Sunday, July 26, 2009

Making up lies

From the perspective of "society," I value honesty to a fault. I think this is a rationalist thing, and part of why rationalists tend to have poor social skills. If I hear someone say something in public that I know to be less than completely true, my insides clench into a horrible, convoluted knot, and the only way to relieve the tension is to correct them.

For example: Say I go shopping with my mom and some incident with a salesperson occurs. If she later recounts the tale to my dad in my presence, and adds an embellishment or two, it's essentially reflexive when I butt in and explain how it "really" happened. Or I may hear John tell someone that he likes something I know he doesn't actually like, or say that something that happened last week happened years ago or to somebody else. Obviously, these people (who are dear to me) have their reasons for amending the "truth," so nobody likes it when I point out the discrepancy. But it takes an extreme force of will to suppress these corrections. I basically have to leave the room and if I never say anything, it might bug me for days, like the time Chris misplaced a Haribo raspberry.

I realize that functioning persons bend the truth from time to time for the greater good. Like I guess it's accepted that when you go to someone's apartment for the first time, you're supposed to effusively compliment the decor. But if I feel like people's compliments are disproportionate to the actual awesomeness of the place, all my phoniness sensors get tripped and I actually feel kind of upset. "To what end?" I guess it's my resistance to join in on the fakery (to be polite, you might say), which brings the full force of my unimpressedness, my hater self, into relief. This doesn't win me anything but self-righteousness; it annoys everyone around me. People might respect, in the abstract, my refusal to be polite if it requires dishonesty--but it gets me into trouble all the time. All the time. And yet. Beyond exercising my powers of suppression, I find it hard to believe I'll ever change. Maybe that's just the naivete of being in my 20s. Good thing I only have about three months left.

I made blue cheese dressing to go with dinner. Did you see Mark Bittman's "101 Simple Salads for the Season"? It's divided into categories: "Mostly Vegan Salads," "Vegetarian Salads," "Salads with Seafood," etc., escalating in evilness I suppose. But why bother creating a "Mostly Vegan" set? Couldn't he have just bumped the salads that weren't quite vegan into "Vegetarian"? And put the "vegetarian" salads with anchovies in the seafood set?

The New York Times is infuriating!

20 comments:

  1. Mark Bittman is infuriating, even though some of those salads sound very good.

    That categorization is obnoxious in the same way his "cucumber" instructions are.

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  2. my mother taught me always to be honest, but she also affirmed the okayness of what she called 'white lies.' like if someone asks how you are and you say fine even if you're not, or calling in sick to work when you're not sick.

    as to whether paying an insincere compliment qualifies as a white lie, i don't know. i try not to do it, but i sometimes fail. i was definitely one of the ones guilty in the incident described of praising our saturday night hostess' handpainted wallpaper when i actually considered it overwrought and ugly. i would say it was because i was drunk, which i was, but being drunk generally makes me very honest. i think rather i was caught up with a somewhat overwhelming sense of gratitude that this couple was so being so incredible hospitable and generous in offering up their luxurious loft to us, several perfect strangers, for our continued partying after bar time. i wanted to make them like me so that we could all stay ridiculously late and drink their top-shelf booze and play pool on their vintage pool table. so i never even considered doing anything but oohing and aahing over everything she proudly displayed on her tour.

    i know, my rationale makes it even worse!

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  3. by the way i don't believe i'm the chris who misplaced the Haribo raspberry.

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  4. No, it was Chris Tonelli. If he reads this he's going to feel ooky all over again.

    There's nothing to rationalize! I'm just crazy. What are the odds of Miss Leather District Wallpaper reading this blog? Probably pretty low. The problem with the loft was that I wasn't drunk enough, I'm sure.

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  5. This is why I don't like to say "good morning".

    "Good morning," huh? Yeah right.

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  6. I'm actually guilty of answering "How are you?" honestly and thus ruining some well-meaning person's day.

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  7. yes i was thinking about her reading it and i started to bowdlerize my entry but then i said fuck it all the details are juicy. maybe tomorrow!

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  8. I never say "good morning" unless I intend to be annoying. I knew someone who used to respond to this greeting with "who the fuck made you the weatherman?" Usually, I just say "morning." I don't do a good job of complimenting people on their home decor (or their, er, babies) unless I really mean it. Depending on my mood, I respond to "how are you?" honestly or not.

    All that said, I don't really believe in the value of honesty--if honesty is about fact. I don't care so much if people lie about the facts, but I do care why they lie and how. I care about how well they lie. It's like plagiarism--if a student can plagiarize without me noticing (which is very difficult), then they are probably a decent writer. I care about integrity, though. A lie for the wrong (or boring, or clumsy) reasons really makes me angry.

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  9. I answer "how are you" honestly when I'm sick, which led one of my friends to say that I "whine" when I'm sick.

    I don't lie that well unless I'm totally committed to it, which I rarely am. (When I was a kid, my parents could usually tell I was lying if I had a shit-eating smirk on.)

    I'm stuck with the obvious unenthusiastic lie or the stupid "find the one true compliment you can make" game or desperately fleeing the conversation or being regarded as overly blunt.

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  10. Steven, re your last paragraph, same here, exactly.

    Lorraine: Interesting! For me, even a lie for the "right" reasons, even if it's me and I can fully "justify" it, turns my stomach...

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  11. At least Bittman is truthful: "In theory, each salad takes 20 minutes or less. Honestly, some may take you a little longer."

    Tell more about the hand-painted wallpaper of the Leather District!

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  12. But look at what comes after (emphases mine):

    But most minimize work at the stove and capitalize on the season, when tomatoes, eggplant, herbs, fruit, greens and more are plentiful and excellent.

    This last point is important. Not everything needs to be farmers’ market quality, but it’s not too much to expect ripe fruit, fragrant herbs and juicy greens.

    Salt, to taste, is a given in all of these recipes. Pepper, too (if I want you to use a lot of pepper, I say so).

    --

    Someone needs to tell Mark Bittman how to make a list. "Tomatoes, eggplant, herbs, fruit, greens"? Decide if you want to name specific items or categories; if you name a specific item, don't later include the category that item belongs to as a separate item in the list. Standard shit!

    Also, greens are not juicy.

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  13. Hahaha the Bittman list is awesome! Maybe he was just pressin' buttons

    I don't have a clear reaction to the hater/phony issue. I try to be myself, and the way I see it, people don't judge me negatively. On the other hand, I view "hating" with suspicion. It's like, what would Isak Dinesen do? She never brought the hate.

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  14. I don't self-identify as a hater. But people call me a hater when I think I'm just being normal/not fake. I have much love for many things, but I reserve expressing love for when I really do feel it and I don't feel it all the time.

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  15. I appreciate your honesty. It makes you an especially valuable poem critiquer, among other things. When you say you "like" something, or that it's "good," or "basically done," etc. you really mean it.

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  16. You should always tell people their babies are cute or they will secretly hate you. Just saying. Even if it's a lie.

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  17. It's much easier for me to find the cuteness in almost any baby than it is to, say, find something to compliment about every poem or book. So mothers of the world, fear not my bluntness. Poets, it's a different story.

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  18. i wonder how often it occurs that person A secretly hates person B and person B really has no inkling? what if it was like 50% of relationships, that would rule!

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  19. So, I just weirdly remember all the people who didn't say "he's so cute" when they saw my baby. I don't know why I remember. It's like those people were stopping themselves from saying it. I don't know if it has anything to do with the actual cuteness of the baby!

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  20. I just saw some pics of your baby on your blog, and he's cute. I wouldn't lie!

    Did they say something else instead?? There are only so many things to say when one encounters a baby, really...

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