Sunday, May 6, 2012

One Hundred Things My Mother Taught Me A Million Times – Chapter 85

(Me, Mom and Dad, 1952)
#85 – “If you don't want to milk a cow, then don't learn how.”

This one of one hundred things my mom taught me a million times almost got left off the list! I received an email from a long-lost nephew last week that started, “I admit that today I read your blog,” which sounded like a guilty confession and indicated that he didn’t always read my blog. I found this both charming and disarming for reasons that I really do not need to get into. The point being that he went on to remind me of one of mom’s priceless lessons that I’d forgotten, “If you don't want to milk a cow, then don't learn how.”

Last Tuesday night when I told this story to my book club (over Tequila shots and my famous homemade tacos), one of the members and long-time friend and mentee Debbie Tate said, “When I first went to work for you [fresh out of college in 1985] you told me, ‘If you don’t want to become a secretary, don’t learn to type.’” So, I guess I hadn’t really forgotten mom’s #85, it had just evolved and interestingly so.

Mom’s lessons were rarely delivered directly, but rather almost as a parable. She wisely knew telling kids what to do tended to generate a backlash. Instead, she would, unprovoked, toss out a provocative statement like a piece of candy, then watch me circle it with suspicion eventually plucking it up quietly, as she no doubt hid a satisfied smiled.

I remember her saying, “Daddy would never let you girls ‘waitress.’” She never said, “You cannot waitress,” or “I won’t let you waitress,” or “Daddy won’t let you waitress,” or give a reason why. But the statement definitely made me think. Little did I know at the time that she or daddy didn’t want us to learn how to waitress because then we would waitress. Click On Read More Below...

One might think that not wanting us girls (four daughters) to learn to waitress was a snotty thing, and perhaps it was, but more likely considering the times (circa 1940-1960) it was more about being a homemaker than what I remember mom calling a “working girl.” Unlike the second half of the 20th century when a woman’s status was measured by how high on the corporate ladder she’s climbed, in the first half of the 20th century it was measured by how successful a woman was at staying out of the workforce completely.

In 1978, when I first moved to Austin, although I was one of those fairly rare women of my generation with a college degree, I had, up until that point, managed to stay out of the workforce because I was, much to my mother’s relief, successfully married to a man who made it possible for me to stay at home and raise babies. When that marriage came crashing down and I found myself without financial support, I had to seek a job.

As it turned out, my teaching certificate was virtually worthless in Austin, Texas, where teachers were so plentiful that you could make more as a clerk typist. So thanks to my high school typing classes that my mom warned me not to take (If you don’t want to end up as a secretary, don’t learn to type), I tested for and won a job as a typist for a state agency. When I went in for my first day and they took me up the elevator to the room in which I would be working, we walked thought the door of the office and into a sea of about 100 desks, typewriters and women. Mom’s #85 hit me right between the eyes. I turned to the personnel person and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do this.” Then I turned around and walked out the door.

So, mom was right. If you don’t want to milk a cow, don’t learn how. If you don’t want to be a lawyer, don’t learn how. If you don’t want to be a wife, don’t learn how. If you don’t want to be a writer, don’t learn how.

1 comment:

  1. my mom always told me the same thing because we had a milk cow at the ranch and she knew if she learned how to milk that would be her chore so she didn't learn. Actually it was one of the best pieces of advice she gave me because I grew up married and lived on the ranch and my husband thought it would be nice for me to learn to milk. That didn't happen. Linda Sue