What I can and cannot do...

Photo by jaycoxfilm

For the most part, I'm one of those people who is incapable of subterfuge and lies. It is not that I have a moral imperative against either one really. It's just that I just plain stink at both. I'm good at many things and reasonably adequate at others but lying and disguising my true intent do not even begin to fall under either one of these two capacities.

As a child growing up I was deathly afraid of my mother's wrath. Had you been her child you would have been too. Look up the straight and narrow path and you will find an image of my mother indelibly tattooed there. How it came about I don't know, but somewhere along her motherly way, she made a special promise to herself that neither one of her daughters would ever lie, cheat or steal. With my sister she failed dismally in the lying department. When necessity demanded, Alex was an inventive and accomplished liar. I, on the other hand, was her triumphant poster child for dishonesty failure.

You know, for the longest time I was utterly convinced that she was a witch. Always, always she had caught me whenever I had tried to lie. Always. No matter what I did to work or spin the tale. Before long I surmised that superpowers had to be fueling that lie radar of hers. If anything, that incorrect supposition made things worse for me. Believing I was up against the unbeatable only made my attempts all the more self-defeating.

The truth of it was that the woman had eyes, that's all. And I had the kind of face that trumpeted its lying intent from cosmic distances. How infuriating it felt to me when I finally caught on to the dearth of my mother's uncanny abilities, and recognized my singular lack of talent. How come sis could manage it and I couldn't? That unanswered question spurred me to newer and additional efforts to beat my unlucky lying streak but, it was all for naught. This was not a simple matter of a bad run. No. I'd been jinxed well and good. Somewhere ingrained in a tally book, my name stood below the heading "terrible liar."

Monsieur Bertrand had asked us to memorize L'alligateur and I'd forgotten about the assignment. The whole matter galled me no end. In French class I was one of the better students not to mention Professeur Bertrand's special pet. This was my kind of preferred homework and I'd flubbed the opportunity to show off my good pronounciation skills. What to do? Lizbeth Cal suggested writing the poem on the palm of my hand in faint ink. From Prof. Bertrand's vantage point he'd never realize I was reading from my semi-permanent cheat sheet.

Oh no, I can't do that.

Why not?

I can't lie. I always get caught. He'll know I'm cheating just from looking at me.

Don't be an idiot. I do this all the time. He won't know a thing! Do you understand that I've never memorized a single poem for his class? I always read direct from my hand.


Yes! Look, just write it down at least and if you find you can then do it. Then go for it. He'll never know. Listen to what I'm telling you. Just act cool, stand there and read.

Against my better knowledge of the utter stupidity of what I was planning to do. I copied the verse lines I'd been unable to memorize.

In stentorian tones for he was one of those French Professors who relished the melody of his vowels, Monsieur Bertrand called me.

Mademoiselle Meeee-liiii-na...

The wobbling of my knees made it nearly impossible for me to walk to the front of the classroom without visibly trembling. There was some tittering going on in the back where the smart-aleck students normally clustered. Many knew my lying disability and were waiting to see what transpired.

Honestly I cannot say how much I managed to read off before Monsieur Bertrand rose from his desk and grabbed my hand to look. I'd botched it of course and he had noticed what I'd tried to do.

Regarde! mes enfants ce que Mademoiselle Meee-liina a fait...

It took the length of those words alone for me to envision the consequences of what I'd brought upon myself for lying and cheating. My mother would kill me and when she was done, my father would frown upon me with disappointment til the end of my days and quite frankly, I did not know which of those two was a worse thing to have to live through. And so I fainted. From the fright. Right there and then. It all went black.

I awoke lying down on the bench in the school's front office. Monsieur Bertrand's concerned face was the first thing that swam into my teary view.

Are you alright? I nodded. Mee-lina why did you just not tell me you'd forgotten to memorize the poem? Why lie? Indeed, I thought. Why lie? I knew immediately what you were up to. That figures... This is not you Mee-lina... I thought I could do it...

And then I just began to cry.
Ta mère se facherá terriblement avec toi.

Even Monsieur Bertrand was aware of how strict my mother was with me. She was going to be very angry with me. No one expected anything less.

I must have looked so pitiful that he felt compelled to pat me awkwardly on the shoulder. In a soft voice he told me not to worry. That everything would be alright.

