Repost: All the World’s a Polygraph, and We Are All Liars

Repost from the old site. This is a great old article from the old days.

In reference to the title, I was working as a linguist/anthropologist, when one day this new woman from New York came to work for us. She was a bitch from Day One. She knew it all, and boy did she! She was pissed, and after a bit, I figured it out. She’d slaved her butt off to get a college degree, and here she was, slaving as a secretary. What a failure.

She was a vegetarian, and when I told her I ate meat, she gave me these dagger eyes and said pointedly, “I know. All meat-eaters smell terrible to us vegans.” It went on and on like that with her for some time.

Being an introvert and pretty much of a puss at work (I call this the “office puss” role that men who work in offices must play), I kept on smiling and sucking up to her and trying to be nice. Whenever anyone’s mean to us, we introverts usually figure we fucked up and that’s why they are properly treating us with the contempt, scorn, coldness or indifference we deserve. So I kept trying to act better, and she kept being a bitch.

One day she came to me all apologetic and baffled. “I don’t know what’s wrong?” she shook her head sadly. Turned out I wasn’t the only recipient of her bitch-rays. The whole office was.

“The boss told me that I’m not being nice to people, but I just can’t see it. I think I’m nice to everyone but she says everyone says I’m mean. None of this makes any sense to me.”

I’d already figured her out long ago. She was a headstrong, independent type. Within a few weeks of moving from New York to California, she had herself a decent guy and had already moved him in. Good work. Boy, women have it so tough. They can get laid anytime they want. I’m crying so hard for them now I can barely type.

She had the “got it together” mindset that tended to look down on 90% of the population as fuckups. It’s true that I’m a huge fuckup but you don’t need to say it over and over. Look. I get it. I know I’m a fuckup. I heard you the 98,681th time. I don’t need to be reminded of it all the livelong day.

And one thing you need to know about angry people is that 95% of the time, 95% of angry people deny their anger and general shittiness, especially when they are beating up on weaker people, which all angry ever people do anyway. I’m not sure what the psychological mechanism is, but I think it’s important to know this. Ever heard an angry person say, “I’m an asshole but I just can’t stop. I need Assholes Anonymous”? Of course not.

Anyway, she came from New York and brought her New York Bitch attitude with her. Back there, it’s normal. I guess they say, “Have a nice day” the same way we say, “Fuck you.”

She was here to apologize to me for being a bitch, on bosses’ orders under penalty of being fired if not done, though she had done nothing. Would I accept her apology? Sure. Was she being a bitch?

“Well, yeah, she was, I nodded.”

Then I started to explain.

“Look, kiddo.”

I sat down on the curb with her.

“This is how you do it. You need to start faking your feelings.”

I asked her how she felt about her boss and her co-workers.

I think she hated the boss, but I’m not sure about the co-workers. I’m not sure how she answered that. She liked me just fine even though she treated me like shit, but only for the love of God she just could not not see it.

I said,

“Look. The boss pisses me off too. And some of these co-workers really piss me off. But I’m not sure if they know it. What do I do? I disguise my feelings.

“Here is what you do. Go ahead and feel any way you want about your boss and co-workers, but adjust your feelings when you have to actually deal with them.

“Say you have to go talk to the boss. Forget that you hate her. Walk into the room, smile and act like you love her. Don’t fake it, because that shows. Actually brainwash yourself into thinking she really is the greatest boss in the world and believe it as hard as you can.

“Then after you walk out the door, mutter under your breath what a bitch she is. This is what you do. You play roles all the time. I usually don’t show people my true feelings, and I’m always putting on some kind of show or other.”

She was dumbstruck.

“You actually do this? How long have you been doing this?”

“Oh, ten years at least, maybe even longer.”

Then she started in about how this was awful, as it was not genuine and honest. It was lying. This was horrible and dishonest and probably even ought to be illegal. Anyway, it was immoral. In New York, everyone wears the heart on sleeve, and that’s why they are all so ornery. But at least they are moral.

This thing I was arguing, it was so…Californian! To put on a mask, lie to everyone all the time, always fake it, never be real, etc..

“Well,” I suggested. “What good is being honest when it gets you fired?”

She did agree that I had a point.

“Look,” I said. “Another thing you can do is save it up. All day long, no matter how much you hate the boss, every time you think of her, think of how actually you really love her and she is the greatest boss on Earth.”

“At 5:03 PM, as you are pulling onto the highway to drive home, you may begin cursing the evil boss. If need be, you may curse, swear, and pound upholstery all the way home. But the next day at work, you put all that away, and stride smiling into the office to work for the greatest boss on Earth again.”

She acted like this was really evil, but I suggested it was better than getting your ass fired. She nodded humbly. She asked me if I did this at work. All the time, I assured her.

Then she went on her way.

Every time she saw me after that, she was always smiling at me, but she had this weird look on her face like she was looking at me trying to figure out what I really thought of her or what in God’s name was going on in my head.

It’s the way you look at some weird object when you can’t figure out what the heck it is, turning it over, poking around at it, putting it up close and then far away, showing it around.
I was a Goddamned walking enigma, what do you know?

I’d given her the evil secret of lying your life away, but you had to admit, at least it kept her ass off the curb.

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One thought on “Repost: All the World’s a Polygraph, and We Are All Liars”

  1. I don’t want to lie, but people can’t handle the truth. The truth causes some to go ballistic. In other cases, people are pushing you to do things you don’t want, so you lie to shut them up, like giving a baby a pacifier.

    Lying in the long run is very bad because you often have to coverup the lie, and it can be very difficult.

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