Several years ago, when I got my first job in the public school system, I found myself talking about music with, of all people, the school’s sign language interpreter. “You know what I still think is a great album?” she said. “Tapestry. It’s been…what…thirty years or whatever…and I still listen to it.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Tapestry is classic. Great, great album.”
“Oh?” she said, sounding surprised. “Do you have Tapestry?”
“Absolutely,” I responded in a heartbeat. “Love Tapestry. That’s an essential album to have.”
As soon as the words left my mouth, I wondered why I had just said them. The truth was, I really didn’t own Tapestry, nor had I ever actually heard it in its entirety. How did it benefit me to lie about this particular thing? What did I stand to gain by telling the sign language interpreter, of all people, that I had a Carole King record?
Soon after, we were at a teachers’ meeting, small talking with a group of real teachers, and she said, “I like Mr. Panara – he has good taste. He’s a fan of Tapestry.”
Since the vast majority of the teachers were middle aged women, this made them beam with enthusiasm. “Really! Such a young man, and he likes Tapestry! We’re so happy to have you at this school! What’s your favorite song?”
“Um, It’s Too Late Baby Now It’s Too Late?” I mumbled, naming one of the two songs I was pretty sure appeared on Tapestry. At that point, it became clear that my trivial lie was beginning to snowball. I had no choice but to go to the CD Warehouse that weekend and begrudgingly ask the guy, “Hey, do you have a used copy of Tapestry?” Luckily they did, and I was no longer a liar.
I was an authentic Carole King fan.
Sometimes I’ll do stupid things like this to myself. I’ll lie about something completely meaningless. Recently, it happened again. I had just joined Orange Fitness. It was the first time in my 33 years on Earth that I had ever signed up for a gym, and I was frantic to find excuses not to go. When I opened my membership, the woman noticed my Converse sneakers and pointed down at them. “No,” she said, trying her best to speak English, “gym shoes…gym shoes!” So there it was. I couldn’t go to the gym because I didn’t have a pair of trainers. I told this to a female acquaintance I’ve been talking to.
“Yeah, I signed up for the gym,” I told her, “but I can’t go yet because I don’t have the right sneakers. I’ll go to the mall soon and get a pair.”
This wasn’t a complete lie, seeing that I did in fact go to the mall and look for trainers. But there were a million different sneakers, hundreds of brands it seemed, and I was too overwhelmed to buy anything. Plus, I didn’t really want to go to the gym. The overabundance of choices and my laziness combined to sink my shoe buying mission like that chick from Rabbit Run accidentally sunk her baby.
A solid three weeks passed before my female friend asked again. “So,” she said during an online chat, “did you get those sneakers?”
Maybe I didn’t want to sound incompetent or something. “Yeah, picked up a pair this weekend,” I told her.
“Great! What kind?”
I froze. Luckily my friend Derek was also online. I explained to him the situation. “Say you got a pair of cheap Reeboks,” he said, and that’s exactly what I told her. I didn’t think much of it. Why would she mention it again?
Of course, she did.
“Have you put those Reeboks to work?” she asked me in a text one day. “Why are you neglecting those Reeboks?” she asked a day later.
On a Saturday, I told her I needed to buy new socks. “Oh! To go with the Reeboks?” she shot back.
I had clearly screwed myself. This is a girl I barely knew, and I had started the relationship off with a lie. And not just any lie, but a pointless, moronic lie about a frivolous thing that wouldn’t have made her like me any more or less if I just told the truth. What if she came over to my apartment? I could picture her face, the confusion in her eyes. “Where are the Reeboks?” she’d surely ask.
“Listen,” I’d have to say. “Sit down. I think we need to talk…it’s about the Reeboks…”
Like so many years ago with Tapestry, I was off to the store, on a mission. This time, though, I found the lie actually worked to my benefit. Before I was blown away – I didn’t know where to start. Now I had a specific target. Reeboks. I was incredibly focused. By the time I left, I no longer had any excuse for avoiding the gym.
Lying, as with everything in life, must be done in moderation. I’m lucky my stupid lies have now helped with my exercise routine and have allowed me to identify the song Lisa Simpson sings in the “Jazzman” episode (it’s on Tapestry), instead of getting me into trouble. I suppose for better or for worse, where a lie leads, one must follow.