Read an Excerpt
The Little Book of BIG EXCUSES
More Strategies and Techniques for Faking it
By Addie Johnson
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2007 Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC
All rights reserved.
Stretching the Truth
A man may not be responsible for his actions in an hour of tribulations and pain.
Making excuses is as old a practice as any in society. From the first time time that anyone behaved badly and wished they hadn't, or didn't do what they were told, we humans have handily created more and better ways of covering our asses. Some are teeny nothings—you come up with them and then forget them in an instant. Some are more weighty and take some time and imagination to compose. Whatever the case, if you need an excuse, and believe me, we all need one (or ten), you've come to the right place.
Just don't feel like giving out your phone number? Or scrubbing the toilet? Or paying your taxes? Make your excuses, and get out of almost anything in style. Or at least put it off. Embrace your inner escape artist and weasel out of the confines of daily drudgery and into the bright sun of slacking off.
Maybe you need an advanced excuse, an excuse for, you might say, the inexcusable. Have to leave someone at the altar? Sent a nasty email about her to your mother-in-law by mistake? Haven't filed taxes since 1987? It's happened to the best of us. This little book will give you some starter ideas, some examples from excuse-meisters, and quite a few excuses you should probably not use under any circumstances at all.
Warning: This book is not going to make you a better person. In fact, it could very well make you a worse person. Angry all the time? Annoyed with your boss, your kids, your parents? Too much stuff to do? I don't think this book can solve all your problems. Or maybe it can. But it sounds like it's time to laugh it off and slack it off and renew and rejuvenate. Maybe a nice bubble bath? Maybe a nap? I think it's time to stop letting that to-do list get the better of you. Time to fight back with some ingenuity and maybe some silliness.
C'mon, admit it. You know a horrendously bad person lurks inside each and every one of us—that person who doesn't want to clean the garage, have tea with her great aunts, eat his vegetables, or serve on a jury.
So this book is an invitation to fool some of the people some of the time. Face it—sooner or later, a messy situation is going to arise, and you're going to want to squirm out of it. It could be a missed deadline at work. It could be a blind date with your Uncle Tom by marriage's great nephew who farts, or at least he did the one other time you met him when he was six and you were seven.
In the case of the former, you may want to fake a sick day. In the case of the latter, you may want to plead a really heavy load at work. And then when you next run into said nephew at a family dinner and realize what you've missed, why you just may need to call in sick so you can spend his last day in town with him.
Now I think I hear a little voice inside you. Ooh, yeah, here it comes now. It's your conscience. It may be telling you, Don't listen to her! She's a dastardly miscreant liar and she's leading you down her path of deceit. To which I say, phooey. Your conscience has an overdeveloped sense of the dramatic. But kudos for having one. I like to think of it as creative fibbing. You're not lying—you're stretching the truth. You have a moral muscle, and I think it could use some limbering up with a healthy dose of humor. And stretching is good for you. Like yoga. And stuff.
I also think this conscience thing might be mouthing off because you have an underdeveloped sense of entitlement. Um, hello? As you make your way on the journey of life, there will be crappy times and fabulous times, and they both might get in the way of your doing all the stuff you're supposed to do. So get out there and get out of it, already. You deserve it. Besides, everyone else is doing it.
We all make excuses. This book is just here to help you make them and make them better. You may be thinking, "Gee, Addie, I've been trying to cut down on making excuses and take more responsibility for my life and my actions." And to you I say, "Go on with your righteous self. This book may not be for you." But if you're saying, "Hey, Addie, I'd really like to cut down on getting caught making excuses," I say to you, "Bravo! Go ahead—make more excuses and more believable ones for things you don't want to do so that you can really focus in on the things that are truly worthy of your time and energy."
Let's break it down—there are so many wonderful and effective ways to excuse yourself. Embrace the following guidelines for everything from the most trivial to the most blatant excuse, and you will never be left out in the cold.
First, there's actual innocence. I'm presuming you will not be using this excuse, because you are a big faker and you are reading this book because you need some big fake excuses. But, as they say, "It's not a lie if you really believe it." This is the mantra of the pathological liar and you may adopt it as needed. Believe your lies, at least a little bit, at least while you are telling them, and then have enough respect to remember them later.
I didn't do it! You can always claim it wasn't you who ate the cheese or pushed your little sister off the sofa or even say that nobody did it at all. My cousin's husband claims that if he breaks a dish and she doesn't notice for 48 hours or more, it's as if the dish never existed. Also, you can always claim you've been framed. Like when the copier jams at work, or they run out of sugar packets at the donut shop. These are clearly frame-ups.
