The summer I was 15, I was fortunate to go to the National Music Camp at Interlochen, Michigan, for intensive instruction and performance. (I played clarinet.) Because I knew no one there, I felt a sense of newness and freedom. I must have blossomed somehow and become more outgoing and interesting, because one night after lights out in my 12-girl cabin, one girl said, "Elizabeth, tell us the story of your life."
#1: It's fun.
On the spur of that moment, lying on my back and talking into the dark, I began telling my new friends about my early childhood in Iceland, including many convincing details such as the local species of ant that built large hills on the plains us children had to cross every day to get to school.
#2: It gets you into a creative state.
In winter, I recounted, the hills froze hard, and if you didn't watch out, you'd fall over them, which I frequently did. (That got a sympathetic laugh.)
['The view from my bedroom window in Iceland.' photo by ES]
#3: It entertains and challenges your listeners.
I don't remember a tenth of the stuff I made up that and subsequent nights, but it enchanted my camp-mates, at least until one of the faster girls started talking about sex. I never did reveal that I'd lived in Michigan my whole life; I wonder if any of those girls remember my crazy tales.
#4: It's good exercise for your storytelling muscles.
Since then I've done countless similar things, most recently explaining to a roomful of patients at the physical therapy office that my arm was in a sling because it had gotten torn off in a terrible car wreck, but the doctors had reattached it in a grueling 17-hour operation. (In reality I'd had outpatient arthroscopic shoulder surgery.)
#5: It's a test of guts.
The thing is, I never just volunteer such information; I wait until somebody asks or gives me a wide opening. In most cases I tell them I'm kidding after a while. But I get a charge out of my quickening heartbeat as I brazenly launch into some dramatic story. Makes my day a little spicier.
Have you told outlandish tales to strangers / friends / enemies?
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