What Happened When I Was Hired to Lie to Someone’s Girlfriend

What do faith, love, and trust have in common?

woman dressed in murder mystery costume

I don’t want to brag, but I was a pretty great Murder Mystery Dinner Theater actor. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was an acting gig, it was local, it paid decent money, and it was fun. My role was to mingle as a ditsy but enthusiastic conversationalist who chewed bubble gum loudly, took bites of other people’s food without asking, and was offended and bemused when anyone suggested she might be the culprit.

Life was otherwise mundane; I was living with my parents as a single mom, waiting tables in the evenings, writing my goals (“savings account, move to LA! get a haircut? blog”) in a notebook, and generally wishing my life was something else. As Nada Klugh (pronounced “clue”… get it?), everything was different, and I looked forward to my weekly transformation. So when the troupe leader called me about a one-time gig that paid twice as much and sounded twice as fun, if not a little weird, I jumped at the chance.

The job was this: A man and his girlfriend were avid fans of conspiracy theories and secret societies. They liked comic books, video games, and cosplay. My role was to have drinks with them in a hotel lobby for one hour and talk with them about an imagined life as a wealthy socialite type who traveled the world with an extremely important, exclusive secret society that (possibly) controlled the entire world from behind thick oak doors and mysterious Venetian costume masks. It was an elaborate gift for her birthday, a chance to pretend that the Illuminati was real and attainable, and life could be like a movie. I arrived at the hotel with three other actors, in character immediately: an older, sophisticated gentlemen with a velvet blazer and crystal-encrusted walking cane, his perky female accomplice (me), and our bodyguards, played by two large men from the San Francisco opera who wore trim black suits and curly-wired earpieces.

The clock struck nine and the game began. It stopped being fun about five minutes later, when we all realized that one person didn’t know this was a birthday gift (and also didn’t know it was pretend). But the show must go on, and I am dedicated to the craft, so I insisted we order drinks. I made everyone taste my chocolate cocktail and giggled about ceremonies in Prague, my hidden tattoos, various international experiences like high school in Hong Kong and helicopter transportation in Rome. By the time I left with my colleagues, we had figured out that this seemed to be an elaborate way to validate some gaps in a relationship timeline—we were proof that the tales the (older, wealthy) man had been spinning were true, and the woman was relieved to learn that not only had he been telling the truth, he was also a member of a secret society.

You’re welcome. Happy birthday.

Ten years later, I still think about this one hour of my life all the time. I feel guilty, I feel angry, I feel curious. The more I think about it, the more unsure I feel about all the moving parts and what I could have done differently. Where does our responsibility fall when it involves someone else’s relationship and a different moral compass?

Pulling apart the layers of my discomfort, I realize that a part of my reaction is wrapped up in our society’s gender roles. For centuries, men have used their power to make people—especially women—do whatever they want them to do. This man used his money to corroborate lies, and to convince his girlfriend that he was more powerful than he already was. I still think about what it would have felt like if it had been the other way around. Honestly, I would probably admire a woman who went to such lengths for her own gain. I guess my moral compass has sexist biases.

I fantasize about finding the woman and having a lengthy conversation that includes an apology from me and juicy details from her. In the fantasy, though, I am the hero. But my night at the hotel, my ideas of what it would be like, aren’t based on reality. In real life, I have no idea what was really happening between the two of them. For all I know, they could be very happily married now. They could have children. He could have confessed everything to her that night. She could have actually been playing the game all along. (Bravo, sister.)

Playing a literal role in someone else’s private life was something I wasn’t really prepared for. But it made me think about all the relationships that we observe and participate in, sometimes without realizing it—and how uncomfortable that can be. Based only on the snapshot I had, I sensed a “victim” and a “manipulator,” but how do I know that was real? Should I have said something? What, exactly? I’m not sure that speaking up would have changed anything—after all, he was lying to her… but so was I.

We feel a certain curiosity about the lives of others—we want to know how our own lives stack up in comparison. I still don’t know if I wish I could follow up with her because I’m genuinely concerned, or because I’m curious to know how the relationship ended up.

Sometimes I think it’s a wonder that friends, lovers, and partners around the world trust each other at all.  I’ve come to appreciate the interdependent relationship between trust, faith, and love. There isn’t a universal understanding of these elements, so people learn to define them for themselves. The only way to know what a relationship’s foundation is built on is to talk about it; communication becomes the fourth pillar, and I believe it is more important than ever in this odd, odd world. 

There isn’t anything I can do about the game I participated in ten years ago, but I can make sure I only play myself, now and in the future.

