Friend of friend tells a blatant lie. What do I do?
December 2, 2013 6:38 PM   Subscribe

A good friend of a good friend is going around telling a very blatant lie. The problem is that the lie is about a petty topic. I am disturbed by the fact that she is telling a blatant lie regardless of the topic, don't understand why she keeps telling it, and really don't enjoy humoring someone who is clearly lying. However I will seem petty if I object to it. What do I do?

Here it is.

This woman is a good friend of a good friend. She is not MY friend though and although I like her I also find her a little questionable in certain ways (being self-centered, perpetuating fights between people rather than resolving them).

The petty lie is that the woman is going around saying that she wears a size 4. There is no way at all that this is possible. I am aware that different people have different proportions and different-looking bodies can wear the same size. So please believe me when I say there is NO WAY that this woman wears a size four. If I were to guess, I would guess 12 or 14. I've seen her bust, waist, hips, there is no part of her that would fit in an 8 much less a 4.

I strongly dislike being lied to. I even more strongly dislike having to pretend to believe and politely go along with a blatant lie when I'm being lied to in my face. I find it to be disrespectful and offensive. I have never asked this woman what size she wears. There is no need to for her to go around saying it in front of me. She may be insecure about her size and I would never ask her what it was. However I don't believe that makes it okay for her to go around making up lies about it.

However, I fear that if I say something, I will be portrayed as the body police. Someone who is overly concerned with the size that other women wear and making some sort of judgment about it. That is NOT what it is. I simply find it very off-putting that she is lying over something so random, and I find it disturbing that she is blatantly lying and expecting others to humor it. It doesn't matter what the topic is.

What should I do? Should I say something to her? If so, what? Should I say something to my friend?
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (81 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If she's obviously not a size 4 then everyone she tells knows she's lying. Walk away.
posted by Jairus at 6:39 PM on December 2, 2013 [50 favorites]

Let it go. Of all things to get het up about, this is absolutely not worth it. You will look incredibly petty if you call her out on this.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:40 PM on December 2, 2013 [26 favorites]

You should not say anything. Just let it go. If it were your friend I'd still say that, but friend of a friend? You've got better things to do. Shape up everyone else after you reach perfection.
posted by Houstonian at 6:42 PM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

Don't call her out explicitly. If you're going to have any response, do it with plausible deniability: just raise an eyebrow.
posted by John Cohen at 6:42 PM on December 2, 2013

Who freaking cares? Women are under unbelievable social pressure to be as small as possible. Perhaps this person also suffers from other issues that compel her to lie about shit. If this was your best friend then I could see feeling weird about being lied to, but this is just a friend of a friend. This is really not your problem.
posted by latkes at 6:42 PM on December 2, 2013 [24 favorites]

According to the stoic philosopher Epictetus, there is nothing you can do about your friend misrepresenting her size. If she wants to provide accurate body size information that is between herself and her moral sense. But according to E you should take a deep breath and say, "It is nothing to me" because there is no reason her Size 4 claim should have any effect on your well-being.
posted by steinsaltz at 6:43 PM on December 2, 2013 [20 favorites]

If it's that obvious, anyone who has a clue about women's clothing sizes knows she's lying. Anyone who doesn't, also doesn't care. Let it go. Besides, vanity sizing is so crazy that I could totally believe she's found an item or two with a 4 on the tag that fits her.
posted by Kriesa at 6:44 PM on December 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

Yeah, she just has some weird thing going on. My friends um, never talk about what clothing size they are. When does it even come up? Only when you are asking the changing room attendant for help. Otherwise, it seems like she is specifically trying to bring it up and drop it into conversations. Why? I don't know. That's really weird, but not something for you to get mad about. Just curious, if anything!
posted by bquarters at 6:45 PM on December 2, 2013

I HATE when people lie, and I find something particularly icky about people who lie about little dumb stuff. Like I once sort of knew a guy who lied about what college he went to, which a, how stupid, anyone could find out, and b, this is not that important so why bother? So I was all prepared to tell you to beware and stay away and stuff. But she lies about her clothing size? Jeez, just feel bad for her that she feels she needs to do this and ignore her. Any protest you make is simply the equivalent of calling her fat which is petty and tacky and mean.

Plus for all I (or you) know there's a sizing system where clothes come in 1-4 and 4 is biggest, and that's what she buys. Clothing sizes are fairly arbitrary anyway.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:46 PM on December 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

I clicked through prepared to see that this woman was slandering a mutual acquaintance in some random (but petty) way and was willing to try to consider how to weigh the factors in determining whether speaking up would be worth it to protect and innocent or something but this...

Just leave this, it's just so unbelievably unimportant. I don't understand why she would lie about it... maybe she's not even lying and talking about a plus size line like Kiyonna where a size 0 is a 40" bust or whatever... but regardless of her reasons for saying it, what good could you possibly achieve by calling her out on it?

There's a rule that I try to live by in my interactions with others: Everything you say must be at least two of "true, useful, or kind". Her being a size 12 might be true, but I can't see why mentioning it would be either useful or kind.
posted by sparklemotion at 6:47 PM on December 2, 2013 [65 favorites]

Wow, that is petty. So petty in fact that you would come off as quite petty yourself if you brought it up. This person is a friend of a friend; if you find her distasteful, just avoid her. Put it out of your mind, she's not hurting anyone.
posted by Scientist at 6:47 PM on December 2, 2013 [12 favorites]

Leave it alone, bringing it up in any way at all will reflect very poorly on you. She's making claims about an obvious thing and no one is being harmed. It's really none of your business.

