Do I tell or don’t I?

Photo Courtesy of Pete Whalon TRUTH—For many years I’ve been of the belief that if someone has a visible “problem” I would let them know or ask, out of concern, what had happened?

A few weeks ago I did something extremely stupid. While walking and talking to a friend at the soccer fields where I work part time I fell over a low-seated bench. I was exceptionally lucky and only scraped my nose and sprained a wrist. Although my honker was fine it looked worse than it proved to be. I knew that the next day at my morning workout all my gym-rat buddies would delight in presenting their own scenarios as to what happened to me. I was completely caught off guard when only one person acknowledged my tattered beak and inquired about the injury. I found it odd since I am not sensitive to criticism or personal observations. Also, since it was not serious I would think that most people would just ask out of curiosity as to what caused the scrapes. I would have. After another day interacting with various acquaintances and friends I was confused as to why so very few asked about my obvious injury. It got me thinking about times when most people do not question other obvious things about another’s appearance. Help me out here brothers and sisters, because I’m confused.

For many years I’ve been of the belief that if someone has a visible “problem” I would let them know or ask, out of concern, what had happened? If I encounter a person with spinach on their teeth or, heaven forbid, an unfortunate soul with a “thing” dangling from their nose I point it out and let them know what’s up so they can correct it immediately. My two questions to you are, do you inform the victim in such an instance and do you, as the victim, want to be informed? Or, do you chicken out and leave the distressing notification to the next guy? Would you rather discover the “untidiness” yourself, hours later, in front of your bathroom mirror? This appears to be one of life’s oldest and most disturbing dilemmas.

Of course, there is a degree of severity when encountering a personal malfunction. Most would agree that the “nose trash” could be the most complicated and disgusting when facing this situation. Blurting out, “hey dude, looks like you’ve got a shoestring hanging from your nostril” could prove awkward and stressful for both parties. On the other hand, lint on someone’s collar or a shirt button unbuttoned is a no brainer. These declarations actually make you feel good about yourself, as if you have rescued them from future embarrassment. You are kind of a hero in your own mind. However, informing a friend that he has moist toilet paper dangling from his pants, not so much! I believe the all-time classic is when a woman confronts a man with his zipper down (barn door opened). There is nothing more disheartening than returning home from a long day at work to realize your fly was opened all day. Not only do you have to recall all the people you interacted with during the day, you must come to grips with the fact that you will never know who noticed and who didn’t. Also, why the heck didn’t anyone tell you? Friends don’t let friends stay unzipped!

There is one, extremely minor situation that has always bugged me. It’s when someone’s shirt tag is sticking up in back. Many of the tags these days are gigantic and need to be tucked in, out of sight. I realize this shouldn’t be on my radar, but it is. In the past I would inform people of their fashion blunder falsely believing they would give a crap. Let’s just say that most don’t and can be rude in their retorts. People, please do me a favor before you leave the house; check your tags…for me! I digress, again.

Okay, back to our quandary. When noticing a wardrobe malfunction, unwanted facial debris, recent physical abnormality or anything on anyone that you feel warrants a reply, what the heck do you do? For me, I almost always confront the deformity immediately (yes, except for exposed tags). Hey Gary, you’ve got this grey looking liquid dripping from your left ear, go check it out dude!” In my mind I have performed a public service, probably preventing Gary further embarrassment down the road. Also, it you ever see me with junk on my face please inform me immediately. And if I have a limp, scrape, bruise or twitch go ahead and ask. I will gladly fill you in on how I received the wound, although I just may lie to you if the defect was caused by an utterly irresponsible act on my part, like say, tripping over a bench.

Do I tell or don’t I?