Everyone has a list. Made famous by Late Night talk shows and grocery store magazines. There are lists for any conceivable, quantifiable opinion and personal taste out there. A great many of these lists are full of the kind of information you would expect from quality magazines such as Basket Full of Kittens Digest or Chatelaine.
Top 10 Signs Your Lunchmeat is a Sagittarius
How to Predict Your Marital Success Based On Your Lip Balm Preferences.
Grocery store line-ups and gynecologist appointments are my personal favorite places to peruse a sampling of both current and shockingly old magazines to really get a feel for the state of humanity through their hastily compiled, sensationalist lists. Nothing breaks the ice like some casual banter about 10 Reasons Why Sharks Will Always Win In A Fight Against A Lion while your feet are in the stirrups on your OBGYN’s table.
The table in her office, not her dining room table at home.
I’m pretty casual about body after giving birth to 2 kids, but that might actually be where I draw the line. I have yet to confirm this but it’s probably a safe assumption.
The actual reason this type of list exists is likely rooted in our increasing need for information, but not actual information that should probably be verified before being spread throughout Facebook in posts forwarded from friends of friends. Magazine lists should be consumed more like the culmination of sound bites from your great Aunt, which she has filtered through both her love of gossip and day drinking.
“You won’t get pregnant the first time”
“My friend ate a chocolate bar from the Dollar Store and hasn’t had peripheral vision since.”
None of this is actual information as much as it is entertainment and dangerous advice gleaned from a weekly senior’s speed-walking meeting in the mall. A magazine list of amazing facts and little-known statistics is a quick fix for our immediate gratification brains. My own immediate gratification brain sorts these fact-ish nuggets into the appropriate folder where trivia and my current postal code are kept; waaay in the back so it can only be recalled when I am actually trying to remember where I parked. To try to get away from feeding our collective minds with even more instant delight, I have compiled what I see as a definitive list of actual learning moments and observations, none of which I learned through day drinking.
Number 1: Your mother is probably right.
I could start by saying your mother didn’t get to be a mom simply by accident, but it is safe to assume that upwards of 80% of us were spontaneous children. And yes, I know where babies come from. I understand that they are not spontaneously created, like parking spots or the latest iPhone incarnations. I am suggesting there is a pretty good chance your mother is a mom by at least a little bit of accident. However, they become mothers by choice. It’s the mother-by-choice decision that places them in the category of probably being right about something.
Parents of any gender can choose to simply have kids or to have kids they are engaged with, but I’ll focus for now on the mothers as I have been hearing how incorrect my dad is about so many things for so long from my own mother, that it’s just part of my narrative about him. Sorry dad.
Mothers know stuff. They know how to do things, how to say things, and how to repair things. I’m not saying they also do not screw things up, break things, and have no idea how to do things. I’m just saying they know stuff. Listen to your mothers now and in 5 years you will see she was probably right.
One of the biggest advice nuggets I appreciated from my own mother years after she shared it with me was that I should never be with a man who didn’t appreciate his own mother. A number of years after the fact and a few sketchy relationships later, I understand what she meant. Men, if you are reading this, take this as a call to be good to your mothers. It will work out for you later. Trust me.
Number 2: There are no bad dogs, only bad people.
This one is an eternal frustration for me. I see dogs vilified in the news too often and wonder how it is that the owners are not more accountable for their actions. My dog Ruby (bless her soul) was a rescue from a remote northern community. When she came to me she was afraid of plastic bags, flames, and baseball hats. She would lunge and snarl at people riding towards her on bikes and motorcycles and charged our fence once or twice towards children holding baseball bats or umbrellas. I think it is safe to assume she was not aggressive and defensive because she felt that major league baseball really let her down since the performance enhancement scandals of the
She was not a bad dog. Not even close. Her badness with me was limited to her unimpressed sigh when I would turn the bedroom light on at
Number 3: Be your own ride.
Many years ago when I was but a bartender with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder and no car, I used to have to either take the bus or get a ride with a friend when I went out. Couple this lack of a dependable ride with the misunderstood anxiety symptoms that I assumed had to be either an unplanned pregnancy, cholera, or swimmers itch, and you have the makings of an imminent melt down at all times while I waited on other people timelines.
One New Year’s Eve in particular I spent hiding in the bathroom at a house party where I knew 2 people. One of them was my ride and she was in deep conversation with the other person I knew. The feeling of having to be on her timeline and leave when she wanted to leave changed how I travelled from that day. I had not felt the urgency of a car until I realized how much I disliked being held hostage at the whim of another.
Be your own ride is more a nod towards not being beholden to anyone. Do your own thing. Create your own terms. Make your own present and future without relying on anyone else to make it happen for you. Today, I drive alone to most events where it would make sense to carpool, only because I cannot be trusted to make it through the whole event and can’t spend one more night hiding in a bathroom. The reason I give to others for taking my own car by myself is that I belt out show tunes at the top of my lungs in the car and refuse to wear pants while doing so. I drive alone now. Every time.
Number 4: If it feels weird, it’s probably weird, so don’t do it.
Let’s hear it for gut feelings and intuition! Woot woot!
When we are young, I think we feel more in our gut in unfamiliar situations, but then we are told not to be afraid, or shy, or nervous. We are told to ignore our gut feelings and soldier on through uncomfortable situations. I’m sure there is some validity to this thinking, as kids are not worldly beings with a good choices history to rely on for guidance. Kids are barely able to remember to bring their lunch kits home before the contents turn into The Soup of Decay, so how can they possibly understand the subtlety of the gut feeling? When we are adults, we stop listening to our gut feelings, favouring instead the desire for inclusion and harmony. Walk down a dark street alone, go for coffee with the curiously attentive guy from your office, having drinks with the girls that a table full of frat guys keeps buying for you.
None of these things are intrinsically bad, but if your gut gives you the warning shot across the bow that there might be trouble brewing, you should listen, or at least acknowledge it. I could have staved off at least one horrible relationship and my first tattoo had I honoured my gut feelings. On the other hand, your gut is also trained to make stuff up, like that time I thought my new dentist would not work out because he has red hair. That wasn’t my gut speaking. That was me being an asshole. A very unfounded asshole since I have grown to love my dentist, red hair and all. Look at how I’ve grown as a person!
Number 5: Pack in, pack out.
A good camper will understand and adhere to this concept. A great camper should also understand that bears are not just “misunderstood puppies”, and given the chance, squirrels WILL steal your wallet and order Skip-The-Dishes with your credit card. The best campers, however, know that they are to leave the
Where this rule is stressed to campers throughout their camping experience, people in everyday life are not held as fast to this rule. I know this through my shared human experience with public washrooms, rental cars, and bowling shoes. An endless, and surprisingly high number of shit-painted toilet bowls, hidden condoms and toenail clippings has proven to me that humans, left unchecked, will often not leave anything better than they found it.
The larger metaphorical interpretation of this idea could be applied to human relationships as well. If we can agree to stop leaving people in worse shape than when they came into a relationship, I think we can make motions towards creating fewer messed up people for the next person to discover. I would not want to walk into the bathroom at Starbucks and have to deal with someone else’s mess myself, yet people leave trails of damage on partners and children, who then in turn become someone else’s Starbucks bathroom. And sadly, a reluctant barista will never clean them up on your behalf. That’s now your mess to deal with.
So stop shitting all over metaphorical and actual toilet bowls, and if you can’t be good to your surroundings or to one another, or at least try to be LESS shitty.