Wednesday, December 22, 2010


The Best Lie I Told as a Child

It was the first day of third grade. After a few hours in our homeroom, my classmates and I were herded down the hall to science class. Once we’d settled in, the teacher — who I’ll call Mr. X since I’ve blanked on his name — asked us to go around and introduce ourselves. I was an anxious child who lived in constant fear of doing something to embarrass myself in front of a teacher, so when we got to me, I mumbled nervously, “I’m Cassie.” But Mr. X, who was on the other side of the room, didn’t quite hear me and so he confirmed, “Jason?” I don’t know the exact calculations my 8-year-old brain did in that moment, but I somehow concluded that it was easier to pretend to be a person of AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT GENDER than to correct the teacher. “Yes. I’m Jason,” I replied with a straight face, even as I felt my soul crumple into a tiny raisin of shame.

What followed was months’ worth of Mr. X calling on me with a “What do you think, Jason?” and me answering as if that was totally normal. The longer it went on, the more terrified I became of embarrassing Mr. X by revealing his error. The low point of my deception came one day when we did an experiment that required us to divide up into boys and girls. Without hesitating, I slunk over to the boys’ side of the room, avoiding eye contact with any of my “fellow males.” Ugh.

At the time, I assumed this whole mess was my fault (which it kind of was). After all, I had lied. Plus, I was taller than a lot of the boys in my class, and I did have short hair. So maybe I did look like a boy… but, wait, WHAT? No! First of all, there were plenty of visual clues that I was a lady. I was decidedly not a tomboy — I wore colorful jumpsuits and those awesome stick-on earrings and neon pink socks, for God’s sake. And this was in the '80s, before children became internet sensations for refusing to conform to gender norms. So “Jason’s” super cool wardrobe definitely should’ve raised some red flags. But I guess Mr. X was just unusually accepting of cross-dressing eight-year-olds.

Also, don’t teachers have an official list of students? Shouldn’t it have dawned on Mr. X that there was no Jason on his class sheet? And, in an odd break from character, I always chose to write my real name on my homework. Didn’t that confuse him enough to investigate? And why didn’t any of my classmates speak up? They all knew me as a girl named Cassie during the other six class periods. Didn’t it seem strange that I pretended to be “Jason” for an hour every day? We will never know!

Though looking back on it, I can see the most logical explanation for why it went on for so long is that Mr. X was an aging hippie who really wasn’t paying much attention. He wore tie-dyed shirts and Birkenstocks to work, so he was probably just so relaxed that he couldn’t be bothered to think that hard about any of us.

I never did find out who revealed my true identity to Mr. X, but I suspect it was a teacher’s aide who’d started during the second semester and must have been on the ball enough to notice it was unusual for a boy to be wearing 50 jelly bracelets. Regardless of how he found out, Mr. X ended the lie as unceremoniously as I had begun it. One day, completely out of the blue, he called on me as “Cassie” and I answered to it, almost as if it had been my name all along. —Cassie Murdoch

This is more of a trick than a lie (or, an attempted trick), but when I was little I tried to convince my middle-aged neighbor Tom he’d been in the presence of a ghost. I did it by waiting, hidden, in a clump of trees behind our condominium, and then saying his name in a ghostly way as he walked by: “Taaa-ooooOOommmMM.” “Edith?” he said, immediately. —Edith Zimmerman

I ate acid for the first time in eighth-grade Spanish class, and had to meet my mom after school to go to an event. It was actually all going really surprisingly well until I saw her and instantly and preemptively said "IF I'M LAUGHING A LOT IT'S CAUSE SOMETHING REALLY FUNNY HAPPENED AT SCHOOL TODAY" so she wouldn't know I was on drugs. And I was soooooo pleased with myself for coming up with that completely unnecessary and insane lie on the spot, like some junior Talented Miss Ripley, being like "I can't believe she doesn't knowww, aaahaha!" even though I was literally playing a game of Dots with myself in the back row of my piano teacher's solo concert and everyone, everywhere knew I'd eaten all the drugs. —Anonymous

At my Catholic pre-school things were never very fun. The teacher would often just scream, "PUT YOUR HEADS DOWN" out of the blue. I never fell asleep during naptime that year because I had to keep an eye out in case she did anything sudden and crazy. This is how I am justifying my decision to tell my mom one December day that I was assigned the task of making a diorama-type nativity scene for school even though I had been assigned no such thing.

