Friday, January 05, 2007


"Falsehood is easy, truth so difficult" - George Eliot

Someone once told me that I carry myself like a professional liar. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but given the fact that this person was my boyfriend at the time, it wasn't really a compliment. I was hoping to be likened to something more along the lines of a ballet dancer. Or a diplomat.

I do, however, lie a lot. To my parents, that is. Like so many others, adolescence taught me that there are things which my parents view with such fundamental disapproval that they will never be able to accept them. Such as drinking. Or pre-marital intimacy. Now everyone in the entire world hides things from their parents. But what I am talking about is not just a few lies here and there, but the existence of an entire life which is hidden from them, as if occurring in another dimension. Places, activities, people that they never know about. Once, when I was 18 or maybe 19, I was so tired of this incoherence that I sat down at the dining room table and told my mother almost everything I had been keeping from her, things I would have never thought would come out of my mouth in her presence. What ensued were months of painful fighting, of two entire worldviews (mine incomplete and young, hers set in some of its ways, both self-righteous) pushing against each other with all their might. There were scenes that Hollywood movies are made of, complete with yelling and the occasional intervention of the aloof but all-authoritative patriarch.

Years later, I cannot say my experiment with brutal honesty was either positive or negative. I have gone back to my quiet lying. Except now, as I am planning my wedding and my marriage, it all strikes me as stupid and sad. I ran into another girl who is also getting married soon, and she is planning two entirely separate receptions, one for family, one for friends. This is not uncommon in Egypt nowadays. The fact that so many people have such an essential and influential gap between them and their parents that they cannot integrate them into the most celebratory event of their lives cannot be positive. This means there is an entire generation of liars running around the city. The term "liar" is no longer even percieved as the harsh insult that it used to be, or that it is in other societies. It is no longer even used, as the entire city quietly decieves itself, people putting on facades for each other, gently protecting interests and extracting extra money. From the cab driver and the man in the shop to the businessman and the Minister. Lying, corruption, bribery.

I used to worry that my lying to my parents would spill over to every other aspect of my life. That I would slowly become this deceitful and secretive person incapable of maintaining relationships with any degree of geniuneness. This has led to my insistence upon constant honesty in all other parts of my life, as if, somehow, it will all balance out.

Most of my friends in similar situations of leading double lives do not give it much thought. It's the way it is: parents won't accept certain things, so you lie about them. Easy. Painless. But I think thoughtlessness about the matter is dangerous. Lying becomes a effective, legitimate tool to be used throughout one's life. Perhaps for some, this is not a problem. It is for me. And while the comparison to a professional liar did not ring true at the time, nor does it now, it seems like some sort of ghoulish projection of my worst self-image.