Celebrity confessionals today are as common as dirt.
Jodi Foster, in a rambling speech at the Golden Globes, says (sort of) that’s she’s gay. Anyone who cared already knew.
Lance Armstrong tells Oprah Winfrey he used performance enhancing drugs. No kidding.
But occasionally we get a stunner, like what we learned this week.
Standout Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s girlfriend wasn’t real.
What college male has not embellished his love life? But this is different. Te’o—depending on whom you believe—either was the victim of a cruel hoax or a participant in a sob story crafted to generate sympathy and support.
Te’o claimed to have had a long-distance, online relationship with a 22-year-old Polynesian beauty named Lennay Kekua. The story took a tragic turn when Te’o reported last year that his girlfriend was in a serious car wreck, and then later died from cancer.
The media willingly advanced the story, including mawkish anecdotes of how Te’o stayed on the phone with her all night, listening to her breathe while she was in the hospital.
I don’t know the truth, though Te’o’s explanation that he was duped strains credulity. Perhaps the story started as a little lie that spun out of control. As Sir Walter Scott cautioned, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”
Lying is tricky business that should be left to the professionals.
I am not aware of knowing any accomplished liars. A few rank amateurs, however, have crossed my path.
One was a name dropper who told tall tales of hanging out with famous people. That was more sad than offensive. He later lost his job because, yes, he created a fantastic yarn to get out of work.
Another fabricated a tale about a rich lover, who met an untimely death in an auto accident. Why is it that imaginary lovers always die either from cancer or a car accident? Don’t any of these fake people ever fall off buildings or accidently grab a power line?
I’m a lousy liar. My embellishment skills are well practiced, but creating intricate falsities out of thin air are generally beyond my imagination or my ability to keep up the deceit without crumbling into a heap.
Once when I was in junior high and trying to impress new friends, I told them I had a regulation-sized football goal post in my yard where I practiced kicking; a true neophyte lie, which was easily, and embarrassingly exposed when my friends came to visit.
Another time, again in junior high (my formative lying years, apparently) I lied to my English teacher, claiming one Monday morning that I had not completed my report on Jason and the Argonauts because she had borrowed the book back from me the previous Friday.
The shame was not so much the pitiful lie as how I deluded myself into thinking that could work.
But back to Manti Te’o. Somebody was obviously lying, and may still be. While no crime has occurred, something worse has happened; good hearted people have been made to feel foolish for getting drawn into the story.
As Mark Twain said, “How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!”