Picture this—sophomore year of high school, me and a group of friends sitting in the cafeteria across from a more casual friend—for the sake of anonymity, let’s call her Rosalee. Now, by 90’s standards, which would include everything hot on BET videos and MTV Raps, Rosalee was the epitome of what one would consider fly: her hair, coiffed in a precision bob, always looked fresh from the salon—her gear– clean black Jodeci combats and a burgundy paisley shirt to match her baggy jeans in the same hue; only her octagonal gold hoops stood out more.
That’s what we expected from Rosalee, because we were all very familiar with the ground from which she sprang. Her family, whose roots ran deep and members even deeper, were notorious in our town for having money and making it in unconventional ways. Although Rosalee was a product of that, we grew up with her, which meant inspite of her outward flashiness, we viewed her as typical teenager just like us. Rosalee, however, seemed determined this day to push our innocent notions of her completely away. In rapid succession she began to hurl fantastic stories of lurid teenage trysts and outlandish escapades; tales so tasty they left all mouths open—hers to emit more salacious tales, my friends to graciously receive. My mouth, well, it was open too, but in a more contorted sort of way—Rosalee’s narratives seemed to me more fiction than fact, which both annoyed me and made me inwardly cringe!
That incident is one of my more vivid memories of coming face to face with my distaste for people who just blatantly lie, but it definitely wasn’t the worst or the last. My first love was the biggest liar I have ever met—I dated him nearly twenty five years ago and still have never met a liar that compares. His lies were more of the manipulative variety: he was an expert at playing mind games, a sport for which I was too naïve and unlearned to make a formidable foe. This man told me he was one age when he was another, had not one but two additional love ‘thangs” besides me, and even had a child during the two years we were together. With each confrontation, he was so smooth and cool under pressure that by the time he was done, I was the one having the full on affair and he was the benevolent savior himself—I tell you this man was good!
My next love was a liar of a different sort: this time it wasn’t the words spoken that betrayed, but rather the untruths that were hidden in silence. Growing up I would look at my parents and my surroundings and see confusion and disorder, dysfunction and want and wonder why no one spoke on these things that I could clearly see. Their reticence, intended to be a shield of sorts, seemed dishonest to me as a child; how un-coincidental then, that I’d fall for someone who rekindled such a painfully familiar flame as an adult.
Today I frequently encounter another untruthful bunch; they are the ones who lie to others because they first lie to themselves. “Don’t we all lie to ourselves sometimes?” It’s a question I’m sure some will ask, to which the answer is undoubtedly yes: How else could we walk out of the house more fat, desperate, lonely, sad, jealous, disappointed and not as successful as we’d ultimately like to be? We do it by telling ourselves that we’re fine when we’re not, that it isn’t our fault when it is, and that if we close our eyes long enough, everything will be okay, when it won’t. In many ways it’s how we cope; the enigma, however, lies somewhere in the middle—in the recesses of where boosting ourselves up ends and being altogether delusional begins. I admit that I have not been exempt.
My dance with delusion came after the culmination of my most tumultuous love affair; For years after, I was left in a state of hidden despair and with feelings of victimization that I just could not shake. “I didn’t deserve how I was treated” was the platform on which I stood and from where I’d readily plead my case. Then one day, for reasons I still can’t explain, I sat and pondered that relationship very long and hard. What emerged was insight that shocked me—sure, I had been done wrong, but I was far from a victim—I was a willing participant for a multitude of reasons and thus needed to take part of the blame. Just the realization of that simple truth freed me enough to finally allow my heart to heal; just like the body instinctually mends, I learned that facing the truth is curative as well.
Even now, when I happen to come to the table of my own truths, although sometimes hesitantly, I take heart and pull up a chair. Sometimes I have to face the fact that I can be too judgmental, other times I have to admit I’m too critical of myself. Also in there is my decades-long proclivity to people-please, coupled with my acute tendency to overthink. Just last week, sitting with a new and amazing friend, I shared with her another of my truths, “I’m a good writer,” I told her, “but I know it’s going to take years and much practice to become great.” As my words made the journey from my mouth to my ears, I pondered if not seeing myself as great was okay and I asked my friend her thoughts? “I think it’s wonderful,” was what she immediately shot back. “Being honest about where you are now is only going to get you closer to where you want to be.” I hope I always embrace my truths in this way!