Honest to God, It's the Flexi-truth
It's getting so you don't know who to believe anymore. In the good old days, defined as any group of years which now blur together, it was easy -- you believed your parents, your teachers, your Friends in Blue, and June Cleaver. You didn't believe the Russians, anyone running for public office, or the boy down the block who said you could get a girl pregnant by holding her hand. Yuck! As if anybody would want to do that.
Now the Russians are our friends, you're the parents, teachers will say anything to get test scores up, and my Friends in Blue keep insisting they clocked me doing 72 in a 30 mph zone. So what's left to believe? Other than the fact that anyone running for public office will still say anything to get elected, not a lot.
Take George O'Leary. He's the coach of the Notre Dame football team who was recently forced to resign because it turned out he wasn't a hunchback. Just kidding. Actually he resigned because they discovered he didn't receive his master's degree in education from New York University as he mistakenly claimed for, oh, the past 20 years. It's true he did go NYU, but it was only for two semesters. And he only took one course each semester. Whoops, my bad!
This is a very easy mistake to make. A survey by an executive search firm found that 20 percent of job applicants manage to make similar mistakes when writing their resume. Apparently our real lives just aren't good enough. This has allowed people like B.G. Burkett to make a career out of unmasking Vietnam war vets who never set foot in Vietnam. And it caused federal judge James Ware to blow his chance for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals when it turned out that a story he had told for years about his brother being killed right in front of him -- which he said made him "hungry for justice" -- never happened. Well, not to his brother anyway.
The problem is, truth is supposed to be an absolute, like the Earth circles the Sun, matter can neither be created nor destroyed, and anything dropped into a purse immediately migrates to the bottom. But all that's changed. Nowadays the truth is whatever we want it to be.
A few years ago actress Fran Drescher -- you know, the one with the voice like your teeth being scraped down a blackboard -- told Jay Leno about how she cut her finger on Halloween, then took a shower and changed her clothes so she would look her best when the paramedics arrived. Good story. Too bad it was a complete fabrication.
Her publicist claimed this is done all the time on talk shows. Well, it also happens in books written by talk show hosts. In his book, Leading With My Chin, Jay Leno stretched the truth farther then Pinocchio with his fingers crossed when he recounted an embarrassing incident on Dinah Shore's TV show. Unfortunately it never happened. Well, not to Leno, anyway. It did happen to comedian Jeff Altman who gladly accepted $1,000 and gave Leno permission to use the story as his own.
At least all these people told pretty benign lies. I mean, it's not as if they lied about their gender the way Felix Urioste did. He's the guy who was arrested a few years back for stealing $40,000 from his husband of three years. Did I forget to mention that he also neglected to tell his husband that he was a man?
Pay attention, this gets tricky. Apparently Urioste convinced Bruce Jensen that he was pregnant with twins after they'd had a single sexual encounter. Jensen did the right thing and married the man he thought was a woman in a Mormon ceremony. Of course at the time he thought Felix's name was Leasa. "I feel pretty stupid," Jensen was reported to have said after the police convinced him his wife was a man. Understatement is a beautiful thing.
The problem is that, as cynical as we may be, we're really trusting souls at heart. We believe movie stars when they tell us which brand of adult diaper is best. We believe the Rolling Stones when they tell us -- yawn -- that each tour will be their last. Face it, if we believed Bill Clinton when he said he didn't inhale, drop trou in front of Paula Jones, or eat that last super-sized Big Mac Combo Meal we'll believe anything. Okay, bad example. No one believed any of that.
The solution is simple: make lying acceptable behavior. Rename it Flexi-truth so it sounds hip and fun. With Flexi-truth it will be okay to appropriate someone else's life as long as it's for career advancement or mutual financial gain. It will be fine to make up stories or college degrees if it means maintaining your public image. And with Flexi-truth, having to declare your sex on a marriage license will be optional. After all, if politicians are rewarded when they stretch the truth -- by getting re-elected -- why shouldn't we be? Besides, if we made it socially acceptable to lie it wouldn't be fun anymore. Then before long everyone would want to start telling the truth just to rebel. Hey, would I lie to you?
More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org