[storytime] An Abridged List of Lies I Was Taught as a Child

  • Money and success will make you happy.
  • Being beautiful is an obligation.
  • Being fat is the worst thing that could happen to you.
  • College will be a magical la-la land where you will finally be happy.
  • Men don’t like strong, opinionated women.
  • Being gay is wrong.
  • Never ask a guy out.
  • Never have sex with someone you’re not dating seriously.
  • Casual sex will make you depressed, and a slut.
  • Intelligent people are better than nonintelligent people.
  • Your parents know best.
  • Family comes before friends.
  • You should be willing to sacrifice anything for your family.
  • Fitting in is important.
  • If you’re upset, you’re probably being too sensitive.
  • Your friends should come from your cultural/ethnic/religious group.
  • If a guy likes you, he will let you know. And if he doesn’t, he’s a wimp anyway.
  • Your career should be as high-powered as possible.
  • Your husband should make as much or more money than you.
  • It’s okay to let men do things for you rather than learning how to do them yourself.
  • Never, ever trust another woman. She will stab you in the back at the first opportunity.
  • If someone doesn’t like you, you should probably ask yourself what you’re doing wrong.
  • If your boyfriend is unhappy, you should try to make him happy.
  • Politics doesn’t matter anyway.
  • Everyone can tell how many men a woman has slept with just by looking at her.
  • Your clothing should always “flatter” your figure.
  • Sex can only be one of two things: Dangerous, or Special and to be saved for The Right Person.
  • Getting ahead is more important than sticking to your principles.
  • You can always just choose to be happy.

I learned these things as a child and a teenager. Now I’m an adult and I finally get to reeducate myself. A decolonization of the mind, so to speak.

Most of these lessons have been proven false by experience and common sense.

What lies were you taught as a child?

[storytime] An Abridged List of Lies I Was Taught as a Child

66 thoughts on “[storytime] An Abridged List of Lies I Was Taught as a Child

  1. 1

    • only bad people have tattoos
    • when you learn how to drink, it means your friends are bad influences
    • we should respect everybody
    • if you have a different view about ethics, morality, religion and politics, you are a bad seed

  2. 2

    More lies:
    – Play hard to get. This will make him value you more.
    – Find a man who thinks you’re the most fragile thing ever and wants to protect you. The more protective he is, the more he loves you.
    – Follow the example of white people, for they know better.

  3. 5

    I don’t get how you’re expected to have a high-powered career but not be strong and opinionated (or at the very least strong)… or is that something you just switch off when you’re with a potential romantic partner?

    And yes, a bunch of these are lies I grew up with too.

    1. 5.1

      That’s exactly the predicament, isn’t it?

      I think what I’m “supposed” to do is be strong and have a high-powered career, but pretend to be helpless in front of My Man so that he feels good about himself.

  4. 7

    Women are not supposed to be physically strong. Physical strength must be downplayed or hidden as being “toned”. Playing rough is only for boys. Men will never love you if you are stronger than them.

  5. 8

    Just curious…How old are you and do you have any children? No your parents don’t know best but they have the experience to know better than a child and/or teenager who hasn’t seen enough of the world to “KNOW” much of anything. But other than that good list.

    1. 8.1

      Wow, you seem to be getting really defensive about this. Are you a bad parent and feeling guilty about it?

      Many of the things on this list refer to cultural influences and don’t necessarily have anything to do with parents. The writer actually didn’t say anything about parents.

      And even without being a parent, I can still know that I won’t teach my daughters not to trust other women, that being beautiful is the most important thing, that being fat is the worst thing, or that men don’t like strong women. (In fact, I wouldn’t enforce gender binaries at all).

      Just food for thought.

      1. Have kids before you start making judgements about what kind of parent I am. And good for you I am glad you won’t enforce gender binaries. Parenting is about using common sense. But being a parent for the last 7 years, I realized I sure as hell didn’t know shit when I was younger. My parents tried to teach me some bullshit which is why I said they DON’T know best. But I can tell you theyalso tried to teach me good lessons that actually would have helped me if I stopped and listened. It tooked me 10 years to realise they know BETTER about somethings because of EXPERIENCE.

