This is my first post for The Great Cake* Experiment. Other posts can be found here:
And so beginneth the Great Cake Experiment.
I’m a fan of Cake, myself – be it eating, baking, anticipating, throwing (yes, I’ve had those types of parties, not usually by choice) and sometimes, even just dreaming about it. The promise of some post-work tea and Cake has made many a Monday morning all the more palatable and many a Friday evening more blissful. So the promise of sharing in some Cake with lots of fellow Cake Appreciators in the future fills me with great joy, and is quite a good incentive to confront the deep-seated sense of apprehension I feel about sharing my inane ramblings with real people. But I digress. This post isn’t meant to be about Cake, as much as I’d like it to be.
So… back on topic. A Good Lie. What makes a good lie? Hmmm. At this point, if I were even a generation older, I’d be chewing on my pencil, scrunching up lots of paper into little balls and aiming them unsuccessfully at the wicker waste-paper basket in the corner. Unfortunately, modern technology has ensured that such simple, if environmentally catastrophic pleasures are now no longer available (I mean, who uses wicker waste-paper baskets these days?). I have briefly considered writing a post about golf; where good lies are relatively simple affairs, but that would just be taking the easy way out, and would doubtless make for terminally boring reading. O, Cakemistress, this is a tough one for a rusty writer, I cannot lie, in a good way or otherwise.
The very concept of lying is something that we are taught, almost as soon as we can talk, is wrong. The ironic reality though, is that life, as we live it each day is interspersed with lies. Today, in a bid to get ‘in the zone’ for writing this post, I resolved to be aware of examples of lies – good or otherwise – around me. I woke at 8am, feeling like muck. The last thing the world I wanted to do was open the blinds and admit defeat to the morning light, but sometimes needs (and rent) must. So when my housemate asked me over morning tea/frantic ironing how I was, why, I’d had a wonderful night’s sleep and was full of enthusiasm at the prospect of a day full of meetings about meetings. Bing, Bing! Two lies, and I wasn’t even dressed yet.
Lie #3 followed a similar conversation with a colleague who enquired after my wellbeing, but in my defence, I only told one of the above lies. Bing! Lie #4 was via email to a close friend who’d asked for a favour. Bing! Yes, in all honesty it was some trouble, and yes, it was a minor inconvenience but you don’t know how rubbish I’m feeling today, I would do anything for you, and you would do the same for me in a heartbeat, so telling you it’s no trouble at all doesn’t really count as a lie, right? Lie #5 was to another colleague – “Yes Michael, I’ve almost finished that, I’ll send it on to you shortly…” B… oh you get the picture. (In case you are Michael, and you are reading this, I had some PC issues earlier…… bing.) And so on, and so forth. By lunchtime, I was seriously questioning my integrity and re-evaluating my perception of myself as a decent person. By 4pm, I was projecting, and regarding my colleagues with deep suspicion, convinced that if I was such a compulsive liar, I couldn’t possibly be the only one.
At 7pm, my mother lied to me. “I’m fine. I’m feeling much better today”. My endearingly honest father set the record straight. Bing!
By 10pm I’d stumbled across a rather uncomfortably relevant article about Facebook Fakers – those who use their Facebook, Twitter and various other social media accounts to project false information and portray the image of the ‘perfect’ life (‘Perfect’ by definition meaning having lots of friends – real or virtual, being tagged in lots of photos teetering on gravity-defying heels and looking impossibly glamorous with said friends, preferably with a glass of wine in hand – but never with anyone who’s hotter than you – meeting celebrities, and tweeting from various cool must-be-seen-in locations, while in reality you may actually be stuffing your face with cheesecake from the fridge whilst wearing a face mask, fluffy socks and watching the Late Late Show. For non-Irish readers, watching the Late Late Show is a very non-Perfect-Life thing to do on a Friday night.) Apparently, this is just the beginning, and very soon we will all be appraising our lives, not by our own happiness, but by what others approve of. Or so the ’experts’ say.
By midnight, I’d stopped questioning it, and realised that lies are everywhere.
So the question remains, what makes a ‘good’ lie? This is where the line blurs. What is ‘good’? Who defines it? Indeed, if lying is so prevalent, does it even count as lying anymore?
I suppose a ‘bad’ lie is one with negative consequences for others. A lie in work, told because you don’t want to expose your lack of knowledge or experience, can have consequences for your colleagues. They may have to forsake their time to help you out of a rut. They may even tell you that it’s “fine” and “no trouble at all” Bing! Telling someone you love you’re happy in a relationship, because they’re not in a good place, and you feel telling them otherwise may damage them is a Bad Lie. Telling someone you’re ill, to elicit some pity or because you haven’t delivered on something you should have, that’s a Bad Lie. Lying to yourself, and trying to be someone you’re not to preserve the status quo, that’s one of the worst lies of all. (On the other hand, saying “oh, didn’t you get my text earlier?” just makes you a bad liar.)
After much thought therefore, while lying as a hobby is a bad pastime, there are varying degrees of untruth. If a Bad Lie is one with negative consequences for others, then conversely, a Good Lie is one without. Telling a mate I’m fine in the morning because I don’t want to burden her with my feelings when she’s going through a rough time herself, y’know what, that’s a good lie. (Particularly when I, in all likelihood will feel fine by lunchtime.) Telling a stressed colleague you’ve something under control, even when you don’t, is a good lie, if it calms them (but only if you frantically begin to get it under control immediately, otherwise, it’s a Bad Lie). Telling your friend you won’t make a fuss of her birthday – in fact, you might not even be around that weekend, but then surprising her with something that makes her feel really special and loved, that’s a Good Lie. Sometimes we compromise ourselves and in doing so, compromise the truth a little in order to make other people feel good. There’s a fine line, and we often teeter on the rope, but sometimes, telling a Good Lie will make all the difference to someone else, and where’s the harm in that?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to change my Facebook profile photo to the Face Mask and Cheesecake Horror shot…..