I just became the proud owner of a puppy. His name is Chutney, following in the proud tradition of Pickles, the wonder dog. He’s a toy poodle, with more fluff than is really necessary, and is awesomely cute.
He’s not perfect, dear Chutney. He has a tendency to sit instead of walking along with me, sometimes he gets excited and nibbles my face (ouch), and he has troubles holding his bodily contents until the best moments to release them. But he’s only 11 weeks old. I know full grown adult people who have the same issues.
There’s a difference, though. Chutney is all visible. He is overjoyed to see me, he shows when he is exasperated with me, he lets me know when he needs something or wants something. It’s all right there on the surface, and is one of the reasons I truly love dogs. I love most animals, but I prefer those who are up front with me. Cats are good at dissembling – at pretending all is okay, and then doing something nasty in your absence. They resent when you are gone and they wreak vengeance. Dogs usually are just glad you’re back.
People are different, too. They can pretend to accept you, like you, take you at face value – but they can be like cats – hiding their true emotions until you aren’t looking. I know lots of folks who pretend to be in love, for example, despite being furious with their partners. I know people who pretend to like the music their partner likes, while secretly gritting their teeth. I know people in the workplace who pretend to get along, and then gather waspishly to discuss the evils of you and other co-workers. Heck, I am one of those people, though I strive to be better, more truthful, than I was.
I suppose we are all Janus-like to some extent, holding our friendly face forward while keeping our unfriendly one hidden unless we can no longer maintain the pretence. During my marriage, I spent a lot of time holding the happy face forward, getting along. I really do hate conflict, though I am unafraid of it. It just messes with my groove thang. So I pretended things were okay, went along, tried to smile, all the while letting my Janus backface speak to friends and family. It was unfair to my ex, to my kids, and ultimately to me. I didn’t treat any of us with the respect my dog grants me, and he’s just a puppy.
I know there probably isn’t any way to make it all up to those I hurt (daughter of mine, are you reading this?) with my two-faced approach. But I can be better going forward. More doglike. More like my Chutney.
The problem is, like Chutney, I can be fooled by a friendly hand, a treat, a soft voice. I can try to be honest, but what of the world around me? It encourages monkishness, honestly, but I’m a social pup. I like to share myself with others. But I tire of trying to decipher messages. I tire of wondering if that hand holding the treat has other plans, or is not really attached to someone with my interests at heart.
And meanwhile, I smile.
Smiling faces sometimes pretend to be your friend
Smiling faces show no traces of the evil that lurks within
Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don’t tell the truth uh
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof
The truth is in the eyes
Cause the eyes don’t lie, amen
– The Temptations