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Senior Moments

Category: Aging, General / Topics: Character, Integrity Communication

The Fine Art of Fibbing

by Dan Seagren

Posted: January 20, 2008

A sobering senior moment often sneaks up on us and we are tempted to exaggerate, evade the issue, fib or even lie…

You may have heard about the proverbial 70 year-old man who attended a party with his beautiful 25 year-old wife. When asked how he managed that, he said, "I lied about my age."

"Did you tell her you were 50?"

"No, I said I was 90." And so the story goes.

Now the guessing game begins. Was she a gold digger? If so, she'll probably have to wait longer than she thought (if she actually believed him). If she were truly in love and age was immaterial, the lie (or fib?) wouldn't really matter. If she knew him well, she probably knew he was kidding. Maybe she was super altruistic and seriously wanted to care for him as he aged. But if she were naïve, well, we'd feel sorry for her. And maybe him.

A sobering senior moment often sneaks up on us and we are tempted to exaggerate, evade the issue, fib or even lie. Seniors generally are seasoned, conscientious people although there are exceptions. Many have been educated to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

However, there are moments when this is difficult, perhaps even improbable. "Honey, do you like my new hairdo?" We may think it is awful and tend to either ignore the inquiry or respond in the affirmative rather than say what we think. What do we do? Lie? Fib? Surrender? Make a joke or change the subject?

On the other hand: "Does this tie go with this shirt?" Possible answers: "No, dear. You know better than ask." "Wear it if you want but you'll have to go without me." "Where we are going anything goes so go ahead and wear it."

Lying, cheating, phoniness, evasive responses occur daily. Some are relatively harmless, others are malicious and self-serving. Unquestionably at times it is better to keep silent than express how we think or feel.

But when that becomes the rule and not the exception, the equation changes. The old adage it is better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt is proverbial wisdom even though it may be cowardly under certain circumstances.

Being evasive or cruelly blunt are hardly the only alternatives but too often they come in handy. The Good Book, outmoded according to some pundits because of its antiquity, records the message chiseled in stone: You shall not bear false witness . . . Other translations simply say You shall not lie.

Some would probably say you should never tell a lie but if necessary you can fib a little. E.g. to save a life, to avoid an embarrassment. This Commandment is at the heart of our judicial system, true, but it is also at the crux of personal relationships. Bearing false witness is a serious affront (to insult (demean) intentionally) and should not be a justifiable senior moment.

Now I realize this isn't one of my most rousing columns. But suppose your grandchild sidles up to you and asks an I'd-rather-you-didn't-ask question. Like, Grandma, how come you're celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary and my Mom is 52? Or, Grandpa, why were you arrested for drunk driving? Granny, why don't you visit us more often? Uncle John, is it true you flunked med school?

These senior moments can and do arise, often at inopportune moments. Do we take the 5th? Change the subject? Tell a little white lie? Excuse ourselves (run for the exit or create an alibi or plea bargain)? Or, like the 70 year old above, tell a joke? At times it is true that silence is golden. Ironically, at times telling the truth is more damaging than changing the subject or answering a question by asking a question. We do have quite a few options.

These senior moments, often uninvited, and sometimes unwarranted, are inescapable. Unfortunately, we don't always have the wit and wisdom of the 70 year-old bridegroom, do we?

Search all articles by Dan Seagren

Dan Seagren is an active retiree whose writings reflect his life as a Pastor, author of several books, and service as a Chaplain in a Covenant Retirement Community.

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Posted: January 20, 2008   Accessed 119 times

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