Jewish Journal

Caveat Emptor

by J.D. Smith

Posted on Aug. 8, 2002 at 8:00 pm

When you meet someone new, you start with a clean slate. Tabula rasa. There's such a wonderful sense of mystery and discovery in the air. You gradually fill in all the pertinent information, like on a credit application: name, date of birth, address, whom do we call in case of an emergency? This goes on until you've formed a pretty complete picture of the person, until you know them and can make an informed decision about your future together.

I used to work for a guy who said, "What you don't know won't hurt you -- it'll kill you." Of course, you can never really, fully, completely, entirely "know" another person, but you try to learn the ways of someone's heart, their values, desires, likes and dislikes, until your mind is satisfied. I have a friend named Gary who married his high school sweetheart, but she still throws him a knuckle ball every once in a while. So I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to learn that my girlfriend, Alison, is still a cipher to me.

Suddenly, she likes country music. The news comes as a revelation to me. This weekend she declared she's "into" Faith Hill. She never mentioned any of this during the deposition phase of getting to know her. There is an infamous book called "The Rules" that states a woman should not tell a man about any serious "deal-breaker" problems until she's pretty sure she's already got him roped in. I should've suspected something like this would come out in the wash, Delilah.

"Why didn't you tell me this before, when I could still do something about it?"

"You didn't ask me."

She's right, of course. Robert Evans once said, "Omission is not lying." I didn't think to ask about the country music thing, so shame on me. I also didn't think to ask if she's got a husband and three children somewhere. Maybe I should. "Do you have a husband and three children somewhere, honey?" Anything is possible with this woman.

I thought I had achieved a certain kind of understanding, a level of intimacy with Alison, but then one night I mentioned something from the movie "All About Eve." She's never seen it. Let me repeat: My girlfriend waited until we were almost six months into a relationship before she admitted that she has never seen "All About Eve." Alison wasn't born yesterday, folks. (Next she'll tell me she's never seen "Born Yesterday," or worse, that she saw and loved the remake with Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith -- and owns the video.) What kind of person am I getting involved with? Clearly, this is not someone who can be trusted.

Oh, the deception! Now it turns out that she doesn't like 50/50 bars. You think you know a person, and then something like this comes along. I bought some lovely Häagen-Dazs sorbet-and-cream bars and she doesn't even like them. That's right. Couldn't care less.

Out of nowhere, I find out that she went on Semester at Sea, that floating brothel lovingly referred to as "The Love Boat" by the lusty coeds who share in the carnality of a college semester spent applying suntan lotion on one another. Who knew? It's not as though we never discussed her formative years at university. Indeed, I have been nothing if not diligent in learning more about that period -- and here I am now, shocked to find out that she's been hiding these critical pieces to the psychological puzzle that is Alison.

How will I find it in my heart to forgive these obfuscations, these lies, these petty treacheries? What else is there to discover about my enigmatic girlfriend? What other sordid details is she hiding in that devious little head of hers? Might I find out that she has a criminal past which -- oops! -- she "conveniently" forgot to mention? What's next? Does she play the drums in a punk band on the nights we don't see each other? Is she a spy for a foreign government? Am I her "cover"? Is our whole relationship a sham? I lie awake at night wondering if she could be an alien from another planet. At this point, we still don't know.

I, on the other hand, am unfailingly honest. Unlike certain people, my life is an open book. I have, to the best of her knowledge, never deceived her. I have answered every direct question posed to me fully and honestly, as though I were on the witness stand, one hand on a stack of Bibles. I have nothing to hide ... except those things that she will have to find out for herself.

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