There will be times in your young and supple lives when the rules of polite social interaction conflict directly with your sense of integrity. Be prepared to compromise; your sense of integrity is neither so consistent nor so worth defending as you think. The following are a series of statements you must memorize and repeat word for word when “I’m so happy for you” is an abominable untruth and “Congratulations; you deserve this” a lie you cannot choke over your own thick and bitter tongue. Deploy them carefully; your secret must never out, no matter how strong your moral objections to this person’s joy.
The key here is 1) not to say anything that you could not defend in a court of law were your conversation transcribed without body language (“Your honor, that day truly was the day X experienced [undeserved good fortune], I merely restated the fact”) or verbal codes and 2) avoid saying anything so vague that your erstwhile friend/coworker/former lover becomes suspicious of your true feelings. The key is to deliver a mere statement of fact with the appearance of a compliment. You have not lied; they have not been made wise. The perfect crime.
“[Repeat the news you have just been told, word for word.] You must be so excited!” A statement of fact, followed by an educated guess as to their current emotional state. Perfectly safe.
“Wow, today’s the day [the important thing happens.] You must be so excited!” The same.
“You must be so excited.” They likely are, the giddy and undeserving idiot.
“Tell me all about it!” A mere request for more information. Should they choose to interpret this as a form of approval, that is not your fault.
“You’re kidding me”/”No way”/any expression of disbelief delivered in a marginally cheerful tone. Malice cloaked in friendship; this is particularly beautiful. Your disbelief is sincere; it is only your tone that makes it sound feigned.
“What did [any mutual friend] say when they heard the news?” Classic misdirection. Let them prattle on about the meaningless praise from their fawners and hangers-on while you silently plan your conversational escape.
Smiling, hugging. Be careful not to let your smile grow so wide that the bile escapes your throat. Humans are docile and credulous fools; simply bare your teeth for a few seconds at one of them and they become convinced you wish them well.
“I can’t believe it!” You truly cannot. Were there any justice in the world, their lungs would be on fire this very second.
“That’s so much money!/That’s so soon/That’s such an honor!” They will mentally tack on “and you deserve it” without your doing any further work. Let them preen. You will wait, and you will be ready.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.