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pants on fire

On the list of undesirable behaviors, lying has never seemed that bad to me. I mean, I’m a mom. Honesty may be the best policy, but sometimes, lying is just easier on everyone. Like when my seven-year old croons “I put your faith to the test, when I tore off your dress” along with Jason Isbell in the car and then asks me what the song is about. There’s only one answer to a kid’s question about the meaning of a country song. “America,” I always answer, looking off into the distance, imagining I’m in a Chevy commercial. Seems appropriate.

Anyway, it’s January. And January means resolutions. This year, I’d settled on “chew slower” when I overheard Finn and Cuz talking about lying. “I never lie,” Cuz said. And boy wasn’t that the truth. Three weeks ago, I’d passed by her on the stairs in a new backless top, late for a party. “How does it look?,” I asked, twirling.

20140106-184514.jpg

cuz and me, new year’s eve

Cuz made a face and looked pained. “You aren’t tan enough,” she offered, apologetically. Changing in my closet, I cursed her under my breath while pulling on a mechanic’s suit that covered every inch of my mid-winter skin. But Cuz was right. And if she’d lied, I’d have inflicted my pasty back on a whole room full of party-goers. So maybe there was something to this honesty thing.

Over the next few days, I thought more about resolving not to lie. Maybe it was time to go back to the basics. After all, I’d lied recently to a total stranger and it had gone very badly for me.

My car was in the shop and the dealership had shuttled me to a rental agency. There, I met Kevin, the most falsely chipper employee I have had the misfortune to meet. You know the type. Sunshine on the outside, but inside is a black, rotten core, and it’s cursing your mother. I endured about three dozen of Kevin’s questions at check-in with a stoic calm. Right up until Kevin asked for the name of my employer.

“Why do you need that info?,” I asked, incredulous. “For the computer, Ma’am,” Kevin answered, his fake smile slipping just a hair.

I don’t know why, but I did not want to tell Kevin where I worked. For what possible reason would Enterprise Car Rental need to know where I worked? They had my name, my address, my telephone number, my credit card on imprint–why?? WHY?? And now he was calling me MA’AM?

Something inside of me snapped.

“I don’t have a job,” I said to Kevin. Once told, the lie felt bold and bracing, as if someone had splashed a bucket of ice water on my face. It felt wild and crazy and amazing. Until, that is, Kevin gave me a fake look of sympathy and said, in a stage voice three times as loud as the one he’d been using up until then: “I’m sorry, Ma’am. It’s a tough time out there.”

What the hell. Why would he assume I was looking for a job, and not happily unemployed, like a good portion of the populace? Was Kevin fucking with me? Was he purposely trying to embarrass me? I turned around and noticed, for the first time, four other people in the line behind me, who had observed my testy exchange with Kevin and were now leaning in for more. Did these people think I was jobless? I wasn’t jobless. I had a job. I had a job!!!!!

I turned back to Kevin and leaned over the counter. “Actually,” I said, “I have a job.” Kevin raised a skeptical eyebrow that I visualized wiping off his face via shovel. “Yes,” I said, loudly. “In fact, I’m a lawyer.” I heard a snicker behind me, followed by a loud throat clearing and some shuffling. The four eavesdroppers were standing so close behind me that I could feel all four of them breathing on the back of my neck. “No really, I am,” I said, to Kevin, but mostly to the room. At this point, I was fully aware that I sounded like an ass hat, but there was no turning back. “I’m a lawyer. I really am.”

“Uh huh. Ok, ma’am,” said Kevin, not even bothering to ask me for the name of my fake employer. “Would you sign here for the rental protection?”

Back to my resolutions. I’d lied at Enterprise Car Rental, and the result had been ignominy. But that grown-up lie was certainly different from the little white lies I told my kids. Wasn’t it? I’m thinking now about the twenty or so little lies I told my kids TODAY, starting with “Bummer, the person in line in front of me bought all the cake pops” and ending with “All toy stores are closed on Mondays.” What will I do when my kids are older? They won’t buy these lies forever.

So. I am resolved. Slower chewing. Less lying to the kids. Bring it, 2014.

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28 Comments Post a comment
  1. lindseykaydavis #

    As a child I wish my mom would have been more honest with me. Especially with the things that matter. Working with kids a lot I think it is best to tell the truth unless it hurts them or their minds. No one wants to scar a kid. Words matter to them even if we think they are the simplest of things. I know they mattered to me.

    February 3, 2014
  2. duckburp #

    just started blogging, people reading my facebook posts kept telling me to start a blog (i.e. “your posts are funny, but too long to be facebook status updates”). have been trying to find some good blogs to read just to see what’s out there. your blog has encouraged me to talk about whatever (my mind is all over the place, but my wife wanted me to stick to stories about the kids) and to just do it for myself. i’ll be happy if someone can chuckle and smile for minute – which is why i wrote this reply. because i can lie at will, am terribly sarcastic and always have an alternate conversation in my head(often adding the word “idiot” to a benign reply), this post actually made me laugh out loud (okay, the truth is, i kinda drooled). thanks.

    January 21, 2014
  3. This made me nod in understanding! My two year old constantly asking me a million questions and sometimes I lie just because i have nothing better to answer her with! Other times I lie to save her opinion of certain relatives (mother in laws for example).

    Also makes me think of when a dear friend was helping her mother clean out an old chest and found a little box with some of her baby teeth in it! My friend of course acted shocked and appalled that her mother would lie to her about such things as the tooth fairy all the way until her 25th birthday.

