Friday, May 14, 2010

Pants On Fire

I am an appallingly good liar.  If I want to, I can usually get people to believe something, even if that something is (to me) blatantly, obviously untrue.  I do not use my powers for evil, however.  I use them for comedy.  That has not always been the case.

When I was a kid, I used to lie for attention.  I recognize now that I was exercising a very vivid imagination.  Writing helped to end that behavior.  Once I could write something imaginary, I no longer had to live something imaginary, if that makes sense.

Would it surprise you to learn that this is not uncommon behavior?  Some of our greatest actors and writers have behaved like that.  In fact, the great Sarah Bernhardt often told her childhood chums that she was, in fact, the love child of the Prince of Wales (her real father was a pubkeeper in Bristol).  I just made that up, but you get my point.  A lot of creative people go through a "lying" phase.  Mine was over by the time I was a teenager.  Now I write, which is like lying on paper.  Acting is lying on film or onstage.  None of this bothers me.

Princess likes to lie.  Of course, the kind of lying she does is usually called "Pretending."  She tells me her grandfather is a mailman who lives in a big house two streets over from us.  She tells me that, at school, a tree came to life and took her to the meadow to talk to the cows, who thinks she is gorgeous.  I'm working very hard to make sure Princess understands that pretending is okay, as long as you let people know you're pretending.  When her friend Allie came over to play, Allie's mom asked me, "Where is Princess' sister?"  I said, "She doesn't have one."  Apparently, Princess told Allie and Allie's mom that she has an older sister named Sarah who goes to big school.  Pretending.  This doesn't bother me, but I confess I'm a little worried about the future.

What does bother me is the very, very low tolerance I have for lying now.  Not the kind of lying I do, just to be funny, or the pretending Princess does, but the kind of lying others do: deliberately misleading other people for attention, to escape the consequences of bad behavior, or whatever other justification they dream up to excuse it.  Frankly, I've had enough.

I really think lying is not the worst thing someone can do, but it's probably one of the dumbest.  Compounding a wrong with another is never a good idea, but that's not even the point: even the best liars get caught.  The key to being a good liar is to be believable.  Once someone has caught you in a lie, you've lost it.  You know that people will always check on what you say, so you have to be careful to either cover your tracks to a ridiculous extent, or make up something that no one could possibly check.

Sorry, I'm reading one of Patricia Highsmith's "Ripley" books right now, and I've got lying on the brain. It's not surprising; statistics show that women are 87% more likely to be affected by books written by female writers.

I made that up, too.

3 comments:

Kristina P. said...

I completely agree. I think that lying to hurt people is a huge character flaw.

陳LupeCristobl said...
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Billy Bob Bambino Bombabious Baby the Third said...

I am not a good liar. I never have been. I have tried to lie before and I made myself physically sick because of it. Seriously. No lie. ;-)

So I just don't lie. People can always tell when I'm lying anyway. I have that kind of face...