        1. Yes, well, mine didn’t. You don’t know my life story, and I’m pretty sure you’ve never even commented on this blog before. When my parents told me that they always know best, they were wrong. It’s really that simple.

          1. uh huh…and how old are you? Talk to me again when your 30-35 depending on how long it takes you to mature. I’m sure you will change your tune…ESPECIALLY if you have children.

      2. I don’t think proudmama was being defensive.at all. She just had a thought that maybe you were too young to quite have experienced at least one event to have yet proved the wisdom. She also said “good list”. Seems like she would make a great friend. The kind that is honest is always the best. I welcome my friends who give me HONEST feedback. Those friends are invaluable.

      1. Haha. Yup. I should’ve added a bit to this post that said “inb4 ‘you’ll be singing a different tune when you have your own kids.'”

        Over on the Friendly Atheist post that links to this one, there are plenty of Real Adults (since apparently I don’t count) sharing stories just like mine. Many of them even specifically say that when they grew up and had their own children, they still persisted with their supposedly childish belief that their parents had been wrong. Imagine that.

          1. If you are not a parent you have no right to say parents don’t know shit. If you haven’t given birth or raised kids you have NO IDEA what it’s like to be one. There are things I said when I was younger like if I had kids I would never do this or my parents don’t know anything. Guess what? If you still have the same ideas when you are 40 you are more immature then my liking and I am glad you would never be my friend.Grow up and use experience for your opinions, not what you THINK you know.

          2. Who said “parents don’t know shit”?

            Also, yes, I do know what it’s like to be a kid without having raised one, and my experience of having been taught falsehoods that negatively impacted my life in very severe ways matters more than your righteous indignation.

      2. miriam. I also know what its like to have parents that taught me to hate and there were plenty of falsehoods. I have never said parents were perfect. The way I see it, you are still alive to have to opinions you have. They obviously knew SOMETHING to keep you alive. Like I said before and I will say it again, they don’t know best but they sure as hell knows better than any child. GROW UP

          1. My, my my! Sounds like you are the one getting defensive here. Funny thing is you can’t even acknowledge the fact your parents know SOMETHING and are not COMPLETELY brain dead. But your wisdom is so much more than mine. Tell me, what experiences have you had to tell me I (or your parents) are wrong about EVERYTHING? Maturity can only be obtained with age. I’m sorry if you don’t think so. You are in for a rude awakening, regardless if you have children or not.

          2. Once again, where did I say that all parents are always wrong about everything? You’re strawmanning my argument. All I said was that the idea that parents always know better is not true.

            I don’t need to tell a complete stranger everything about my life, so I’m not going to. I don’t see what you’re hoping to accomplish here.

          3. lol if you were paying attention, I never said you said all parents are wrong about everything. I am simply wondering why YOUR parents were wrong about everything. I am also simply stating YOUR parents were not complete idiots.

        1. I likewise never said that my own parents are “complete idiots.” They were right about plenty of things. But this wasn’t a post about the things they were right about. It was a post about the things they were wrong about.

          And once again, I owe you no additional information about my life, so you might as well stop asking for it.

    2. 8.4

      Also, I dare you to look a victim of child sexual abuse or a victim of teenage dating violence in the eye and tell them there’s actually a minimum age requirement for having life experiences, so their opinions don’t count.

      1. that’s pretty much one of the lies my parents told me. i told them i was being abused and they didn’t believe me– because i was too young to know what i was talking about. so it went on for years.

  6. 9

    Oh dear, where to start?

    * Swallowing a cherry pit will cause a cherry tree to grow out of your tummy

    * Sitting in the bath when the water runs out will suck you down the plug hole

    * If you go near the edge of a cliff/ledge/window/roof/whatever, you will fall off and die

    Not quite the same category as yours, but they still affect me….

    1. 9.1

      I was afraid of drains in the pool — not bath drains, as I always knew I was too big to have to worry about those, but pool drains were something else entirely!

      1. “And also, the whole idea that if you really love someone, you won’t so much as look at anyone else.”

        – That’s my definition of love, too, actually. Of course, I recognize the right of everybody to have a different definition but to me this is what love is.

