February 28, 2011

The Truth About Lying

Last Friday night my friend Colin and I had a little tête-à-tête over a bottle of wine (or two), and the conversation eventually turned to both of our recent forays into the world of twenty-something dating.

Sure, we both "dated" in college (although not each other) - as much as having a guy pay for your cup at a kegger can be construed as "dating" - and we've both been in longer, serious relationships. But at twenty-five and twenty-six, as a young urban professional and a new york city graduate student, respectively, the dating world now is not the same as when we were young.

In some ways it's very different,  like going on actual "dates," maybe with real stemware, instead of red Solo cups, and maybe a waiter or two, instead of your friend pumping a keg in the kitchen. But in a lot of ways nothing has really changed.

Like the lying.

Now I know, I know, your immediate thought is probably, "What? I don't lie! What are you talking about?"

And you're right, you probably have never lied about anything major like your age, or how much money you earn, or how you spent the last five years saving babies in sub-Saharan Africa when you were actually living in your parent's basement, working at Best Buy.

But think really hard about all the times you haven't been one hundred percent honest. Really think.

Find anything? Yeah, that's what I though....

The question came up because Colin asked me if I could ever tell if a guy was bullshitting while trying to pick me up. I said that I usually could tell if he was stretching the truth to impress me, but it wasn't always totally obvious. Colin said that I'd be surprised at the exaggeration, if not the straight up lies, guys sneak into a conversation to seem more desirable.

To be honest, it was something I was aware of, but something I'd never really given a lot of thought to.

I naively observed to him that I'd never lied to impress someone.

Colin laughed and said, "Julia, you're a girl. Of course you don't have to lie!"

But is that really true? Had I never lied to a guy? Sure, I've never claimed to be twenty-two, or said I was childhood friends with a celebrity, or pretended to be an heiress, all with the intention of making myself seem more attractive to a guy I was interested in (my general rule is that if my looks and personality aren't enough, the guy isn't worth pursuing anyway).

But I've definitely lied to plenty of boys.

The difference is that whereas boys lie to me to get ahead, I lie to boys to get rid of them.

I can't even count the number of times I've turned away some unsavory, leering fellow by claiming to have a boyfriend, or how many times I've escaped from a grabby dude by saying, "sorry, we were just leaving!" and moving across the bar. In high school (and I'm not proud of this) I even told a guy I was a lesbian! (A lie that came back to bite me in the ass when he saw me with my boyfriend a few months later. I had to make up some excuse about having "changed sides again").

Which means I've been just as dishonest as the guys who claimed to be "touring with their band" or "about to start their own practice" or "on the verge of getting signed."  I've just done it in a different way.

But thinking about all of this raises the question: Why don't we all say what's really on our minds?

Why can't the guys, instead of displaying their exaggerated plumage in some bizarre mating ritual, just put a little more thought into the actual conversation and into being themselves, without trying to steal the show?

Why can't the girls, instead of coming up with transparent excuses, just be honest and say, "dude, it's not going to happen"?

We all know what the other person is doing - everyone knows the truth about lying - and yet we all keep doing it.

What are we trying to protect ourselves from?

What was the last lie you told?


Col said...

Personally, I would MUCH rather have a girl be honest and up front about why she doesn't want to date. If there's something I'm lacking, I'd much rather hear about it so I can improve on it. Guys are used to being critiqued directly by coaches, fathers, etc.

Jen said...

This is such a thought-provoking post, Julia! I think, deep down, we are all people-pleasers, and that is why we tell this little white lies. We don't want to hurt or disappoint anyone, even if it's a guy we just want to go away.

Des said...

Lack of self-confidence. That's the main reason guy's lie and make stuff up. I think as guys we are fed a lot of crap by society and the media about what women find attractive. As we get older most of us mature and realize that being confident in who you are and passionate about what you do is what makes you attractive. Unfortunately, some of us never grow up.