"How I Mastered the Art of Lying"
Or, at least how I convinced myself that I have.
When I was old enough to attend high school, I was also old enough to learn how to disregard the truth. But sometimes, even if lying is considerably my biggest strength, it also becomes my biggest downfall.
I grew up in a somewhat strict household where I was not really permitted to go out often and the only place I could ever go to was school. My parents, being the traditional Chinese parents they are, deprived me of fun yet risky experiences that most teenagers in America went through such as dating and attending events and festivals on the weekends. This made me ballistic. I wanted to become outwardly American. I wanted to be like other kids, the kind of that wasn’t expected of anything. I envied my non-Asian friends, most of them were allowed to do whatever they wanted. Since I wasn’t, I had to use other ways in getting what I want.
I Lied to My Parents:
The First Instance:
In my junior year of high school, I experienced dating for the first time. Although I wasn’t allowed to date, I still did it. I had a boyfriend; an average height, mesomorph boy with disheveled brown hair who captivated me with his large, round brown eyes and braces. I found him very cute, but I mostly liked him because he was a creative artist and was, in fact, just my type. The summer of 2012, I found out my boyfriend lived a few miles away from me. I remembered the day I wanted to go see him at his house. He called me and told me his mom could pick me up since neither of us could drive. It was embarrassing, but, we were mere teenagers without a sense of direction, we only longed to see each other, to be held in each other’s arms and in our minds, school was not the most ideal place to do any of these things.
It was a simple lie, but fear took over my body and I shook at the thought of them asking more.
I told my parents that I was meeting a “friend” from school and wanted to hang out with them. I told them my “friend” didn’t live too far away and I grew closer to them during the school year, which, wasn’t a complete lie if you count wanting to make out with your longtime “friend” as a form of hanging out.
I finished and they stood in front of me at the front door with their eyebrows slightly raised. I remembered waiting for the interrogation that was about to ensue and recalling my voice to sound a bit shaky, swallowing hard at the guilt I felt. Strangely enough, they didn’t suspect anything else. They…believed me? They. Actually. Believed. Me.
That day, thanks to my success, I kissed my boyfriend a lot on his raggedy, yet soft blue couch and didn’t seem to feel any guilt from hiding the truth anymore. I only felt more power towards myself. I felt that lying was how I could bypass all these restrictions, all these expectations without necessarily showing that I was rebelling. Lying was how I could get out of this stereotypical good girl coop that I was forced to be in. I let his plush lips continuously press against mine, forgetting about the consequences I’d have to face if I were somehow caught.
The Second Instance:
Since I grew up home alone, I often surrounded myself in the comfort of alternative pop and rock music. I would often lock myself in my room and plop onto my bed, earphones completely strapped in, my hand numbly pressing the volume button on my MP3 player, increasing the vocals and instruments from my favorite bands as I let them sing me to sleep. At this point, I have already been to several concerts, but I didn’t expect to go out of Dallas for one.
One weekend, my former friends, Emily and Zoe, told me about a concert at Fort Worth, and we all really loved the band at that time, so, we made an agreement to attend the show. Emily and Zoe were not like me, first off, they were sisters and were white so they evidently had lenient parents, or more so a chill mom. They only had their mom in their life, but their mom was laid-back and nice, but she was also carefree because she was always busy with her own work, so her children were daring and willing to try almost anything once. I wanted to also experience that feeling, but I was still figuring out how to produce a newer, fresh lie for my parents to consume so that I could go to this concert.
In high school, I was in National Honor Society. I would often go volunteer for service hours and genuinely enjoy helping the elderly, small children or being an all-around good samaritan. I was considered a well behaved and smart girl at school, or at least I tried to be anyways. Being in this honor society was where I was able to develop the lie to go to this concert that I really wanted to attend on a Saturday night.
On the night before the concert, I told my parents that I had another volunteer group event to go to for NHS. I told them it would last until probably 10:00 PM and was in Fort Worth if I come home late. . I made sure my lie was stronger than last time, I made sure they became more believable each time. When Zoe’s car rolled around that afternoon, I kissed my mom goodbye before grabbing my belongings: cellphone, purse, wallet and house key.
I didn’t know that I would end up facing the police the night after the concert.
It was almost a sign that we should not have gone to the concert in the first place. After being kicked out of the venue after 11:00 PM, We were all minors out after curfew feeling terrified and hopeless because it had been an hour and our ride still hadn’t shown up.
Zoe actually wasn’t the one who drove us to the concert, her mom’s boyfriend, Edgar did. The venue had to close after 10:00 PM, so we got kicked out. Feeling hungry, the three of us hobbled our way into a RaceTrac. We still had money on us so we bought some hot dogs and grabbed some coffee to warm ourselves up. Zoe was going through her concert photos on her phone, but Emily started panicking, so I grabbed them both and went outside before Emily could start a commotion. We walked a mile away from the RaceTrac and sat down to try to eat our food.
His car pulled up in front of the corner we were huddled at. A gruff and stern looking white man came into view as he closed the door to his car and glared straight at us. It wasn’t Edgar, it was a cop.
I distinctly remember him saying, “Aren’t you girls too young to be out this late still?”
As if the answer wasn’t obvious, like, no shit, Sherlock. All the other places were closing at this time so we had nowhere else to go.
I, being the oldest, calmly said, “We’re waiting for our ride home”, but the cop didn’t buy it. Emily couldn’t contain herself so she burst into tears, yelling obscenities almost throwing a punch at the cop, but Zoe stopped it in time and clamped a hand over Emily’s mouth. Terror overcame me as I saw how pissed off the cop looked. He rummaged through his pants pocket and threatened us with handcuffs, telling her to calm down or he will arrest us for A.) staying out past curfew, and B.) assaulting a cop.
