Liar, Liar

“I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible.”
— Holden Caulfield, in The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

Tuesday’s Writing Group prompt: Tell us about a lie you’ve told.

I am a terrible liar and so, as a consequence, I rarely lie.  As an adult.  As a kid? Different story.

The very first lie I can remember telling happened when I was 4.  I was in pre-school and some of the other kids were talking about some tv show – a cartoon, I think – that had recently aired.  I hadn’t seen it, because I wasn’t really allowed to watch tv, but I desperately wanted to be part of the group, so I said, “Well, when I saw it, . . . ” and proceeded to make up something that probably didn’t make any sense.  I don’t remember what I said happened, but I know the other kids were not buying it.


They See Me Rollin’

Money may not buy happiness, but I’d rather cry in a Jaguar than on a bus.
— Francoise Sagan

Today’s Writing Group prompt: Talk about a car trip you’ve been on. Do you like to travel by car? Do you prefer to drive or be a passenger?

We drive to and from Detroit about twice a year.  We always take David’s car (since it’s his family we go to see) and he usually drives the whole way.  Car trips make me tired; I’m usually asleep before we hit Pennsylvania (we come from Northern Virginia). We play this license plate game that we picked up at the LL Bean in Freeport on our way home from our honeymoon to pass the time.  David thinks it’s unfair to have to suspend the game when I nap, so the deal is, he keeps track of the ones he saw while I was asleep and then if I find them twice before he finds them again, I get them.  Otherwise, he gets them.  He always wins.

I love taking car trips, especially by myself.  I sing as loud as I can to my iPod and car dance and don’t care what anyone around me thinks.

I’ve never been on a “movie road trip,” you know, you and your girls with the top down, music up, back seat full of snacks and drinks.  But I do own The Bad Girl’s Guide to the Open Road, which I’ve read cover to cover.  That counts, right?  Maybe when we turn 50, me and Aimee and Karen will ditch our husbands and kids and finally take that trip.


God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road.
— from Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen

Today’s Writing Group prompt:  If there was a tattoo ink that disappeared after exactly one year, what tattoo would you get today?

I don’t have any tattoos.  When I studied in Spain in college, my friend Lisa and I had appointments to each get a tattoo on her birthday.  We had gone in a few days beforehand to check the place out (on a recommendation from a local) and look through the books.  Lisa decided to draw her own, but I found the most perfect one ever for me.  It was two dolphins, one larger than the other.  The larger dolphin made the top of a half-circle and the smaller one was underneath, facing the other way with its nose close to the other’s belly. To me, it looked like a mother and baby.  Dolphins, to me, are nearly perfect creatures, and at the time, I thought, the most important (although not the only) thing a woman could be is a mother, so the tattoo seemed to marry those two ideas perfectly to my 19-year-old self.  I showed the owner the picture I’d chosen and she quoted me a price equivalent to about $60.  Then she marked us down in her book for a few days later with a notation about what I had picked.

When we came back, she went about her business, then pulled my picture out and said, “Ok, so this will be $110.”  I was basically broke all the time in Spain, and at nearly double the price she’d originally quoted me, I balked.  Lisa and I told her that’s not the price she’d said a few days before and it turned into an argument (in Spanish, because we were awesome) about how she only wrote down  “dolphin” instead of “dolphins,” and so obviously we were wrong.  Whatever.  In the end, I refused to pay what she was asking and she got nasty with us, so we both left tattoo-less.  It was a sad day (until we went out drinking and dancing that night).

A little more than  a year later, I had an appointment to get a very similar tattoo, drawn by a friend, at noon on my 21st birthday, but we all went out drinking at midnight the night before and I ended up sleeping through it and never rescheduled.

Since then, I’ve never really seriously considered getting a tattoo.  The only thing I can  ever see myself getting at some point in the (knock on wood) way distant future is a memorial tattoo in my Dad’s writing.

But, if I could get something that would disappear in one year?  Based on the madness I feel creeping in more and more often lately since I went off my anti-depressants in September to try to get pregnant, I’d pick “Hold on.”

Don’t Misunderstand Me

She knows she’s more
than just a little misunderstood
She has trouble acting normal when she’s nervous
— The Counting Crows, Round Here

Today’s Writing Group prompt: What do you think people misunderstand the most about you?

I cannot count the number of times that friends of mine, after we’ve known each other for a while, have said to me some variation of “When I first met you, I thought you were mean.”  Intimidating is another word I hear a lot, as in, “When we first met, I was afraid of you, you intimidated me.”  This boggles my mind.

Sure, sometimes I have mean thoughts and say snarky (or even mean) things, but at heart, I really don’t believe I’m a mean person.  In fact, I think I’m soft-hearted in the extreme, often to my detriment.

And intimidating?  Me?  I do not get it at all.  I assume it comes from the fact that I don’t often let people get too close to me too quickly.  I guess maybe when we first meet I’m too busy sizing you up to be super friendly.  More likely, though, I’m frantically trying to figure out how to say the right thing and not spill my drink and trip over myself and generally how to not be my usual awkward self.  Maybe I’m working too hard at that and it’s coming across as indifference or superiority.  I promise, in no world are you more intimidated by me than I am by you.


Some people remember the first time
Some can’t forget the last
Some just select what they want to
from the past
— Mary Chapin Carpenter, Come On Come On

Today’s Writing Group prompt: Write about Memory.  Something you have experienced that you wish you remembered in greater or more clear detail?  Something that makes you doubt your own memory of an event as accurate?  Something you’d prefer to forget? Memory.

