May 1, 2008 5:55 AM   Subscribe

A comes upon B cheating on her with C. Grabbing the covers frantically, B shouts "This isn't what it looks like!". Does this flimsy excuse ever get uttered in real life? (Kind of NSFW, obviously.)

Having recently seen yet another film where this happens, I am forced by my own curiosity to be nosy and ask: Have any of you actually been present at a real-life utterance of that most flimsy of excuses? (You don't have to say whether you were A, B or C. I'm not really interested in dirty laundry, I just want to know if anyone ever has said something quite as silly.)
posted by Zarkonnen to Human Relations (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

I said it once. Because it wasn't what it looked like.
posted by greta simone at 6:17 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Years ago, my now ex and I had separated. She indicated that she wanted some time apart, but also said she wanted us to remain a couple while we fixed our issues. I was tipped off that she was starting to see another guy. I stopped by her house one evening, unexpected, and saw a strange car there. I walked up to the house, peeked in the side window and saw the two of them in the living room....buck naked. I knocked on the door and after a minuet, she answered, both fully dressed. I handed her my wedding ring and walked away. She was yelling that they were just friends and it wasn't what I thought....
posted by keep it tight at 6:28 AM on May 1, 2008 [5 favorites]

haven't seen it used exactly like that, but we had a couple here at our office that insisted all the giggles, grab ass, hours missing from work, lunches and closed door whisper sessions weren't what they looked like.

they subsquently left their spouses and are married now. Yea, it quacked and it was a duck.
posted by domino at 6:33 AM on May 1, 2008

A former next door neighbour came home from school unexpectedly early (the school had closed due to flooding) to find her new (6 weeks, the ink on the marriage certificate was still wet) husband and the postman in bed.

That's what he said too...
posted by ceri richard at 6:50 AM on May 1, 2008

One thing I've noticed about that cliche (as it appears in movies, etc.) is that there's never any explanation of what "it" actually is, if it's really not what it looks like.
posted by danb at 7:19 AM on May 1, 2008

I caught a GF in bed with another guy once. She said, "what are you doing here?"
posted by Pecinpah at 7:32 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've never used or heard that exact phrase. I *have* heard "It's not what you think," on more than one occasion. (In every case, it most certainly was what I thought.)
posted by Banky_Edwards at 7:46 AM on May 1, 2008

Best answer: Yes, those exact words. I then hit him with a telephone.
posted by Ugh at 7:57 AM on May 1, 2008 [24 favorites]

In interviews Dennis Rodman has said that when he was caught in bed with two women he told Madonna that they fell from the ceiling. When he got caught in bed by Carmen Electra he insisted that there actually wasn't a girl in the bed and that Electra was imagining it.
posted by bdk3clash at 8:06 AM on May 1, 2008

I think its just a kneejerk reaction to being caught red-handed in flagrante. I don't think it works because its kind of impossible to pretend its innocent when there are no clothes involved.

keep it tight, right on! I applaud you for taking the high road.
posted by fenriq at 8:11 AM on May 1, 2008

Not the exact case, but I've definitely known people who are such liars that they will continue their despicable falsehoods even when it's clearly futile. There was a school-related server once myself and another guy had admin rights on. This asshole goes on, changes a config file in an inappropriate way, and it no longer works.

"Dude, were you on the xyz server?"


"Well, the other day you forgot the root password and got it from me."

"I didn't touch anything."

I investigate, find the config file that's causing the problems, but it's not immediately clear what's wrong with it.

"Did you edit the xyz.conf file?"


"It was edited shortly after you asked me for the root password. Just tell me what you changed, I just want to fix it quickly."

"I told you I didn't do it."

To get him to admit it, I had to go in the logs and show the sequence of him logging on and su'ing to root right before the file was edited, and that no one else was logged on then. So this level of lying would not surprise me at all from certain people.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:34 AM on May 1, 2008

"My best friend! And my best friend's wife!"
posted by jadepearl at 8:47 AM on May 1, 2008

I haven't been walked in on in flagrante, but in college and in my early-twenties, co-ed just-sleeping-for-real (clothed) sleepovers weren't uncommon, particularly with my closest male friend. Neither was this unusual behavior within my group of friends.

