My mom’s family was Italian, and they always had a loose relationship with the whole truth. It was more a fluid concept for them, where the truth was the best story you could sell — or that if you repeated an embellishment long and hard enough, then success (acceptance) was proof of validity (or the new truth).
From as long as I can remember, I recognized that, and didn’t like it. Not one bit.
I started my teenage self-righteous (black and white) view of the world, somewhere around first grade.
Much to the consternation of the story-teller, I would exclaim, "I was just there too, that isn’t how it happened". The more "color" was added to tales of unjust persecution at the hands of some errant waitstaff or a slow salesperson, the more righteous indignation grew in the bowels of my being. How dare you murder the truth? And it wasn’t just the superficial stuff, whole stories about my life (who I was, where I came from, etc) were slowly revealed to be creative fictions, based loosely on a true story at best. (My family was from Hollywood, after-all).
Somewhere in my early teens, I heard a story of marriage and fidelity that stuck with me: it somehow resonated with my id, ego and superego. And it went something like this:
There once was a couple from nantucket (I might be mixing my metaphors), and the Husband was explaining during their diamond anniversary toast to themselves (with friends and family present) about how before they got married they had a long soulful conversation and both felt pure fidelity was not compatible with human nature. They had seen infidelity ruin too many of their friends or families marriages, and they wanted to guarantee that wouldn’t be their fate.
So they made an agreement, then and there, that they each got to cheat once in their marriage (with no consequences), as long as they told the other person in advance that they were burning that chit.
Of course, this was their 60th anniversary, and neither of them had ever used that chit.
He went on and explained they both had urges over the years, and discussed them, but the fact that they only got one dalliance, made the currency far too valuable to waste on a mere mortal. They kept weighing if this person was sponge-worthy or not (worth spending their one free night of carnal impropriety), and when measured against that standard, no one could achieve that level of potential prowess. And thus, they had survived ever faithful, because they had given each other permission to be human.
Then the wife said she forgot all about that, and burned her chit right then and there with the young wine steward.
OK. Ignoring the added (humorous?) punchline. Or that I’d never have made that deal with my loving wife, or she would have burned hers with Taye Diggs in the coat-closet at the Emmy after-party (let’s just say, putting up with watching some of his movies has been very good for me).
Still, the core message stuck with me, since my teens about human nature and the economics of psychology (and our flawed natures).
I sort of made the deal with myself about lies. All humans lie. But the currency is weighed against believability — and believability is weighed against inflation (how much have you used it in the past). So the "trick" to a having a lot of currency when you needed it, was to never waste it when you didn’t.
Thus, I sort of developed the motto of "don’t lie on the little things, because you might need that credibility-currency for something really important"; like that dead hooker you woke up next to, or something like that. Now THAT’S worth burning a lie or two for. And if you’re known for never telling lies, you might just get off. Again.
Now, it made my life a little more difficult, and me a little more obnoxious: especially in my 20’s, when I wouldn’t comply with a bro-code and lie for a buddy that was trying to bag a Betty.
Them, "I’m a completely one-girl kind of guy, isn’t that true? Back me up here."
Me, "No, that’s definitely not true: you’re kind of a man-slut, that would talk Rosie O’Donnell out of her panties for some hate-sex, if you could get away with it".
Hey, if I wouldn’t lie for myself, I definitely wasn’t going to waste one on someone else. And my ethos made my life harder than it needed to be: since when cornered on things I didn’t want to admit, I would still admit them: figuring there’s always some even worse revelation I might want to shelter myself from, on a rainier day.
Eventually, I learned a bit more about balances, and wiggle room in the little traps of life — along with how to pick my words far better. I got really good at pedantic interpretations, and precise wording, so that it wouldn’t technically be a lie, and save my lie-currency for the mass murder of all those 55MPH-in-the-fast-lane drivers, that I was often mentally planning.
Thus, I always felt by saving my lies for the important things, has made me a much more honest person overall. Fake it, until you make it? Or if you practice something long enough, it just might become who you are. And that’s why I could never be a good politician, but I try to make a pretty good pundit. Of course, some might say I’m fabricating the whole thing — but who are you going to believe, me or them?