A handful of lies, as told and retold by J. Strawn:


2nd grade: While peeling onions with my mother in the kitchen, I lied and told her that my humanities teacher had that day discussed at length the resourcefulness of the ancient Mayans by telling my class that they had used whole onion skins and orange rinds as water vessels. My mother was so impressed with my retention of the day's lesson that I insisted on drinking out of a carefully peeled orange rind for the duration of the evening.


2nd grade: After a violent spring storm that threatened to, but ultimately produced no tornadoes, I lied to a rapt group of my fellow classmates about how when I was younger, my father had been sucked into a tornado along with a cow. I told them that when he and the cow were finally ejected from the tornado after a grueling series of air-born revolutions, they landed safely, my father astride the cow.



3rd grade: I lied to my mother and told her that Emily Z__n's cousin had brought a pot leaf to school for show and tell. My mother was so alarmed that she called the principal to alert her of the situation. Two days later I had to formally apologize to Emily, her parents, her cousin, her cousin's parents, the principal, and my teacher, Mrs. King, during whose class the fabled pot leaf was supposed to have been flaunted.


4th grade: I was spied stealing a small tub of Carmex-type medicated chapped lip gunk from Jill T_______n's purse during Mrs. Cashion's math class. When I was confronted by my english teacher, Mrs. Sheldon, at the end of the day, with Jill and a group of other popular girls surrounding me, about the whereabouts of the tub of gunk, I lied and said I'd neither heard of nor seen anything like it, and that I'd never had chapped lips in my life. Mrs. Sheldon told me she knew I was lying. She made me go through my bag and when I found the tub of gunk, I acted surprised and told them my brother had given it to me for my birthday the week before and that I had forgotten about it because I didn't really like it. Mrs. Sheldon asked me to take the lid off, so I did and then she asked me why the tub of gunk was half empty if I'd just received it and I didn't care for it. I lied to her again and told her my brother couldn't afford to buy me a present so he gave me his old tub of lip gunk instead. She took it from me and gave it back to Jill, then she made me formally apologize to Jill in front of everyone.


5th grade: In the back room of the Saturday night AA meeting at the Round Table club house one weekend, I waited out the meeting with a handful of other bored children of alcoholics, my father and step-mother in the smoky room next door. I sat on a black pleather swivel chair, lying through my teeth to two older, slightly trashy girls, about how I had kissed a boy, smoked an entire cigarette, and regularly drank beer.


5th grade: My step-sister and I lied to the same two girls in the backroom of the same AA club house on a different Saturday night about having snuck into the strip club one door down in the strip mall. They were deeply impressed.


6th grade: Every summer I attended an all-girls summer camp for two or three weeks until I was 12. The summer before this one in particular had been the beginning of the inevitable onset of womanhood for some of my older co-campers. This was a highly coveted state in which to find oneself, the rolling of the biological stone somehow being proof of maturity. Should the Big Event beset me during my time at camp that year, I brought along some pads, just in case. In a fit of jealousy after another girl had been sent to the infirmary for menstrual cramps, I took one of the clean pads from my bag and, when alone at the small, outdoor multi-plex of showers and bathroom stalls (which were painted a deep, flaking red) I surreptitiously rubbed the thing on a good, unfaded spot on one of the dank shower stall benches until I'd created what I thought was a believable stain. I took the "evidence" and cunningly showed it to a girl who I knew for a fact had not yet started her period, so she wouldn't recognize the counterfeit blotch and finger my attempts to fake my womanness. I told her that I was suffering unrelenting pain in my uterus, that I was taking myself to see the camp nurse and that she should tell our counselor that I probably wouldn't be able to ride horses that day, or the next, either.


Age 20: I ran into an old friend who I hadn't seen in a long time and told him a drawn out story about how I was flunking out of school, was completely broke and depressed, and that I was moving back to Oklahoma to assist my mother with her housecleaning business, never to return to Chicago. Of course the whole thing was a lie, not even half a grain of truth to any of it. Later I saw this person again and explained to him that I'd lied to him just to see what his reaction would be.


Age 21: While he was in a small Parisian suburb working as an Aupair, I wrote a good friend of mine a lengthy email to tell him that I was pregnant with my ex-boyfriend's child. I went into detail about how I'd considered getting an abortion, that I'd undergone a religious transformation that made it an impossibility for me to actually go through with the procedure, that I and my ex-boyfriend had decided to get married, that I'd had many painful altercations with my family which had all eventually lead to stronger and more resolute ties with them, and that I'd decided to name the baby after him if it turned out to be a boy. So in weaving this tall tale, with the assistance and encouragement of another friend of mine, I was utterly convinced that the whole thing was unbelievable and that he'd see right through it. On the contrary he wrote back and was so shocked by the news that he insisted on coming home right away to help me with the baby. I immediately wrote him back and formally apologized. Later I told another friend of mine in NY about the whole thing, that I'd lied to my good friend, and this fellow in NY stopped talking to me completely. Hasn't talked to me since.