Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why a Man Lies...

As a survey shows men frequently lie about themselves, we offer women an insider's guide to the mysterious workings of the male mind. I'm a man and I'm a liar. A pretty good one, actually. All those tells and tics you're supposed to have when you let fly a porkie? I don't get them. Which helps when I'm trying to pick up women, because I can say pretty much anything and sound like I mean it. That's not to say I go into every encounter with some elaborate fake backstory. I've never pretended I'm a millionaire, or told fibs about some sad background to find sympathy with a similarly-afflicted girl. I have, however, pretended I was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, told someone I was manager of the Arctic Monkeys and, for one bizarre evening, been an Australian adventurer.

And I'm not alone. Most men are compulsive liars if you believe the results of a new survey by Virgin, which found that one in ten British blokes between 18 and 40 added five thousand imaginary pounds to their salary, while 25% have lied about the size of their manhood. Researchers concluded that men lie more impulsively than women, but added that one of the reasons for this is because the modern male is under more pressure than ever before in both his personal and professional life.

But is this true? Does lying work? Are women really impressed by faux tales of superlative salary, girth and length, especially when it's so easy to be caught out? "There's two phases of male lying," says Neil Strauss, author of The Game, the bestselling memoir of his year as a professional pick-up artist. "Courtship lying to get someone to like them and relationship lying to keep their girlfriend from leaving them." "Men are horrible liars," he continues. "They usually get caught and if they don't, it leads to a suspicion that lasts for the whole of the relationship. But I don't think men lie because they are horrible people, they lie because they're weak."

"I think there's more pressure on men," adds Susan Quilliam, a relationship psychologist and author of Body Language Secrets. "There's a much higher rate of male depression and suicide than there was. Because they are insecure, they will try and compensate by lying." The lengths some men go to put my tales of the Australian outback to shame. Strauss recalls "guys who got fake bank receipts that showed huge balances and when they gave someone their phone number, they'd 'accidentally' write it on the back of them".

And actually, it's all women's fault anyway; with their rising pay packets and demand for equality. Us men still want to feel like we are cock of the walk and impress the ladies with our status and power, but the problem is, we are facing potential partners who are richer and more successful than us. It probably won't shock you to hear that I am currently single. What I do know is that my break-ups were about us as people, not about the size of my credentials. The irony is that while we men think we have to impress with tales of luxury yachts and magnums of Cristal, in actual fact it's honesty and trustworthiness that are higher on a woman's agenda when it comes to looking for a mate. "I think a man's belief that he has to lie about himself is based on a primitive understanding of what girls are attracted to," argues Neil Strauss. "[Men] think that women want a rich person, but they don't, they want to feel safe. What also makes them safe is a guy they can trust. So honesty and trust are for some women more important than wealth."

In fact, he believes most lying men are doing it for each other's benefit rather than women's. "Guys are still competing with each other to be the alpha male of the pack," he says. "There's a primal, evolutionary need to be the 'tribal' leader." What's more, lying during courtship "is not going to work. If you have to say how big your pay packet is, it's not that big, because you're bragging about it. Girls aren't looking for a fact or a number, they operate more intuitively". It's true. Despite my fabrications, I have actually had more luck being straightforward and witty, rather than extravagant and cocky.

Girls can sense honesty and the desire to make a real connection, as opposed to a man who covers up deep-seated insecurity with an expensive suit and wandering hands. "If you think about it, because so many guys lie, it's better to say the opposite," Strauss suggests. "Never brag - as soon as you brag about something, it's lost its value." So, sure, we men can be a manipulative bunch, but ladies - don't think you're completely innocent in all this. For starters the Virgin survey acknowledged that women can be mendacious, pointing out that 16% of females have played down the number of sexual partners they've had.

What's more, Susan Quilliam believes women can be complicit in their suitor's lies too. "They want a boyfriend they're proud of," she says. "A woman will often say 'oh, he's doing really well' when he's not, to present her man as someone who is achieving and has control over his life." So what of this survey? After all, isn't the relationship between men and women all one big, complicated dance? To me, the process of meeting someone new has always felt like the trailer before the main feature: all the best laughs, action and romance cleverly cobbled together without all the boring bits.
The trailer never shows the daily grind, the mountains of washing up, the overdraft statements. Isn't this one big variation on a lie we are all partaking in? I'm sure people in love would beg to differ with me.
But then they're probably lying...
Guys, what's the biggest porky you've ever told to impress a woman- and did it work?
And Girls, what's the biggest whopper you've heard from a fella?

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