Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 10.24.08
Stanstead, Quebec


The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Sometimes.

STANSTEAD, QC | The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Sometimes.

My seven-year-old has a habit of complimenting waitresses, and not just for their attentiveness or for not sticking their thumb in the soup. She tells them they're pretty.

"You're pretty," Abby told our waitress in Lennoxville last week.

"There's your tip," I added.

I don't think Abby's ever met a waitress she hasn't liked. But then, they bring her fries, so what's not to like? Do the waitresses appreciate the compliment? Well, they almost always say, "Why, thank you!" or "Aren't you sweet!"

I can't prove it but I'm pretty sure we've had more than our fair share of Pepsi refills as a result.

We're never again as candid as we are as a child, I mean genuine tell-it-like-it-is honesty. As we get older, candor is eventually weaned out of us by the forces of socialization, inhibition, and not getting punched in the nose. At best, we "share our emotions" or "open up." Mostly, though, we just stew.

So far, Abby shows no signs of giving up. Thankfully, her moments of frankness veer towards the positive rather than the overly cringe-worthy, such as "You're ugly" or "My dad says you have a big bum."

Still, there are moments. On the way home from Lennoxville, Quebec, that night, for instance, Abby told my daughter's friend, "You talk too much." It wasn't even true. She didn't talk too much, just surprisingly a lot.

But because Abby's seven she got away with it. The friend just laughed. (Although it did get noticeably quieter in the back seat.)

I reprimanded her for being rude -- it's my role as an emotionally constipated parent to do my bit to stifle true honesty so that society doesn't go off the rails.

Still, I wondered, what would happen if we didn't outgrow frankness?

Certainly we tend to continue being brutally honest at home with our loved ones. After all, their opinions of us don't really matter. What family doesn't regularly tell each other, "You smell bad," or "This babaghanouj looks like gangrene," or "Dad says you have a big bum"? Oh, and occasionally a "You're pretty" to keep family harmony from teetering over the brink.

But what about elsewhere?

Imagine your boss asked you to stay late to inventory the mascot heads. You'd simply tell him, "You're mean," and let the cards fall where they lay. Or pink slips as the case may be.

Or you could say to a co-worker, "You're pretty." Who knows what would happen? Interoffice romance? Restraining order? Punch in the nose? Certainly not your typical day at the office. Unless, of course, your office is The Ruptured Spleen Swill-O-Rama and Tattoo Emporium.

How about this? You're sitting in a middle-management meeting concerning a new office policy on the display of inspirational pussycat calendars in light of the fact that one of the employees suffers from ailurophobia, AKA fear of cats. You let out a loud yawn and announce, "I'm bo-o-o-o-o-o-ored!" Why, you'd be the office hero!

Wouldn't it be cool if you could simply approach a stranger and say, "Do you want to be my friend?" Outside of Facebook, that is. Then you'd add, "Look what I can do," and sing Puccini's "Nessun Dorma" so passionately that it induces goose bumps.

Or make armpit farts, your choice.

Imagine saying to a friend, "You won't drive me to the airport? Then I'm not your friend anymore," instead of what you usually do, which is say, "That's okay," and then simmer in resentment until the day comes when that friend wants you to baby sit her seven-year-old, and you lie about having a mysterious rash, a lie that provides you with bitter satisfaction but darkens the corners of your soul.

We warned, though: later on, that seven-year-old will come up to you and say, "You're mean."

If you had been honest, it might have been, "You're pretty."

And there's your tip.