Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Un-invention of Lying

Not too long ago I watched the movie “The Invention of Lying”.

It’s about the entire world being incapable of lying. There is no such thing as flattery or exaggeration. They can’t tell someone that they look nice when they really don’t think so, can’t blame work tardiness on traffic, or hide any thought, no matter how offensive or inappropriate. Until, that is, one man manages to somehow crack the code. He begins lying about everything and everyone simply has to believe him because to them, lying doesn’t exist.

Would that be so terrible? If we couldn’t lie? Some things are best kept to yourself and telling the absolute truth about everything at all times could be hurtful and awkward, right?

Let’s ignore the effect it would have on issues like crime and government, and focus on something more important: Me. What would a day be like if dishonesty didn’t exist for me or the people I encounter? If every single thought in my head was available to the public, simply by asking the right questions?


My alarm goes off at 5am, but I doze intermittently until 5:30. I’ve been dreaming about sex again. I’d rather be late for work than end the only action I’m getting prematurely.

By the time I decide I’m going to get up, I can’t. My mom’s boyfriend is banging around the kitchen and I’m not wearing pants. I’m too lazy to pull them on before I go out. I resent not being able to walk around naked, even though I rarely do so – mostly just a dash here and there.

He’s finally gone. I stumble through the kitchen and make myself a cup of coffee. I poke my head in mom’s door. She’s still blissfully snoozing.

“It’s not time to get up yet”, I shout, “but I’m waking you anyway because it’ll piss you off. Last night you pissed me off. How does it feel?”

She jerks awake and mumbles “Go away."

My sister doesn’t have to go to school today because she’s been suspended. She was recently caught half naked in the school parking lot with her coma inducing boyfriend. She's supposed to be suffering. There’s no way I’m leaving her asleep. On my way out the door I stop by her room and turn on the light.

“Get up child whore. You’re supposed to be in trouble and there you are, lying on your back again. Your nostrils are enormous.”

“No one will date you because you're a shrew”, she replies turning her back to me.

“I told mom you had sex.”

“I have oral too.”

“You won’t get herpes and die, but you might get herpes and live, which is worse. Ask your cousin.”

On that note I head out the door.

When I arrive at work my boss beckons me into her office to tell me about her weekend. She sits behind her desk, waving her hands dramatically along with her monologue. The gesture most definitely doesn't fit the story. She pauses for my input, leaning back in her chair.

“I don’t care”, I say.

“I don’t care about yours either.”

"Good, because I wasn't going to tell you about it anyway." I'm relieved to be let off the hook and I retire to my office, happy.

Later she comes in to check on me. “What are you working on?”

“Nothing”, I reply. I've been staring at the horrendous blue wallpaper, making myself go crosseyed, which most definitely qualifies as nothing.

“Why not?”

“Because I can finish everything that needs to be done in one day and if I do it all now, I won’t have anything to make me look busy for the rest of the week.”

“Oh. That’s not good.” She can't punish me, I know, because she plays games and reads Danielle Steele novels in the afternoon when most everyone else has gone home.

“It’s fine. I like blogging better.”

“What’s blogging?”

“It’s where I write all of my personal business on the internet and some of yours too, and people laugh and leave comments about how awesome I am.”

“I don’t like that.”

I shrug. “I’m going to the dermatologist today. That one in the building down the street.”

“That doctor is a kiss ass. I’ll bet she’ll licky splity.” She makes a V with her fingers in front of her mouth and sticks out her tongue.

“When you say that phrase and make that motion it makes me want to fold my ears together, staple them shut and pour bleach in my eyes.”

“I know.” She grins on her way out the door.

I spend the rest of the day dicking off and not pretending to look busy. At 4:30 I leave for my dermatologist appointment. I know I read the map wrong but I’m too lazy to recheck. I make two wrong turns and almost cream a parked car. An old man, sitting in a dilapidated old lawn chair yells at me from his yard. My window is down, my left arm dangling out with a cigarette clutched in my fingers.

“You’d better slow it down, Missy!”

“You’d better stay on your lawn, old man”, I yell back, taking a drag.

“When I was your age I’d get my hide tanned for speaking to an elder that way.”

“When you were my age, people used hand signals and grunts.” I pull away before he can reply.

I finally arrive at the doctor’s office. The front lobby has a big wall of glass and there is more seating than is likely necessary. Wedged in with the regular chairs are two low, modern, grey leather sofas with leather throw pillows. They face each other and I have to pass between them to reach the check in window. I think they are ridiculous, but I want to sit on one anyway.

The girl at the counter has ugly, dyed blonde hair and a crooked smile. “Hello”, she says in a serious manner. I nod to her while I write my name on the clipboard. “What’s your name?”

“I just wrote it on the clipboard”, I say.

“I’m asking because I don’t always look at the clipboard. We only put it there for the people we don’t want to speak to. We can keep the glass shut while they sign, then open it when they walk away to check the name.”

