This week I have lied to children. Repeatedly and almost shamelessly. I pause as if to calculate what the most popular video game in the US must be, delving deep into my mental database of entertainment statistics in order to provide the most accurate response. I take a moment to briefly count every resident of my hometown (because I know all of them) so I can recount its exact population. But these pauses are actually a quick mental debate: I Don’t Know vs. Confident Lie. Perhaps there is middle ground somewhere, a Confident I Don’t Know. What I do know is that I picked lie every time.
Part of this is because I felt ashamed for being a bad American. A fellow expat-teacher told me, “if you were a normal American, you would be in America.” Still, it’s hard not to feel like I’m letting them down a little.
REASONS I AM A BAD AMERICAN
-No one has heard of my favorite music
-I am not related to Indians
-I don’t know any movie stars
-I don’t even have a favorite movie star (I panicked on this one and my pause was probably a little too long to be plausibly for thinking)
-I don’t play a sport
-I don’t have a pet
One child even tried to helpfully follow up by asking me what pet I would like to have. “Oh I’m fine, thank you,” didn’t seem like the tactful answer. So I thought about the last time I wanted a pet, and announced that I would like a llama. Clearly this was not the tactful answer either. They all knew what a llama is, and stared at me to make sure I knew what a llama was, then did their best to forget I’d said anything.
All that to say, when I was asked, “What is your favorite animal?” my pause for “mental calculations” felt even more dire.
“I don’t really like animals that much”
Giraffes. Giraffes were the first interesting creature that came to mind, and why not decide they were my favorite? I kept it up from class to class just for consistency. Now I feel quite indebted to the creatures for making me look like a relatable person with some degree of good taste. Everyone knows what a giraffe is. And even if it’s not their favorite animal, no one can question my personal choice. In fact, it’s unique enough that I don’t even have to worry about anyone asking me why I am so keen on this species (or when I last saw one). And it has since proved to be quite a useful addition to my teaching toolbox.