Men and Women: The Lies We Tell

A new study released by the London Science Museum  is making headlines.

Men are Bigger Liars Than Women,” shouts the BBC. “Science proves it,” says CBS. “Men lie nearly three times a day,” accuses another, suggesting a morally lax conscience in men, compared to women. Women stretch the truth only twice a day, after all, and feel way more guilt over two lies than men do over their triple fibs.

So, what kind of lies are these?  Amusing ones, mostly, at least to the extent they confirm the stereotypes of about men and women and how we relate.  (See the whole list here.)

The big lie for men? ‘I didn’t have that much to drink.” Did we ever believe that one? Another set of lies revolves around men behaving rather badly—and their excuses to cover up. A stop at the Apple store, a flirtation with the iPad, and next thing you know–despite the tight budget–he’s taking ‘er home. “It wasn’t that expensive,” he lies. Drinking beer with the guys, and he forgets to call? “Sorry I missed your call,” he says, or maybe, “I had no signal.” You expected him 30 minutes ago? He calls: “I’m on my way,” followed by, “I’m stuck in traffic.” You’ll see him when you see him.

Most amusing are the lies men tell as they tiptoe around the quicksand that can sink any relationship. Imagine a young couple, two twenty-somethings in Britain (where the research took place).  She opens the closet to find something to wear. He begins to sweat, dreading the inevitable. Sure enough, a few minutes later she’s trying something on–and asks the question, “Do you think these pants make my ‘bum’ look big?”  His relationship instincts kick into gear. He’s lying for survival. His instant answer: “Of course not. It doesn’t look big at all!” To score points, he adds emphatically, “You’ve lost weight.”

Truth be told, those are the lies we like.  We know our girlfriends will tell us the real truth.  But with our guys…well, sometimes honesty is not the best policy.  It all reminds me of friend who, as her 40th birthday approached, bemoaned the soft little muffin tops rising ever so gently over the top of her pants. Post-baby fat, settling in.  Her husband’s response? Well, problem-solver that he is, he bought a Stair Stepper for her 40th birthday so she could work that fat off! Emotionally tone-deaf, I’d say. On the bright side, God proved His existence that very day and worked a miracle to save that marriage.  The Stair Stepper, however, did not survive.

As the study shows, men lie more often but women do tell their fair share—and for different reasons. Women commonly tell lies in order to hide negative feelings or to avoid burdening others. We’ve all heard this exchange:

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.  I’m fine.”

The gritted teeth, drawn look, or furrowed brow say otherwise.

The storied line, “I’ve got a headache,” masks our feelings as well, camouflaging the real reasons why tonight’s not the night.

Many women lie to hide their shopping and spending patterns. “It wasn’t that expensive” is the lead-off line introducing many a purchase. Variation: “It was on sale,” (Thank God that whatever we want is always on sale!)  Sometimes the lie is outright shopping denial, “Oh, I’ve had this for ages.”

The only really surprising items from this survey, for me at least, were the lies women tell in response to their guy’s everyday question, “Where’s my… (supply noun of the moment: phone, toothbrush, socks, golf clubs, cleats…)?”

In our house, my automatic, mental-tracking-system generates replies like, “Oh, it’s in the family room, behind the recliner, under three CD’s, next to the yellow lego.”  They’ll find it.  I know it’s there.

According to the survey, however, women commonly answer the “Where is it?” question with a lie: “I don’t know where it is. I haven’t touched it.” or with the more suspicious reply, “No I didn’t throw it away.

Sounds to me like a lot of favorite, but ratty, T-shirts, and embarrassingly loud shorts have gone AWOL.  But I wouldn’t know about that. (Really, honey.)

A final thought…while men and women often fudge the truth with each other, we save our biggest doses of creative fiction for our own moms.  Yes, 25% of men (and 20% of women) lie to Mom.

Not surprising, I suppose.  Most of us wear out our moms’ truth detectors in our teen years. Unless mom replaces her aging batteries, she’s a gullible audience for the polished-up version of our lives, for decades more.

Maybe, no matter how old we get, we still don’t want to worry or disappoint Mom–and that’s probably a good thing.  Mom, I want you to know that most of the time when I say, “I’m fine,” I really am.

But remember those cute new shoes I bought “on sale”?  Well, please don’t ask.

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2 thoughts on “Men and Women: The Lies We Tell

    • Hi Ivonne,

      You’re right–the fib often does seem easier than the truth! And it’s interesting to reflect on why the lie appeals to us…we want to hide our faults? appear better than we are? avoid problems or unwelcome questions? Reality, however imperfect and messy, is much better than deception (including self-deception)! Thanks for stopping by…

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