Tis summer I visited a small-town barand met a 27-year-old ex-law student. He wasangry and lost. He said his university educa-tion was a waste. He said he was saddled withendless loans, trapped in a low-paying job ina miserable town—araid he would never getmarried. He was counting down the days un-til he could leave: 59 days, only 59 more days.I listened. I said my name was Emily. I was23 and also out o college, a ashion writeror a non-paying online magazine. My Eng-lish degree was impractical; my our years ata tiny Midwestern college let me expendable.My hobbies included Bikram yoga and hot wax painting. I hoped to eventually becomea ight attendant.Tese were all complete lies. In act, I am19. I am an undergraduate student at BrownUniversity. I can barely operate a hot glue gunand once sprained my ankle slipping on a yoga mat. My ashion sense is subpar. I havebigger dreams than serving instant coee touncomortable passengers.I am not Emily.Te things I told him were white lies, stu-pid lies—lies that prevent a hookup rom everturning into a relationship.So why lie?I lied or the same reason many girls lieto guys: ear. I was araid I would seem toohappy, too witty, too naïve, too needy, toosel-assured.I’m not the only one. Economics concen-trators pretend they study visual arts. Girls who like rap pretend they love rock. DevoutChristians insist they are biannual churchgo-ers.Sometimes I think a woman’s greatest earis being too much.So I made sure I wasn’t. I laughed at hiscynical jokes and quietly replied with smallquips o my own. I made mysel unavailable,disappearing when he returned rom smok-ing a cigarette and only reappearing to talk toother people. When I returned, I made sureI didn’t touch him. I didn’t brush his arm orhands. I didn’t talk about mysel unless asked.I really wanted to tell him that he was justanother victim o the lost generation—notthe one that drove Hemingway and Ger-trude Stein to Paris, but the one that’s driving graduates toward jobs as baristas and cashiers.I wanted to tell him that a college degreedoesn’t mean much anymore, that marriagemay not be the norm or a generation terriedo commitment. I wanted to tell him that he wasn’t alone.Instead I avoided the sentimental lan-guage. I didn’t want to sound too emotional.“You need to stop getting so down onyoursel, dude. You’re smart. You’re hot. Youcan do anything you want.”He then whispered in my ear the bleakestpickup line I have ever heard: “Are we going to your place or mine?”“How good is your air conditioning?”His air conditioner was broken, so we went to my apartment, where the thermostat was locked at 68 degrees. Ater it was all over and we ell asleep, he wanted to be the little spoon. He took all theblankets and hid himsel in a cold, blue co-coon. At 9 a.m. he got dressed and came to thekitchen to say goodbye. I continued typing onmy computer, eigning disinterest. He pacedthe room and opened the ridge. apping hisngers on the countertop, he nally asked,“So do you want my number?”I wanted to say yes: Yes, o course I wantyour number.Instead I asked, “Do you want to give itto me?”He scribbled something on a arget receiptand let.Te number was useless. It belonged toEmily, not me. And Emily didn’t have timeor that—she had to write another blog postabout this season’s most stylish socks.I know many girls who lie. Sometimes it’sor un. Sometimes it’s a relie rom Facebook and witter, rom the eeling o constant ex-posure.But sometimes it’s not un. Sometimes wedo it because we’re genuinely araid that ourpersonalities and desires will be too weird,that we’re too heavy or taking up too muchspace. We take note rom celebrities. We see e-male models with male comedians, attractive women with doctors and lawyers. For a girl,being unny or smart is not enough—some-times it’s even too much. So we caricature oursimplicities and mute our complexities.But you can only lie or so long. One nightI called the number on the receipt, not sure what to expect.“Peter? It’s Emily,” I said.“Emily?” A voice greeted me. But it wasn’t Peter’svoice. It was a little girl’s voice. And then I wondered i he was lying too.
speechless in central europe
hungary for words
“Ummm ….” I drew out the sound asI desperately ipped through my
pronunciation guide. My decisionto only barely learn the International Pho-netic Alphabet or my Linguistics examlast semester now seemed criminal. “
Seep.Oz seep eet.