        1. Yeah, and that’s totally valid. I think that’s how my parents are, too, so I don’t exactly blame them for teaching me that. I just wish I’d spent less time believing that I must be coldhearted and incapable of love since I’m almost never interested in just one person.

          1. Yeah, I really wish I hadn’t been taught “if you really love someone, you won’t so much as look at anyone else” and I really wish my partner hadn’t either. Poly desires are fucking impossible to deal with in a strictly monogamous relationship.

        2. I actually had a serious disagreement with the first person I ever fell in love with over just that: I felt that True Love was compatible with also Truly Loving other people (this girl had a girlfriend back home in Russia, which did not stop me from thinking I could be her girlfriend here in the ‘States), while she felt that if you could bear the thought of your beloved loving someone else, you clearly didn’t love them intensely enough.

          Do you suppose Russian-speaking cultures are more insistent about this than English-speaking ones, or am I just unusually tolerant of non-monogamy?

          1. I think this is a cultural thing. My boyfriend is ADAMANTLY monogamous, and he has the same kind of ‘you didn’t love them intensely enough’ kind of mentality. He thinks that the monogamy is what makes the relationship worth being in. Apparently it’s more satisfying to deny yourself for the sake of monogamy than it is to work out a functional relationship in which you can be more open.

            The whole ‘Western culture’ is very very on the side of monogamy.

          2. “Do you suppose Russian-speaking cultures are more insistent about this than English-speaking ones, or am I just unusually tolerant of non-monogamy?”

            – Oh no, it’s just the opposite! We are a culture of such massive, out-of-this-world cheating that I’m even embarrassed to share what we are like with Americans. I’m especially bothered by the fact that the contraceptive culture is non-existent and Russia and Ukraine today have a soaring number of HIV-infected people who got infected during sex.

            This is just my own very personal view of life and love that I in no way promote and want to impose on anybody.

          3. “My boyfriend is ADAMANTLY monogamous, and he has the same kind of ‘you didn’t love them intensely enough’ kind of mentality. He thinks that the monogamy is what makes the relationship worth being in. Apparently it’s more satisfying to deny yourself for the sake of monogamy than it is to work out a functional relationship in which you can be more open.”

            – I’m completely opposed to denying yourself sexually for absolutely any reason whatsoever, let alone for the sake of any relationship. The only relationship that I consider love (for myself, not for others, just me) is the one where you are physically incapable of experiencing any shade of sexual interest in anybody other than your partner. As soon as that slightest whiff has appeared, I believe that love is over and the best thing (for me, not for others) is to end the relationship and move on. That is how I have lived my life. But I totally support others in living in very different ways.

            “He thinks that the monogamy is what makes the relationship worth being in.”

            – I feel the same. I don’t feel motivated to make the effort of a relationship if it isn’t for the sake of this overpowering burning love completely concentrated on one person that I have described. If I can’t have that, I’ll just much rather have crowds of casual partners whose names I’m not expected to memorize. The system works for me perfectly but it’s not for everyone because people are different. 🙂

          4. Actually, Clarissa, based on what my Russian family taught me, if it’s “true love” you won’t cheat because you’ll have no desire to, but “true love” is rare and therefore cheating is rampant.

            Perhaps we got slightly different lessons in that regard. 🙂

          5. “Actually, Clarissa, based on what my Russian family taught me, if it’s “true love” you won’t cheat because you’ll have no desire to, but “true love” is rare and therefore cheating is rampant.”

            – Yes, that’s exactly what I believe! 🙂 But, of course, I always add “this is how it works for me” when I discuss it. Maybe this is what’s missing from such explanations and that could make them non-prescriptive. Compulsory, prescriptive monogamy is as horrible as compulsory, prescriptive heterosexuality.

  7. 12

    I didn’t get most of these. It seems being born with a developmental disability acted for me like a Get Out of Compulsory Heterosexuality Free card, for which I am quite grateful.

    However, I *definitely* got a gigantic dose of “smart people are better than non-smart people,” along with its siblings, “educated people are smarter/better than less educated people” and “people who study science, engineering or math are smarter/work harder than people who study anything else.”

