The Sad Demise of the Pub Bullshitter

(Originally appeared on The Huffington Post – )

As confusing subcultures appear and disappear in a blink and technology evolves at sci-fi speed, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement of the #New. Tech-savvy pre-teens are undoubtedly the ones carving out tomorrow, but this means that inevitably some of the characters from Generation-Yesterday are getting left behind in the scramble.

I’ve had enlightening, infuriating and hilarious conversations during my years working and drinking in pubs. Wild claims, tall tales and bizarre name-dropping are common-place in public houses; they help boring people seem interesting and make the gullible feel informed.

“Hot Chocolate is 2Pac’s dad” was something that a friend told me over a pint when we were teens. As you can imagine it divided the group, some were taken aback by the revelation and others laughed and called bullshit. I didn’t fully believe it at the time but as years went by I realised that part of me never truly disbelieved. That was until years later when, while downloading 2Pacolypse Now on Napster, I Googled both artists and found out that Lester Brown (RIP), the singer of the British soul band Hot Chocolate, was not Tupac Shakur’s father. They weren’t even related.

This was my introduction to The Pub Bullshitter. We’ve all come across them; some are our friends, some are our colleagues and some are even our spouses.

There are the charmers that relay misheard info to wow friends and potential partners, retelling a story they once heard and passing it off as their own or exaggerating the details of a dull anecdote. These are in pursuit of admiration and popularity, both of which can be achieved if the fibs are delivered with confidence. In general we don’t mind these bullshitters so much, they’re common and we’ve probably all been guilty of similar white-lying at some point.

Then there’s the pathological lying, or what’s known in the psychiatric world as pseudologia fantastica. This is something much stranger. Mythomania, as it’s also known, is the constant and often reasonless lying about things that are no benefit to oneself or others. Charles Dike, clinical professor of psychiatry at Yale University, explains their perplexing nature, “In some cases, [the lies] are self-incriminating or damaging, which makes the behavior even more incomprehensible.”

Dike also suggested that, much like those with Asperger’s Syndrome, their lying may be out of their control, “The relative purposelessness of the lies and the repetitive nature of the lies, despite negative consequences to the liar’s reputation and livelihood, further encourage doubts about the liar’s ability to control [their] behaviour.”

This reminds me of when I was once told by a friendly but relentless bullshitter that following his cake-making PHD (?), he had made Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s bespoke wedding cake for their wedding in Enfield, North London. He also ardently spoke of how he had single-handedly invented the ‘world-famous’ Nokia 3210 cake. (A birthday cake shaped like a Nokia 3210). A quick search online at a later date found no such phone-cake and that the celebrity couple married in Malibu, not Enfield. I disbelieved him at the time but I was just so entranced by his bizarre labyrinth of lies that I couldn’t stop listening.

I first noticed the imminent end to all this after a conversation I had with my uncle over an afternoon pint. He called bullshit on something I said and we jokingly disagreed. I decided to double-check on my phone and when my fact was confirmed by Wikipedia the conversation suddenly went dead. The fun was over. I briefly became a smarmy, self-righteous little tadpole taking on the older generation with tomorrow’s technology and it didn’t feel nice. It was then that I realised then that speculation, disagreement and debate are as much a part of a good conversation as solid facts are.

When it comes to The Truth, it’s unlikely that the chap that sinks six Guinness every night in your local pub really did storm the beaches at Normandy, teach Jimi Hendrix how to play guitar and invent Clingfilm, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the fairy-tale for what it is.

I’m not saying that cold, hard fact isn’t important; I’m just going to miss the eccentric old chaps that sit among us in pubs and tell us tall tales. When they’ve been replaced by smart-arse killjoys who are intravenously hooked-up to the wi-fi, I think you’ll miss them too. Whether the bullshit is a sign of senility or just pure storytelling, leave your scepticism at the door and get whisked away on the stupendous story of life never-lived. Don’t let your mobile phone ruin a good conversation or, as the old saying goes;“Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

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