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Guest Writer

Enough about you
Sometimes I still lie
by Rachel Mendez

'm 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! Really!"

· 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 what hurts.")

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.

Find more from Rachel in our archives.

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