Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Boys Lie

I saw this bumper sticker the other day in a Hudson parking lot.  In one way, it struck me as kind of self-evident, like grass is green and pizza tastes good.  But I thought it might refer to something specific I didn't know about, so I Googled the term--and, sure enough, found the lyrics to a 2012 Cheryl Cole song ("Boys Lie"); I listened to it on YouTube and felt bad about myself.  "Boys lie, and somewhere / A good girl cries, cries, cries ...."  She hits that refrain several times in the song.  By the end, I was feeling really, really bad about myself.  (Link to song.)

Because, you see ... I'm a boy.  I've lied.  Q.E.D.

My lies began early--when I figured out, as a wee lad, that I could sometimes get and/or do what I wanted if I, you know, lied.  An example: In Enid, Oklahoma, where we lived during most of my boyhood, my parents had a charge account at the local J & J Grocery.  Charging things dazzled me--seeing my mom or dad just sign for something.  No money.  (The notion that they would pay later had not dawned on me.)  So ... J & J had really great fresh glazed donuts.  One summer I started going in every day and charging one--or two--or more.  (Sometimes my friends benefited from my largess.)  Mr. Jones (yep, his name--no lie) would invariably ask me: "Is this okay with your parents?"



Well, here came the end of the month.  The donuts were "only" five cents each (you can always say "only" when it's not your money), but multiplied over an entire month, the final figure was impressive--something like $5.  (Remember: This was the day when 5 cents got you a Coke in a machine, a full-sized Snickers bar, etc.) That month I learned not only about charge accounts but also about the consequences of abusing them.  Dad garnisheed my allowance--though I didn't learn that word for a long time.

And then there was my lie about being related to Daniel Boone (the "Daniel" part, of course).  And another one about being pen pals with Annette Funicello (a Mouseketeer, for you who are chronologically challenged).  And a small scar on my knee coming from that time I, you know, nearly cut my whole leg off ...  The usual boyhood nonsense that probably no one believed anyhow.
The lies, of course, darkened as I grew older and discovered ways to use words to deceive family, friends, teachers.  Oh, nothing ever too egregious.  My parents, by the way, almost always caught me.  More consequences ensued.

In high school (and college, too, I fear) I did hurt girls with my lies. Boys--adolescents--older?--tend to bow down before the Great God Testosterone and rise to obey his commandments.  It's a sad truth, rooted as it is in that evolutionary imperative.  And then there's that Biblical imperative, too: Go forth and multiply.  I often (always?) hated myself when I lied to girls.  Mostly later, though.  After I'd damaged hearts and smudged my own soul.  

Of course, boys have no monopoly on lying.  Girls lied to me, too--and I almost always believed them.  (Are liars always themselves extremely credulous?)  But, somehow, in my own head, those girls' lies (wee as they were) failed to cancel in my own conscience the whoppers I had told.  My guilt I carried around in my mind--an over-sized bowling ball in a small bag.  And I learned a wrenching equation: lies received do not cancel lies told.

Of course, adolescents have no monopoly on lying (there's that term perjury, you know).  Now an official Senior Citizen (I'm on Medicare!), I know that pretty much everyone lies.  Sometimes, we know, it's just harmless (?) social convention.  I love your dress.  Your granddaughter is so cute.  I loved your speech.  This is the best linguine I've had in a long time.  What a great dog you have!

I mean, all that's preferable and more socially lubricating, say, than Your dress is hideous.  Your granddaughter should wear a mask.  Your speech was juvenile.  Your linguine gave me stomach cramps.  Your dog needs to be put down.

Did you see that 2009 film The Invention of Lying?  Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner and Louis C. K. and Jonah Hill and others in an alternative world that knows no lying.  Until Ricky blurts one out, and everyone believes it.  The world world begins to change forever.  
I've been hurt by lies, too.  From both genders.  All ages.  When I was teaching, students lied to me all the time--from small ones (I left it in my locker) to larger ones (I was sick last night) to whoppers (I love your class, Dr. Dyer!).  My colleagues lied to me--my bosses.  I remember when the Aurora teachers' union was having a negotiating training session with the school superintendent, a session conducted by a consultant and designed to introduce a novelty into negotiating: truth-telling.  During one of the role-playing exercises, I, well, told the truth, revealing a (imaginary) union position.  The superintendent scoffed and said, "I hope you're on the bargaining team!"  So much for honesty!

And one of the reasons we have so many government regulations?  People lie--all the time.  Think of health care.  Patients lie.  Doctors lie to the insurance companies.  Drug companies lie.  Insurance companies lie.  Hospitals lie.  

The worst lies, of course, are those designed to deceive people who trust you most and, simultaneously, to improve your own position vis-a-vis whatever.  Think former Rep. Weiner.  Or South Carolina's Mark Sanford, who was definitely on a trail--just not one in Appalachia.  Or think about just any politician who willfully distorts an opponent's position or blatantly lies about what that person has done--or believes in.  When our son was running for office, it was horrible to watch his opponent's TV ads, which blamed Steve, it seemed, for everything from the world financial crisis to the Civil War to the disappearance of the passenger pigeon.

There's no real way to prevent lying.  We all do it, don't we?  My mom, 94, always the Guardian of the Truth in our household, is telling whoppers these days.  ("They never came to get me for my hair appointment"; yes, they did; she told them to go away.)  Oh, and my favorite lie my mom told a few years ago when she was still driving--but nearing the end.  She'd had an accident--totaled her car (a tree, not someone else--she wore a neck brace afterward for a while).  She called both my brother Dave and me and wondered if she ought to get a new car.  We both sort of shuffled around the question, implying/hinting that maybe her driving days ought to be over.  Meanwhile, she had a new car already sitting in her garage at the moment she was calling us.  Ah, Mom!

Anyway, blatant, unrelieved truth-telling (see The Invention of Lying) creates too much of a social discomfort--for everyone.  And lying--curse its soul--just plain works much of the time--until it doesn't.  At which time we, the deceived, feel horrible--and maybe compose song lyrics.  Bitter ones.  And the liar swears that he/she is so sorry--but, as we know (liars that we are), we're sorry principally because we've been caught.

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