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Liar Liar

I’ve always wondered about the expression, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” I mean, who would lie about such a thing? Even more baffling is that if your pants were on fire, who wouldn’t believe it? Flaming, smoking pants aren’t something you could hide and it’s easy to verify.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I prefer hearing a lie to the truth. My mother used to say that sometimes it’s alright to lie. Okay those aren’t her exact words but she did say you should always be kind, which is almost the same thing. If you’re talking to someone face-to-face and they ask you a potentially damning, overloaded question, it’s okay to tell a little white lie.

Do these pants make my butt look fat? Did you like the gift I gave you? Why didn’t you come to my Tupperware party?

What color is a white lie, anyway? I think that question could best be answered by establishing what it isn’t. Black lies are the color of evil no matter how small they are. Grey lies are lifeless, drab and positively indecisive—if it’s possible to be positively indecisive. Yellow lies are timid displays of cowardice and thus, rarely credible— if you’re going to lie you might as well do it right. Purple lies are a royal mistake. Blue lies are depressing. Colorful lies are flamboyant. Clear lies are ideal because transparency is the best policy. Oh wait. Never mind. Clear is not a color you’ll find on a pretext palette. Clear is like when you truthfully tell someone they have broccoli in their teeth. Colorful is when you reply, “That’s the look I was going for.”

White lies may not always be pure as the driven snow but unlike yellow snow, they do have their place. Do I like your haircut? “Um… sure.” Did I enjoy those chopped-liver cookies you made me? “Yumm.” Am I boring you to death? “Of course not.”

To tell the truth I’ve always liked people who say it like it is, honestly and openly. It’s much easier to listen to folks who are direct and to the point than to hear someone drone on and on, ‘round and ‘round with elusive subtlety. If I want fluff I’ll buy cotton candy. On the other hand, honesty can be overrated. I dashed into the post office one day and saw someone I knew. “How are ya?” I said. Her answer was a long and miserable narrative of her extensive tribulations. A short, sweet fine would have been the courteous and proper response even if it were a lie.

So now you know. The next time you see someone with their pants on fire, remember— it’s complicated.