Friday, December 07, 2007

Snow's Not the Only Thing I Shovel

I've always been a good liar.

My mother always used to say that a liar has to have a good memory. Luckily for me, mine is excellent. And while I think myself particularly talented in the telling of untruths, I also value honesty very highly and usually try to stick to the straight and narrow as much as possible. It just feels lighter living with a clean slate. Leaves valuable memory cells free for more important things.

That said, I've certainly shoveled my fair share of shit over the years. But, I've almost never lied about anything really important. Probably my most significant, premeditated lying occurred in my early teens. For example, I made up a couple of stories and got my brother to back me up so that my parents wouldn't find out that we'd been smoking my dad's cigarettes.

I lied about how the yellow candle wax got on the sculptured, green upstairs hall carpet. I can't even remember what lie I told, but it was enough for my parents not to ground us right before my friend Sarah's thirteenth birthday party. Which is exactly what they would've done if they'd have found out that we'd had all the neighbor kids over one afternoon for a seance and knocked the candle over when some spooky shadow (shaped like an ax!) appeared on the wall. To my mind, that lie was pretty justified. After all, if my parents really wanted the house to be a seance-free zone when they were at work, they wouldn't have left me, at 12, solely in charge of my 9-year-old brother. All day. All summer long.

And of course, as I got older, I had new life experiences to weave tall(ish) tales about.

I've lied about how many men I've slept with. Not because I've done a lot of whoring around but because, on occasion in conversation, the number seemed pitifully low and it made me feel unsexy and undesirable to admit it. And besides, I totally feel that it's only right to count one man twice since there was a twelve-year gap between our sexual adventures and we were both different people during the second go around. There you go. Not lying, really.

I sometimes tell the story of the boyfriend I had just before I met Craze because it makes people laugh. The pre-husband boyfriend, Joe, had the smallest penis I'd ever seen except for, maybe, while diapering a toddler. So little in fact, that I only saw it once when it wasn't erect and it was like a little, flesh-colored button really. What's unfortunate about that story is that it doesn't involve even the tiniest bit of a lie.

I do though tell white lies occasionally about things most people lie about. How much I weigh for example (I claim less). How tall I am (I claim just slightly more).

I've told people they look fine when they really don't look their best but telling them so would only make them feel worse. I've told recruiters that I make more money than I actually do. Since working for myself, I've claimed to be on a conference call when I was really just catching up on laundry so I'd seem more in demand.

I've bought expensive items in their original boxes on eBay for a pittance, given them as gifts and let some people think I spent a fortune. Though I guess that last one isn't lying per se. It's just being kind of sneaky and, to my mind, pretty clever actually. Financially astute, even. Come to think of it, I pat myself on the back for that one.

Probably the worst lie I ever told was said to my mother. She had collapsed suddenly early one Sunday morning and couldn't catch her breath. After calling 911 for an ambulance, I sat with her trying to calm her. Sitting on the floor together at the side of my parents' bed, waiting for what seemed an eternity for the paramedics to arrive, I told her the same thing over and over again.

"Shhh," I'd say to her as she tried to speak, brushing her hair back from her forehead the way she always did to me as she sat at my bedside when I was trying to fall asleep. "Just be quiet. The paramedics will be here in a minute and you'll be fine. . . You'll be fine."

But she wasn't fine.

After she finally got to the hospital, she died less than three hours later after a particularly nasty battle with a rogue blood clot. She was only 50. "You'll be fine," was probably the last thing I ever said to her, yet again, as they carried her from our house on the gurney.

That's the only lie I've ever told that's really tortured me. Why, I'm not really sure. "You'll be fine," was really more a statement of a wish on my part than some contrived untruth.

Twenty-two years after her passing and thanks to two years of therapy, I've finally gotten over the guilt of that lie. And the stupidity of it really is that, wherever mom is, I'm sure she's never held it against me. Not even for a second.

But the candle wax, cigarettes and sex with HOW MANY men? That might be a different story altogether. . .

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