Thursday, August 6, 2009


There is a commandment somewhere on the tablets the anthropologists can't manage to find. It says (reportedly): don't lie.



I lie all the time. I do it to protect other people from truths I fear people cannot - or should not have to - handle.

Sometimes I lie because the truth would break the hearts of people I love.

But I also lie to make money. (I have two jobs and neither employers knows the other exists).

Other times I lie about where I am going (Kate doesn't need to know that I am going out at 9pm for a cheap bottle of hootch because I can't sleep and oh dear God please tell me that in heaven, everyone sleeps, all the time. Please? Thank you).

My lying concerns me. It is true that I can go to confession and bore some sweet old priest with a list of all the times I told my brother I was really feeling fine, and thank you for asking, when the truth was I was sharpening my knives and looking for a way to commit the deed - and still look pretty in the casket.

But we - the priest and I - would be there in that hot and uncomfortable cell for a long time if I gave all this information. And sometimes I think to myself: how terrible for the priest who has to listen to people's sins.

"Bless me father, for I have sinned. It has been three months since my last confession. Twice I drank a bottle of Night Train and ran naked through Cooper's Square. Nine times I interfered with myself while thinking of Anna Nicole. I hate animals and children because they are loud and smelly. I rarely bathe and I have not flossed in a year. Oh! And I got fired from my job for drunkenness and something they call sexual harassment. Bastards! Is that their sin, or mine? Okay! That about covers it. What's the penance?"

Where was I?

Oh. My lying. There has been something (lately) that I lie about all the time, to everyone. Even to Lindsey.

Sometimes when work is slow and I have the inclination, I go to Woodlawn - all the way up there in the Bronx. There, I sit in the cemetery (it's a big one). Because my parents don't have graves, looking at those of other people gives me peace. I do not know the people buried at Woodlawn, but I wonder who those people - all those people - are. And I hope they don't mind that I come and sit with them, even though my visits are for my own benefit - that at best, their resting places are a proxy for the graves of my deceased parents.

It is not a sadness thing. I don't go up there and cry or cling to a stranger's headstone. But I do spend hours and hours there. I sit and think about there people buried there, and I wonder who they are, and I ask myself if I could talk to them, what one thing they wished they had done differently before it was all over.

My mother, who went out with real style, said on her deathbed, "I wish I had worried less and laughed more."

My father probably said something but I'll never know what it was. I wasn't there. But I can damn sure tell you what he would have done differently, and if you have been reading my internet diary this long, you know, too.

But that was not my point.

Lying. I lie far more than my conscience allows.

How much lying do you do? Do you have regrets? And if lying is ever legal, when? why? how?


sybil law said...

I definitely lie sometimes - to get out of stuff I don't want to do, or when I don't want to tell someone I'm actually NOT okay, or to a friend who asks me a question I know they don't want the real answer to...
But overall, I am not a liar - I try as much as I can to be truthful - mostly for myself.
I can't answer you on the legalities.
I hope you get to a point where your conscience feels free and clear.
You're a good person, Nina. You really are!

Kate P said...

That cemetery is really pretty. I can tell you're a writer--you wonder what the story is with the people buried there.

For the most part, yeah, lying can be a problem--and it can create a lot of problems trying to maintain a lie.

That said, there are times when you can withhold the truth to protect your own sanity. It's called mental reservation. I can't exactly expound on that, and I'm sorry it's not a really good explanation. I'm hoping someone who reads this post could give you a better one. There's also prudence. Right now I can't tell my current job that I've accepted another job and will be leaving--because my supervisor is on vacation and I need to give the resignation to him--so I kind of have to be agreeable when others propose future plans at which I know I won't be present. It sucks and I can't wait for it to be over.

What you've been going through is rough, Nina. At the risk of sounding like a religious weirdo, I know you might think a priest wouldn't want to hear your sins, but this is what they're trained to do, and what they're given the grace to do. You can be forgiven, if that's what you're seeking, and it might give you a little peace.

I actually found that going to confession at a shrine was more comfortable than going to my church--the priests there are used to visitors, and are friendly. One priest made confession more like a dialogue than just my rattling off a list of offenses (I am soooo not perfect).

ByJane said...

That lying you're doing? I think it's the province of the novelist.

Avitable said...

I have made lying into a science!

Catherine said...

There's truth that matters and truth that doesn't, and what those things are shift around with the context of the moments of our lives. We have mechanisms in place, built up over the years, that we use to determine the greater good in each situation and how best to serve it. We've found that, in the act of considering all things, there are often things that weigh more than the textbook rightness of stating plain fact or spilling unvarnished truth. When that is so, and in seeing that the (textbook) right thing to do and the (actual, messy, real-world, better, greater) right thing to do are two different things, the complexity of the machinery in our moral compasses is thrown into a fine relief, isn't it?

I have every faith in your machinery.

Monkey Diarist said...

I don't lie. To anyone about anything. Most notably, I never lie to myself.

I won't deny that telling people the truth sometimes hurts people. It happens. Lies also hurt people. The difference though is that living an honest life tends to bring me happiness even when I things seem to be working against me.

Not everyone can live like that.

Julie said...

I'm missing you. No lie.

Come back when you can.

Catherine said...

Seconding Julie <3

Perpetua said...


Kate P said...

Me too! :)

Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner said...

I sure miss your blog.

Simone said...

You always lie? So it means whatever you posted it's a lie? :D
I used to lie and it doesn't feel nice :/

Miss jane said...