be fact. No one will remember which masks we wore to be appeasing.
Editor: Brianna Bemel