Taking the Fifth

Lot of things in the news at the moment about upper management in Arthur Andersen taking the 5th over the Enron bankruptcy. The 5th Amendment, for those of you who don’t know, basically states that you cannot testify if it might incriminate yourself. Now what the fuck is that all about?? Surely anyone who takes the 5th is basically saying “I’m guilty, but if I say anything you’ll put me away”. Hmm. America is a strange country sometimes….

The subject of honesty is close to my heart at the moment. Sometimes people can seem transparent in their actions and you think they aren’t coming clean about what they are really thinking. There’s no point telling them that you’re pretty certain you know because that will just make them react badly. It’s another classic no-win situation. You keep quiet and hope they ‘fess up, or you say something and they deny it. I’ve been on both sides of this and it’s always awkward, but the times when honesty has come out has always been the quickest to resolve, whatever way it did.

A few years ago there was a situation with this girl I had been dating – we had broken up but still worked together and were going for lunch a few days a week. Suddenly she stopped going for lunch with me and acted very strangely indeed. I asked her what the matter was and she said ‘nothing’. Her behavior got increasingly strange around me during our work day till eventually she agreed to talk to me over lunch. Over the lunch she asked me to stop asking her what was the matter, that nothing was the matter. I asked her if she was seeing anyone. She said ‘no’. I said that was fine, that was all I wanted to know, so the reason why she behaved like she did was down to me. At this point she went quiet, and then said, softly, would it matter to me if she was seeing someone? Happiness set in, I’d known this was the case for a while and had felt like I was going mad due to her white lies to me, designed to prevent me being hurt. I said no, so she admitted she had started seeing someone for the last few weeks. It transpired to be the person I’d thought it was which threw her even more.

What was interesting to me about that situation was that I’d normally taken myself to be very insensitive to these emotional situations, but I’d turned out to be completely accurate. Only because someone was lying to me to “save my feelings” had I felt like a complete idiot. If they had respected my feelings and told me everything would have been a lot simpler, but life isn’t always that easy. Of course this isn’t to say there haven’t been times when I’ve been completely wrong about this sort of thing. I’m not perfect.. honest!!

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