Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Monday, June 7, 2010


Advice is one of those things we all like to give and aren't always happy to get. The Guy is wise. He says advice is something you should seek from different people with diverse philosophies and consider when you make up your own mind.

When Babygirl was born to Oldest Friend twenty-six years ago, we did not know how to run a baby. That's why we thought we could have lunch at our favorite tea room and go shopping without incident. After all, that's what we'd always done and she was only a month old. That didn't turn out too well. There was a certain amount of screaming in the tearoom; they don't really like that in tearooms. When we moved on to the shopping, that was also difficult. We thought since she was so tiny, we could just carry her with no problem. She weighed no more than those huge oxblood Etienne Aigner pocketbooks we carried back then. That didn't go too well either. We ended up stopping to buy a stroller that would, no doubt, today be labeled a baby killing stroller. Yet, she survived the stroller (and us) to go on to be a productive member of society.

It was probably on that first outing that I decided it was my right—if not my duty—to advise Babygirl on all facets of her life. She was not always as enamored of what I had to say as I would have liked but she must have taken some of it to heart. When she was getting ready to leave for college, she said, "I want you to write down some of that stuff you've been saying to me all these years so I can take it out and read it."

Well, you can believe I jumped right on that. I was more than a little afraid of what might happen without me always on hand to order her around. I even purchased a nice handmade book with rice paper for this purpose and I left some pages blank for her to fill in with her own thoughts.

Fast forward. We graduated, got married, and are teaching school. (Not me precisely, but I feel I earned the right, along with Oldest Friend and The Guy, to use the word we.) When Babygirlfound out that Little Babygirl was on the way, she gave me the book back and said she needed some new wisdom.

It was interesting to look back on what I thought was important that she remember.

• Always applaud like a lady with one palm facing up and still. Never clap like a walrus, hands wide apart.
• Don’t wear white to a wedding, unless you are the bride, or black, unless you are a man.
• Marriage is an absolute. The question, "Are you married?" can only have one answer—yes or no. "Divorced" means no; "Not divorced yet" means yes. "Not divorced but she is (pick one) crazy, in a coma, cheating on me, tried to shoot me," still means yes and is probably a lie.
• Don't suffer the stupid. You will only end up being mean to them.
• When inside, take off your sunglasses when talking to someone.
• Do not mistake stubborn for strong in yourself or others.
• You cannot make yourself love someone just because he deserves to be loved but you can be kind about it.
• Moisturize your face after washing it, while it's still damp.
• Never mistake curiosity for interest. The curious will gossip about you. The interested will not.
• Don't throw away precious things; endeavor to know what is precious.
• Don't wear pearls and diamonds close together around your face unless they are incorporated in the same piece.
• "No thank you," is always an appropriate reply to any request that makes you uncomfortable whether it's an invitation for a drink, a beach trip, a party, or to someone's bed. "But thank you for asking," may not help them but it won't hurt you.
• Don't throw a fit in a restaurant where you might want to eat again or a store where you might want to shop again. It would be best not to throw a fit at all, but that may be too much to hope for, considering your strong female role models.
• When traveling and things are not going your way, remember you are getting to travel.
• Write formal correspondence with real ink.
• If you get good service, tip well. The person at the end of that tip has almost always had fewer advantages than you.
• You choose. At the end of the day, that's all you have left.
• You will hear people wax poetic about the magic of the ocean or the mountains and how they draw strength there. It's true for some, but many are only parroting someone else. You come from the river, red clay, and cotton fields. There's nothing magic about it but it's your heritage and not a second class one.
• Walk away from the disloyal. Do it quickly. If they have been disloyal to others but not you, it doesn't mean you have inspired a higher degree of loyalty. It means they haven't done it to you yet.
• Forgiveness is not saying something didn't happen or it didn't matter. It's just letting it go.
• Remember who you are out there. If you forget and make a wrong turn, remember where you can go.

Though Little Babygirl is almost two, I haven't written anything for her. Until recently, she hadn't displayed any behavior that I felt called for my input. But the terrible twos are looming, so it might be time to point out a few things to her.

• Don't climb on your pink wooden stove and throw your hair bows across the room. That's your stuff and you aren't doing it any good.
• Don't throw your new Kelly's Kids outfit in the trash. Again, your stuff.
• Don't bite me.

What's the best piece of advice you've gotten/given?


  1. Boy, you should write a book with this stuff - it's great! You know the little ones with the beautiful brocade covers...I'd buy it because you are echoing everything I have learned over the years. It would be nice to share all this!

