Telling the whole messy truth

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LIVING - Donna Debs

This story is about a di­vorced man, a sink, a cookie and a few ques­tions.

The first ques­tion: “Why is the sink leak­ing?” That was easy. It was busted.

The sec­ond was asked while the sink was be­ing fixed. While in­stalling a new faucet, the man, the plumber, chat­ted about his life as trades­men tend to do when they find you in your night­gown with your oat­meal, com­plain­ing. The two of you sur­rounded by the in­ti­macy of leaky wa­ter, un­combed hair, and a stench aris­ing from ei­ther soggy waste or your bare feet.

I heard about the daugh­ter nearby, the first grand­child, the ex-wife who lived hours away.

Q: So you’re a con­firmed bach­e­lor now?

His head bobbed up and down, his arms swept side­ways in de­feat and he bel­lowed un­equiv­o­cally, “Yes.”

Which I thought was a shame. He was cute in that down-to-earth unas­sum­ing way that makes you think of work benches, camp­ing, and fall­ing asleep with a beer on the couch. Q: Be­cause ... ? A: Be­cause I can’t get along with any­body. We laughed. He didn’t say his wife was a cheater or no longer the woman he’d loved or they were way too young when they mar­ried. None of that.

He told the truth, maybe not

the whole messy truth, but some­thing real. He said if you took a good, hard look at him, be­low the ex­te­rior, you’d see he wasn’t much of a catch.

And I sud­denly found him very at­trac­tive.

“But you’re so cute,” I said. He blushed.

My hus­band peeked around the cor­ner to check if I was flirt­ing. I fig­ure if you get to be a cer­tain age, men know you’re jok­ing. My hus­band dis­agrees. “Watch it,” he likes to say, “you’re not that old.”

I con­tin­ued to chat at a nice, safe dis­tance.

Q: So you’re too dif­fi­cult to live with, set in your ways, can’t com­pro­mise?

A: Yeah, I’m all those things. I’m im­pos­si­ble. It’s bet­ter to leave me alone.

So he was flawed. So what? Who isn’t? I was charmed that he didn’t make up a story, throw a curve ball, make her the bad guy. And I thought, if plumbers can do it, why not politi­cians? Why not the rest of us?

I re­mem­bered sta­tis­tics I’ve quoted be­fore. A Uni­ver­sity of Mas­sachusetts study that showed 60 per­cent of us tell three lies in ev­ery 10-minute con­ver­sa­tion. Maybe a hun­dred or a cou­ple of hun­dred lies a day — tiny lies, so­cial lies, big lies. I never eat dessert, I love your dress, I feel fine, I did noth­ing wrong. Pro­tect­ing our­selves, cov­er­ing up guilt, puff­ing our­selves up, ex­ag­ger­at­ing.

Another Bri­tish study says men lie twice as much as women, but I’d say it’s more like 10 times as much, and I’m stick­ing to it.

When Pete the Plumber left, and the kitchen was se­cured, I drove down to the mar­ket for a few items, still think­ing about the re­fresh­ing na­ture of things be­ing what they are, in­stead of a con­vo­luted col­lec­tion of half-truths and out­right delu­sions. And how at­trac­tive that was.

At the mar­ket, next to the reg­is­ter, I asked another ques­tion.

Q: Where are the mo­lasses cook­ies that usu­ally sit in the cozy wicker bas­ket?

The bas­ket was empty. I was shown a sign from the baker.

A: I had a prob­lem with the mo­lasses dough to­day. I’ll try again to­mor­row.

Her ex­cuse could have been so much more pro­tec­tive, like my South Amer­i­can mo­lasses con­nec­tion was de­tained by ter­ror­ists. Or some­thing to di­vert guilt like, “No mo­lasses cook­ies to­day. You don’t need them any­way.”

But there it was, messy again. Messy dough. She had screwed up and she told us. How ap­peal­ing.

Im­me­di­ately, I wanted those cook­ies more than ever. Next time I eat one, maybe I’ll even ad­mit it.

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