Monday, May 25, 2009

One Hundred Things My Mother Taught Me A Million Times - Chapter 6

#6 - "Never say headache, allergies, or nervous."

Mom truly believed that you are what you say, what you think, what you believe. Therefore, if you never said, thought or believed you had a headache, or allergies, or were nervous, then you weren't, or didn't (sorry about saying these words, mom.)

She not only believed this, she lived it. She never said those words, and if they ever crept into my vocabulary, she would quickly and enthusiastically shush me, as if I had just uttered a profanity. I seem to recall that those words gained a lot of social traction during the fifties and sixties. It was during this era that TV began advertising Bayer aspirin and Alka-Seltzer; it became vogue for parents and children to proudly declare that they had the "a" word; and I first heard a furtive, and therefore intriguing reference to a "ner____ breakdown" in a movie. I had no idea what a headache, an allergy, or nervous breakdown were, but I desperately wanted them.

The Alka-Seltzer ads really made me want to try alcohol - the party scene, lots of laughter, lampshade on the head - looked like fun to me, and when you felt bad later - just pop an Alka-Seltzer into a glass of water, enjoy the bubbles, and in minutes you were smiling again! But mother was never lured by those ads. I vividly recall that 104 degree fever and "death’s bed" being the only occasions when a half of an aspirin might be called for. Now I justify taking aspirin by telling myself it's good for my circulation. I don't take it for "you-know-what."Click On Read More Below...

When I was a kid, allergies seemed exclusive, something that made you special, and I so wanted to be special - sickly, frail, to be pitied. I remember what an honor it was to get to play the part of the blind or terminally ill child when my best friend Katie and I, and the rest of our "gang" played "play-like," over at her house on those endless summer days. There was always a mean teacher, a dog (also a prized role), a mother and father, a bad kid, and a pitiful but infinitely righteous blind, crippled or ill child. Although I don't recall any of our central characters being a magnanimous allergic child, I do know that affliction was highly valued. The pronouncement of an allergy was always accompanied by the puppy-dog eyes of the poor (albeit extremely lucky) victim and the initial gasp and "tsk, tsk" of the horrified audience, almost as if a terminal illness had been announced. "Poor so-and so," people would say. "They are allergic." Still, 50 years later, when I go to the doctor and they ask me if I'm allergic to anything, I lower my head and sadly admit, alas and still, no allergies. I'm normal. That reoccurring snotty nose and cough I get every year during cedar-fever season isn't about allergies, it's because, according to mom, I haven't kept my natural resistance strong enough (yes, another one of those one hundred thing mom taught me a million times). I am not you-know-what. I am not.

I still crave a nervous breakdown (again, sorry mom, but it's really hard to write about something you can't say). The idea of legitimately loosing it, going into bed rest for weeks, and then returning to life as if nothing happened, just sounds like a great release, a good time-out to escape TV and read lots of books, and a great way to get the attention of your family (apologies to all the people who have experienced the horrors of a real nervous breakdown.) Alas, I've identified myself as a "strong woman," and therefore forfeit the right to fall apart. Damn.

So I guess mom was right. If you don't say it, think it or believe it - you can't have it, be it, do it.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend - And "Thank You" to All The Soldiers Who Have Served Our Country.

1 comment:

  1. OMG this is so true. My mother learned this viewpoint as well and so it took me many years to learn to listen to my body and know when I was coming down with something so I could prevent it.

    I'm allergic to...well, basically almost everything that grows in West Texas. Before I moved away I had sinusitis beginning in October and everytime I went off antibiotics the infection returned. At Christmas Mommy Wade said, "Don't you think that if you just didn't think about it, it would go away?"

    The sinusitis left when I moved to Alaska...