You may also want to examine why such a insignificant thing has you in such a twist. High-horsing about how even a small lie is a big deal to you doesn't sound like it's the real reason why you're so upset by this woman. Benign white lies happen all the time in life, crusading against them is not a worthy or ethically necessary undertaking.
posted by quince at 6:50 PM on December 2, 2013 [18 favorites]

We all are walking our own roads. You know she's lying, and if she's a size 12, probably everyone else knows she's lying. The question is why she's lying, and honestly, I expect there is some serious shame or pain going on there--that's a pretty blatant lie.

Just let it go already. This is not some affront against you.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:50 PM on December 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

You know, sometimes I lie about dumb stuff like this for no reason that I can figure out- it just happens. I'm the kind of person who typically self-corrects when this happens, but she might feel the need to dig in instead.

I expect that this is a case of "who is she really trying to convince", and I bet the answer is "herself".
Let it go. If you must say something, maybe ask her why she needs to talk about her size all the time when nobody has brought it up.
posted by windykites at 6:51 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

To lie about something that is both so meaningless and obvious is pitiable.

It sounds like everyone else's acceptance - or at least, their lack of calling it out as a lie - bothers you as much if not more than the lying liar. It is upsetting to watch the social contract get bent to this degree, beyond the pale of politeness. Acknowledge that, and try to let it go. There's literally nothing you can do about this - at least, that won't end up with you looking worse than she does.

Also, remind yourself that it's the holidays. Everyone gets a little extra dose of OMGWTF peculiar behavior.
posted by rtha at 6:54 PM on December 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

Also, you don't have to pretend to believe her. There is a middle ground between going along with it and calling it out. That middle ground is where you say something noncommital like "hm" and change the subject.
posted by windykites at 6:54 PM on December 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

Every now and then I find an item of clothing that's mis-sized and has a label that's a size or two too small. One of my girlfriends has had similar experiences and we find it amusing to tell each other "I'm wearing my size 4 skirt!" We are both well aware that we are not size fours and don't expect that any other person who hears us is fooled.

Another possibility is that she is delusional, in which case there is no point in arguing with her. I have tried arguing with delusions. It does not work. You come out looking crazy.

Or that you dislike her and therefore are taking her attempt at humor in the poorest light possible. In which case there is definitely no point in mentioning it.

OR .. she has a size 4 shoe.
posted by bunderful at 6:54 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Her lying about this is sad, and I'd be alternately sympathetic and irritated by her. But if you called her out in any way, I'd think you're a way bigger asshole. I can see why it's tempting, but calling her out on it will hurt both of you and help no one.
posted by jeather at 6:56 PM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

This is petty, but sometimes that's how it starts.

My ex's very good friend used to be like this. In HS she used makeup to try to lie to people and say she was assaulted.

Then they lost touch. Much later, they started hanging out. She would come over for the weekend and just tell whopper after whopper. She even wore a diabetic's auto injecter for insulin. It got to the point where I couldn't even talk to her, because I knew that if I was like on fire or something and she pointed it out I'd die because I wouldn't have believed her even if I felt the heat and smelled myself cooking.
posted by New Old User at 6:57 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

If I were to guess, I would guess 12 or 14. I've seen her bust, waist, hips, there is no part of her that would fit in an 8 much less a 4.

This is a really blatant lie, and easily disproven, which is a pretty baller move. This woman rules.

What should I do?

You should try to befriend her, for she has much to teach you about lies and excitement.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:57 PM on December 2, 2013 [112 favorites]

You did the right thing to come vent to us. I can believe this is annoying. Perhaps you feel as if there is some social currency she gains, but did not earn, by making this claim, and having nobody contradict her.

Now continue to do the right thing now that you've vented to us, and forget about it completely. If you want, I will tell you about some of the outrageous-yet-pointless lies told by nice folks in my circle of friends, and it might give you some perspective.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:58 PM on December 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

Try to picture how this conversation would go.

"Oh, yeah, I wear a size four too."

"No you don't. You're much too big."


"You're too big. When I look at your waist and chest, I can tell that you are not a size four."

"That's really rude! I can't believe you just said that!"

"Well, I hate being lied to, and you are obviously at least a size twelve! You're too fat for a four, stop lying about it!"

[Tears. Other people look at you like you're a total asshole.]
posted by Frowner at 6:58 PM on December 2, 2013 [29 favorites]

The most interesting part of your query, OP, is the question lurking in the background whenever I read a post like yours: why does this person care enough to post about this? My guess is the real issue for you is that Ms. Size 4's behavior keeps offending your personal, internal sense of justice.

In a perfect world, people should not be able to get away with lying. And when they tell such odd, obvious, self-serving lies? Gah! I totally hear you on why that's offensive. (or on preview, what @rtha just said).

It must really bug you that your good friend would choose to be good friends with a Lying Liar Who Lies in such a painful, sad, silly way. Maybe think about why your good friend is attracted to a friend like that. She must have some appealing qualities. Maybe she is fun to be around, or she doesn't make your good friend feel judged. I suspect you feel a bit of unspoken friend competition with Ms. Size 4.
posted by hush at 6:58 PM on December 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

You have nothing to gain from calling her out. You already know that she is either a weirdo or a self-body-shamer and calling attention to this (probably already very obvious to everyone else) situation will only make you look like an asshole, even if literally everyone else agrees with you. It is just One Of Those Things.
posted by elizardbits at 6:58 PM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Could she be 4X? Or size 4 in some other country's measuring system? Or shoe -- a ladies' 5-1/2 is about the same as a kids' 4 shoe.

