Modern Love, the authoritative source for all things love, says if you ask the object of your wouldbe affection 34 questions and then stare into his or her eyes for as long as it takes to run a four minute mile, you’re guaranteed to fall in love. Or maybe it’s 38 questions and 8 minutes. YMMV.
But what happens if the answers are lies? Can falling in love be approximated?
“I just have to know. Are her boobs real?”
“Does she botox, too?”
Those aren’t the questions. But, as the study attests, there’s something intimate about asking and answering direct questions, the more revealing, the closer to love.
The boobs and botox questions were asked of the hostess over impromptu drinks the day after the New Year’s party. The woman in question was a friend of a friend, invited the day before along with her husband. New in town, they were outsiders, like chicks dropped in a nest not their own. Except they weren’t chicks: she late 30s, he rich and pushing (past?) fifty. As the wine flowed, the questions were like little zip lines between friends.
All the women knew the boobs were fake. They were pretty sure about the botox. The hair, nails, and couture were givens. And none of this was catty. They all liked the woman. A lot. But they gossiped just the same. The effect is that age is hard to tell, what with the all the adjustments possible these days. Are these lies? Does it matter?
The men knew, too. Makeup, nails, botox, implants, all of it, but as Hef said, We don’t care. We just want to touch them.
People groom to create an impression at odds with how they appear in their un-adulterated state. They want to appear older, younger, hipper, hotter, even smarter. As much as everyone discussed the boob woman, no one said that she was lying. I was the only one who didn’t know, or even suspect, because it never occurred to me to think about her boobs or skin while we chatted about work and travel. I miss things but it still surprises me and it makes me wonder if I’m oblivious.
Or are lies so common that they’re invisible?
Sometimes people lie to protect themselves. Age and location munged, a hedge against predators. The kind of information that we give up to a stranger with a profile that took seconds to create is the same information we use to protect our life savings and identity. You’re French?! What’s your mother’s maiden name? Are you Capricorn? When’s your exact birth date so that I’ll know whether the moon was rising or not which will tell me if you are compatible with Lions, Tigers, and Bears? Kitty cats? I love pussies. What did you name your first pet? Born out west? Where, exactly? I know someone from California. No, not the area. The exact name of the tiny obscure village.
Do you lie?
Sometimes I answer, sometimes I don’t, but there’s always a clang somewhere inside me, like an alarm ringing risk, risk, risk, like walking down a dark street with a man I’ve just met. We do these things, but not without knowing that this could be our last mistake, the fatal one, a little solitary space between a question and the possiblity of a lie.
The screenwriter David Mamet said, “People don’t always say what they mean but they always say something designed to get what they want.”
It was a meet. A one-drink thing. At least that’s what it was supposed to be. He’d written to me, the real me. I don’t remember his pitch because it arrived sometime during the holidays, but I eventually wrote him back. My expectations were low but when he arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by a well-dressed man who was way better looking than his photos. Within seconds, he’d charmed the gruff Irish bartender and me and settled into a get-to-know-you conversation. Somewhere between quantum theory and architectural design, he said the word wife.
The conversation kept going, but my brain was busily dual processing the search function, working fast enough to melt the ice in my drink, if I’d had ice in my drink. Nope, I decided, he’d said nothing about a wife in his profile or our many emails. Separated? On his way to a divorce? Nope and nope.
As it turns out, she would be as surprised as I was. She has no idea they’re separated or even divorced. As he explained it, We sleep in the same bed but our toes don’t touch.
Actually, that’s not what he said. In an alternate universe, he would have said that thing about the toes. What he did say was something like this:
“We still sleep in the same bed but we haven’t had sex in, like, four months.”
While the topic of this post is lies, it behooves those dating men with profiles on dating sites to parse the meanings of terms such as married, partnered, separated, divorced, single, available, mostly monogamous, and that Big Foot of the post-modern age, monogamous. Most erstwhile married men, or those who’d like you to believe they are totally over her, have an understanding, are not like those other men, post their dating profile from the sofa after having been banished there during a marital spat.
As I feared, Married Date insisted on walking me to my car where he went in for the kill… uh, I mean kiss. He divebombed my lips. If I had been inclined to sleep with a married man, the kiss would have changed my mind.
(Life hack, guys. Learn to kiss.)
Married Date wrote the next day to say that I’m awesome and that he had a great time and but that he couldn’t offer me a traditional relationship. All he could offer would be “dating of a sexual nature.” His words, swear to god.
Is it a damned lie?
I do note that I’m more offended by Married Date’s lie to me than by his lie to his wife, although, objectively, his lie to her is of greater import. That’s because I don’t know her. The relationship, had one ensued, would have been between Married Date and me. Could a relationship survive a lie of that magnitude? Maybe it depends on when it’s revealed. In his case, he came clean pretty early, but not early enough. He wasted my time. Had I know he was married, I wouldn’t have gone on the date. It’s not that I’m so principled, I just didn’t think he was worth it. And I recognize the temptaion to beat my breast over these slights, which is why I tell this story for laughs.The putz. What was he thinking?
He’s like the guy with the fuzzy photo. There’s no excuse. Every device invented can take a photo. For god sakes, your dishwasher can probably do portraits. And if it’s fuzzy — yeah, I know, your autofocus is broken — it takes a millisecond to take another. Heck, you can take a hundred kajillion until you get one that makes you look halfway human and partly cute.
I’m pretty sure the fuzzy is another way to lie.
Or the guy who has a photo of a pet posted but none of himself.
Why no photo?, I ask, and dear reader, know that how the question is answered is more revealing than the canine picture itself.