That was OK, we set to work anyway, spending a few evenings one week creating this piece of art, which we ended up keeping for years, and by "we" I mostly mean my mom, because she is an artist. We cut out little cardboard figures of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Three Wise Men, and some cows, as well as a manger, some palm trees and the shack structure, and hand painted them. "We" decided to depict the sandy desert environment of Jesus's birth with some sandpaper. We got some hay for the cows, possibly taken from the back yard or chopped off a broom.

Then the day arrived when I had to actually take the thing to school. My mom proudly presented it to my teacher in the crowded chaos of the playground while I hid behind her and tried to zip my entire body into my jacket. The teacher, suddenly less evil, proclaimed, "Oooh, what is this? What a nice surprise! Is this for the classroom? Thank you, Mrs. Colville!," and the jig was up. My mom really should have been more angry, considering that this was just the first (but most time-consuming) of many lies, but she was just kind of mom-mad, with a little twinkle in her eye, because you know, we'd had a good time making that thing. —Liz Colville

Previously: The Best Time a Negligible Cultural Thing Caused Me Literally Years of Torment.

37 Comments / Post A Comment

Bonnie Downing

Cassie, oh my god. "tiny raisin of shame"

Edith Zimmerman

Yes, exactly.


More Cassie writings, please.

Liz Colville

Cassie, indeed. I like the symmetry here. "Jason?" "Edith?"


And now a follow up question: What is the best lie you've told a child?


I had a roommate who had a child who lived with us part time. I was in school and worked 3 part time jobs so I was rarely home and had no social life. She asked me why I didn't have any friends over and I told her they were all monsters and could not fit into our apartment. She believed me.


"I'm pretty sure those aren't poisonous."

(No, for real though, I spent four summers through high school and college as a camp counselor at a summer camp for special-needs children. As we told all our new staff members every May, "Welcome to camp! Your new job is to lie to children.")


In Kindergarten I told my teacher my mom could talk to cats. That I do not think she believed. Later that year she passed around a tape recorder so we could all say something into it and I decided my family had won the lottery, so that's what I said. Apparently I was very convincing because my teacher called that night to congratulate my family. I'm pretty sure the first time I realized that lying has consequences was when the tape was played back in class the next day.


When my parents came to parent's day my third grade year they found weeks of homework jammed into the little cave storage area built into those old desks. Somehow the teacher hadn't noticed. I still recall having to make up all that work.


When I was 4, I made up an elaborate fantasy life that I had in Boston (at the time, we had just moved to Cherry Valley, IL from Madison, WI. I had never been to Boston). I had a farm (IN BOSTON!) at which was parked my brand-new Ford Bronco II. One day, I apologetically informed my father that it was time for me to leave Illinois and head back to my Boston farm, where my pet frog was waiting for me.
He helped me pack, drove me to the bus station for the O'Hare shuttle bus, but when it was time for me to get on the bus, I told him that I changed my mind and didn't want him to miss me, so I stayed in Illinois. I never brought up the subject again.
To this day, I've never told him that I was lying about owning a farm in downtown Boston when I was four years old. I wonder if he ever figured out the truth.

Edith Zimmerman

Maybe have a sit-down over the holidays


Dad, mom...I have something I need to tell you. I've been living a lie. I first knew it when i was four years old, but it's taken me until now to really come to terms with it...


Because of my last name, I used to tell kids I was related to Shaquille O'Neal until about 5th grade when I realized I wasn't willing to learn anything about basketball to support this pointless lie.

I also learned about lactose intolerance, from which I've never suffered, at an early age. Milked (literally?) that shit so hard. If I even saw a dairy product, I'd go to the nurse's office and sit out a class. Did this from like 4th to 8th grade.


Anyone else half suspect the bagel peeing was going to be this week's Personal Best? The Best Time I Peed on Food?


