I was a Child Ninja Truth Crusader: How I Tried to Debunk the Santa Myth and Other Stories

When I want your opinion, I'll remove the duct tape. –Henny Youngman

The truth hurts, as we have all heard a million times since childhood. Our parents taught us that it is rude and makes people feel uncomfortable. We test this theory during early childhood in various ways.  Demanding full transparency, for example, was my M.O., which I repressed most of the time. But with Christmas comes childhood hysteria, that delicious, fantasy-drunk mania that we desperately try to reproduce with alcohol later in life. Drooling over a mountain of wrapped gifts usually brought my passion for the truth to its acme. I worked extra hard at keeping myself mute.

The year I was nine, my parents hosted a Christmas Eve party where Santa made his appearance and passed out presents to all the kids. Having had the epiphany of no-such-thing-as-Santa by age six, I immediately recognized the guy dressed up as Santa that evening as the father of the small child sitting across from me.

“Hey Markie,” I hissed, leaning towards him none too discreetly, “Hey, Markie...” I crawled along the carpet, guerrilla-style, drawing a bead on the kid with my truth Taser.

Markie’s mother, Connie, caught my eye. “Kimmy! No!” Her pleading, desperate look silenced me. There was so much at stake in keeping him an innocent for a while longer. To my truth-intoxicated nine-year-old mind it seemed silly, these lies that grown-ups so gravely clung to. We would get wise eventually, I thought. What’s the big deal? Kids want to get wise because it makes them feel grown up, and grown-ups know that getting wise just makes you a broken down cynic before your time. And, naturally, premature cynicism leads to a life of drugs, sex, and alcohol, or worse, a career as a stand-up comic.

Though I had exploded the Santa myth early on, I was a very clueless kid. So clueless that I would be embarrassed to tell you how long I actually believed the moon was made of green cheese. And to confuse the issue further, my naiveté was inconsistent. By the fifth grade I had learned how babies were made, very accurately describing the process in science class—including a succinct verbal diagram of the reproductive hug below the waist—as the boys snickered and the teacher beamed proudly in my direction.  The composition of the moon, on the other hand, was still dubious in my mind.

For most of us, truth-Tasing, emotional spontaneity and uncensored inquiry do give way in adolescence.  But not so much for me. Though I spoke little as a teenager, my words were not tempered by diplomacy or equivocation. Now I see why most kids start lying to their parents so young. They need the practice. I never got the hang of it, to be honest.  The number of times I have been chastised for sharing my unadulterated impressions of what it feels like to be alive, will, much to my relief, be forever lost in a fog of shame. I simply refuse to remember, quantitatively speaking.

At age 58, I’ve learned not to practice unfettered freedom of speech—although I do occasionally push it to its limit. I guess we don’t really change all that much on the inside, we merely acquire discretion and develop the art of knowing and being sensitive to one’s audience.

Crusading for the truth serves us all well on our journeys with multiple sclerosis. There is usually a price to pay for this, but it’s a price worth paying if it means a family member understands us better, or another MS patient feels less alone because we’ve been so forthcoming, or our doctors have a deeper understanding of how the disease affects our quality of life.

During this holiday season, I hope we all channel our own little child ninja truth crusader and express our love, our hope, our struggles and our triumphs with those we love. The truth doesn’t have to hurt as long as we take our cues from the wisdom and compassion that dwell within all of us.

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