“What if the person signing the clipboard that you decide to talk to, doesn’t want to talk to you?”

“I don’t know.”

“You should think about that”, I say in monotone.

She grits her teeth in an unflattering manner. “I won’t. I need your insurance card and a picture ID.”

I hand them over. She glances at my ID then back at me. “You were thinner in this picture.”

“Your hair has probably always been ugly.”

"Funny you should say that, it has."

She copies my cards, returns them and I sit down to wait on one of the ridiculous sofas. There is a familiar looking girl sitting across from me on the matching seat. She looks up from her book and gives me a once over. I return her stare and she goes back to her novel. It’s a romance. She tries to hide the cover with her hand.

“He gives it to her good on page 78”, I say.

“I know. I’ve already read that part twice”, she says in embarrassment.

I nod knowingly.

They call my name before hers, even though she was on time and I was five minutes late.

“That pisses me off”, she says.

“I think it’s funny”, I reply with a grin as I head toward the inner door.

An assistant takes me to a room and asks me a list of medical questions. Then she hands me a folded paper placemat. “Strip down to your bra and underwear, cover yourself with the paper, and sit on the table with your legs to the side. The doctor will be with you in a minute.”


I strip off my clothes and throw them in the visitor’s chair. Sitting down on the table as instructed, I notice there is a low mirror directly in front of me. I think it’s an odd place for a mirror, but I make use of it anyway. I make pouty faces and angry faces at myself. I swing my legs back and forth and watch my socked feet appear in the mirror. One, two, one two. My legs are ashy, but I can’t find any lotion in the room. I shrug. It’s a lady doctor. She won’t care.

There’s a brief knock at the door and a man comes in. He’s young and very good looking, wearing scrubs and an indifferent expression. “Hi”, I say brightly before I can stop myself. I thought it was the doctor. “Excuse me”, he says without looking at me directly. He grabs something off of the counter and backs out the door.

I am irritated. I find his intrusion rude and lacking in substance. I believe he might have just wanted to see me half naked. I smirk at myself in the mirror.

A few minutes later the doctor comes in, followed by the same man. She is short with a tight smile. They’re like wax figures in lab coats, stoic and off-puttingly professional. She introduces herself and shakes my hand.

“How are you”, she asks.

“Uncomfortable.” The papered table crackles as I wiggle to illistrate my statement.

“I don’t care”, she replies.

She starts going over my body, looking at my arms, legs, back, and chest. She finds two moles she wants to remove - one right above my ass and one on my right shoulder blade. I tell her about the one on my head and she decides to remove that as well. She instructs me to lie down on my side with my back to her. I clutch my paper placemat and turn, making a lot of crinkly racket.

“You’re going to feel a little sting.”

She inserts a needle in my back. “OW! FUCKER!”

“It’s only a little sting.”

“Maybe to you.” I look over my shoulder and the male assistant is looking at my ass. He’s chuckling under his breath. I suddenly realize that I’m wearing the most obnoxious underwear I own (other than the ones that aren’t really underwear at all). They are grey bikinis with pink, orange, and red lipstick prints all over them.

“You’re just jealous”, I say.

“I’m sleeping with her.” He smirks and jerks his head toward the doctor. She ignores this exchange.

“I’m glad I didn’t wear thongs”, I say with a sigh.

“So am I”, says the doctor.

She finishes the appointment, jabbing the other needles a bit harder then necessary without apology. After a few instructions and a handout, they leave the room and I get dressed. I pay my copay at the check out counter. The girl with the ugly hair has already left for the day. Shame.

On the drive home I’m suddenly very tired. My phone is dead, but I’m glad because my mom is probably calling me right at that moment. I’m saved from a bothersome conversation, if only for another hour.

When I get home my sister is standing in the kitchen. “You got a package in the mail today”, she says.

I pick up the small box she's referring to and rip it open. It's the CD upgrade I ordered for the internet so we can connect using my phone again.

"I want to use it when you're done with the upgrade."


"Why not", she says, glaring and crossing her arms.

“Because I’m probably having phone sex tonight.”


“Your boyfriend asked me to butter his biscuit.”

She sighs. “I know.”

The evening routine goes by quickly. Soon my sister is curled up in her dark room, whispering disgusting words of teenage love into her phone. The kid is slack jawed and splayed across her bed. Ray is snoring on the living room floor, taking up the walkway. And Mom is deceptively still and quiet. I know she's awake, being nosy as only she can. As I walk by her room, turning off the last light, she confirms her consciousness by saying, "I know you're up to something."

I sigh. It's always the same suspicious sentence. I could be on my death bed, gasping for air, and she would be there - questioning my motives until, and perhaps beyond, the last wheezing breath. Her face, disturbingly identical to mine, would be scrunched up, sharp nose pointing down in disapproval and brow furrowed with irritation. Always waiting for an admission that just isn't there to give.

I turn from the dark doorway and reply in the tolerant tone I usually reserve for the kid. "Go to sleep, mother."

