When I was a kid, grown-ups were always telling me to do awful things to get me to do what they wanted. More often than not, these things involved my body or parts thereof. As I grew older, I realized that some adults were just trying to be cute, and others really believed their sallies of wit would actually change my behavior. The most confusing and, by far, the most used was “It’ll put hair on your chest!” This usually involved eating some food, drinking some beverage, or inhaling some gas or smoke that would defy the laws of nature and genetics and suddenly cultivate flexible protein strands on my baby smooth thorax. When I was young, I was scared to death! I didn’t want hair on my chest! What the hell were these responsible adults thinking? “Eat your spinach! It’ll put hair on your chest!” Never touched the stuff after that! I got the same advice at college when somebody told me, “Drink this! It’ll put hair on your chest.” Whadda ya know! Hair!
A child’s life is full of ill-spoken idioms and phrases, and it’s usually a parent’s futile attempt to reign in their demon spawn. Depending on the mental status of the child, this cute badgering can force a kid to become hard and brittle, or, on the other side of the coin, create an idiot.
I was told the following growing up:
“If you cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way!”
“Eating sugar out of the bowl gives you boogers!”
“Sitting on cement (concrete) gives you hemorrhoids!”
“Don’t read in the dark! You’ll go blind!”
“How would you like me to beat your brains out?”
Beat my brains out? Can you imagine the horrible vision that creates for a kid? Or how about “Don’t run with scissors! You could put an eye out!” So that’s why all the kids in the neighborhood that ran with a pair of scissors wear eye patches? But seriously, how many kids ever “put an eye out” when playing with a stick or running with scissors?
For the most part, most of us grew up, got jobs, raised our own kids and turned out fairly normal. Of course, it helps that nobody quite knows what’s normal, but then there are only two normal people in the world– me and you . . . and I’m not too sure about you.
So a word of advice when it comes to idioms . . . keep your chin up, show some spine, clean your plate, and when someone’s talking, be all ears and act like the cat’s got your tongue, but to be safe, keep your eyes peeled, don’t drag your feet and lift a finger now and then, unless you’re all thumbs or have two left feet. Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face or you might end up with a knuckle sandwich, or even be skinned alive, and don’t pick your nose, that will make it bigger. Last, but not least, if someone tells you to drink, eat or sniff anything that will put hair on your chest, tell’em, “Over my dead body!”