Illustration by Allegra

“Mike, you go with Cara. John, pair up with Josh. Kelly, you’re with Sara. And Krista, you’re with…who didn’t I call? Raise your hand. Raise your hand…oh, Ryan. OK, Krista, you and Ryan can go together.”

Shit. It was eighth grade science class, and I was partnered up with Ryan for the week. Ryan (not his real name) made me nervous—he was popular (I was…not) and really pretty cute. He had curly sun-bleached hair and red, curving lips, almost like a girl’s, and he was so laid-back that he always seemed sleepy. He talked slowly and smiled slowly. I liked him fine; we got along OK (when he noticed I was alive.) That wasn’t why I didn’t want to be his partner.

The real problem was that Ryan was a known stoner. (I understood at the time that that meant he smoked weed, but I didn’t really know what weed was, other than A Drug.) Also, he didn’t do his homework. That meant I was going to have to do everything. Blah.

Ryan smiled his slow smile at me as we thwacked our books down on the black lab tables. We were learning about metric measurements that week, and our assignment that day was to convert different amounts of colored sand to metric measurements, using a shiny silver digital scale. The scale was thin and light and easy to use. Brand-new, our lab teacher informed us. State-of-the-art.

As the week progressed, I realized I had made a snap judgment about Ryan. He was fun to work with—he made me laugh while we measured things on our scale and he diligently took notes in tiny, illegible handwriting. By the end of the week, he had me giggling hysterically as we converted a chocolate chip cookie recipe to metric units. On Friday, the bell ending class rang, and since we were the last class of the day, we put the scale from our table back on the shelf with all the others. Everyone, including our teacher, pushed out of the room, talking about the upcoming weekend. I was genuinely sorry to lose my new lab partner, and I looked over my shoulder for Ryan, who was going back into the science room, calling down the hall to one of his buddies that he’d be right there, he “needed to check something.”

On Monday, two sets of scales were missing.

Our science teacher spent the entire period doing that “If someone doesn’t come forward about this, we will stay here all day” thing, but eventually he had to let us go. He said the principal would talk to each of us individually, that stealing the scales was a criminal offense, and that we hadn’t heard the last of this. I looked at Ryan. He looked at me with his sleepy eyes, and he smiled.

When it was my turn to talk to the principal on Tuesday morning, I sat down at his desk and told him I had no idea who’d taken the scales. The principal bent forward. Was I sure? They had reason to suspect that “someone” sitting “near me” had taken the scales. If, by chance, I did possibly know something about the theft, or even had a suspicion, it would be a crime not to tell them. We were talking a mark on my permanent record. Maybe even jail time. I was a good kid. Was I sure?

Here’s what was swirling around in my head: Ryan seemed fascinated by the scale. He always wanted to do the measuring, and he’d measure ridiculous things, like a Kleenex, from his pocket, marveling that the scale could pick up on feather-light weights. How much did I think one of these things cost? Ryan asked me more than once.

Here’s what I said: sure I was sure. I had no idea who the thief might be.

The scale lie was one of the biggest lies I had told up to that point. A whopper, if you will. No one ever found out who took the scales, and I spent several nights wide-eyed and awake after the incident, worrying about whether I would be caught somehow as an accomplice. Ryan knew I knew it was him. Every now and again, I’d be walking down the hall, and he’d walk past me and grin knowingly at me. Our secret.

That was certainly not the last lie I told; I’ve spent most of my 20s reassuring my (very Mormon) mother that I don’t ever drink. (I got caught with that one. She came to visit, and I had friends over, and I wasn’t thinking, and I suggested we have wine with dinner—“maybe a nice rosé.” My mom’s mouth pressed into a thin white line as she rose silently from the table and went into the bathroom, where she stayed for several minutes. When she returned to the kitchen, she icily ignored me until my friends left, at which point I was in T-R-O-U-B-L-E…until that haaaaay, I’m an adult and live under my own roof and get to make my own decisions, it finally happened!)

Everyone has lied at some point or another—it’s not necessarily great, but it’s not necessarily terrible, either; it’s human. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself lying less and less, but I’m still fascinated with lies. Lies have their own stories, and the stories behind them are inevitably interesting.

I asked a few friends (and a couple Rookie staffers) for some of the Biggest Lies They’d Ever Told. Here, for your perusal, is a roundup of whoppers.