When I was pretty young, I took a pen and wrote my name all over the bannister. When my parents asked me who did it, I told them that my little sister (who was a baby) did it. Still not sure why they didn't believe me!
Another time, some girls were really mean to me in class and when I went home and cried about it to my mom, I lied and told her they bit me to make it sound worse than it actually was. She of course told the teacher, who chastised the class the next day. No one knew what the hell she was talking about, and I was wracked with guilt about the lying until my early 20s when I finally confessed to it while doing an "ensemble building" exercise for a play about lying. Still never told my mom…

Other Alice

The best lie I told a child: While subbing in an early childhood biology class in college (uh, that's teaching little kids biology, not the biology of little kids), I convinced a class of 5-year-olds that squirrels live in airplanes.

Other Alice

That was supposed to be a reply to hass. I'm new here. [hangs head]


Holy crap, Cassie. That happened to me! Just substitute "Soccer day camp" for "third grade" and "Noah" for "Jason". I even went along with it too, same as you, figuring it would be less embarrassing to say "Um, I'm a girl." and it was...until we had to play shirts versus skins and the only other girl at the camp was on the other team. Sigh.

MaríaJosé E.H.

I have never been good at lies, not even as a child. I used to believe that toys came to life when I was asleep (exactly like in Toy Story, I think maybe they stole the idea from me). Anyway, best story about lying kids? My little sister Irene was in 1st grade and had to do a drawing about the Spanish Conquest.My other little sister Julieta (4th grade) was helping her, and decided to convince her to draw everyone naked because "clothes were not yet invented then". Irene believed her and even wrote a little note about the nakedness. Her teacher wrote back, explaining that even if it was a long time ago, the spaniards did have clothes. Julieta still laughs about it, some 14 years later.
I have no idea where was I or my mom when this happened. We probably were there but decided to play along, because it was just so funny. I love to imagine the WTF face on the teacher when she read the "sorry teacher, everyone is naked! but i need to stay true to the facts" note written in ugly first grader handwritting.

no way

In first grade my teacher and my mom created a star chart as incentive for me to do my schoolwork. One star awarded for each assignment completed. Enough stars and I got… something, some prize, or didn't get spanked or something. My teacher called a conference with mom about my lack of improvement which was news to mom, since I had stolen the stars out of the teacher's desk and filled in the chart myself.


This has made me remember just how much of a liar I a-er, was... I had a ton, like lying about losing teeth so that I could get my name up on the board with a little sticker (funny the teacher didn't become suspicious after the 5th or 6th and woops, still have all my teeth...).
But probably my worst lie was an epic, multi-year lie, that started innocently enough at age 11 or so, telling my friends I had an out of town boyfriend (to make up for the fact that they wouldn't meet him, ever) with whom I shared a passionate, intense email correspondence, full of R.Kelly song lyrics (it was really me, emailing myself, from a fake hotmail account). I had so much fun telling them about our silly kisses and emails that I just couldn't bear breaking up with him or telling them the truth, but they'd keep asking about him, so eventually I told them that he was sick with an undiagnosable illness, and getting worse and worse and worse, until finally, to put myself out of my compounding misery, over aol one night, I told my best friend that HE HAD DIED....... Then her mom called me and told me "This had gotten out of hand" and I had to confess everything. whew...that felt really good to get that out there...


I lied with shocking frequency as a kid, lied for pure sport. My favorite, not that you asked, was when I went on camping vacations (I'm an only child) I pretended to be deaf to the other kids I'd meet, and talk mumbo jumbo sign language at them, while smiling beatifically and enjoying to hear their responses.


I told my (very religious) father that I couldn't get in the bath becasue Jesus was here with me right now, and I had to listen to him. I then sat on the couch pretending to hold hands with Him.


Similar to the diorama story: we had to make longhouses in 5th grade after reading The Indian in the Cupboard. Kind of an involved project for a ten year old! My dad did basically the entire thing, and hand-wrote all the labels for it. Which is what gave it away, since I had (and have) appalling handwriting and my dad's is like something out of MS Word. I just remember Sister Rose Marie commenting, "Oh, Elle, if only your handwriting were this neat all of the time."


