The Lies My Mother Told Me

Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh

I’m not sure when I realised that holding an expression while the wind changed direction would not doom me to wear that twist of features forever. I was probably pretty young and I had probably disproven the theory, wittingly and unwittingly, several times. To this day, however, the sound of my mother’s voice wrapped around certain warnings triggers an almost instinctive or primal fear.

We all grow up believing in and eventually disproving (or not) certain myths. I’m pretty sure I don’t inhale the souls of murderers and thieves if I breathe while passing a cemetery. Pretty sure. But there are a few other words of motherly advice that have me thinking twice. So, I decided to do a little Googling and set my mind at rest.

Sitting on cold concrete will cause hemorrhoids

If this was true, I’d probably not be able to sit still long enough to write this post. Of course, sitting for long periods of time is a contributing factor to butt grapes, but short periods of contact with cold concrete is more likely to leave you with a numb bum than a raging burn. And it’s not comfortable. Not really. I suspect this myth comes from a line of hardy people who were too proud to complain about cold concrete benches and so decided that sitting on them for any length of time would be detrimental to their health.

David Gandy reclining gorgeously on a piece of stone that probably isn’t cold. I could have posted a picture of a hemorrhoid here.

I have a series of jokes running through my head about mental health and assholes, but I’m going to refrain…and move on.

Sitting too close to the fire will melt the fat around your kidneys

I’m sure you’re wondering if my mother simply had an issue with me sitting. What I’ve always wondered is if I actually have fat round my kidneys…and if it’s all melted yet.

Some amusing Googling produced no results for this one other than the fact fat around my kidneys is probably a bad thing. Fat is bad! I’m actually of the school that we all need a little extra padding, especially those of us who have a habit of falling down stairs. But as I don’t plan on taking any shots to the kidneys in the near future, my lack of fat there is probably all right.

Where did my mother extract this gem from? Probably her mother. After all, my maternal grandmother is the one responsible for my habit of naming and talking to inanimate objects.

That’s a whole other blog post.

If the wind changes…

There are too many myths and legends about the wind for me to pinpoint the source of this one, but I do like the idea of a story about a wind, personified, who affected a maiden so much that her expression froze into something beautiful or wistful. Or, maybe a proud man finding he cannot soften his features when he most needs to.

God of Wind by AnekaShu

I’ve added both of those ideas to my massive idea folder, but until I write them, I’m going to speculate that this expression (har har) has variations. Other mothers might have other versions.

“If you look like that when lightning strikes, you’ll be stuck with that face forever.”

True if you get hit, eh?

The truth of the matter is that the more often you hold a particular expression, the more habitual it becomes. Most of the lines on our face are from smiling and/or scowling. Also, some expressions just aren’t that pleasant to look at and sometimes mothers really do run out of sensible things to say.

Breathing in dead souls

I haven’t actually issued any of the above warning to my daughter. It’s not that I’m less fanciful than my mother. If anything, I’m probably more whimsical—which might be why. There is enough ridiculousness in my every day parenting style that I don’t need to frighten my child with myths. She already can’t wait to leave the crazy behind.

(Pretty sure this isn’t true, but we mothers can also be a self-depreciating bunch.)

There are a couple of habits I have passed on to her, though. One is breathing in dead souls. Now, I don’t know if the soul is a real thing and I don’t know what happens to us when we die. For years, I held my breath as we passed graveyards. Some of those fences were so long, I’d feel dizzy by the end and I’m pretty sure I had to take a sip of air a few times before I passed out.

I don’t know if lack of a killing spree broke this myth for me, or if one day, after making a foul expression while the wind changed, I realised that not everything my mother told me was true. Either way, in a small act of defiance, I started breathing in while we passed cemeteries. Because I’m weird, I talked to the souls I inhaled. I welcomed them and hoped they’d add a little something to my sum of knowledge. I daydreamed that one day I’d wake up and mysteriously know how to knit.

Oh, yeah, I set the bar high.

I’m not sure if my daughter is breathing in with me, but I’m not sure if she would ever have believed my mother’s version of the story either. I like to think I have taught her not to be afraid of certain things. I have never told her not to put her feet down when we cross train tracks. I forgot a few times and somehow I ended up married anyway. I stopped scratching the roof of the car every time I ran an orange light. Not sure what was supposed to happen if I neglected that duty. Maybe I would end up married. Either way, I shouldn’t run orange lights with her in the car anyway.

But, there is one expression of my mother’s that I do still favour and that I do pull out on a regular basis:

“If so-and-so put their head in an oven, would you do it to?”

Published by Kelly Jensen

Writer of love stories. Bibliophile. Gamer. Hiker. Cat herder. Waiting for the aliens. 👽 🏳️‍🌈

3 thoughts on “The Lies My Mother Told Me

  1. Our saying about making faces is, “If you make that face too often, it’ll freeze like that!” Probably because Canada, cold, winter, so on.

    Our saying about all the friends doing something is, “If so-and-so jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” I don’t know if that’s Canada-specific or not.

    Also, we lift our feet over train tracks, not put them down.

    It’s fun to think about all these bits of “motherly” advice. Or fatherly, as the case may be. My dad tried for years to convince me that all of my freckles came from me standing in front of a screen door when I was a kid when someone threw mud in, and they never washed off.

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