A few years ago when millennial girls all decided to start every sentence with, “To be honest” I could feel my eye twitch and my brain start to sizzle. I mean, I had already accepted the overuses of literally I cannot change, the courage to change the literallys I can and the wisdom to literally know the difference. I already embraced the new teeth gnashing existence of bruh. I swallowed the linguistic pills of bae, fam and everything in between. How much more is a 40-something gay book nerd supposed to endure? Besides, there was always something so redundant and awkward about “to be honest” or “tbh” as we say online. Like unless you clarify with “to be honest” we are to assume the rest of the time you are full of shit? Or is it like “to be honest” as in I’m gonna get real. I’m gonna let you have it. I’m going to tell it like it is.
As with many internet speak phrases that drive me nuts, however, I surrendered and started using it too. I found ways to drop a “tbh” in funny places, no big deal. You know ironic, smart-assy. You know. How I say basically everything. In case you didn’t realize this, I watched old movies as a kid with the sassy, salty sidekick and assumed it was a tutorial on how I should behave as an adult. This, for the most part, has been a disastrous assumption. Sarcasm doesn’t work too well with doctors , bill collectors, strangers, religious fanatics, people sensitive to jokes about being a drug addict, people on Facebook from high school who I don’t actually remember but now wish I never followed, etc. But in the world of online banter? It’s a hit. Or if it’s not, I stream of consciousness vomit out so many posts that at least one is bound to land. As long as we’re being honest here, the real reason the phrase probably makes me uncomfortable is that being honest is something I still sort of bristle at. After nearly of 8 years of having people tell me I needed to get honest, I’m still sort of holding out for fantasy to pay off. I’m still waiting for a magical story in my mind to become real life.
The urge to be dishonest remains pretty powerful. Without busting out the sad silent movie violin solo, I’ll tell you that I learned to bullshit at an early age as a way to cope, to divert attention and to handle the craziness around me. The BS fest went from white lies to full on delusion somewhere around the age of 30. I’d lied to myself and everyone else for so long that the truth felt horrifying and more than that, totally unattainable. Thus the mere idea of getting real about everything when I got sober sounded insane. And it felt like one I could probably bullshit my way through. Honesty, schmonesty. There just had to be a way to skate through that part of being sober.
After all, I thought I already was honest. I had no problem telling you what was wrong with you, how fucked up your life was and what you needed to do to change it. Too bad in order to stop killing myself I had to be honest about myself. Well, fuck. That I was horrible at. I mean really bad. I tried to nap car accidents away. I tried to drink angry landlords into oblivion. I tried to snort so much cocaine that bad relationships would vanish. All to no avail. So here I was, me, the guy who thought I told it like it is, I had to tell on myself, I had to stop lying and I had to do it all of the time, darling.
Honesty, thank freaking glitter unicorn goddess in the sky, is a practice. I didn’t get all super fucking honest all at once. It has taken time. A lot of time. And just as I think I’ve embraced all the gnarly parts of my past and of my personality, more crap will show up in a flaming bag on the doorstep of my mind. Terrific. On good days, I face these things and rely on new ways of thinking. On bad days, I blurt out lies knowing I’ll have to clean it up eventually. Such is life. C’est lie vie, as it were.
So if I’m honest, if I’m telling it like it is, if I’m being real right in this moment, what would that look like? I guess I would say I spent much of this summer feeling disillusioned and very sad but now I actually feel better. I guess I would say that after nearly six years, I am very much still in love with my husband despite misplacing my wedding ring during a homemade salsa making session. I’d also say that some days I wake up thinking everything is really fucked, only to be inevitably proven wrong by some kind person or miracle of nature. I would tell you too that the juggling of the ongoing care of two diseases that could kill me wears me the fuck out and I still slip into a fantasy where I don’t have these things. I would also say that I have a lot of thoughts that are toxic but I have just as many resources to help me combat them. But mainly I would say despite daily bouts of “why the fuck did I lie about that” I know that I am more honest than I used to be. I wake up without panic and without being suffocated by lies and insanity and this is something special. My life is real, messy and,for the most part, fantasy-free and I wouldn’t have it any other way, to be honest.