As I get older, I find I have no tolerance for liars and no ability to tell lies. (Actually, I have little tolerance for lots of people, but that’s another blog.) Of course, things are easier the older I get because I don’t get into as much mischief. If I do something, I just say “bam, I did that” and deal with the consequences.
As a teenager, though, I was … naughty. By this I mean, if it was fun, I did it, and then found a way to get out of trouble later. I learned such a lesson in lying when I was 17 that it should have cured me for good. Except for the occasional fib to The Goose about the cost of some shoes, or a slight slip over an incident with the car, I’ve been pretty dang truthful all of my adult life.
When I was 17, one weekend, my parents were going out of town. I told them I would stay with my friend. What I didn’t say was that her parents were out of town as well. My poor parents swallowed the whole story, sweet trusting people that they were. When I left for school on Friday morning, I kissed the folks goodbye and set out for a Ferris Bueller weekend in the extreme. My good mother, however, noticed that I had left my gas credit card at home and worried that I might run out of gas. So, being the kind hearted person she was, she brought it up to school. I was not at school. I was elsewhere, already embarking on the road that leads straight to Hell. So, in this way, the school was alerted to my absence. Since this was before cell phones, I was left to believe that all was well.
That night was something from an 80s movie montage in that it involved a Ferrari, an accident, a cute boy, turquoise satin pants and a lesson in Spanish. It encompassed checkerboard sneakers, large hair, Taco Bell and no seat belts were worn whatsoever. Those of you who were teenagers in the early 80s, you might have lived a version of this weekend too. Things were just more fun then.
I lived through it, barely, and even managed to screech in Saturday morning just in time to get to school to take my SAT. While I believe I probably did well on the first few problems, I then put my head on my desk and slept through the rest. Final SAT score, 400. The next night was tamer than the first, but only marginally. On Sunday afternoon, as I drove myself to youth group at church, worn out, hung down, achy, I told myself I really should be better. I would be better! By golly, I would be a good girl, complete with pleated skirts, Peter Pan collars and loafers. The visual of myself as “good girl” caused mad fantasies where I helped winos off the street and saved kittens from trees. I would be like a nun! As I sat in choir practice, I congratulated myself on my thoughts to do so.
Then, in the tiny glass window, I saw my mother’s face. It’s round magenta countenance filled the window completely and conveyed such malevolent intent that I almost climbed under my chair. I still do not know how she found out some things, and thankfully, she didn’t know half of what I’d been up to, but she was set on destroy mode and I was in the crosshairs. She had my dad in tow to drive my car that she was threatening to sell and as I followed her rapidly clicking heels out of the church, I knew even he, usually understanding of the wayward, couldn’t save me.
On the drive home, in a Hail Mary of Biblical proportions, I mentioned that my stomach hurt. I said it was killing me. I might have just as easily said my head or back, but I chose stomach. I really laid it on and moaned and begged her to stop being mad. To forgive. To understand. She was a sucker for a sick kid and I thought I had her, but she suddenly veered off the main road and drove me directly to my pediatrician’s house. She grabbed me by the upper arm and marched me into his living room, across his sculptured carpet, instructed me lie down on his plastic covered sofa and then proceeded to dare the poor man to find anything wrong with me. If our doctor was surprised to see us at his house, one look at my mother caused him to close his mouth and fein interest in my condition. I continued with the ruse, now in such hot water that I feared juvenile incarceration if I stopped, and so I moaned at all the appropriate times. If he pushed, I wailed. He suggested we go straight to the hospital.
Now it was getting serious. I began to think. If I told the truth, I would not see the light of day for years. The worst that could happen is that she would have time to cool down, see me in a dire medical setting and all would be forgiven. Nothing prompts a mother’s love and concern more than seeing a child in the ER.
After waiting for hours, I realized that it would be too late when we got home for me to go to school the next day. One problem down, no visit to the principal’s office. Upon examination, which included the kind of x-rays where they strapped me to a table and turned me upside down, a doctor came in and announced that they would be removing my appendix that night.
That’s when it all came out. I admitted I’d been lying, I cried, I howled, I confessed to being the worst daughter ever, and my mother just hugged me and told me not to be scared, it wouldn’t hurt a bit. I prosthelytized from the gurney, I wailed and gnashed my teeth, but she told me she was sorry she hadn’t believed me right from the start. She said she loved me and tearfully left the room.
Then, they wheeled me out and cut me open. Uh huh. No matter how much I insisted I’d made the whole thing up, medical personnel just smiled and patted me.
I’d like to say I learned a lesson right then and there. The terrible thing is, at 17, I didn’t. I only received a tiny scar. I spent the week in the hospital, receiving flowers and gifts, hugs and sympathy, boyfriends and friends milling around the bed, and never had to see the principal.
As an adult, I am flabbergasted at myself and the surgeon. I never thought about the consequences, never thought how much it would cost my parents. I have relived this over and over, stupefied that this could have happened.
Years later, I told my mom everything. The irony is that she still didn’t believe me and that’s where the lesson came in. I hate the thought that someone believes something about me that’s not true, good or bad. The thought that my mother didn’t believe me, even as an adult, was terrible. I am what I am and, good or bad, I’d rather someone believe ME, not just an image of me.
If this has taught me anything, I believe it might be that the worst thing about lying is someone might believe you. Well, that, and cherry colored drink stains never come out of satin and never, ever, believe a boy in a Ferrari, “borrowed” or otherwise.