"I love your sister more than you."


Mr London Street said...

I too am incapable of telling a lie. This is absolutely one of your finest posts so far.

Jennifer said...

That was fantastic. I was cracking up throughout the entire post.

Ellie said...

Agree with MLS. But I'm a gifted liar...

Colleen said...

Inventive and hilarious. I haven't seen the movie, but I'm willing to bet this post is better.

Rusty Hoe said...

Brilliant. Giggled my way through like a 12-year-old. Though having read your latest AIW, I felt a big string in the last line.

Tony said...

This was great! I saw that movie a couple of months ago, or was it a month ago? Anyway, it made me depressed for some reason.

Hannah Miet said...

Your writing has really built up its strength in both humor and storytelling.

Then you end with a kind of punch in the gut. The good kind...it was smooth, but still a punch. I liked the way it ended.

I kind of wish that life was really like this, but the thing that I would miss is hyperbole. Not being able to say, even to myself, "This coffee is the best coffee ever," every morning, would take a way a very simple joy in my everyday. The joy that sometimes gets me out of bed.

Which brings me to another question...can we lie to ourselves? In the uninvention of lying?

P.s., I am reading a book of stories called Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever.

mo.stoneskin said...

There's nothing wrong with red lipstick underwear. Nothing at all.

Note to self. Use the "stay on your lawn, old man" line at first opportunity.

mylittlebecky said...

aaa! we watched that movie this weekend! interesting concept, but i didn't really like the execution. in related news, i love "you might get herpes and live." classic. you *still* didn't call *me* for phone sex. what the hell?

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm.... I need to watch that movie. Very interesting....... I'm all about the lying though. I think we should lie more. I like to lie down, especially.

NWO said...

You ARE awesome!

Maryx said...

Brilliant! Although.. I think I would prefer no lies. Me strong like bull. Build a bridge and get over it if you don't like what people has to say. That's just life. Or how it should be at least.

P.T said...

“You won’t get herpes and die, but you might get herpes and live, which is worse. Ask your cousin.” That cracked me up...your sense of humor is just great!

j said...

Bloody brilliant. Entertaining till the last, plus a nasty twist!
Ps if there was no lying, probably no one would hang out with me. I can barely hang out with myself.

rubbish said...

Some great one liners there. I promise not to steal any of them.

Steam Me Up, Kid said...

God, Aly. "Licky splity" is just the worst thing ever. It wants to rhyme, and it can't. It's almost there. It makes me so uncomfortable. I want to tie a tube sock around her face.

Sara said...

Love your blog posts. : ) I always look forward to seeing a new one!

the eternal worrier said...

"Because I can finish everything that needs to be done in one day and if I do it all now, I won’t have anything to make me look busy for the rest of the week.” That sounds like me at work every monday morning!!!

I loved your post today and I'll be coming back again. Thanks for the comment at mine.

Keith said...

Brilliant post.

Sara said...

Okay, so I watched the movie last night and now I have a question for you. Just because they can't lie, does that mean they all have to be stuck up bitches? Not everyone is just looking for someone to mate with to make cute babies, right? I mean, I know that's all I'm looking for, but there have to be some good hearted souls out there.

Anonymous said...

I'd probably be in jail if I told the truth all the time. :) This was pretty funny though. I have a feeling if you actually did tell the truth all day long, you'd get away with it!

otherworldlyone said...

Thanks for all the great comments, guys!

Tony: It has it's depressing moments.

Hannah: Thank you very much. I don't think you can lie to yourself either. I'll look up the book.

mylittlebecky: You'd just giggle the whole time anyway! ;)

Steamy: She uses it ALL THE TIME. It drives me INSANE! And in a really southern accent too. Ugh.

Sara: Thanks!

Eternal worrier: Thank you, I hope you do.

Keith: Thank you, come again. :)

Sara: Yeah, I don't think it's like that. She's blunt and unable to stop herself from saying mean things. It doesn't mean there aren't nice people. Anyway, that's a very in depth movie analysis waiting to happen.

Veg Ass: I try it from time to time. You're right, I do. People always think I'm being funny. *shrug*

Thea said...

On a totally unrelated note, here's a joke you'll appreciate. What's the difference between jam and marmalade?

I've never had a guy marmalade his cock down my throat.

Wieteke said...

Dude! I tried to just comment “you are awesome” and then I had to specify my profile or something; turns out my wordpress account is not the same as having a wordpress profile. Your site kept yelling: you do not own this personality. So I had to create a profile on wordpress.com and then tried to “domain map” my new empty wordpress page to my sidetracked.wupppy.nl , but then they wanted me to pay them for that, so I tried to outsmart Wordpress by putting a bit of code in the header to redirect but of course they thought of that and put a bunch of restrictions in the dashboard, so okay you win, Wordpress. I’m using my google account now. So no money for you, Wordpress, also no credits, so in fact you lose.

Alyson, this is how much I love you, in a no licky-sticky kind of way