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Ask Mindy: Big Little Lies

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

 

Readers, welcome back to the world of Mindy Morals, the little lady from St. Cloud, Minnesota with a whole lot of things to say. With degrees from charm school and from M.I.T., Mindy boasts a level of insight unparalleled among advice columnists. This week, Mindy turns her eye to lies—both their victims and their perpetrators. So, as they say in St. Cloud, “Let’s go! The sows ain’t gonna milk themselves!”


 


Hi Mindy,


I’m caught in a lie. And it’s a big one. Some years ago, I told some people I was a billionaire. It wasn’t a massive exaggeration—I had a couple hundred million, even then—but it was a stretch all the same.


But pretty soon, the legend about my wealth began to grow. People began to give me money, hoping that I could do for them what I’d already done for myself. I played along. Gradually I did get wealthier—never quite a-billion-dollars-rich, but wealthier all the same. And it helped me in ways you wouldn’t expect. I married a kind, beautiful woman—the sort of radiant goddess a turtley-looking guy like me never could have landed without a little financial support.


But I’m still not happy. What began as a harmless boast twenty-five years ago has become the defining characteristic of my entire life. I’d like to set my slate clean, but I don’t know how to do that without alienating everybody I love. I’m stuck in a trap and I don’t know how to escape.


Sincerely,


Will I Live This Lie Forever?


 


Hello Will,


Take a step back. Breathe in deep, then breathe out. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Concentrate on the way each individual body part feels in relation to all the others.


I ask this of you to remind you that you’re still alive, and that you’re still a part of life on planet Earth. No matter what happens to you, you are always the recipient of that incredible gift. Sometimes, we become so caught up in whatever insecurities we have playing in our heads that we can forget this simple fact.


Of course, that’s not the only facts that we can lose sight of, Will. Sometimes we can become so committed to our delusions and our falsehoods that we become strangers to those around us. It will likely be a shock to your wife and your friends that you’ve deceived them about your net worth for so long. But concentrate on all your other qualities. Are those still true? Do you still care about those around you? If you’ve been honest about all of that, then it’s still possible to win back their trust.


You seem like a good man, Will, and a good judge of character. So long as you’ve surrounded yourself with empathetic, selfless people, I’m sure you’ll be all right.


 


Dear Mindy,


I never thought it would happen to me. My father, who we thought had perished at sea long ago, recently returned into my life.


It was magical at first. He would take me in his big arms, spinning me around the room like an airplane as we whooped and hollered with joy. They were truly splendid days.


But things started to feel…off. He forgot my mother’s birthday—in fact, he forgot all of our birthdays. Key facts about us seemed to take him by surprise. Perhaps worst of all, my father, who had been a compassionate man before his disappearance, turned into a hard-hearted bully before our eyes. His brutality was unceasing. We were watching television once, when a report on a famine somewhere in the Middle East came on. “They should starve,” my father bellowed.


Everybody else seems convinced that this man is in fact my father, and a DNA test has proved it. But I still have my doubts. How do I prove that this claimant is a fraud?


Best,


Save Me From My Imposter Father


 


Hi Imposter,


I’m sorry that the man you once loved has become somebody so foreign to you. But I don’t think you’re dealing with a fraud. You all but said it yourself—DNA is the most ironclad proof there is. I don’t see how such a test wouldn’t be definitive.


But your experience is similar to one that I’ve seen many times in my own practice. It can be hard to care for an aging parent, particularly when it feels like you’ve only just begun to understand them. Seeing people change before your eyes can be difficult, and lead us to strange rationalizations like yours.


My advice is to try your best to ignore when your father says something offensive, and to forgive his memory lapses. Concentrate on the one thing that never changes—his love for you, and the good memories the two of you have together. If you allow the good times to stay with you through the bad, then they’re all good.


 


Dear Mindy,


Several years ago, a friend and I made a little bet over the outcome of the World Series. Nothing major, just 50 dollars of a worthless fad currency called Bitcoin. My friend lost the bet and promised he’d pay me once his next paycheck cleared.


Well, it did, but he said he needed more time. Months then years passed, and I still didn’t have my money. You can figure out where the story goes from here.


But imagine my surprise when I logged onto facebook this afternoon and saw a status from my “friend” crowing about the million dollars he’d earned from cryptocurrencies! Had I been paid promptly, as promised, I would be the millionaire. In fact, who knows—had I not been primed by my friend’s welching to view bitcoin as a source of stress and irritation, I might even be a billionaire! But, sadly, I’m not.


How do I get even with this guy?


Sincerely,


Owed to Perdition


 


Hi Owed,


I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been one of the casualties of the great bitcoin gold rush. Mr. Morals is a big crypto-currency buff (though far too cautious to earn us any real money!), so I can understand why this experience is so frustrating to you.


But let me remind you, Owed, that your being a multimillionaire today is far from assured. Hypotheticals are so alluring because they always work out perfectly. Yes, you might have earned enough money to retire tomorrow. Or you might have spent 500 bitcoin in 2011 at the only pizzeria that accepted them back then (thanks a lot, Mr. Morals!). You can’t get stuck thinking about opportunities that could have been—you could have easily screwed them up back then.


That being said, your friend’s deception is hard to justify. To continually delay paying a debt that you could have easily repaid is unethical behavior. You’ll never be able to make your friend understand that, but there’s no harm done in nicely reminding him of the debt he owes you. He’s not required to pay you the current market price for 50 bitcoin—by my calculations, that’s over $700,000—but you’re not wrong to think that you deserve at least a little bit extra for your suffering. My advice to you is to find a fun way for your friend to settle his debt—like having him take you to a nice steak house, for instance. It won’t cost $700,000, but it’ll be more than the peanuts you would have won from your bet.


 


That’s it for this week, but Mindy is always taking questions. Need help solving your dilemma? Just email mindy@manhattanmedia.com. Who knows? You just might read your answer in next week’s column.



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