Saturday, 13 March 2010

The Truth

Thank you, everybody, for obliging me by trying to figure out the one lie in my pack of truths. I'm beginning to realize that I'm a much better liar than I thought I was. Nobody guessed the truth, so here it is:

1) When I was five, my sister and I were run over.

This is absolutely true and one of the weirdest things that ever happened to me. My little sister and I were sitting at the foot of my uncle and aunt's steep driveway, where there was a lot of beautifully fine sand that we enjoyed playing in. We saw the car backing towards us and felt absolutely no fear. My uncle drove right over us. To this day I can remember how it felt, crouching down low, the undercarriage of the car just brushing our bent heads as we were suddenly enveloped in rumbling, sooty darkness -- then the explosion of light as the car passed over us and came to a screeching halt perhaps teen feet away in the middle of the road. There was not a scratch on either of us.

We saw my uncle, still clutching the wheel, staring at us in open-mouthed, white-faced horror. We smiled and waved. To this day I also remember the spanking we got: we couldn't sit down for three days afterwards. We'd been warned dozens of times not to play there, but that sand was compelling. After that spanking, we found other places to play.

2) When I was in graduate school, a friend and I worked as singers and bar girls in a Japanese 'club' in San Francisco.

My friend and I decided to do this to improve our spoken Japanese. We were really just glorified waitresses, but we were hired to help shy businessmen sing and spend more money. The high point of our time there was when our club sponsored a singing contest and Tokyo Television came and filmed us. Tokyo Television's cameramen showed up late because they'd gotten lost in the wrong neighborhood and had a lot of their equipment stolen. Neither of us won.

3) I can do the splits and stand on my head.

This is true too, though I should point out that I can only do the splits all the way if my left leg is forward and I find the headstand easier to do yoga-style nowadays. While I am the world's most uncoordinated human being, I am actually pretty flexible. I can also stand with my feet together and put both hands flat on the ground. What I can't do is look great while I'm doing any of these things.

4) I have read Yukio Mishima's books in the original Japanese.

This one is a lie. I've read a couple of Japanese writers in the original, but never Mishima. I have, however, read almost everything by him that has been translated into English, but even some Japanese people find reading Mishima's Japanese a tough slog; he liked using really old, hard-to-understand characters. His prose was also very dense, and his books tended to be depressing. I like to read the Japanese translations of English books too: I read the first two Harry Potter books in Japanese. They kept me plenty busy, and when I was finished, I wasn't depressed. Win-win.

5) Three times in a row over a couple of weeks I shared an elevator with Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinem, in New York City. We smiled at each other, but did not say anything.

After our third time together in that elevator, Bella and Gloria seemed a lot like old pals. I tried not to stare, but it was tough.

6) For two years, I co-owned and ran a small inn with my husband. Every single day, I baked my own bread, made my own entrees, desserts, and hors d'ouevres, and worked at least fourteen hours.

Our inn was in Scotland. We actually won an award (AA red diamond -- we still have the certificate), met hundreds of interesting people, and made a modest profit, but I have never worked so hard in all my life for so little return. We were more than happy to sell after two years.

7) As an adult, I was deathly ill from the chickenpox. I was so badly afflicted, none of the doctors or nurses in the hospital recognized me when I went back to thank them a week after I got out.

Also true. I was so tormented by the itching I couldn't sleep for four whole days. When I went into the hospital, my eyes were virtually swollen shut and I was one suppurating mess from my elbows to my knees. If you're an adult and haven't yet had a good case of chickenpox, be forewarned -- it isn't fun. And try not to scratch.

I'm passing this on to anyone else who wants to do this because I invariably choose people who are too busy to play. And I promise to use my lying powers for Good alone.


Angela said...

Wow--you are such a great liar. I would never have guessed this one for the lie! Well done, and dang you have an interesting past...not that I ever doubted it!

Carolie said...

You know...I actually thought for a moment "well, if she was really pulling a fast one, reading a particular Japanese writer would seem so 'of course she did' to us all that it would be the perfect stinger..." but didn't act upon that momentary flash! I could not imagine that you'd run a B&B and we'd not talked about it, and that you'd not brought it up or written about it! What novel fodder that would have been, I would imagine!

Thank you for sharing more facets of The Amazing Mary!

Charlie said...

I think your uncle should have been spanked too for not checking behind the car before backing up.

And you are a good liar--you must have picked that up from your students.

Postman said...

DANG! I was going to go for #4, too! I thought, "Hmmmmm. She's probably getting us on the ignorance factor with this one. We don't know who the hell Yukio Mishima is. I'll just bet you she's read a LOT of Japanese literature, but not that."

But I didn't do it. I thought I might insult you by accident.

Always trust first impressions...

Yes, you are a good liar. I think your prevaricator-spotting mum might've honed your skills.

AnneB said...

Phooey. I was never, ever able to do the splits, even in grade school. I am so envious.

AnneB said...
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Anonymous said...
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Kit said...

We're all so in awe of your Japanesse abilities that we'd never challenge you on that one. Now I'm in awe of your flexibility too!

Mary Witzl said...

Angela -- I can see now that the best lies are the ones that are closest to what looks like the truth. And anybody who lives long enough has to work hard NOT to get an interesting past, so being proud of this is just making a virtue of a necessity, but thank you anyway.

Carolie -- You are so right: that's what I was aiming for and now I feel SO devious!

As for running a B & B, I know you could do it -- you've got the creativity, the culinary skills, and, I'm guessing, the capacity for hard work. The amazing thing was that we thought we could do it. I have never slept so well in all my life as I did during that time, and all I had to do was work 14+ hours a day -- go figure!

Charlie -- That is just what my driving instructor said decades later when I told him that story. I'm sure my uncle DID look, but we fit right into his blind spot.

