I've never been a big fan of lying. I could barely watch Aladdin as a kid because the title character's compulsive dishonesty threw me into paroxysms of vicarious guilt and shame. "Just tell her the truth!" I would scream at him. "The truth is so much easier!"
I was right, of course. The truth is so much easier. Even if it's more painful up front, I've found that the day-by-day toxic IV drip of prolonged deception is much worse than the ripped-off-Band-aid sting of bald truth.
Which is why I'm not sure what possessed me when, as a 19-year-old, I told a boy I was dating that I loved classic rock artists like Bob Dylan and Tom Petty.
Well, that's not entirely true. I know what possessed me. I was trying to look cool.
He had asked me what kind of music I liked. At the time, it seemed to me that all the sexy boys were into oldish weirdish counterculturish hippyish music, and I figured I could score points by showing that I, too, enjoyed deep music, not all that shallow contemporary crap. In my mind, liking Tom Petty was similar to knowing how to skateboard or being a registered Democrat. It was edgy and attractive.
The truth was, I could not have named you a single Bob Dylan or Tom Petty song. Not a one.
"Oh yeah? Bob Dylan?" was the boy's amused response. "You would get along really well with my dad. He loves Bob Dylan."
Curses. No points scored for coolness there.
"Me?" he went on. "I'm more into Collective Soul and Alanis Morisette."
Double curses. I was into Collective Soul and Alanis Morisette. But there was no turning back now. I had committed to my love of Tom Petty Bob Dylan Music, whatever the heck genre that was.
"Hmm," I sniffed, trying to come off as smugly tolerant. "Interesting. That stuff's okay too, I guess. We can listen to some if you want."
My vain foray into untruth was something I could have gotten away with, had this ended up being a quick fling, a few dates and then nothing. But of course, we got serious.
The first time I met this boy's dad, he was very excited. "I hear you like Bob Dylan!" he exclaimed.
"Oh man, do I ever," I said, my stomach breaking out in an acid sweat. I was worried he was going to want to start talking shop. Fortunately for me, the conversation moved in other directions. I was safe--at least for the time being. But I knew my luck wouldn't hold forever.
The very next day, I dropped fifteen bucks on a Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits CD. I listened to the whole thing in one sitting. It wasn't bad. Dude had some harmonica skills, for sure. And interesting lyrics. "Subterranean Sunset Blues" was pure poetry.
I kept the album in my car and listened to it on continuous repeat for weeks. When I had analyzed all the words and memorized a few pieces completely, I started to believe that I really was a Bob Dylan fan. Yep, that was me: a regular hip music aficionado.
I now felt more confident crossing the threshold of my boyfriend's parents house. We could now safely discuss Bob Dylan. I even passed a happy evening watching a videotaped Jethro Tull concert with his dad. (Who knew that the flute could be a rock instrument? And so artfully played by a fellow standing on one foot?)
Eventually, things with that boyfriend went sour. As the months passed, I started to sense that he hadn't been honest with me. Not intentionally dishonest, but I could start to see, in my limited 19-year-old way, that he had bent and squeezed and contorted himself into the shape of the guy he thought I wanted him to be. And as a result, in the end, neither of us knew who he really was.
When we parted ways, my Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits album went back to its home within the plastic sleeves of my CD binder. I don't think I've listened to it since.