[This post is part of a series, inspired by the book Why Men Lie and Women Cry (2003) by Allan & Barbara Pease. Previous entry: Chapter Ten]
Ah, finally the “Why Men Lie” chapter promised by the book’s title! “Everyone lies. Most lying occurs at first meetings where everyone wants to present themselves in the best light. Most lies we tell are White Lies. These are told as a way of allowing us to live together without violence and aggression because often we’d rather hear subtle distortions of the truth than the cold hard facts.” (p. 259) This perfectly reasonable opening statement is then followed by another dig at people with large noses, for no apparent reason. These damn authors are nose-ist, I tell you! They also don’t seem to realise that the term “Deceptive Lie” (as opposed to a “White Lie” or “Beneficial Lie”) sounds kinda silly. Didn’t anyone ever teach them about tautologies?
Still, as an avid Judge Judy viewer, I would agree that “Romantic Liars” are utter a-holes. “These liars… can cause women enormous harm, emotionally, psychologically and, often, financially. The usual goal of the Romantic Liar is to extract money, accommodation, sex and other benefits from an unsuspecting woman… Therapists’ rooms are filled with intelligent resourceful women who have fallen victim to a Romantic Liar.” (p. 265) To be fair though, you do also see plenty female defendants on that show, who’ve led men on for their own financial gain. I guess that’s one argument in favour of “arranged marriages” over so-called “love matches”… at least there’s some sort of vetting process involved, and you aren’t just signing control of your bank account over to some random cad (or gold digger), while high on “romantic clichés or raging hormones”. (p.267)
Despite the slight bias in the title, it turns out that scientific studies have proven that “men and women tell about the same number of lies. It’s the content of their lies that differs. Women tend to lie to make others feel better and men lie to make themselves look good. Women lie to keep the relationship safe… [and] find it most difficult to lie about their feelings. Men lie to avoid an argument.” (p. 267) Weirdly, in the section about common lies that men tell to women, the book claims that “sex for men is one of life’s constants – it’s always good, no matter where or when. If a man says his ex was lousy, he’s definitely lying.” (p. 269) Again, I’m not sure if this is the authors’ attempt at humour, or if they and their friends have led such charmed, cosseted lives, that the very idea of a man not enjoying sex with a specific partner is totally beyond their comprehension. It’s like they live in a two-dimensional cartoon world where all that’s required for good sex to occur is for a man and a woman to lock together like Lego bricks… any man… any woman… we all come out of the same cookie-cutter moulds, so don’t worry about it! And all of those letters to the sex advice columnists are obviously being written by aliens, I suppose? Gah!
Again, it’s suggested that women have “a super-awareness of body language and voice signals”, (p. 268) which allows them to catch men lying more often than men can catch women lying… hence the belief that men lie more often than women. The evolutionary explanation for this is that “a woman needs the ability to look at her offspring and quickly read the difference between pain, fear, hunger , injury, sadness, and happiness. She needs to be able to rapidly assess the attitude of people who approach her nest – are they friendly or aggressive? Not having these survival skills would leave her exposed and in danger.” (p. 270) Their legendary multitasking ability, also allows women to watch for physical “tells” while simultaneously listening for fluctuations in the voice which might give a liar away. They even have an advantage when it comes to remembering lies that they’ve been told in the past, because “the hippocampus – the part of the brain used in memory storage, retrieval and language – is filled with oestrogen receptors, and grows more quickly in girls than boys, giving women superior memory recall on emotionally charged issues.” (p. 272) Now, if all that’s true, I have to wonder why the stars of shows like Psych and Lie to Me are always men. Seems a bit unfair, not to mention unscientific! So, maybe it’s time Marci Maven got her own spin-off show from Monk, eh? They could call it Mrs. Monk… or Marci Monk… or Marci Loves A Mystery! No? Just me then…
Incidentally, the section on why women are so good at spotting lies begins with a paragraph advising men that they’ll have more success lying over the telephone, or via their computers, than they will face-to-face! Just in case it didn’t sink in the first time, this advice is then repeated in a stand-alone, titled paragraph, which comes immediately after the section. I’m not quite sure why the authors are so keen to encourage men to deceive their partners… unless they’re hoping that endangering readers’ relationships will help to drive up the sales of self-help books like this one?
Next entry: Chapter Thirteen