Listening to what your mother says

I bought some gum today. I rarely chew gum anymore. I attended a class on TMJ (jaw clacking, in plain language) and the warning was to never, ever, under any circumstances chew gum. So I don’t. But on this particular day I needed to use a gas station rest room clearly marked for customers only and since I had a full tank of gas and I had just indulged in a large mocha and I was on my way to an event where I would be talking to and breathing on many women, I bought a pack of Trident Spearmint. As I carefully, with the least amount of jaw pressure possible chewed my gum, I thought about how much I loved bubble gum. How enjoyable it was to stuff more than one piece in my mouth and attempt to blow a bubble as big as my head. How stiff that gum was…

“Bubble gum will pull out your fillings. (Mom)

“If you chew that gum you will have jaws like a jackass.” (Mrs. Pullman, beloved fifth grade teacher.)

“Don’t forget to spit that out before you go to bed. I wouldn’t want to have to cut all that long hair off.” (Nana, mother to Mom.)

As usual for my pinball mind, these thoughts led to others.

“Eating raw dough will give you worms.” (Mom, again. Who, let’s face it, grew up when flour had bugs in it.)

“If you sneeze twelve times in a row you will die.” (Yes, Anna Barbieri, you told me this, at some point in our childhood friendship. I was terrified. I had allergies. I sneezed a LOT. From then on I choked back and held my breath after the tenth sneeze.)

“If you die in a dream, you won’t wake up. You will be dead.” (I can’t remember who told me this. I just knew it.)

“If girls wear pants they won’t behave like ladies.” (Mrs. Schulte, Principal at Sydney School as she condemned ONLY the girls after a huge sixth grade grass bomb war. Which was after school and supposedly off the school property but in the course of our battle we might have come back on campus. And we might have thrown grass bombs all over the breezeway just outside the office. But it was boys too…and they didn’t suffer the consequence of being banned from wearing pants. (Which we were only allowed to do ONCE a month, anyway.)

“If you sit too close to the TV, you’ll go blind.” (Mom, again. Probably reinforced by my older sister.)

A world of fears. Now I’m trying to decide how old I was when I chose to ignore the sage advice of those around me.

Maybe it was after that twelfth sneeze.