Readers' Submissions

Confabulation

  • Written by Professor
  • August 29th, 2012
  • 5 min read

Confabulation is a wonderful word. I looked it up. Here is how Wikipedia describes it:

" Confabulation is a memory disturbance that is characterized by verbal statements and / or actions that inaccurately describe history, background, and present situations. Confabulation is distinct from lying because there is typically no intent to deceive."

I like that…lying with no intent to deceive.

Reminds me of a number of Asians that I know.

Note that I say "Asians", not "Thai bar girls". Having lived in Asia now for almost 30 years, I find that many, if not most, Asians have a different perspective on lying than westerners do.

In the west, we are taught that telling the truth is important above almost anything else. As Americans, we are taught from an early age the story that when George Washington was a boy he cut down a cherry tree. When asked by his father who did it, George responded "I cannot tell a lie. I cut down that cherry tree."

We are taught that George was not punished, because he told the truth. That lesson is rammed into our brains at an early age.

Asians tend to have different things hard wired into them. Respect for elders, for example. Not embarrassing others. Always keeping harmony. The Japanese have an expression "the nail that sticks up must be hammered down". Go with the flow, all Asians are taught as youngsters. Don't upset people. If you have to lie in order to keep peace, then by all means do so.

Do you ever see people walking down the street wearing t-shirts with writing on them that makes no sense? I saw a woman in Bangkok the other day. Her t-shirt read "sometimes telling a lie is better than telling the truth". Best words I had read on a t-shirt in years.

In living in Asia, I have come to accept a certain amount of lying. You get to develop a sixth sense about when a lie is merely something to cover up a mistake. When someone shows up late to a meeting, and says there was bad traffic, and you know they took the sky train, there is simply nothing that can or should be said. You smile, and begin the meeting.

Do you always want to hear the truth? You are making love with that nice woman you just met at a bar, and her phone rings and she scurries into the bathroom to answer. When she comes back you ask her "who was that?"

Do you want to hear, "that was my boyfriend from Denmark, he was calling to see if I received my monthly allowance, and if I would meet him at the airport when he arrives tomorrow morning."

Or would you rather hear "that was my sister. I tell her I ok."

There's lying, and there's lying. In the west, we call them "white lies", you know, those little lies we tell every day to make life run a bit more smoothly. Asians, Thais, and bar girls in particular have simply taken it to a new level.

Personally, I don't mind a little lie, I tell them all the time. I don't always tell my girlfriend where I've been, or whom I've been with. If I go for a massage in the middle of the day and she asks how it was, I don't respond "it was quite good. That lady really knows how to give a good wank. You should take lessons from her."

Or if I come back from a business trip and she asks what I did in the evenings I always think a bit before deciding whether to tell her I had two girls the night before.

Lying is sometimes necessary to keep a relationship on track. Especially a new relationship. "Wow. Where did you ever learn to kiss like that?"

"Oh. I sleep with three porn stars. They show me how to do."

No thank you.

"That's a beautiful dress. Where did you buy it?"

"I not buy dress. Boyfriend me give present first time he do it in my ass."

Too much information.

"I had a great time last night. Is it ok if I give you 2000 baht?"

"No. Not ok. I always get 5000 baht when man mouth smell like toilet bowl no one flushing in six days."

Next time, please lie.

"Was that good last night?"

"Yes. Very good. You have small penis. Not hurt pussy me. Another customer have big penis and make me hurt. I like small man like you. You finish quick too."

Sorry, I don't need the truth.

Now there are lies, and there are lies. Obviously it is important to distinguish between the two, and your girlfriend must learn when she has gone too far. No one should accept serious, persistent lying about important issues. Honesty is a fundamental core of any long term relationship.

But confabulation, that is, lying without an attempt to deceive, should, within reasonable limits, be acceptable. In fact, I would go so far as to say that a little lying is necessary for a healthy relationship.

Having said that, I also wanted to mention that I look like Brad Pitt, am as wealthy as Bill Gates, and am built like a stallion. Anyone interested (women only, please) contact me at the email address below.

Take care,

Professor




Stickman's thoughts:

Interesting perspective. I am sure you would agree that lies to deceive or to gain advantage are wrong, but your main point seems to be that that lying to maintain face and keep relationships may be ok.

I would challenge that notion and suggest that the person who is lying should change their behaviour. I think the problem with the argument that lying may be ok to maintain relationships is that I have observed that many locals have a propensity to take the piss if you give them a chance. Once they realise that lying can be advantageous to them, lies come more and more easily. I personally don't accept this sort of BS and while I may not call someone on their lies directly – which will no doubt cause them to react badly – I make a mental note. If I note a pattern where lies are often used for excuses for general sloppiness I will sever the relationship.