I didn't mean to do it! (a.k.a. I didn't know what I was doing.) Maybe your mental capacity was diminished—your short-term memory has been on the fritz so how could you be expected to know you wouldn't have enough funds in your account to cover that check? Also maybe you're too young and inexperienced to know better. Or, too old and experienced to know better.
Whoops! It's not my fault. Okay, you did it and you really can't get out of admitting the fact. But it's totally not your fault. If you don't partake in the monthly martini gathering at your in-laws, they will make your life a living hell. And once you're there you're so nervous that you have to get bombed, and if you bonk yourself on the bedpost as you fall into bed fully clothed, this seems to me to be a just fine excuse for having a black eye. And therefore staying home from work. For at least one day.
I had to do it! Yes, you did it and you will own up to the fact, but you were perfectly justified. You didn't clean your room because your baby brother needs a floor padded with all your clothes so that he can learn to walk and fall down without hurting himself. Besides, you said I didn't have to clean it until we had company!
Occasionally, honesty is the best policy. But use it sparingly, and only when absolutely appropriate.
The Honest Excuse
Occasionally, honesty is the best policy. I can't believe I just said that. But use it sparingly, and only when absolutely appropriate. Seriously, sometimes the truth makes a great excuse. Like when Guy Ritchie told a bunch of students at Oxford why his movie Swept Away starring his wife Madonna was going straight to video in England. "People think it's s—."
You'll also want to try and build a chain of credible excuses, preferably one that cross-references other excuses you've used in the past. E.g., you have a phobia of mice (excuse 1) so you haven't been able to face taking care of the infestation in your ceiling at home, so you're going to need the day off work to wait for the exterminator (excuse 2) while sitting outside in your car in the driveway with your dog who is just as frightened as you are of the infernal things. And then because of all the upheaval, your dog will probably need some special park time over the weekend (excuse 3) so you can't babysit for your cousin's three maniacal rugrats after all.
In general, the first rule of excuses is that the devil is in the details. I mean, the truth is in the details. Or the "truth," as I like to call it. As you create a credible story, it must be filled with juicy tidbits to back it up. In fact, in some cases, the more outlandish and ridiculous the lie, the more readily it will be believed. I think this is the fundamental principle of writing advertising copy, by the way.
The second rule of excuses is remember your lies. I cannot stress this enough. Most of us are not pathological liars, so we tell a lie here and there, and then we trip up and spill the beans. Knock it off! You gotta remember what you've said. This will also help you avoid the embarrassing situation of using the same excuse too often.
Remember your lies! I cannot stress this enough. Most of us are not pathological liars, so we tell a lie here and there, and then we trip up and spill the beans.
For this reason, remember that exaggeration is your friend. From exaggeration is born the "sort of true" excuse. This excuse is easy to come up with, because it's true. It really happened to you, or someone you know, or someone you read about, or watched on TV. Or some version of it happened to someone, somewhere once, so why not you? I know a woman who was pulled over for speeding along the highway. When the officer came to her window, she had worked herself into a half weeping state and explained that she was rushing to pick up her son Ollie from the hospital. She didn't mention that Ollie was actually her dog, and the "hospital" was her little code word for doggie day care. To her credit, Ollie had been pining away for her there all day, and she was late. But more importantly, she didn't get a ticket.
If you have trouble remembering your lies, you need to write them down in a little book. You also need to keep this book on your person at all times, lest it should fall into the wrong hands.
So, those are the basic rules. Be specific and remember what you said. Write it down if you have to. Write down the excuses you've used not to turn up for family dinners, office events, second dates—all the illnesses and their variations that have kept you away. You might also write down interesting things that could have happened to the email, the check, the gym membership card. Write down your childhood phobias—why you can't possibly clean the bathtub, for instance (okay there was a HUGE spider in there once).
Write them all down. You never know when they might come in handy. And read on. Pretty soon you'll be a regular Gold Medal Excusist. You'll be able to adapt the excuses in this book to the circumstances of your own life on the fly.
It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.
Excuse Hazards to Avoid
Recurring Excuses: This is a tricky one. You should not, under any circumstances, use the same excuse two years running for forgetting, for example, to send your mom something or to call her or to spend time with her on Mother's Day. And that excuse should not be "It's a made-up holiday, invented by BIG Card Co. in order to make money." Because A) you are not going to uninvent it by being all snotty, and B) your mother deserves better, even if she too is of the opinion that it's mostly a made-up holiday, etc. So maybe one year your big bad boss made you work all day. And maybe the next year you came down with a little Sunday-all-day flu. No, Mom, it was not caused by my social activities on Saturday night!
