Mendacity

8 Nov

When my son was eight, he and I were cuddled up in bed reading or watching TV or something. I don’t remember exactly what we were doing, but I’ll never forget the conversation.

“Mom,” he said. “Will you tell me the truth about something?”

“Well, yes,” I said, hoping he didn’t ask a question I would have to lie to answer.

“Even if you think it will hurt my feelings?”

“Yes, of course,” I said, crossing my fingers.

“Mom,” he said, “is there a Santa Claus or do you and Dad buy the presents?”

Whew, I thought. Nothing about sex.

“Are you sure you want to know?” I asked.

“Yes, just tell me.”

I swallowed hard.

“Dad and I do the presents.” He stayed still in my arms, head tucked against the soft spot just under my shoulder. He sighed.

“That’s what I thought.” We cuddled for a little while longer.

That September, we went to China. We came home with a little girl. Not too long afterward, I started preparing for Christmas.

“Pretty soon,” I said to my daughter, “it will be Christmas. Santa Claus is going to come to our house to bring you toys. Won’t that be fun?”

My son happened to be passing through the room. He stopped, looked at me and said, “So, you’re going to lie to her, too?” We lied to her for seven years.

This year, my daughter turned eight. She wanted the truth.

“Mom, is there a Santa Claus?”

“Why do you want to know,” I said, expecting her to tell me she’d had it with the years of lying and deceit. “Did someone tell you there isn’t?” Like your brother, I thought.

“Oh, some of the boys in school said that there’s no such thing as Santa Claus and that their moms and dads buy the presents. Do you buy the presents?”

“Yes, we do.”

She didn’t need any cuddling, just went back to whatever she’d been doing.

My husband used to lie to me all the time. Here’s how it would go:

“Will you give our daughter a bath?” I’d ask.

“Yes, right away,” he would say.

Ten minutes later, I would find that our daughter was still dirty and he was still playing card games on his computer.

“I thought you were going to give our daughter a bath,” I would say.

“Yes, I’ll do it right away. As soon as I finish this game,” he would respond. My brain would then explode trying to figure out if our daughter would get her bath immediately or when he finished his game.

Turns out, “right away” does not mean immediately. Silly me, I thought it did. In my world, right away meant that my husband was that very minute standing up, pushing his chair away from his desk, looking for our daughter and marshalling her upstairs for her bath. In my husband’s world, right away means, “in about five or ten minutes.” So, my husband was not lying when he told me that he would give her a bath right away. And I was not lying when I told him he was full of crap. He no longer tells me he will do something “right away.”

I don’t lie very much. It’s not that I’m not good at it. I’m a fairly convincing liar, but I was raised Catholic. When I lie, I do it well because I was told to always put forth my best effort. But then, the lie eats away at me. Even though I haven’t called myself a Catholic since I was 14 years old, I squirm and sweat, convinced I will be discovered and I will burn in a hell I don’t believe in for all eternity.

The range of lies I tell and squirm over is wide. I have lied about the beauty of everything from babies to bridesmaids’ dresses. “Yes, of course, I would love to wear a teal lace riding hat for your wedding. I’m sure I’ll wear it again and again.” I have lied about interior decorating, hair color, any number of peoples’ cooking and macaroni necklaces.

I will lie to the March of Dimes next year when they ask me to be their Mothers’ March volunteer. I accepted the task this year after copious amounts of pressure on their part. The volunteer kit came. It sat on my counter. I vowed to do it. I never did. I felt terrible. Next year, I will lie and tell them that I just don’t have the time. Someone else will volunteer, I know they will.

I have a friend who, like me, was raised by a Southern woman. We were taught never to say anything impolite or unkind. My friend is adept at finding something truthful to say in even the most horrendous circumstances. At a friend’s (terrible) movie premiere, she said, “What an exciting night this must be for you?” This is a woman to be admired and feared.

The lies I tell most convincingly are those I tell myself. Recently, I’ve been trying to write fiction. It goes slowly. Still, I enjoy it. I allow my husband to read it. He reads it. He responds favorably. I feel good about his responses. Then, my lying brain gets to work. I convince myself that he can’t possibly be telling me the truth, that every thing I write is terrible drivel and I am, in general, a talentless hunk of female flesh. When I tell my husband this, he rolls his eyes. He can’t win. He goes back to his card game. I go back to beating myself for thinking that I am a talentless hunk of flesh.

I told my kids that I was sad that Santa wouldn’t be coming to our house any more. They looked at me and said, together, “Why?”

After recovering from the shock of them doing anything together, I said, “Neither of you believe in him. I’ll wrap your presents and I won’t have to stay up ‘til midnight waiting for you to go to sleep so I can put the presents under the tree.”

“But I still want the presents under the tree,” my daughter said, pouting and looking extremely sincere. My son did his equivalent of pouting, which comes out something like, “Meh.”

So, we’ll pretend that we believe in Santa. I’ll stay up until midnight waiting for my kids to fall asleep so I can put their presents under the tree. I’ll enjoy it and that’s the truth.

Copywrite 2010 by Janice M. Lindegard. All rights reserved.

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9 Responses to “Mendacity”

  1. Teri Hinton November 8, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    Janice- I have been off the dianbai list lately, but am back on now. I loved your blog. I remember telling my girls that I was the “great pumpkin” who came and took the bulk of their halloween candy each yaer and left a non-candy treat in its place. They were shocked! I honestly thought they knew and it was just good form to come clean. They were probably 8 and 9 years old. We were in the car driving back to DC from Halloween in Chicago.I remember thinking that I had really blown it, becuase surely this conversation would lead to the big one about Santa, and I didnt want to go there. There was silence from the backseat for a while until Grace finally asked: What about the Easter Bunny? We’re not talking about the Easter Bunny now, I said. We’re talking about the Great Pumpkin. That was the day I knew they knew everything, but we never talked about it again! I am still staying up until midnight and still loving it, too.

    • jmlindy422 November 8, 2010 at 9:44 am #

      SO good to hear from you. Glad you’re back. Have you posted pics of the girls lately? Would love to see them. I need to post Abby’s Halloween pics.

  2. Teri November 8, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    Great post. I enjoyed it. TRUE! 🙂

  3. Bobbi Meier November 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm #

    Did Robin find Abby’s undershirts?

    • jmlindy422 November 9, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

      Ha! Robin had nothing to do with it, believe it or not!

  4. Ana Levenson November 9, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    Hi Janice, I loved your story very much! I am in Philadelphia right now, this time trying to prevent cancer. It is so cool that you are writing a book? a short story? a novel? You are very talented and I love your writing as I loved your conversational English (remember?). I am going to be in Chicago at X-mas time, may be we can have cup of coffee, tea, juice or red wine together? Hugs, Ana

    • jmlindy422 November 9, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

      Please do let me know when you’re in town. Coffee or tea or whatever would be great.

  5. stockdalewolfe July 22, 2014 at 11:38 pm #

    Love your posts. You’re writing a book? I wrote one, too, on being Bipolar and Aspie. You sound very normal. I have been crazy in my life, in another reality, like your father. Sorry for his illness. Sounds very hard and very sad. Glad I found your blog.

    • jmlindy422 July 24, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

      Thanks. The book is sort of in the stew pot stage, bubbling away on the back burner. I’d love to hear about yours. I also publish another blog, Crazy Good Parent, for parents with mental disorders. Why not head on over to crazygoodparent.org and see if maybe you’d like to contribute? Always looking for new voices over there.

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