Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Calling a lie a lifeskill

Do you know, when I was a child I did NOT know HOW to lie. Of course, my mother may refute that claim but I cannot remember a single instance (and I remember a lot of those) in my childhood (even that long ago) where I told a lie and didn't nearly kill myself with guilt over it.

That is what being a good liar is about, right? Because, as with so many life skills, it is not just the theoretical but also the practical exam you have to pass.

And, as a child, I sucked at it BIG TIME.

There is a difference, of course, between lying and telling a story - and there are probably as many angles to the line in the sand between the two as there are people willing to examine it.

I was pretty good at spinning a yarn, but the trick to telling a whopper in story form is to overemphasise the exaggeration, therefore you will never be called on being a liar and, for me, that meant less self-inflicted guilt injuries so all was sweet.

So anyway - me, child, crap liar, worked well on the other side of the line.

Grew up a bit, and the problem with growing up a bit is that I came face to face with the truth - and the truth was that there were PLENTY of people who were far better at keeping a straight face and a hidden conscience while telling whoppers on my NO GO zone and I was plenty confused.

  • Classmates did it. "You never gave us homework last week, sir."
  • Roommates did it. "No, I never saw your birthstone necklace."
  • Teachers did it. "There are three easy essay questions on the paper."
  • ParentsSanta did it. "Here is a combined present for you all this year, as I know you will understand there are other children who need more presents than you do." (Okay, Santa wasn't lying, but it still hurt.)
  • Colleagues did it. "I told the client how much work you did on this project."
  • Bosses did it. "There isn't enough room in the budget to give you that sort of payrise this time round."
  • Boyfriends did it. "She wasn't my wife."

And don't let me even get STARTED on professionals, politicians or pick ups.

I came to realise that there are many facets to this whole lying game. There is intent, there is outcome, there is degree of difficulty and there are mitigating circumstances.

Hey - I was still VERY crap at the whole not telling the whole truth thing, but I understood that other people used it, justified it to themselves, lived with it and maybe even enjoyed it. So, of course, I ran away from it all and became a hippie poet.

I tried, oh I truly tried to live that life where me and lies could just keep to our own sides of the street and I could hold my head up high and allow myself to be a truth-sayer. Most of the time I did that, the rest of the time I rhymed (or not) and used it as artistic expression. Oh glory days.

Then it all fell apart - I became a parent.

And all those little facets of lies started to beckon me over, offering an easier life, giving me justification and self-righteousness if I wanted to try a line or two of lies.

There were some nice ones used to camouflage pain. "He's working very hard at the moment."

There was one or two to dissolve anguish. "He is still very much involved in her life."

There were a couple to ease embarrassment. "He had an incurable illness."

Then there were those that seemed to be handed out in the classes I thought I had skipped in motherhood.

What answer do you give when your 2 year old admits to "loving Santa sooooo much" and you had never heeded his presence? You start working for the Santa factory yourself.

When you need something to brighten up a lonely Easter, don't you put your imagination to work and create a whole clue trail for the Bunny to lay for your child's delight? Especially when he has been so well moulded by relatives and friends.

When your 6 year old's best friend forever gets great presents from the Tooth Fairy - I wonder what she will bring us? (apart from the whole conundrum of yet another creature to lie about)

But, of course, now being the mother of an 8 year old, I realise that there is a whole lot more to this whole lying caper than the difference between a pork pie and a fairytale - and a lot more to being a parent than just telling the difference.

Luckily for me, my daughter isn't very good at it yet - and so I am able to pretend I don't see it when it isn't that bad and hopefully, when she lies to her mother she will continue to show her hand. Is that lying?

I now have a new partner and I sometimes allow people to believe that we are the original family unit rather than bluntly assert that her father had died (after we had separated) (of a horrible mental health illness). Which side of the line is that omission?

Last night, when questioned about whether I looked older, V replied that I actually looked "younger and sexier". Will his guilty conscience keep him awake at night?

(Oh, and I turned 29.)

I don't know that I have it all nutted out yet, and I don't believe it is all right to lie - but nor is it all wrong all the time.

(By the way - I have used the inadequacies of Blogger to lie to you all - I have written this today, April 24 - but due to creating the title of the post yesterday, I can fool you all into believing that I hmmm'ed this on Hump Day! Head over to Julie Pippert - Using My Words - for other's takes on truth and lies)


Bettina said...

I had a reputation for being one of the best off the cuff bullshit artists known to man in my teens.......... lol I didn't get up to that much stuff to lie about. Honestly!