I realize this is extremely unlikely.

Maybe she's a 4 on the inside? Maybe she was a 4 until recently and is in denial?
posted by amtho at 7:00 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

When you say that you dislike being lied to, it makes it sound like this has something to do with you - like she's seeking you out and telling you lies that directly affect you. That doesn't actually sound like what's going on here; rather, it sounds like she's lying in your vicinity and you just happen to be one of the people it's kind of being directed to, but she'd be saying it whether or not you were there. In other words, this TRULY has nothing to do with you, and you're just going to drive yourself crazy if you see it otherwise. In some way it seems kind of insecure on your part to take this petty thing personally.

Let it go. There's nothing you can do here without seeming petty, and really, there's nothing you NEED to do in any case.
posted by DingoMutt at 7:00 PM on December 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

However, I fear that if I say something, I will be portrayed as the body police. Someone who is overly concerned with the size that other women wear and making some sort of judgment about it.

Yes. That is exactly what will happen. If you like you can flag her in your own mind as a liar, but if you talk to anyone else about this there is a good chance they will consider you to be a misogynist with issues about the sizes of women's bodies.

If at some future point a third party comes to you with a weird story from her, and you say "Well, you should take that with a grain of salt because she also used to say..." then they may well flag you as a gossip and a misogynist. Keep this one to yourself.
posted by agentofselection at 7:01 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, bear in mind that if you bring this up, you are foregrounding how much time you are spending scrutinizing this woman's body, deciding she's actually a twelve or a fourteen, etc. You will come off as at least as odd as she is, maybe more. I would find someone rather strange if they did this.

And also, although of course some people are obviously too big for certain sizes - I don't doubt you there - be careful with the "at least a twelve or fourteen" stuff. For instance, I have a relative who is much bigger than me to look at, but wears a slightly smaller size - her build is really different than mine.
posted by Frowner at 7:02 PM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yeah, I'm one of those who would probably feel similar ("What? Thats crazy") just hearing her, but if you called her out on it publicly I would immediately switch to feeling sympathy for her and thinking badly of you. Especially given the topic, I just assume someone lying about that has all sorts of self-esteem issues and while lying isnt great, its not harming anyone --- whereas someone publicly shaming them over it is making thier already bad sense of self worse.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:03 PM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Another thing to consider, and this might not be the case b/c I don't know how long you've known her, but maybe she used to be a 4 and is taking the change badly. If you've ever gained an ass-load of weight quickly through no fault of your own, you know it feels like you are trapped in the body of a fat stranger. It's disconcerting. I could imagine that someone without the emotional strength to handle that normally might just cling to their former "identity," like a rich person who lost everything might claim they're not dirt poor. I think it calls for pity more than calling out, though it must be weird to watch her do this.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:04 PM on December 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

Look, if she lies all the time, this issue will come up again. Wait to call her on something more self-serving and less pitiable than this.
posted by rue72 at 7:07 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

My current wardrobe includes sizes 4 through 14. I "am" a size 10. Women's sizing varies to a laughable degree. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if she owned at least one size 4 garment that fit.

There is no way you can call her out on this, or debunk it behind her back, without coming across as SUPER DUPER petty, and body-policing to boot.

People tell white lies all the time. This one's getting to you because it seems so blatant (and perhaps you're annoyed by her attention seeking?). The only thing you can do in this situation is work on not letting it get to you.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:09 PM on December 2, 2013 [18 favorites]

While I agree that you making a stink about this would be super gross on your part, you might have luck saying something to the effect of, "Man, I wish I was a size 4 again. I find it so difficult to find consistent sizing everywhere lately. At one store I'll be one size, and at another I'll be plus or minus four or five sizes! It really gives me a warped perception of myself, and last year I gave what I thought was my size to someone and they got me something and it didn't fit at all for that exact reason! Have you experienced that at all?"

But that's still pretty passive aggressive so YMMV.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:15 PM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is a dumb thing to be upset about. Everyone who knows women's sizes knows she's not a 4. Everyone who doesn't know presumably doesn't care. So what exactly do you think she's getting away with, here? Most people probably feel sorry for her. (Or they don't care, which is the most appropriate response.) If she's really a 12 or 14, no one is thinking, "man, I wish I were skinny like her!" Come on.

It would be such a huge asshole move to point out her "real" size to her or to your friend. What kind of person does that? It's none of your damn business. How do you know this woman doesn't have a history of disordered eating or serious body image issues? And that aside, it's just...it's just so rude. However unclassy it is to lie about your size, it is infinitely less classy to point it out.

(as an aside, Metroid Baby is right - I'm also a 10, with stuff in my closet from a 4 to a 16 that all fits me. For that matter, Chico's sizes are exactly what DestinationUnknown says - sizes 1-4. She probably is like a size 3 at Chico's. So yeah, no surprise if something in her closet says 4.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:22 PM on December 2, 2013 [10 favorites]

Ignore it. Chalk it up to insecurity. Or, buy her a gift of a nice garment in a size 4. Wait a few weeks and ask her why she never wears it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:23 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it helps, think of this particular scenario as a special timetraveling lie, because it sounds exactly like the sort of thing from fifty years ago that would coexist happily with a woman perpetually claiming her age is 30. We rarely see those sorts of lies anymore! It's exciting that you've found one! And, also, it's kind of sad to think about all the social pressures that helped it exist in the first place.
posted by redsparkler at 7:24 PM on December 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

You could look at it this way: she is not lying to you, she is lying to herself. If you want to respond at all, respond with compassion and silently wish for her to be not so out of touch with who she is.
posted by Kerasia at 7:26 PM on December 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

I don't agree that you can't call her on it without hurting your own reputation. Humor is a great equalizer and you can get away with a LOT with a smile on your face. Just pretend she's making a joke that everyone is in on. Big smile, look of glee on your face.

