Most of us revere the wisdom and perspicacity of our parents. Parents fill the first twenty or so years of our lives with what they think is good for us: broccoli, reading lists, curfews, chores, and aphorisms. Parents look for those “teachable moments” and try to cram as much as they can into them. My parents were no different from any others. But now that I am old enough to really evaluate my life, I recognize that much of what Mom and Dad preached IS ENTIRELY BOGUS.

The first thing that springs to mind is my long suffering Mother, who felt it was her duty to keep both her daughters virtuous and chaste. “Nice girls don’t wear pins” was drummed into both of us from an early age. I wonder that the safety pin industry didn’t feel the need for a huge media blitz to counteract this slam on their reputation. I think Mom had a picture in her mind of a slatternly teen, with body odor, dirt behind her ears, and clothes, soiled and barely held together. My sister and I, however, didn’t get that picture, and just couldn’t understand why using a safety pin to fix a broken bra during school hours made us slutty.

Another rule in our house concerned bed linens. According to my mother, only peasants slept in the same set of sheets for longer than a week. To this day, I feel a little guilty that I don’t change the beds that frequently. As a matter of fact, I don’t change the beds ANYWHERE NEAR that frequently. But, in my mind, there aren’t any peasants any more. At least I haven’t seen any in my neighborhood, and so I am not as worried about being compared to them as my Mother was. There must have been a lot of peasants in the town where I grew up.

My Mom was a firm believer in spring housecleaning. She admonished us that “A dirty home breeds harmful bacteria.” She thought this was a very effective scare tactic that would make dutiful housekeepers out of both of us. My mother had THE WALLS IN THE HOUSE WASHED every spring! My sister and I are both relatively clean and healthy people, and yet neither of us has vacuumed behind the refrigerator for years, and so far, none of the people in either of our families has developed typhus or any kind of weeping sores.

Watching the Olympics has brought to mind advice which my Father gave me, and which I unfortunately followed for years. He always maintained that “if you can’t do something well, then don’t do it.” As a result of that, I never learned how to swim, because I felt a little silly in the water. I have never even TRIED arts and crafts, because I am all thumbs. I don’t enjoy dancing, because I feel a little geeky out there on the dance floor. My husband, on the other hand, has led a very joyful life doing things that he loves, badly. He plays the accordion with much gusto but little talent. He loves to cook, even though he doesn’t know a bain marie from a baguette. He sings along with the radio, OUT OF TUNE. Boy, oh, boy, have I realized all that I have missed by being COMPETENT! Yes, those Olympic athletes are the best in the world at what they do.

But really, I feel that there should be an Olympic category called “Dabbling.” This would be for people who are experts at nothing but are willing to try anything.


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