I couldn’t upload one, he says.
But you could upload the dog photo?
Haha, he answers.
The end. Ha. Ha.
And then there are those who claim that their job is so secret/important/sensitive that they can’t post a photo. Are they all undercover cops? How many people are actually in the Witness Protection Program?
Hint: Nobody believes you.
Then there was the guy who made a big deal about his honesty. It was in his profile. It was in the very long emails he wrote to me. (Methinks he doth protest too much?) Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time,” and I should listen to her, but I’m stupid that way. And if I ever thought I’d quote Shakespeare and Maya Angelou in the same space, I’m as surprised as you are. As for honesty and cues, let’s just say I’ve made a few mistakes, often because I tell my smart self that she’s silly, and my silly self that she’s an effing genius. This combination, in a nut, is my worst self, the self I keep looking for ways to get around, the self that can read personality in prose, and then doubts what she’s seen. The self whose first impressions, whose intuitions are often right, and just as often ignored. This self is almost clairvoyant, but doesn’t believe in all that hocus pocus.
But when she’s at her best, she can tell you’re a flake by the way you moon over star signs, and she can tell you’re a liar becasue you’re so fucking earnest, like one of those 700 Club Fakes who’d fire you if they found out you were trying to date the Mistrixx of Babalon, something they’d only find out by surfing the dating sites and seeing your fuzzy picture. My best self can see you in your words the way my friends can see the silicon bumps and the botulism smile.
“I shouldn’t be writing you,” he began as he spun a tale of grief and loss — his mother’s unexpected death — and how he wasn’t ready to date but that he liked my profile so much he didn’t want to miss whatever chance there was in the universe of blahblahblah.
The bloviation notwithstanding, he intrigued me — his thoughtfulness, his love of art and adventure — but there was something about him that I didn’t trust. Rather than impulsively and accidently rule out a good guy, I often make the effort to give full consideration to borderline candidates. Oh, I see the thing, the deal breaker, or an approximation of the thing whatever the thing is, but I talk myself out of it — see above — and into him. So, despite the wordiness and the excessive self-effacement coupled with way too much praise for yours truly, I thought that if I’d met him in person things might be different.
So we met. And it was good. We did the requisites, wine on the beach, the MFA on a Friday, Provincetown during a fetish festival, Chinatown, dive bars, cocktails, Yankees @ Red Soxs, and oysters on the half shell. What we didn’t do was have sex.
But that’s not where this is going. Well, not entirely.
It turns out he had some big secrets, stuff he wasn’t telling me, stuff I’ll never know. But there was, at the mild end, his unwillingness to acknowledge how he failed his marriage. There was, in the mid-range, his euphemisms for why we didn’t have sex. I’m willing to wait actually meant a major mechanical failure that he’d neglected to address or mention to me. And, in the category of big-ass soul-sucking lies, the fact that he’d read every word of this blog before we’d ever communicated or met but never said so until after I ended things. He’d read it before he’d written the first email about his dead mother, before we’d shared a glass of wine.
Are these lies? The first, maybe. He wasn’t, at the time, completely divorced, which suggests (a lesson to me) that he hadn’t worked through his divorce issues, and hence, couldn’t cop to a flop. We all struggle to negotiate love and attempts to love, a struggle that’s difficult to articulate while in the midst of it. Perhaps eventually, like most of us after time and distance and therapy, he will see his part in the failure of his marriage, and begin to entertain the fact that perhaps his sexyal dysfunction was a contributing factor. Maybe he’ll figure out that the natural state of man is decay and that the only solution — well, one, anyway — is a little blue pill. Talk helps, too, but there’s no shame, or shouldn’t be. Maybe he’ll figure out that science and honesty combined can make great sex possible, even without waiting, or pretending to wait. The idea of waiting was his, btw, not mine. The only time we’d discussed it was when I asked why we weren’t having sex and he said he was willing to wait. Huh? I said. Or maybe, if sex really isn’t his thing — there’s a term for people like this but it eludes me — he’ll figure out that he can and should woo a woman (or man? it’s a consideration) who is like-minded about sex, or lack of it.
But the last, biggest lie? It’s the most personal, the most egregious. He knew so much about me that when I’d tell a story, he’d supply the punch line, and I’d think, have I told him that before? How was I to know that it was because he’d read the blog, every entry, every comment? There are men who approach me wanting to be blogged. And there are men who fear it. But this is information gleaned from honest exchanges. I read your blog and it terrifies me. I read your blog — blog me! I like you but don’t want to end up in the blog. But this guy — as advertised, he boasted — nothing to hide, he said again and again — ask me anything, he said — was disingenuous. Not only was he hiding a big secret, but it was a secret that thwarted intimacy. The lie was the erectile disfunction of our relationship.
Thirty-five questions? It doesn’t matter how many or whether they come from a peer-review study or from Modern Love, if a guy wants to know you, he’ll ask questions. People ask questions. It’s fooling around and discovery. It’s a party game and life essential. I asked him all kinds of questions: Howdoyoufeelaboutwhatdoyoulikewhodoyouthinkwhenwhywhatkindhowmanyhowlong and when he was done answering, I’d ask one more question.
Anything you want to ask me?
No, he’d say, I’m just enjoying getting to know you.
A version of I’m willing to wait.
But the truth is, he thought he already knew me. He thought because he’d read my published words that he didn’t have to ask questions or, maybe, to listen to the answers.
This is the disingenuous lie. This is the worst kind of lie because it comes dressed as truth.
I know. Ask me.