It would be fair to say that I have had a pretty complicated relationship with lying. Now, I’m sure that most people will readily admit that they’ve lied before. Because, seriously, we all have lied to some degree or another at least once in our lives. And for the majority of the rest of the human race, we’ve lied too many times over our lives to keep count.
My thoughts on this matter stem back to my mother and my father. Both of them were in
the United States Marine Corp during the Vietnam war. And, as war tends to do, they found themselves in a marriage without really getting to know each other first. In my parents case, this was a pretty big problem for them, and later for my brother and me.
My father is so blatantly honest, even about the most private things we tend to lie to ourselves about, and my mother was not. Being from a somewhat wealthy family, image was everything to her, and little white lies were just tools to be used to create a favorable image for her, and for her family. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t a marriage made in heaven. When my brother was a toddler, and I was six, they parted forever, and I can honestly say, I was never really the same again. But maybe I’ll cover that another day…It isn’t my point today.
Now, I truly love to explore the history of a person, and of course, I have always been interested in why I do what I do. It isn’t that I want to blame one of my parents for my own bad behaviors…I don’t. Nor do I. I can own my mistakes without a problem. But, when your dad is the polar opposite of your mother, and they have a World War III custody battle for years over you, you start kind of rooting for a side when it comes to your own characteristics. But at the same time, you love both competitors, so it all can get kind of dramatic and confusing in a young girl’s head. And I am the kind of person that will believe what I want to believe; to hell with the proof. :-)
On the one hand, my father and I had a really close relationship punctuated with all kinds of little rituals we did together. He was a talker, (like me :-) ), and we both loved animals, Dennis the Menace, Honky-Tonk music, and the list goes on and on. We shared a lot of bad characteristics as well — quick tempers, rude presentation of opinions, somewhat careless attitude towards others. I was a consummate Daddy’s girl, no questions asked.
But on the other hand, my mother possessed the qualities that I didn’t have, but wished I did. She was stunningly beautiful — (she won Miss Congeniality in the Miss California beauty pageant before I was born), kind, gentle, soft-spoken, and lady-like. She oozed sophistication and dignity. People loved to be around her, and she always made a person feel like they were the best human being she had ever met….( until she divorced you. She could be a worthy enemy as well).
It is my opinion that we always think the grass is greener on the other side, and I was no exception. I looked like my dad — Irish — while my mother was exotic looking — Italian. She was able to command the attention of a room by simply walking into it; I commanded the attention by falling over something and breaking it. Her hair was long, dark, and straight. Mine is a long,reddish-blonde afro of curls that rarely do anything I want them to do. For a kid, it was really hard to see how that creature was really my mom.
But they say we get wiser with age, and I was able see some of the flaws of the two people I loved so much, and the blaring one I usually had to personally deal with was my mom’s habit of lying. To her, if her motivation for lying was to keep the peace, or to not hurt someone’s feelings, then it wasn’t really lying — It was Lying For The Better Good. But, to be honest, my brain never really could wrap around that…To me, if it wasn’t true, it was lying. The bad kind….
During the Custody Battle, my mother and father were enemies of the worst kind. My mother had remarried a week after their divorce was final, and my father was eternally bitter about her for the rest of his life up to this very day. Every time my dad would find out where we were living, we’d move, leaving him to try for months to track us down again. My mother frustrated him at every turn, and each time I was able to see him again briefly, he would be a little different — harder, more bitter.
Now, because of her priorities, my mother wanted to portray for the world a happy, well-adjusted cohesive family with her new husband. And a blended family image wouldn’t do. So, I went to first grade with my last name the same as my father’s, and the second grade, I was using my stepfather’s last name. There was no even mentioning my dad in the house or to anyone ever, and thus I began my journey down deciding if I wanted to be a liar or not. Life in my home with mom would be easier if I just went with the status quo. But my basic nature couldn’t fully embrace this, and I seemed to be in a constant flux of indecision and confusion. But, as I loved my mom, I learned what most people in my situation learn — I learned to be a chameleon and tell everyone what they wanted to hear.
After years of legal maneuvering, the judge had had enough, and a hearing was set to bring me in to see him, and the judge was going to decide who was going to get custody of me based on what I wanted. I am ashamed to admit that both of my parents were supremely confident that I was going to choose them, because obviously, I was a decent little liar by that time. And while they both were at ease with the up-coming hearing, I was flipping out. All that lying was coming back to bite my little butt, and ONE of my parents was going to be really, really pissed at me. And I was really having a hard time choosing which one was going to kill me in the least painful method. I most assuredly was going to devastate one of them, and it was up to me to choose which one. I loved both of them. This was going to really, really suck.
As the days marched forward toward my nightmare, I did some soul-searching about myself. Of course, I was an 11-year-old kid, so it wasn’t all that poetic and earth-shattering. But, I knew I was going to have to decide what kind of person I really wanted to be. This playing for both teams garbage wasn’t working for me, and only my parents were peaceful with what I had been doing — I was in hell. Soon, neither of them were ever going to believe me again, anyways, but I couldn’t get away from myself. Big decisions were going to have to be made.
I decided to be honest and embrace the characteristics I had been naturally born with, instead of trying to mold myself into a pale version of the mother I idealized. All I had managed to do with the one rather glaring flaw she possessed was make a great big mess for myself. And it was just easier to be myself, than to deal with this whole disgust-for-myself emotion I would have to endure on a seemingly daily basis by saying what people wanted to hear, instead of just telling the truth.
At the last-minute, the hearing was called off. I don’t think I ever knew why, but I’d been given a reprieve. My road back to honesty did not happen over-night, and I was knocked off-course a few times growing up, but it was a good lesson for me in the end. Nothing like true terror to set you straight… :-)