Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Lies, Omissions and a Dash of Coloring

Not long ago, I sat at a suburban Bunco table and listened to a woman tell a story that she’d told a couple of times before, earlier in the evening, but this last time something was different.  In fact, a lot of things were different.  By the story’s end I realized that this was a completely new version, which bore little resemblance to the tale she’d told earlier in the evening to a different group of women and I wondered which one was real?


Ordinarily, I don’t pay much attention to a story told a second or third time at these events (for the uninitiated, this happens in Bunco, since you spend close to three hours shuffling between three tables of four women), but I often find myself following the conversations of this one woman – because finding any truth hidden in her storytelling becomes sort of a Where’s Waldo game for me.


It doesn’t really bother me, these discrepancies in the woman’s stories – because she isn’t really hurting anybody, but I have noticed that her reputation has taken some pretty serious dings over the years, as she drives some people crazy.


My father used to say, “There are two sides to every story and then, there’s the truth.”  With all of the media hyperbole over the years coloring accounts ranging from pruient politicians to the tapeworms of Tinseltown (sorry, there is no other way for me to categorize much of Hollywood’s publicity hungry population – Wikipedia it, you’ll see), I’ve come to realize that there are far more sides to the truth than any of us previously believed.  No reason to just shine the spotlight of truth on suburban housewives.


Take myself for example — my husband discovered my telling of his Waffle Iron as Birthday Gift gaffe and said, “You did tell people that I got you another gift, right?!”  Uh, no!  Hello?  That’s not as funny, now is it?  Besides, the damage was done after opening the waffle iron as the first gift the morning of my birthday.  The rest of the day was cast in a sickly, yellow (waffle batter) light, darn it.


In my lifetime, I’ve had the strange (mis)fortune of being behind the scenes during some pretty amazing newsworthy events.  Politics, sports, entertainment personalities – I’ve had a range of relationships that allowed me to see and hear things that other people only got to read about or hear on the evening news when all was said and done.  Because of this, my vantage point didn’t always contain the same imagery that reporters managed to walk away with.  As information traveled down the media pipelines, the end result was either drained of color or punched up to add whatever reporters and their bosses deemed lacking.  A bloody shame really, because they often missed the true heart of many stories.


We all see the world through different windows, many times attributing what we see as the neighbors dirty laundry to our own terribly dirty window.  What we’re seeing or hearing passes through the filter of our own histories, coloring our interpretations of events by the light of our past knowledge and experiences.  Retelling these events then takes on whatever shape our hearts, brains and often faulty senses and memory determine.


Sometimes people shift the size and shape of their storytelling to fit their current audience.  I have a friend who can tell the same tale to a handful of different women, yet she only divulges certain information to each.  She’s not comfortable giving up all the details to everyone, because she’s afraid to offend the certain sensibilities and sensitivities of each woman.  She’d be surprised to learn that we all come together at some point to connect the dots.  We don’t judge her for it, though we all laugh heartily, knowing how she operates and what works best for her.


The Bunco Babe, I believe, tells her stories to fit her captive audience of the moment.  Sometimes she adds or leaves information out and sometimes she seems to spice it up to get the bigger reaction that she was probably craving the first couple of tries.  For me, I’ve decided that as long as it the story isn’t legally binding, life-altering or limb-threatening, I’ll continue to listen.  No harm, no foul.  Despite it all, she’s entertaining.


Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”  Years later, Winston Churchill substituted pants for shoes, but that didn’t really make it a lie, did it?   It made the information a bit saucier and a bit more memorable, but the idea remained basically the same.  [I can’t help but wonder if liar-liar, pants-on-fire is somehow related.  Now, there’s a story waiting to be told.]


Depending on what people choose to add, omit or how they color their stories, it makes the art of listening a little trickier …whether at the water cooler, a social event or from our news sources.  We have to keep in mind that we don’t have to roll our eyes or pass judgment on the storyteller, because ultimately we are the ones who hold the power, having the choice to walk away deciding what to believe … … and what needs to be researched a bit more to satisfy our souls and ultimately, our sanity.

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