At nine, my daughter is at an age where kids seem to tell a lot of lies. Yesterday we had a big ol’ to-do because she snuck a fruit leather out of the pantry after I told her she couldn’t have it. Her brother saw her do it and tattled on her. He doesn’t like that kind of fruit leather, so I knew he didn’t take it and was trying to frame her. Later, my husband found the empty wrapper stuffed in the couch cushions. When I confronted her about it, wrapper in hand and witness and fellow investigator at my side (I resisted the urge to point at her and cry, “J’accuse!”), she simply said she didn’t do it. Actually, she yelled that at us and then told us we hated her, but the point is she didn’t completely fabricate some elaborate explanation for what happened. If she were Carolyn Keene, “The Mystery of the Missing Fruit Leather” would be a Nancy Drew haiku instead of a novel (and not a very exciting one).
At first, I thought, “Is that the best you can do?” I mean you could have tried to convince me we have rats or that you must have been sleepwalking or that your brother saying he hated those fruit leathers was really just a ruse so he could pull off a snack heist. But then I thought, “Thank God, that’s the best you can do!” You see, when I was about her age, telling lies was a sort of hobby for me. I came up with tons of elaborate, ridiculous lies, ones that now I can’t imagine anyone could have possibly believed. Here’s a sampling of some of the whoppers I told my classmates:
I had gotten my ears pierced even though I hadn’t. This would seem hard to pull off since everyone could plainly see that I wasn’t wearing earrings. Why it didn’t occur to me to just swipe a pair of my mom’s clip-ons I don’t know. Noting the obvious has never been my strong suit. Instead, I told my friends that threaded through my earlobes were invisible wires, the same kind they used on The Muppet Show to make the puppets look like they were moving on their own. My mom had gotten a sample of Oil of Olay in the mail, and after she’d used up all the lotion, I filled the tiny glass bottle with water, which I dabbed on my ears periodically throughout the day. “It’s to keep my ears from getting infected,” I told everyone.
An Italian family with five kids lived next door to me. This in and of itself doesn’t sound too outlandish, except that at the time I lived in a trailer court. In Kentucky. I told people there was a daughter my age named Martinez and a boy a few years older named Arvin. Time has erased the names of the others, but I’m sure they sounded just as authentically Italian as those do. They had pink satin carpet and ate spaghetti every night with sauces we Americans never heard of, like one made with Cheez-Whiz and ground beef and another one that involved hot dogs in some way.
After school let out each day, I went to another school. For reasons I can’t comprehend, I said it was called “Social School.” There, I had three teachers, whom I bestowed with the oh-so-original names of Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Johnson, and Mrs. Nelson. It was pretty much like regular school, except we learned things like cooking and sewing.
My parents took me to cocktail parties. I wore fancy gowns and high heels and sipped on martinis. Because kids who live in trailer courts do this all the time, right?
I had a psychiatrist. Clearly, someone should have realized this was one lie that desperately needed to become the truth.