    January 8, 2014
  4. Being a civil engineer, I always wanted to give the full scientific explanation to my kids when they were growing up and asked questions. That got too hard. I just started saying, “It’s magic”.

    January 8, 2014
    • I said that for a while but then they started getting angry. Now I tend to say “that’s a dad question.”

      January 8, 2014
  5. First of all, fuck Kevin. Fuck all the Kevins. It’s not that there’s a problem with him knowing, its that he asked. He had a reason for asking and he wouldn’t tell you what it really was. If his questions were just for funzies he would have asked more interesting things like “What’s your favorite Popsicle flavor,” or “by any chance are you that Yoona, of the hilarious blog that is currently sweeping the nation???” Kevin lied to you first. If Kevin wants to start your relationship with dishonesty than he better be prepared for the consequences. Kevin has a deep dark secret evil agenda. It probably involves the NSA and Edward Snowden.

    My mother says that lying is the only tool parents’ have left now that public whippings are frowned upon. As it turns out, I have no problem lying to her, which I didn’t even realize until I was typing this comment.

    January 7, 2014
    • Andy!! I didn’t even include what happened when Kevin took me out to the cars. When I said I didn’t want renters insurance, for the third time, he said “ma’am, you don’t have to get testy with me. You sound pretty malicious.” Malicious?? I told him that was a pretty negative word to be using in the customer service context and then he started apologizing. Malicious!! He should have gone with “bitchy” or “ill-tempered,” both of which would have been accurate in that context. Anyway. He was super nice when I came back to return the car though. With Tom.

      January 8, 2014
      • Kevin is obviously a sociopath with a poor vocabulary. I would say that I’m sorry you had to go through this, but the Kevins of the world make excellent fodder for blog posts. šŸ™‚

        January 8, 2014
  6. Muffy #

    It is great to see Cuz again, maybe she could enlighten us on any new skin care products for the new year! Oh, has Cuz ever done the Korean spa? Sorry Yoona, but I am in the throes of of my skin care addiction!

    January 7, 2014
    • you need never apologize for wanting more cuz. she is fabulous

      January 7, 2014
  7. Huh?!? Asians listen to country? I didn’t get that memo…

    And don’t send it to me.

    January 7, 2014
  8. Gr8fulTed #

    I’m just amazed you know who Jason Isbell is! Your value rises.

    January 7, 2014
    • my entire family is obsessed. i’d never have heard of him but our friend is a music writer. saw him in concert in portland!

      January 7, 2014
      • Gr8fulTed #

        Did your friend Smell Like Cigarettes and Wine?

        January 9, 2014
  9. Kristin #

    Lying to kids is a means of survival. I recently upgraded my android to an iphone…and because I was so damn tired of my 7 year old son constantly asking for my phone, I told him that “I could not afford the iphone that has games on it.” My husband has gotten away with this for years….it totally worked! I no longer get the constant begging and whining to “see my phone”. I kinda fear the day he finds out the truth, but until then I am thoroughly enjoying my iphone all to myself!

    January 7, 2014
    • that’s brilliant. because you also got to introduce the concept of frugality and the fact that they can’t have everything they want. i took finn to the eye doctor yesterday and in response to the question “how was your winter break, finn,” finn answered, “lots of fun, because i am rich.” i was horrified, mostly because the term “rich” is so 80s, and then finn followed up with, “i have $147 in my bank account. i’m rich.” kids these days

      January 7, 2014
      • Well, Finn’s doing better than I am…snaps for Finn

        January 9, 2014
  10. I love lying, is that bad? I mean I have a LOT of resolutions and that is not one of them. But they’re usually white lies, so that’s not so bad, right?

    January 7, 2014
    • mostly we lie to prevent people’s feelings from getting hurt. including ours. so in that sense, little lies can even be kind, i think

      January 7, 2014
  11. Mark Lopez #

    Whenever I deny private information to a cashier, I get a look as if I’m the crazy one. Good job standing your ground. My 7 year old is wising up to our white lies, but as parents we all have to decide for ourselves how long to protect their innocence. Great site! (although your banner moves too fast between articles…truth šŸ˜‰

    January 7, 2014
  12. When they are teenagers they see through anything. So good thing to start with the “No lying to the kids” policy now. I do not think that the guy at the rental agency should have asked where you were employed. You should not have to give that information to rent a car. I have been known to say I have no kids if people have asked me. In certain social situations I do not want to open up about my family. Does that make me a liar? I want to just exist as a person, not in the context of motherhood. Does that make me a shitty parent? I do not think so. It is just not the only thing I am. At a party with people I am not familiar with, the women tend to segregate into little clutches of SAHMs and professionals. I don’t want to necessarily be stuck in the “Mommy” group, even though that is what I am.

    January 7, 2014
    • I too have been tempted to take on an alternate persona, mostly when I’m dining alone. But that’s not lying! That’s entertainment

      January 7, 2014
  13. You obviously have a closet full of outfits to rely upon. In the same situation I’d have been stuck throwing a Talbot’s cardigan on over my outfit and calling it macaroni.

    Good luck with the lying stuff. One year I started out resolving to never lie to myself, then immediately rethought that maybe I should ONLY lie to myself…? It gets so complicated.

    January 7, 2014
    • lying to myself!! Oh man now we’re getting philosophical. I lie to myself all the time to build up my self esteem. Doesn’t that sound healthy?

      January 7, 2014
  14. I am glad you went with “less lying” to the kids. Making it harder to quantify gives you an out if all else fails.

    January 7, 2014
    • “setting myself up for success” is my motto. it often ends up looking like laziness unfortunately

      January 7, 2014

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