Why I Never Listen To My Mother

She’s stuck in the 1940s, and her advice is terrible.

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Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

As an anti-hoarder who has issues with stuff, the only thing my mother has too much of is advice.

And be warned, her advice is generally terrible, sometimes strange, and usually inappropriate.

When you have no empathy or understanding of another person, how can you attempt to guide them?

I started to question her advice when I was eight-years-old, and she told me to not wear underwear when I went to bed. She explained that this would “air it out” as if my lady-parts were a stale and dust-filled attic that had been neglected for years.

When I was in middle school, she told me that the best advice she ever received from her mother was that if she found herself pregnant, not to come home.

I never came home pregnant and I never confided in her any intimate details of my life.

Her terrible advice isn’t limited to me; she gives horrible advice to her friends, neighbors, and to my niece, and nephews.

She’s not the kind of grandma where you go to her house knowing that she’s going to spoil you, press money into your hands, and shower you with love and affection.

Instead, she’s the kind of grandmother who will tell you exactly what she thinks of you(and it’s never good,) make you do a lot of chores around the house, and then get angry with you for not wanting to listen to her paranoid and wacky theories like how cats and dogs are being replaced by robots.

No one ever enjoys going to Grandma’s house.

My mother doesn’t drive, use a computer, or own a hair-dryer. She calls pasta, refrigerators and lives in a nearly empty house (stuff makes her anxious). She’s old, but she’s always been out of touch and stuck in the bizarro-world of her own making.

And still, she thinks her advice is the best advice.

“You should get a room in a Ladies-Only boarding house,” my mother said before I moved to Los Angeles. She was thinking of the kind of boarding houses they had in the old movie , where all the up-and-coming actresses lived. The kind of establishment that, like the studio system, is long gone.

She’s was correct in that I wanted to become an actress, but wrong regarding any kind of living or life situation.

“The Calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower, beautiful for any occasion,” Katherine Hepburn says in the movie version of .

Although I had never heard of a Calla lily before that movie, I now know you can use them for any kind of event: funerals, weddings, and even to impress your work friends with flowers from your imaginary boyfriend.

Miss Hepburn’s calla lily suggestion was helpful — my mother’s advice that I live in a non-existent rooming house, was not.

I hoped that when I lived far away from her, the advice would stop, but no, she just started giving more career advice. She had a guaranteed plan for how I could make a name for myself in Hollywood, and it had nothing to do with casting-site apps or decent headshots.

“You should do an act based on the Incomparable Hildegarde!” my mother said.

Do you know who the Incomparable Hildegarde is? Does anyone under the age of 70?

Hildegarde was a singer popular in the 1930s and '40s and called the by Eleanor Roosevelt, who did many good works but none (that I’m aware of) of them in public relations.

Hildegarde was known for wearing long gloves, the idea of which she later accused Miss Piggy of stealing from her, and for giving the men in her audience long-stemmed red roses.

I’m going to take a wild guess that no one has her hit on permanent shuffle on their phone, nor is it on anyone’s playlist.

Did I mention I can’t sing?

How was this a relevant suggestion?

Did she want me to succeed — or had she always secretly wanted to be in an Incomparable Hildegarde cover band?

Hello, , have I got an act for you!

I didn’t think that my mother’s advice could get any worse.

One night, the only parking I could find was two blocks away from my apartment. When I went to get my car the next day, I couldn’t find it. I kept walking around in circles, hoping my car would suddenly materialize, but it didn’t.

My car had been stolen. I had no choice but to go through all the necessary paperwork and ended- up buying a new car.

A month later, after parking right across the street from my apartment, I was standing on my rotting balcony when I witnessed someone stealing my new car.

“Stop! That’s my car!” I shouted as the thief put my car in drive and disappeared down the street.

I felt as if I was going to pass out or throw-up not out of sickness but out of violation.

Other than moving, which wasn’t an option at that point, I had no idea about what I could do to stop my vehicles from being stolen. I knew I’d regret it, but I was desperate and asked my mom if she had any advice.

“What you should do is keep a bag of poop in the car, that way it will smell bad, and no one will want to steal it,” she said.

I was taken aback. I don’t know what I had been expecting her advice to be, but it wasn’t keeping cat-poop in my car.

I kept calm and pointed out how faulty her idea was.

“Yes,” I said,” but it will smell while I’m driving it, too.”

“No silly, you take the poop out when you’re in the car.”

Of course, take the bag of poo out while I was in the car! Because you know, the smell of cat crap never lingers.

Since parking was at a premium on my street, it wasn’t unlikely for me to spend hours driving in circles looking for a parking space. I worked some nights at my retail job, too. Did she expect me to spend an hour looking for parking and then another hour looking for poop?

I have cats — perhaps I shouldn’t throw out the old litter, just dump it into the trunk of the car.

My car is so shitty, I could say honestly.

As I was thinking about the car poop logistics and how it was bizarre enough to work, I realized I was actually considering taking my mother’s advice seriously.

Cringing at the thought of what following my mother’s suggestion would entail, I thanked her for her advice, hung up the phone, and tried to come up with my own unique spin on anti-car-theft devices.

Put a bag of snakes in the car?

Pay Harry Potter to put a cloak of invisibility over it?

Install an alarm that’s an endless loop of the music of Nickelback?

Whatever I could come up with would still be better than my mother’s advice.

There comes a point in everyone’s life where you need to decide whose advice to follow and whose to ignore. I was lucky that my mother helped me to learn that lesson early and to trust my own instincts.

Just because someone is old doesn’t mean that they’re wise.

Written by

Writer for The Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Startup, Tenderly, Fearless She Wrote, MuddyUm. Christineschoenwaldwriter.com

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