One week, zero lies

Could you go one whole day with­out telling even one tiny lie? Writer Dolly Alder­ton tried it for seven.

Glamour (South Africa) - - Contents - By writer Dolly Alder­ton

How of­ten do you lie?

I’ll go first. I lie to the doc­tor about how much I drink (who knows what a unit is any­way? Why can’t they just say glasses or shots?), I lie about work dead­lines to friends (when re­ally, I’m just too tired to go out) and, of course, I lie on so­cial me­dia (that selfie had more takes than an en­tire Steven Spiel­berg movie).

Here’s the sober­ing truth: re­search says that we lie up to 200 times a day. A day! There’s this quote by Stephen King I think about all the time: “We’re only as sick as our se­crets.” If that’s true, it would seem we’re all dy­ing of ter­mi­nal dis­hon­esty. But it’s not the whop­pers that in­trigue me, it’s the daily de­tails we ex­ag­ger­ate to tell a good story.

To high­light just how many of th­ese lit­tle lies are wo­ven into my daily ex­is­tence, I set my­self the chal­lenge of telling zero lies for seven days. Trust me, when you’re as keen for an easy life as I am, the thought of lay­ing my­self com­pletely bare was in­cred­i­bly scary. Still, I wanted to see what, or even if, any­thing changed. Here’s my diary of truth.


I’m gut­ted when I re­ceive an email from a jour­nal­ist telling me she was of­fended by some­thing I said in my pod­cast, The High Low. It was about the ter­ror­ist at­tack at the Ari­ana Grande con­cert in Manch­ester, Eng­land, last May, where 23 peo­ple, the ma­jor­ity of them chil­dren, were killed and 500 at­ten­dees were in­jured. She feels the way I ex­pressed my­self could be mis­con­strued and en­cour­age Is­lam­o­pho­bia.

Nor­mally, I’d switch into grov­el­ling mode. In­stead, I con­struct a re­ply in which I thank her for her hon­esty, and ex­plain why I said what I said. She thanks me for my mes­sage, recog­nis­ing one of my points as valid.

The ex­change is a lot more con­fronta­tional than my usual tone, but what felt like a risk ac­tu­ally paid off with her re­sponse. I go to bed with a clear con­science, rather than a mind seething with para­noia (in which I imag­ine her build­ing a web­site called why­dollyalder­ton­i­saw­, de­tail­ing my worst blun­ders).


Af­ter a few drinks at a bar, my friend’s boyfriend says some­thing that in­fu­ri­ates me: “There’s no point in vot­ing. Noth­ing will ever change.” “You don’t re­ally be­lieve that. You’re be­ing ni­hilis­tic to be en­ter­tain­ing,” I tell him. “No, I’m not. You’ve signed too many on­line pe­ti­tions and con­vinced your­self that it makes a dif­fer­ence,” he says. “It does make a dif­fer­ence,” I say firmly. “I’m not go­ing to vote,” he con­cludes. “Oh,” I say calmly. “That’s fine. But I’m not in­ter­ested in any­thing you have to say about the state of the coun­try then. You have no right to com­ment on it.” It’s awk­ward for half an hour, but we hug good­bye. We’ve al­ways had dif­fer­ent views – we were just be­ing hon­est this time. And for me, it felt lib­er­at­ing.


While brows­ing in a quiet shop, I’m cor­nered by a charm­ing sales as­sis­tant, clearly work­ing on com­mis­sion. “Can I help you?” he beams. “No thanks,” I say. “We’ve got some gor­geous new pieces,” he con­tin­ues. “Mm-hmm.” I feel my face start­ing to twitch. He tries again: “What about the sil­ver miniskirt?” The sales as­sis­tant forces the skirt on me, and when I re­luc­tantly try it on, he gushes ef­fu­sively. “Are you not buy­ing the skirt?” he asks, when I leave emp­ty­handed. “No,” I say po­litely, re­call­ing the time when I’d have bought it and taken it back at a later date, so as to not hurt his feel­ings. In­stead, I tell him straight: “It’s not my thing.” I’m start­ing to no­tice how lu­di­crous th­ese ha­bit­ual lies are; how time-con­sum­ing and anx­i­ety-in­duc­ing the whole cha­rade is.


My friend turns up late to the cin­ema and we miss the first part of the movie. Af­ter­wards, over din­ner, I tell her I’m an­noyed that we missed the be­gin­ning. She apol­o­gises and, to my sur­prise, thanks me for be­ing hon­est. We swiftly move on to a dif­fer­ent topic, and I’m re­lieved to have cleared the air in­stead of go­ing home and rant­ing about her to my flat­mates. It’s a mo­ment of dis­com­fort for the long-term gain of to­tal trust and truth in our friend­ship.


I’m be­ing pho­tographed for an ar­ti­cle, and when the stylist gives me my dress in my size (12), it’s clear the zip isn’t go­ing to do up. Nor­mally, I’d start bur­bling with em­bar­rass­ment, mut­ter­ing ex­cuses about hav­ing pasta for break­fast. “I’ll need a size 14,” I say. “We don’t have it,” she replies. “Well, the 12 doesn’t fit, so you’re go­ing to have to find some­thing else,” I re­spond, and re­alise as I say it that I have noth­ing to lie about be­cause I have ab­so­lutely noth­ing to feel ashamed of.


During a night out with friends, I no­tice a man mov­ing in my di­rec­tion on the dance floor. He is hot, a good dancer and I can tell he’s in­ter­ested when he pulls me to­ward him with his hands on my waist. “Do you have a boyfriend?” he shouts in my ear. He has con­ve­niently asked the ques­tion that al­lows for the de­fault fob-off I use in re­sponse to un­wanted ad­vances. But this week, I have to tell the truth, and the truth is that I’ve con­sciously de­cided to take a break from men. “No,” I re­ply. “I’m not dat­ing at the mo­ment.” He raises his eye­brow and shouts, “Why not?” while he con­tin­ues bop­ping. “Be­cause I felt ad­dicted to sex­ual val­i­da­tion and it felt like it was fi­nally time to find some self-worth on my own,” I shout back, to which he re­sponds with a com­pletely ter­ri­fied smile – and shim­mies off into the crowd.


My alarm goes at 8am. I’ve had four hours sleep and drank far too much rosé. But I have to drag my­self out of bed to meet a friend and head off to a mu­sic fes­ti­val. I pon­der sug­gest­ing a later com­mute, pre­tend­ing I’m ill, but in the in­ter­est of #Nolies, I give her a heads-up. “I think I’m go­ing to die if I don’t drink a can of Coke and eat fries im­me­di­ately,” I SMS her on the way to meet her. “This can only be the work of a hang­over,” she replies. “I’ll get you some greasy take away.” Later, when our favourite singer’s set fin­ishes at 11pm and every­one drunk­enly stum­bles back to­ward the bar, she turns to me and asks, “Where shall we go next?” I pause, then say, “I’m tired and cold. I want to buy socks from one of th­ese weird hippie stands. And I want to go to bed.” It is, per­haps, the hard­est truth I’ve ever had to tell of the week.

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