I’m a Liar. You’re a Liar

by Roxana Bouwer

I didn’t mean it but I said it anyway. A while ago I realised (quite to my horror) the insincerity of some of the words that left my mouth, clearly bypassing my brain along their way to a never-to-return liberty. And, as tends to happen when you focus your attention on a personal flaw, I spontaneously became ruefully aware of it in others. In short, I’m guilty of being a liar. And you are too.

Now before you stop reading in utter defiance of my claim, allow me a moment to say that it’s not our fault. Nope, not at all (well, at least not until we become aware of it), as it turns out it’s another strand of that vile societal DNA that winds its acerbic vine around our daily conduct.

As a society-bred syndrome this auto-response poppycock is so ingrained in us that nobody knows that everybody is doing it all the time.

“How are you?” One doesn’t need even a millisecond to formulate a response. “I’m great”, “I’m fine”, these auto-replies, in saying nothing, say just enough. You’ve answered the question but haven’t insisted on the involuntary attention of your audience for an extended period of time. Only an honest answer would do that. It would require explanation, context, and justification.

So we stick with what’s acceptable, and in so doing we’re mechanically stating that we’re fabulous, life’s a breeze and we’re floating along, giddy with bliss, just like we did yesterday, just like we’ll do tomorrow. Yuck. What a crock! Now I can understand how “I feel like killing myself” is a bit of a conversation slayer but what about “I’m feeling lonely today” – it’s honest, bearable, and it makes you human. When did being fallible become a faux pas?

And what about the horrendous “It’s so good to see you, I’ve missed you so much!” Truth be told, save a few special-to-you-but-estranged humans, had you not bumped into the person you would have never thought of them again. Let’s replace the excessive with a sincere “enjoy your evening” and move on with our lives.

This brings me to my favorite lie of them all. The fervent (if fake) “We should meet for coffee!” Ick! Why would you say that?

This is what goes through my brain: Really, chick? Rah-hair-lee? Do you not think that if we liked one another a lot, or at all, we would have A) Stayed friends since grade 5 or B) Made valiant & repeated efforts to contact one another since then? And, I mean, for goodness sake, you know you’re lying to yourself, and the insincerity of your statement is dripping off everyone of your loose vowels. One look at you, one look at me – not only are we on different sides of the fence, we don’t even share the same fence. You’re Five Roses and I’m Chai.

My brain says all that, and I say nothing. I fake an almost-smile and give a single nod. What I really want to say is, “No, fool. Knowing somebody from over a decade ago is not grounds for initiating an awkward chat in a change room nor is it a good reason to catch up over a begrudging cup of coffee. Besides, I know you don’t really mean it.”

Just because you know somebody doesn’t mean you two are a match. Chances are if you were, you’d be in each other’s lives already. Honestly, I think we’d save each other a ton of time if we didn’t pretend-ask every I-know-her we-should-bond out to coffee.

That all said, and with this rant reaching its completion the question remains “Is it wrong?”

I don’t think we can stop this autonomic process altogether. However, in being a little more conscious of our words and reactions, in thinking them through, we can curb our lying to the point where it at least hints at authenticity. We needn’t be rude or shocking, but toning down the excessive and unwarranted I’m-on-top-of-the-worlds (unless you really are) and you’re-phenomenals, would mean purer encounters. And this would be more than enough because, in truth, a world made wholly of unsullied sincerity would be a harsh one.