Screened for Lies

12/28/20

When my father taught me to play Texas Hold’em Poker I was not told it was called Texas Hold’em. I was told it was called “Dr. Pepper Circus Cards.” It was a reference to an old 1970’s commercial which advertised “Keep healthy by Drinking Dr. Pepper at 10, 2, and 4!” Thus, it was Texas Hold’em with the 10, 2 and 4 wild. I was in second grade and just starting to be accused of lying and being defiant at school. We played circus each night for a week then my mother joined the nightly game for another week. Afterwards, we never played again. Looking back, I realize they weren’t actually interested in playing poker with a 7 year old; they wanted to see if I possessed the skill of lying. I think they didn’t want to believe I was a liar. Their rationale went something along the lines of, if I couldn’t lie well enough to play poker then I couldn’t lie well enough to be guilty of what I was accused of at school. The problem was that I had already long since learned the most important lesson of my young life: adults don’t care about what is actually true, they only cared about what they say is true. So I already had about a year of practice at being a convincing liar at this point of my life and I was more than well aquatinted with my parent’s tells. It only took me a few days to understand the game and get a sense of what a good hand looked like, and after that it was literal child’s play. I didn’t win a lot, but I didn’t lose the game too horribly. Of course, I didn’t realize that by holding my own, even a little bit, I had proven myself a skilled liar and lost any chance of my parents defending me against the school.

I don’t know why this story has been on my mind lately. It doesn’t have a moral, or really anything resembling a conclusion. It’s just this thing that happened when I was a kid which hasn’t bubbled up out of my memories for a very long time. Perhaps that’s the lesson. We are never quite free of all the weird crazy shit that happened to us as children and sometimes the best we can do is come to peace with the loose ends.

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