While everyone at my work may think my name is Winifred, that’s not because I told them my name was Winifred. It’s because they called me Winifred and I responded without correcting them. As a general rule, I do not lie. I may carefully phrase my truths with the intention of misleading someone at work, but it’s never an actual lie. When I do lie, I get nervous and trip up or it just makes me so uncomfortable, I end up blurting out the truth anyway.
Frankly, even when I should lie, I don’t think to do so. For example:
One night, about a year and a half ago, Gail and I were driving around town in my hatchback. We drove by a building owned by a local church, a sign in the middle of a clearing with small print we couldn’t read. I just decided to drive up to it to get a better look (against Gail’s protests)… and then remembered we’d had heavy rain… after my little hatchback SANK into the ground with a loud slurp. So, naturally, we tried to drive forward… then backward… then (less naturally or reasonably) dig out with a Dollar Tree broomstick before the people leaving the service next door noticed us trenching their church yard. “Trenching” was not even kind of an exaggeration. We destroyed this lawn and just wanted to escape as quickly as possible, muttering about how we weren’t 17 anymore and really couldn’t get away with this crap. Shockingly enough, the broomstick did not work in digging out a couple tons of Suzuki and the pastor soon approached. He didn’t look happy, but luckily, it’s in his job description to be nice (particularly with his entire congregation behind him) and he happened to have instant access to a suped-up pick-up with a gigantic chain on it. Welcome to the Midwest, y’all.
As he brought over the truck, Gail asked what I was going to tell him. I told her I was just going to say we wanted to see what the sign said. Apparently, “I wanted to read this sign and that’s why I’ve done hundreds of dollars of damage to your lawn” was a terrible excuse. Gail insisted we claim that we were trying to turn around and had started to sink, so we quickly went forward and just sank further. I told her she had to do it, because I was pretty danged sure you go to Hell for lying to a man of God. She pointed out that I had just (jokingly) called Protestantism “pretend” a few minutes earlier, but I stuck to my guns. They didn’t seem happy with us for it, but they also didn’t send us a bill. We got a brief lecture on how rain works, which admittedly, was well-earned.
Regardless of the fact that Gail was 100% right about the necessity of the lie in the above story, I still had to put in a great deal of effort not to blurt out the truth and apologize for lying in the first place. I wasn’t even the one speaking. However, in the following conversation, I didn’t tell a single lie.
Me: referring to J.K. Rowling “She’s a great author, but she took advantage of welfare to write her novel. If it hadn’t worked out, she just would’ve been another person taking advantage of welfare.”
Coworker: “Her husband had just left her. She was horribly depressed. You don’t know how that feels.”
I’ll admit, Winifred came precariously close to death that day, but I remained silent. I let my coworker continue in her assumption that I spent my college years going to parties, getting a little too drunk, and eating ice creem at home after bad breakups. It’s not my fault she chose to believe I grew up in a 7th Heaven episode, nor is it my responsibility to correct her. I did not lie.
When taking my dedication to carefully dancing around the truth into consideration, the following story makes me sound even more broken as a person and psychologically unstable, which is what makes it such great fun.
I substitute teach, because I have a teaching certificate, essentially get paid to sit there, and I love teenagers. One day, substituting for a history class, I heard a student complaining about her job.
Me: “Where do you work?”
Student: “The new movie theater in Yukon.”
Me: “I used to work there!”
Student: “Really? What’s your name?”
I don’t know why I admitted this. The people at the theater hated me. They thought I was a suck-up and a bore. They were right. I’d have done anything for a management position, because it was a dollar more an hour, more hours a week, would look good on a resume, and I was married to a man who refused to get a job. I hated working there and they hated me working there. So why did I excitedly declare that I had? I have no fucking idea, but I put these pieces together just a little too late.
Student: “You’re Belle?!”
Me: shit, shit, shit “Yeah. Why?”
Student: “They talk about you all the time!”
Me: shit, shit, shit “Really? Do the same people even still work there?”
Student: “Yeah, some of them. Did you used to fill up a tray with popcorn every night and go to home to your husband?”
Student had inadvertantly hit a sore spot, because I had indeed done this. The reason I did was because I couldn’t afford to buy food that summer. I lost 12 pounds on the popcorn and tears diet. So did my beagle. My life sucked and though Student had no idea about any of that, I still felt the need to protect myself from the connection of who I am today to who I was four years ago. So before I had any time to think about what I was saying, I heard the following words come out of my mouth:
Me: “Oh. No. There must have been another Belle that worked there. I’m not married.”
What. The. Fuck?
I immediately processed how incredibly damaged as a person I had to be for this to come out of my mouth without any forethought. I have detached myself so greatly from who I was and clung so dearly to Winifred that I’m flat-out lying about who I am by accident?!?! At least my technical truths at work are presently arranged as carefully as landmines. I am in complete control of the misconceptions I weave today and when they started, they were truly just the product of thoughtless omission. “There must have been another Belle that worked there. I’m not married.”?!?!
My head was spinning as I continued to talk about how there must be a different Belle, because I’m only 24 (at the time) and I’m still in school. The last part was true and intentionally phrased to sound as though there’s no way I could be married, but not even a small part of me thought another Belle worked there. I just didn’t want this seventeen-year-old complete stranger to connect me to a past that might have been relayed by people who worked at a movie theater, regularly used the word “crunk”, and hated me for good damned reason.
Realizing this was disturbing and probably a story for a therapist I’d never see, I immediately texted Gail. She giggled like uncontrollably and joined in while I made jokes about rocking in a corner chewing on my own hair. Even she agreed that Winifred may be comprised of perfectly mapped out truths, but at least it’s intentional (now). Despite this tale, I figured I’d never have to face this lie again and could just move on and pretend I’m entirely psychologically sound. Student would probably ask her manager if another K had ever worked at the theater and realize I was completely insane, but I never go to that theater, it’s a big high school, and teenagers are self-absorbed. I told myself she wouldn’t remember me if I was her substitute again. It was unrealisitic, but I’m great at denial. CLEARLY.
In an odd twist of fate, a month or two later, Gail wanted to see Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and so did I. I say odd, because usually Gail wants to see movies that tell the tale of a woman and her three best friends all getting cancer and then discovering that their true value lies in the men in their lives, whom they kiss in airport terminals at the end. She’s the worst feminist ever. This time, however, we both had shit taste in movies and wanted to see the same one… which was playing at the Yukon theater. When we bought our tickets, I recognized one of my old managers, who is now GM. She didn’t, however, recognize the 90 pounds less that was me. It was a free pass, especially considering the fact that I saw Student selling popcorn. Then, without thinking, I asked if GM remembered me. She said she didn’t, so I actually prodded her and made sure she knew that I was one of of an apparent several Belles that had worked at the theater a couple of years earlier. She remembered me and I facepalmed myself on the way into the theater.
That movie was quite possibly the worst thing that has ever happened to me. When I had to pee during it, I took it as a blessing from God to escape for even just a few scenes. During this time, I saw Student very obviously looking at me and whispering to her coworkers, undoubtedly about the crazy-ass substitute teacher who just walked by. That was the first and last time I told any lie of any merit in two years and now I can’t go to one of only two theaters in town without feeling like I have to hide from a group of teens who think I’m a pathalogical liar. Not even Aesop could further pound the moral of this story into my brain.
Pathological Liar: person who tells lies frequently, with no rational motive for doing so
Well, they’re half right.