We’ve all done it.
To save someone’s feelings.
If we can’t be bothered.
Or, sometimes just for the sheer drama of it.
The art of lying is a huge source of fascination for me.
It would be a lie to proclaim to have never uttered one or two corkers in my time, but I’d like to think that somewhere in between the trial and error of entanglement, and being (or at least trying to be) a fairly decent person, that I (almost never) rely on untruths to get on.
The chances are, this puts me at a significant disadvantage in life.
I play with a straight bat.
It is true that my middle class roots have meant that I have never had to fight for survival; nor have I lead such a privileged life that boredom has created the need for drama.
That is to say, I’m not the sort of person who would call in a bomb hoax or fake my own death for attention.
Honestly, I’m not.
My kind of lies are fairly mild. The sort of that might involve replying disingenuously when posed with “does my bum look big in this” enquiries etc.
In a world where BS rules, I sometimes wonder why I don’t lie more. Life could be made out to be so much more exciting – I could worm my way out of things endlessly, seemingly without guilt.
Perhaps I shouldn’t care about the prospect of being deemed flaky, unreliable or sneaky but I suspect that even if I could, I would find the effort of keeping up a faux pretence somewhat wearing.
Does telling the truth sometimes cause more grief than it’s worth?
Do people think I’m uncharitable to just say no to that invitation upfront when I know fine well that when it comes down to it, I won’t want to go?
Christmas time is especially laden with untruths, particularly with so many social events flying around in its run up.
My observations suggest that dropping out of said events at the last minute due to sudden illness, bereavement, a last minute lack of funds, leaking washing machines (and so on) seems to be the norm these days.
If you are the sort of repeat-offender who is more than likely to sack someone off in favour of a better offer in December, even just to lounge on the sofa in your PJs – why not just say no from the outset? Why hedge your bets anyway?
If you disregard this approach and still feel that your only option is to lie your way out of something, be sure to think your approach through carefully.
In the age of facebook, you will almost certainly get caught out in the process of executing a social gazzump. Or at the very least, spend your evening dodging paparazzi and thereafter begging people not to tag you by name online.
Executing a seamless “dropping fly” strategy can be quite interesting to observe or take part in.
How far in advance should the submission of your
excuse lie be lodged in order to be deemed acceptable by the host? Illness, for example, almost certainly has to be an on-the-day get out text in order to be authentic.
An on-the-day lie is generally fraught with the risk of too many other “dropping flies” getting in ahead of you, potentially leaving you in that awkward position of not really being able to drop out after-all.
A day-before-lie is a good one for the more risk-averse because then that’s it done and dusted and you can get on with shopping for your new outfit for the party you’re going to instead.
Coming up with an acceptable lie to cover two days might be harder though.
Even better might be that during-the-party-text-that-nobody-sees-until-they-are-drunk-and-don’t-care. You can basically make up any lie you like then as it will be accepted and forgotten about instantly. This is probably only appropriate for larger gatherings where your drop out hadn’t already been pipped to the post by three quarters of the other invitees.
Coming clean – I have probably done all of the above at least once in my life. I agonise over doing it though (not that that makes it an better).
It’s the persistent offenders that bug the heck out of me.
I even have a favourite offender. I have watched her knit lies at work on various subjects many, many times, but have only actually been on the receiving end of them once.
The incident in question occurred on the day of our work Christmas party three years ago. The event is a lavish annual black tie dinner dance, always held on a winters Saturday night in a grand Scottish hotel. Miss X lived around 20 miles from the hotel and so decided that she and her partner would take a room overnight. For weeks in advance, right up to the day, Miss X invited us and a few other colleagues for pre-party fizz in her room. We were all kinda meh about it but seeing as it was an uncharacteristically nice gesture from an otherwise fairly anti-social person, we said yes to
drinks at 6.30pm.
On the day, I dropped my husband off in the city centre for a pint with friends whilst I hit the hairdressers.
At 4.30pm I emerged (a vision of loveliness – ahem!) to a text from Miss X saying, “OMG, my car has broken down in the middle of nowhere, I’m stuck by myself and there’s no sign of help coming.”
Worried, I try calling. No answer.
I text, “Oh no, hope all ok? I’m in my car now. If you tell me where you are I will come and help – or at least keep you company until the mechanic arrives.”
Miss X: “I’m not sure where I am. I’m not sure how long this will take 😞 pre-drinks might be a problem.”
Despite being short on time to get ready myself, I was happy to be late if it meant helping a damsel in distress and so I texted her back assuring her that it was no problem to start driving in her direction.
No response back and so in the meantime I drove further into the city centre to collect my husband from the pub. I paused in a lay-by beside a shopping centre to wait for him. I checked my phone.
Another text from Miss X: this time saying “it’s ok, mechanic on way but will prob not manage to host pre-drinks”
Thank goodness she’s safe I think to myself and texted back: “don’t worry about drinks. Get home safely and will see you later.”
I look up and do a double take.
Guess who is parked two cars in front of me outside McDonalds.
Yup, you guessed it.
I see my text light up her screen. She replies. “Thanks, it’s so dark out here in the wilderness. I’m so glad mechanic has arrived.”
Oblivious, my husband emerges from the pub and past her car. He sees her and knocks on her window jovially. I’m not sure why but I start to feel sick like it’s me in the wrong.
She turns round and sees me, sending a sickly smile and a feeble wave in my direction.
I find myself involuntarily waving back like a village idiot. I watch open mouthed as her car starts up and slowly pulls away, the prospect of socialising with this unrepentant liar in an hour or so looming over me like a storm cloud.
There’s a moral to that story folks.
Moreover, a simple, we’ll just see you at the main event would have been perfectly acceptable.
Sometimes in life dogs do eat homework and that’s ok, you’re only human.
Just. Be. Honest.
Does this kind of social etiquette really matter?
Should it matter?
I would love to hear your views on how best to drop out of social engagements. Do you do it? If so what’s your strategy?