My mother says I had the most amazing imagination as a child. She loved reading the books I would write and watching the plays I would put on for her and the rest of my family. She delighted in my ability to immerse myself in fantasy, that is until my fantasies went from cute to destructive. It started with little things like telling her I didn’t have my homework because the wind blew my papers away on the way home. That was believable—we did live in Chicago—but when my papers started getting “blown away” at the dining room table, the jig was up.
As I got older the lies got bigger. I lied on teachers, which almost got one arrested after I told my mother that they hit me. I lied about the friends I had, or didn’t have. I even told a lie about being an adopted crack baby. Imagine my mother’s shock when she learned during a parent teacher conference that the stretch marks she had from the 19 hours of labor with me were really from carrying a stillborn child, which lead to her “adopting” me.
It was my essay on being the descendant of former slaves who dreamt of being the first in my family to graduate college that got me accepted into school on a nearly full scholarship. The truth? Both my parents and grandparents were doctors: two surgeons, a psychologist (the irony) and an OB/GYN to be exact. At my predominantly White school, many people looked at my light skin and assumed that I was mixed, and I went along with it. Depending on who you were I was Black and White, Italian and Trini, Brazilian and White, or Creole—but only during Mardi Gras.
My mother encouraged me to try being myself and I was ready to take that advice…until I met him: a tall handsome man sent from heaven by Jesus himself. He was successful, more than I was at the time and all his exes looked like they stepped out of a magazine. I couldn’t compete. Well, I couldn’t compete as me, but I could as someone else. From the minute he said "Hello," instinct took over and the first of many lies began. I lied to him about everything from my job to my name. I borrowed money from my parents to buy the designer clothes he loved seeing me in and I sub-leased my apartment to afford a fancier one on a nice side of town. After dating two years I felt guilty about not telling him the truth, but the lies were so deep that I didn’t know how to stop. As fate would have it, I didn’t have to force myself to stop lying—life did it for me.
During a quick stop to my parents' home for more charade money, I walked in to find my boyfriend (who thought my family lived abroad) standing there with my parents (who until then thought I was borrowing money for a PhD program), the three of them wearing heartbroken expressions on their faces. You see, my love wanted to propose and had decided to use the emergency key I left with my BFF to snoop for my father’s phone number so that he could ask him for my hand. Instead he found my dirty little secrets. All of them. Now the first man, the only man that I truly loved looked through me like I wasn’t even there. When he walked past me and out of the door without so much as a glance, I knew it was time for things to change.
It has been a few months since my world of lies came crashing down and even though I won’t say I’m cured, I’m taking steps to learn what it’s like to live in the real world again. With therapy and the support of my parents I’m trying to change for good. Hurting my ex was the first time I actually saw the pain my lies caused. The look in his eyes still haunts me and even though I know we will never be together again, I want to prove that underneath the lies, there really is a good person. And I can’t wait to introduce her to the world and to myself.
~As told to Danielle Pointdujour