02 October 2010

The boundless and mysterious capacity for self-delusion

I smell a lie!
Bloodhound I met at a cafe

Do you listen to This American Life? You really should. It's the best thing on earth. No, I'm not exaggerating. Look how great technology is - you can listen to it right here. 

I was listening to this week's show, "Frenemies" and one of the stories, the one about the long-lost friend who had a problem with her daughter, triggered me to remember my days as a girl reporter.

I used to think that people knew what they were saying.

I used to believe them.

After being a reporter for a while, I knew why we catch politicians in stupid lies like when Hilary Clinton said "They were shooting at us when we landed in Sarajevo."

People don't even know when they are lying much of the time. This includes me.

Stories, bits of facts, embellishments, photos, other people's words - they all swirl around in our brains to make a fertile ground for new stories to sprout. Stories that SEEM to be absolutely real but may have little to no basis in fact.

And then there's the stuff we want to believe about ourselves. We want to think we are better people than we are, so we say we are better people than we are, never mind the truth. 

Let me give you two recent examples:

  • I met someone I know at the beach who was walking her off-leash dog. We started talking about dogs, as dog owners are wont to do, and I bemoaned the intractability and viciousness of the fleas this year. She said "Well, you know what I do? I keep my dog off the beach, which helps a lot!" Mind you, her dog was walking on the beach less than 20 feet from her.
  • I was having Italian dinner with a friend and he asked me about why I was a  vegetarian. We chatted for a while and then he said "Well, I really don't eat red meat at all anymore." While he was reaching for a slice of steaming pepperoni and sausage pizza. 

Sometimes I open my mouth and hear these sorts of things coming out. "Oh, I take vitamins every single day without fail." "I make all my dog's food." "I never talk on the phone when I'm driving anymore." 

The first one is patently untrue, though I think about taking vitamins all the time. The second is true when I have a lot of time on my hands. And the third is mostly true but there are exceptions. Still? None of them are really truly true like you might expect them to be, since you heard them come out of my mouth.

What about you? Do you have lies that you tell out of habit? Oh, do tell!
Sorry about the way these past few posts have looked. I am fighting with the new Blogger post editor.


Jess said...

I catch myself, mostly in the presence of strangers, exaggerating truths or blurting flat out hypocrisies of reality in an attempt to find common ground.

It's funny really because I typically catch it the second it leaves my lips.

My therapist says my tendency spawns from my deep-seeded daddy issues. I agree...to make her think I agree.

Kizz said...

It's funny, they're so knee jerk I can't even recall one, though I know I do it ALL THE TIME. Sometimes I'll even back out of it and say, "That's not true.." then explain to whoever I'm talking to. Sometimes it's for dramatic effect and sometimes it's just stupid, I just lie.

Mignon said...

I couldn't think of one, until I read Shuggilippo's comment. That. I do that.

Now that I think about it, though... I also make up dreams I've had about people I know. I also have been known to tell people I was an extra in Mr. Holland's Opus.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I'll blurt out a fat one just for fun. I can't think of one right now, but I was inspired by my husband who said after a round of me and my girlfriends half-way one-upping each other about things we'd done. He said, "Well I invented mustard." No one could top that.

Back to top