I was a good kid. I made mostly A's and B's, rarely got into trouble, said "Yes, sir" and "No, ma'am" and otherwise kept my nose clean. But one naughty habit I did have in my youth was lying. You could call it fibbing or storytelling, but the truth is that I was a bald-faced liar of grandiose proportions. Here are four of my doozies:
1. "I need glasses."
In 2nd grade, I envied a girl named Jeanine. We weren't exactly friends, only classmates, but I wanted to be just like her for some reason that now escapes me some 30 years later. However, I knew very little about Jeanine. Really, I only knew two things: 1) she was allergic to peanuts and 2) she wore glasses.
It was impossible for me to pretend that I was allergic to peanuts, and besides, I was pretty into peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. What I could do, my 2nd grade self surmised, was get myself some glasses.
I can't remember if we had eye and hearing tests in school or if I went directly to my mother and told her I couldn't see, but I definitely fibbed my way into an optometrist's office. There I was given a vision test, and I lied all the way through that sucker.
A man in a lab coat sat me down in front of a video display that showed various objects of various sizes: shapes, playing cards, numbers.
"Can you see that?" the doctor asked. "No, sir," I lied, being sure to say I could see some things, all while squinting dramatically, so he wouldn't know I was bluffing. Sure enough, at the end of the visit I was prescribed glasses. Bi-focals, even!
I remember my mom driving me to Lenscrafters at Rivergate Mall. Together we picked out some not-too-expensive frames, round ones in a brown tortoise shell that hipsters today would kill for. I was so happy.
The problem came when I had to wear them. Turns out when you have perfect vision, lie about it, then wear prescription glasses not meant for you, you can't see. I was thrilled to look more like Jeanine, and was proudly wearing my new frames every day, but soon I got stomach-turning headaches, walked into walls and was unable to complete my assignments because I couldn't read the blackboard.
As much as I wanted those glasses, wearing them was even more painful. So, of course, I started taking them off in order to see. And what happens when a 2nd grader doesn't wear the glasses she didn't need in the first place? She sits on them and breaks them.
I didn't ask my mom for another pair of glasses. In fact, I was glad they broke because then I wouldn't get seasick just from walking around.
Many, many years later, well into adulthood, I confessed my lie to my mother, spilling the story as she drove. I remember her befuddled face, and how she started shaking her head in disappointment.
"Brittney Lynn," she said, clucking her tongue. "You ought to be ashamed. Do you know how guilty I felt that we couldn't afford to buy you another pair of glasses?"
That's right. My envy over another girl in class caused me to lie about needing glasses, which I then broke because I couldn't see when I wore them, only to cost our family money it didn't have and cause my mother shame at not being able to provide me with eyewear I never needed in the first place.
2. "I have a horse."
I'm not entirely sure why I told this lie to my friends and classmates, but I definitely did. I was probably trying to one-up other kids on the playground who had more material possessions, but why I went with "I have a horse" is beyond me, because not only did we not have a horse, we had no room for a horse.
Still, I kept up this lie for quite some time. I told tales of riding Lacy the Horse in my Dad's backyard, taking lessons, brushing her gorgeous mane and feeding her apples, probably from our non-existent apple tree.
I didn't anticipate any of my classmates ever coming over to my Dad's place, where this imaginary horse was said to live, but one time one did. Naturally, she excitedly asked me to go out back to see Lacy. After all, she'd heard all about how easy Lacy was to ride, how she'd sit patiently as I saddled her up.
"She ran away," I said.
"She ran away?" my friend asked with more than a hint of suspicion in her voice.
"Yeah. Last week. We left the gate unlocked. We saw her running down the street, but we couldn't catch her."
"Where is her saddle and stuff?"
"She was wearing it."
This childhood friend made no mention that there was no barn, no room out back for a horse (or even a pony), and to this day I am grateful that she never pressed me on the issue.
3. “I’m an expert equestrian.”
Not long after Lacy ran away (ahem), I went on an outing to go horseback riding with my all-girl church group. About 12 of us piled into a van and headed out into the country to take some horses on a ride down the trails.
As we stood around in a group receiving safety tips and instruction from the horse handler, he asked if any of us had any experience riding horses. Despite never having been on a horse in my life, my hand shot up.