I had a similar name incident, but to a lesser degree. After working at a restaurant for 8 months or so, one of the hosts asked me my name. I thought he was kidding (I mean, 8 months!), so I off-the-cuff told him my name was Natasha Rosaria (my name is actually one of those Top 10 Most Popular Boring Names from the 80s), which he proceeded to call me for the next two years. Like, constantly! And the other staff people would sort of turn up their eyebrows in confusion, thinking it was maybe a pet name or something, until one day he was standing right next to me when someone called me by my actual name. It was a weird moment.


When I was in 2nd grade, we had a notebook that you had to write the spelling words in 3x each and then get the notebook page signed by a parent. I forgot to take my notebook home one night, but didn't want to risk imperfection via not having it signed, so at the age of 7, I forged my mother's signature.
I then realized that, were I to take said notebook home to my mother, she would see the forgery and I would be in major trouble. So I kept on forging her name for several months, til the teacher called me out on it. Well, called me out on some of them - others she thought were legit, which may be worse? Either way, I got in major trouble, and was told I could go to prison if I kept it up.


So.... an adult told you a lie in order to convince you to stop lying, classic!


When I was 14, my best friend and I convinced my cousin that my best friend had moved to Los Angeles to pursue a relationship with Dennis Quaid - for the entire summer.


Oh, God, I just remembered! When I was 12, my friend and I convinced her little brother that he was the Gerber Baby, and that he had a huge trust fund waiting for him from the proceeds.


When I was about 11 I convinced my 5 year old brother that I was an exchange student from France named Jeanne Marie. I only spoke to him in a French accent, and though at first he kept saying, "No you aren't you're my sister," I kept it up so long that he actually started to believe me. I gave him details of my life in Paris, and told him about my French family. Really, he was probably happy his actual, evil sister was gone, but wow, what a stupid kid.


These are great!
So, even though I am in a minority - being differently gendered - I thought I would dive in. You could describe this as a lie or as a trick - I would not argue.
Between the ages of 12 to 15 I helped out my mum in a campsite general store in the UK.
As I got better my mum started to take lunch or comfort breaks and left me in charge. We had no electronic till or scanners. We knew the prices of everything in the shop. Everything. When a customer came to the counter with their wire basket we would simpy add everything up, come to a total and charge it. Cash only. We almost always got it right - no guessing or intentional con. We knew those prices.

OK. My mum had taken a lunch or toilet break. I was in charge. Say, 13 years old. The shop was empty. Then a lady came in - about my mum's age - I was reading behind the counter. She went round the shop doing her weekly purchases for her tent/caravan. I watched her surreptitiously and added up the price of everything that she put in her basket as she went around the shop.

When she came to the counter, at the end of her purchases, I already knew the total. I did. I was certain.

So, instead of removing each item and writing it down on a brown paper bag - which is what my mum did - I lifted the entire basket and prented to heft/weigh it. I then announced "That will be £4.86 madam."

She looked at me in astonishment and then insisted that I go through each item. I did and my total was right. She could not believe it, but paid.

So, there is still a woman walking around telling a story about a boy who can tell how much a basket of groceries cost just by lifting it up.



I managed to convince a classmate that the large entrance to the sewer just outside our elementary school was actually home to Stephen King's It. Considering I had neither read the book nor seen the film at that point, I think I did fairly well.


It's not a lie at all, but I really related to Cassie's story because one time as a kid when we were all sitting on the mat for story time, I for some reason stuck my finger in between where the plastic seat and metal legs joined on my teacher's bucket chair. Then the 200-pound teacher came and sat down. It was incredibly painful, but I was such an odd, shy little kid that I preferred to bite my lip (and I realise now, probably risk losing my finger) and say nothing rather than embarrass myself in front of the class. It took another kid noticing I'd gone red and was on the point of crying to say "um, Mr J., you're sitting on Gwan's finger". I probably would have stayed like that until I passed out or something! Kids (at least some of us) are fricking weirdos, huh? :)


I told my 1st grade teacher my parents were divorced (not true) - so, along comes dad & daughter picnic day where my Dad shows up with the bucket of KFC and a Mexican blanket. "You must be BC's Stepfather.." UH....... I jumped in. "No! this is my real Dad.." My dad didn't seem to notice or care and must have thought the teacher had me mixed up with another kid.
Luckily, my classmates found a pair of men's underwear in the bushes which sort of took centerstage after that.

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