Monday, March 1, 2010

Weird Advice I've Gotten Over The Years

Beginning with earliest infancy:

"Chew your food well." I've always bolted my food, probably as a result of the neonatal deprivations with which I may regale you some day. Turns out my mother was right. Digestion begins in the mouth (saliva and all that sort of thing) and you get more nourishment from food if you chew it thoroughly. Plus, you can lose weight that way, as it slows everything down and gives your stomach a chance to send fullness signals to your brain.

"Never leave the house without gloves on your hands and bows on your braids." My mother again. This was less a protection against the weather in (mostly) balmy Barcelona than a desire to have me look 1950s proper at all times. Misplaced gloves and hair ribbons were the bane of my childhood.

"Never read after a meal." Darn! That meant I had to actually sleep at nap time. My mother was referring to the phenomenon, otherwise known as "post-prandial torpor," whereby the blood leaves the brain and rushes to the stomach to help with digestion. Forcing the brain to work might interfere with the latter.

"When you go to bed, lie down on your back, with your arms alongside your body and your hands not all over the place." The German nuns who presided over my childhood. I took this so much to heart that my college roommate said that when I lay down to sleep I reminded her of a cadaver laid out in its coffin.

"Do not do ugly things." The German nuns again. This was repeated over and over, but at six, seven, or eight years old I had no idea what it meant.

"Always be pure, always be chaste." My paternal grandmother, pulling my uniform skirt over my knees. Again, no idea what she was talking about. But I did begin to learn certain principles of how to sit when wearing a skirt.

"Never meet a man's eye on the street." This was never actually verbalized, but it was ingrained in me from the time I could toddle along on errands. My mother never looked a man in the eye when we went to the fish market; my aunts never looked a man in the eye when they picked me up from school; needless to say, my grandmother never looked a man in the eye....

"Strapless gowns are an occasion of sin." Father McCarthy, my Irish religion teacher. No worries there. It was my high school's policy not to allow strapless gowns at school dances. We girls were told that if we wore provocative clothes, we would be culpable not only of our own sins, but of those of the boy we inflamed as well.

"Boys are like light bulbs, girls are like irons." Father McCarthy again. Not an inaccurate description of the sexual response in each gender. He said this to us in our annual day of "love and marriage" instruction, when boys and girls were separated. He added that an iron eventually gets as hot as a light bulb, so we should be very, very careful.

"Never trust a man who has a nose on his face." My maternal grandmother. But she said it with a twinkle in her eye.

"Remember, when you are on one of your famous dates, that God is watching you." A letter from my father.

"It's better to be loved than to be right." My mother in law. She was told this tidbit upon her marriage in the 1940s, and passed it on, with the best intentions, to me in 1967. It did not sit at all well with me--in fact I was outraged--and I'm afraid I told her so....

"No man will stay with you if you don't stop being so moody." My mother. But, amazingly, he did.

9 comments :

  1. I love your blogs because I learn something every read or have an insight. When I went to Europe my first time, 1966, to the World Methodist Youth conference there was a young woman with whom I roomed often. We traveled for six weeks on the continent and then England, of course, being Methodists. Every night she slept as you described and I thought she looked like she was in a casket. Although she was Methodist, she was from Illinois and given her name, she might have been descended from German Catholic heritage.

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  2. mrb, I hope that, like me, your friend has abandoned her cadaver-like pose and sleeps with her hands wherever she pleases.

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  3. that last one reminds me of my mother's advice to always let the boy win. "they don't like to lose," she said. "neither do i," i said. "they like it even less than you do," she said.

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  4. Laurie, that is just amazing. I wonder how much of that still goes on. Maybe it's a survival of the species thing. Losing lowers testosterone levels in the male, so you're less likely to be impregnated and get to pass on your genes.... And the answer to that would be to find a male who never, ever loses at anything.

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  5. I, for the life of me, cannot think of one piece of advice I got growing up. I guess I wasn't listening!

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  6. This is wonderful! My favorite from my life: "Learn how to make a lemon meringue pie if you need to break bad news to your husband."

    My favorite useful ones:
    "Never learn how to do something (change the oil in the car, for instance) that you don't want to do forever" --my mother

    "Never let someone else do something you want done a certain way, they will disappoint and it will waste both your time." --my mother in law

    "In an argument, quickly figure out to whom it is most important. If it isn't you, concede immediately" My friend Mary's father.

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  7. Dona, I was just thinking the same thing. I know I got a lot more than I can remember.

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  8. My Mom always said: "Remember, you're as good as anybody else and a darn sight better!" And, "Your clothes can't show your print."

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  9. mrb, your clothes can't show your what? I need to know this--it may be crucial.

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