Once during the first grade I decided that it would be funny to tell a girl that she was the S-word. I was quite surprised when my outraged classmate ran off to tell our teacher who in turn summoned me to her desk. Skeptical at my proclaimed innocence, the teacher said something to the effect of “Erik, in some families the S-word is just as bad as the F-word or the B-word”. Of course my fear of actually saying the word shit prevented me from communicating that I had literally called my friend ‘the S word’ and so rather than feeling validated in my developing sense of irony I returned to my desk in humiliation with a promise not to use bad words again.
It took my simmering frustration quite a while to boil over into tears, and by that time I was probably the only one who remembered the exchange. The very first time I remember lying (call it my moment of untruth) came from an attempt to validate my emotions in the eyes of Teacher and fellow classmates. As hard as I try I can not recall what my excuse was, except for that as soon as it came out of my mouth I felt even dumber since it was no more manly of a reason to cry than the truth it had replaced.
The next childhood lie that stands out for me came just a few years later when the school bus driver sentenced me to a few weeks of riding in the front seat so that she could keep an eye on me. Of course the seat’s other occupant was being similarly punished, though she was a few grades older and took childhood deviancy to a new level. Her fixation with me manifested itself in the form of repeated ‘shots’ to the arm, relieved only by brief pauses allowing her to gage my reaction. I successfully concealed the bruises from my parents but the same cannot be said for my emotions. Coincidently a classmate had recently taken to running around rhyming people’s last names with whatever insult he could come up with so, once I greatly exaggerated his taunting, I was able to swap the humiliation of ‘getting beat up by a girl’ for some righteous outrage and wounded family pride.
I remember quite vividly the first time this habit went seriously wrong. I was probably in grade seven by now and it was the morning after my cat had to be put down. My mom poked her head in the door of my room to get me up for school and when I told her I was feeling sick she, being the sympathetic woman that she is, left me alone. My bed (made by one of my uncles as a high school project) was basically the top of a bunk bed with no bottom so a few minutes later, when my father decided to pull me down it was a more difficult feat than would have been offered by the traditional setup. By that time the ‘s’ and ‘f’ words in our family vocabulary had been replaced by their four letter counterparts as was expressed most clearly that morning.
Nevertheless life went on and lies stayed a part of it. Lies about smoking, drugs and sex developed my reputation as a ‘bad ass’ and, having nothing better to do, my body followed suit. After taking up smoking and dropping more drugs than I had ever lied about doing, I ended up losing my virginity at the age of seventeen to two women who did not know (but must have realized…) how inexperienced I was. Such brief episodes of karmic payoff were not enough to reveal the difficulties these inconsistencies were adding to my life. Eventually though, that realization did come and the idea hit like so many bricks will do.
Well actually it wasn’t bricks at all but some concrete in front of a fire station in Toronto’s entertainment district. There was nothing special about the parking lot except for a few cars, one of which my friend and his drunken stupor thought would be funny to climb over. As the calm and sober one of our group I decided it was my role to mediate his encounter with the nearby bicycle police as seemed hell bent on escalating the situation to arrest. Apparently there is an old saying that goes ‘while a friend will always bail you out of jail, a best friend is in there with you’ however I had never heard that one before, so when I found myself sitting in a holding cell with ringing ears and a bloody scalp my cognitive dialog was simply ‘I wish I were drunk’ .
In the moment when things could not get any worse, an understanding came that goes beyond words. Finally I had a story worth telling and the only one who would ever believe it was me! All those times it seemed like I had diverted from truth for the sake of others, but the final authority on personal truth is the thing looking out from behind your eyes! Although my thoughts had been influenced by gender categorizations and societal limitations on which were acceptable emotions to display, it was my choice to accept those limitations! Ultimately, the person my true story was not good enough for was… me.
The seas between self realization and actualization offered no smooth sailing and for a time I continued spouting my altered versions of reality purely out of habit. Even today as I grow closer than ever to the person I want to be you may hear me stutter off into a ‘never mind’. But I’m not too worried. I have my doubts that I ever lied more than that oh so hypothetical “average person” and now that I’m content being that guy behind the mirror my true story has become more than worthy of telling. Some day when we both have the time I can give it a try or just sit and listen to yours as long as you do your best to keep it true.