I want to blame my students for my lying skills, but I suspect they've been there all along, my mother was just really astute.

Postman -- You have GOT to go look up Yukio Mishima right now! He really was a fine (though depressing) writer, but apart from that, he also has the distinction of being the only playwright to commit suicide by seppuku.

I think you're right about my mother inadvertently honing my lying skills. I'll have to be careful with my kids.

AnneB -- I couldn't do splits in elementary school either! I took judo and gymnastics in college (and was invariably the worst in both classes), but we did a lot of stretching. One day, I was whining to a friend about how I couldn't do the splits (she could). I showed her how far off the ground I still was, and lo and behold, I was not off the ground at all. Ever since then, I've been able to do the splits. When I was pregnant, my ligaments stretched so much I was flat on the ground all the time. Weird, eh? (Say...I've got to try whining about not having found an agent...)

Kit -- My Japanese abilities are just so-so given how much work I've put in. I blush to receive all these nice compliments when so many of my fellow Japanese learners read Japanese books and magazines on a daily basis. I'm lazy and go long stretches without reading anything in Japanese.

Pat said...

What an interesting list. Charlie is a bit hard on your uncle. It's a wonder he didn't have a heart attack but of course he should have checked. I hope he wasn't the one to administer the punishment.
I ought to google Bella and Gloria. Should I be ashamed?
Running the Inn must have been hard graft but great experience to draw on when writing.
The lie is forgiven as you could have done it.

Falak said...

You are a great liar! I could never have guessed that one since.

Bish Denham said...

Wow! You've had some interesting/terrifying things happen to you.

Lisa Green said...

Wow! That was the one I dismissed right away as probably being the truth! Nice job lying. Is that a weird compliment? He he.

Mary Witzl said...

Pat -- My uncle didn't spank us. He took us back home without saying a word and my father laid into us. It was a good week before my uncle got his color back. I'll bet he never backed out again without checking his driveway half a dozen times.

Bella Abzug was a congresswoman and Gloria Steinem is a feminist. There's no reason to know either if you aren't American. (And come to think of it, I don't believe I know ANY British feminists! I can't count Germaine Greer, can I?)

Yes, I've got a whole collection of funny things that happened when we ran our inn. And my feet will never be the same.

Falak -- I feel a little sneaky, actually -- as though I fooled everyone through unfair means.

Bish -- Not really! I've just picked a few of the more noteworthy things in an effort to make myself look more interesting.

Lisa -- Ooh, you fell for my clever snare! I'm just lucky no one who's tried to read Mishima in the Japanese happened by. They'd have caught me out for sure.

Robert the Skeptic said...

So before I concede complete and utter defeat, I think your loyal readers, in the interest of true disclosure, require photographic PROOF that you can indeed can do the splits and stand on your head (not at the same time, of course). I remain, of course, Skeptical.

Robin said...

OMG! You are an awesome liar. It was genius to pick one Japanese author you hadn't read in the original Japanese even though you've read other Japanese authors. I bow to your genius. Thank goodness you promise only to use your powers for good.

Mary Witzl said...

Robert -- I briefly considered asking my daughter to take a photo of me doing the splits and standing on my head, then my better sense kicked in and I nixed it: I don't look GOOD doing either, and I have just enough vanity to make the very idea of showing off unsupportable. You'll just have to take my word I can do it. (Before I wrote this, I quickly did the splits to make sure I wasn't lying. I'm about 2" off the ground, but by summer, I'll be okay again.) The last time I stood on my head was six months ago, in yoga. Hmm...maybe I could get my yoga teacher to vouch for me...

Robin -- Awww (blush)! I really thought someone out there would see right through this ploy, but I lucked out. You guys are just too trusting. Still, I'm glad to know that all those years I thought I was a good liar, I wasn't just delusional.

Anonymous said...

I didn't guess that one. This is quite a list. I'd like to have experienced #5.

Marcia said...

Wow, I guess you ARE flexible. I'm neither coordinated nor flexible. But in my youth, I could turn a darn good cartwheel. I did one in front of my gym teacher and she screamed my name in shock.

Christina Farley said...

These are all so interesting! Reading Japanese is so cool. And an inn in Scotland? Wow!

Katie Alender said...

Wow! #1 is so spooky. Things could have ended very differently!

Mary Witzl said...

Medeia -- I felt so lucky! Gloria Steinem and Bella Azbug were two women I really respected, so I'm glad I had a chance to see them up close. I'm also glad I didn't work up the courage to say anything.

Marcia -- I am truly uncoordinated in a spectacular way, so it's just as well I have SOMEthing to brag about. I could never turn a cartwheel to save my life and neither can my youngest daughter, but my eldest can do these like nobody's business. I watch her and feel like crying. I'd rather be able to turn cartwheels than stand on my head. Standing on your head is really very boring.

Christina -- Believe me, running an inn sounds a lot more exciting than it was. It was very interesting, but the excitement factor was virtually nil, limited to the few times the electricity went out when we had a full house.

Katie -- That is so true. We were just amazingly lucky and looking back on this, I can't begin to imagine how my parents must have felt. Even at the time, I didn't resent the spanking -- I sensed how upset my parents were.

Mimi and Tilly said...

Hi Mary, thank you for visiting my blog and leaving such a great comment. I spent some lovely time yesterday reading through your blog posts telling of your time in Japan, and really enjoyed myself! (Thank you Kim!) It's quite a coincidence that we were in Tokyo at the same time. I lived in Japan for just under five years and had the adventure of a lifetime. My time there has had a huge impact on my life. I left Japan in '97 and still have times during the year, especially around cherry blossom season, when I get homesick for it.

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