I have two children. One of them is honest to a fault. The rare times this child has lied, it has ended in both of us bursting into laughter because the execution of it was just so poor. This child sees the world in simple terms – something is true, or it isn’t. The other child is like me.
When I was a kid, I didn’t quite know what to do with the writer’s brain I’d been given. I had stories and what ifs and characters in my head that were as real to me as my best friend Elinor with the famous dad. And they were so much more interesting than real life. I mean, when it was my turn for Show & Tell, why tell the class about my new Beta sneakers when I could explain that I was a late to school that morning because my eyeball had fallen out on the way, rolling into the dirt? Why tell them that I had done precisely nothing that weekend, except for practicing Sound of Music routines with my sisters at the end of the neighbour’s driveway and scaling the small bank next to the house with an orange tow rope like a rock climber? No. I knew I could do much, much better than that.
On the first day of a new school year, the slightly bewildered and shell-shocked teacher would ask us to write a page on what we had done over the summer break. One page! Please. I’d give her four. I set to work, writing not about the mud pies I’d made and decorated with daisies, or the rotten branch I rode like a horse, pretending it was a pirate ship bounding over white-tipped waves, or the fraught games of Barbies I played with my sister, where we’d dump all our stuff between us and divide it up in a laborious yet highly methodical session of ‘Picks’. No. I wrote about the cruise I had taken to Africa and our rocket ship day trip to the milky way. Christmas morning, so special that year, because we had woken up in the haunted mansion at Disneyland, having been mysteriously transported there overnight by our wonderfully sneaky parents.
I don’t remember getting into trouble (much) over my lies. I was smart enough to keep them to a minimum when I was around my mother, who would listen with a patient smile and then go about her day. She was an unsatisfying audience.
Given my history, as an adult, I have a surprisingly strong distaste for dishonesty. I don’t like lies. I very, very rarely tell one. It’s become a personal rule I won’t break, like never reading the end of the book first, and no coffee after 12pm. I still have exciting scenarios that come into my head unbidden. They’re still better than real life.
I’ve just learned to keep them contained within the pages of a book.