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  • Kate

    I can’t be the only one secretly hoping she’ll read this and tell us her side of the story.

  • Sarah

    For real? Nothing about the set-up tipped you off that it would be weird AF? This is truly the first time I scratched my head after reading a post on APW. Eve, sounds like a fascinating (and icky experience) that was truly a “you had to be there” thing.

    Anyone watch “Secret Diary of a Call Girl?” I’m picturing Belle dressed up as a Bond girl from that role-play episode.

    • Jessica

      I wouldn’t have been tipped off about the set up when I was in college–it is something my friends (future LARPers) would have absolutely done.

    • stephanie

      Yeah, I mean… within five minutes they all knew it was weird, but… it was also their job.

    • emilyg25

      Sometimes when you need money, you don’t care that much. I get it.

    • Cleo

      I would LOVE if someone did something like this for my birthday (really, I would love the movie The Game to happen to me), so I would have been stoked to be part of it if I was her.

      • Cleo

        and when I say “like this” I mean like the thing she initially thought she’d be doing.

    • Sarah

      Wow, my relatively small town has a LARP group. sounds like a whole world of which I was unaware.

    • Sara

      The initial request wouldn’t have tipped me off. My friends were big into murder mysteries for a while, I even wrote one for us to play. I know a couple of people who would love that kind of birthday gift.

  • Kelsey

    My moral compass has definite sexist biases.

    • Marthajcarrillo


    • Ashleyogriffin


    • Suzannaapeterson3


    • virginiartaylor


  • Sara

    That is the most elaborate cover up that I’ve ever heard of. In a lesser extent, I’ve had college friends that other people asked to cover for them while they did something dumb with another person. If asked, I always say no mostly because I’m terrible at lying on behalf of other people (even when its for a surprise party or something harmless like “see if you can sniff out what she wants for her birthday” type of stuff). I just laugh too much and then add details that the other person would never corroborate. But also, I don’t want to be involved when this problem comes crashing down around you. I don’t interfere in relationships (because, who knows what their deal is in private) but MAN I cannot keep a secret.

    • Cellistec

      I think the lesson here is, if your cover stories don’t require substantiation with bodyguards and chocolate cocktails, you’re doing it wrong.

    • Eenie

      I love buying surprise gifts for my husband and then I’m never able to keep it a surprise until I see him/the occasion/appropriate time. I feel like I can keep a secret it just takes up more mental space than I want to give up typically

      • Christina

        I’m the same way! He usually gets any birthday/Christmas/anniversary gift almost immediately after I purchase said gift. I always think I’ll be able to do it better for the next event and then not so much.

        I’m pregnant with our first baby right now and he will probably have to hide gifts for the kid from me whenever there’s an event or holiday coming up!

  • EF

    i love this post and story. and the idea of snapshots of other’s lives: so, so much can be misunderstood. so much can be misinterpreted. and isn’t it strange when an unsure moment really sticks with you?

  • Anon

    “Honestly, I would probably admire a woman who went to such lengths for her own gain. I guess my moral compass has sexist biases.”

    So if a man does it, he victimizes us, but if a woman does it, it’s for her own gain.

    I don’t think it works that way.

    • SL

      Agreed. I get uncomfortable when group identification takes precedence over individual relationships. Sure, men as a group have more power and privilege than women as a group, and so there are more cases of men abusing their power over women. But there are lots of instances where women have power over men, and abusing that power is still just plain wrong. Minimizing abuse only leads to bad places, and we can celebrate the fact that some women have power without celebrating the abuse of power.

      It can feel like the women who abuse power are striking a blow for the underdog (go team w!) but that just perpetuates the us-vs-them mentality where we don’t get to be complex individuals first, women (or any other gender identity) second.

      Given that, I’m sometimes a little iffy about the “team women” concept, but if we’re going to be a team, I want to be the kind of team that holds each other accountable for treating other people with respect (and wins anyway), not the kind of team that eggs each other on to bend the rules and cheers when we get away with a dirty foul.

      • Anon


    • another anon

      She admits that it’s a sexist bias in the very next sentence. You even copied and pasted that sentence.

      • Anon

        And implies that it’s okay. That’s the point. It’s not okay and SL did a good job articulating that.

        • VKD_Vee

          Yeah, not trying to stir because I genuinely really likes Eve’s writing but that sentence (and sentiment) was SUPER weird…

        • another anon

          I guess we read what we want to read. I didn’t get any implication that it was ‘okay.’

        • Laura

          I agree with you– that sentence made me feel very awkward and it seemed out of place in this article.