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.
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.