Her: "I'm a size 4!"

You: "Honey, we're ALL a size 4 on the inside! Haha!"

"Well then, I'm a size 4 too!"

"Bless your heart! Haha"

"We were all size 4, when we were ELEVEN! Haha!"

And so on. Get creative! And if she gets defensive and says "I really am a size 4", then you just look sympathetic and say "oh honey....."

(Yes, I am southern AND can be passive aggressive with the beat of them and I hate this kind of crap, too.)
posted by raisingsand at 7:27 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Ask yourself why she's lying. She's not trying to get one over on anybody. or get an unfair advantage. Her lie isn't making anyone else look bad, or getting them to help her out when they otherwise wouldn't. She's not doing it for monetary gain or to cheat academically.

She's just pretending she's smaller than she is. She's doing no harm. And you really shouldn't be taking it personally, because it's not about you in the least.

I'm guessing that she annoyed you before she started with this size 4 bullshit, and this just made her all the more annoying. I actually relish the opportunity to be over-the-top annoyed myself... it's infuriating, but feels kind of good in a perverse way. If you're the same, go ahead and revel in your low opinion of her, but keep it to yourself. Unless you know of someone who's of a like mind... then gossip all you want. But definitely don't try to persuade anyone else of how dishonest or self-deceiving she is.
posted by wryly at 7:38 PM on December 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't think you should say anything.

Since the lying is the part that upsets you, maybe it would help you to consider that she really and truly may not be consciously lying. Maybe she really does wear a 4, at least in some brands/items. And if she's kind of hung up about her size, it makes sense that she would seek out those brands and items to buy.

I find it entirely plausible that you could guess her size to be 12/14 and for her to actually sometimes or even often wear a 4. Sizing is incredibly inconsistent even within a single brand and some brands (e.g. Old Navy) literally run about three sizes smaller than traditional sizing in many if not most of their women's clothing. Combine that with a two or so size difference between a size being extremely tight versus fitting comfortably or loosely. And with the fact that stretchy knit clothing can be worn by someone several sizes in either direction. And with the fact that build and proportions matter a lot (like if she has narrow shoulders but a larger bust then she would need a much smaller or larger size on top depending on the cut of a shirt).

Examples -

I have a family member that could probably squeeze into a size 4 pair of jeans depending on the brand/cut, but she occasionally has to size up to a 12 in tops that are very fitted across the chest.

I have various items of clothing from the same brand (American Apparel) in XS, S, M, L, and XL. They all fit me! More tightly or loosely of course but not ridiculously so. An XS is supposed to be a 0/2 I think, and an XL maybe a 12/14.

In any case, even though you seem to really dislike her, I think that if you do say something you might regret it later, and feel bad for being petty and/or body policing.
posted by treese at 7:39 PM on December 2, 2013

Plus for all I (or you) know there's a sizing system where clothes come in 1-4 and 4 is biggest, and that's what she buys. Clothing sizes are fairly arbitrary anyway.

Actually, I've recently come across a line of clothing where the sizes were 1-4. I'm somewhere between a 6 and a 10 (standard, American sizing) depending on the clothing line so I was all WTF, people? Apparently, in this line, I am a 3. I don't know what the holy hell is going on but whatever. I fall for vanity sizing just as much as the next person but I am certainly not going to go around saying "I'm a 3."

However, she may honestly be tickled to be a "size 4." Because, life is stupid, you know? Give her a break. Let it go. If she's bringing it up in front of you, I think you can rib her a little bit about it, "Oh yeah? Then I'm a size Tinkerbell!" but really just ignore it. Look baffled and change the subject.
posted by amanda at 7:51 PM on December 2, 2013

There are lies and there are LIES. This lie is hurting no one but the teller in that she's apparently embarrassing herself. Be the bigger person here and ignore her. There is no way you come off as anything but mean if you call her out. And if you re-read your post, you might see that you are, in fact, being the "body police...overly concerned with the size other women wear and making some sort of judgment about it."
posted by cecic at 7:54 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh! And the last time I was in the Gap (years ago, now) they put me in some size 2 skinny jeans. They fit. I was like, "nope, fuck no, this is stupid." I'm not a "size 2" person.
posted by amanda at 7:55 PM on December 2, 2013

I'm with you on the being immensely irritated by petty lies thing, yeah. Like, c'mon, I'm not two steps off the turnip truck, gimme some credit.

So, if ya can, smile beatifically and say nothing. Have a laugh on the inside over it, and let it go. Because what, she claims to be a size four and you carry the weight of it for her? That's what you're doing.

If you can't smile beatifically, raisingsand's on the right track. If you act like she's funnin' you, you can have fun back.

(Finally, what I'd be thinking and years ago — before my socialization was as complete — would have said:

"I wear a size four!"
posted by klangklangston at 7:58 PM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

However, I fear that if I say something, I will be portrayed as the body police.

I think the thing is, you won't be portrayed as the body police, you will be the body police.

I kind of feel this isn't really your issue to get angry about. You call her on it, and she - and anyone in the vicinity - will think you are an asshole, because it's an asshole move. Her decision to portray herself in a certain way is really her choice. It's your choice to believe it, or not.

