A few days ago, I started a blog called Various Lies about, well, lies. I got the idea when I was wondering what the compulsive liars I've known would write if they had their own blog. The response has been pretty positive, and I assume it's because plenty of other people have known similar folks with a need to tell outlandish lies.
My memories of 4th grade seem to indicate every guy I knew back then was a pathological liar. The only girl liar I've ever known was also in my 4th grade class. Her lies were tales of being a backup singer and dancer for the New Kids on the Block, and having their babies nightly. The guys all used to regale each other with tales of their relatives with access to secret knowledge and technology. I remember the military theme being a wealth of amazing lies. The funniest part was that one kid would hear a lie, and then claim to have known about it, and then add a new lie to the original one.
"Your dad worked on the machine-guns-mounted-on-spy-dogs project? Dude, my uncle's dog kept winning all these dog shows for being so smart, and then one day these government guys knocked on his door in the middle of the night and recruited his dog to be one of those spy dogs. I swear to god."
Good lies shared some key elements. A classic technique was the inclusion of a citation from an unverifiable source like an uncle, anonymous friend, or "this guy I know." Many lies had an element of truth to add to their legitimacy. Other times, 'facts' were invented simply because they sounded like they might be true to an uninformed audience.
"The daddy-long-legs is actually the most venomous kind of spider, but it has no fangs to bite with."
As we grew older, most kids stopped telling lies. I remember my transition from liar to non-liar quite well. I came home from a friend's house, and made a comment about how they made their own glue traps to catch flies by smearing honey on the windowsill.
"At least he's creative," my mom said to my dad. I knew I was busted, and that was the end of making stuff up for no reason.
There was some amount of lying in middle school, but the real compulsive liars were starting to disappear by that time. Usually, middle school lies were to save face. If you didn't want to get in a fight, you could make up a story about beating up some kid nobody had ever heard of. Everybody would want to leave you alone if they believed you were a badass. I also remember kids like Jimmy Harrison asking kids like me if they were virgins. We were all virgins at that age, but there was still no correct answer to the question. A yes would get you mocked for being a virgin, and a no would get you mocked for being a liar. I tried to claim to have had brief sex with a girl during the summer, but Jimmy and his pals made fun of me, calling me a liar, before launching into a bunch of lies about the women they've had.
In high school, there were still kids who were compulsive liars. My theory is that nobody ever called them on their shit. I've also noticed personality traits that all of compulsive liars I knew in my later school years had. Every single one of them, when not telling outlandish lies, would kiss your ass all day long. If you hang out with a liar, they'll laugh hard at your every joke, hang onto your every word, do whatever you say, and think absolutely everything you do is the coolest shit in the world. Another thing I've realized about them is the fact that every single one of the liars I knew in high school, without exception, was either the only boy or the oldest boy in a family. My theory is that having an older sibling around would have prevented a kid from being a compulsive liar by calling them on all of their lies.
A friend of mine recently ran into one of the guys we knew from school, and he was still telling crazy lies. I guess if a person is still telling lies in high school, it shouldn't be that shocking that they're still doing it as adults. I still can't get over it, though.
UPDATE: Lew has posted a brand new story on the grown man telling lies in the comment section for this post.