While probably not my first lie, it’s the earliest one in my memory. The scene, the playground at my grammar school, by the seesaw. The seesaw made me so nervous. I was terrified of being paired up with a skinny girl and catapulting her into traffic on the first saw. I was chubby as a kid. Or, like Cartman says, big boned. Couple that with being a ginger with huge feet, sporting a face full of freckles, basically one gargantuan freckle, and entering the teen years – EEK! (Sunscreen wasn’t real big back then.)
Kids who had a hard time making fun of other kids had a field day with me. I was a cornucopia of opportunity. Where to begin?
I worked on my personality A LOT to compensate.
I also spun tales. Mainly the one-up kind. I distinctly remember standing in front of the first set of seesaws and one-uping L over…wait for it…the number of fur coats our mothers possessed.
Yes. I know. How cultured of us. And pathetic. But it was better than sending naked pictures of ourselves to our teachers. Or Senators. Or sending naked pictures of our Senators to our teachers.
Anyway, I said my Mom had six. Which was a total lie. When I said it I remember thinking, Why am I saying this? And then I braced for SEVEN, so I could come back with I MEANT EIGHT!
I could tell L was unimpressed with the number of fur coats I said my Mom had because what I said was total vapor. She smelled deceit. Kids know when you’re lying. What’s fun about one-upping if the loot isn’t real? She knew I wasn’t being truthful. L just looked at me like, You are completely lying, said nothing, and scampered off for the jungle gym, which has since been leveled after too many broken limbs.
Oh, those were the days.
I suppose if I sat still long enough and pondered my childhood I would recall moments where I spouted off magic wrapped in honesty, but it’s the lie that is easiest to recall. Even one as seemingly harmless as that one. Perhaps because I know deep inside that the truth will always out (On my Mom’s Top Five Mantras of All Times List) and I will one day have to admit that my Mom had two fur coats. Technically, one beaver coat and one fur cape. There. I said it. Two.
Really one and a half.
Like with everything else, kids test the waters and learn from the consequences of their choices. They tell lies and see what happens. I spent some time with a kitten this past weekend and the subject of children telling lies was one of many that we batted about that day, like a game of pong that went on for over two hours. He said that children tell lies to create separation. To begin the process of creating their independence, keeping some things to themselves as they expand and grow.
So there’s a healthy side to lying? Perhaps. Seems to make sense that a child would lie to create space, to keep something to himself, and may not be conscious of the reason behind it, but simply acting on impulse. Instead of asking, Why did you lie?, should we be teaching how to create independence from a place of honesty? Instead of punishing the lie, teach how to achieve the goal with the truth? Are there other ways of creating independence? The kitten suggested allowing children to make many decisions on their own, and for them to be prepared to handle the consequences of those decisions.
His words have me reflecting on being aware of the dudes’ need to be independent and to foster that in a healthy, supportive way…without hovering.
We want our children to grow out of lying and into honest adults. Everyone from playboy centerfolds to politicians to CEOs and husbands and wives, and all those that fill in the spaces in between say honesty is a turn-on, important, essential, and a must have in any relationship. Yet the majority of people, the vast majority, lie as adults. In our relationships, our work, to those we love and to those we don’t even know.
I’m working this out in my head…we lie as children to create independence, necessary for healthy self-esteem. The goal is to mature and replace the need to lie with a desire to tell the truth, because of the value we place on honest relationships and out of respect for ourselves. That goal isn’t met by many, many people. From ‘little’ lies to double lives, dishonesty is as reliable as gas after brussel sprouts. The experts (who we can assume have experience lying) suggest that one of the main reasons people lie is because we don’t want to be honest about who we really are or what we’ve done. We lie to protect ourselves from the truth, not primarily to deceive another. Which means that we didn’t get that healthy self-esteem we were shooting for when we were telling those lies as children.
Now I’m getting into terrain that is best suited to people with way more going on upstairs than me. I’m still trying to figure out what passive-aggressive means. But I do know a fair amount about the Tour de France.
Somehow we’ve made a sport out of lying. Which is like making a sport out of swatting air. There’s no victory in that. Just like there’s no victor in seven Tour de France races now, because Lance Armstrong has lied. Count me as one of the starry eyed girls who thought, Well, if that dude can beat cancer of the ‘nads, brain and goodness knows what else, he can beat the Alps. He’s just super human!
I have watched every Tour de France since 2005, the year I first swooned under the spell of Phil Ligget’s voice as he talked of feet dancing on the pedals and legs that will be burning like a bonfire. It’s a beautiful race, and a herculean effort, doped or not. But nobody can dope a tuchus. Can you imagine what it feels like to be the butt cheeks of one of those bony dudes after day 20? Quite frankly, I can’t. I’m too cushioned there to step into their narrow shoes. I don’t have empathy, I have envy. I always wanted a small ass.
