An Inconvenient Truth

“You’re fat.”

 The words stung. They were true, but that didn’t make them sting any less. And my natural instinct upon hearing them directed at me was to lash out. Wonder Woman had her golden bracelets to deflect bullets; I had a few pointed barbs.

 But the insults aimed at the object of my scorn carried little weight, ironically, because his words hadn’t been spoken in anger or out of spite or with any malicious intent whatsoever. Rather, they’d been said out of love and concern, and they’d been said by perhaps the only person on the planet who could say them and know their intention would be understood.

 It might help to understand that at the time, I was eating a bag of Bugles. Okay, fine two bags of Bugles. Simultaneously.

 My best friend, seeing what I’d chosen to chow down on for lunch, tried the gentle approach. But being the person I am, I dug in my heels, trying to rationalize that like the heart, the stomach wants what the stomach wants. And so, fully aware that desperate times call for desperate measures, he pulled out the big guns.

 “You’re fat,” he said.

 Now, being in full possession of both a mirror and functioning eyes, this was not breaking news. I did not clutch imaginary pearls and say, “How very dare you, sir!” Instead, I bristled and chaffed… and then acknowledged that, like Toulouise in Moulin Rogue he only spoke the truth.

 Perhaps more importantly, he spoke the kind of truth that only a true friend can — and will — speak. The kind that sounds harsh to the ears of others, but is heard as oddly loving by those of the recipient. He might as well have been saying, “Smoking will kill you,” which he did when pushing me, successfully, to quit several years ago. Because like that statement, his concern about my weight came with the unspoken addendum, “… and you’re important to me, and I don’t want to see bad things happen to you.”

 Often in life, we know things that we don’t want to acknowledge. We use rationalizations and justifications and anything else we can use as a tool to dig a hole on the sandy beach in which to bury our heads. If we’re lucky, however, we have someone who will blow past the excuses and slip past our defenses to tell us not what we want to hear, but what we need to know.

And those people? They’re called keepers.

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