Accidental Mistruths

31 Oct


Or, “less-than-truthful responses due to unbridled anticipation.”

They happen to the best of us.

Personally, I lie all the time. I’d say that 20% of the things I say are lies. And of that 20%, 19% of those lies are *accidental mistruths*.

…So I guess that means 19% of my life is an accident…

Anyway, accidental mistruths happen when you least expect them. Sometimes, they don’t lead to anything and you are the only one who knows if what you said was true or not…

Other times, these slips of the tongue can lead to run-ins with the Mafia, mysterious spleen pain, nonconsensual rides on a tandem bike, visions of dancing lobsters, extreme fatigue, and…diarrhea. (Because every warning has to include diarrhea.)

A few nights ago, at an informational session about Ebola, I experienced a very public episode of accidental mistruth telling.

It was 7pm on a Tuesday night and I was sitting in a lecture hall, in front of free pizza and cookies. There also happened to be an Ebola slideshow in the pipeline. I’m not going to say that my interest in one of these things influenced my interest in the other…because that would make me look bad.

Naturally, most of the people at this session were Public Health Students or Journalism majors interested in the media’s portrayal of the virus. Which, from what I’ve observed, is an awful lot like this:

“This just in: if you say the word ‘Ebola’ aloud, you are 89.765% more likely to come in contact with someone who knows someone who’s uncle works with someone who’s gardener knew a guy whose wife worked on the same floor with someone who was exposed to Ebola. THIS IS THE END.”

“In today’s news, Kim Kardashian sues over the Ebola meme in which she’s featured because it ‘does not capture her good side.’”

“A man was emitted to the hospital today complaining of Ebola-like symptoms…luckily, it was just a hangover.”

(Thank you, Fox News.)


As if my motivations for attending this lecture weren’t already in the hot seat, it appeared I was the only International Relations/French Literature major in attendance…I say “appeared” because I didn’t see anyone else carrying around a book about arms control and wearing a beret with a bedazzled Eiffel Tower on top.

Despite feeling slightly out of place, I was learning a lot about Ebola! (I feel bad for putting an exclamation mark next to the word “Ebola.” It seems like it would be frowned upon in the community…like brining cookies into a gym or letting your dog poop on your neighbor’s foot.)

Then, the lie happened.

One of the presenters put a quote up on the screen from a French book called La Peste (en Français) or, The Plague by Camus. He then asked if there were any French Literature majors in the audience.

Naturally, I shot my spare baguette up into the air and yelled “Oui!” like an overeager kindergarten student whose teacher makes her sit on a therapy cushion in the corner of the classroom.

It turns out that my hypothesis was correct. I was, in fact, the only French Lit. major in the room.

“Oh, we have one!” said the presenter. “So, I’m sure you’ve read this book!”

“Of course!” I replied.

“But, I bet you read it in French,” he wagered, which got a chuckle out of the audience.

“Haha,” said I. “Yes, I did. It’s a great book!”

After the presenter went back to his slides, my friend Deepti told me I was blushing. I laughed and mumbled something that should have been “LOL that’s funny,” but sounded more like “LOL ehfbvbdfbfhiibvjkbsdjkbgdvbv.”

Do you know why I was blushing?


Yes, I had lied to a man who has dedicated his life to fighting diseases around the world. I had told him I’d read The Plague, and had even managed to pass a judgment on it, all in a matter of seven seconds.

Because apparently, it only takes seven seconds to hear a statement, process that statement, and then decide to speak a lot of bullshit in response.

Why do I do this? Have I always done this?

On my way home from the Ebola lecture, I tried to think back to my first accidental mistruth…

Ah yes, Disneyland, 2000. I had just finished eating all of my cotton candy, as well as my sister’s. She hadn’t seemed to mind when I told her that bigger bodies need more food or they will explode and die, so I took that to mean she’d be happy to give away her portion. When my mom yelled at me in front of my cousins (a HUGE embarrassment for me…no one no one should have to see their role model be criticized,) I suddenly shouted, “She was sick! She barfed! She doesn’t want any more food!”

This was not the case.

That incident was the seed that gave rise to the tree of lying shame. What Walt Disney thought he could confidently call “The Happiest Place on Earth” had been tarnished by my overactive appetite and never-ending quest for perfection and dominance.

Fast-forward six years and I am a flautist in the middle school band. I am capable of playing three to four notes, depending on my mood, and my teacher has caught on to my lack of discipline and dedication to my craft. He asks me – in front of the entire band – why I neglected to attend Friday’s OPTIONAL, NOT REQUIRED, COULD BE CONSIDERED CHILD LABOR after-school rehearsal.

“I had a personal problem with my dog,” I responded.

A personal problem. With my dog.

Did I have a dog? Yes.

But what constitutes a “personal problem”? Had my dog and I been in a fight? Was there beef between us? Were we simultaneously experiencing some kind of “personal problem,” like when a husband experiences pregnancy cravings or when female roommates are on their periods? Or, had my dog died and was this my way of euphemizing a tragic situation?

Apparently, my band director didn’t think to ask himself these questions, and was content to stop the Musical Inquisition.

So now, parents and teachers were at the receiving end of my lies.

Could I be stopped? Had I no limits? No morals?

As I said earlier, I describe these accidental mistruths as “less-than-truthful responses due to unbridled anticipation.”

Think about it: if you get called out in front of a group of people, do you want to seem like a fat kid or a bad musician or a French Literature imposter? Do you want people to know that the asker’s question totally caught you off guard because you were not, in fact, paying attention to what the asker was saying? Do you want to be the kid on a therapy cushion?


Which is why and how these accidental mistruths take place! Sometimes, I get so overeager and anxious, I spit out nonsense like professors spit out spittle on the first row of a lecture.

“Sophie, have you been to Portugal?”

“Yes! I have a rich aunt who bought a house there and who raises horses as a way to combat alcoholism.”

“Sophie, have you tried this new restaurant in Boston?”

“Of course! Oh my god, you have got to try their miso soup!!”

“Um, it’s an Italian restaurant…”

“Right, I meant miso pizza.”

“Sophie, you’re an IR major – what are your thoughts on the situation in [insert name of obscure place here].”

“Mafia! Mysterious spleen pain! Nonconsensual rides on a tandem bike! Visions of dancing lobsters! Extreme fatigue! Diarrhea!”

And so we full come circle.

Moral of the story: don’t lie. Accidental mistruth telling is a lot more creative.



4 Responses to “Accidental Mistruths”

  1. Taylor Yates (@acupof_tay) November 2, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

    I laughed out loud at this. I feel like I do this all the time, like I’ll be like “Yeah that was an awesome movie” and then later realize I’ve never seen it. Oops. Call me a compulsive liar!


    • sophpearl November 5, 2014 at 12:53 am #

      Thanks so much, Taylor! I know, it’s such a hard habit to break. Definitely keeps us on our toes when we have to make creative escapes from traps we set ourselves 🙂

  2. kbeck13 November 1, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    I can relate. I often have to explain to people what the difference between a Colorful Storyteller and a Liar is…and I’m no liar, thank you very much 😉

    • sophpearl November 5, 2014 at 12:52 am #

      Thanks so much for reading!! Yes, colors are important to any story! Glad you’re part of the club 🙂

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