I get the feeling that a) this woman bothers you more broadly than this lie, and you don't like/respect her very much, and b) you feel that this lie may be representative broader issues you have with her.

I feel like maybe you think addressing the lie will be equivalent to addressing the other issues you have with this person - her self-centredness, drama-loving etc etc. But it won't at all. Indeed, it will only escalate these things (the things that are really bothering you about this person). Calling out the lie, is just calling out the lie, and has a lot of fraught issues around it, is not showing a lot of compassion etc. And you won't resolve your issues with this person.

So really, there's no way it will work out well for you, your relationship with your friend, or your relationship with this person.
posted by smoke at 8:01 PM on December 2, 2013 [12 favorites]

Plus for all I (or you) know there's a sizing system where clothes come in 1-4 and 4 is biggest, and that's what she buys. Clothing sizes are fairly arbitrary anyway.

I know of at least one US store that sizes women's clothing 0-4, so maybe this is her way of fudging the truth.
posted by tamitang at 8:01 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Size 4 has changed somewhat. It can, in some labels, be a size 12-14. Obviously, there are labels that adhere to the old sizing, in which size 4 is quite small.

If she's someone who is going around talking about her size, I imagine she's a fairly flamboyant person, and I imagine she gets quite a kick out of being a (new) size 4.

Mention it, and you won't just be the body police, you'll be the humourless person who people will question whether they want to spend their time with.
posted by heyjude at 8:10 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

What should I do?


Should I say something to her?


If so, what?


Should I say something to my friend?

You will appear to be a lunatic - and not a nice one - if you make this a thing.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:23 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

The next time she says it, I would act like it's an in-joke that you're supporting her on. This lets her know you know she's not a 4 but hey, who cares anyway, right? So the next time she tells you she's a size four (seriously, does this actually come up in conversation?!) high five her and say, 'yep, I know what you mean, I'm a two. Check out the bod on me! I'll choose my own size, thankyouverymuch'. You can't be mean about it though, it has to come across as a sisterhood thing. You may make her feel comfortable enough about her real size that she actually shuts up about it.
posted by Jubey at 8:24 PM on December 2, 2013

Why do you feel that you have to do anything? You don't.
posted by sm1tten at 9:02 PM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Followup from the OP:
Message received loud and clear. I have been convinced it would seem horrid of me to bring it up in public or challenge her on it.

Just wanted to make one clarification: she's definitely not talking about special sizing schemes. She's talking about regular standard clothing sizes.

A few people asked why this bothered me so much since it is so petty and doesn't affect me. I have thought a lot about this myself because I am not usually bothered by petty things or things about the body.

I would just be bothered if she was claiming an obvious lie that had no social value judgments attached to it. Like if she claimed to be 6 feet tall when she was really 5'5". Or claimed she was born at the North Pole when she was born in Florida.

I have had times in my life when I was pressured to agree on a version of the truth that was not really the truth at all. Sometimes those were small things. But the people who did this often ended up being very manipulative and some of them went on to do very negative things, which they got away with because everyone had previously agreed to accept a lie as the truth.

That is why I had the reaction I did. I just wanted to explain for those who asked. Thank you all for your replies to my question.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:21 PM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's not your job to stop people from lying, especially strangers (or near strangers). If you took that on, you'd get no rest. Instead, you need to make a judgment call. You can continue to choose to let this bother you, or you can choose to respond in a different way. You might choose to ignore it, for example, or you might choose to avoid the person altogether. I think you'll find -- as I have -- that when you choose to "correct" other people, you generally fail to do so (and look foolish in the process). So, instead of changing this woman, change yourself. That's the only sure way to be happy about this.
posted by jdroth at 9:35 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have had times in my life when I was pressured to agree on a version of the truth that was not really the truth at all. Sometimes those were small things. But the people who did this often ended up being very manipulative and some of them went on to do very negative things, which they got away with because everyone had previously agreed to accept a lie as the truth.

Flag her internally as a potential problem, but calling her out will cause more harm than good. I do get where you're coming from - there's a hypervigilance and a justice seeking that happens when people turn out to be quite horrendous and lots of people have bought their lies. But, you don't actually know which way she's going to go (ie she may be really harmless), so all you can do is to keep your eye on her (and roll your eyes internally when she says she's a size 4).
posted by heyjude at 10:11 PM on December 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

Her lie is a gift, because it allows you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this person is willing and able to tell obvious lies about things that don't even matter, unprompted, and so you shouldn't trust her with/about anything. Easy peasy. Next time she lies in front of you, and you nod, just internally make it the nod of "ah, yes, friend of a friend, thanks for reminding me yet again that you cannot be trusted, and so I should not confide in you."
posted by davejay at 10:23 PM on December 2, 2013 [15 favorites]

My guess is that she's desperately holding onto the "size 4" thing in order to put a cold stop to anyone wanting to pick at her about her weight, knowing full well that it would be a rare bird indeed who'd consider it enough of his/her business to call her a liar to her face over something so important to her and so unimportant to them.
posted by aryma at 10:38 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

My dad is 5'5" and says (with a straight face) that he's 5'11". Yes, seriously. Everybody knows he is full of shit. Nobody says anything because a) everybody already knows that he's full of shit and b) there's no tactful way of accusing someone of lying to make themselves more attractive.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:51 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

What if she's not lying and really thinks she wears a size 4? Once people start to believe things it's weird the way they stick to these beliefs. I think it's harmless if she's blatantly lying, but I also think it's more likely she actually believes this because at one point she was always a size 4 and in her head, she still is.

