Cringe Culture: Trust Me (BBC One)

Cringe Culture is a weekly look at what’s making me cringe in books, TV and film. If you have any suggestions for things you would like me to cover comment below or email hello@terriblypersonal.com.

cringe
Here I am, cringing at another lie!

I’ve been watching Trust Me, BBC One’s drama of lies staring Jodie Whittaker. The final of its four parts aired on Tuesday and left me (and a lot of other viewers) a little confused.

The drama centres around Cath (Whittaker) a dedicated nurse who is unfairly sacked for raising concerns about the level of care patients are receiving. Unfathomably, she decides to steal her doctor friend’s identity (and degree certificates) and is soon working as a doctor in Edinburgh. The rest of the drama focuses on Cath, or Ally as she is mainly known, trying to keep a lid on her lie as she continues to work, forms a relationship with her superior and attempts to keep her daughter’s father from making the short trip up from Sheffield and catching her in her lie.

I won’t spoil the end for any one who hasn’t watched it – but it did leave me shouting, “WHAT?!” at the telly and wondering what the point of the whole thing had been.

Anyway, I’m not here to debate the wonky ending, I’m here to talk about all the cringe-worthy moments.

You might think that a serious (and largely dark) drama wouldn’t be rich in cringe, but there you’d be wrong. From the moment Cath decides to lie the viewer is gritting their teeth in preparation of her getting found out. The first lie is one thing, but throughout the four episodes she has countless opportunities to come clean and each time she decides not to, and in turn embeds herself deeper into her falsehood, you cringe. Throughout a lot of Trust Me, I was wondering why Cath didn’t just leave the hospital and run away to avoid being found out. She’s grimly determined to stick it out, for reasons that are never satisfactorily explained.

Then there’s her treatment of patients. She seems to be doing a grand job at first and we momentarily relax thinking she’s got this and it’s all going to be fine. But then a trickier case, requiring urgent care comes in and she is completely flummoxed. Time stretches out whilst she hyperventilates and wonders what to do, eventually she yells, “I don’t know what I’m doing,” at her colleague (a feeling I’m sure we can all relate to when the printer goes wonky on a Friday afternoon). Still, she gets away with it and her treatment of patients mainly goes off without a hitch.

To stop her lie being discovered, she ends up having to fabricate more lies. The most sinister of which is that her ex, Karl (a bit of a no hoper) was abusive towards her and her daughter. Whilst Karl was a bit of a shit we understand that he wasn’t violent towards his family and this lie seems most unfair. Cath, to her credit, always seems a little uncomfortable when she tells it but whether this is because she’s backed into a corner and close to being found out, or because she genuinely feels bad about trashing Karl is unclear. Every time she gives this lie as an excuse for her new start in Scotland we cringe. It was one thing lying for, what we expect are noble, reasons of getting back at the NHS and giving her daughter a better life. But this plain untruth makes it clear to us: Cath is a liar.

For all it’s unexplained bits (how did she pull it all off, technically?), and ambiguous moments (are we meant to like Andy, or is he a bit suspect?) Trust Me was an enjoyable watch, despite the cringe factor. It’s always uncomfortable to watch someone lying when you know the truth, it’s painful to see them dig themselves deeper in an effort to keep up the pretence and that effort was acted beautifully by Jodie Whittaker.

Did you watch Trust Me? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments or at hello@terriblypersonal.com

Lies I’ve Told During Awkward Social Interactions.

I’m an introvert. Most of my social interactions are catastrophic, especially if they involve more than two other people and dancing.

I think we’ve already established that when my back’s against the ropes I become a little economical with the truth. I’m not an out and out liar…but on occasion I have pretended to be something I’m not. Why? That’s a question I’m still trying to answer. It’s not that I’m ashamed of who I am. It’s more that I don’t like the idea of someone who’s practically a stranger knowing all about me.

Here are 5 lies I’ve told whilst out in the world existing with other people:

1) I can play the cello.

I actually told my boyfriend this when I first met him. 8 years later I hope he’s noticed that I do not play the cello, or any musical instrument for that matter. The worst thing about lying to new people is that new people sometimes become your all the time people and you have to back track on all the fiction you spun when you were too nervous/drunk to be your real self.

2) I can sew.

I say this to people all the time. I told my boyfriend this when we met. We have an unused sewing machine collecting dust in the spare bedroom as a direct result of this fib.

3) I’m from Wrexham.

I never pick anywhere exotic to pretend to be from. Just north Wales.

4) Yes, I love XXXX band.

This is a lie I told frequently as a teenager. Now I realise that it’s fine to love the music I love and that boys who love Dave Grohl more than life itself are rarely worth five minutes of your time.

