Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stranger Than Fiction

I make things up.

The stories I tell on this blog are true, allowing for a little artistic exaggeration and simplification. But in real life, I’m prone to telling anecdotes that I think would have been funny, whether or not they actually occurred.

I also feel compelled to invent common ground in uncomfortable social situations. This happens a lot in my receptionist job because silent people hovering near my desk make me nervous, so I feel pressure to make conversation about something. Also I’m fairly confident that I won’t ever see them again and have to remember my story.

I’m trying to limit this habit, because it’s going to get me some day.

My conscious mind isn’t the only one with this problem, though. Secret portions of my brain regularly invent stories without permission and pass them on to me as truth.

In 7th grade English, we spent a few weeks on song lyric analysis. One of the groups picked “Eleanor Rigby” for their project, and in the days before easy online music access, I borrowed my parents’ copy of The Beatles 1 for some extra home studying.

I also carefully explained to them the assignment, its purpose, and the specific song I would be playing, because somehow I had come to believe that the Beatles were an objectionable, adults-only source of entertainment off-limits to me, like The Simpsons. I didn’t have headphones or a Walkman until high school, so I sat by our 1990-made boom box and conscientiously stopped the disc after my assigned song. Once I turned the volume way, way down and let “Penny Lane” play next, fearfully waiting to be caught or corrupted.

My parents, of course, had no problem with the Beatles and were happy to have their children listen to this music (perhaps with a few exceptions). Six months later, they rented A Hard Day’s Night to get us some more culture. I had no reason to attach a stigma to the Fab Four—my brain just wanted to mess with me.

I should have expected this cerebral betrayal, having fallen victim to a similar trick the year before.

In 6th grade orchestra class we learned to play “Jamaica Farewell,” which features this chorus:
I’m sad to say I’m on my way
Won’t be back for many a day
My heart is down, my head is turning around
I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town
The teacher noted that her 5-year-old son had a kids’ version with some lyrics changed to avoid mentioning the singer’s girlfriend. I was puzzled because my mind had informed me years earlier that this song was about a kindly bus driver. Clearly, the little girl didn’t have enough money to pay the entire fare, so he couldn’t take her farther than Kingston. He was really torn up about it.

Whatever is wrong with me, it has evidently been going on for quite some time.

Moving forward, I’m trying to deal with my predilection for fiction by at least recognizing when I’m making things up.

I’m still refining my approach.


  1. everyone makes things up. At least you're willing to admit it to yourself. (and the world apparently.) Some people never admit they're not being honest. I laughed a lot at the sweater and sister story.

  2. Thanks, Andres. I really have stopped myself during a story and explained that it wasn't true, but I've also let a lot of them go by without my noticing.

  3. At least you don't make up song lyrics. You know, like:

    Eleanor Rugby
    She loves the game where you break all the bones in your arm
    Thinks it has charm

    Oh wait... You do that too...

  4. All I can say to that is...
    Suddenly I've found
    Her fur was white, not brown
    Oh, Sydney!