    I grew up in the South and had a grandmother who lived on a huge farm, complete with a suitable "big house", but after the War of Northern Aggression, our family was land poor. Didn't stop them. They were all still very genteel, full of manners and, most of all, sayings that fit most situations. I met my husband when I was eighteen and knew everything (I thought-later found out I didn't). He was a New Yorker and an Italian (Long "I") with a very large and opinionated family who took an instant dislike to me and my slow way of talking (I was once asked if I thought as slow as I talked). After we were married, I was bemoaning the fact that his family just didn't accept me. My grandmother smiled and looked at me with patience, then told me "Honey, you married him and his family." She was right. When I learned to accept that, I worked harder at being a part of his family. It worked. I still think of that when a little tift erupts with the Italians - I married all of them for better or for worse. They're my family too and I thank "Bigmomma" every day for that!

  2. I have received, and treasured, advice from you over the years, but I know that my favorite pearl of wisdom will forever be: "Always case the joint." You never know who might be in the neighboring stall.

  3. Cheryl--I, too, married out of my cultural comfort zone. We'd been married three weeks the first time I visited the west coast. Within two hours I was reeling. The Guy said to me, "You see, you have to understand when you say, 'I'm sure she's doing the best she can,', you mean 'She's the laziest, most worthless creature God ever put on the planet.' When they say, 'I'm sure she'd doing the best she can', they mean they believe she'd doing her best." It took me a while to stop trying analyze everything. I still slip up!

    Pamela, So glad to see you here! My day just got better! I had forgotten "case the joint" but, yes, the joint must always be cased. It can go ugly.

  4. I love this post, so elegant and full of wisdom.

    Some of the best advice I have received is:

    Never let anything (addictions or love of something) control you.

    Never give up. If you want to, take a nap. Then you'll feel better.

    Always own what you say and do. If you don't want to admit to it, than don't say it or do it.

    Sometimes just being a friend is enough.

    Its all fixable.

    It's amazing what we have incorporated into our thoughts and actions. I have to say again, I love your words of wisdom to your friend's daughter. She was gifted to have you and thank you for sharing.

  5. Jean, just as I suspected, you and I are at the very least cousins, if not sisters. I loved your advice list for Babygirl and applaud your wisdom. While reading your list, I could almost hear my grandmother’s voice reciting the things that “we” do and the things that “we” don’t do. I take exception with only one of your rules, which I am quite sure is correct. I was told that a lady may always wear pearls or diamonds with anything, including blue jeans and her birthday suit. Being a jewelry slut (a family trait BTW), I think I’ve probably worn diamonds and pearls at the same time, close to my face. In closing, I’d like to add one tiny bit of family wisdom – there is no way you can please everybody, so there comes a time in life when you should just please yourself. BB

  6. M.V.--Wise thoughts. I love that the solution can be a nap away.

    Beverly--I couldn't be prouder to claim kinship with anyone. And I agree--The Holy Grail of all rules is please yourself. After all, if you don't, what have you got?

  7. Before I got published, my hubby told me that if I wanted to write, I needed to treat writing like a job.

  8. What wonderful gems, Pantster! My grandma's best piece of advice, told to me by my mother, was "If you want to avoid unpleasantness, never discuss religion, politics, or your Aunt Wanda's haircolor."

    Grandma never said anything so interesting to me. I got the usual stuff about not wearing white before Easter, ladies do not talk with their mouths full, always wash your face before bed, etc.

  9. Debra--There's nothing like a supportive husband, is there?

    Lynn--Aunt Wanda's hair color--I love it! Do you remember the one about how you should always flush the toilet in public restrooms first.? Just because everyone knows what you're doing doesn't mean they should have to hear it. Those automatic flushers kind of put a crimp in that.

  10. Today has indeed been full of wisdom. I am going to paraphrase some of the best advice ever given to me, "Relationships are made in the kitchen."

  11. You are, as always, a font of wisdom, and well-worded wisdom at that. I will endeavor to no longer waste time on the disloyal.

    And I'll really try to work on the walrus clap... (but it's so nice and *loud* that way)

  12. Jessica--You are way to good for the disloyal! Applause from you in any form is a gift. Be loyal to your inner walrus!

  13. Well, Pantster gives me around one great piece of advice per week. But "case the joint" has to rate right up there with the best of it!

  14. Oh yes, of course flush the toilet first! And turn on the tap when you go to the restroom in someone's house. :)

  15. I love love LOVE this post! Of course I do because it has to do with ME! Thankfully when God gave us Grace I got over the "It's all about me" phase that lasted no less than 24 years. Anyways, I loved this post MOST because it's such beautiful, very real advice. It's funny... I know I read this book over and over my first year of college and it made me laugh out loud. But as I read it now it is so applicable to my life as a "BIG GIRL." By the way, I'm going to need to take over the book now as I've experienced a little and need to put some things down!