An explanation was demanded from one guy I dated. I do recall him mocking me and saying, "what, you're going to tell me that 'it's not what I think?!'" (Needless to say, this relationship didn't last long. To my recollection, his smarminess about the whole thing prevented him from getting into my bed at all.)
posted by desuetude at 8:59 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Not exactly the same thing, but my ex insisted that "nothing happened" while I was away for the weekend and two women spent the night at his place, getting drunk and watching movies. He insists he slept on the couch while they slept in his bed.

I confronted one of the women, who didn't exactly corroborate his story.
posted by desjardins at 9:15 AM on May 1, 2008

Walked in on girlfriend with another guy, she says "bad timing"
posted by pianomover at 11:00 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Those phrases "It's not what you think," and "Nothing happened," are very common in the movies and TV, as you know, and they are the lamest of lame writing. If said in real life, they are the lamest excuses and used only when no real excuse is available. Anyone with a brain would immediately utter the real excuse if one existed.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:04 AM on May 1, 2008

Ah, yes. My uncle believes in the "Deny, deny, deny" school of matrimonial conflict resolution. It wasn't what you think, it wasn't what you saw, she wasn't even there, why are you so jealous? Even if the wife saw your dick going in, tell her it wasn't you and there wasn't anyone else.

It seems to work for them.
posted by klangklangston at 12:58 PM on May 1, 2008

Best answer: Have any of you actually been present at a real-life utterance of that most flimsy of excuses?

Oh hell yes. I promise you, it happens in real life. It's one of those things that gets blurted out when someone just doesn't know what to say because they never expected to get caught.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:16 PM on May 1, 2008

Best answer: "Good..." I said.

"Because it looks like the two of you were rounding second base with each other," I pointed out, bluntly as she tried to smooth her sweater back down into place. He shifted nervously in his seat so that she wasn't exactly sitting directly across his lap anymore.

There was a long awkward pause. I think the really awkward part was the setting - they were in the back of the massive chapel at our small religious college, it was late at night, and I had been in there, thinking I was alone, practicing on the piano.

I always liked playing in the chapel late at night, but only if there was nobody there. The 100+ foot vaulted ceilings, the bass notes reverberating down the long, wide nave, echoing back from the wall of the narthex. The staccato high notes bouncing back and forth across the transcepts, and up against the stained-glass of the ambulatory. I was working on Winston's version of Pachabel's Canon, the one where he doesn't use any of the black keys. I played it until it sounded right, and then I got up to leave.

I noticed them as I walked down the long side aisle, they were in the second to last row, behind one of the pillars, mostly out of view. I remember noticing that it was a couple making out, and then looking away to give them their privacy. If I hadn't have smelled her perfume, I probably never would have stopped short in my tracks.

"You don't understand." She stated. As if it was something that merited a response.

She said the first phrase again, as I walked through the doorway into the lobby and crossed it for the main doors. I remember repeating her lie in my head for each of the six steps it took to cross the lobby: "This isn't what it looks like. This isn't what it looks like. This isn't what it looks like...". And then I realized that, in an ironic sort of way, she was right - before that night, she had been the girl of my dreams. Sitting on his lap, however, she no longer looked like that. She was no longer what she had always looked liked, in my eyes.

It was snowing when I got outside. We never spoke again - not for lack of opportunity; she never tried to make any further explanation much less anything nearing an apology. For all I know they ended up together.

8 years later its still the only fucking song I can remember when I sit down in front of a keyboard.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:07 PM on May 1, 2008 [12 favorites]

I have defiantly said this, or something closely akin to it, and almost simultaneously thought “Wow, what a stupid thing to say.” I think I was about 16.

It’s not an excuse you plan ahead of time. It’s just kinda the hopeless last stand of ass-saving.

I have also, later in life, just come out said “This is exactly what it looks like.”
posted by French Fry at 8:32 AM on May 2, 2008

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