One of the biggest (and most shameful) lies I ever told happened when I was six. I was in kindergarten in Georgia, USA. The teacher, who knew I was from ‘Africa’, asked me what pets I had there. I said I had a lion. She asked me its name and I stumbled at this point. It had been an off-the-cuff lie, hence hard to maintain. I had a strong sense of both trying to please her – it’s what she thought a child from Africa should have as a pet – and pleasurable boasting when I told her about my lion.
I recently finished reading The Talented Mr Ripleyby Patricia Highsmith. The main character Tom Ripley is mesmerising: sociopathic, vulnerable, needy, grandiose, and a fantastic liar, because he makes himself believe his own lies by actually doing the things he’s going to lie about, either imaginatively or in reality. People who believe their own lies are much more convincing. Self-delusion is fequently the secret of great success.
However, if you’re self-deluded, it’s difficult to understand other people. You often use yourself as a barometer for gauging others.
My children began to lie at about the age of four. I was impressed. Lying is about realising you can alter reality to get what you want from the world. It’s a giant cognitive leap. It’s now much harder for me to assess when the older one is lying: he’s become too good at it.
I was at a party on Saturday. We were discussing which teachers at my son’s school were easy on the eye. (Quite a few, it seems.) From there, we discussed a father who had badgered someone there about whether she’d had anal sex. ‘I didn’t mind,’ she had said. ‘He was being honest. That’s just the way he is.’