In first grade, I kept my class entertained for weeks with updates on my dog and her new puppies.
Every few days I would announce to the entire room how fast the puppies were growing and all of the cute things they did. Imagine six-year-old Laura: buckteeth, crooked pigtails and all, standing in the front of the room and passionately jabbering about four sweet baby golden retrievers.
Now imagine my teacher’s surprise when she mentioned one day to my mother how much the class had been enjoying my updates, and my mother informed her that, “We don’t have a dog…”
I’ll chalk it up as a side effect of having natural storytelling ability, but I’ve been known to stretch the truth. (If you consider inventing an entire family of dogs “stretching” the truth.) As a compulsive liar in elementary school, my way of making friends was entirely based upon the illusion of having such an interesting life.
I spent several months in the third grade team-working a lie with my friend Connor. We had everyone in the class convinced that we were first cousins. I’d sit at my desk, coloring in a map of the Western United States as we negotiated which of our parents was picking us up after school.
Looking back, what startles me the most about this lie is how easily it began, and how effortlessly we maintained it. I forget who first suggested that we were cousins, but we both just sort of went with it. I don’t think we ever discussed it - we just had an unspoken mutual agreement to play along.
We were smart enough to only add to our lie when we were both present, but to perpetuate the details in our daily personal interactions.
Connor would explain the rules of “King of the Castle,” which had been disclosed as our family favorite, to his friends as they worked on multiplication flashcards. I would sort vocabulary words and talk about his mom’s green bean casserole. Over time, we’d developed extra fictional relatives, recounted “memories” of Christmases past, and formed a joint account of a trip to Florida.
I now see a clear pattern throughout my childhood of inventing additions to my family. In the fourth grade, I impressed my group of friends with stories of all the cool things I got to do with my older cousin, Hunter.
Hunter was 19, had a car and a girlfriend and all of the other things that cool teenagers have, and he lived in our storage room. My friends clung to my every word as I explained that Hunter and his dad didn’t get along, so my parents agreed to let him stay with us.
I had a wealth of knowledge from movies and books about the “cool older brother type,” and all of it went into crafting my ideal older cousin.
Hunter took me to the pool and the movies and bought me slushies from the 7/11. My friends were not fazed by this, despite the moderately suspicious fact that there aren’t any 7/11’s within driving distance of our town.
My lie finally unraveled at the hands of my sister, who unceremoniously outed me when my friends came over and asked to see Hunter’s bedroom.
We were practicing our performance of the Star-Spangled banner for the school talent show - an act from which I was later demoted from backup singer to piano assistant, and then from piano assistant to flag-holder (not due to my dishonesty, but due to lack of talent.) My friends snuck upstairs while I went to make copies of our sheet music, and by the time I came back they had already finished questioning my sister. Hunter who?
My lies grew even more far-fetched as I grew older, though I was better at targeting and reading my audience. My big fifth grade embellishment was told to one person, a friend that I swore to secrecy. She couldn’t tell anyone that I was close friends with Britney Spears, or else the paparazzi would find out.
The lie was born on a field trip bus ride, giving me a full hour to spin my story. I looked dramatically out the bus window as I told her of Britney’s struggles to find real friendship amidst the Hollywood glam of her life.
You’d think that this childhood of developing a talent for embellishment would have led to a life of crime. Sadly, I have yet to embark on an Oceans 11-style cover up or a Parent Trap sibling swap (no matter HOW hard I tried to convince my sister it would work.)
It has contributed tenfold in creating excellent and embarrassing stories of my youth for your entertainment on this blog.
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