It reminded me of a friend who would say this food her mom cooked was totally healthy and low calorie because there was no fat in any of it. The food was fresh and delicious but stir fried in oil - lots of oil - it was definitely not lowfat/low calorie at all! But she wasn't lying to us, she just truly believed 100% that the dishes her mom cooked were completely healthy and good for you, all of them. Also reminded me of when I used to be four dress sizes larger than I am now.. In my head, I was a size 8 the entire time and I'm still a size 8. Even though in reality, I went from an 8 in regular mall brands, up to an 8 in stores that size generously and a 10 in regular brands, to a 10-12 that I'd imagine were cut small and I'd try to fit into an 8 and it was kind of too tight, back to an 8 that fit properly, down to a 4-6 in regular stores and an 8 in higher end labels. So I still look for the size 8 and then have to recalculate what might actually fit.
posted by citron at 11:06 PM on December 2, 2013

I just want to second what Admiral Haddock and others have said above - there's usually some pain or shame behind a lie like this.
posted by gt2 at 11:07 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I hear you, OP, and I get why you're not comfortable going along with this. I don't think you should call her out, because this lie is of no consequence to anyone but her, challenging her on it will have costs to you, and the situation has no bearing on your duty to society or family or anything like that. (As opposed to keeping a destructive family secret like a parent with substance abuse issues or something.) Everyone knows she's lying, except people to whom "size 4" means nothing anyway.

You'd be totally justified in not liking her, though, just because of her bald-faced weird lying and drama, even though she is the good friend of a good friend. You don't have to be friends with your friends' friends.
posted by gingerest at 11:08 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Her weird vain delusions about her clothing size are not a personal insult on you, this is not your problem, the size printed on the labels of her clothing is not something you would reasonably be expected to vouch for, this isn't even necessarily a lie even if it is a laughable misrepresentation, and this isn't about you, isn't about you, isn't about you.

I can readily imagine that this is irritating as shit to hear all the time, but I don't even really understand why you're so het up about her "lying." Lying or exaggerating, who gives a damn, she's a tedious bore when she yammers on about her clothing size as something noteworthy.
posted by desuetude at 11:13 PM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

When I was first apartment hunting in NY one of the managers claimed she was 32 when she looked a good 15 years older. I smiled and told her I was going to be 30 next week (which was the truth). She made a face and owned up to her true age.

FWIW I'm in the camp who says let it go.
posted by brujita at 11:15 PM on December 2, 2013

It is possible that she is going through some sort of eating disorder which is distorting the way she perceives her own body. If that is the case, she's not trying to lie to other people, but is actually suffering a warped sense of self. Maybe instead of being annoyed at the lie, you can feel sympathy for a person whose suffering is making them behave irrationally.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:46 PM on December 2, 2013

Over the last 20 years, I've gone from being a size 6 at the Gap, to a size 0.

My weight has remained the same.

I have no trouble believing that there is somewhere an American retailer manufacturing clothes her size with a label of 4 precisely to target women like her, who will buy an item with a number on it that cancels out the number on the scale (or the BMI chart) they're neurotic about.

But you're right--and so is everyone else--that it's not about the dress size for you. I have a female relative who indulges in the same delusions about her dress size and youthful sex appeal--and insists on recruiting everyone within earshot into this. Let me tell you what happens if you confront her, privately or in a group: absolutely nothing. It is impossible to penetrate the fantasy, if someone is "off" enough to do this (and here "off" may or may not mean a cluster B personality disorder). All you'll do is infuriate yourself more as she doubles down by denying, ignoring, or patronizing you. (It's like the saying about wrestling with a pig: don't ever bother doing it, because you get dirty and the pig actually likes it.)

It sounds like you do have an abuser(s) in your past, either on an individual or group level, who's done gaslighting. So this is setting off red flags like crazy for you. (That relative of mine who is 25 pounds lighter and looks 30 years younger than her age in her head? The real problem is that she is a dangerous, destructive, horrible person--but it's easiest to go crazy with indignation about the fake dress size than the fake "good person" act.)

Relax in the knowledge that this is not that individual. This is someone with likely much less power over your quality of life. If worse came to worst because of her, you could walk away from her and her circle. (And if what you're saying is true about her being a shit-stirrer with regards to intergroup tensions, I don't doubt she could be a dangerous person to your social group--I know the kind of bad egg you're talking about.) It wouldn't be fun or fair, but you could do it and find a healthier group, or reassemble a healthier group, if she went nuclear. (But if people are humoring the dress size thing, they know something's up.)
posted by blue suede stockings at 12:01 AM on December 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm guessing size 4 at Chico's. And even if that's not the case, if it makes her feel better to say she wears a size 4, who cares? Any woman with a brain knows this one doesn't wear a 4 in real-world-sized clothing.
posted by Dolley at 6:53 AM on December 3, 2013

She's talking about regular standard clothing sizes.

I don't know what your gender is, OP, but for women in the U.S., "regular standard clothing sizes" don't really exist. The degree of variation between brands and lines is so staggeringly huge as to be practically meaningless. I can only buy clothes online from companies with easy return policies. I always have to take multiple sizes into the fitting room. I doubt more than two tags in my closet have the same number printed on them. My mother, my sister, my aunts, my best girlfriends, anyone I've talked clothes with - all the same way.

For any American woman I know (outside of professional models or full-time actresses) to even make the blanket statement "I am a size Y" or "I wear a size B" in the first place is such a strange and bizarre thing to me to begin with, that all the while I've been reading this thread I've been thinking there has to have been some special circumstance under which this is even coming up in this woman's conversations. Did she buy a particular garment that was supposedly marked 4 and is commenting on that garment to her friends?

