The Tyranny of the Lie

My all girls high school was like any other with its typical array of cliques – the pretty, the ugly, the jocks, brains, geeks and the occasional total misfit.  But the fact that it was a boarding school added another variable, particularly since I was a distant boarder traveling all the way from the Chicago suburbs to Boston, while most of the other boarders came from the East Coast.  I generally felt totally intimidated by the sophisticated East coast crowd, who at one end of the spectrum had the polished upbringing of the upper crust, and at the other end were hip, at least in my naïve assessment.  These were the girls who probably were sneaking down to the river to smoke weed, or who devised work-arounds to the restrictive parietal hours and invited boys up to their dorm rooms.

When I first arrived at school, I immediately realized that I was so far behind, I felt like a Midwestern hick.  I knew that I was never going to be cool or hip, but at the very least I thought I could scratch out an identity as being “with it.”  The first thing I did was shorten all my skirts by at least five inches, from just above the knee to a virtual scrap of material that made it impossible to modestly bend over for a pencil.   On the weekends we were allowed to wear pants, and I wore standard issue hip huggers with a thick leather belt with an enormous brass ring for a buckle.  I suffered for the look, because whenever I bent over the brass ring would give my waist an excruciating pinch.  The following year, a cousin of mine was due to arrive at the same school, and I thought I could give her this key piece of advice.  When I called her she said, “Wow, mine are pretty short already, in fact, I don’t think they could get much shorter.”  She was as good as her word.  She arrived on campus already decked out in a mini, and she was also ahead of the curve in shedding her bra, that article of clothing we had been so desperate for a couple of years earlier.  She was brazenly braless, with large breasts happily bobbing about, and certainly didn’t need any advice from me.

I modified my aspirations early on.  When we first arrived at school, I lived across the hall from Sibyl, a beautiful girl, who was seriously cool in her disdain for authority and her worldly views.  She also made the varsity field hockey team, while I was relegated to the junior varsity.  We spent a good deal of time together in those early days, but I came to realize our so-called friendship was based on the random proximity of dorm assignments and we quickly drifted apart.  However, I knew when Sibyl’s birthday was, and bought some decorations and refreshments for a dorm party.  When I told Judy what I had done, she said, “Oh we celebrated Sibyl’s birthday last night.  Sorry.”  My revised “with-it” goal was the successful negotiation of the cafeteria, having enough confidence to join Jane, Barbara or Judy at a table, and the real coup would be if they chose to sit with me.

I focused my strategy on my wardrobe.  Occasionally I would take the train into Cambridge to buy “hip” clothes, like brightly colored Nehru jackets or embroidered Mexican wedding shirts.  I had heard that a store called Tru̅c (rhymes with spook) was de rigeur for a genuine 60’s look.  The store looked downright dangerous, located down some stairs and around a corner into a basement, murky with penetrating incense.  Loud Jimi Hendrix music was pumping away, and the sales person was an enormous man with an abundant afro who wore tiny rose tinted granny glasses halfway down his nose.  He was swaying to the music and stared vacantly off into the distance.  When I asked him if I could try on some gray and white striped pants, he just nodded his head toward the changing stall in the corner.  I could totally understand his scorn and disinterest.  After all, I must have been in the presence of a real hippie who had earned the right to wear very tight pants with huge bell bottoms.  In contrast, there was nothing in my life that would ever qualify me as a hippie, and I was really looking more for a costume than clothes.

The changing “room” was basically a closet, with no door and only very unsubstantial strings of beads that vibrated with the pounding music.  I did a token effort to try on the pants, since I was afraid that at any moment someone could brush open the swinging beads.  Also, I don’t think that I had ever changed in such close proximity to a man, much less a man with a huge afro and granny glasses.  I heaved a sigh of relief as I escaped from Tru̅c with my virtue intact and my new favorite pants under my arm.

I wore the pants often and was wearing them the night I unexpectedly reached my goal.  It was a crisp fall night, probably my junior year and I found myself amiably mixing with my target social group, knowledgbly talking about such things as the movie “The Graduate,” or “Goodbye Columbus,” which was pretty racy since one plot line prominently featured a diaphragm.   I felt that I was holding my own in witty repartee.  I wasn’t a wannabe; I was an equal contributor.  I had finally made it.

And then it happened.  Suddenly, our whole group was draped in a cloying veil of greasy stench.  I had never experienced such a wretched fart, and it could not be ignored.  Conversation stopped, lips curled, noses winced and everyone shuddered.  “Who farted,” three people said at once, and all eyes darted around waiting for the confession.  I froze, everything had been going so well and I could not bring myself to admit it that it was all mine.  All the other girls were close friends, and probably would have no shame in fessing up.  Maybe it had happened many times before to much laughter and camaraderie, with exchanges of past school yard phrases, “She who smelt it dealt it,” or “she who denies it supplies it.”  But I just couldn’t do it, I felt that this type of confession could only be shared among anointed members of an inner circle.  I certainly didn’t know this group well enough to joke about my SBD (silent but deadly).  The seconds ticked away as everyone stared at each other and the realization grew that someone was lying, and certainly it had to be me, the interloping outsider.  My window of opportunity was closing, and then it was gone.  I became trapped in the tyranny of the lie.  It had only been a couple of seconds but my silence had clearly established me as a liar.  If I confessed now, I would have to explain my humiliating hesitancy – how I didn’t want to scuttle my opportunity for acceptance by admitting to an innocent fart.

How many TV court room dramas have I seen where the lawyer mercilessly pounds away at a witness who has changed her story, “So you told the police one thing and now you are telling us something.  Were you lying then or are you lying now?”  Bill Clinton’s first lie about Monica Lewinksy was perhaps an understandable effort to avoid humiliation, but then we all had to watch as he flailed around in the tight clutches of the tyranny and valiantly tried to exonerate himself with his peculiar definition of the word “is.”  What had started as the simple lie turned into a festering purulent boil that had to be publicly popped, spewing forth the most humiliating details of his dalliance with Monica.  And how about all the steroid users and juicers whose righteous indignation at accusations turns into an exhausting full time job in lie maintenance.

I could have warned Bill, Lance Armstrong and Roger Clemens.  Mine was only a fart, but there is forgiveness for a sin but no forgiveness for the lie.  I should have yelled to the heavens.  “I smelt it and I dealt it and it’s all mine.”  And if I had played the moment just right, with a deft combination of humor and feigned humiliation, I think that I might have reached my goal and become part of the group based on a memorable shared experience.  Perhaps I could have said, “Oh my goodness, I am so sorry, nobody should be subjected to that, but I’ve got to say, on most days my farts smell like home cooking.”  But I blew it, I just didn’t have the social skills to pull it off.   My chummy little interlude with the social elite was over.  Everyone quickly fled to escape the foul odor, and I never found myself in their company again.  Actually, it was me, I never tried.  I was tainted.

The missing words in the following poem are anagrams (i.e. share the same letters like spot, post, stop) and the number of asterisks indicates the number of letters.  Your job is to solve the missing words based on the above rules and the context of the poem.  Scroll down for answers.

I thought that I was going to remain a fringe player for now and evermore

But then one crisp fall day I found the wall with the secret ****,

That lead me to the inner sanctum of the social elite and my status peaked,

But then I farted and the **** was penetrating and foul, it just really reeked.

It was ** ** die, do I keep my mouth shut ** ** I make a full confession?

You may be forgiven for the sin but not the lie was my life lesson.











Answers:  door, odor, do or, or do

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