” I accompanied this with a vague gesture toward the Hungarian coun-tryside serenely passing by outside the car window, hoping that my absolute butch-ery o my host mother’s language wouldsomehow come across as endearing.Te apologetic smile she gave me inreturn probably mirrored my cornered ex-pression in its awkwardness. ime to drag out my patchy knowledge o a smorgas-bord o languages. “
? … Beau-tiul?
Seep. Seip. Seeb.
She sells sea shellsby the sea shore. I ail as a human being;I’m sorry—I swear I’m not normally thisincompetent at lie.”She craned her neck—alarmingly, as she was still driving—to look over my shoulderat my translation book and then grinned.“Ah, beautiul.
Mag- yar: szep
.” Tus my education in Magyar—the Hungarian language—began.Charlemagne once said that to know another language is to possess another soul, which I nd to be a gorgeous statement—and unortunate proo that he would ndme utterly unimpressive. My embarrass-ingly long-standing monolingualism cameto haunt me this summer when I traveledto some small villages in Hungary and Slo-vakia to teach English or six weeks. Faced with the prospect o living with host ami-lies who didn’t speak my language, I naively didn’t consider it a great concern. Nor didit ever cross my mind that no one else in thevillages would speak English either.It was then a shock to step o the trainin Bocölde, Hungary, to nd that or therst time in my lie I was unable to com-municate with anybody at all. Immersionin Magyar was a brutal wake-up call.First, I sounded like a complete idiot. Iquickly discarded the idea o learning theendishly dicult grammar and devotedmysel to expressing concepts in the con-tinuous present tense. I concentrated onlearning the words or everyday objects,emotions, and interactions, as well as, o course, or teaching—
(“listen”) were two o the rst wordsI learned. When mastering the phrase
(“I like tomatoes”) was the pinnacle o a day’s work, I had toadjust to taking things a little slower thanI was used to in English.Second, with this more gradual pacecame the understanding that it was impor-tant to learn not only the words themselvesbut also the context and nuance that colortheir meaning and use. Magyar pronouns,or instance, do not dierentiate betweengenders. My initial ignorance o this actled to complete disaster when I tried toplay a game o “I am/you are/she is/heis” in a class with my younger students.Surrounded by gleeul, riotous children,I recognized that language clearly shapes worldview. How could Iexpect to teach the Eng-lish words or genderdierentiation withoutexplaining the concept inthe rst place?Tird and most impor-tantly: Communicationinvolves vastly more thanmerely speaking words.Learning a language in a classroom consists o lists,tables, and tests. Learning a language in its home en-tails cooking with localsand laughing over eachother’s native words or“our”; or playing soccer with screaming, exhila-rated kids; or sitting at a barbeque and letting acestell the stories that thesteady stream o words cannot.Ultimately, learning another languagerequires valuing both eort and silence.Eort: Because nothing beats talking topeople in their own language and interact-ing with them on their terms. Tis meanttaking the plunge and speaking Magyar whenever I could, even though I stumbledover its sounds and clumsily wielded itsgrammar like a heavy club. Silence: Asduring one evening when a Hungarianriend and I walked along a lake at sun-set. Placing one hand on my shoulder, shepointed with the other to the water andtold me, “
” which transliteratesto “golden gate.” It took me a moment torealize that she meant not the lake itsel but the glistening column o light on itssurace. We stood together in shared si-lence to appreciate the beauty o the sun’sreection.Tere was no speech barrier, no orcedpressure to talk. Charlemagne was right.Something had moved between us: not theunctional sounds o communication, butits natural spirit.
Illustrated by Adela Wu
mintaka angellcontributing writercara dorriscontributing writer
lying and the female pickup artist
a girl by any other name