I'm not saying regular Jane Does on the street don't compete about body size, and that we don't ever delude ourselves and/or others about being smaller than we are. We may shave numbers off weight, or waist or hip measurements. But in my experience, it's extremely rare to just go around randomly comparing a single numerical clothing size, because the vast majority of us simply don't have one. I'm not doubting the OP's veracity; I'm simply dying of curiosity about the context of these conversations the friend-of-a-friend has been having, and wondering if they may have led to some kind of misunderstanding.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:00 AM on December 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

I kind of wonder if the FoaF might be practicing some kind of "The Secret"-esque willing it to happen by saying it's already true mojo.

The fact that she brings it up at all is a bit odd -- I mean, how often does your actual dress size come up in conversation? My friends talk about gaining and losing weight, but it's not often that we talk about what size we're wearing unless we're shopping, so it seems like for her, there must be some purpose not only to the lie but to finding an opportunity to tell the lie.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:17 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Like several others who have already answered, I have clothes ranging from XS-XL and 4-14 that all fit. Women's clothing sizing is insane. And as a person who has recently lost a boatload of weight and was plus-size for years, when I put on a size 4 or 6 (even though I am probably more like an 8-10? I don't actually know) I am kind of tickled and I have mentioned it to a friend or two.

But still - if this bothers you just because you perceive it to be a lie, make a little mental note to take things she says with a grain of salt and then move on. She may be lying, she may have found a brand whose size 4 works for her, or she may have any number of reasons for saying this, but it's really not an important thing. Save your energy for important stuff.
posted by bedhead at 7:25 AM on December 3, 2013

We rarely see those sorts of lies anymore!

A lot of people still say they don't dye their hair when they clearly do. In fact, a lot of hair and makeup ads are about lying on some level, and getting you to pay money to perpetuate a lie that no one's going to believe. As are cooking ads ("Looks like it took you all day.")

This is an annoying but harmless behavioral tic and this person means next to nothing to you. When something like that gets to me, I try to think why. As it happens, my mother used to lie randomly but tenaciously like your acquaintance, sometimes on topics just that dumb. I can now see that it bothered me because she used lies to distance herself from other people and control what they knew about her. She probably had her reasons for acting that way, but it was a problem for me at the time. So when I see people doing this, it drives me nuts. I realize this sounds like incredibly facile self-psychoanalysis, but truly, if something this inconsequential in the here and now gives me that much difficulty it is usually because it hits home on some level-- either I or a family member acts that way, or acted that way, and it is/was a problem for me for some reason. Once I identify that, the current situation usually seems much less serious.
posted by BibiRose at 8:33 AM on December 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

I have spent time around people who lied about things which really didn't need lying about - it only takes someone making a fuss about having changed the bedsheets to make you notice the stains on the cover for the first time, or, in this case, someone telling you something about how beautiful/attractive/skinny they were that makes you realise they are a rather insecure person. As others have said, women are under a lot of pressure when it comes to disclosing their weight or dress size, especially when there are people who can somehow look at a person and determine what size they 'really' are (and if you can do that, look into becoming a bra fitter).

As others have said, sizes really vary too. I have a US size 6 jumper which fits me perfectly, yet I have a bra size that the majority of stores do not carry. I take a different size depending on the fabric the garment is made from, whether it is woven or knit. The other issue is that sizes are more symbolic for women than for men - there are discussions about whether size x or y is fat, books called Size 12 Is Not Fat, and references to 'a perfect size six' in Sweet Valley High books.* I can understand why someone would be led to lie about it, even if that lie comes across to some as ridiculous.

*a US 6 is a UK size 10. The publishers really should have changed that before releasing the books over here - I always wondered whether there were SVH aficionados wondering whether they needed to get into a US 2 in order to be 'perfect' too.
posted by mippy at 9:16 AM on December 3, 2013

At one time in my life, I was a size four... and due to some really shitty medication, gained fifty pounds in two months. I did eventually lose some of the weight, but never have I been a four again.

Had I been the type of person to be attached to my clothing size, this would have messed with me far more than it did (which was considerable - having your body suddenly balloon is unpleasant). I could absolutely imagine someone in a similar scenario lying about being a "size four" to keep some sort of continuity of self - "I haven't changed! My body isn't this hugely different stranger!"

Whatever reason she's lying, it's to convince herself. And a lie like that... it's likely masking some issues that are really intense and private.
posted by sonika at 9:43 AM on December 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

There are lies and there are lies. In some cases, the lies people tell are so obviously and visibly wrong, the fact that they are even saying it makes them look bad, and everyone around them reacts by thinking they're delusional. However, perversely, if you call attention to the fact that they're lying out loud, the same people who have been sitting around thinking, "yeah, RIGHT she's a size 4" will turn on you, thinking, "wow, that was a mean thing to say", and will forget that they ever thought the same exact thing you just said out loud.

Let it go. Lying is wrong, but sometimes a liar can be so blatant that they get themselves into trouble for it, and you don't even have to.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:08 AM on December 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also - I'd spend some time thinking about why your own reaction to lying is this strong to someone trying to maintain a delusion about their own appearance. It's not like they're talking about a moon landing hoax or vaccination or anything; no children will die if this woman persists on insisting she's a size 4.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 AM on December 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh jeez just let this go. WTF is a size 4? Based on my vast online shopping experiences and the resulting returns, a size 4 can include any woman ranging from 100 pounds to 347 pounds. There is no such sauce as "standard clothing sizes" and it really burns my butt. Instead of getting mad about her supposed lie, get mad at stupid women's clothing that can't just come in measurements like men's.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:59 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe she shops at Ann Taylor, whose vanity sizing is crazy. I am a size 4 (or XS) in most stores, except for Ann Taylor where I am a zero or XXS. Maybe she bought one item there and is now obsessed with letting everyone know that at least somewhere, she's a four.

