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Holinger: Honesty not always the best policy

Honesty has its place. For referees, bank clerks and police officers, the truth comes with the job description.

Teachers, like myself, occasionally use it when, say, evaluating literature.

If, after going over a page from John Smith’s “General History of Virginia,” I were to tell the class, “This rocks better than a jam,” students would correctly tag me as corny and disingenuous.

Better to come clean with, “This may put you to sleep faster than Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s great to use on your SAT writing sample.”

For husbands and fathers, however, honesty should be handled more circumspectly than a mouse approaching free cheese.

The other day, for example, my wife, Tia, came home from a shopping trip from Randall Road’s malls and the Tri-Cities’ downtown shops. “Look what I found!” she exclaimed. “Small spoons! We were running out of them. Aren’t they cute?”

Of course, asking a guy with an appetite like mine if he appreciates small spoons is like asking dinosaurs if they like meteors – both lead to starvation.

So, my first thought was, “Who in their right mind would buy one small spoon, much less a dozen?”

However, any guy who’s been a husband for more than five minutes – and wants to remain married – has learned to say, “Lovely. No, really. Gorgeous. Now that we have them, I can’t imagine how we got along without them. How’d we get away eating sorbet out of demi-glasses using soup spoons? Our children’s children no doubt will wonder who had the perspicacity, nay, the joie-de-vivre, to purchase such delicate, yet surprisingly functional, spoons.”

To which accolades the wife waves off nonchalantly, having trained him to answer thusly ever since he learned to do so after the first – and only – time he made the mistake of answering honestly:

“Whadja buy that/those for? What in God’s name got into you? I hope they were giveaways at a garage sale, because that’s all I’da paid for it/them. Heck, they should have offered YOU cash to take it/them off their hands. We need it/them as much as Swiss cheese needs another hole. It’s/they’re a joke, right? Why aren’t you laughing? Why are you crying? Where are you going? No, I don’t want a divorce. You’re packing for where? Calm down and put away your passport. I didn’t mean it. I was kidding. Ha-ha. I love it/them. Cool texture and stuff.”

Fathers, too, learn quickly. “Do I want to play leapfrog on the sidewalk out front in 115-degree heat with you and 15 friends who just ate birthday cake and ice cream, then umpire your T-ball game and drive you to the water park where I can carry everybody’s tubes up 10 flights of stairs and slide down dark pretzel-shaped tubes that make my stomach queasy as a tequila hangover? You bet!”

And he learns to say it all with a smile giddier than when finding his first 10-speed Schwinn under the Christmas tree, after which he asks his dad, “Wanna go for a ride?”

• Write to Rick Holinger at

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