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Truth Be Told

.... Or have we become a society that lies as a matter of course? This sense of denial extends to those who drink too much as well, writes Seema Goswami.

sex and relationships Updated: Apr 04, 2009 19:55 IST
Spectator | Seema Goswami

You know that old joke about the three most common lies that people tell? Number one: The cheque is in the mail. Number two: I’ll marry you if anything happens. Number three: I only buy it for the interviews. (In case you haven’t worked it out, the last one refers to girlie magazines which feature silicon breasted women in the nude and the odd “serious interview” to provide the proverbial fig leaf to their punters.)

Of course, there are far coarser variations of this joke which don’t bear repeating in a family magazine, so I won’t sully your ears – and eyes – with them. But hearing one such variation last week, I began thinking about the other lies that people commonly tell.

The first area in which mendacity is almost obligatory is sex. When it comes to this subject, almost everyone lies about it. People lie about when they first had it – in the more permissive West, teenagers insist they are not virgins when in fact they are; in more conservative societies like India, women lie about being virgins when they are anything but. Married people lie about having a lot more sex than they actually do. Those who are in extra-marital relations deny that they are having any sex at all. Most people who are in long-term relationships lie about not fancying anyone other than their partners. And nearly everybody who is not in the first throes of a relationship lies about how good the sex is.

And then, there are the work lies, which trip so readily off people’s tongues. The story was ready, but my computer crashed so now I have to do it all over again. I never ever got your mail, could you possibly resend? I’m sorry but I’m stuck in really bad traffic, will be there in ten minutes. And then, there’s that old chestnut which is pulled out when you don’t want to continue an uncomfortable conversation, “What, what, what, the signal here is really bad.”

In our personal lives, things are not much more truthful. The first thing most people (at least those over the age of 30) lie about is their age. It starts off with a discreet lopping off of a year or two and ends with entire decades being excised by the most daring. With this comes a propensity to lie about age-related issues. So, nobody will ever admit to colouring their hair, even though their bottle-black tresses are a dead giveaway. And no one will admit to any work done on their faces – you know, a little light Botox, the odd neck lift, a discreet eye job, a touch of collagen – even though they no longer have the wrinkles they sported five years ago.

I guess you could put these lies down to our vanity about our appearance. None of us ever wants to confess that we’ve had some help to look the way we do. Perhaps that is why so many of us lie about our exercise regimens, pretending that we don’t have any. Models claim that they have never lifted weights in their life, even though their well-tones biceps say otherwise. Yummy mummies maintain that they got off their weight off by running after their children. And nearly every celebrity claims that he or she is blessed with an extra-fast metabolism which helps them keep the weight off. (Starvation diets? Punishing exercise schedules? You must be kidding!)

Lest you think that it’s just thin folk who fib, let me disabuse you of the notion. Fat people can be just as economical with the truth. I mean, honestly, have you ever met a fat person who admits to eating too much and not getting off his big butt to exercise? I think not. All of them insist that they eat like a bird and hit the gym everyday and can’t for the life of them figure out why the pounds don’t drop off. Those who are a little more inventive claim that they have a hormone disorder (always left unspecified) which makes them so overweight. So, it’s not really their fault, the universe is conspiring to make them fat.

This sense of denial extends to those who drink too much as well. No, I’m not referring to full-on alcoholics who have a medical problem that needs treatment but to those social binge drinkers who never know when to stop. Suggest to them that they may perhaps have had enough and they get all indignant and insist that they are completely sober, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Talk to them the next day and they will maintain they don’t know what went wrong; all they had was a couple of drinks.

Each industry has its own brand of porkers. If your room service meal has been delayed, don’t bother calling to check what happened. Invariably you will be told that the boy has just left with the tray. Call an airline to check on the departure of your flight and you will be informed that it is on time. It is another matter that you reach the airport to discover it is an hour late. The plumber/electrician will swear he will be there in 10 minutes, and then turn up after three hours.

Lies seem to have become endemic in our world. And that, I’m afraid, is the sad truth.