That said......... I completely understand about the family thing. People look at my kids and presume Miss Lou is my hubby's because they both were dark, curly haired. It was so easy to just smile and nod and not say a thing and be a 'normal' family for 10 seconds with strangers. Sigh.

Megan at Imaginif said...

Happy 29th to you J in P. I can relate to yours and Bettina's blended family predicament - I have four children, two ex husbands and a husband that all four of my kids love. The youngest child wishes he was his Dad and goes along with it when others make the assumption that we are an in tact family.

Social perceptions of white and blatant lies are so are perceptions about what a "decent" family looks like.

When I was about 9, I stole 21 cents from my mothers purse to buy a tube of sweetened condensed milk. Even though the crime was long ago confessed and it is now an immortalised family story, I still cringe that I lied and stole.

JaniceNW said...

if you are 29 you are young and sexy! Jeesh girl, I've got ya by 15 years or so.

Happy birthday. Relish your youth and your child's innocence. Try to enjoy each day as it happens. :)

debby said...

29. I'll never see 29 again. However I still see myself as young. I don't see that as lying to myself. I don't know WHAT that's called, to tell the truth.

There is no need for total strangers to know every truth about us. The only people that need the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth are your very dearest friends.

Julie Pippert said...

29...we'll talk in a decade. :)

Happy Birthday!

Someone made the point that usually we lie, even the social nicety lies, to protect ourselves.

Since that's a base instinct, I can work with that.

When people come out of childhood guilty about any lies and "horrible liars" I wonder if life never created the necessity for them to lie, up to that point.


I came out of childhood a Class A liar. And I lied for the usual reason.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

I was an overly dramatic exaggerator and I never considered it lying although I believed everything I said. Rather I wanted to believe everything I said, so the other stuff about my life couldn't be true.

Children do tend to see the line more clearly between blatant lie, white lie and social omissions.

It is definitely a learned skill to perfect the telling of half truths.

Pencil Writer said...

WOW! What a can of worms! Since the "family" or not condition of several of your commentors hit on that issue, it seems to me that it takes too much time/detail to explain that, "well, no, this child and this child are "X-one's" and this child is "X-two's" and no, sorry this husband is not the father of any of my children, but he has a dozen by 3 other X's. Too Much Information! Not really anyone else's business. So, not handing out vital statistics to those who assume things--good grief! Not an issue. Keep it simple, ya' know!

But, the whole Easter Bunny, Santa, Tooth Fairy thing . . . Fantasy is part of the magic of childhood, isn't it? How many books do you/have you read to your children (or other people's children) that are simply pure fabricated fiction. You enjoy the fantasy as do the children. They eventually will realize that it is simply fiction, and that's okay. It helps them find happiness and to see life a little differently.

Now, to out-and-out lies that are intended to mislead, distort the truth, cause others grief, get yourself off the hook or others in trouble--well--there's your real can of worms. THAT don't fly in a court room, obviously--unless the lie is not refuted, caught, etc. (Forget I mentioned that arena.)

Jeanie--what the heck prompted such a deep subject anyway? You just wanted us all to spend hours of self-reflection and self recrimination . . .

Hey, I suppose we could use a little of that from time to time. Maybe the key is . . . intent. Hmmmm. That CAN be a qualifier . . . More contemplation is needed here.

Hope the birthday was great----and that's no lie!

mommamia said...

Happy Birthday!! Your not old. I t did depress me this morning to realize I'm old enough to be your mother.

I don't think there is any reason to explain your family situation to every stranger. When people I see a lot but don't know say you sure have that grandbaby alot. I just smile and nod.

Melissa said...

First of all ...YEA! I have your blog address again! Happy day for me! Now I have to catch up. :)

I'm not a good liar either, except to myself.

Jen at Semantically driven said...

I'm not really comfortable with the lying about santa and easter bunny. I guess I do it because so many other people do it and it was done to me when I was a kid. And sometimes it's easier not to explain to everyone your family situation.

Jay said...

What a thoughtful post.
I have always excelled at lying. Strange to say that out loud.

Jayne said...

Great post and Happy Birthday!
What is 29 again? :P

jeanie away from paradise!! said...

Okay - if you really believe I am 29, I have a bridge to sell.

It is called creative truth, I believe.

Thanks for all the comments all - am (truthfully) away from my own computer at the moment (by about 250km) so - so nice to see everyone came and pondered!

Brissiemum2 said...

Yep, the old santa clause lie! It really annoys me cause that damn fat red guy gets all the credit for my fantastic present buying! Grrrrrr!

And hey, I told my daughter that I was 22 once and for the next 3 years she honestly believed that I was 23, 24 and 25! Hey, who was I to burst her bubble???!!!!