Because I Said So — 50 Maternal Admonitions

Sometimes I hear a voice in my head. That voice tells me what to do, what not to do, when to talk, when to keep my mouth shut, who to trust, who to avoid, why things happen the way they do, and on and on and on — all the things that keep you on the straight and narrow and generally acceptable in polite society if you would but just listen. Now before you think I need to go for a long weekend in the nervous hospital, the voice I hear is my mother’s.

And I know you hear that voice in your head too.

How do I know? Because I asked my friends this question: Gimme the best advice you ever got from your mother in one sentence or saying. What did she lay down the law about? What do you do just because she said so? The answers flooded in. Some I’d heard from my own Mama, and some were completely new.

So in honor of Mother’s Day, here are 50 maternal admonitions you should absolutely take to heart:

  1. You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
  2. Stay away from undesirable elements.
  3. If you don’t know the right thing to do, don’t do anything.
  4. You need to live on your own for a while before you get married.
  5. Why buy a cow when the milk is free?
  6. Marriage is like a watermelon: you never know what it’s going to be like until you cut it open.
  7. Life will knock you down, but you decide if you’ll get up or stay down.
  8. You should sweep your own front porch before sweeping somebody else’s.
  9. Put your socks on before your pants.
  10. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  11. You are your own worst enemy. You can change that.
  12. Treat all people kindly. You have no idea what they may be going through.
  13. Never shave above your knees.
  14. Don’t take offense where none is meant.
  15. The world doesn’t owe you anything.
  16. It takes a lifetime to build your good reputation, but only a few seconds to lose it.
  17. A girl who will put a cigarette in her mouth, will put anything in her mouth.
  18. Fare is what you pay to ride the bus.
  19. Don’t be common.
  20. Kill ’em with kindness!
  21. This too will pass.
  22. [Regarding religion], accept what makes sense to you.
  23. It’s not what beauty cream you use. It’s that you use it.
  24. When you go on a date, pin a dollar to the inside of your slip in case you need to call home or call a cab.
  25. Always wear lipstick.
  26. Match your shoes with your handbag.
  27. Always drink your coffee black. You’ll never have to worry about there being sugar or cream.
  28. Do not wear white after Labor Day and do not dare wear black to church on Easter!
  29. Pretty is as pretty does.
  30. Never eat the pie with pecans decoratively placed on top because it will taste burned.
  31. You made the bed and now you will have to sleep in it.
  32. Wash your dishes as you go.
  33. Wash the mixing bowl before beating egg whites.
  34. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
  35. The only thing you can change at any given point is your attitude.
  36. Never look up at a flock of birds with your mouth open.
  37. People down yonder [in Hell] want ice water.
  38. Don’t put that in your nose.
  39. Boys should know how to dance.
  40. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
  41. The days may be long, but the years are short.
  42. Things have a way of working out.
  43. You have to be a friend to have a friend.
  44. Stand up straight.
  45. If any way will do, then no way at all will do just as well.
  46. If you are going to be dumb, you better be tough.
  47. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
  48. Did you go to the bathroom? You’ll ruin your kidneys if you don’t.
  49. Don’t cross your eyes! They will stay like that.
  50. Even when I’m not right there with you, I’m still with you.