Last week, as I was driving the carpool to school, the subject of faking one's own death came up on the radio (triggered by the fact that it appears Olivia Newton John's missing boyfriend may have faked his own demise.) The DJs asked anyone who had faked their own death to call in and share their story.
"This is really embarrassing," I said to the kids, "but I almost faked my own death when I was a girl."
Of course they clamored to hear the story. I told them about how I had sent away for a penpal via an ad in the back of a children's magazine when I was 9 or 10. I was so excited when I was assigned my penpal--a girl in North Carolina. We happily exchanged letters and pictures for several months, but at some point, I began to tire of the amount of correspondence (she was an enthusiastic and prolific letter writer and I couldn't manage to keep up with her.) I wanted to get out of the penpal relationship, but I didn't know how to do it in a kind way (I've always been bad at confrontation.) I decided that I would write to her using different handwriting, pretending to be someone else. I would tell her that, sadly, Gayle had died, so please don't write to her anymore. It seemed like the easiest way to extricate myself from the situation. But then I worried that she might try to strike up a penpal relationship with my fictional persona, or she might send my parents a condolence letter or flowers, and I really didn't want them to know of my fake death...
"Call the station!" the kids said. I balked at first, but my heart started pounding a million miles a minute, and for me that's usually a sign that it's time to push through my fear. So I dialed the number on my cell and was amazed to get through on the first try (the only other time we try to call KROQ is when they're giving away concert tickets, and the line is always busy.) I told the phone person my story, and he laughed, but said "Sorry. We only want people who actually went through with the death faking."
The kids were very disappointed. "You should have lied," they said. "You should have told them you did it." I knew I couldn't have done that, though. Faking my own death is not something I want to be known for. Plus, I am a sucky liar--I would have been transparent as glass. If I want to make up a story, I'll write it as fiction.
As for my poor penpal, I simply stopped writing back--a very passive aggressive move on my part--and she eventually stopped writing to me. Our relationship suffered an untimely death, but at least it was a somewhat natural one.
(A note to everyone I owe email to--please know this is not what I'm doing with you! With all my busy-ness, I'm afraid I've fallen way behind on my correspondence. If I've been annoyingly lax, feel free to send another email to prod me back to life; I'll try to get to you soon!)