My Olympic Career . . . Revealed

Source: via Sara on Pinterest


It starts innocently enough.

The dental assistant is new. She’s smiling as she reviews my chart. I put my coat and purse on the hook and adjust the leather pillow thing on the chair as I sit.

“I see you need to take antibiotics. Did you remember?”

I nod.

“At least an hour before you got here?”

I nod again.

She doesn’t put down my chart. She doesn’t move to set up. Instead, she looks at me curiously, which admittedly isn’t unexpected. Every time I go to the dentist some version of this occurs.

“If you don’t mind my asking, why do you need to take them? Usually, it’s older patients.”

I point to my left leg. “Artificial hip.”

“Oh,” she says. “I see.”

This is where I take the wrong turn. I just want to get this over with and go home. Only some sort of weirdo revels in the anticipation of feeling those pointy steel tools, neatly arranged on the metal tray, scraping against her teeth and gums.

But it’s obvious that the dental assistant wants to know more. And the frustrated teacher in me feels compelled to tell her the whole story. So she won’t be confused. So she has something out of the ordinary to share with her spouse when she gets home from work.

And there it is. The out-of-the-ordinary thing. With such temptation, there is nothing I can do to keep the writer in me from waking up, even though I know that she needs to stay hidden when in public, due to her overwhelming need to exaggerate. And embellish. Especially when somebody is bored and hopeful, which is the way I see that sweet, kind woman in the light blue scrubs.

The real story is that I dove for a ball in a tennis match, fell hard, and ignored my pain long enough for the cartilage in my hip to wear away to nothing. Thus, the typically senior citizen surgery at age thirty-seven.

In this instance, I try to be a good girl; I push the writer voice down and tell her the truth as I’ve just told you. But life isn’t fair. The dental assistant starts asking questions. She’s the one who pushes me over the line. She’s the one who forces the writer in me to rear her cunning, deceitful head.

What happened next is all a blur. Just like when I write a story. If I have a starting point, I can get so caught up in the work that when I’m finished, I actually have to reread what I’ve written to know what I have said. Same with telling a story, in particular a story organically conceived. So how did it turn out? The dental assistant with all the questions got to work that day on an American hero, somebody who could have been an Olympian if not for her horrible, life-altering fall on the tennis court.

If I had to guess, she got this impression because of the way I emphasized that we were in the semi-finals of a club tournament (which was true but only because I’d begged my brother-in-law, an amazing tennis player, to be my partner) or the way I explained how maddening it would be to have to play tennis non-competitively, as my doctor had warned (true), because I was so used to playing hard (which is clearly an overstatement.)

The thing is I don’t suffer liars well. Never have.

Which leaves me with one question: how do I justify to myself and others my own “writerly” lies so I don’t get dumped into the same category as “real” liars, the ones who use lies deliberately to mislead or frighten or cause pain?

I don’t have a satisfactory answer. I’m hoping somebody in cyberspace can help me with this one. Anybody?


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33 thoughts on “My Olympic Career . . . Revealed

    1. I do think most of us exaggerate, embellish, etc. especially those of us who write stories. If my memory serves me, aren’t you the one with the Twitter bio that shows your many occupations? When I first read that, I thought “wow. that’s one accomplished guy.” Then I kept reading and couldn’t stop laughing. Very clever.

  1. I have no good answer for you, but I love the story! I just wrote a piece about authorial embellishment, and I have to say that if that’s the sign of a true writer, then you definitely win the gold medal (sorry. couldn’t resist!)

    1. Thanks Julie. It happened yesterday and I was feeling so guilty until I wrote the post. Then I thought, I’m a writer, I’m allowed a little poetic license. Right?

  2. LOL!!! I can oso identify with this! LOL .. One of my top pet peeves is liars! Yet when I tell a story….I have to frequently go back and say, “That’s not really what I said but it’s what I was thinking!”

    1. I never know whether to explain myself. If it’s somebody I know well, I will, but I find that I tend to embellish more with strangers. What’s with that? Thanks for the comments, Carrie.

  3. You crack me up! You are by far the BEST new blog I’ve read in a long time! I can’t say I embellish in real life. Weird…because I love telling stories on paper. But…nope. Nothing but the truth, so help me God, in real life. I’m boring compared to you, that’s for sure. Can you be my BFF? I’m in love with you. LOL

    1. That’s so kind. I hope you continue to enjoy. I think it is perfectly acceptable to be a writer on paper and tell the truth in person — probably preferable. I’m usually that person too. After reading your recent blog post, I’m thinking if you are in love with me :), I’d prefer if you would be my stepmother instead of my BFF. Sounds like you are a really special one.

  4. Loved this as I have been in the company of many who clearly embellish and exaggerate to make the story more exciting. Better to be confident in one’s self and be who you are….if people don’t like it….who cares…we’re in our mid 40’s now! Love your blog!! Rock on my friend!

    1. And that is what I love about you, Christina. We are who we are. I’m so glad you read this post in particular because while writing it, I couldn’t help but think of you and what you must hear from patients that are exaggerated truths. Thanks for reading!

        1. Wow! Never even thought about that but it must happen frequently. I’m zoned out enough as it is; keep those drugs away from me.

    1. Thanks Laird. But I’ve been caught lying even more. My sister sent me a note to tell me that I was 39 not 37 when I had my hip surgery. When I looked back, she was right. So even the truth-telling part was embellished. Who wouldn’t choose 37 over 39?

  5. Hey Sara,

    I’m hoping after that awful fall, you were, at the very least,able to here the chair umpire shout..”game, set, match!! ” Love the way you write-I was giggling all the way.


  6. Not sure if it’s a play on your dentist visit or that I’m slightly fried right now but I took it as a funny sign that when I subscribed to your feed, the word I had to type to prove that I was a real person and not a spam bot was:


    hm. Lucky I dropped by your blog for a cleaning! Write on!

  7. I have a friend who planned to explain the scar over his eyebrow, the result of recent sinus surgery, as a dueling scar! Why not entertain the assistant? It probably made her day much more interesting than usual.

    1. Thanks for the support Joan. I like the idea of getting a scar in a duel. It’s much more exciting than sinus surgery. FIling that away.

    1. And you really can’t look them in the eye because you’re usually stuck looking up into the light (or in my case, closing my eyes, which is another way not to look them in the eye). Thanks for the feedback, Barbara.

  8. Hi Sara – Love the way you weave the personal story into a grander theme. Good stuff. I don’t think you need to worry though. Spinning a yarn isn’t the same as lying. I think lying usually has an overtone of harmful intent, which differentiates it from storytelling.

    1. This is true but I do sometimes feel as though I am being irresponsible when I don’t tell things exactly as they are/were. And there you have a window into my psyche. Thanks for the blog love, Ellen.

  9. Am feeling as though my early childhood embellishments, presented as facts to you at the time, clearly set you on a path towards future embellishments…or your career as a writer! Love you Sara! Will need your help to get my own stories (currently in my head and not yet typed out) published in due time!

    1. I believe it was your rendition of the Eagle and the Hawk by John Denver that pushed me toward dramatics of some sort, my dear. So good to “see” you here.

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