Old Wives Tales

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There’s often a village of humans helping us find our way in this crazy world, especially as we’re growing up.  The village may be comprised of our parents, grandparents, other relatives, friends of the family, teachers, etc… Not everyone’s village is the same.  These humans may offer advice and guide us in the right direction.   The village only wants the best for us and there’s no apparent reason to question their knowledge.  When the village tells us something, it has to be accurate, right?

Like when my mother announced to my sister and I in our tweens/early teens that we weren’t to wear mascara because it would ruin our eyelashes.  So…we never wore mascara.  Ever.  Mom told us not to.  As the years went by, I’d wonder why my friends would wear mascara, but never thought to ask them about it.  I guess these will be the ladies that’ll be sporting fake eyelashes when they get older.   Never thought twice about trying it out – after all, mom said it wasn’t good for me.  Besides, it looked like a pure pain the ass to apply.  Many moons ago, I worked with a gal who declared that she never left the house without mascara.  I recall feeling bad that she didn’t know the evil ways of mascara.  Why did all these women want to ruin their eyelashes?  Oddly enough, mom wore mascara, but I simply assumed that it was “too late” for her.

Fast forward 25 years or so….I’ll say that I was around 40 years old.  One random day, my mother questions me, “How come you never wear mascara?”  My confused reply was,  “You told me not to.”  Laughing, she responded back that she meant that for when we were growing up – not forever.   And when my mother asked my then 36 year old sister, she had the very same response!!

Wait…what? Both my sister and I understood the golden rule as “forever.” Would it not ruin our eyelashes?  Did she think it would make us look too grown up at the time? Or maybe she didn’t want to teach us how to apply it? (Aforementioned pain in the ass.)

Were there other scenarios that were actually white lies? Misunderstandings?  Or even cop outs?  Only dads were allowed to do the crossword puzzle in the TV Guide. Only dad was allowed to eat split pea soup in the big wide green bowl.  Don’t pinch her – she’ll get cancer.  Could it be that they were messing with us?


I had to know if there were other villages that created these gems for their youngins to believe.  I posed the question to my Facebook crowd: Anyone have a funny story of something their parents/grandparents/teachers may have said when you were younger – it wasn’t actually true, but you actually believed it for years?   Many entertaining quips in reply:

A Few Classics…

  • I was told it was illegal to drive with light in inside car.  (Jennifer V – and 6 others, including yours truly!)
  • Don’t sit too close to the TV –  it will ruin your eyes. (Sharon L)
  • Don’t step on the crack it will break your mother’s back! — I still don’t step on cracks. (Sharon L)
  • If I crossed my eyes they would stay that way! (Yogita C and Bridgette G)

Bedtime Woes

  • And for my son, I would use lavender spray over his bed after I tucked him in and told him it was Good Dream Spray so he wouldn’t have nightmares. Worked like a charm. (Lauren T)
  • I used to call it Monster Spray and that it would keep monsters away (Julie C)
  • If I slept with socks on, my feet would suffocate and die. I still have a hard time sleeping with socks on no matter how cold I am. (Alison M)

How’d that happen?

  • I had an uncle who had lost the tip of his finger in an accident. If he caught one of us kids picking our nose, he’d show us the finger and say “You know how I lost this, don’t you?” (Romy G)
  • My uncle said that he had a pet alligator that he slept with in his bed and made my Aunt sleep on the couch. He also said the alligator bit him which is why he limped. (Carrie S) 
  • My uncle has a bad scar on his ankle, rods and pins, from a bad car accident. Growing up, he always told us he was bit by a bear. Of course I believed it for the longest time. (Jessica L)
  • My husband had his nieces convinced that their mother was born on the kitchen floor! My 19 year old niece just learned the truth last year. (Beth K)

Sibling Rivalry

  • My brother told me some crazy sh*t that I believed – one that comes to mind was that the Flintstones and Jetsons were real people but they looked like cartoons to us because they were “stuck” in prehistoric times (Flintstones) or the future (Jetsons). I was probably 4 or 5 when he told me this but. I. believed. him. for. years. (Barbara M)
  • My siblings told me I was adopted and I believed it for years. I finally one day asked my parents. I told them I was old enough now and they could tell me the truth. They laughed hysterically. (Ann M)
  • My brother told me that if I touched the bottom of our pool a shark would come up and eat me. (Jamie G)
  • My dad was an only child and wanted a sibling. His father told him had a brother named Hercules. For years he believed that Hercules was away at college, in the army, etc. He would get letters, cards, gifts etc from Hercules. (Debbie L)

Special Powers!

