People are a little worked up about lying these days. Perhaps you’ve read about Lance Armstrong’s admission that he (gasp!) used steroids. Now there’s the Notre Dame player that has been caught out lying about a sick girlfriend (sorry, don’t know the details— don’t care). I find it all so ridiculous. Who cares?
Everybody lies. Some lies are more heinous and have greater consequences than others, sure, but much like burns have degrees, so do lies. We tell little lies all the time (probably every day) to others (and I daresay to ourselves) for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we do so in order to spare people’s feelings. A friend’s new scarf makes her look like she works in a brothel or, on the other end of the spectrum, Caroline Ingalls, but she likes it. So you tell her it’s great, it brings out her eyes, it covers her wattle, whatever. You hate the scarf (frankly you hate her taste in just about everything— what is with that shade of yellow in her kitchen?), but you love her. So, you lie. We all do it. I probably don’t get through the day without at least one little lie.
I practically lie for a living. Every day someone asks me a question and I feel forced to lie, rather than answer their question honestly. Why? Because it’s easier and far less time-consuming. I often get questions like: “How’s the pinot grigio?” My response? “Light and crisp!” I don’t drink. I’ve never had the pinot grigio. I don’t actually care what it tastes like. I just want the customer to order a beverage before the date changes. So, yes, I’m lying when I encourage her to order the stupid wine. (“It’s great. You’ll love it!”) Sure, I’m lying, but so what? This type of lie has no dire consequences. If the woman doesn’t like the pinot grigio that I lied about, she’ll just return it for something else. No big whoop. Also, I lie to protect myself from intrusive questioning. Once in a while a customer will really press me about an alcoholic beverage. When I tell them I don’t drink, they, inevitably, ask me why. When I respond with “Do you have a couple of hours and a therapist’s license?” they usually let it go, but sometimes they’re just nosy Nellies and they continue with their line of questioning or they make a wisecrack (“What? One too many and ten not enough?”) designed to, I guess, get me to open up to them. Yeah, right. Like I’m going to have some deep dark conversation with a complete stranger about why I don’t drink. I think not. So, I lie about how wonderful the $6 glass of wine is. Easier. Expedient. Whatever.
We all lie for different reasons and under different circumstance. If you’re anything like me, though, and I bet you are, I guarantee you that you lie every day. Lying about the wine or the shrimp stuffing (“to die for” — truthfully, it might kill me) is small potatoes. There are no real consequences to these lies.
The stakes are pretty low when we engage in a little fib (a word practically invented to indicate a very minor and socially acceptable lie). The stakes are higher for guys like Lance Armstrong. Stripped of his titles! Or Roger Clemens. Probably no National Baseball Hall of Fame for him! Whatever. I don’t care. It’s hard to get worked up about millionaires who engaged in wrongdoing and are now paying the price.
Still, sometimes lying is essential. Fang gets a little crazy if the cat gets into our bedroom. If my husband had any idea how many lazy afternoons the idiot cat has passed underneath our bed he would have a heart attack. So, I don’t tell him. If he finds cat hairs in the bedroom and point blank asks me if the cat was in the room my policy is to outright lie about it. I don’t need to be lectured about the proper way to open the bedroom door to avoid the possibility of a sneak attack by one very savvy cat. Because that’s what Fanganini does. He lays in wait. My husband has a method for slipping out of the bedroom without drawing the attention of the cat. Seriously. It’s a whole procedure. A procedure which has been extensively and thoroughly demonstrated to me as if, can you imagine?, I care. Just in case you care, let me give you a shorthand version of the procedure. Through a very small opening in the door, Fang scans the hallway for any sign of Fanganini. If he determines the coast is clear, he opens the door just wide enough to accommodate his girth (ampler in his advancing years) and scoots out of the bedroom. He does this in a very stealthy, spy-like way. Mission accomplished! Every foray into the hallway takes on the feel of a reconnaissance mission. He has a similar procedure for getting into the bedroom. Fanganini, God bless his little feline heart, is pretty sneaky and, given his age and his prodigious size, can still make a pretty impressive run for the open door. Fang’s methodology and the seriousness with which he takes it is, as you can imagine, all too much for me. I refuse to scoot or to take part in what feels like a clandestine military operation simply to make my way to the kitchen. As a result, the cat often gets one over on yours truly. I’m not sure what the allure of the underside of our bed is, but it seems pretty important to Fanganini. He’s thirteen years old and is unable to have sex. He’s got to have some kind of fun. So, sometimes I have to applaud his perseverance (or his stupidity). I mean, come on people, he plays this game every day. He can’t lose every day. Live and let live, I say. Oh, and lie about it. Definitely lie about it.
I guess one could say that I subscribe to the theory of “what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him”. It applies to the cat getting into the bedroom just as much as it applies to the small slush fund (very small!) that I have and that Fang knows nothing about. It’s just a little bank account that I throw whatever money I have left at the end of the week (or if I work an extra shift) into. It never amounts to much, mainly because Fangette knows about it. And she’s always hitting me up to dip into it. And I do. Because that’s really what it’s for. My husband still thinks that I can outfit her at Target for $150 a season. If only.
I used to keep my slush fund in an old purse in my closet, but he discovered it. Fang tends to be a bit of a snooper. He could have a hooker stashed away in the closet and I would never know. Me? I can’t even sneak a Snickers late at night because he will find the wrapper crammed into my nightstand. Whatever. He can’t help himself, it’s just how he is. Naturally curious, I guess. To his credit, he would always inform me that he had hit my “stash” so that he could pay for take-out (or whatever) for himself and Fangette. So, that was nice. I guess. But that’s not what the slush fund was for. So, I had to move it to a more secure facility. I still leave a $20 or two in the old bag, but the lion’s share now goes into my little bank account. I’ve never lied about having a bank account of my own, I’ve just never offered up the information. I suppose if he asked me, if he found me out, I would come clean about it. I wouldn’t outright lie about it because that would feel wrong. I would feel guilty. I have no guilt about lying to him about the cat or lying to my customers about menu items, but lying about money (even in an account that’s never had a balance over $200) just seems wrong, somehow. But if he never asks, I’ll never tell. Because what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
I don’t think that these little lies will in any way act like a gateway drug and lead me to bigger, more elaborate ruses. You don’t think this is how Bernie Madoff started out, do you?
photo credit: pinocchio