Along Came Polygraph

I’m an aspiring comedian — seriously aspiring — so I’m out most nights doing stand-up. My girlfriend gets upset about all the time I put into this and expects my nights off to be spent with her. Recently, I was going to an open mic, when a friend called and invited me to a birthday party. I ended up blowing off stand-up for the party, but later, my girlfriend asked me how stand-up went and I just said “fine.” I don’t normally lie, but looking back, I was just tired and not up for a drawn-out conversation. The next morning, I said something about the party, and she realized that I’d lied. Now she is upset and says that if I’d lie about something so insignificant, maybe I’m lying about bigger things.

—Stand-up Guy

You’re an aspiring comedian but a failed sociopath — telling a lie about your whereabouts at night but going all “whoopsy” about maintaining it the morning after. On the success-in-crime scale, this is like getting picked up by the cops for bank robbery — because the bank manager spotted you making off with that pen on a chain.

Still, yours was not a white lie — a lie to spare another person’s feelings — but more of a beige lie: a lie to spare your own feelings (allowing you to get into bed instead of into a three-hour parole hearing). Obviously, lies are not Miracle-Gro for a relationship. Even small lies gnaw away at trust and can destroy your bond. But seeing as there’s no evidence you’re a serial liar, what’s important is why you told this lie. Maybe you’re generally conflict-avoidant. But chances are, you’re specifically conflict-avoidant — comedy conflict-avoidant — probably because your girlfriend sees your devotion to your comedy as a crime against the relationship.

This is probably what led her to believe that all of your non-comedy nights belong to her — which amounts to your being an indentured boyfriend, working off all your stand-up nights with romantic evenings out. When you love somebody, no, spending time with them isn’t the worst thing in the world. But you also need time to goof off and be a person — to cut out of comedy some night to hang with a friend at a party or just sit in your underwear and stare at the UPC label on a can of beer.

As you’ve seen, avoiding conflict doesn’t make it go away; it just goes away and sharpens its fangs. You and your girlfriend need to discuss whether she’s truly on board with your doing comedy and all that entails, including your need for some unapproved lone fun. If, for her, this isn’t so much about time as it is about feeling important to you, you could pledge to be extra-affectionate when you’re together — hug her, kiss her, sweetie-talk her — and set aside a designated day every week to spend together (as a number of comedy couples do). If she can opt for quality over quantity, you should be able to retire from your brief career as a failed liar — or at least put lying in its proper place: getting out of your driveway in the morning without starting a blood feud with the neighbor and keeping holiday dinners with the family from ending with somebody’s face pressed between the plates of the George Foreman grill.

Shrieking Beauty

Our neighborhood bar started having karaoke night on weekends, and my wife always wants to go and sing. I love her, and she’s a great person, but she’s an absolutely terrible singer, and I’m embarrassed for her (and a little for myself) every time she gets up there and belts one out. Does love mean being honest with your wife about her singing voice?

—Broken Eardrums

Your wife is one of the few karaoke singers who manages to surprise the audience — making people turn around to see whether someone’s singing “Blackbird” or being pecked to death by one. This actually isn’t a bad thing. “Karaoke” is Japanese for “y’all better be drunk, because I’m trying my luck at Donna Summer.” Great karaoke isn’t about doing it right; it’s about doing it proud. So you show your love for your wife by whooping up the audience — clapping and cheering as she misses all the high notes (singing from the heart but with the vocal stylings of a diseased spleen). While you’re at it, consider yourself lucky. People with a healthy sense of confidence make the best relationship partners — if somewhat costlier ones, like when you need to get your house professionally soundproofed so the neighbors will stop reporting you for animal cruelty. Interestingly, the satanic rituals involving a flock of chickens and a nail gun always seem to take place when your wife is in the shower.

Categories: Advice, Advice Goddess