Ever think about your relationship with Truth? I doubt many do. Most think of Truth as being synonymous with “fact” - or perhaps view it as an abstract concept. But what if Truth were a person?
Since I’m part bookworm, and one of my favorite books is the Dictionary, allow me to cite a few meanings that most closely approximate the spirit in which I’m writing.Truth is roughly defined as sincerity; integrity; fidelity to an original or standard. It’s also identified as what is considered to be the supreme reality and to have the ultimate meaning and value of existence.
Fascinating meanings, huh? The word Truth becomes even more intriguing when you realize that, translated back to its most ancient Indo-European roots, Truth translates into the word Loyalty!
Depending upon the subject matter (or the subject – like ourselves – for that matter), we can either love Truth or hate it, welcome it or try to run away from its presence. However, Truth being Loyal and therefore Unchangeable, remains a constant companion whether or not we choose to acknowledge it in our lives. our.
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A few years ago, I participated as an exhibitor at a national business conference. While there, I managed to escape to listen to a popular author share her (harrowing) life story as a woman scorned with her rather emotional – and emotive – audience. The author/speaker’s experience brought her face-to-face with personal issues she’d carried most of her life - like fear, lies, inferiority complexes, and other matters relating to her now shattered sense of identity. While there were certainly some “aha!” moments to her address, I could still discern a hurting lady and an audience that was hurting right along with her.
When the session was over, I turned to ask the woman seated beside me, “Why do people have a hard time looking at Truth?”
She paused briefly before responding. “Truth hurts,” she told me.
“Really?” I probed, “how do you suppose?”
After pondering the question a bit longer, she elaborated. “People avoid Truth because it hurts them to face unpleasant issues in their life.”
“So they ignore them? Pretend that the realities don’t exist?”
“Yes. That’s about it.”
This woman’s response to my question was certainly profound, but it also felt insufficient. I left the conference room wondering a few things. For example, Did people believe they could avoid pain indefinitely by simply ignoring its source? And by avoiding the obvious, did people think the Truth would eventually go away?
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Since the concept of how we view Truth as a relationship is the subject matter here, I figured it might be a good time for me to share some of my personal tales with this rather strange – yet faithful – friend.
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An early public encounter with Truth arrived one spring afternoon during a most awkward and self-conscious time in life – junior high.
My girlfriend Lori and I had met two boys during a Saturday movie matinee. Bobby and Mark sat a few rows behind us and, typical for the age, captured our attention by tossing popcorn our way.
The following Saturday, the two boys rode their Stingray bikes (for the uninitiated, Stingrays had 24” wheels, extended handlebars, and long banana seats with spoilers behind them designed for popping ‘wheelies’), to our family’s house in the next town over.
The four of us sat on our family’s front stoop enjoying the warm sunshine and making typical small talk for junior high kids of that era.
A bit later, my Nana stepped out the front door to shake her dust mop into the wind. Noticing two visitors whose faces were not among the stoop’s regular crowd, she remarked, “And who are you two?” (Nothing was ever subtle about Nana’s personality, ever.)
“Oh,” I responded, “Nana, this is Bobby and Mark. We met last week at the movies. Bobby and Mark, this is my Nana, Mrs. Carella.”
Bypassing all pleasantries, Nana blurted, “Look at you both! You two look like girls!”I gasped, totally mortified.
“Nana, don’t say that,” I whispered, trying to tame her audacious remark.
“Don’t say what?” she responded, correcting my gesture. “Just look at them!” She proceeded to grab the wavy tresses on the nape of one of the boys’ necks to make what she considered a very obvious point . “Look at all this hair! What do your mothers say about this? You both need haircuts!”
If I could have picked up the front lawn and crawled underneath, it would have been a welcome refuge, but such was not an option. Instead, I was forced to stand there exposed, my 13-year-old anguish approaching epic levels of embarrassment.
Though accustomed to Nana’s brutally truthful style at home, both in the way of compliments and criticism (“Get that jittimunica of a dress off – it looks ridiculous on you!”) this sudden encounter with her in public – and among new acquaintances – posed an overwhelming feeling of discomfort.
Now I couldn’t argue Nana’s point on the hair issue. This was the era of the early ‘70s when boys were letting their hair grow naturally, and these two were sporting some long hair. Okay, they did sort of look like girls, and one of them really had hair that look like a girl’s, but who would say so? Only my Nana, and without the slightest bit of hesitation. In her mind, she was merely stating the obvious.
Conversation continued out on our front stoop but I had already left the scene, my body present but my mind still racing for a place to hide. Nan continued chatting with these new guests for a few more minutes then, finally and to my partial relief, excused herself back to house cleaning.
