SAMUEL H. LUNT
Many people are born many things. I was born a liar. Ive done it my entire life. Exquisitely, craftily, subtly. These werent the gross, enormous Enron-style lies that cheat people out of fortunes unmistakable as the entire state of Texas. They were a little more than white lies, a little less than dark ones. Sometimes they were lies that protected me, my fantasies and dreams. More often, they just made life a whole lot more interesting.
At age ten I bamboozled my cousins with endless tales of invented friends a gymnast named Mugsy whose family chef could flip an entire skillet full of pancakes without a spatula, a bald old man named Henry who chewed tobacco and called seductively from a rocker on his front porch. As I grew older, I created false identities to share with seatmates on airplanes a foreign correspondent, a twenty-year-old mother of two, a surgical resident (wouldnt you know that one found me parked next to a professor from UCLA medical school). When take-out restaurants asked for a name Id become Violet or Cordelia or Alice Marie. Ive lied to parents and dates, to best friends and strangers. Ive even lied to therapists. There was a time when fresh out of college I lied about my age so much, spreading myself from 19 to 29 depending on the audience, that I actually forget the truth and had to count back from my birth year.
Ive lied to my detriment, a fifteen-year-old anorexic twisting tale of the meals I swore Id eaten. Ive lied to better the world, promising Id collected $50 towards a Halloween UNICEF drive then having to empty my piggybank to make good. At my peak I was something of an operator three-timing a trio of honest Southern California gentlemen so silk-tongued and savvy not one ever had a clue. I could dump undesirable dinnermates, invent elaborate weekend plans, be home when I was out and out when I was home, all with my tongue tied behind my back.
Everybody lies a little except Born Again Christians, which in my mind is yet another screaming reason not to convert. They lie about their weight, on their resumes, to blitz through customs. A choice few lie too much, stealing pension funds, going to war under false pretenses, and sleeping with your husband. The real artists carve out a lovely valley right in between. We dont tell downy pure just to protect anothers feelings fibs thats amateur territory. Nor do we venture into the sharp and black, meant to do damage. Our creations are verdant, lush, occasionally carrying a whiff of danger but rarely anything more.
In my opinion, lying gets a bad rap. As if honesty were really possible. Or even desirable. Lying has given birth to films, novels, the femme fatale and the Kennedys. It turns lives three-dimensional, full of those colors and textures the cold hard facts cant always provide. Of course lying has boundaries. But so do chocolate, skirt lengths and continental Europe. And I dont see God laying down Commandments against any of them.
I dont lie so much now that Im in my mature and responsible thirties. I can still concoct when the situation demands, like a magicians scarf pulled from my sleeve. I can ditch a bothersome companion or a parental missive without breaking a sweat. But nowadays its more about function, less about form. I suppose thats a good thing, in the building relationships and contributing to society sense. But I do miss it. Life is drabber, more earnest, lived noticeably further from the edge.
For those uninitiated to the lying game, I encourage a test drive or two. Theres only one rule, and its easy to remember. Play as fast and loose with the truth as you dare. Just never get caught.
P.S. For extra credit, how many lies did I tell in the above?
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