(even typing that gives me heart burn and I’m 42 goddammit)
She was right about me not marrying my first boyfriend (he offered to knit me a sweater and then came out as gay before he hit 16); no, black hair didn’t look good with my English rose coloring (I looked like a corpse) and yes, wearing a leather cap and overalls did make people think I was a lesbian for much of my teenage years. She was full of great advice which I, in my adolescent/twenties/thirties years chose to ignore. And today I need to come clean that yes, you were right Mum;
- Picking it does make it worse.
- It wasn’t ever going to last
- You can’t beat Delia Smith
- Thermals always do come in handy
- Good manners do indicate someone was raised well
- You can’t beat clean sheets
- Those new deep dye jeans do run in the washing machine
- Turning on side lamps helps hide the dust
- You can’t beat a good cup of tea
- Home grown veggies do taste different
- Going out with wet hair does make you cold
- Tattoos are permanent
- Middle aged drunk women aren’t attractive
- And my personal favorite… men can’t do more than one thing at a time
Of course, while she’s often been right (almost every single boyfriend, most haircuts and colors, those thick soled Doc Martens, that dreadful leather cap, my overabundance of swearing), she’s also been (on occasion) terribly, awfully wrong. In fact, she doesn’t know it, but my Mum actually helped me get fired.
I was working as a consultant and traveling 4 days of the day. Sleeping in a variety of Marriotts, racking up my frequent flier miles and slowly losing the will to live after 7 years of 6 day work weeks. After my 4th bout of strep throat one February, my Mum advised that maybe I needed a break from traveling and should simply ask to work ‘nearby’ instead of my usual locales (Detroit and Minneapolis were favorites, especially during the winter). She rationalized ‘ you’ve been there a while, you’ve always done what they asked, they have to give you a break’. Lying prone on my sofa with a throat on fire and my laptop balanced on my chest, I tried to work through the fog in my brain.. you know, she seemed to have a point. Just a few months off the road. I’d be back to full health and rested from those dreaded 3 hour Sunday afternoon flights. In fact, I’d be able to work even harder. It wasn’t much.. just a couple of months… it wasn’t like I was asking for leave. Just no planes.
So, the next time I spoke to my HR manager I told her I needed a break from traveling. In fact, I couldn’t get on a plane for a while, I told her, say 3-6 months, until my immune system got back to normal. Buoyed by my mother’s seemingly sensible idea, I was positively enthusiastic in saying ‘no’ to getting on another germ infested Sunday afternoon flight.
I know – encouraged by my rational, all knowing mother- that I’d worked really hard. I’d put in 60-70 hours a week, spent my Sundays in airports and given up all of my hobbies and friends to pursue my career. I was approaching 30 and I’d flown over 250,000 miles in the past 2 years. They had to give me a break. After all, I was one of their loyal dogs and they’d just given me a big bonus in recognition for my commitment over the past 7 years.
I received my two weeks notice within the hour.
It turns out that a little known mandatory requirement of my job was my willingness to travel. Since I’d never verbally protested my schedule over the past 250,000 miles (hell I was new to the US, anywhere was exciting), I wasn’t aware of this small print in my verbal contract. Refusing to travel was (apparently) a condition of my employment, and as my HR asked me once again ‘are you sure you can’t travel?’ I unwittingly fired myself by saying ‘no’.
I think, in hindsight, I should have been tipped off by her intake of breath.. but hey, Mum is always right… right?
Note to self. While your mother might be logically right, business rules aren’t always similarly inclined.
Within two weeks of her splendid advice I was working at Macy’s for $5.50 an hour folding sweaters until midnight, 7 days a week in order to make my mortgage. I wasn’t on a plane, but I sure don’t think that’s what she had in mind when she delivered her wise words.
I’ve received a lot of advice over the years. Some good, some bad and some surprisingly damaging (thank you to the lady who said ‘a house is never a bad investment’.. we need to have words). But right up there is my mother, the sensible, practical guidance giver who managed to get me fired from my very first adult job.