Keith Frankel seems like an asshole. The first time we Skyped—me on the floor in my bedroom, him in his well-appointed office in Boston—I found myself disliking him immediately. In fact, my distaste began with his first email, in which he boasted that his new life goal was to stop telling lies and asked Uproxx to cover his story.
I recently committed to a personal future without lying. To anyone. About absolutely anything. That’s right: Not at work. Not at home. Not even little white lies, such as false encouragement of a friend or family member, excuses for why I have to cancel plans, or reasons why I won’t give a homeless person spare change.
Still, as much my first impressions of Frankel irked me, he obviously caught my attention. Growing up in a household where truths were meted out in precious slivers, I spent years learning how to be a good fabricator. I can lie about most things convincingly and, on the average day, probably tell more lies than I should. The idea of a human, living in 2016, who can give up lying cold turkey seems unfathomable to me. Especially a human who wants to remain a functioning member of mainstream western society — where an ability to moderate your truth-telling seems to be the one thing holding everything together.
Which is why, in agreeing to speak to Frankel and shine some attention on his project, I also found myself eager to prove that the whole “never lie” thing was idiotic. If we’re being honest–and Frankel would insist that we always should be–I went into the interview with hopes of forcing him to lie. I wanted to ask questions that would make him squirm.
“What do you think of my beard?” I ask several minutes into our 90-minute conversation. “My grandma hates it and thinks it’s ugly.”
“Actually,” he says. “I’m more worried about your eye. What’s going on there?”
This response surprises me. I’ve had surgery only a few weeks before our chat to fix a retinal detachment, and while everyone around me has assured me that “it doesn’t look so bad,” Frankel openly admits that my eye looks ten shades of messed up. I know he’s right, of course, and it’s refreshing to hear someone else say it.
This begins a trend that continues throughout the conversation: I find myself getting sucked in by Frankel’s shtick. I feel charmed by him and his pop rocks of truth (they’re not quite truth bombs, or even truth M-80s). Perhaps that’s just because, like so many people who are willing to lie to preserve social graces, I desperately want to be liked. Sure, I’m brave on paper–taking notes about how I can find fault in Frankel’s philosophy–but when we’re face-to-face via Skype, I’m much less confrontational.
Would I be able to handle it, I wonder as we’re talking, if Frankel thought I was the jerk here? (Spoiler: he did, more on that later.)