Friday, May 10, 2019

Another Desperately Needed 12-step Program

“Hi, my name is Bill, and I’m an exaggerator.”

“Hi, Bill,” everyone in the room replies in unison.

I stand awkwardly for a few moments, unsure of what to say next. Then the leader at the front of the room, a man named Joe, calmly says, “Don’t be nervous, Bill. I know this is your first Exaggerators Anonymous meeting. We’re all here to support you. And of course, we’re all in the same boat with you — we struggle with exaggeration. Not run of the mill lying, mind you, but exaggeration, you know, tall tales, stretching the truth, malarkey, and good ol’ fashioned B.S.”

All 20 or so people in the room look at me, nod their heads in agreement, and smile. Yes, we’re all in this together, I realize. That calms my nerves a bit. The leader says, “Just tell us about your struggles, what you’ve been going through lately.”

“OK,” I reply softly. Then I take a deep breath and say, “Well, where to begin? I guess I’ve always been tempted to exaggerate. It’s probably genetic. You see, I come from an Irish-American family, and with our heritage, we believe it’s more important to tell an interesting story than an accurate story. We call it ‘blarney,’ and playing fast and loose with the facts is kind of what we do. I’ve probably been to a million family parties where someone tells a funny story, and when the laughter subsides, someone else will say, ‘That was a fine story, lad. It would’ve been even better if it were true!’ And then everyone starts laughing again.”

Joe, at the front of the room, gently says, “Bill, you just said you’ve been to these family parties, umm, a MILLION times.”

I quickly close my eyes and shake my head. “Oh man, see what I mean?” I moan. “I do it without even realizing it!”

“That’s OK. That’s OK,” Joe quickly assures me. “It’s going to take a while. But recognizing our unconscious exaggerations is a key goal of this group. You’ll get the hang of it soon, I’m sure. Go on, Bill. Tell us more.”

“All right,” I say. “Well, besides my family situation, I also have another strong temptation to exaggerate. You see, I write a humor column each week for the local newspaper. And basically, they pay me to make things up. Now, it’s not completely fabricated stuff. For example, I would never write about being at a fictitious 12-step meeting. No, not dumb stuff like that. It’s more like discussing everyday events in my life — my family, my job, the sports teams I like, what shows I watch on TV — and then wildly embellishing it. And the thing is, the more ridiculous and outlandish the exaggeration, the more positive feedback I get from readers!”

“Oh, that is a real problem,” Joe says somberly. “Any other things you’d like to share, Bill?”

“Well, there is one more aspect of my life that might be a problem,” I say nervously. “For my fulltime job, I am, umm, I’m in sales.”

A collective gasp rises up from the room. Joe’s jaw hangs open. Murmuring begins, and someone whispers, “That’s the exaggeration hat trick. His case is hopeless!”

Joe finally quiets the room down. Then he says, “Bill, thank you so much for sharing. Please take your seat, and you and I can talk privately afterwards. Now, it’s time to hear from our other new member.”

Joe looks to the back of the room and points. A large man with curious orange hair stands up. “This is ridiculous,” he exclaims. “But Melania insisted that I come here. So, here goes. My name is Donald….”

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