5) I work as a teacher/a solicitor/doctor.

A few years ago I had a job that was so depressing I couldn’t bear to disclose it even to strangers. Instead I would tell them I was a teacher, or a doctor, or a solicitor as a way of avoiding my own misery.

So, how about you? What fibs have you told in the face of an awkward social interaction? Let me know in the comments or at hello@terriblypersonal.com.

Why do I always lie to taxi drivers?


I stand out on the street in the 6am quiet. My lower back rests on the pointed wall that boarders my tiny, graveled garden. Through the pastel mist of morning light I watch the sheep in their field opposite making small movements. Some shake their black heads as though they’re waking themselves up, some stretch their necks to reach a few tantalizing blades of grass, one ripples the muscles along its back in response to an annoying itch.

Now I turn to look down the road. It climbs, steep and grey, towards town. Down dips, up hills, and juts left and right around Z bends which are banked on either side with stone walls, fencing off more fields. To my right, immediately next door to my house, is the graveyard where the quietest neighbours I’ve ever had reside. That’s all that’s here; the sheep, the graveyard and me. The sheep, the graveyard and me.

Far off I hear a low rumble. A tractor, maybe. But as the sound builds I realise it’s heading for me. Moments later a grey taxi skirts the hill, up past the graveyard and slows to a stop at my feet. The door opens with a click and with it I invent a million possibilities of who I might be today.

You see, for all the bends and dips and hills that make up the long road to town, there isn’t one single stretch of pavement. “Who’d need such a thing?” a man from the council with glasses and a love of egg sandwiches might have asked. And who indeed? The sheep don’t need a pavement. The dead certainly do not need a pavement. “Surely, anyone in their right mind who decided to live smack bang in the centre of nowhere would be able to drive?” The man from the council, who’s job it is to decide where pavements go, might ask again. And he’d be right. Except in this case he is wrong.

So here I am, every morning, waiting with the sheep and the dead for my taxi. Every morning the taxi arrives and the drivers ask me a variation of these three questions:
Where are you going?
What are you doing there?
Why did you choose to live in the wilderness when you cannot drive?

At first I told the truth. I’m not naturally dishonest. But the truth began to embarrass me. My job felt boring, my inability to drive made me groan inwardly each time a driver commented on it, my life felt small.

So I began to embellish.

“I actually have my driving test in two weeks,” I blurted defensively once. The cabby wished me luck, “I won’t be seeing you again then!” He called cheerfully as I paid and got out. Then it became, “the car’s in the garage.” I liked that one, taxi drivers were always interested in that and I made up all sorts of mechanical ailments to satisfy their need for more information. “My boyfriend works away and needs the car,” became another favourite and made me feel important as it tripped effortlessly off my tongue.

I never manufactured these tales, I didn’t think about how they would make me come across. I wasn’t trying to create a persona. They truly just came out, ready formed, with lives and narratives of their own. They were instant reactions, like screaming “ow,” when you bang your elbow.

“Ow, that question makes me feel uncomfortable.”
“Ow, I can’t drive. Still.”
“Ow, no I don’t have a proper job.”
“Ow, you’re inadvertently making me question my own self worth.”

Once, I clambered out of a taxi after an extremely detailed account of a weekend in Kendal that had never occurred. I claimed I drove there (which I can’t do) and I went with my husband (who does not exist – though I do have a long term boyfriend and at the time felt narratively that ‘husband’ suited the lie better). At the end of this encounter I actually wondered if I was, in fact, a psychopath.

“Why do I always lie to taxi drivers?” I asked myself. Baffled. Easily as baffled as you are reading this.

But it was only taxi drivers, I assured myself. It wasn’t as though I was lying to people who actually knew me. I wasn’t living a lie, not outside of a car, anyway.

I was avoiding small talk, something that cut my introverted soul like a rusty knife. A fifteen minute taxi ride is not long enough to do your life justice, and it’s also not the arena to attempt it. I don’t have time to explain to my driver why I have such a shitty job at the moment, or why I live deep in the countryside away from people – and nor does he want me to! For me, giving the short version, the version without explanation feels like laying myself out to judgement. Truth told, I know the cabby does not care about my shitty job, my isolated life, my fundamental inability to drive. They’re just trying to make their job less awkward, they’re trying to put me at ease.

But I’m not at ease with a truthful account of my current life spouted from the back seat of a taxi every morning, to be judged or ignored. it’s like having a long hard look at my naked reflection every morning and the lighting is bad and I haven’t shaved in forever. Whether the cabby cares or not, I do.

So I’m going to continue to lie to taxi drivers and I refuse to feel guilty about it.