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Saturday, October 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 68.0° F  A Few Clouds
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To tell the truth, he's a big fat liar
My boyfriend never gives me a straight answer

Do you happen to know the name of someone who administers lie-detector tests on a commercial basis? The person I live with, who shall remain nameless, has turned out to be such a compulsive liar that I now see no alternative but to hook him up to electrodes (or whatever they use) at the end of each day and force the truth out of him. He's a wonderful person, but he'll lie about anything, including his own name. (He told me his middle name's Mark. It's Thomas.) You can ask him a harmless question, like whether it's going to rain today, and he'll give you an answer, but you'll later learn, after getting drenched, that he made it up. And don't even bother asking him, say, where's he's been all afternoon. Even if you get a straight answer, you won't be able to trust it.

I know, I know, I should just pack up my stuff and leave his lying eyes behind. And I would, but I like him too much. Except for this one issue, we get along very well, and he's a lot of fun to be around. The problem is, I find it very hard to trust him. How do I know he isn't lying when he says how nice I look, for instance? Or when he says he loves me? He seems like he's telling the truth, but he always seems like he's telling the truth. I asked him about his tendency to prevaricate, and he kind of laughed it off, said he'd never lie about anything important. But how do I know that? Which is why I've cooked up this idea of making him regularly submit to lie-detector tests. I could ask all the questions I need to, he could lie or not, then I'd check the results.

I'm only half-kidding. Please let me know if there's anybody around here who does this for a reasonable fee.

Trust Fund Running Low

Trust Fund: Ideally, we'd live in a world where, whenever someone was lying to us, his pants would spontaneously erupt into flames. Or if he wasn't wearing pants, his nose would start to grow. Alas, we live in a world where, whenever someone lies to us, his heart rate slightly rises, his breathing rate slightly increases, his blood pressure goes up and his palms start to sweat. (A few of us also poop our pants.) At least we like to think we live in such a world. But the fact is, some of us don't undergo those kind of changes when we're lying, either because we're not aware we're lying or because we're sociopathic. Others of us have figured out how to beat a lie-detector test, either by training our bodies not to respond or by, say, clinching our sphincters so as to create false indications of deception. Personally, I've found that clinching my sphincters makes it that much worse when I finally do poop my pants.

What am I saying? I'm saying there's a reason the results of lie-detector tests aren't admissible in court - two reasons, actually. One, they aren't reliable. In fact, I'll sell you, for exactly one nickel, a lie-detector machine that works about as well as regular lie-detector machines. My machine? A nickel. Flip it, ask your question, guess heads or tails, then read the results. The other reason the results of lie-detector tests aren't admissible in court is because we still prefer to let people rather than machines make such subtle judgments. If you're absolutely unable to tell when your boyfriend is or isn't lying, you either don't know him well enough or he's unknowable. The former you can do something about: Get to know him better. The latter you can't do anything about except wonder, when he tells you that blouse looks really good on you, whether that blouse looks like dried dog vomit on you.

My advice: Switch blouses.

To monitor my galvanic skin response, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR E-MAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.

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