"I used to have a horse," I told him, lying through my teeth. I'd lied for so long about owning a horse, that I almost believed it myself.
"Alright, you get Frank, then. He's a spirited fella and goes faster than the other horses," the man said. I was excited and proud.
We each got a hoist up onto our respective horses, most of whom took a lazy stroll along a wooded trail a couple of miles long.
But not Frank. Frank was feisty. I bounced along on Frank's back at a speedy clip, passing by the other girls, waving to them from the front of the line.
Frank was also thirsty. Because as the trail ended and cleared into a wide field, Frank got sight of the water trough waiting for him at the end of his journey and took off into a full-on sprint.
I had no idea how to slow a horse because I'd never actually ridden a horse. Everything I knew about how to handle Frank was taught to me just prior to the ride. This horse began galloping, and my tiny body bounced wildly atop his frame. Nothing could slow Frank down, at least not a complete novice.
As Frank ran full-speed for the trough, the saddle began to slide to the side. I was barely hanging on, gripping the reins with all my might, trying desperately to avoid being thrown to the ground.
I feared for my life. I saw all of my 11 years flash before me. I prayed hard for the ride to end, swearing to God that if he saved me from sure death, I would never lie about owning a horse ever again.
Frank finally, finally came to a sliding stop, bent down to drink and practically hurled me from his back. My heart raced in my chest, and I silently thanked the Lord for hearing my prayers.
I would lie again, but never about owning a horse.
4. "I wrecked the bike!"
In 6th grade I lived in a tiny two bedroom apartment on Hibiscus Drive with my mother and my sister. This apartment sat atop a big hill, and the road that led up to it was tall and sloped, perfect for daredevil bike riding. We had a paved mountain of a back yard, and I spent a lot of time going down it on two wheels. My sister and the only other neighbor kids our age would ride together almost nightly.
On this afternoon, for some reason long ago lost on me, I was riding the neighbor girl's bike instead of my own, even though it was too small for me. She was a couple of years younger, and tiny, but I pulled my knees to my ears and rode it anyway.
The huge hill curved to the right and out of sight of those standing at the top of it. My sister and the neighbor girl stood watching as I shot down the slope on the teeny bicycle, the tops of my thighs smacking the pink rubber-covered handlebars all the way down. Because I was a big liar, once I was out of sight, I tossed the bike gently to the side into a ditch and lied down on the ground next to it. I screamed for my sister and friend, yelling that I'd crashed the bike, only to laugh uncontrollably when they came jogging down to check on me.
For an 11-year old who loved to lie, that was a pretty cunning trick, so I had to do it again.
After they took a few turns riding down the hill themselves, I did the very same thing, only this time it wasn't as easy to get them to come running. I had to plead and insist: "I'M NOT KIDDING THIS TIME! I WRECKED THE BIKE!" Suspicious, they finally came to my aid looking thoroughly worried. But I jumped up laughing the second they arrived. Haha! Fooled again!
By this time I was feeling pretty invincible. So, I mounted the bike for a third sail down the hill, and I was almost around the corner when my too-long legs sent the handlebars akimbo, causing me to flip over the bike and smack the asphalt below with great force. The bicycle landed on top of me.
I tried to get up by propping my weight on my left arm, but I learned quickly due to a horrifying amount of pain, that my arm was broken. I screamed for help. I yelled that this time I was really and sincerely badly injured. I heard nothing in return but echoes of my pitiful pleas.
I lay crumpled on the street, covered in bicycle, wailing in pain for what must have been ten or fifteen minutes. I tried, but I couldn't get up. The pain was too much and the arm was useless.
Finally, abandoned by my sibling and friends who'd been tricked one too many times, a neighbor drove by my broken body. He jumped from his car and immediately dialed 911.
I was taken by ambulance to our small-town hospital, where they realized the break was too severe for them to handle. They wrapped my mangled left arm in a thick magazine and duct taped it up. I was then transported to a Nashville hospital wearing a glossy yet sturdy Vogue magazine on my left arm. The nurse who saw me right after I was admitted laughed out loud when she saw it.
I had to wear a cast all summer. I couldn't play softball, couldn't swim, and I certainly couldn't ride a bike. And my arm is still bowed some three decades later. If I was smart, I'd have spent those three months reading fables about shepherd boys, sheep and wolves.