Men have always lied to women to get what they want, but these days many New York women are finding that mendacity has evolved from an isolated disease into a full-blown epidemic. Internet dating and the ease of casual sex have made men unwilling to play by anyone else’s rules but their own, even if it means they must deceive to get what they want. If one woman won’t sleep with a guy on the first date, he can lie to get her out of the house and find someone who will. And when men are caught, they are surprisingly unrepentant; the moral bar has been lowered so far that women who complain about deception come off as high-maintenance psychos. Worse, by the time men are caught, they’ve already reaped the benefits—which is their goal.
Kelly, a 29-year-old writer, met Todd, a guy in his late forties, at an art opening in Chelsea, and after they’d been dating for a year and a half, she discovered that he had another long-term girlfriend. “I had met his parents, he had met mine, I had helped him decorate his apartment, spent time at his Hamptons house, and gone on a vacation with him. It turned out he had met her the same time he met me and he couldn’t decide between us so he kept both things going.”
There had been suspicious signs: He was often “busy with work” or hard to get hold of. One day, she stole his computer address book and called every woman until she found her rival. “It turned out she had met his parents too, gone to his house on the weekends I wasn’t there, and helped him pick out all the things for his apartment that I hadn’t,” says Kelly.
Kelly was furious when she found out how far things had progressed. “This was the worst lie anyone ever told me because it was so continuous.” He didn’t act guilt-ridden when she confronted him, nor was he angry about how she found out. “I’d asked him many times if he was seeing someone else, and he always said no. He claimed that it wasn’t a lie, it was a sin of omission.”
Melinda, 31, a grad student, recently met a television executive named Dave on Nerve’s dating site. He wrote in his profile that he was looking for honesty, and she liked him when she met him. “He was like a good Boy Scout,” she recalls. “He seemed like someone looking for sincerity.”
She suggested they go back to his place, but it turned out he was house-sitting. When they got to the apartment, he became sexually aggressive. After she made it clear she didn’t want to go further, he went into the bathroom. When he came out, he was talking on his cell phone. “ ‘You’re at La Guardia?’ ” she heard him saying. “ ‘You’re back a week early?’”
“I didn’t hear the phone ring,” Melinda recalls, “and I couldn’t hear anyone on the other end. He was saying much more than you would need to. It seemed very unreal.”
Melinda thinks the New York social scene is responsible for men’s increasing propensity to lie. “With all the easy hook-ups and dispensable dates, it gives even the nerdiest guys a swagger,” she says. “In New York, even the guy-next-door type has learned to be a player.”
Lying is not just a heterosexual phenomenon. It is also rampant in the gay community, where many men will say almost anything to get out of a date if something better comes along. Charles, 42, an academic, had been dating Stephen, who often traveled on business trips. One night, while on manhunt.com (a site where gay men troll for sex), he found Stephen’s profile. “A friend of mine wanted me to see if his boyfriend was on there,” says Charles. “As I was checking the site, I stumbled across Stephen’s profile.
“He would often say, ‘I’m supposed to leave on business this weekend,’ and this was what he was doing instead. I didn’t know which was more pathological: that he was lying or that he was being so precise with his language, always saying he was ‘supposedly’ going away so he wouldn’t, technically, be lying.”
Though men may lie because they think it’s easier than telling the truth, all the aforementioned victims expressed confusion about the logic of lying as much as the ethics. “It was such an amazing thing to me,” says Kelly of her two-timing ex. “The emotional investment of maintaining two girlfriends just seemed so ridiculous. I didn’t see why he’d bother.”