I still lie
sitting in a meeting at work on the first day of March and someone
across the table says, "I read your essay this morning. Now
I know I can't trust you."
She referred, of course, to last
month's essay in these pages about a bad habit I've had
at various times in my life: that of lying or otherwise concealing
facts I wanted to keep private.
Suddenly, I felt very exposed. She broke the fourth wall.
This month's essay was going to be full of really good, meaty lies
I've told in recent times. Now, though, I just can't tell you those
meaty stories. Don't blame me. Blame that person at my job.
Think of this piece, and last month's, as mere explorations
meditations, perhaps on what my life would have been like
if I had, at one point in my life, a bad habit of lying. Which I
never have! Honestly!
But if I had a habit of lying, I might tell you a story like this:
The wine lie
I lied to my friend when I spilled red wine on her white wall-to-wall
carpeting in her first (extremely ugly) apartment after college.
She was at work, I was alone in her house. Instead of calling her
and confessing, or confessing the moment she came home, I blotted
it a little, rubbed it in a panic, saw it grow, then covered it
up with a cushion from her couch.
Hard to imagine that I thought it would work. The stain was sort
of toward the middle of the room, so I casually tossed a pillow
over it? And expected she wouldn't notice?
Actually, I must've done a fairly good job because it took a couple
of days for her to call me and ask about the big, red stain on her
carpet. "Huh, I have no idea," I lied. Twenty years have
passed and we've never discussed it again.
Some little lies
· I told my parents I didn't smoke. On the day of my college
graduation, as I stood between my parents, someone ran up and asked
me for a cigarette.
· I told my son that I've never tried marijuana, but that
some of my friends have (and, sadly, that they all died from trying
to fly out of high windows).
· I told my son that the kitty who sprayed all over our
house has a nice, new home where they cured him of spraying.
· I said, "No, this isn't boring at all! Keep talking!
· I said, "Yes, of course I had one! Couldn't you tell?"
· I said, "My alarm clock didn't work."
· I said, "I'm completely over you."
· I said, "I'm never going to lie again."
That last one isn't really a lie. I have decided not to lie anymore,
whenever possible, and especially when it's important not to.
But sometimes I still lie. Sometimes we all lie. We tell a friend
that he doesn't look fat. We tell our mothers that we've been too
busy to call. We tell our lovers that nothing's bothering us.
Lies like that don't matter. They save face. Or feelings. Lies
like that are a civic duty.
Lies and the relationship
This is the whole thing about lying that confuses me so. I think
it's actually appropriate to lie at times, but some people believe
it's never appropriate. I had a housemate who believed in the Radical
Honesty Movement which, apparently, involves telling your housemates
everything that crosses your mind. For example, "I believe
you leave the linen cupboard door open as a passive-aggressive act
because you know it bothers me."
This is not a charming personality trait in a housemate. That housemate
did not live with us for very long. I was radically honest about
the fact that I needed him to move out.
Recently, I started a new relationship and we've committed to not
lying to each other. Mostly, this is really easy. But, we've also
committed to honesty which means not hiding feelings we'd
normally be afraid to share.
Sometimes this is easy. The other day I told him that I don't like
his lime green shirt.
Sometimes this is hard. I've never told him that I wish he'd put
the toilet seat down. But there's a reason for not telling him that.
I don't want to engage in that stereotypical argument. I'd rather
just put the seat down myself.
Is it a lie to hide my feelings about the toilet seat? When he
reads this essay, will we have to have one of those talks? ("It's
not what you did/said/thought, it's that you didn't tell me. That's
Of course, none of this is true. My boyfriend doesn't leave the
toilet seat up. I don't even have a boyfriend! In fact, I'm a lesbian.
And I don't lie. Wish I could. Wish I was one of those people who
manipulate the truth like a puppeteer with hands full of sticks
and strings, making marionettes dance the lambada. Instead, every
word out of my mouth is embarrassingly honest.
And that, my friends, is the truth. More or less.