Maeve Higgins: my ideal . . . lie


I was in my room the other day, writing to some big-time Hollywood producers about my movie ideas again. This time, remakes of blockbusters where the only difference would be the storyline, which I would remove and replace with an autobiographical episode from my own life. For example, there would be no Labrador in Marley and Me. Instead it would be a bittersweet film about a pudgy, train-tracked teenager washing her mother’s car in rural Cork one November morning as she listened to Legend for the first time, with great interest. Worried I was in danger of selling out I put down my pencil and began instead to imagine the ideal lie.

Don’t think I don’t notice you over there, shaking your little ringlets and saying stoutly again and again that honesty is the best policy. If that’s so, Curly Sue, then how come you’re acting like there’s no h in honesty? I mean, onestly, you can be a real hypocrite sometimes. I’m not afraid to say that small lies are usually harmless and, at times, crucial.

Let’s say you are sitting at dinner with your new boyfriend and a group of people you’ve just met, perhaps his childhood friends. Maybe your new boyfriend goes to the bathroom and the discussion turns to music. Still hypothetically, you happen to mix up Tracy Chapman and Joan Armatrading, and although you insist that you mixed them up simply because their music is so similar, everyone goes quiet until your new boyfriend comes back. My question to you is this: is there any need to tell him what happened? I’ll answer that. No. There’s no need at all. Furthermore, there’s certainly no need to feel bad, it only happened because their music is so similar.

Sometimes, to make things easier to manage, I lie to myself. That stream of liquid, running down the footpath from the doorway, is only a toddler’s spilled apple juice, so refreshing on a sunny day.

Those men shouting and chasing each other on the street were just kidding around. Horseplay – no danger in that, I got a fright but it was a wasted one, because everything is fine. That grey hair didn’t grow there – it just landed on my fringe when I head-butted the old lady for a place on the bus. See? I can change my reality with lies – it’s brilliant. Now, if I could figure out how to dodge that horrifying moment, the one just before I fall asleep, where I remember the truth, I’d be delighted with myself.

Until then it’s probably best to save my lies for special occasions and, ideally, make them light and forgivable.

So I’ll keep saying “Yeah, I’ve got a printer, a good one too”, but I’ll ease off on the whole “I had a heart transplant, twice” stuff.

The rest of the time, I’ll carry on handing out twice-baked truth biscuits, studded with facts and frosted with reality, then sit quietly, waiting to see who chokes on them.

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