Bob Benfield & The Melon Colonies

This April we are celebrating scams, bad bargains, scandals and deception – and while I cannot recall any formal involvement in scams, I recognize that at the heart of all bad bargains is a good lie. If lying were an Olympic sport I’d have the silver – no, gold.

I don’t lie about major things, or at least the kinds of things daytime television dramas seem to think people lie about – I am straightforward about myself to my partner, friends and employers; I have never needed to seek paternity tests for illegitimate offspring, never broken down in front of someone and said anything along the lines of “there is something you should know about me“, nor have I ever ended up in one of those sitcom moments where my lie about former work as a chef finds me needing to bake 150 ricotta tarts for my roommate’s sister’s wedding, stat, and I am bumbling around a kitchen still trying to convince people I know what I am doing.

I myself have a unique habit of lying and I cannot explain what exactly compels me to do it, but I enjoy my fabrications immensely.

No, no, that’s just plain silly. I myself have a unique habit of lying and I cannot explain what exactly compels me to do it, but I enjoy my fabrications immensely. Perhaps it is simply in my blood – my dad likes to tell people his name is “Bob Benfield“. I remember one summer taking a cave tour with my father and sister. The guide asked everyone to introduce themselves and my dad told them his name was Bob Benfield.

My sister and I thought this was HILARIOUS and it got even better when the tour guide assigned my dad the task of walking behind the group so no one got lost on the tour – there is nothing more side-splitting to my 9-year-old self than the booming voice of the tour guide echoing off the walls of the cave, “Hey Bob, still bringing up the rear?”.

My own career as a liar began early on. I discovered that if you told people you were allergic to something, rather than did not care for it, you would not be forced to try a bite. As time went on, I discovered lying was not only excellent for practical purposes, but it was also quite fun. Once, around age 5, my dad thought I was showing signs of being a Gifted and Talented student – GAT students had the opportunity to attend a better school for free, especially if they tested young. He told the tester I had a strong vocabulary, so when we went in the testing room, the tester started with some very challenging words and asked if I knew what they meant – I said I knew them all.

He was impressed, and asked me to use them in a sentence, so I did, to which he furrowed his brows and said “I thought you knew the meanings of these words?” I assured him I did, and that I used them all the time. “Please tell me what melancholy means,” the man said.

I gave it some thought.

I explained to him a melancholy was when a group of melons come over from Europe to grow in America, and they live in a melancholy, there were 13 original melancholies.

The man was not impressed – he gave me another word: popular. Well, I remember thinking, this one is easy! “Popular” I explained “is a way to describe things that pop. Popcorn and bubbles and bubblegum are very popular”. The man, apparently not enjoying this nearly as much as I was, ended the test and brought me out to my dad. “She is not eligible” he said, and with that turned a left me there. My dad didn’t really question what happened in there, but drove me home where he got out his old guitar because I had been inspired to write song lyrics containing all the new words I had learned. The lyrics to “Bubbles Are Very Popular” and “We are Melancholy” (set to the tune of We Are Family) were never recorded, but I am sure if there was a GAT program from the musically inclined I might have had a shot.

I never really stopped enjoying the art of lying – it was fun, it was a creative process, and often allowed me to live out my fantasies. I used to pretend to be speaking in different languages to my mother in the grocery store, I would tell kids I met at the playground I had to go home to my piano lessons (I don’t play any instrument, and my dad, despite owning a guitar, is tone-deaf), and sometimes even convinced them I was getting ready for a big move to Paris or Kenya or Ireland to live out various situations I’d read about in books.

I’m going to tell you more about them tomorrow. But for now, I must go and reply to this urgent email I received from the President.

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