After you read this book, you can probably do better than that second lame-o excuse. Maybe the dog ate the flowers. But under no circumstances, if you are so clueless as to forget Mother's Day two years running, should you use the same excuse.
However, do remember your "phobias" and "allergies." Say your best friend asks you to bring shrimp cocktail for her dinner party. And you forget. And you show up empty-handed.
Don't bring other people into it—unless they know what you're up to and have pledged to back you up in every way until the end of time.
Well, you were on the way to the fish market, in fact going in the door, when you remembered the last time you had shrimp. You were ten, say, and it was Christmas Eve and your dad wanted you to try it. And you ate a piece and your throat started to swell up and you got red and itchy and your parents got you to the emergency room just in time. And just as you were walking into the fish market you remembered that you were never supposed to touch shrimp, even wrapped up in paper and plastic. So what could you do? You didn't want to ruin her party by having to go to the emergency room. And you didn't want to get anything else, because you know how particular she is about her menu.
Don't bring other people into it—unless they know what you're up to and have pledged to back you up in every way until the end of time.
You should know this, but it's an incredibly common mistake. Don't discuss anything you might have to prove, like:
Emergency Room visits or hospital stays
Don't go overboard with your symptoms or your details.
You want to have copious amounts of both, but they've got to be believable. Nobody calls in sick with the flu and has headache, nausea, ringing in the ears, vertigo, and tingly hands. And if you do have all that going on, it's time to go to Mr. Emergency Room.
Under no circumstances should a liar begin laughing at any point during the delivery of a lie. Really. Not even a little bit. Don't. Never ever.
Throughout this book, I will offer advice for transforming bad excuses into really great ones, so we'll do some little excuse clinics. Here's an easy one to get you started.
Excuse Clinic, kindergarten level:
Bad: Jack couldn't come to school today, signed "my mom."
Better: Jack missed school yesterday because he had bronco-it is. Signed, Tom Mix
Best: Please excuse Jack Frost from school yesterday. He has a cold and was running a fever. Signed "Mrs. Frost."
Excuse Clinic, upper level:
As we will see later, the lame-ass excuse certainly has its place, but don't go trying to use one stupid reason as an excuse for something even stupider. For example, even if it's true, this is BAD: "I'm late because I got drunk last night and married my cousin."
It's bad that you're late, it's worse that you got too drunk, and to top it all off, you're a redneck idiot who probably needs glasses and definitely needs a blood test. You want to go the opposite way with your excuses, from bad to better to best.
So, distance yourself, make it a little better, and cast yourself in a better role:
"I'm sorry I'm late. My cousin got drunk last night and married her high school boyfriend, and somehow I got roped into being the best man."
Or, to really do it up right: "I'm sorry I'm late. I was the designated driver and had to take my drunk cousin home from her own quickie wedding in Vegas last night. And when she woke up this morning and realized what she had done, I had to help her find a really good lawyer."
Don't come up with something people will hate you for.
You want to come up with something that will make people feel slightly sorry for you, but not implicate yourself in anything too awful, like chronic drug use or embezzlement. If you are caught, you'd better think fast and come up with the best Good Samaritan reason you can: I'm in jail and didn't make it to the wedding out of state because I was caught smuggling marijuana across state lines in my underwear and was charged with felony possession. But I had to try to bring the weed to my aunt who suffers from persistent, chronic, nonspecific nausea. (Never admit she's a hoot to get high with. You have never inhaled.)
And don't come up with something people will hate you for. We don't feel sorry for you that you have to go shopping with your mom when she's in town. We don't care how annoying she is. You're getting free stuff. Shut up.
So, onward. Don't waste your time feeling guilty about missing that social event, or office picnic, or whole work week. Excuse yourself in a way that will leave everyone impressed with what a wonderful person you are, or feeling slightly sorry for you, or both. Are bad excuses, or worse no excuse at all, hurting the feelings of those you love or are otherwise beholden to? Step up to the plate, people. Fib a little, limber up your moral muscle, and, best of all, get away with it!
Fake, Don't Flake
Excuses for Not Showing Up
You don't want to be known as a flake. Especially if you are of the blonde persuasion. And I don't care if it comes out of a bottle or takes three hours at the salon every six weeks. If you start to be unreliable about showing up to places, you're going to get a reputation. To flake is immature and childish. People are waiting on you, even depending on you. So if you can't face showing up, you're going to have to fake. Faking requires some thought, even ingenuity, but believe me, it's worth the effort.
Excerpted from The Little Book of BIG EXCUSES by Addie Johnson. Copyright © 2007 Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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