My definition of old wives’ tales used to be ideas or superstitions that made no sense but that my mother believed in fervently. And I better follow them or else. This helped form my image of my mother and it didn’t make arrogant little me exactly appreciate her intelligence.
I now believe that old wives’ tales can be divided into 3 categories. The ones that I still think are stupid and can’t possibly have historical origins, the ones that I think sound stupid but probably have historical influence, and the ones that I thought were stupid and are TRUE.
Let’s tackle category 1 first.
- Never did my grandmother’s back break, or, as far as I can tell, even hurt when I walked on a sidewalk oblivious to the cracks. WATCH OUT! Seriously, Mom?
Spoiler Alert – the next two are about feminine issues, so guys might want to skip ahead unless you always wondered why your mother was going ballistic on your sister.
- FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE YOU CAN’T GO TO THE DENTIST WHEN YOU HAVE YOUR FRIEND! “Friend” was my mother’s euphemism for a woman’s period. Which actually, is also a euphemism as well. So my daughters can make fun of me, too. And the connection with the dentist was……..no clue.
- No showering or hair washing when you have your period! So you better believe I spent a lot of time at girlfriends’ houses showering.
Guys, you can open your eyes now.
- If a black cat crosses your path something terrible is going to happen. I don’t remember what the terrible thing was, but I do remember thinking that as long as I didn’t trip on the cat, it should be okay.
- Don’t sit on that cold bench or you’ll get a cold in your back. Huh?
On to category 2.
- BARBARA DON’T OPEN THAT UMBRELLA IN THE HOUSE! While that still seems pretty silly to me, I can totally get that you might poke somebody’s eye out opening the umbrella, and no one, old wife or not, wants rain and snow dripping on their floor.
- Under no circumstances whatsoever should you walk under a ladder. I doubt it warranted my mother’s insane reaction, but it isn’t a stretch to think that if someone was on said ladder with a can of paint, it could be disastrous to both the walk-underer and the on-top-of the ladder person.
Now category 3.
- You know it’s going to rain when your bones ache. Really, Mom? Well, a couple of years ago I had significant shoulder surgery. One day, at physical therapy, my shoulder was hurting a little more than usual. I told the physical therapist that my mother would have said that rain was coming. It then started to rain. For real. The physical therapist replied that my mother was right. Whaaaaaa????? She said that joints ached due to a change in barometric pressure. You’ve got to be kidding me.