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Can we stop lying?

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

If this phrase was a magic spell, we would all be roasting from our rears! Lying is as common to people as breathing; everyone does it. We all have our individual reasons and circumstances in which we choose not to tell the truth, or impulsively make something up.

We even make up alternative words for the word ‘lie’ — perhaps to lessen the guilt of committing a moral faux pas (oops! I did it again). With 8 different synonyms to its credit, the ‘lie’ is not only tricky, but pretty versatile.

A person’s lies tell a lot about his or her truths. What we lie about tends to have some gender and culture specificities. Most people (with the exception of a few hot messes) don’t lie just for the sake of it. It’s more a matter of what we feel we need to lie about.

Women often lie about their age, or what they think of other people. Men on the other hand tend to lie about their careers, incomes or feelings. Both lie about their shady pasts to differing degrees. This is reflective of the kinds of gender-based pressures and concurrent stereotypes that are present in society.

Women are held up to an ideal of ageless physical perfection. Men are held up to an ideal of material success. Basically you’re not doing your respective chromosome right if you’re not wrinkle free and rich. Here the lie is actually a cover up for a perceived failure.

This is perhaps the saddest form of lying because it results from a person feeling less about something that is either natural (looks) or circumstantial (money). We live in a society where every possible type of ‘fake’ is available for purchase online, and yet we accuse each other of not keeping it real. Are hair dyes, extensions, heavy makeup, plastic surgery, pushups and padding, enhancements or lies?

Are illusive profiles and display pictures on social media anonymity, or can these also be called lies? Perhaps it can be said that if a woman (or man) has to go to great lengths to alter who they are, either physically or digitally then, yes they are lying, especially to themselves.

Aside from gender, culture is also a part of the issue. In Desi culture specifically, it’s all about the ‘truth or dare’. Tell the truth and forfeit what you want to do, or dare to lie and live it up. As a teenager I spent a ridiculous amount of time climbing in and out of windows, speaking to my friends in code and hiding inside my hoodie when an aunty would see me out somewhere.

I felt like a walking, talking lie and yet, for years this was the way to experience life against my family’s protective conservatism. Here, lying was a Band-Aid solution; it was easier and faster than trying to change my parents’ views. We often lie for the sake of efficiency and to avoid consequences because we believe someone can’t handle the truth.

The kinds of things that are considered taboo in South Asian culture fuel some pretty creative lies. Bollywood itself is one big, musical lie telling foolish, unsuspecting South Asians that falling in love is the end all and be all of life. And what of those skin whitening creams? A major Desi-fueled cosmetic industry off shoot.

First off, telling a girl that she’s only beautiful if she is fair skinned is the biggest lie, further perpetuated by selling her overpriced and sometimes unhealthy face bleach so she can pretend to be snow white instead of ‘wheatish’ (ironic how we have a politically correct term for a morally incorrect notion).

Thus the lie is as much about the truth as the truth itself. The reasons people lie range from fear, guilt, societal and cultural pressure, to laziness and selfishness. Being truthful is a mark of emotional, physical, mental and spiritual independence; a goal I am still aspiring to.

— Summer Yasmin 

‘No Sex in the City’ is inspired by the popular TV show Sex and the City, and is a voice representing Desi romance and culture in all its complexities!

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