We saw Shattered Glass tonight, the clunkily-rendered biopic of famed prevaricator Stephen Glass, who concocted tons of stories for The New Republic, Rolling Stone, and a few others. It was fascinating for us, since we occasionally wade up to the waist in that journalistic world (Glass’ haunts are Washingtonian, while ours are strictly New Yorkian), but mostly because we have just severed ourselves from a liar as equally convincing, ingratiating and ultimately destructive as Glass himself.
The curious part of lying is obvious: “they all find out sooner or later.” This works in equal and opposite synergy with “the bigger lie the more believable it is”; thus you find yourself ultimately unable to grasp the scope of what you’re stepping in. Surely they can’t be lying, you tell yourself, because that would take a myopia that borders on the pre-functional. In other words, babies have a better sense of right and wrong, and of consequence, than your liar friends.
I was never a pathological liar, because I always knew when I was doing it. I was incapable of deluding myself. I didn’t stop, however, and spent most of my teens and early 20s spinning various yarns of bullshit, always (like Glass) containing strange anecdotes that seemed so weird and particular that they had to be true. Basically, I lied because I hated who I was, and wanted my life to be more fascinating. I was lucky; I only had to lie until my life actually got as weird and interesting as the lies themselves. Without that odd intervention from reality, I might have never figured it out.
Tessa once said that the only tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous that is impossible to ignore is “rigorous honesty.” People who are incapable of telling themselves the truth stay drunk. I always thought that was a fascinating physical manifestation of the Lie Embodied.
It’s hard to forgive a liar; there’s just something in your mouth that never goes away. Even if you do forgive them, it tends to be an academic pursuit, a sense of “closure” that is intellectually satisfying, but honestly, you don’t really want to hang out with them anymore. There are plenty of lies from my late adolescence that I will never admit, because it’s just too painful, and I know that they could never be taken in the spirit in which they’d be revealed. Sometimes you really do have to cut yourself a break, forgive your past persona, and move on.
Perhaps marriage is a bit of a tabula rasa for us, a way we can recast ourselves without the detritus and self-loathing of our past lives. Take the best of who we were and agree to wipe the blackboard clean. I wonder if some women actually take comfort in changing their names. Perhaps I should change mine.
I’m sure there will be suggestions.