Testimony: There's lies, damned lies ... and other ones

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we try to tell the truth. Missy Bond explains why sometimes, only a porky will do

Missy Bond isn't my real name. For reasons that this article will prove, it sometimes helps to lie. When I was very small, I used to lie a lot. I'd hide my sister's pyjamas when I didn't want her to stay overnight at a friend's and then pretend I didn't have a clue where they were. When I was sent to the headmistress of my primary school (a wonderful but strict nun who possessed a cane) for bad behaviour, I instead showed her an essay I'd written for which I'd got a gold star and said that I had been sent to show her my sterling work. She gave me a chocolate bar and it was stale. By some fluke my teacher never colluded with the headmistress, only asking as I sheepishly sneaked back into class - with my chocolate bar hidden in my school uniform V-neck - if I had learnt my lesson. "Oh yes," I nodded.

But the lesson I learnt then, that lying was jolly useful, seemed to be forgotten. The older I got, the more honest I became. To the point of obsession. Then I realised - when I was 22 (slow learner) - that, despite what they say to you, people don't always want you to be honest. They may say "don't tell lies" when you're a child, but, let me tell you, they are lying.

As a teenager, I had a particularly bad time with this honesty thing. "There's a party this weekend ..." I would venture. "No," would answer my mother. "Why don't you just lie?" my friends would say as party after party would come and go while I was at home knitting legwarmers and pretending I was in Fame. Meanwhile, my sister, a quiet girl whose preferred entertainment was the ballet, would be allowed out whenever she wanted.

So one day I lied, and I got caught. I never lied again about where I was going, but then, I didn't go anywhere again until I was 18.

I started smoking three days before my 22nd birthday. I told my mother. She didn't talk to me for two weeks. "But Mother, at least I'm telling you the truth," I pleaded between drags. I still didn't get it. When I got my first serious boyfriend, I introduced him as such. I didn't lie about where I was spending my nights (I still lived at home). It was not a good idea. Home became like hanging round Sainsbury's frozen food section for too long. Chilly. My sister, meanwhile, introduced no boyfriends into the Bond household. No, she had "friends": "I'm off to Wales this weekend with some friends," she would chirp. Lovely, except she was off to Paris to meet her lover. Still waters hide passionate fish (and did she really see three versions of Romeo and Juliet at Covent Garden that summer in 1980?). I felt like the bad sheep of the family. But the only difference, I realised years later, was that, believing that only the shamed lie, I was upfront about what I was doing and she wasn't.

I continued telling the truth and ultimately people learnt to respect it or keep out of my way. If something was shit and my opinion was sought, I'd say so. If I'd made an arrangement to meet up with friends and I just didn't feel like it, I told them so, instead of inventing some late- night business meeting. I never faked orgasms or (when asked) told the boyfriend of the time that his penis was the biggest I'd ever seen if it wasn't (this was done with great sensitivity. Honesty doesn't have to be brutal). Stupid? I know - the sulks I've had to endure from men and boys who ask questions the answers to which they don't really want to know. When once a few years back I met up with an ex, I told my then- current one all about it. "Stupid thing to do," everyone said. "Lie". "But I'm not doing anything wrong," I replied. But I soon realised it didn't matter; what mattered was that sometimes you should just lie; people don't always want to know the truth.

They say children act more instinctively than adults, and maybe my instinct to tell little lies here and there all those years ago was right. But I have not regretted my honesty. I have had to temper it, though, and today my advice would be this: never lie about things that involve sex or smoking, otherwise you will be condemned to a life of faking pleasure and sneaking a cigarette when your parents aren't looking. Regard the request for "an honest opinion" with deep suspicion and instead mix the truth with lashings of compliments, especially if the questioner is a) male or b) female and wearing a new dress. And if it's your boyfriend and you want to keep him, lie. Lie for England.

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