Why Men Lie (and always will) by Vince Passaro
Before I pulled my Roberto Duran, before I moved out, before I lost the ability to go forward in what had been a long and rich and difficult and painful and profoundly rewarding marriage with three great children—before I lost the strength and desire, to put the matter more precisely, to try to be the person I was supposed to be and hide the one I’d become, I asked my wife: “Why do men lie so much?” I can see now that the long pondering I’d been doing on the subject of men and lies was a circling-the-airport approach to where I might land, which was my own conscience. “Your sperm makes you evil,” my wife said. “It does something to your minds.” “No, seriously,” I said.
“Because you’re all cowards,” she said.
“That’s a little too serious,” I said. “Do you have anything between the two?” “In between the two,” she said, “is just a charred landscape.” There are things that everyone almost always lies about (cheating, stealing, sex), and there are things that women almost always lie about (food, money, orgasms), and then there’s the rest of life, which generally comprises what men tend to lie about. A female friend says of the men she’s known: “Are its lips moving? Then it’s lying.” I’m talking about the issue later at a party with a fellow I’ve met (during this period I talked about it a lot with many people—friends, acquaintances, and people, like this guy, that I’d just met); he plays poker, sometimes for a living, other times merely competitively—this is very high-stakes poker. Average annual American college-grad salaries frequently rest on the table. Games can go on for more than twenty-four hours. Someday, it’s my guess, he’ll get close to a woman who doesn’t want him to play this kind of poker or, in fact, since this is the only kind of poker that he’s interested in, any poker at all. He’ll promise not to, and then he’ll join the eternal cycle. “Men pretty much always lie to avoid conflict, argument, the airing of unpleasant truths,” he says, in a jovial, unmarried way. “It’s been my impression that both parties are pleased with the outcome.” “Kind of like your attitude toward Homeland Security and the Patriot Act,” I say. “Exactly. The less we know, the better. The media understand this perfectly, that’s why they tell us so little. And we’re grateful. Like our girlfriends are.” He’s half-right: to avoid unpleasantness is one reason we lie, a frequent reason, but not “pretty much always” the reason. Another woman, married, hearing the topic, says, “You have to talk to my husband. He’s Italian.” She means native-bon, from-Italy Italian. “That’s a whole different league,” I say. “We can’t even begin to compete.” “I know,” she says. “Isn’t it incredible? I asked him once, why do you lie all the time? Always? Why do you feel the need to do that? And he told me, ‘Because it feels like I’ve gotten away with something. It’s a kind of power.’” That is it, of course, in a nutshell. It’s a struggle for power. If we choose to win by brute force, we will go to jail. We cannot (some of us) allow ourselves to lose, but our partners frequently are relentless—they will never, ever surrender. Therefore, we lie. “You’re a man, you lie because you don’t want to get caught,” a male friend of mine says. This is my wife’s “coward” theory put plain. Questions such as why we have to avoid being “caught,” or who the “catcher” is, or, most pressing in the long run, how the hell she got appointed to that position, don’t need to be answered. The answer, like Chomsky’s syntax, seems to be built structurally into our brains. My friend is a writer, fairly successful, which, in that field, isn’t saying much. “You lie because you don’t want the lecture, the dirty look, the new entry in the catalogue of never forgotten betrayals”—he goes into an imitation-girlfriend voice—“‘This is just like when I needed you that time when I was using your car and it wouldn’t start and they were going to tow me and you...
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