This week I got into a conversation with someone about lying.
I don’t lie, as a rule. Not only because I believe in telling the truth (which actually has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion because of my extreme honesty) but also because I just know I will get caught. Every single time.
I have a face that broadcasts what’s going on in my mind. You may recall Jon Lovitz’ character on Saturday Night Live? The compulsive liar? He’d roll his eyes and say things like “Yeahhhhh, that’s what really happened! Yes, that’s it!” and “That’s the ticket!” Well, had I ever met him I would have thought he created that character after me. My face is an extremely large, well-lit billboard for what is going on in my head. “The eyes are the windows of the soul?” Um, mine are the windows of my soul, my brain, my heart…you name it.
I have told maybe three real lies in my whole life. Early on my parents taught me that if they caught me lying they’d never believe anything I said again. Obviously that made an impression on me. That and the fact that I am the absolute worst liar in the world.
I still remember the first lie I ever told. I must have been three or four years old.
For whatever reason, I’d tied a ribbon around a door knob in our house and being the age I was, I only knew how to tie a knot. And I was really good at tying nice, tight knots.
Well, Mom saw it and tried to get it off and looked at me and said “Did you put this here?” I guess something in her tone had me a bit alarmed. I remember saying “Uh, nooooooo…” Well, considering the fact that she and I were the only ones home and she knew she didn’t tie the ribbon in a knot on the doorknob that probably was a poor choice for my answer. That was when I was taught what a terrible thing it is to lie and obviously it made a big impression on me.
I only told The Ex one lie in our entire marriage. Really.
It was in the 1980′s and I was on my way into Manhattan for a Sunday morning brunch with my friends from college. As I drove into the Lincoln Tunnel I decided to change the station on the radio and took my eyes off the road for about three seconds. That was just long enough for my front right tire to bounce off the cement curbing and pop. When you learn to drive in New York City, it is emphasized over and over again that if you get a flat in a tunnel or on a bridge, it is the law that you must drive over or through. Of course, I remembered that rule. I live by rules. So, I drove the entire distance on the flat, not only completing shredding the tire beyond repair but also damaging the rim.
I got out at the other end of the tunnel to look at the damage and I clearly remember thinking “Wow! Steel-belted radials really have steel belts!”
A kindly tunnel employee changed the flat for me and when I went home I told The Ex that I’d hit one of the perfectly awful potholes downtown and that’s what happened to the tire. I guess I just didn’t want to let him know that changing a station on the radio – especially in light of the fact that you cannot hear the radio in the Lincoln Tunnel – was the true cause of the big dent in our budget to replace the unrepairable tire and a rim.
The third lie very easily could have cost everyone their lives.
We were flying between islands in the Caribbean during the time in my life that I was at the height of my fatitude. It was one of those six or eight seater planes and the pilot asked each of us, quite publicly, what we weighed. I shaved off about 40 pounds out of pure embarrassment, especially since we were on a business trip and the other passengers were colleagues of The Ex. I remember the pilot looked up from the pad, frowned at me, turned the pencil around, erased the number I’d given him, looked at me again and wrote a new number.
I didn’t know if I should feel relieved or annoyed. He obviously was an expert at guesstimating…and I was a very poor liar. I was actually sort of glad to be caught in that one, because I didn’t want the newspapers back home to have a headline saying something like Small Plane Goes Down in Atlantic Because Fat Wife Lied.
I’ve always emphasized to my own children that they need to tell the truth because if caught in a lie the consequences will be far worse than for whatever they were trying to cover up. It is quite amusing to me to hear them use the same words to their own children when they are trying to determine what actually happened.
One of my favorite quotes is from I think, Winston Churchill: “Telling the truth does not require having a good memory.”
Works for me. Since my memory is almost as bad as my lying.