Monday, December 24, 2012

Speaking of Cliches

     My kids have been visiting and they reminded me -- with all the politeness and sensitivity you'd expect from 20-somethings -- that I tend to offer up a lot of free, gratuitous advice in the form of tired old cliches. I don't think they take much of it to heart (although it is all excellent advice), but when they're not ignoring me they do sometimes find my offerings amusing.

     For example, I try to tell my two kids to remain friends as adults, even as they get older and their lives diverge both professionally and geographically. Don't you think that's important? I do. Friends come and go, I tell them, but you always have family. Remember, blood is thicker than water.

     However, my advice typically elicits no more than a big sigh and an obvious eye roll.

The usual reaction
     I'm sure I was no different when I was a young adult. But I do recall my mother's favorite bit of advice. She always told me, A stitch in time saves nine. But then, she was a Depression baby. She also would trot out another chestnut: You can't have your cake and eat it too. Which I thought was a terrible piece of advice, since I figured the whole point of having cake was to eat it. But then, eventually, I did learn that if you eat the cake, you no longer have it.

     My mother also warned me many times not to be a bull in a china shop (come to think of it, B sometimes tells me the same thing!), and when I got too anxious about something she'd warn me, Don't count your chickens before they hatch.

     My dad used to say: There's more than one way to skin a cat. He was a crafty old soul, who felt that you had to take the world as it is, and figure out a way to carve out a place for yourself. And if you couldn't do it one way, you had to try another. He would also sometimes warn me that a person might have an ace up his sleeve. I could never quite figure out if my dad thought a person with an ace was dishonest, or whether he secretly admired the guy for being smarter than he looked.

     There was one more my dad used, when he was trying to counsel me to be patient: Rome wasn't built in a day. I found that one particularly puzzling, because while I knew my dad counted his birthdays in Roman numerals, I couldn't figure out what Rome had to do with me. (Of course, now my kids count my birthdays in Roman numerals.)

     My best friend's dad had a favorite phrase. He always talked about how some young fellow needed to cut his teeth on something -- meaning the fellow was green and had to get some experience. But what that had to do with teeth, I never did figure out.

     I also remember once when I was in high school, a girl with an unfortunate skin condition who was also too-obviously overweight, took a shine to me. I was trying to avoid her without hurting her feelings. My friend smirked at me and said I should go out with her because, after all, beauty's only skin deep. Later, when I suggested to my friend that maybe he should ask her out, he retorted, yeah that'll happen when hell freezes over.

     Of course, I hate to think what cliche Janie Smith, the prettiest girl in our class (or so I thought), trotted out when she found out I was smitten with her prepubescent charms. Probably something along the lines of, eeeww ... not in a million years.

     When I was a kid, I found many of these old sayings annoying, even if they were sometimes instructional. But once I had my own kids, I found myself trotting out these old phrases like -- well, like I had an ace up my sleeve, even though I was really laying an egg.

     But the one my kids find most laughable is:  A penny saved is a penny earned. Like most kids (and adults too, I might add) if they see a penny on the sidewalk, they won't even bother to stoop over to pick it up. Not worth the effort.

     So what's your favorite cliche, or favorite piece of advice? My kids still have a few problems in their lives, a few big decisions to make, and I would like to be able pass on some cogent advice to them. And who knows, maybe someday I'll have grandchildren, who will be eager for my words of wisdom.

     In the meantime, let me pass on another favorite:  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


Kay Dennison said...

LOL I think most of us can identify with this!!!! Happy New Year!!!!

Bob Lowry said...

"Keep your eyes peeled" for a new year of wit.

Anna said...

Waste not want not.

Linda Myers said...

I have a few of those kids, still. I usually say, "This is how we learn."

Merry Christmas!

Tom Sightings said...

Thanks for your contributions -- the more the merrier.

Olga said...

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

schmidleysscribblins, said...

These are not cliches, they are witty and wise sayings handed down through the ages. Tell your kids they are quite literally the distilled wisdom of the ages.

To source them try Barlett's Familiar Quotations or some other reference book. Many are from Shakespeare.

My Mom's favorites to me"

You want the world with a fence around it painted red (greedy children need this one)

Don't throw rocks if you live in a glass house (politicians need this one).

One of my favorites which my members of my (fearful at times about speaking up) staff repeated back to me was:

The Squeaky Wheel gets the grease.

Now I ask you how true is that?


Betty said...

My Mom often said,

"Pretty is as pretty does."

Dick Klade said...

Don't get down in the mud and wallow with the pigs.

(probably a caution not to become a politician!)

Happy New Year!

Douglas said...

Betty's mom was a lot like my own... Mine would say "Handsome is as handsome does". I asked once just what that was supposed to mean and she was smitten speechless... she had no idea. And neither do I.

Georgia Stromer said...

Happy New Year! Loved this post! My mother was big on "if life gives you lemons, make lemonade". And also, "be careful, the bed you make is where you lay"

Rita said...

Nice column. I do stop and pick up pennies when I see them. I've written a blog post about that and whether pennies should be abolished.