I don’t know if Oprah asked this question or not, but it’s the one I want answered. Let’s forget about the other racers and the whole level playing field argument and view this race like golf. It’s Lance against the course (I know, it’s a team sport, just go with it.) All doped up he finishes the whole race how much faster than squeaky clean Lance? 2 minutes? 5? 30?
Was it worth all that effort to out-cheat everyone else. It’s amazing any of those cyclists had the energy to ride the race after covering up all those tracks.
I’d like to believe that if all the cyclists got into a room big enough to fit them, like, say…a broom closet, and their Moms stood in front of them and said, Boys, this time just do it clean…See who you really are…What you are really made of…Do it clean so you feel good when you cross the finish line…So there’s no doubt…No guilt…No looking over your shoulder, that they would do it for their Moms. Ride the race clean because they value honest relationships.
But lying is rewarded, and a first place finish at the Tour de France with a time that is pedestrian is not good enough. It’s never good enough. Rewarding lying is what makes it all so very confusing for those who lie and for those who don’t want to but feel as if it is the only way to succeed. That it levels the playing field.
The truly frightening part is that lying has become so common it’s as if it’s our universal language. Spoken by everyone, expected by everyone, and accepted.
It’s easy to lie. Or so our minds would like us to believe.
But it’s not without consequence, even if it’s never discovered. Especially if the lie is never discovered.
When we lie, we are telling ourselves, our souls, that the truth about us isn’t good enough to speak. That who we are isn’t who others must want us to be. We push our true selves behind a curtain of deceit to hide our flaws. Our lies give us a false sense of protection, keeping us from being vulnerable and open. We spend our days adding layers to the curtain, burying our selves in the fabric of falsehoods so we can feel better about ourselves.
This is exactly why the brain frustrates me. It concocts all these reasons why something that is harmful is actually good for us. The lies will make us who we really deserve to be, yet the lies destroy the beauty of who we are, leaving real voids in our being. Empty spaces, lights off, the path ahead directionless. Right and wrong are replaced with, Do what you need to in order to win. We become disconnected from ourselves and from others as we flit about creating a new reality that suits our wants, all the while ignoring our needs.
We’re not interesting enough as we are? Our lives aren’t magical enough just as is? Holy arachnid! We are more interesting than we could ever imagine! Our life here on this planet is packed with magic. There isn’t even room for Lance’s left thigh in here! Or is that his forearm?
I can’t tell.
When I finally (maybe?) found out the truth about The Genius’ affair, I asked him how it felt to lie to me for all those years, daily, over and over.
You don’t want to know.
He’s right. I don’t. And I’m not interested in how it felt for Lance Armstrong to lie.
It is curious, though, the near rabid assault on Lance because of his doping and the lies he told to cover it up. He’s been stripped of medals and jerseys, and rightfully so given the rules. His Livestrong foundation has been rocked. Women and men across the world are slicing and dicing him over cocktails and at the water cooler. Sports columnists and opinion columnists and bloggers of all shapes and flavors have called him a disgrace, a sociopath, a narcissist, among other richer descriptions that would make my Mom cringe, so I’ll refrain.
Let’s just say, the dude is being roasted.
Even though we all knew what was going on. And everyone in the sport knew what was going on. And all the agents and Nike and lawyers and hangers-on knew what was going on.
So what happens when a spouse confesses to being unfaithful, to having lied, cheated, broken vows and lit morals and values on fire?
People say, So are you getting divorced? Do the kids know? Are you going to eat that french fry?
A kitten asked me to write about Armstronging and the pervasive culture of deceit, the catalyst for my exploration of what pushes us to leave the truth behind in favor of that which isn’t real. I thought it would be interesting, but what I found most curious are the reactions to lies and how we judge them, not the lies themselves. Are the lies told by Lance more destructive than those told by people who cheat on their spouses?
Are at least 50% of all those married people who are calling Lance a fraud, a disgrace, a sociopath and a narcissist adulterers? Probably.
That means we have progress. That’s how I’m looking at it anyway. Because when one of those people gets caught in a lie, they just might reflect back on how they spoke about Lance with such conviction, yet didn’t require that honesty from themselves.
As if they weren’t worth it, but he was.
Next time my cat uses my cashmere sweater as a litter box, some dude in Nigeria hacks my email and I get a yeast infection, I am not saying, I’m fine.
So why did I tell a lie in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s?