For Real

In general, Amish people do not engage in double-speak. They may seem antisocial, discourteous, and have a double-standard of behavior, but they do not beat around the bush or sugar-coat their words, or any other colloquialism you choose to use; instead they call it as they see it, they are succinct, concise, straightforward, and “for real.” I grew up firmly grounded in reality, to say directly what I meant, and to mean what I said.                          [pullquote]I know you believe you understand what you think . . . “[/pullquote] I remember being fascinated by a sentence my younger sister brought home from school one day: “I know you believe you understand what you think I said but I am not sure you realize that what I said was not what I meant.” I mulled over it for days. How could anyone not simply say what they meant? And was it for real or was it supposed to be funny? Who came up with it and why?

The Amish world I lived in was most certainly “for real.” Especially my family. My family surname is Riehl–pronounced real—and I constantly heard that we were real this, that, or the other thing. For example, one of my sisters married a man by the name of Peachy so they were a real, peachy couple.

We Riehls were particularly for real with our words. As the oldest of five, I spent years pointing out, usually at full volume, my younger siblings’ flaws as well as any incorrect word usages or grammatical errors. I saw it as my sworn duty because I was the oldest and therefore the smartest.

I continued on that same path even after I left my Amish clothing on my father’s doorstep. I assumed that was the way everyone operated.

After only a few dates, I shocked a guy into silence by asking him, point-blank, “What do you think about me?”

When he didn’t respond immediately, I continued, “Why are you hanging around me, asking me to go places with you? What, exactly, do you want to happen?”

This guy was not Amish. He sat there and looked at his hands.

Then he, with his innate sense of diplomacy, said, “Well, I guess I’d like to keep hanging around you because I like you and would like to get to know you better.”

“You mean for real? Not just because I used to be Amish?”

I married him less than a year later.

Now, he says my direct speech was one of the things that he liked about me because he never had to guess where he stood. Nowadays he wisely says I’ve mellowed and seldom mentions the multiple flesh wounds my direct words caused throughout the thirty-plus years of our marriage.

But I still don’t know why some people seem offended when I am directly for real. Why can’t we all learn to say what we mean and mean what we say?


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