list of lies
No fact is more firmly established
than that lying is a necessity of our circumstances
the deduction that it is then a virtue goes without saying.
decided to never lie again.
Being honest, however, is a messy process. People
can get mad when you're honest. People can get hurt. People can
be disappointed when you admit what you've done instead of hiding
it with a simple, elegant lie.
In fact, lying might actually be more appropriate
and beneficial than truth-telling. Avoid anger, hurt and disappointment
with one sweet sentence! Who can argue with that? It's economical,
it's a crowd-pleaser and it's easier than the truth!
But this nagging feeling that I need to be honest
has led me to another realization one which, I suspect,
I probably should've reached earlier than age 40. Still, better
late than never.
The realization is this: If I don't allow myself
to do anything I would want to cover up with a lie, I don't ever
have to lie. If I don't ever have to lie, I don't ever have to
admit I lied. And then people won't be mad at me.
This decision to stop lying has a terribly complicated
domino effect that I'm still trying to make sense of. Like the
Jodi Foster character in "Contact": a new world, a different
dimension, a way of existing I never knew has been suddenly and
shockingly revealed to me.
Part of trying to change has involved looking back
at my history of lying.
My first lie
I think this counts as a lie. It's a lie of non-disclosure. It's
a physical lie in the sense that some comedy is physical comedy.
I lied with the actions of my body. I don't remember the actual
theft, just that I somehow appropriated a pack of chewing gum.
I was four and knew right from wrong. And I knew this was wrong.
I sat in the back of the car and thought very carefully about
how to hide it. I examined the problem in a sophisticated and
analytical manner, which I now admire in my four-year-old self.
If my mother or brother or sister noticed me chewing gum, they'd
know there were suspicious circumstances. I never had money of
my own and they knew all my movements knew I hadn't been
around some nice old lady who gave me free gum and, besides, they
knew that I knew it was wrong to take candy from strangers.
Eliminate the most obvious telltale sign of chewing the
distinctive smell (it was "double your pleasure, double your
fun" Doublemint). The car windows were closed and it was
obvious to me that the smell of the gum would get trapped in the
closed ecosystem of the car. The clear way out of this dilemma:
chew with my mouth shut so that nobody would detect the refreshing
This is arguable, but I now think that the smell of gum being
chewed is not the most obvious telltale sign that gum is
being chewed. Based on this early experience, I now think that
the sight of a moving jaw might actually be a clearer giveaway.
My siblings, cleverer than I'd given them credit for, ratted me
My second lie
This story also involves an attempt to cover up a theft. Four
years had passed since the chewing gum incident. Sure, there was
lying in those intervening years, but this lie was special. This
lie, stumbled upon in my panic, involved such a successful and
powerful technique that I used it to get what I wanted many times
during the rest of my childhood.
My third-grade class put on a production of "The Taming of
the Shrew." I hated the play because the woman became subservient
just to please the man; I liked her better defiant and difficult.
Nonetheless, I wanted to contribute to the play. So when Mrs.
Berry asked if anyone had a pretty dress to be used as a prop
in one certain scene, I brought in a long dress of my mother's,
made of differently colored pieces of real velvet. Even I, an
extreme tomboy, knew this dress was a beauty. I decided to make
sure that it would be OK for me to borrow it. Everybody knows
there's only one way to be sure that it's OK to borrow something:
take without asking.
It was no problem to sneak out the dress. I put it in a bag and
stuck it under my coat. There was a little thrill involved in
the whole thieving process, but I also felt very confident that
I had gotten away with it when I delivered the gorgeous dress
into Mrs. Berry's hands. All the girlie-girls cooed and I felt
success had been achieved. I forgot that when my mother watched
the performance, she'd recognize this one-of-a-kind handmade dress,
purchased in some hippie boutique for more money than she usually
allowed herself to spend on clothes.
As soon as the dress made its appearance during the play, I knew
my mother had seen it and that the jig was up. In the car ride
home, I talked of this and that, hoping she wouldn't mention the
purloined dress. But, 10 minutes into the ride, she brought up
the dress. And this is where I learned how quick and able a servant
is the brain. There were two things I knew were true: that my
mother and father felt guilty about their divorce; and that guilt,
the great puppet master, makes parents dance. Working with these
two assumptions, I came up with a brilliant lie: "I wanted
to bring the dress so that other kids would like me, because I
feel so bad about the divorce."
The part of the sentence I left off was, "...
the divorce which happened six years ago when I was two."
But that part of the sentence didn't seem to matter!
My mother melted. She told me I was wrong to take the dress, but
that she understood. All was forgiven.
In subsequent years, I used the "I feel bad
about the divorce" lie to for various purposes sympathy,
escaping sticky situations and even minor things, like staying
up late to watch some program on TV.
It was a grand and useful tool.
Next month: More good lies and the decision to be