Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ask Me No Questions:

I sent out an email a few weeks ago asking for people's lies. I wanted confessions of lies people have told, their best lies. A lot of folks were intriqued by the idea but less than forthcoming. The main theme that came up was one of responses to unanswerable questions.

For example, you're standing on the altar with your sweety on your wedding day. The priest goes through his incantative question: do you take this man, to have to hold honor and obey through sickness and health until death do you part?

There's only one answer to this question. Everyone knows that fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce, but the only answer ever uttered is "I do."

The other classic and more base response lie is: do these jeans make my ass look fat?

They do, of course. Everyone knows this. The jeans always make your ass look fat. That's why he likes them. But he also knows that if you are a white girl, and you almost surely are if you're asking this question, you do not want to hear that the jeans enhance your rear end.

Now this is where the codifcation of lies gets interesting. In the first instance, is saying "I do" in response to the priests question really and truly a lie? Is it a lie if you mean it at the time, even though a voice nags you in the back of your head, the prescient voice that forsees the ugly divorce and child custody dispute? I know at least one person who knew his marriage wouldn't last, but he still said, "I do."

In the second example, is it ever a lie to tell her, "No baby, those jeans don't make your ass look fat" Because she knows you're lying.

1 comment:

katieo said...

what's interesting about both of these examples is they're contractual lies, in a way.

Everyone is lying when they say "I do." There's no way to know what will happen ten, twenty, thirty years down the line. Without lying, though, there's no way to enter into the state of marriage (as defined by the Catholic church). So the contract is bogus. A marriage can neither succeed nor fail without that initial lie, told before friends, family and God. It's like a catch-22. All modern-day couples uttering that phrase have to lie (unless they get married outside of the church, in which case, it doesn't need to be asked). That said, it's a beaut of a lie, really, one that no one really holds against you when they find out you were lying.

The jeans are another example of contractual lies, lies to help strengthen institutions. Some men will notice (if they're paying a whit of attention) that women most often ask this question when they are about to go out into a social setting. The question will take on a timbre of desperation if a beautiful ex is expected to be at said social setting. What a woman is really asking when she asks "Does my ass look good in these jeans?" (I don't think many women ask if their ass looks fat, they are now informed and ask if it looks good) is "Are you still prepared to honor the commitment of monogamy we made to each other when we first started dating, no matter what other traps and pitfalls might be at this party?" Obviously, women can't start up a conversation like the latter on the way out the door to a cocktail party, the party will be ruined for both the woman and her partner. So, women ask this innocuous question, this codified question, instead. All women know the answer to the surface question is probably a lie. But it's a lie that supports the relationship, it's a lie that women are glad to hear. When a man invariably says, "Your ass looks great, honey" what a woman hears is, "I still love you and I continue to want to be in this partnership."

She could never hold it against him. Perhaps that's the essence of a good lie. And "good" does not necessarily mean "little white" either. There are a lot of big, nasty, deadly lies Bush has told that even liberals can't hold against him: "He's too stupid to be held accountable"; "He's surrounded himself with sharks"; "He believes he was doing it in our best interest"; "He can't tell the future." Good little positioning he's gotten himself into. Anybody?