“Why is there blood all over the bathroom?” I asked all the boys, not connecting the very large gory dots. There was toilet paper covered in blood in the Red Sox trash can and drying red drops peppered the off-white sink.
“I don’t know,” was everyone’s answer, including Max, who had just received a new pocketknife for fishing. It was 2011 and he was nine.
My mind began to find its way to the obvious, and I asked Max to show me his hands. He kept only one behind his back, so I shakily had to coax him. He finally showed me his hands, including the one that almost needed stitches.
I think humans are supposed to lie. The word is only seen as negative. Otherwise, people say things like “stretch the truth” or “fib.”
If we are supposed to be infinitely truthful, no exceptions, we would not have evolved and would still have incriminating wagging tails. Poor dogs could never act in a primetime show or play poker because of their tails, and although it would be fun to embellish, it makes me grateful I don’t have one. The body loves to give itself away.
Sometimes when a person is untruthful, their face will turn pink, or sweat will settle above their lip and brow. Some are also prone to the failure to make eye contact with a victim of their propaganda, and maybe there will be vocal inconsistencies or flaws like squeaks or quivers. It’s a nice tool for a parent to have.
When the boys were young, I told them their tongue would turn black if they lie.
“Did you do your homework?” I have asked many times.
“Yes,” one of them would say.
“Let me see your tongue.”
Many times, they would walk to their rooms without showing me their tongue, and they would do their homework.
They believed me fully and I forgot to tell them I was being untruthful and hypocritical. They were too old when they realized it doesn’t actually happen. What does that make me? A liar. I lied to them about lying. I’m not saying I’m proud of that parenting tactic, but it did work. Many times I needed that for their safety, but it was usually trivial.
There’s also a fine line between lying and kidding, and some intentionally teeter between the two. Baylee kids constantly.
“Someone’s here,” he will say.
“Swear to God?” each of us will answer. If he doesn’t confirm by saying it completely back to us, we know he’s teasing. It’s sacred. Technically, though, teasing is lying, right?
We’ve all lied to someone to spare feelings like if they have a new haircut. You can’t say you don’t like it because it’s already been cut. When someone spends the day in the kitchen preparing something special for you, and it tastes like feet, of course we say it’s good. Is that still a lie, though, such a negative word to describe a compassionate act?
We all lie. Whether it’s an altruistic act or a selfish one, I believe it’s impossible, and unnecessary to always speak with literal truth. It makes me wonder, though, what people have lied to me about to spare my feelings. (Eek.)