I totally get where you're coming from as it bugs me when people lie about stupid stuff. But like others said, I don't think there's much you can do about it. Unless you can acquire some actual size 4 clothing and give it to her, under the pretense that a "friend" didn't want it anymore, and since you knew she's a size 4, you thought she'd want it. ;)
posted by LaurenIpsum at 11:42 AM on December 3, 2013

Yes, because US womens' clothing sizes are so meaningless, this is really a meaningless thing to say. I also have items in my wardrobe labelled from size 4 to 20 (womens' vintage pre-1970 sizing, in which everything is about four sizes smaller than modern sizes). Recently I bought a pair of pants in which the brand's own size chart declared me to be between 10 and 12, but after a return or two it turns out I fit into their 8. Womens' sizing is so WTF that it is probably good that someone somewhere in the world is pleased with the situation. She may not be lying at all, but the fact that she bothers to talk about her size at all is a mite strange.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:11 PM on December 3, 2013

she's definitely not talking about special sizing schemes. She's talking about regular standard clothing sizes.

But there is no such thing!

In one store, you’re a Size 4, in another a Size 8, and in another a Size 10 — all without gaining an ounce.

It’s a familiar problem for many women, as standard sizing has never been very standard, ever since custom clothing gave way to ready-to-wear.

So, baffled women carry armfuls of the same garment in different sizes into the dressing room

Besides what's found in stores, there's also measurements for sewing patterns and vintage clothing.

There are people who will actually refuse to buy clothing they otherwise like, because the number on the size tag is not one they like. It is entirely possible that she would wear a 12 or 14 in some styles/brands/cuts of clothing, but is able to occasionally find garments with a label that says "size 4" that she can fit her body inside of.

I, and most other women I know, wear clothing marked with a vast range of sizes. I might be wearing an outfit with garments in size 8, size 14, size tall, size small, and size XL.

Do you think I'm a liar for saying I wear things with all those sizes? What if I just named one of the sizes, and didn't mention the others? Think about that.

OP, it seems like you are uncomfortably concerned with this. If you are bothered by feeling that way, you might consider seeing someone to discuss that.

On the other hand, if you really feel that repressing your desire to tell people of her lies is morally wrong, go ahead and tell people. Most other people will find it rude to point out such a thing, and you may gain a reputation for rudeness and lack of tact, but if absolute honesty matters to you this much perhaps you would rather that people without the same values not be your friends. If nothing else, people are likely to quit making "white lies" in your presence, and you will be spared the discomfort of hearing them. Perhaps it will give you the chance to meet other people who find your blatant honesty to be what they are looking for.
posted by yohko at 4:07 PM on December 3, 2013

Another way to think of it might be that having an unexpressed thought isn't necessarily the same thing as being dishonest yourself or condoning dishonesty in others.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:55 PM on December 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Know what? This would bug me, too. I see things like this on Facebook, where people say things about how wonderful their siblings are or how much they love their husband or how great their lives are, and I know they're not telling the truth, and it bugs me, and I'm like a dog worrying a chew toy.

I think it's a kind of intrusive thought, on my part -- the flaw is mine, not theirs. If you can't drop it, you might want to look into that. There have been some good AskMes in the past on the subject. Here's one, there are others.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:48 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Whoever mentioned Chico's nailed it. I'd forgotten completely, but they have their own women's clothing sizes and a 4 at Chico's is a size 20, an XL - and I don't think Chico's is the only store using that type of sizing, but since I don't shop in the upper class stores, I'm not familiar with others. I do, however, have an amazing Chico's skirt and a couple of blouses that I've purchased in second-hand stores that are sized accordingly - I think mine are 3s. And oh, my - they're nice things.

Take a look:

So maybe she's not lying at all, but she knows she annoys the heck out of you and others and she's just waiting for you to call her on it so she can prove you wrong and come out on top.

Meaning that she has an even bigger problem dealing with her weight and personal issues than I'd guessed before.

Let it go - she has a great deal of sadness and dysfunction to work through, and it really doesn't concern you anyway.
posted by aryma at 10:49 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, rats - I tried to link to the Chico's Sizing Charts page, but I don't really know what I'm doing, so here's the url: http://www.chicos.com/store/page.jsp?id=45
posted by aryma at 10:50 PM on December 3, 2013

OK, I know it's been days but I had to come back to this thread because today I spent the afternoon sorting through clothes I had stored and forgotten about in my mom's house. Today I wear a size 6-8 usually, have some 10s too, and would probably look like a 12 if you just guessed. And what did I find in my old clothes but at least 4 or 5 pieces sized 4, all of which I still fit into. A top, a dress, a pair of jeans, and I forgot what the others were. These were purchased 10-15 years ago, so no recent size inflation going on. Just general sizing weirdness, as many people have pointed to already in this thread as being common with women's clothes.

So, I just wanted to reiterate how possible it would be for get to claim she's a 4 and not be a complete liar. I don't actually think that's what's going on; I believe you and suspect she has some issues and is making stuff up. But the fact that it may well be possible for her to own several (non-Chico's!) 4s means you really can't make a thing out of it.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:07 PM on December 9, 2013

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