“You girls wouldn’t want that now, would you?” He said as he twirled the handcuffs and inched closer to us.
He disgusted me. I was sick to my stomach as I watched a shaking Zoe stare straight at the officer with nothing but defeat in her eyes while having her hand clamped tight onto her sister’s mouth still. Emily shut up soon enough after shoving a hot dog into hers and the cop drew back, smirking at the obvious power he had over us. I felt so useless and weak.
I was surprised he let us go.
It was about 2:00 AM when I came home. I got in trouble that night with my parents as I slowly entered the doorway. I didn’t expect them to be still awake. I wanted to disappear into my room and hide under the covers, letting the tears fall down my face because of how vulnerable I felt the whole night. But, I couldn’t do that. My parents were worried sick about me, and I couldn’t look them in the eye, so I lied again. I told them the volunteer group’s van ran out of gas along the way back and we were stranded for a while. They believed me only because it was too late for them to question anything. They were just glad that I made it home safely.
My parents never found out where I actually went that night, but somehow, that fueled my desire to broaden my lies and use them as excuses rather than just alternative situations. For the first time, I felt like I have control of my own life.
I Lied to My Professor:
The Third Instance:
When I got to college and found out about Saturday final exams existing (the audacity…), I knew my lazy ass was going to find a way to get out of taking them on Saturday. My first successful lies with this method fostered when I ended up missing two major finals in my junior year of university, but evidently being able to make them both up and still pass.
Finals week was just around the corner as I frantically crammed information from my Chinese, English and Music Cultures textbooks. I had three exams on Saturday, and was not looking forward to them. I was able to take my Chinese one just fine, but the other two were a lot harder to make the effort to go to.
The Saturday after I took my Chinese final, I missed my Short Story one. I panicked. I had overslept. The final was supposed to be taken at 8:30 AM. I glanced at the clock on my phone. 10:30 AM. I missed the whole allotted two hours to take it. With my phone still in my hand, I quickly scrolled through the apps until I clicked on “Gmail”, wracking my brain for what lie I could make up this time to ask my professor to let me make up the exam. I resorted to my go-to situational lie: a family emergency. Everyone is sucker for a good sob story, right?
I started typing my letter out. I spoke about how my mom had major health problems which was true, she had heart problems since her surgery in 2014, and so, I tried to keep in mind that even if she wasn’t struggling as much as she was two years ago, her heart could act up at any time. And that was enough for me to continue typing this fabricated letter.
I mentioned how I had to go back home to see her and how I had to stay with her for a while. While I was typing this, the memories from when my mom first had to undergo surgery surged into my mind again. I remembered how I would go straight to the hospital after school and how hard it was for me to watch her lay on the hospital bed as the saline from her IV dripped, acting as an hour glass almost. I was typing this with tears forming from my eyes, I was lying but also thinking of my mom’s condition and experiencing both of those at once was overwhelmingly painful.
I let my emotions control the words I typed, I let them send signals to my fingers and let them convince me that this excuse was good enough. I told my professor I wouldn’t be able to function for the rest of the day since I presumably returned to campus at precisely 8:00 AM. I sent it.
The next day when I went to check my email for her reply, I was pleasantly surprised.
She bought it. She bought it all.
I took my Short Story exam the following Monday afternoon and made a B+ on it. I was content, considering how much I struggled all year in that class.
I Lied to Myself:
The Fourth Instance:
Online dating rendered me numb yet temporarily happy, or so I wanted to believe it did.
During the winter break of 2015, I was awfully lonely. I had just finished my second semester of university as a sophomore and needed companionship. I resorted to an online dating app, Tinder, to be exact, and met a bunch people, some as friends, others were hookups and nothing more. With each date, I told my dad I was meeting another “friend”, I convinced him that it was the same friend every time and that I met them at UNT. The first few men I went out with had pure intentions, they only wanted to get to know me; they took me out for coffee and a movie date. Those ended pretty well I guess. The others wanted more out of me, and I gave into them.
As I was letting men touch me in exchange for dinner dates, gifts and long drives of their choice, I didn’t have to worry about much. They paid for my food in the daytime as long as I gave them what they wanted during the night.
I told myself I was happy. That I wanted men to flock to me and view me sexually. That I wanted them to touch me and that each time their hands came in contact with my lips, face, body, legs and elsewhere, it felt sensual. That was a lie. I didn’t feel any sort of sensation or spark, I only went out with men who took interest in me first, but I felt nothing for them romantically. Yet, I let them use me in the way people squeezed juice out of lemons, discarding the peel and tossing it into the trash. I wondered why it was this way for the longest of time.
Two years later, I discovered I was demisexual and my sporadic dates were from the result of my bipolar depression combined with my low self-esteem, both consuming me slowly but also forcing my mind to take part in impulsive behavior that I would either regret or accept. Being demisexual means I wouldn’t engage in hookup culture unless I did find someone I was emotionally attached to, but when you’re demisexual and bipolar, sometimes anyone you could emotionally connect to in some way, was enough. But to tell you the truth, I was pressured into giving in with some of the people I met. I didn’t know how to tell them to stop when the chemical imbalance in my brain wouldn’t either.
* * *
I continue to lie to myself. But, I don’t do it to my parents anymore. I’m 21 years old. I stopped lying to them and eventually did things on my own once I turned 18. I try not to do it to my professors as much unless it really was an emergency. I did it to myself as a coping mechanism. It wasn’t lies to only console my self-worth, it was more like lies to help me continue living. I still wanted to have this power and confidence that I felt in nothing else. Telling myself that better days will come was bullshit, but I needed to hear it sometimes. If I managed to convince everyone else that it was true, can’t I convince myself as well?
Thinking back to all of these events, I wonder if they were all worth it. It seems that they were.
Non-fiction piece by Yvonne Tran