Originally posted December 17, 2009...
You look amazing! No, I haven’t been waiting long, I just got here. Of course you can bring your dog, the more the merrier! That’s so weird, I was just about to call you when you called!
These are all lies. Lies I have told, and will tell again. The funny thing is, I’m almost sure when I told these lies that the people I was lying to knew I was a liar! I remember once I was called in on a weekend off to cover some shifts for a coworker with the stomach flu. Curious on Saturday as to whether he would show up on Sunday, I called his house.
“No, he’s not home,” his well-meaning parents said. “He’ll be out at the wedding until Monday.” To which I replied, “Whaaat?” A few days later, I worked a shift with the absentee lad, let’s call him Chet (because I’ve never met a real Chet). I had covered Chet’s whole weekend (him having called again on Sunday, “too sick to come in”), and spent that Monday silently practicing how I would finally confront him. He was his old self all shift, but then would occasionally grab his stomach and lament his weekend “spent over the toilet.” Because I’m nervous and a procrastinator, I didn’t confront him until the end of his shift, where he could storm out and I would be left the smug hero. “Chet,” I began, trying to sound unrehearsed (as I had rehearsed), “I know what’s passed has passed, and there’s no point in making a big deal out of this, but I know you weren’t sick this weekend. I called your house and your parents told me you were at a wedding. You did a shitty thing, making us cover for you.”
Chet stared at me, not crying or fleeing like I had hoped. “I was sick this weekend,” he said. “I don’t live with my parents, they didn’t know I wasn’t at this wedding. It’s true.” And then he stormed out. I never found out if he did or did not attend a wedding, or have the stomach flu, but that’s not the important part of the story. As I was closing up a few hours later, my manager called me. “Chet just called my house,” he said. “He’s really upset with you. He told me he wouldn’t lie to you. He told me he’s never told a lie in his life.”
Come ON! Never told a lie in your life? Who can claim that? Seems to me, only a liar. Which brings me to my dream for December 17, 2009.
Dream: Tell no lies for forty-eight hours.
Goal: Maybe, possibly achievable. But I doubt it.
Plan: Determine the ideal forty-eight hours and isolate myself completely. That’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. I don’t have any days off from everything coming up, and even if I did, I would probably spend them with Jon, and that’s lie central!
Before you judge me, consider how often you lie to your partner. Not huge, terrible lies, but those little face-saving ones that keep relationships going. Like, “Oh, you left your toothbrush in the car? Sure, you can use mine.” When what you really mean is, “GROSS! What? No! That goes in my mouth and that’s it! It’s not irrational, those are my germs that I’m used to. Your germs are disgusting. And what do you mean you left your toothbrush in the fucking car? “ And I know this isn’t a two-way street. I revel in the glorious lies Jon tells to save me from the ugly truth. Like the other day we went shopping and I made him pick out potato chips that he especially likes, because if we crack open a sack, I invariably end up eating them all. “Get your own sack!” I encouraged, “They’ll just be yours, big boy!” And later that night, while he slept, I ate them! What a tool! Noticing it later he said, “Well our groceries belong to both of us! What’s mine is yours, I don’t care!” But what he meant to say was, “You fat fuck.” Isn’t it one of the great long-standing features of a partnership when you can both lie to each other all day long, know the other person is lying, and not even care? Lies are the foundation of strong relationships.
This is how I behave with loved ones, you can imagine my what percentage of my interaction with strangers is lie-based (hint: over ninety). Like today, this guy sat beside me on the subway. This was a portly so-and-so, a hearty chap, a gentleman of considerable fat-assery. “Cool if I sit here?” he asked, as he was sitting down. “No worries,” I replied, but what I really meant was, “Mad worries! Now I gotta scrunch up and pretend like I don’t smell you!” And today at work a customer said, “What would you recommend as good gifts for two girls, eight and ten? English isn’t there first language.” My response was liberally peppered with lies. How could it not be? “Hmmm, my goodness, it’s been awhile since I’ve hung out with foreign bweens, but I think they’d like this.” And when I got groceries on the way home, the cashier said, “Do you need any bags today?” and I said I didn’t, but I really did, I’m just cheap and stupid and would rather shove my orange juice and tuna fish in one hand, the sack in the other, and a loaf of bread under my arm then part with a dime.
We say we admire truthfulness, but I think only as an abstract concept. The truly honest person, the one who says they are blunt and “won’t apologize for it” and the worst! “I don’t mean to be rude, but your breath stinks.” Or, “You don’t really fit into that shirt anymore, I’d take it out of the rotation.”
So that’s my only plan for a lie-free forty-eight hours. Total, prison-esque isolation. No phone calls, please. Don’t expect any emails and for god’s sake, don’t drop by unannounced. Because really, to be a good friend, a strong partner, not to mention a functioning member of society, your day must be dawn to dusk lies. Don’t believe me? Maybe you shouldn’t.