Liar, liar, pants on fire

I wrote this story in French 10 years ago. Here is the updated English version.

« A quoi ça sert, les parents ? Ah oui, ça sert à ce qu’on leur mente. » Henry de Montherlant

Baron Munchausen

I have not always been a liar.
In the cradle and in kindergarten I did not lie, I am pretty sure of it. It was only in the following years that I started to fib.

I was born shortly before the start of World War II and my mother had been deeply traumatized by this terrible event. She subsequently guarded me like a mother hen, and I was never allowed to venture far from her protective wings.

When my friends went to play soccer, or cavort in the swimming pool, I was ordered to stay home because surely, if I associated with these rascals, something unfortunate would happen to me. It was this diktat that drove me to crime.

-Mom, can I go to soccer practice?
-No, it’s way too dangerous. The ball could injure your eyes.
-Mom, can I go to the swimming pool?
-Don’t even think about it! You could drown…

To survive this misery, and to avoid becoming my friends’ laughingstock, I started to lie… and I gradually perfected various scenarios to cover my tracks.

If I couldn’t go to the swimming pool, I was still allowed to play with my friend André who lived around the corner. And it was from André’s abode that we went to play soccer, swim, or sneak into theaters to watch R-rated flicks.

In those days, people of modest means (we all were) did not have telephones, and it was relatively easy for children to fib without the risk of ever being exposed.

Thanks to steady practice, I became a rather skillful liar. The secret of lying well, by the way, is to be prepared, to turn your tongue seven times before speaking, and to have a good memory.

When I was in high school, only wealthy people owned a (black and white) television set. In my class, there were only three boys issued from these wealthy families. Some mornings, during recess, they took malicious pleasure in (loudly) discussing what they had watched the previous evening on the small screen. We, paupers, could only listen and begrudge their opulent lifestyle.

But one day, to everybody’s surprise, a close friend and I joined their conversation. We offered opinions and comments on what had been broadcast the previous evening on the only television channel of the time.

We thoroughly enjoyed our classmates’ bewilderment.

What they didn’t know was that neither my pal nor I had suddenly come into money and were suddenly able to afford a costly TV set.

My friend, who was an electronic nerd, had simply rigged a gizmo that could pick up the sound of television programs… Not the picture, just the sound. But this was more than enough to allow us to pretend and to gloat.

When I became emancipated, I abandoned (or sparingly used) my talent. But lying is like riding a bicycle, you never totally forget how to use it.

So, if in the future  I ever get the urge to run for office, beware. I might be a little rusty, but I still feel capable of bamboozling voters like a pro thanks to my past practice.


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