Friday, April 15, 2011
Friday Fibbery, aka "Liar, liar, pants on fire!"
Fibbed. Isn't that a great word? It sounds so fun. Lighthearted and happy. Not really like a LIE at all. More like something that should be true. That, in a better world, would be true. "Truth light," with a wink and a nudge built right into it.
Kind of a "you and I both know this isn't precisely factual, but we'll pretend it is because it makes us both feel better" sort of word.
As a writer, I like to think of fibbing as "editing actuality into a more acceptable draft." Doesn't that sound better than "a big, fat lie"?
I don't mean the big issues. Basic honesty is a must if there is to be trust between people. What I'm talking about are those little, relationship-smoothing fibs that are not only accepted, but expected.
There's a subtle, yet meaningful, difference between fibbing and lying.
"You haven't changed a bit!"
"Mmm. You're the best cook ever!"
"Don't worry if you broke [insert priceless heirloom of your choice]. I never liked it anyway."
"Wow, that pink stripe in your hair makes you look COOL!"
"It wasn't me who scratched/dented/released a skunk in your car."
"No, of course I didn't cheat on you with the milkman/mailman/yard boy/pool boy/your mother/your sister/your best friend."
"I didn't shave your cat and feed it Ex-Lax. Tommy did."
You also have your CLASSIC LIES:
"The check's in the mail."
"I love you."
" I won't..." Um, yeah.
You see the difference, don't you? A FIB is told for the benefit of the person you're fibbing to. A LIE is told for your own selfish reasons.
Now, some of you -- the loop-holers among you -- are probably thinking, but it would hurt people to know you scratched their cars or cheated on them. That you're only warping the truth to spare their feelings, so why doesn't it count as a benevolent fib?
Nice try. Sorry, but a fib is only a fib when you're not covering your own ass with it.
There are gray areas in between telling lies and telling fibs, of course.
Say you tell your best friend, "Those jeans look fabulous on you!" when, in fact, they make her rear end look like two Volkswagon Beetles trying to pass each other on a narrow road.
Now, if you're shopping when you "edit" that particular actuality, and she hasn't yet made the purchase (i.e., there's still time to save her from herself), you are lying to her. Bad, bad, bad. Friends don't let friends buy unflattering jeans.
But, if she just showed up in public wearing them, and there is no place for her to change, and you honestly don't want her to feel self-conscious, then it's a fib.
When I'm reading, I can't stand a character who lies. But one who occasionally fibs? Well, I find that rather charming. Something I try to remember when I'm writing, too.
How about y'all? Told any fibs lately? How about any whoppers? Come on, 'fess up! ;)