Whenever I start dating someone new, they become acquainted with “The Big Three” — the three ex-girlfriends who impacted my life in the most negative ways possible. The Big Three include: the girl who tricked me into an open relationship, the girl who turned out to be a white supremacist, and, lastly, the girl who was a compulsive liar. For anonymity’s sake, I’ll refer to her as Lena, because I don’t know anyone named Lena and I highly doubt Lena Dunham is reading my article under her quilt made of hundred dollar bills.
I met Lena at work and it was dirty, ravenous lust at first sight. We decided to spend the evening together and had one of those romantic nights doing kitschy, hipster errands that every “500 Days of Summer” loving American guy dreams about doing with a pretty girl. We learned about each other; I told her about my obsession with “Planet of The Apes,” she told me about her love of punk music. Lena and I headed back to my conveniently empty apartment with a bottle of wine, six-pack of PBR, and two copies of “Face/Off” and proceeded to get absolutely spooky with each other all night long.
I asked her about her life: Where do you go to school? How old are you? What are your hopes and dreams? She told me she was almost 20, went to a prestigious, Ivy League school, which we shall refer to as Shmarvard, and had just completed a month-long mission to Africa. She regaled me with stories of elephants, orphans, and zebras. I became heartbroken when she told me that a large number of her friends had mysteriously contracted HIV. I remember her gazing off into the distance and mumbling, “That’s when I knew … I had to help people.”
I thanked my lucky stars that I had found such a profound and intelligent girl. As the weeks went on, we started seeing each other every day. Lena told me about the tough living situation she was in. Her roommate had fallen in love with her and had apparently stolen a bunch of her underwear and hidden them in her room. I gasped and commented on how surreal it seemed, like it was taken from a movie. Every time I tried to intervene and talk to this wayward roommate, she would tell me he wasn’t home or he had stopped his panty thievery. Eventually, we became official and things got steadily more romantic. She would buy me and my friends presents, write me little poems, and play me songs she had written. I ate up every single poem and song like it was a Cinnabun covered in 14-karat gold frosting.
Okay, I’m sure most of you know the ending to this badly written movie already, but let me fucking finish because it gets really, really good. The more I learn about this girl, the less sense it’s all starting to make. The very first clue dropped one day when we’re at IHOP. Over pancakes, I asked her when her birthday was. She told me February and I told her that it’s close to my brother’s birthday. She smiled and said, “Wow! I’m only 12 days older than your brother.”
“Actually, you’re a year and 12 days older than my brother,” I corrected her.
Lena replied: “No. Twelve days. I was born in 1991.”
I choked down my bite of pancake.
“I thought you were almost 20,” I said.
I was confused, but brushed it off as a miscommunication — after all, I was pretty drunk on our first date and just assumed I heard her wrong.
The fuckery continued and weird things kept happening. Lena told me more about her life: the boys she dated, the adventures she’d been on, the places she’d lived, and the jobs she’d had. I was impressed with everything she’d been telling me: how she lived in an abandoned hotel in Detroit with an accomplished photographer, how she drove a watermelon-colored van down south with her band, how she did ballet in Brooklyn for six months, how she taught a class on archaeology at Shmarvard. It all seemed extreme, but somewhere in the realm of possible. After all, by the time I was her age, I had been on my fair share of crazy adventures–though most of them ended up with me and my friends at Taco Bell.
Finally, my friends and family started catching on. They would appear confused every time she mentioned one of her tall tales. Throughout this entire relationship, I became close with her brother, who ended up being the accidental whistle-blower on Lena.
So, back to her name. I chose the pseudonym “Lena,” because it works for the lie she told about her name. For forever and ever, she claimed, she pronounced her name “Lane-uh,” explaining that her mother had been calling her both “Lee-nuh” and “Lane-uh” her entire life. After every single one of her friends and family refused to call her “Lane-uh,” I asked her brother what the deal was. He looked at me and said, “Dude, no one has ever pronounced her name as Lane-uh.”
This turned into a conversation about how his sister was, in fact, a total liar. He told me everything about her was a lie. I went home and did my homework — scouring the Internet for clues and calling friends to fact check her stories. Most of her Facebook pictures were stolen from a friend’s Flickr account, all the songs she’d written me were written by someone else, she had never been to Africa, never attended Shmarvard, never lived in Detroit, never lived in Brooklyn, and all the presents she had bought me were apparently shoplifted. It would be impossible to remain calm at this point, so I went as far as to look through her journals. Within one, I found a drawing she’d done. A pretty picture of a tree that she said she drew because it reminded her of me. I scanned it, plugged it into Google — you guessed it. Stolen.
When I confronted her, she went berserk and told me I was the one was had been lying the whole time. I listened calmly, drank my beer, and we broke up. There’s nothing quite like being accused of being a hoax by a clinically insane human being to really rattle your nerves. For months afterwards, my trust issues were limitless. On dates, I’d question women and cross-examine them, fearing they weren’t telling me the truth. A big part of me was afraid that I was (and I guess, still am) the crazy one and that this whole mess was somehow in my head. But all I have to do is Google some of the poetry Lena wrote me and immediately, I feel A-OK.
[Photo from Shutterstock]
Original by Julie Gerstein