“I had a two-year-long relationship and serious love situation with a guy who didn’t know my real first name for like the first six months of our entanglement. We met at a party, and, joking around, some of my friends introduced me as ‘Amethyst Rose,’ and I went with it because I liked having a secret identity. We had long since fallen in love before I revealed my real name. (He was angry at first, but he got over it fast.)” —Amy Rose

“My mom doesn’t know I’ve been smoking Camel Lights since I was 17. She thinks my ‘friends’ burned the ceiling of my car with their careless tobacco huffing.” —Carrie*

“My Girl Scout troop in high school really liked sleepover parties. Since it was Girl Scouts, our parents generally trusted us to stay at home and watch movies and make crafts or something. But really, these parties were just an excuse to sneak out and party with boys in the woods. To this day my folks have no idea.” —ANONYMOUS ROOKIE STAFFER, ooh who could it beeee???

“I was on my bunk bed, and I had a really cute girl over. I wanted to show off, so I tried to nonchalantly jump off the ladder. I ended up breaking my arm, but I was so petrified, terrified, horrified of going to the doctor that I lied about the pain from my mom for over a week. She ended up putting the pieces together, and one day at school, she took me out to ‘lunch.’ Lunch turned out to be the emergency room, where I got my broken arm fixed.” —Sally

“I started calling all of my teachers ‘kolotripa’ one day, which in Greek means ‘butthole.’ When they asked me what it meant, I said ‘sunshine.’ Best part is my mom totally played along and I continued to call them that for a full year.” —Amanda*

“This lie actually makes me feel like a good human being. I had a friend in kindergarten who had this peculiar bump on her forehead. Everyone made fun of her for it, and a lot of kids said she had it because her mom drank while pregnant (these kids or their parents watched way too many Lifetime movies). Anyway, she was visibly upset one day so I ran up to a bunch of her tormenters and told them that the reason she had the bump was that she was a unicorn, and when she came down to our mortal world her horn shrank into the little nub on her forehead. News spread fast and the disgust turned into awe; especially since my friend totally owned the lie and fully embraced her unicorn past.” —also Amanda*

“I had a roommate who refused to pay rent and bills on time (she usually purchased alcohol and drugs instead). When we were moving out and trying to figure out final bills, she didn’t pay me for weeks. One day, I saw that she left a bunch of her jewelry on the living room table. She owed me about $500…so I took one of her rings and pawned it. Straight up. She was looking for it for DAAAAAYS, and kept asking me if I’d seen it. ‘Nope,’ I lied, right to her face, time and time again. I promised myself I would go and get it back if she ever paid me, but she never did. If you use this can you make it anonymous? I’m still ashamed. (But seriously, she owed me a ton of dough.)” —another Rookie staffer hiding under the cloak of anonymity

“When I was a teenager, my mom was always in my business—sniffing my hair when I came home on the weekends, digging through my underwear drawer for evidence of rebellious activities, reading my journal—and so it was hard for me to get away with anything. I had to learn how to lie really well, and I would routinely lie to my mom for no reason whatsoever, just because I felt like it was none of her business what I was up to. I can clearly remember this one time when I was 15 and at McDonald’s with my friends. My mom called me, just a nice normal check-in call. She asked me where I was, and I said, ‘Taco Bell’ without even thinking about it. Then I realized I was so used to lying to my mom about EVERYTHING—even little stupid pointless things—that it had become completely automatic, my go-to way of dealing with my mom. It became something of a game. I still play it a little.” —Maddy*

I’m also interested in the lies people won’t own up to. When I started gathering lies for this article, I sent out quite a few emails to friends I’ve known for years— people I love and admire and hang out with and respect. You would not believe how many emails I got back saying, “I can’t tell you my worst lies—you’ll think I’m a horrible person.”

Pish-tosh. Most of us have told at least one whopper in our lifetimes. When a friend of mine tells me about a crazy huge lie they once told, I never think, “Oh, you’re a liar. Now I can’t believe anything you ever say.” Of course not! Usually I think it’s a funny story, and also that it’s kind of sweet that my friend can be open enough to (a) share a lie with me that they once couldn’t tell anyone, and (b) laugh at themselves.]

Like, seriously – what kind of fear of the doctor would you inspire you to lie about breaking your arm? Fascinating! Tell me more! (And make it good.) ♦

* The names of these liars have been changed to protect the truly guilty and ashamed.