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Amy Alkon


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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.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email ( Her weekly radio show can be found at Her latest book is "Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck."




14 Comments | Post Comment
LW1 - I cannot tell you how many boyfriends I've left behind because they felt entitled to ALL of my free time outside of my day job. If you have a passion - and for you, comedy is a passion - it's almost like having a second lover and it can make the primary partner very jealous. It didn't help that I would be thinking, "Making small talk with you is a lot less interesting than doing X" which isn't the sign of a healthy relationship.

A passion or art form takes time, effort, discipline, sacrifice. It often costs a lot of money and you may never make a dime. But so what? People who aren't driven with a passion don't ever get it. They will never understand the desire to hone one's skill or gain recognition within the field. For them "togetherness" is that passion, and these people make great parents and family members. But, you won't have a career in comedy.

And if you end up with a partner who's as driven as you are, maybe you will know that feeling of being abandoned, too. It could give you empathy for what your girlfriend is feeling right now.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Red Ree
Tue Nov 18, 2014 10:46 AM
LW1 -- I'd say your not all that into this girlfriend if you didn't want to take her to the birthday party. Me I'd want to take my girlfriend. Can't your girlfriend come to some of your comedy gigs? Sounds to me like the partying was more important then your stand up gig. You and your girlfriend are on different pages, your still in party mode and she is in relationship mode. Your problem is you want a girlfriend when it is convienent for you, if this woman has any respect for herself she will dump you. And yes any lie is a lie, don't matter how "insignificant" it is.
Comment: #2
Posted by: J
Tue Nov 18, 2014 12:02 PM
LW1--I think it's time you and this girlfriend parted ways because she's clingy and controlling. Seriously, what did your girlfriend think being a stand-up comedian entailed. One show and instant celebrity? Comics need to be seen and heard in order to get discovered and to make money. That means frequent travel and lots of time in clubs. You need to explain to your girlfriend that you lied about skipping the show because you were tired of her constantly harping on you for going to work (which is what your shows are) and take a breather. Then suggest the the two of you take a more permanent breather.

LW2--Honey, it's fairly common knowledge that karaoke is entertaining because of the good singers AND the bad ones. That's why American Idol airs its audition shows. Your wife likes to sing. Period. She knows she's not Whitney Houston but she does it because it's what she loves to do. There's absolutely no reason to be embarrassed nor do you need to tell your wife she's cracking the windows. Just go and support your wife and be sure you're the loudest one clapping and cheering after her sets.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Chris
Tue Nov 18, 2014 1:24 PM
LW1: What's the question? At any rate, you lied because you're tired of having to defend your choices. Dump her.

LW2: What's love got to do with it? Another moron in a dishonest relationship pretending to be someone he's not. Good grief.

Comment: #4
Posted by: Diana
Tue Nov 18, 2014 2:02 PM
LW1 -
Your girfriend will have much more serious complaints about your timetable if your career ever takes off for good. This is hardly a 9-5 job. What's she gonna do if you leave on tour for three months? Hwve a hissy fit, no doubt.

Someone like you is totally inhabited by your calling, and you can't any more get rid of that part of yourself than change the way your taste buds taste a banana.

Someone like your girlfriend thinks an artistic career is just another job, and it's not. Never the twain shall meet.

Stand up comedy is one of the most arduous forms of live entertainment there are. Worse than song and dance, which is what I was trained for. Trying to make it as an artist is stressful enough. This kind of tension is not good for your creativity and performance.

You weren't doing anything wrong. But if you have to lie to her about something totally innocuous in order to avoid a row, then you two are not compatible. Save yourself and her a lot of grief and let her go now, Eventually, you will find someone who either understands because she has a similar calling, or at least respects that you do.

LW2 -
"Does love mean being honest with your wife about her singing voice?"
Only if she's fishing for a compliment. Otherwise, do what she's not doing and zip it.

And unless everybody is cringing when she takes to the stage, there is no reason for you to be embarassed. She's the one with the Daffy Duck voice, not you. Try to enjoy the fun part of it, same as everybody else does.

If you can't, well... Do you really have to go? I would schedule bowling night with the guys on that night if I were you, and let enjoy her vocal fun by herself. Everybody happy-happy, win-win.

Comment: #5
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Tue Nov 18, 2014 2:39 PM
LW1 - if I were the girlfriend, here's what I'd be thinking. You said that open mic was very, very, very important and that it was more important than spending time with me. Okay, it's your hobby, it's your passion, your desired future career, I will try to understand that it takes most of your free time. And then you blew off that very very very important open mic in favor of something random, like a party you didn't know anything about until that moment. And you not only didn't invite me to the party, too, you lied about it. If I were your gf, I would feel - probably correctly - that I just am not very important in the scheme of things you're doing with your time. If she had written this letter, I would tell her it was time to hit the road and find someone who would make her more of a priority.
Comment: #6
Posted by: kai archie
Tue Nov 18, 2014 2:52 PM
Re: Red Ree
I agree with your first two paragraphs, except that I would change the word "passion" for "calling", and "desire to hone one's skill or gain recognition", for "compulsion".

As for your third paragraph, I beg to disagree: then only time there will be a clash of titans is when two narcissistic performers try to get together, as each of them will feel nothing else exists outside of their own need. But for normally constituted people, there will be no feeling of abandonment from two people who know what being driven to answer a calling is like, because they each will know exactly what the other is going through and will shore each other up.

