8 lies your parents told you

Kids grow up thinking that their parents are the smartest and wisest people on Earth, and chances are you were no exception. But all you have to do is look around at your friends, imagine them with kids of their own, and you’ll realize how ridiculous that whole idea is. So it makes sense that most parents would just make it all up as they go along. They’ll say just about anything to get their kids to do the right thing, whether that’s staying in school or just shutting up and going to bed so mommy and daddy can stay up and drink wine for a couple of hours. It may be harsh to call these lies, but, well, we can’t call them truths. Here are a few of the most egregious lies your parents told you.

8. “Wear a hat, or you’ll get sick.”

God forbid you forget to throw on a ski cap before recess or else, uh, little germ fairies will be able to penetrate your skull and get you sick? I don’t know, either. This one seems to be based on the idea that cold and flu season also happens to coincide with colder weather, leading to the false assumption that if you stay warm you won’t get sick. The reality is that researchers believe that the flu virus stays alive longer in colder, dryer air, and that people tend to congregate indoors more often in winter, meaning that the virus is more easily passed as a result of both the weather itself and people being in closer proximity. Sure, wearing a hat on your penis is a genuine defense against certain, uh, viral infections, but it’s not quite the same thing when it comes to your actual head. It’s science.

7. “Drugs will ruin your life.”

Look, mom was right, you don’t exactly want to go around plunging needles into your arm or start cooking meth in the basement using that chemistry set dad bought you for Christmas when you were 12, but if you smoke pot every now and again, your life isn’t exactly going to go all Boogie Nights. No matter what your parents tell you, chances are you won’t wind up in a truck at 3AM offering to blow a dude for ten bucks. I mean, even our last three Presidents have admitted to getting high every now and again. Then again, one of them fucked it up and the other two have fucked everything else up so I’m not really sure you want to use them as an example when arguing with your parents because they found that bag of weed in your sock drawer. Still, as long as you don’t go crazy, you’ll probably turn out just fine.

6. “Cracking your knuckles will cause you to get arthritis.”

Not true. I mean, it sounds like something that could be true, which is probably why parents use it. The reality is that mom and dad just wanted you to stop making all those goddamn popping noises during dinner or while they were trying to watch NCIS or whatever the hell it is that parent types watch. And if that meant they had to scare you with some ominous sounding old man disease, then oh well, they certainly weren’t above that. This would be like them telling you that something awesome like sex could lead to terrible diseases like syphilis or AIDS, which, as we all know, can’t be true. Right? Right???

5. “If you swallow your gum, it will stay in your stomach for seven years.”

Yeah, this one is bullshit too. Like all ridiculous lies, it stems from a seed of truth. In this case, it’s that your digestive system can’t break down gum. That doesn’t mean that it just sits there, chilling next to your ulcer for years and years, though. No, it just passes along until you poop it out. You can see where this particular lie was born, but the whole seven years part just seems really weird and arbitrary. Where did that come from? It sounds like part of a witch’s curse or something. Then again, no parent wants to have their child’s pediatrician tell them “Ma’am, I’m afraid we found a wad of Juicy Fruit in your son’s stool sample. We’d like to also test for Big League Chew.” You can see why they’d lie.

4. “You have to wait an hour to go swimming after you eat.”

This one is just weird. One possible explanation is that people used to be really, really dumb (well, even dumber, anyway) and believed that digestion caused your body’s blood to be diverted to the stomach, thus weakening your limbs and making you more susceptible to drowning. Another is that parents just wanted an excuse to tell their kids to sit still for a while so they didn’t have to watch them to make sure they didn’t get carried away by riptides or sea monsters at the beach. As usual, this is probably just a lie born of convenience. Or maybe there really is something to the diverted blood theory, which incidentally also probably means you should wait an hour to swim after getting an erection.

3. “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”

Cool. Go ahead and dress like a hobo, let yourself go, and then we’ll celebrate when you take me out to dinner on your company credit card after getting that new promotion. Oh, wait…

Okay fine, it’s true that what’s on the inside counts, but it’s also just cold hard truth that what’s on the outside counts too. The key is to establish a sort of balance, a sense of personal harmony so that people actually want to find out what’s on the inside without having to put a bag over your head or wanting to spray you down with Lysol first. Guess what? People are shallow, and they will judge you based on what’s on the outside. Even people who claim that they don’t, like hippies, judge people based on appearances. They’ll be the first to sneer at someone in a suit, not because of what’s on the inside, but what’s on the outside. It’s just human nature, sad as it may be. Your loving mother just told you this because she didn’t want you to be an asshole. She wanted you to at least make the effort to look past the surface, because, really, that’s all we can do. Or maybe you were just really, really ugly. Who knows?

2. “You can be anything you want.”

This explains why we’re all rock star astronaut sex god presidents, right? Look, you have to want something. It’s a good thing to dream. But you and I both know that you can’t just say “Oh, I want to be the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys,” and then make it happen with just a little bit of pluck and good ol’ hard work. You can be anything you want, so long as it falls into the relatively narrow range provided you by a myriad of factors, from genetic makeup to social class. Mom and dad just wanted you to work hard, and chase that carrot so you didn’t end up covered in Cheeto dust, playing video games in your underwear all day long. Of course, maybe that’s exactly what you wanted, in which case, congratulations?

1. “I never did that when I was your age.”

Lies! Again, just look at your friends. Hell, look at yourself. Some of you have kids already. And you’re dreading what you’re gonna tell them when they confront you about your own behavior after they mess up. You can’t very well tell them about the time you snuck out at midnight to do whippets in the park and throw bags of poop at passing cars, or about the time you smoked so much weed that you tried to have a conversation with a police horse and ended up hiding in the bushes for twelve hours after you got paranoid that the horse snitched on you to his human partner. No, you’re gonna lie your ass off, the same way your parents did. Sure, your kids will think you were totally lame, but at least it will keep them slightly in check. It’s all in the handbook.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Family image by Shutterstock
Blowing bubble image by Shutterstock
Police cars image by Shutterstock
(Previously published on September 18, 2013.)