The first lie I ever told was about candy.
After Halloween each year, I was allowed to keep one gallon-sized Ziploc bag of sweets. I would stuff it to the brim, really make the bag earn it, and the rest of my hard work would disappear. I don’t remember what we did with the extra candy. It didn’t matter. As soon as I filled that bag, the rest was dead to me.
My mom would take the bag to the kitchen, and I’d watch her carefully as she placed the bag in the corner cabinet on the very top shelf. The cabinet had those turning shelves since it was in the corner, and it was over the countertop, so the top shelf was really high up. Especially to a very small child.
The rule growing up was this: Two sweets per day. It could be two pieces of candy. It could be one Popsicle and one piece of candy. It could be two cookies. I could do whatever I wanted with the combination, but I Could Not Have A Third Sweet.
I was a very honest child. I had a very honest face, but it was not for lack of finesse that I never lied. It was because lying was bad. It still is. I won’t download illegal music. I won’t cheat on take-home exams. I won’t lie to the leasing office about my dog. And at four, I wouldn’t lie about anything.
One day that changed. I don’t know what got into me. Maybe I spent too much time with the neighborhood trouble. Maybe I ate my two sweets too fast and the sugar had gone to my head. Maybe I was mad at my parents for not loving me enough and feeling they needed to have a second little girl.
Whatever it was, it doesn’t matter now. I snuck into the kitchen. Using the handle to the bottom drawer underneath the countertop as a stepping stool, I pushed myself onto the counter. I stood up on top of the counter and I could just barely reach the candy bag on the top shelf. I pulled out the first candy I could get a hold of. A Kit-Kat. Yum!
I carefully placed the bag back on the shelf and slid myself off the counter. I snuck off somewhere, probably under one of the desks around the house, the usual haunts of mini-me. I ate the Kit-Kat. That third sweet was so delicious. It wasn’t forbidden fruit. I hated fruit. It was forbidden candy. And forbidden candy always tastes sweeter.
That evening, my parents were sitting at the kitchen table while I meandered around the house. “Margot, come over here please,” my father said. They knew! Oh no! How did they know? I was so sneaky! They had serious faces. Oh, they really did know! Why did I do it? Why would I take the third sweet? I could have just eaten the Kit-Kat tomorrow! It all seemed so pointless!
My mother was sitting, but she still managed to look down at me. I barely reached the table’s height. “Margot, did you eat a piece of your Halloween candy today?” she paused, dramatically. The guilt was bursting off my face. “After you had already eaten your two sweets?”
I looked her in the eyes. “No,” I replied with a straight face.
She stared back at me. My dad stared at me. I looked at my mom. I looked at my dad. I looked back at my mom.
Oh, the agony. I couldn’t take the lying anymore! “I’m so sorry! I don’t know, I just wanted to have a treat! I don’t know why I did it! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” I said, begging for forgiveness.
I was in big trouble for lying, not for eating the third piece of candy. I had to go to timeout for four minutes because I was four years old. You would think the pain of lying, and the misery of four whole minutes in that awful chair in the dark living room would do it. You would think I would never lie again.
But the candy. I had broken the barrier of honesty. And for candy, I would do it again and again and again.