Pinocchio in Disney's 1940 film "Pinocchio"
Pinocchio in Disney's 1940 film "Pinocchio"

A goody two-shoes tries on a liar’s flaming pants — and loves the fit

How does the old saying go? Cheaters never prosper. Liars never win. Or is it the other way? Cheaters never win. Liars never prosper. In any case, I confess. From time to time, I lie and that’s the truth.

We all know lying is wrong. Bad. Evil. “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” We are admonished not to lie from childhood on. It’s the golden rule, right? It is right up there with the solemn injunction of “Don’t step on a crack” for fear of breaking your mother’s back.

For decades, I was a die-hard goody-two-shoes and a never-tell-a-lie kind of girl. In fact, I grew up with an almost allergic reaction to lying. The reason: My father was a compulsive gambler.

He would constantly say he was going out for “10 minutes to buy cigars” and then disappear for hours, always returning in a sweat. We, of course, knew where he’d been: some casino, playing craps … dice for you nonplayers. The only questions were: Would he return with a smile or a frown? Would he be flush with cash or with self-loathing for the money he’d lost?

My mother didn’t mind that my hard-working electrician father gambled. She did, however, hate his need to lie about it. She also worried about his health with good cause. He had a heart condition and died too young of it.

Young, judgmental me was less forgiving than my mother. I hated the gambling — and the lying. As a result, Little Miss Perfect Me never even told white lies. Couldn’t tolerate the concept. Didn’t have, as they say nowadays, a “filter.”

As a child, I met a world-celebrated opera singer. My family admired the man and played his albums all the time. Even 5-year-old me loved his music. When introduced, I looked up at him aghast and cried out, “Oh, you are so ugly. You don’t look at all like your pictures.”

My parents, of course, were mortified and started to scold me. The kind-hearted tenor stopped them and in Yiddish said, “The child speaks the truth. Those album covers were taken decades ago. Do not punish her for being honest.”

As a teenager, when other girls dodged unwanted Friday night dates with flimsy excuses of having to “wash their hair,” I always told the truth and simply or cruelly said that I wasn’t interested in going out.

When I started out in the workforce, I never phoned in sick even if I felt like playing hooky. I just brazenly said I needed a break and would make up the work by putting in extra hours the next day. Somehow, my bosses were always taken aback by my honesty, but I got away with it every time.

First, it was the little stuff like ‘Yes, the Tooth Fairy is real’ … Then, the lies got bigger.

Then, I had children. Sleep-deprived, my moral compass shifted. I learned the power, necessity and the glory of lies!

First, it was the little stuff like “Yes, the Tooth Fairy is real.” As for your hermit crab, “He’s fine, just fine. Hermie was just lonely and wanted to move home to his family.” And the goldfish? “No, of course, he didn’t die! No, of course, I didn’t flush him down the toilet!”

Then, the lies got bigger.

“No, we cannot go into Toys R Us. It’s closed.” That lie worked for years until my first child learned to read and saw the “open” sign. The proverbial jig was up on that one and forever, it seemed, I was doomed to trek into toy stores.

But if trooping off to toy stores was exhausting, what was worse were our nonstop adult social obligations.

Somehow my husband and I were trapped on a hamster wheel of business and other mandatory “fun” gatherings, trapped until I found a sure-fire solution. You guessed it … lying.

At first, it wasn’t even lying. One of our children had bad asthma. We all too frequently canceled outings to make kamikaze runs to the emergency room. You know things are bad when you’re on a first-name basis with everybody at the ER, starting with the security guard and the entire team at the admission desk, no matter the hour, no matter the day of the week.

Then, as my child’s asthma flareups eased, my own bad back and migraine woes escalated. Painful, yes, but also, 100% credible, guilt-free “get out of boring stuff” excuses. No doctor’s notes or trips to the ER required. Manna from heaven.

Then along came Covid-19. Admit it, who among us has not played the “I might have been exposed to Covid” card at least once to get out of work, unwanted travel or a social obligation? I confess I’ve played the faux Covid card twice.

I know God will punish me one of these days for the mountain-high pile of lies and obfuscations I’ve told. But until then, I rest contentedly on the couch, watching TV or reading a novel, cuddling with my sweet husband.

Cheaters and liars may not prosper, but at least I never consume too much alcohol or too many calories, and I always get to bed on time.

Karen Galatz
Karen Galatz

Karen Galatz is an award-winning journalist who loves to make women and men "of a certain age" laugh, think and feel. In addition to The Matzo Chronicles, Karen is the author of Muddling through Middle Age, a weekly humor blog. She can be reached at [email protected].