As children we receive constant warnings from our beleaguered parents about the dire things that will happen if you take certain actions. Some of them are called old wives’ tales because presumably, beleaguered parents of the ancient past also warned their children of these same consequences. As an adult, I’ve found that some of what my mother told me would happen did happen and some of it did not.
“Don’t frown; your face will stay that way.” “Stand up straight; slouching makes you sag.” “If you read in that light, you’ll ruin your eyes.” As I slip my bifocals on in the car and catch sight of the grumpy looking lady in the rear view mirror, when I’m not feeling grumpy, I realize these things my mother said, and that I thought were impossibly ridiculous, have come true after all.
I’m not sure about whether swallowing watermelon seeds causes them to grow in your tummy, but there’s a spare tire that exercise and healthy eating are not diminishing.
I had a colonoscopy and no gum was found, so I know that old wives’ tale is not true, thank goodness. Earwigs have not laid their eggs in my ear and eaten their way out the other side, despite camping trips that have offered them the opportunity.
“Caffeine and smoking stunt your growth” — I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was 35, by which time I had long reached my complete height of 5 feet. I have never smoked and so I must blame my stunted growth on something else, like maybe too much reading, which also ruined my eyes. Since coffee and chocolate are now regular parts of my life and growth is continuing in areas I would gladly have stunted, Mom was not accurate about this one and neither was my high school health teacher.
“Money doesn’t grow on trees.” Sadly, this is true.
I can’t say whether “Starve a fever; feed a cold” is true or not since I can never remember which one to starve and which to feed and am inconsistent in application.
Pulling out gray hairs does make more of them grow, but I don’t think chocolate gives you pimples since my mother always tried to save my teenaged skin by eating it herself and I got pimples anyway.
Cracking my knuckles has not resulted in arthritis and I have stepped on many a crack in the sidewalk, being more absorbed in the scenery than in the ground, and my mother does not have a back problem. She has dementia, but her back is just fine.
My mother did not believe in the adage that taking a nap in the afternoon will keep you from sleeping at night and so my brother and I had to take naps every day until I was 8. If I’d heard that adage sooner in life I would have used it against mandatory napping, but since I only pretended to sleep while keeping a book under my pillow to slide out when my mother was occupied and my brother only pretended to sleep while he was concocting ant poison recipes in his room, I suppose it might be true.
My favorite old wives’ tale was that eating carrots was good for your eyes. This was supposedly a proven fact because no one has seen a rabbit wearing glasses. I ate a lot of carrots growing up and still do. The jack rabbits around here rarely have that opportunity. Jack rabbits spend more time eating shrubs, grasses and small trees. Since carrot-eating me is wearing bifocals and rabbits seem to hop along well without glasses, maybe I’ll update that old wives’ tale for my grandchildren. I’ll just have to explain shrub eating to their mother.
Wendy Schultz is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. Her column appears bi-weekly.