Don’t Sugar Coat It
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Sweethearts and bitter pills At the end of a long, or particularly entangled love affair, there are often conversations that contain a certain sort of language, a feeling-talk, full of attempts at explanations, authenticity and honesty. It is a time for mapping and remapping neglected affects, putting aside desires, of trying to put into words what is not always articulated easily, in a context in which wrong words can harm. As if at a hospital appointment, fearful but resolute, we speak to our lovers as if we sense, but do not know, the worst. ‘Please doc,’ we say, ‘just give me the facts, don't sugar coat it’. And we listen hard, trying to hear the diagnosis: that there is still a chance, or that it is over, there is no more sweetness to be expected. The ground shifts beneath us, inviting reinterpretations and a need for remapping assumptions and commitments that had formed the backdrops of our lives, and so we, or our friends, trying to make sense of what was once so sure, might describe the problem of acceptance as a ‘bitter pill to swallow’. The medical inflections of this talk of truth and its presence on the tongue, often described in terms sweetness or its opposite point to a metaphorical entanglement of taste, truth and healing, and with them, questions of trust and honesty. These questions not only reside in hospitals and clinics, but throughout our relationships with those for whom we care.
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