Comment: #7
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Tue Nov 18, 2014 2:55 PM
Re: kai archie #6
That's what I saw, too------that the LW was telling his girlfriend he needed to put all his free evenings into what he intends to be his career, so he wasn't able to cancel and spend time with her, and then he proceeded to cancel an engagement on the spur of the moment to go to a party, and he didn't even invite her to go with him----which is fine, I guess, he deserves time with friends.
BUT----then when he gets home, he doesn't want to deal with the confrontation he knows will happen if he tells her where he really was, so he lies (though he does tell her next morning). I call BS on his 'I was just really tired' excuse.
My guess is that she already wasn't too crazy about his choice of spending all his evenings pursuing his would-be career, and then she finds out that he will cancel to go to a party without her, but not cancel to spend an evening with just her, and that his first impulse is to lie to her to avoid unpleasantness or conflict. So yeah, she's pissed.
Maybe she does nag at him about the amount of time he spends on this vs. the amount of time he spends with her, I don't know. And probably they are not right for each other if he wants something that much and she resents it. But he also shouldn't be trying to justify what he did, and the lie he told her. If he thinks she's too controlling, he knows where the door is. And if she doesn't like how he prioritizes his time, she knows where it is. On this particular detail, though, she's right to now wonder what else he will lie about to avoid confrontation or unpleasantness.
It's fine to want a career in stand-up comedy. Likewise it's fine to object to being the girlfriend who misses out on time with that person as a result. They are not right for each other, and they need to separate. Regardless, he lied and has blown her trust for him, and he has no business blaming her for not trusting him now .
This is not about his going to a party. It's about his LYING about going to a party; even if he did later reverse the lie, she now knows it was his first impulse and might happen again.
Comment: #8
Posted by: jennylee
Wed Nov 19, 2014 7:27 AM
LW1 - Ditch your pouty GF and turn her crazy possessiveness (and your fear of confronting her about it) into a comedy routine. I expect lots of people will be able to relate to it.

LW2 - Your letter brings to mind the the karaoke scene in "My best friend's wedding." Awful, but, the audience loved the girl for trying. Regardless -- don't worry about it. It's not about you. Your GF is having fun. She may or may not know how awful her singing is... but heck, it's karaoke, dude. Does it really matter?
Comment: #9
Posted by: sarah morrow
Wed Nov 19, 2014 10:37 AM
Re: jennylee #8
"he will cancel to go to a party without her, but not cancel to spend an evening with just her"
Well, the party was just the one time, But she would want to cancel ALL of his gigs to be with her. I don,t see any BS in him being "really tired".... yeah, he is: if he shenanigans, and with good reason.

And yeah, I know this is about lying, but, there are times when the promise of a avoiding a scene is enough to piush someone into something he would not habitually do. The real problem here is that he felt the necessity to lie in the first place.

@Sarah Morrow #9
"turn her crazy possessiveness (and your fear of confronting her about it) into a comedy routine"
GREAT idea!

Comment: #10
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Nov 19, 2014 3:03 PM
LW2 - I've never understood the idea of being "embarrassed for someone" when they make a fool of themselves. If she felt embarrassed about her singing abilities, she wouldn't be going to karaoke. And unless she actually thinks she's good and is completely unaware that people are laughing at are behind her back, why be embarrassed for her? If you're embarrassed to be around her when she acts like that, fine. But why be embarrassed for her if she's not embarrassed for herself? She probably knows she's horrible, doesn't give a damn, and isn't going to let that stop her having fun.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Cheryl
Wed Nov 19, 2014 4:09 PM
Re: Lise Brouillette #10 -- I had to repeat what I said "And yes any lie is a lie, don't matter how "insignificant" it is."
Comment: #12
Posted by: J
Thu Nov 20, 2014 12:10 PM
Re: J
I'm not good at lying, which is why I wouldn't try to about anything major, and yet there are times when I've had to. For instance, I've lied to my friend Shirley in order to avoid lending her anything, because she breaks or loses everything. Every time something of mines was in her place, something dire happened to it. In order to avoid that, lying is then a way of saying no while avoiding an inevitable confrontation, and it is one of the things which actually preserves our friendship. I can't think of anyone I've ever seen who's never lied about anything. If you tell me you never have, I won't believe you.

And yes, any lie is a lie, but there is a huge difference between lying about going to a party where nothing was expected to happen and where in truth nothing did, or lying about an affair, stealing or a murder. The crux of the matter is what you're lying about, and especially why. You can't just put everything on an even keel. It is necessary to allow for human foibles, to separate the grain from the chaff in between inoccuous stuff and serious stuff, and to choose your battles.

If you don't make that difference... Well, that would be one reason why you have so much difficulty with your relationships.

Comment: #13
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Fri Nov 21, 2014 6:41 PM
Actually, J, I have to agree with Lise on this one. YOU have lied. I have lied. All God's children have lied. It doesn't do to get all uppity about your own honesty when it's so often a matter of degree. And maybe she's right that your black and white view of "a lie is a lie" has something to do with your difficulty at relationships. You think? Maybe?

And, okay, I really have to ask. You made some comment a week or two ago about going to movies being your "profession" or something. Could you elaborate on that please for us, the idle curious?

Comment: #14
Posted by: Maggie Lawrence
Sat Nov 22, 2014 7:02 AM
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