There are secret schools where people go to learn how to lie. There they learn how to be ambitious in their lying and convincingly upset when challenged. They study tapes of Ryan Braun and Lance Armstrong issuing denials about their doping, watch them both holding their hands over their hearts, keeping the unmanly tears at bay just enough that only the glimmer of welling up is visible from the camera’s distance.
At the school, they learn that in order to be a virtuoso at lying, one must practice 10,000 hours and so they embark, first with the lessor lies, telling homely, ill-dressed people they are perfectly put together, a lie that so overlaps with charity that it is laudable, kind, hardly a lie at all. Therapy. A favor. Telling people what they want to hear, the foundation of truly accomplished lying is what is learned first at the school of lying. Tell people what they already want to believe. It isn’t really a lie, then, it’s keeping other people from being upset or sad.
Yes, I turned in my homework. The teacher must have lost it. That’s my friend’s needle in the bathroom, I don’t do drugs. What text? That? That’s a wrong number.”
Certitude is another key ingredient in effective lying, absolute, from the gut, truth-radiating certitude, the kind that makes questioners embarrassed about their disbelief and forces them to distrust their own perceptions. Serious certitude in lying makes the lied-to apologize for doubting, apologies liars accept reluctantly, they having been so deeply wronged by their chumps’ doubt. That kind of lying is pretty high level, probably not in place until after least 7 or 8,000 hours of practice.
Lack of regret for a discovered lie is the last subject on the lying school’s curriculum. This is tricky because the look on a liar’s face because he’s bummed out at being discovered can sometimes look like remorse but people shouldn’t be fooled. Right up there with the apology that starts out with, “I’m sorry that you’re upset,” is the I’m-caught-in-a-lie statement that starts out with “Maybe I wasn’t as clear as I could be.”
I am rarely lied to but when I am it’s a showstopper. It’s a giant lie, one amazing in its proportions, and improbable in commission. Seriously, I think, someone thought I would believe that? I walk around all day murmuring how could anyone be such a lying sack of shit? I drive across town, feeling that awful galling feeling in my gut, pulling up to stoplights and wanting the guy in the next car over to commiserate with me, maybe sharing a story about how he, too, was lied to just that day, but the light changes and I’m on my own again.
There is, in the end, no decent revenge for having been lied to. One who hasn’t gone to lying school is ill-equipped to lie back. Waiting for just desserts can be exhausting and unfulfilling. The moral high ground offers just graham crackers and milk, no alcohol, making it a tough place to hang out for long.
So where does one go with this? What does one do with a lie?
Fold it. Put it in the closet next to the towels and soap. Stop looking at it but remember it’s there.