“If you masturbate too much, you’ll grow hair on your palms” is just one example of the many old wives tales / urban legends / blatant lies that our parents tell us when we are children to try to form habits in us that they deem to be right. The one I heard most as a child was an uncommon variant of a common complaint: “If you leave food on your plate, an angry dog will chase you down the street.” Malicious? Definitely. To this day I lick my plate clean, on impulse mind you, regardless of how heavily overburdened that plate may have been. Of course, our short-sighted caregivers rarely consider the fact that we will eventually grow up and these seemingly harmless lies will become serious neuroses. If I was a more paranoid person, I might call my inability to leave food uneaten an eating disorder, but the fact remains that my parents did not consider that I would not always have the metabolism of a fidgety ten-year-old and, well, I have to retrain (and restrain) myself.
However, as with all things frustrating in my life, I’d like poke fun at these mini-fibs by turning them into… macro-fibs. Let’s hyberbolize!
1. “Stop making that face, or it’ll stay that way forever.” And forget about just looking stupid (because it will), your disfigured face will ruin your entire life. Your body, in sympathy to your face, will twist and writhe until it, too, is disfigured. You will be forced to live your life confined to a wheelchair. You will never be able to hold down a job of any kind. Retail employers will turn your down because your frighten the customers. You’ll never be able to lift anything with your crippled T-Rex hands, so Industrial is out of the question. You may be able to get a job as a filing assistant somewhere, but fellow employees will complain that your presence is “just too depressing,” and you’ll probably los that job too. You’ll become a dependent of the state, and when they cut off your disability payments — and they will, because you’re “just that ugly” (it’ll say that on the memo you get), you’ll be forced to resort to begging. You’ll be horrible at that, too; passers-by will cross the street to avoid catching a glimpse of your mangled countenance. So uncross your eyes, will ya?
2. “If you sing before breakfast, you will cry before night.” It’s true. After breakfast, you’ll be feeling pretty jovial, sure. You’ll skip off to school, still singing a fancy tune, but by the time you get there you’ll be humming at best. Then the notes will go flat, and by recess you will have stopped altogether. As your jolly mood from breakfast wears off, your friends will go off to play handball behind the gym while you watch them seriously. You’ll speak a few words here and there, halfheartedly, but your friends (who hadn’t sung before breakfast, mind you) will be too engrossed in their playing to notice you.
At lunch, you’ll sit quietly in the back of the cafetria, listening to your friends discussing baseball and trading Pokemon cards, but still you’ll say nothing. You’ll nibble on your ham sandwich, think about its calorie count and lament the fact that it’s made with bleached white bread instead of whole grain. After lunch, back in class, you’ll sit quietly and listen to your teacher drone on about civics and the importance of voting. You’ll look at her wrinkled face and think about how close to death she is. You’ll imagine her lifeless body, blue and bloated, on a mortician’s table; you’ll sense the acrid aroma of embalming fluid and gag slightly. You’ll start to weep, small sobs shaking your body. Then you’ll thiink about all your friends dead, and you’ll weep a little harder. Then you’ll imagine your funeral, all of us clad in black silk, wiping away our tears with black handkerchiefs, and you’ll weep still harder.
Back home, at dinner, we’ll ask you how your day was, but you’ll be unable to respond. You’ll just nod and grunt at nothing in particular. At this point your sadness will have blossomed into full-blow depression and you’ll realize the futility of your life and become aware of the darkness that awaits us all after it is over. You’ll undertand that God is dead, life is empty, and we’re all just worthless particles colliding in a boundless universe. You’ll understand your insignificance, and you will cry. You will bawl; tears will stream down your face, until your tear ducts are empty and your eyes are dry and you can’t cry anymore.
So…. don’t sing before breakfast.
3. “Be good or Santa won’t bring you any presents.” In fact, if you’ve been ghastly enough to be placed on the “Naughty List,” Santa will come to your room and take what possessions you have now. And it’s not just presents that he’ll take. He’ll take your ninja turtles t-shirt. In fact, he’ll take all your clothes, leaving you with a handful of rags and a length of rope just long enough to tie around your waist. He’ll take your pillows, your bedsheets, and your mattress. You’ll be left to sleep on a discarded sack full of reindeer dropping. He’ll take the ten thousand-piece model airplanes you’ve been buying with your allowance money and building painstakingly at your desk and feed them to his elves. It’s a well-known fact that elves’ favourite treats in the whole wide world are the model airplanes of naughty boys. Then he’ll take us away. Santa will take us and move us to another city (hopefully not Phoenix), and you’ll be left here, alone. You might get tossed into the foster home system, meeting other naughty boys who will introduce you to bad things. You’ll acquire a drug habit, a penchant for crime to accompany that habit, and you’ll be in jail by the time you’re fourteen. Is that what you want?
… That’s probably enough. I’ve sufficiently scared the juvenile me for the next several months. Also, I wonder if having hairy palms would cause it to feel like you’re getting a hand job from a chimpanzee. Ook.