We got this prompt a couple of days ago and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  There are lots of things I wish I remembered better; I envy my older brother’s better memory of events that happened when we were young; and there are a few things I wish I could forget.  But what I was thinking about most with respect to memory is music.

In my younger years – high school, college, shortly after – I fancied myself a bit of a poet.  My “early” work stinks, straight up.  But one of the last poems I wrote, in April 1999, goes like this:

Just Music
The thing about a song
is that it’s just music
until —
until it attaches itself to you
and becomes yours.

Which is not to say
that it never becomes anyone else’s,
only that it will never be
anyone else’s
in quite the same way
that it is yours.

And each time you hear it,
you are reminded
of how it became yours —
how a boy you loved
once told you that this song
made him cry.

And how you found that admission
so inexplicably special
that this song,
about the power of first love,
has since been, is,
and forever will be,
for you at least,
connected to that boy
(now a man, whom you still love)
in a way
that’s almost enough
to break your heart
in the first two measures.

I really love that.  I’ve been surrounded by music my whole life (well, my whole life up until almost 11 years ago), and so there are certain songs that I only need to hear the opening notes of before I’m spun back into the past, tumbling down a rabbit hole of remembrance and nostalgia.  Like so:

All For You, by Sister Hazel: This is The Power Hour song, according to my brother, Nate.  When he and Andre were roommates and we’d have get-togethers at their apartment, this song in the CD player meant you got your shot glass and beer ready.  The single opening guitar chord never fails to put me back in that place.

Everything I Own, by ‘NSYNC: My best friend Aimee and I were unabashed ‘NSYNC fans in the late ’90s and early 2000s.  This song, off their debut album, is a remake of a Bread song (which I’ve never heard; the only Bread song I know is “If”) and was never released as a single.  It is amazing, though.  The best part?  Lance Bass – Aimee’s fave, who never, ever got to sing lead – gets a spoken word interlude: “You know, baby, my love for you will always stay true. That’s right, [chuckle], ’cause there is no me without you.”  Aimee and I would listen to the CD driving around Richmond and whenever this song came up, always, without fail, we’d speak Lance’s part together, chuckle and all, and turn and point at each other on “without you.”  And then we’d crack up.  Whenever I hear this song now, I can see us, shiny and happy in our early 20s, tooling around town without a care in the world.

Mr. Jones, by The Counting Crows: This album came out my freshman year in college and this song was everywhere.  When I studied in Spain my junior year, they played it in a club one night.  I remember so clearly standing on the steps up to the DJ’s booth singing my heart out and locking eyes with a Spanish guy 20 feet away also singing his heart out – he smiled the biggest smile and gave me a thumbs up, like “I can’t believe you know this song, too!”

All Along the Watchtower, by Jimi Hendrix: I lost my hearing in April 2002.  When I visited my parents the Christmas before, my dad called me downstairs one night after my mom had gone to bed (I think Nate must not have been there yet).  He put a tape in the stereo and pushed play.  It was a recording of him playing guitar and singing this song.  I’m so lucky that he shared that with me when he did.

Bed of Roses, by Bon Jovi: In college, I had two best friends, both named Jess.  Big Jess (who was 6’1″) was in my a cappella group, which is how we became friends.  Little Jess and Big Jess were best friends from home and roommates at school.  Little Jess always felt a little intimidated when we would go to karaoke because Big Jess and I would get up over and over and sing our hearts out because we knew what we had.  Little Jess always thought she sucked – she never sang in groups or anything, although she loved music – so she’d never sing with us.  Once I went home with them over a break and we were at a bar and this song came on.  Big Jess and I started singing along in harmony, just at our table, and all of a sudden, Little Jess joined in, finding a harmony right in the middle.  And she was perfect.  I’ll never forget that.

The Hard Way, by Mary Chapin Carpenter: When I was sixteen, I was driving with my mom in the car when this song came on the radio.  After it played a bit, she said, “I like this arrangement.”  I laughed and said, “I bet you do.  I’d like a chauffeur, too.”  Turns out she meant the musical arrangement!

These Are Days, by The 10,000 Maniacs: Big Jess and I dueted on this for our a cappella group in college.  Somewhere, there’s a VHS tape of one of our performances.  I’m nearly positive that, if you watched it, you’d see at the end this goofy little dance we always did because we didn’t really know what to do with ourselves after the words were done but the music was still going.  I miss my girl.

As for the song the poem’s about?  Maybe J knows.

You see what’s missing from this list, right?  There’s no song that reminds me of David.  I guess that’s not entirely true.  I mean, we danced our first dance to I Could Not Ask for More, by Edwin McCain, and I have lovely memories of that.  But David and I don’t really share music, since he’s only ever known me since I lost my hearing.  So we picked our wedding song not because it’s something special to us, or because it’s “our song,” – we don’t have one.  We picked it because it’s beautiful and has sweet lyrics (the runner up was When You Say Nothing at All, by Allison Krauss).  As much as I love that song, and as happy as it makes me to hear it when it comes up on my iPod, it’s not really the same as the other kinds of memories that music brings me.  There aren’t moments of our relationship that are defined by music the way so many of my pre-2002 moments are.  We keep our memories in pictures and trinkets, not music.