I had this one friend at school. Let’s call him Darren.
Darren was a liar — a compulsive one — and boy did he tell some whoppers. Not “the world was created in one week” whoppers, but big ones nonetheless.
One lie Darren would tell, at the age of 12, was that he had lost his virginity. Now, nobody had any primary evidence (eww) that this was not the case. But his diminutive age, the fact that he went to an all boys school, his reputation for demonstrably lying in other cases and his resemblance to a tug boat all contributed to the incredibility of his claim. Not one of us could prove he was a virgin, but it stood to reason that he was.
The part I find interesting is that none of the other 12-year-old boys would question his claim. Not one. Not because they didn’t know how, or were afraid to confront him, but because it would not be politic. The unwritten law stated that one unbelievable lie was worth another and, so long as we didn’t skewer his fantasy, he would have to accept that he couldn’t skewer ours.
Within weeks, every gawky, unattractive and socially inept 12-year-old boy who had come into contact with Darren was a virgin no longer. An agreement had formed, quite organically; an unspoken one to believe the unbelievable.
So what do you suppose would happen to any boy who questioned the ludicrous sexual voracity of our barely pubescent cohort? What do you suppose would happen to the boys who, when asked, “have you lost your virginity too?” would reply, “of course not, I’m twelve years old.” Naturally, they were set upon; teased and taunted and ridiculed. The defenders were so fierce because the lie was so fragile.
I’m ashamed to say I sometimes tended to be a “defender” as a child, but I try my best to be the kid who says “nope” as an adult. For others, reaching maturity does not appear to be a case of growing the confidence to be truthful. Others choose to weaponize their unbeliefs, trading taunts for decapitations. Why? Because the shame of lying to oneself is cumulative over time, and because the starkness of violent acts make the lies that beget them feel ever so true.