I’ve been thinking about honesty a lot recently, triggered by an incident last week when a couple of days after I had done the food shopping, I realised that I hadn’t paid for my Parmesan.
I know accidentally purloining Parmesan must be the most middle class crime ever, I was tempted to change the details to an iced bun from Greggs, but I didn’t want to start out on a lie. In my defense it wasn’t actual Parmesan it was one of those cheaper hard cheeses that’ll do instead, and I wasn’t in Waitrose.
I digress, the point is that I was immediately hit with guilt and I spent the best part of the day deliberating on whether to go back and insist on paying for it. Weighing up, a few days of feeling a bit guilty versus being publicly made to look a moron by the staff of Tesco for trying to reimburse them*, I decided to live with the shame of my secret crime.
When it comes to lying it’s less clear because there are different types of lies. There are the little fibs we tell to others to make life easier e.g. “If anything you’ve lost weight”, “Well done, I’m so happy for you, you deserve it” and “He was at home all evening, officer.”
Then there are the lies we tell ourselves to make life easier e.g. “The washing machine’s been shrinking my clothes again”, “These shoes aren’t prohibitively expensive they’re an investment” “It doesn’t matter what it looks like, it’s the taste that counts.”
Then there are those mutually beneficial lies we tell. Like Father Christmas *SPOILER ALERT*. My son knows there’s no Santa. I know he knows. He knows I know he knows.
However we both consent to play along because he’ll get more presents from the generous, mythical fat man, than from the parents struggling with economic reality. In return he doesn’t spoil it for his brothers who still believe and are young enough and stupid enough to think that being good gets you rewards in life.
My husband struggles with this because he works hard to pay for all those presents and he resents someone else taking all the credit. I’m used to it. Every time I use the term “we” I am pretending I don’t do every goddamned thing round here. That’s probably not entirely true, but I don’t count exaggeration as a lie.
I have to say I don’t really believe couples who claim to be totally open and honest with each other. If you’re going to live together for ever then little lies are the relationship oil, ensuring everything runs smoothly.
When we met I lied about preferring stockings to tights, and how much I liked sport. He faked an interest in literature and art and pretended he knew what an ironing board was.
Now I lie about what I’ve spent on stuff and what I’ve done during the day, which I’m safe to admit because he lies about reading my blog.
I smile and nod when he talks about the small holding he’s going to buy me and he does the same when I say I’ll get a real job one day. we both know it’s probably not true, but we believe what we want to believe, in fact I’m pretty sure this is the first time, I’ve ever admitted to knowing the truth about Father Christmas.
*I know that this would happen because I have tried to pay for something I’ve been undercharged for previously but apparently my pious honesty just screws up their day.