In 1986 I turned nine years old. My parents were in a messy-ish divorce and my dad was living alone for the first time in forever. He was a DJ at a college radio station which made me the coolest chick that no one wanted to talk to. I hung out at all night remotes and slept on conference tables at the station. I had posters covering my walls and I loved Kate Bush. Because of my dad’s stature at the radio station, (he was a rock star as far as I was concerned) he often got to interview an up and coming band or the occasional bonafide chart topper. This was the case with George Michael.
It’s my dad’s weekend. I walk into my room and there is a brand new boombox sitting on top of my dresser. There is a sign that reads: Push Play. My father had curated a number of my favorite titles at the time and put them all on a cassette for me to play in this new boombox. Before the music starts, I hear my dad’s voice- well not HIS voice- his RADIO persona. He sings a few bars of the Happy Birthday song to me and tells me to look above my head. There I would see an autographed poster of George Michael. “Yes, that’s right! George Michael came into the radio station and we just happen to have one of these posters lying around and I asked him to sign it for my little girl’s birthday”. Auditory evidence of the GREAT LIE.
You see, this poster had actually been autographed by another DJ that my father worked with and had asked to do so. Seemed harmless enough I’m sure. He couldn’t have known the damage it would do and the seeds of doubt it would plant. I cherished that poster and hung it prominently in my room LONG after it was cool to like George Michael. It wasn’t until I was about 16 that my father finally told me the truth.
I immediately thought back to all the sleepovers I had with girls whom I desperately wanted to like me. I wasn’t cool, but my dad had a huge record collection, and I had this autographed poster. Over the years I had become somewhat obsessed with getting other autographs of famous musicians. I fought a girl so long for a pair of Weird Al’s boxer shorts that he’d thrown into the audience, that she eventually ripped them in half and gave it to me. I later got those signed on his tour bus. That was at 13. I nearly broke my ankle jumping three flights over a concrete embankment to shake hands with Def Leppard. I stood in the freezing cold in birkenstocks so long that my toes were frostbitten, just to meet Liam Gallagher from Oasis- he was kind of a dick btw. Point is- this autographed poster was the start of something. It was an image for me that I could hide behind. It was a card I could hold up to show people that I was socially acceptable and “hip”. It somehow gave me confidence and power. And it was a fake.
I’m still not sure why my dad thought this would be a good idea or even why he thought it would be a good idea to tell me the truth years later. I think he probably didn’t have the money for a great present and “the autograph” was an image for him as well. It allowed him to be the cool dad when there was a chance our relationship would slip through the fissure of divorce and every other weekend.
So is it okay?
I don’t necessarily carry a grudge from this experience, but there are times when I’m confronted with my trust issues, that I need somewhere to place that blame. I mean, we all tell “white lies”, but when is it actually okay and when does it do more harm than good? I’m not talking about big lies- if there is a difference.
I’m trying to be more honest with myself and those around me now, because I haven’t been in the past. I was that person who would tell you they read a book because you like that book so so much. I would lie to share an experience with someone. I liked to lie to have a common bond. I lie to be loved. Don’t do this unless you plan to live a completely inauthentic life where you wake up one day and realize that you have no idea who you are.
This is not to say that everything in my life is a farce-only that sometimes the unpopular opinion is exactly what you have.
I’m with a man now that reminds me of this every day. He is one of those people that is so brutally honest, you’d think he must be on the spectrum. But he’s also taught me the value of not apologizing for your opinions, your desires, your feelings- no matter how icky those are to say out loud. Because that’s really why we lie, right? We can’t imagine that someone else would share whatever we feel is just too gross, unpopular, uncouth or whatever adjective you would like to insert. Instead we rob the world of our individuality and conform to the world clique.
My dad lied about the autograph because he thought maybe I would love him more. My 14 year old daughter claims to hate Justin Beiber because her dad does. How do we stop this great manipulation of those around us? I’m sure there’s been a study at some distant university that would tell me what people lie about most. Because I’m lazy, I’m not going to look that up. However, I can almost guarantee that the greatest lies told- the one that hurt others the most, are actually intended to protect those same loved ones. We tell you we love that dress on you when we don’t. We tell you we don’t mind it when we don’t have an orgasm. We tell you that we don’t still have feelings for that ex.
These are bigger lies of course, but they all start from the same place. We love- so we lie. Becoming a person of their word is a difficult transition. You must have to start with the basic belief that you are okay. Getting there is probably a lie you will have to tell yourself.