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Couplehood: A Brief One Act

Lisa: Plastic is destroying the earth!

Johannes: Are you losing weight?

L: The creepy guy who hangs out on Lexington Avenue followed me into Dunkin' Donuts to announce that I remind him of a young Kim Jong-il!

J: Are you losing weight?

L: I've put on three pounds since breakfast!

J: Are you losing weight?

What can I say? He's lying, I know he's lying and yet it works for us. I am also a firm believer in lying to chatty cabdrivers ("Sir, I have the kind of menstrual cramps that could turn a lesser woman homicidal, so you need to trust me when I tell you that it's beyond crucial for us to travel in complete silence"), my dental hygienist ("Of course I floss. Flossing is my life"), and my 5-year-old ("Bambi's mother is alive and well. She has merely relocated to a breathtaking piece of beachfront property off the coast of Hawaii with her hunky new boyfriend, Raoul, who is both incredibly wealthy and deeply sensitive to her every need"). To this day, Julia believes that Toys "R" Us is only open when my parents visit Manhattan; the shelves are stocked as Grandma and Grandpa's plane touches down and the doors to the store lock as soon as they head back to Detroit.

Here is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: My name is Lisa, and I am a liar, though a good marketing consultant could probably finesse the word into something a bit more palatable: "Reality Stylist" might be good, or "Pinocchiotologist" could work. My mother insists that, at the end of the day, what I am is a storyteller—and she might have a point. Joan Didion says that "we tell ourselves stories in order to live." I think that's right. Forget what I tell cabdrivers for sport or dental hygienists for spin control or Bambi readers for peace of mind. It's the lies we tell ourselves that determine the particular arc of our stories. I tell myself that it's never too late to master Italian and piecrust, that one day I'll appreciate Clay Aiken and understand calculus. I tell myself that I'll be able to guarantee my daughter a life of joy and confidence and financial security in a universe that's just and safe and green. To be honest, I have my doubts. Perhaps I was born predisposed to pessimism or maybe I've witnessed too much pain, but my mind is forever taking me to the dark side and I am afraid of the dark. So I sugarcoat and I gloss over, and I rationalize and, yes, I sometimes fictionalize my little story. I tell rose-colored lies because Wellbutrin only takes a girl so far, because I want with all my heart to believe in something just a bit sweeter than what I see on the 6 o'clock news. And because, to tell you the truth, I've always been a sucker for a happy ending—even if it means my pants catch fire.

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