As the door closed behind her, Mark asked, “So . . . that’s your grandmother?”I nodded, bracing my already shaken sense of identity for the aftershocks of Nana’s remarks. That would be the first – and last - visit from these new friends.
As it turned out, while I was hovering in my altered state of consciousness or my out-of-body experience hiding under the front lawn, I was unaware that Nana’s initial atom bomb eventually made its way to safer territory. Some animated and meaningful discussion must have followed between Nana and these boys.
While I remained in bracing mode, Mark announced rather matter-of-factly, “Your Nana’s pretty cool. I like her.”
Bobby, the quieter of the two, smiled, shaking his head in agreement.
And surely Nana was – cool, that is. Never one to hold a grudge or speak behind another’s back, Nana would faithfully address people head-on. Whether commenting on external matters like long locks on boys or confronting others with gossip or commentary that might have hurt her feelings or those of another, Nana wouldn’t hesitate to speak her mind. However, once the grievance was communicated, Nana’s air was as clean as she was – totally open for free and easy exchange.
As a bearer of the obvious, Nana’s Truth might have initially shocked the hearer, but it always paved the way for a pleasant breeze in its wake.
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My next encounter with Truth arrived during senior year in high school. Surprisingly, hair was the topic yet again. I’d just cut my own tresses in deference to then-famous Dorothy Hamill, the young Olympic figure skater who’d become a media darling during the mid-1970s and whose perky short haircut had women of all ages copying her signature style.
In my case, a Dorothy Hamill cut meant chopping a good 6 to 8” off my otherwise long and wavy brown hair. The change was dramatic, bringing the length of this new cut to the base of my ears.
While walking the halls at school the next day and sitting in my various classes, no one could miss the fact that my familiar appearance drastically changed. Many remarked on the new hairdo and a fair number even complimented the new “look”.
However, later that afternoon as I walked home from school with my girlfriend Judy, she begged to differ with public sentiment.
“You know, Maura, I like you better with long hair,” she remarked matter-of-factly.
“Really?” I asked, reflectively.
“Yes. Your hair looks better long.”
There was nothing offensive in Judy’s comment, nor did she intend any harm. Judy possessed no ulterior motive; she was merely being honest.Others might have felt offended by her candid remark, but not me. After all, how many classmates saw me earlier that day, complimented me on the new haircut, then spoke negatively about me in private? Not Judy. She just delivered the Truth – and she was right. I did look better in long hair than in short.
My next thought, whether or not I expressed it was: Where were you Judy when I needed you - two days earlier and prior to The Grand Shearing???
The funnier thing about this whole Dorothy Hamill haircut matter was that I didn’t like it either! This wedge-shaped hairdo might have been perfect for the skater, but certainly not for me. My hair was meant to be a minimum of shoulder length and the passing of time couldn’t move fast enough to get me back there. It took nearly a year for my hair to grow back its length.
Lori reminded me how I’d become a master at donning scarves to “disguise” the distance between the bottom of my hair and the top of my shoulders. Photos from our senior trip to Bermuda with our other friend Pat reveal an unfamiliar Maura brandishing swaths of fabric around my every tropical outfit – and looking absolutely ridiculous.
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Some notes on Judy. Though Judy was unaware of it that day, I’d made a mental note about her that’s worth repeating decades later. First, I respected Judy for sharing the Truth about my appearance, even at the risk of my being offended. She was willing to tell me what came off as Loyal to my appearance – and, more importantly, what did not. Secondly, I mentally labeled Judy as a Trustworthy figure. Though decades have elapsed and I have no idea of where Judy lives today, I’d love to share this tale with her now.
On a related note that only women would appreciate, I reverted years later to another short haircut, probably believing it at the time appropriate for a middle-aged suburbanite. I eventually grew it back, apparently neither aware of the shearing nor its ultimate return to a longer length. Looking back now at those photos, I’m astounded by the lack of resonance they convey. “Who is that person?” I wonder. “She doesn’t resemble anyone I know. ” Turns out the pixie cut proved just as unTruthful and disLoyal for me in my 40s as it did in my teens.
As a PS to the tale, Dorothy Hamill is still wearing that same haircut she made famous in the 1970s. And she still looks beautiful sporting her own signature style. The perky teenage girl sporting a short bob while athletically cutting along the ice remains equally attractive four decades later promoting pills to fight osteoporosis .
Truth and Loyalty. Dorothy Hamill’s bob was designed around her, making the most of her features, personality and style. Maura’s longer hair is equally designed around her . . . and it still works the same Today.
In the sometimes awkward, embarrassing and intimidating dance of Life where Truth and its twin sister Loyalty neither waiver nor leave us stranded, may we all find ways to unite with them and thereby connect with our most original – and best - Self.