Old Wives' Tales

by Richard Cutler

I don't know how long those women had to be married to think up the original Old Wives' Tales but MY wife started coming up with them in our honeymoon suite. According to her it was bad luck for a bride to get undressed and ready for bed in front of her husband. I'm still not sure of the connection between misfortune and a locked bathroom door at the Motel 6. But I wasn't allowed to see her in her gown before the wedding and she wasn't about to let me see her get out of it, either, later on. It didn't surprise me all that much. Having been raised under the supervision of a mother and two grandmothers I learned quickly that much of the wisdom women impart is based on some strange concatenation of superstition, folklore and myth ... all of it in the public domain and freely circulated and adapted to apply to almost any situation. Even when it's logic-free or contradictory. Like how when we were little and couldn't go in swimming until an hour after lunch but were popped in the tub right after supper. Or my mother's favorite: Feed a cold and starve a fever, which my wife thinks is the other way around. Yet either way will cure a cold in six or seven days -- and with my wife's plan you also get to lose weight. Actually, one of my sore spots is her belief about colds. My contention is that if you get a chill, sit in a draft or go out and get wet in the rain or snow you catch cold. I base this on what my mother said every time she bundled me up to the point where normal vision and locomotion were inhibited and then sent me off to school or out to play. That, plus the fact that every time I've tested the notion since then on my own I have gotten sick. Besides, that's obviously why they are called colds in the first place. My wife says that's a lot of hogwash. (Yes, coming from New Jersey she sometimes talks like that.) She will concede that just maybe such conditions lower one's resistance and allow the odd germ or virus to get in and do its dirty work but cold air and chills are not the cause. She also has feelings about water. For a cold she will alter the word to "fluids" but otherwise she is specific: An apple a day is important, but the true doctor deterrent (and prescribed treatment for anything from general malaise to hangnail) is water. Eight glasses a day. Every day. Summer or winter and all points in between. I am lucky to get three down the hatch, max. Even if I mowed the lawn in 100 degree heat I couldn't gag down eight glasses. Beer, maybe ... or Coke, but that's not good enough for her. She says this and coffee and iced tea don't count. Maybe I could get down a couple of more with a dollop of Scotch (for coloring) but I am told that somehow negates the effect. My feeling is that eight glasses of water, plus the occasional juice and milk will (even with first-rate plumbing) make sloshing noises when you walk. I say that if we were meant to consume that much water our earliest ancestors would never have been allowed to crawl up onto dry land. And I don't care if coffee DOES dehydrate me. I can't face the day without it. Lots of it. Water just won't cut it. My wife is full of stuff like this. She says that everything she tells me can be found in medical literature going way back. Maybe so. But I don't recall seeing anything about it in the Hippocratic Oath, which is probably unconstitutional by now ... at least the parts about healing the sick whether they have insurance or not -- and house calls. (Okay, so maybe I didn't read it all that carefully.) But we just naturally go round and round about doctors, anyway. To hear us then you'd think we were on that late night talk show "Politically Incoherent" the way she just keeps talking all during my remarks for fear I'll sneak a point in edgewise. Personally, I think the medical profession lost something when it split off from the barbering trade, and whereas I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to a physician (even since BEFORE my sigmoidoscopy), I willingly visit the lady who cuts my hair. And not just because she holds my head steady with her cleavage and I tip her generously when she's done. My wife also insists that a house should be kept about five degrees below comfortable. Early in our marriage I was given the responsibility for coming up with the money to pay the mortgage and any other bills necessary to maintaining a normal home. And she got to be in charge of the thermostat. So far she hasn't come up with an adage regulating the TV set. But just in case, I'm holding on to the remote.

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