    (I’m bi, and also quite ignorant of, and untroubled by my failure to comply with, rules governing the female role in dating. But then I don’t “date” so much as form sexual relationships with friends to whom I also happen to be sexually attracted … I don’t see the whole stranger-dating thing working for me, to be honest.)

  8. 14

    Wow. I never heard anything growing up about beauty or “pleasing The Man” or whatever. I only learned “being gay is wrong,” “family comes before friends/you should be willing to sacrifice everything for your family,” and a little bit of “choosing to be happy.” My mom also has said repeatedly that sex is special and should be saved until marriage, but if you don’t save it, you should be in love with the guy – and don’t be stupid and use birth control. (I actually agree with her on the last one – although I took it to mean “people should have safe, consensual sex.”)

    Fun things my mom has told me:

    “Family is everything.”
    “Your life plan is: graduate from high school, go to college, find a job, then get married [in the Catholic church], then have kids.”
    “Your friends will only tell you what you want to hear.”
    “Find a Christian boyfriend/husband.”
    “In a lesbian relationship, there’s always one woman who plays the male role and the other woman who plays the female role.”
    “You should have a therapist who is a mother, so she knows what it’s like to raise children.” (What in the world does raising children have to do with good therapy? I’m in my twenties and having life problems related to that, not having problems with the kids that I don’t have.)


    I actually have a lot of cognitive dissonance regarding who comes first: family or
    friends. Thoughts?

    1. 14.1

      Well, I’m glad you at least escaped the beauty crap!

      Re: family vs. friends, I’m still figuring that one out. I do think I have a loyalty to my family and I will always be there for them in a time of need, but that doesn’t mean I have to hold their preferences and opinions above those of my friends, who are like my second family in many ways. That also doesn’t mean I have to cancel plans with friends on short notice just because my family wants to see me.

    2. 14.2

      I have a weird opinion about the friends v family thing, because I was raised by a physically and emotionally abusive mother. She’s bipolar and a sociopath, and her family reflects similar mental instabilities. I don’t speak to her, or to most of her family. Unfortunately, she has custody of my brother and I’m unable to contact him.

      My father’s family is so religiously and politically opposite me that I find it difficult to be around them comfortably. I still do holidays with them, but it always feels awkward to me. My dad, his wife, and their kids are pretty important to me, but I don’t see them often.

      My partner’s family is more like my family than my own, most of the time. I have friends that I care about waaay more than the majority of my family members. In short, my life has shaped a perspective of friends>family.

  9. 15

    I had a lot of people tell me that if you were upset about something, you were just being too sensitive. I set out to find out if I was more sensitive relative to other people by trying them out on the things that were done to me to see if they became upset or didn’t notice. Actually, they became upset very quickly, far more quickly than I’d anticipated, indeed in a fraction of the time I would have become upset, when I treated them like what they said didn’t really have any content as it was “just emotional”. From many such tests, I disproved the theory.

    1. 15.1

      Oh, I heard that one, too!

      Good job on actually testing it out; you were clearly a very smart kid. (And, from your posts that I read mostly on Clarissa’s blog, you *are* clearly a smart adult.)

  10. 16

    trans* people don’t exist. queer people don’t exist. gender is binary. we live in a post-racial society. there is no such thing as true love (they seriously told me that). only bad people do drugs. it’s my fault if i get raped. bread crusts will make me strong.

    i might write a post about this and link back here, actually. totally inspired!

  11. 17

    1. On Graduation night: ‘highschool is the happiest time of your life” (oh fine, Im 17 and my life gets WORSE?)
    2. Listen to your father
    3. LIsten to your mother
    4. Listen to the doctor, he knows best.
    5. All teachers are good, and kind, and intelligent. If you’re not happy in Mr. X’s class, it must be your fault
    6. Always wear a skirt on a date (this was in the 60s)
    7. If you masturbate you will go blind
    8. If you confess all your sins to the priest he will tell god and you will be forgiven
    9. Listen to the priest, he knows all about marriage counseling
    10. Nice women don’t have orgasms, and we dont talk about such things in this house

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