  • My dad used to make red lights turn green by snapping his fingers. When I would try and it didn’t work he would tell me it was magic and I had to practice. Took me years to figure out he was timing it based on when the other lights turned red. (Teresa F)
  • When I asked my uncle what the difference was between Italians and Jews, (he married an Italian woman and my cousins were raised Catholic) he said the only difference was Italians had green blood. I went through all of elementary and middle school believing this. (Marni M)
  • My grandma used to comb my hair with a “tangle free comb.” It took me until I was in my 20s to realize this was a regular comb that she named “tangle free” to get us to sit still. (Teresa F)
  • Until I was 6 or 7 we lived with my grandparents. At dinner time the sun would shine through the dining room window and reflect off my grandpa’s watch. I always got so excited when “grandpa’s friends” came to dinner. He had me convinced for years that those reflections belonged to him and that he magically controlled them. (Sarah W)
Life Lessons
  • My dad always said it was bad luck to take a different path when walking with someone else – like one person walks straight and one walks around a pole. He said something bad would happen to the person who strayed. I still get nervous when I’m walking with someone and they walk around a pole or something……(Barbara M)
  • “Big Bertha” and “Mean Mary” would come babysit me if I got out of line so my parents could have a break. I use it on my kids now. It’s really effective. (Jennifer C)
  • Driving with the interior light on in the car tells cops you are doing drugs. (Laura Z)
  • I was told that there were little bugs in our mouth that would bite at our teeth if we didn’t brush them 2x/day…I think I was in college when I found out that wasn’t true. (Maryann A)
  • My mom hated cats (and didn’t want any pets) so convinced my little brother and I that we were allergic to cats…we are NOT! We believed her for a LOOONG time. My brother continued the lie when his girlfriend wanted a cat!! He and his family now have 3.  (Bridget M)
  • When I was about 6 – I went on a nature walk with my grandpa and started looking for interesting rocks – I thought I had an I interesting one and picked it up and showed to him.  He said calmly ” Bonnie, that is a dog’s doody.”  THAT I believed immediately! (Bonnie M)
  • In the sandbox, if you dig far enough you’ll reach China. I don’t think my parents told me this, I think it was Pre-K teachers. (Karen K)
  • My sister also used to write to me and say it was from Santa.  She used to put the letters outside on the window sill. That went on for years. (Debbie K)
  • My grandfather told me that the Americans sold the subway to Japan and were going to make bomb out of the metal. (Sandy S)
  • When I would ask my grandma to get something for me she would say “I can’t, I have a bone in my leg”…I would always then go and get it myself. (Jennifer P)

….And last, but definitely NOT least….

My dad told me he made the sun go down, which I thought was amazing (I was 4). Then he had a late meeting one day and I thought he was dead because the sun went down without him! My mom had no idea why I was crying inconsolably at the window…(Graeme S)

Ah! Wha?!

After a few of us were ready to hop on the next plane to Graeme’s house to give her a hug, she explained: “It really did start as a sweet summer bedtime thing. I didn’t want to go to sleep because the sun was still up. So he told me that he just hadn’t gotten around to it yet, he’d do it later. Then every night he’d read me a story and I’d remind him to “Turn out the sun”. Then he had the meeting. And I was four, so I didn’t know exactly how to explain it. My mom sat with me until I fell asleep. He came into my room as soon as he got home. I remember him waking me up to apologize.”


Seriously village! You messed with all of us! All those wasted years that I could have been doing the TV Guide crossword puzzle while wearing mascara.   Who knew?

We may never know why our village created these funny, sometimes even shocking, stories….I don’t know….I don’t think it’s cool. I can’t imagine telling my kids white lies just to get them to do something that makes my life easier….

Shoot, it’s getting late.  I better log off and get the kids to sleep.  Cause if they’re not asleep by midnight, the cops will come.  True Story.

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