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Words by Swan Huntley

The truth is that I lie all the time


I lie about the future.

1. Ten years ago, I was certain that by now I would have a house and a wife. I imagined us sitting in a breakfast nook talking about the shrubbery on our property. This has not happened yet.

2. Today, I am certain that the scene in the breakfast nook is about to happen at any second. 

3. I lie about what to call the scene in the breakfast nook. I call it hope, but isn’t it lying?


I lie for my own convenience. 

4. At Starbucks, I say my name is Sue, because explaining my real name—“Yes, Swan. Yes, like the bird.”—eats up 30 seconds of my life. Alone, this number seems small, but multiplied over the course of nearly 40 years, it’s not. 


I lie for the convenience of others.

5. Last weekend, I cancelled a plan with an acquaintance. I said it was because I had a lot of work to do. I could have said, “I just don’t want to see you right now,” but that would have hurt her feelings.

6. The other night, my friend asked me if I wanted some tea. I was happy for the offer, because I desperately wanted some tea, but I didn’t want her to have to get up off the couch, so I said no. She called me out—“I can tell that no is a yes”—which meant that I had not lied very well. 

7. A few years ago, my dad was told his liver was failing. “Your skin is yellow,” the doctor said. After the appointment, we got in the car. My dad turned to me and asked, “Swan, do I look yellow to you?” What I thought: You look like a rotting banana with scared eyes. What I did: I stared straight into his scared eyes and said, “No, Dad, you look fine.”


I lie to be accepted by the herd. 

8. Sometimes, instead of acting like myself, I slip into cousin-identities. They’re like me, but not exactly. Each is designed to mirror its viewer. If the viewer is animated, I become animated. If the viewer is saying something I don’t agree with, I say, “Oh yeah, totally.” 


I lie for reasons I don’t actually understand.

9. Sometimes, when a person is wearing an article of clothing that I think is horrendous, I amplify the opposite. “I love your hat!” 


I lie to myself. 

10. Yesterday, I went to a store and tried on a pair of blue pants. It took me a long time to decide that, yes, I liked them. Then I got home and put them on and realized that, no, the blue pants did not suit me at all. I recalled the thousands of times I have needed to convince myself that the answer is yes, only to learn that the convincing is the answer. It means no. 

11. A few years ago, I went on a date with a woman who I immediately categorized as an “absolutely not.” Then, somehow—the convincing again—I fell in love with her. At the end—and it was a terrible end—I thought, I knew on Day 1. 

12. For many years, I told myself that my drinking was normal. Then I realized I’m an alcoholic.

13. For many years, I dated men. Then I realized I’m gay. 

14. Today, the truth is that I’m very addicted to my vape. The reasons why, though, are murky. I think I need it in order to survive. Rationally, I know this is a lie. Emotionally and physiologically, I don’t. 

15. I lie to myself about the fact that I’m going to die one day. I think if I really understood that, I’d either become very reckless or too depressed to get out of bed.