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Mama’s Best Advice: “Do It Naked”

My mom gifted me with lots of things in my youth: flute lessons, bassoon lessons, piano lessons, ballet lessons, the old Nissan Stanza, her recipe for beef stroganoff, a deep loathing of my body, a fondness for the ocean. Human nature being what it is, however, I’ve also decided that my parenting should compensate for certain things my childhood lacked–I should, in this round of fetching ’em up, make recompense for the Things Mom Never Told Me.

Thus, while still dropping my kid off at ballet lessons (he does love a pink leotard), I will take the parenting a step further and be sure to pass on to my progeny the advice that I wish Me Dear Old Ma had imparted. Specifically, I will be sure to tell them:

1) The ultimate in outdoor entertainment is not acting out the Donnie and Marie show on ice skates. It’s also possible to be a little bit outdoorsy, a little bit country, and quite a bit rock ‘n roll while doing things like grilling pork or rolling old tires through the garden.

2) When you see the letters “MVSEVM” chiseled into an old building, it’s not actually pronounced “MUV-ZEE-VUM.” Instead, them is old-fashioned letterings for “MEW-ZEE-UM,” which is where The Smartie Richies keep the dinosaur bones and gold. Now git in there and fill up this bag. Mama’s collection needs an Allosaurus furcula!

3) In sixth grade, when the father of one of your classmates comes to the school claiming to be a “scientist” and gives the assembled eleven-year-olds a presentation about the mystical powers of pyramids–having you hold your arm up and out to the side while he pushes on it…and then having you hold it up and out to the side while holding a little pyramid in your hand only to discover he has a distinctly-more-difficult time pushing on it–feel free to mess with him and start hollering, “My arm! My arm! That big man hurt me when he pushed so hard! The tip of the pyramid pierced my ligament, and now I think I need to skip the Presidential Physical Fitness Test today, except maybe the Standing Broad Jump, which doesn’t so much involve arm ligaments!” If you need to bump up the drama from there by taking your little show to the nurse’s office and having her call me, I promise I’ll come pick you up in my two-toned station wagon. Meet me out front by the big grey boulder. I’ll slow it down to 10 mph; you and your pierced ligament can hop through the open window.

4) If, in your mid-twenties, Your Long-Time Man announces, “You always say you love me, but I’m not sure I love you,” the correct response is not, “Yea, that sounds about right.” The correct response is, “Well, then, buy me more stuff. I am easily distracted by baubles and Picassos.”

5) When an ad tells you a new deodorant is “revolutionary,” that doesn’t mean it comes packaged with a musket.

6) Chlamydia is not a rare orchid.

Despite wishing I’d been armed with these nuggets of knowledge earlier in life , I do have to give my mom a hugenormous shout-out for handing me one of the best pieces of advice ever: Always bleach naked.

The other night, as always, I forgot to heed her wisdom, and I unscrewed the cap of the Tide Bleach Pen fully clothed.


My intent was to turn the Girl’s pink and white winter coat back to, er, something like pink and white. A winter full of slamming that coat against a dirty jungle gym (dirty jungle gym antics are also a moonlighting gig of mine, incidentally) has rendered the thing dingy, crusted, and leathery. What better, Rapt Readers, than a careful whisk with a Tide Bleach Pen, a thorough soaking in Oxyclean, a deep rinse in Borax Mule-Team Brightener, plus another soaking in Oxyclean to transform it into–crap on a cracker–a garment that is only minimally less dingy, crusted, and leathery?

At any rate, I was optimistic, but not nekkid. Poorly played on my part.

Instead, during the multi-step achromatizing operation, I sported a sassy chocolate brown zip-up-the-front hooded cardigan, one that now sits, riddled with white bleach spots, in a plastic bag labeled “Goodwill Donations.”

More frankly, it sits in a plastic bag. Wouldn’t it be something if I were the type to make a label?

Should Goodwill refuse my donation, screeching “We actually need things in wearable condition” as it hurls the unlabeled bag back towards my speeding car (30 mph in the parking lot; windows up), I daresay I’ll have to find other uses for my now-ruined brown cardigan:

1) Draping it over my poo mounds in the woods, thereby making my natural heaps look twenty-seven times larger and infinitely more intimidating (or enticing) to passing snowmobilers and bike commuters.

2) Using it to strain vermicelli as the noodles hover on the precipice of al dente. Of late, our colander has been taking up too much room in the cabinet, elbowing the pots and pans quite aggressively. But a speckled hoodie is passive–infinitely adaptable to space. I could crumple the thing and store it inside the food processor, alongside my stash of Robitussin.

3) Stuffing it down the throat of the kid who called my Niblet “fat” and “ugly” last summer. Brown is the new gag.

4) Gently wrapping my new boxed set of My So-Called Life in it and burying the whole thing in the backyard, under a full moon, sacrificing a squirrel and incanting the 14-year-old Claire Danes to star in at least eight more episodes before growing up and dating that wanker Billy Crudup who, for Claire, abandoned the knocked-up Mary Louise Parker (little-known fact: the sound of her water breaking masked the little snapping sound a heart makes as it breaks). That’s all my cardigan and I want: just eight more episodes with teen-phenom Danes and a chance for Brian Krakow to go to prom with Angela Chase.

5) Cloaking Barack Obama in it to make him more appealing to African-American voters. Between Ofrey’s endorsement and my sweater’s browning abilities, he might just convince them he’s black. Plus, his wearing a woman’s sweater would clearly signal that Obama is unafraid to bring change to the White House.

Should none of these alternate uses take hold, I can, of course, always take my mother’s other piece of clothing-related advice: when in doubt, give it to your daughter and make her wear it.

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