You know what happened? He never told on me to my parents and in return, I had to promise I wouldn't lie to him ever again. If I forgot a class assignment I would just say so and bear the consequences of a bad grade or a make-up date but, there would be no cheating and no lying.


Absolutely I understood the reprieve he'd given me and I never betrayed his trust again. I think it was then that I made my peace with the fact that I lacked both knack and affinity for fudging the truth. Not only that, I did not sit well with me. Lying actually makes me sick to my stomach. I agonize over an untruth like someone worries over a hole left by a tooth that has been pulled out. In retrospect, I've made less of a mess of my life on those occasions when I could have ruined it, by simply sticking with the truth even when the overriding impulse has been to bury it deep.

Still I'm no saint. I won't spoil this post by lying to you and say I never lie. Of course I do. Sometimes lying is necessary. You'll probably agree with me. Over the years I've gotten more adept at it too. The simpler the better I have found. No whoppers. Keep a straight face. Think truthful thoughts. They cover the lie in a patina of truth... at least I believe it does. When possible, do not lie at all, just distract from the matter at hand. Omission is a form of lying I know, but hey... technicalities schmalities, they exist for a reason don't you think? I never fainted again. Thank God for that. It felt ridiculous.

In spite of my acquired bag of fib-telling tricks, I still get caught more often than not. Somebody built me not to lie. I'd like to get my hands on him and give him a piece of my mind someday.


  1. I'm not sure I know anyone who tells a story better than you do...

    This was like scene in a movie, the way you told it. So real.

    And I'm not lying! (I'm not good at it, either.)

  2. Ha - I know the feeling. I joke a lot (big shocker) so people never know when I'm being serious or when I'm "joking" (aka Lying). I've decided that if you say something with authority, people will believe you. I can't get too carried away though. People will shoot me down in a hurry.

    Happy weekend! Your writing, as always, is inspiring. I used to be bilingual once. I might be able to understand enough to save my life, but don't count on me to get yours saved, if relying solely on my bilingual speaking talent.

  3. Flutter: Just so. I told the story but I never meant to be so facetious about it that it would seem as if I believed otherwise. Truth is always the best policy in 99.5 percent of cases. The remaining .5% is even debatable.

    Jennifer: What a nice thing to say. Thank you. And I know of someone... you for starters. You tell the most beautiful stories. As full of hope as they are of wisdom. I love them so and THAT is the absolute truth.

    Glad to see we are of the same ilk you and I.

    ReluctantFarmChik: Thanks to you too for the lovely compliment. I wish I had some of your authority. I'm not a timid person by any means but I just find it hard to look authoritative. Most people would say I'm a marshmallow and they are right.

  4. We are sisters from another mother. (Mine was only scary because she'd attract Dad's attention if we were naughty.) However, unlike you, I was a masterful liar as a child. My parents never had a clue. Some time in my young adulthood (wish I could remember when, but I simply don't), I decided that I wasn't going to lie anymore; it was too much work. Since then, I have also grown up a lot. Today, I don't lie, except for rare circumstances, but even then I will not lie if the lie benefits me. It's just so much easier living in the truth. So, don't ask me how you look an outfit or if the mistake you made was a big deal; I will tell you the truth. :)

  5. B! I want you to tell me the truth. If it makes my behind look enormous, I should like to know. And we are sisters. That is the truth.

  6. They're right - you really do spin a great yarn. And you take a really groovy pic. L

  7. Every child needs one teacher like that, someone who's on their side like a good partner. French was one of my favorite classes and now I'm feeling pretty nostalgic for it. As for lying, it rarely leads to good things, so I think you're lucky that you ended up with that particular disability.

  8. That picture is heart braking.

    I can't lie either. Not at all. I always feel like karma will come kick me in the ass if I do.

  9. Louise!!! Where have you been? I've missed you greatly. Thank you. My pics are not as groovy as yours.

    Melissa: I agree with you. Every child DOES need a teacher who might at some point look beyond the moment. Monsieur Bertrand cut me a break, I was eternally grateful to him for that. And you are right on the lying front. I too am glad I'm handicapped on this front.

    Kelcey: Karma will kick us in the ass. Never doubt it.
    I too agree that the sign being held by the homeless man denotes a sad state of affairs.

  10. hi milena,
    just one more reason to like you.


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