Written by Sarah Kendall

Voices

Would I lie to you?

If Sarah Kendall’s asking that question, the answer is yes. She tells us how she learned to love playing fast and loose with the truth.

pinocchio puppet
Hi, I’m Sarah. I have recently written and recorded a trilogy of stories for BBC Radio 4. The final episode of the trilogy (Shaken, 14 March, 11pm) is a dramatisation of a lie I told when I was 13, and how that lie spiralled out of control.

Quite a few of my friends who came to see the show commented on the fact that they all think I’m a liar, and they’re quite right. I do lie a lot. I’m not proud of it, and I feel like I should get some points for being honest about that. And yes, I’m 40 and still expect to be awarded ‘points’ by someone when I do something that is ‘good’. Exactly who is giving out the ‘points’ these days?

I lie even where there’s no reason to lie. Even when the truth is more than adequate. For example, most people are OK with cancelling a night out because they’re exhausted.

We’re all adults. We all understand that sometimes meeting for drinks on a Friday night isn’t so inviting when it’s pouring rain, freezing cold and it’s been a big week.

But I wouldn’t just say that – because it doesn’t feel like a good enough reason. It sounds hurtful, like I don’t care enough about my friends to brave the elements. I would say that I’d been vomiting since midday, or that the boiler had exploded, or that I’d fallen down a flight of stairs.

For some reason I have this idea that being honest with people can be very damaging to their feelings. But if I’m being honest (am I really?) it’s slightly more deranged. Sometimes a lie just pops out for the fuck of it. Again, not proud.

I remember the first time this happened to me. I was about 11, I was in the playground at lunchtime, and someone had been mean to me. I can’t remember what it was about exactly, but I was a fat kid with bright orange hair, so that narrows the field somewhat.

“Those next two hours, I lived like a king. If there’s one thing little girls like, it’s melodrama.”

Anyway, I started crying. Some girls crowded around me, wanting to know why I was crying. I was too embarrassed to admit why I was crying; my feelings were hurt. That was the truth, and a totally good reason to be crying. But sounded so lame. A throng was now crowded around me: why are you crying?

And then I just blurted out that my grandmother had died that morning. Not only was it a lie, but it was a really dumb lie, because she was going to be picking me up from school in about two hours. I had wanted my bully to feel ashamed, and I wanted my peers to rally around me because they felt so sorry for me. My brain had done a quick calculation and come up with the wrong answer.

Those next two hours, I lived like a king. If there’s one thing little girls like, it’s melodrama. My bag was carried, people were sharpening pencils for me, I got a spontaneous cuddle from the second-fastest runner in the class. I kept looking at the clock, knowing my dream world would implode at exactly 3pm, but there was no turning back now. Might as well enjoy the ride until 3pm.

I even burst into tears again at 2.30pm because of how much I was going to miss the special treatment. Everyone assumed it was because I missed grandma so much, and I got more cuddles and more evil glances thrown in the direction of my bully.

Then at 3pm I walked towards the school gates, and there she was. My not-dead grandmother. The warm collective hug that I had enjoyed since lunch felt like it was cooling somewhat as the small gang of girls all figured out, at the same moment, that they had been lied to.

I think the moment was so humiliating that I have blocked the memory of what I did next. I vaguely remember doing a dreadful Grandma! What are you doing here? I must have got the wrong end of the stick, I thought you died this morning! but I don’t think it really mattered as everyone had already scattered and gone back to hating me.

I would like the ending of this piece to be something along the lines of ‘and that was the moment that I realised that telling the truth is not something to be feared, it is something to be embraced’ or some horseshit like that. Quite the opposite. My big realisation that day was that while I was going to pay bitterly for it, I’d just had the best afternoon of my school life so far. If anything I had to become better at lying.

But admittedly, I have slightly tampered with some of the details of the story.

A Day in October, the first of Sarahs trilogy for Radio 4, airs tonight at 11pm and is then available on iPlayer. Visit here for more info.

@Sarah_Kendall

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Written by Sarah Kendall

Sarah Kendall is an Australian stand-up comic who lives in London. She likes pictures of cats with lasers coming out of their eyes.