by Julian Keys
I got the idea for the story Full Disclosure while thinking about all men and women do to get ready for a date. The push-up bras and tummy flattening pantyhose, the make-up that hides blemishes. That’s on the women’s side, but the men do likewise with suits that slenderize or shoes that give them a bit more height. We all pick out the perfect “costume” that doesn’t so much make us look our best as it hides our flaws and gives us attributes we might not naturally have.
We lie on first dates. Lie and lie and lie. We hide all the unappealing stuff, while pretending to have all the appealing stuff that might get this fish to bite.
An obvious observation and true, but thinking about it, I wondered. Aren’t we going about this the wrong way? With such tricks we might get short-term rewards, but won’t the object of our desire be pissed off in the morning when they find out we’re not so buxom or slim or tall? I know our hope is that if they just give us a chance, and find out how wonderful we are, they’ll forgive the fact that we weren’t completely honest. But it still seems like an ass-backwards way to go about finding a soul-mate, meaning someone who loves you for who you are, not what you appear to be.
So…what if we didn’t pretend to be anything other than what we were? That question led me to write my, perhaps, most rawly realistic story: Full Disclosure.
I simply took that premise and ran with it. What if a couple decided to show and tell each other everything on that first date rather than hiding it? What if they decided to display their stretch marks and love handles rather than cover them up? What if they discussed their sexual habits, upfront and honestly, rather than fumbling with each other in the dark, playing guessing games? What if they took everything usually learned the morning after and put it on the table in that first hour, during that first evening together? What if they went on a “backwards” date?
Wow. I wanted to find out what would happen. So, I wrote up their story. As I wrote it up, though, something very interesting happened. I started to explore not only what honesty would bring to a couple, but why they (why anyone) would be dishonest in the first place. The “whys” of lies. We lie with each other fearing rejection, of course, and wanting whatever it is we want. But what about those times when we see the truth about someone we think we love or at least want to be with…and ignore it? When we lie to ourselves?
That’s when the story got really interesting. And uncomfortable. A writer can’t expose the hard truths about their characters without exposing themselves. And I was asking some very hard questions. Like why men and women often date those who aren’t good for them, and who they know aren’t good for them. Like why they go back to such people–or pick others just like them rather than learning and going for someone different. Which was why, at this point, I began to worry. My hero and heroine were turning out to be the least heroic characters I’d ever created. They’d made bad decisions, and hadn’t been honest or courageous enough to leave those mistakes behind.
As the story went on, however, and they revealed even more of themselves, I began to realized that they were also two of my most heroic characters. Because they were willing to admit how un-heroic they’d been. Full disclosure. It wasn’t just about characters revealing their naked selves to each other and finding someone who loved them for who they really were. It was about two, self-doubting souls standing naked before a mirror and learning to forgive and love themselves. It was about honesty, but it was also about renewal.
Fully disclosing ourselves to one another takes courage, but fully disclosing ourselves to ourselves…that takes heroism. I hope you’ll find this story as revealing a read as I did while writing it–and as inspiring.
Anthologies which include this story: