‘I haven’t told a lie since 1997’ – that’s my catchphrase (no, really, I swear), parroted indignantly when anyone accuses me of telling an untruth. It is intended to convey the longevity, and therefore the rigour, of my honesty to friends, taxidrivers, and would-be lovers.
It’s a lie, obviously.
I’m like everyone else, I lie all the time – it’s impossible not to; as Ricky Gervais proved in tedious detail when he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in The Invention of Lying, the worst film that’s ever been made. Still, there is a shred of truth to my self-promoting strapline, which is that since the Big Lie of 2002 (I don’t want to talk about it, it’s too raw) I’ve limited myself to little white lies that save friends’ feelings. You know, the ‘no, that dress is in no way a hideous, frumpy, nightmare that makes you look like a cartoon hippo dressed in my Nan’s old curtains’ variety – and metaphor/hyperbole. I.e. I don’t literally mean it when I write that little mices have been crawling about in my memory cables, or that I can only get off to fish porn (I hope that doesn’t come as too much of a blow to any ex-lovers who read my last post, did a sigh of relief, and stopped blaming themselves for past failure to get me writhing ecstatically with uninhibited sex pleasure. In case you finally let yourself off the hook, I want to make it absolutely clear: I consider that lack-lustre outcome in the bedroom was totally your fault). Other types of lie – especially the dark, self-serving ones – are Bad News.
Anyway, as I’ve definitely mentioned before, I listen to a fair amount of gangsta rap, and one of the wiser bits of advice it’s learned me is this: ‘don’t hate the playa, hate the game’. I take this truism on board and apply it’s tautologous logic to most situations in my life; I find it gives what might otherwise be described as doormat weakness a ghetto edge. Thus, despite my own commitment to almost-total honesty, I don’t hate the liars per se, I hate (you guessed it) the lies.
I mean, it’s not really the liars’ fault, even though they are often right knob-ends, that the existence of lies makes human relationships of all kinds, at all stages, a fraught battleground, where trust and insecurity rage at each other with sawn off shotties and flick-knives, vying for supremacy of the soul. Lies, you see, mean that anything anyone tells you, at any time, may not be true – or at least entirely true. This isn’t the liars’ fault. The liar cannot be blamed, for the existence of the lie means that, even if the liars were telling the truth, you could never be sure. The liars’ utterances, like anyone else’s, might be total bullshit, or might not. There is no way of knowing.
Depressing innit? Although, if you wanna look on the bright side, it means that that other bit of rap wisdom: ‘never trust nobody’, is now applicable to all circumstances, even ones where you’re not selling crack. Hurrah!
I don’t mean to sound like a bitter, paranoid old hag here – although I do realise I’m doing a well good job of sounding very much like one (and I just took about 18 pictures of myself, with a flash, on the iPhone, and it turns out I’m looking like one as well. I’m sure that frown lines this deep are not meant to occur in one’s 20s. Maybe it’s the drink). But, trust: are you having an actual laugh?
When one is not romantically involved, lies, on a day-to-day basis, have less power to inflict crippling, organ-scalding pain. For the singleton, unfolding a lie that you once believed true makes you think one of two things: what a prick! Or: ha! I knew Rachel Stevens didn’t really eye him up that time in Whole Foods. It’s water off a duck’s back. Romance though, makes lying personal.
I totally forgot all this until recently, when I thought about, maybe, doing something romantic (stop it! Don’t judge me! Those self-portraits on my iPhone have just confirmed that I have exited the prime of life, and I need to get some sexy time in before a casual acquaintance refers to me as a spinster and my libido is totally slaughtered. Seriously, it’s going to happen) with a person who shall remain unnamed and neutral so that you can create an image of a rippled, sneering, alpha-male type cad in your mind’s-eye, and I won’t have to disappoint by revealing the blandness of my real-life romantic choices. Whatever, the crux of the story is that this person cancelled our romantic liaison with an excuse that sounded contrite and genuine. But how could I be sure? I couldn’t, obvs. Maybe he had a sudden recollection of my face and was reminded of the alarming damage those deepening frown-lines have done to my beauty; perhaps he read that last post where I said I get turned on by fish porn and changed his mind. Who could blame him? Not me. Which is why, rather than letting it slide, as I would in any other situation in which a near-stranger offered me a plausible story to explain an unexpected turn of events, I took it a little bit personally. Which affected my self-esteem.
And then I realised the total fag, which is that, at least until you ‘get to know’ someone (and even after that), everything that comes out of their mouth, or with the increasingly virtual communication systems we now utilise, through their fingers and down a wire, could be false. THEY MIGHT HURT YOU. God, human beings need massive reserves of bravery to cope with this shit. Or wine. Yes, wine is also good – although, I don’t recommend drinking too much, unless you’re up for getting dumped because of those premature wrinkles. Or you really wanna stay single.