One week, zero lies
Could you go one whole day without telling even one tiny lie? Writer Dolly Alderton tried it for seven.
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 whydollyaldertonisawful.com, 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.