Today I wore green tights in the new mod style, with white heels.  I was appalled.  My roommates were pleased.  Then I was okay.

But looking down at my parsley green legs, I was reminded of the second most recent lie I’ve intentionally told, which I then told my roommates, and I will now tell you.

In eighth grade, I felt like I was at the top of my game.  I was middle school student body president; I was starting to wear pretty clothes; and I had finally found a smile I liked that I could do on demand, which made school picture day—and a lot of birthday parties—much pleasanter memories.

But I was a picker.  My OCDness, my teenagerness, my whatever—I liked to pick at the pimples and small bumps I found on my face, my upper arms, my wherever.  By eighth grade, I had started to feel really guilty about this—and was starting to see what effect this had on my skin—so I targeted an area of my body that I did not think was likely to be exposed to public sight, at least not before it had healed: my thighs.  (“So they weren’t pimples,” my roommate E. said, interrupting at this point in my retelling.  “They were ingrown hairs.”)  Okay, they were ingrown hairs.  Whatever they were, I picked at them, and I ended up with thigh-fulls of little scabs.  I can’t really believe I’m saying this out loud.

In any case, the worst thing happened: we started swimming in gym class.  It was going to be all girls (the boys were doing something else), which was good, but I loved my gym class.  We had a good time together.  And I didn’t want people, especially these girls I loved, to know that I was self-destructive in that way.  So I decided to lie.  And on the day that I lied, I was wearing green tights.

My lie was this: my scabs—the little red marks on my legs—were mysterious, we weren’t sure what they were, we were still checking into it, but aren’t they ugly?, I said, isn’t it so weird?  The other girls agreed with me.  They bit.  They sympathized and puzzled and encouraged me to see a doctor.  (Even the next day, Katie N. came in and told me she’d talked to her nurse mom about it, who had said she wasn’t sure what I had but it sounded like medical attention was needed.  I thanked Katie for her concern but was inwardly horrified that my lie had been given life by other people’s kindness.)  No one ever talked about it again.

But I remember looking at my legs after swim class that first day, putting on my green tights, considering my lie, and I thought that the red spots under the green nylon made me look like a dragon.  Forked tongue, fiery breath, Jansport backpack.  It was one of the lowest moments of my life.

Later today, E. looked down at my legs and caught her breath.  “I just thought of something!” she said.  I couldn’t tell if it was going to be good, so I decided to lower the floor, to keep my pride safe, so whatever she would say next would be better than the worst thing I could think.  “Does what you’re going to say involve the word ‘dragon’?” I said.

“No,” she said, laughing.  I was so relieved.  Then she said, smiling, “I thought these things: Jolly Green Giant and Incredible Hulk.”

Clearly, clearly I hadn’t lowered the floor enough.