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Author Shelley Fraser Mickle
Air Date 9/15/2000

Lies Transcript

There is no documented evidence on when we, as a species, first discovered that we can lie. When I think back, it seems to me I came up with my first whopper when I was four. By four, you have a certain command of language. Your imagination is always ready to kick in, and you discover that lying can get you out of all sorts of tight spots and tough jams, much like a deer running away from a wolf. In fact, I suspect that lying is our first and most handy defense. Then sooner or later some adult comes along and tells you that story about George Washington and the cherry tree, and you realize you’re going to have to town down your whoppers, or else resort to telling the truth.

All throughout early childhoods, there are plenty of stories to warn us about the danger of telling lies, such as the one about the boy who cried wolf, and of course the one about poor Pinocchio whose nose blabbed to the whole world every time he let loose with one.

What you discover, though, as you get older, is that there is a whole menu of lies. There’s the little white lie, and the downright lie, the shameless lie, the barefaced lie, and so on, all the way up to the whopper.

My first shameless lie started when I was five. Every night my brother sat down to practice reading out of his third grade reader, and I would sit beside him. Letters and words to me then were as incomprehensible as a bowl of alphabet soup. But as my brother read the words “I see Dick,” I would learn over his shoulder and say “I see Dick, too.” Then when he read “I see Jane,” I said I saw Jane too. Then to really get him going, I put my finger on the words I had memorized from hearing him read them so much, and with great drama, said, “And now, I’m looking at Spot.” My pretending to read so infuriated my brother that I was banished to my bedroom. There every night I pulled open the newspaper and pretended to read it. My mother says I could stay that way for hours. But then, that’s the thing about a lie – once you start one, you have to live it out or else you have no character.

Magically, though, near the end of my fifth year, the letters on the newspaper began to make sense. My lie became the truth – which I think really tells the truth about telling lies. Because what first pops into our heads as an untruth is really only a wish. It’s learning to keep the wishes in our heads that’s the real trick.

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