Thursday, December 20, 2012

"This is Disgusting"

"This is disgusting.  It's like someone just mashed up the chickpeas and didn't even add any flavor.  Eww."  

<Anguished pause>

"Oh my god.  Did you make this?!?  I'm...I'm, so sorry.  What I meant, err, I didn't...Oh, I'm sorry."

Yup, that happened to my wife.  Really.  A couple of days ago I made hummus from scratch:  I soaked the chickpeas for 8+ hours, boiled them, then processed them with tahini, olive oil, garlic, lemon, paprika, and salt & pepper.  (The recipe I used was from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian".)  Although not perfect, the hummus certainly wasn't dreadful.  Or disgusting.  I've been to Israel so I know what exceptional hummus is suppose to look and taste like and I admit my concoction certainly wouldn't be mistaken for something sold in Jerusalem but, still, really? 

My wife attended her work holiday lunch party and she brought the homemade hummus & pita chips, placed them on the food table, then set about for an hour or so of awkwardly trying to eat and socialize with her colleagues.  When she finally sat down next to the offending colleague --- a bitter, know-it-all woman with a strong opinion on everything and a penchant for judgement --- the bowl of hummus was nearly empty.  (The seat adjacent to this woman was empty for a reason?)  My wife didn't report seeing any other coworkers trying not to betray their disgust of the flavorless hummus so it's reasonable to assume this colleague's opinion wasn't shared by everyone.  Nevertheless, everyone is entitled to their opinion and perhaps my concoction really was the worst she'd ever had but I can't fathom why, and how, a person justifies broadcasting their disgust to anybody who will listen.  And the best part?  This colleague is a diplomat:  a person schooled in the art of being diplomatic, of being likable.  The more I think about this, though, perhaps her honesty is laudable?  Her utter disregard for social mores ("say something nice or don't say anything at all") is both surprising and, weirdly, admirable.  The colleague is just one opinion so she may be a singular exception to the rest of the group but, still, her forthrightness confounds and fascinates. 

In "Lying", a Kindle Single by Sam & Annaka Harris, they say this about "white lies":

But what could be wrong with truly "white" lies?  First, they are still lies.  And in telling them, we incur all the problems of being less than straightforward in our dealings with other people.  Sincerity, authenticity, integrity, mutual understanding --- these and other sources of moral wealth are destroyed the moment we deliberately misrepresent our beliefs, whether or not our lies are ever discovered.

The offending colleague wasn't in a position to tell a "white lie" since she volunteered her opinion without prompting and my wife wasn't likely to query her (or anyone else) on what they thought of the hummus.  There wasn't any opportunity for her to be insincere or inauthentic in this regard since no one asked her opinion.  Needless to say, I doubt anyone will ever accuse this offending colleague of deliberately misrepresenting her beliefs.  This situation, though, begs the question:  was what the offending colleague did grossly offensive or perversely admirable?  My initial reaction was one of offense and shock but now I'm not so sure.  Either way, this occurrence is oddly humorous, especially since a scene from "Love Actually" captures the situation so well: 

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