Mama Said There’ll Be Days Like This by
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It’s amazing how many songs there are about mothers giving advice. I can think of at least half a dozen. In looking for a title, I considered these two:
You Better Shop Around (my mama told me. . .)
You Can’t Hurry Love (I remember mama said. . .)

When I bemoaned some terrible day I had had, she probably did say "there'll be days like this". . . but you'll get through them.

But they are both specifically about love and finding a partner. The one I chose for my title could apply to any situation. And while I don’t have a specific memory of it, I’m sure when I was bemoaning some terrible day I had had, whether in school or later on with my job or my children, she probably did say “there’ll be days like this” . . . but you’ll get through them.

Here are some other tidbits of advice I can remember my mother giving me over the years.

Stand up straight. (She would come over behind me and pull my shoulders back.) Imagine there is a thread running through your body and going all the way up to the ceiling.

Take off your glasses whenever you are being photographed. (Became obsolete when I got contact lenses.) When my youngest child, Molly, started wearing glasses, I was strongly tempted to give her this advice, but I restrained myself because I didn’t want her to feel bad about how she looked in glasses. Eventually she had Lasik surgery, so she no longer wears glasses either.

Never let anyone know you are Jewish, unless you are sure it is safe. (This was not so long after WW II, and she was still worried about anti-Semitism. Our last name was changed to something that sounded WASPy for a reason! And although she didn’t live to see it, now it is a worry again.)

Put mousse in your hair so it won’t be so wild. (I resented her criticism of my wild and bushy hair for years, but looking at old pictures, I realize she was right, and now I am finally taking her advice. Even when it was looking good in California, as soon as I hit the East Coast and its humidity, my hair would explode.)

Don’t wear white or black to a wedding — only the bride should wear white, and black looks like you are in mourning. (I agree, and still follow this advice, but I certainly see a lot of people who don’t.)

Always wear a bra that has at least a little bit of padding, it will make your clothes hang better. (Of course when I started going without a bra in college, she thought it was terrible!)

Don’t tip your hairdresser if she owns her own salon, only tip her if she is an employee. (Since she told me this close to 40 years ago, I wasn’t sure if it still held, but I have checked with other people recently and they agree.)

And turning to my own mothering .  . . .

If you asked any of my children what is the one thing I have said to them their whole lives (they joke that it should go on my tombstone), it is Lean over the table!

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy


Characterizations: funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Khati Hendry says:

    A lot of that advice sounds very familiar. Also the Benjamin Franklin quote that after three days fish and guests smell. In some ways, we maybe are both glad our mothers didn’t live to see some of what is going on these days.

    • Suzy says:

      My mother NEVER said the thing about fish and guests. Not sure why you mentioned it in response to my story. My mother was fine with guests who stayed more than three days, as am I.

      • Khati Hendry says:

        I guess I just heard it from my mom, and thought it was standard mom wisdom. Obviously your mom liked entertaining a lot more than mine! But hearing that definitely made me more sensitive to the possibility of overstaying a welcome.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    What a terrific collection of motherly advice, Suzy. But you were absolutely right with your title: feature advice that can apply generally. (As well as being a song title, of course.)

    I can’t help noticing how much of your mother’s specific advice would only apply to girls — for example, I’m quite sure that my mother never gave me the bra advice. But, with three daughters, that’s exactly what I’d expect from your mom.

    Incidentally, I’v heard the very same advice about tipping hairdressers over the years from the women in my life. But I’m not sure if it applies to barbers. I always tip my current barber, and I know he owns the shop. (And he never complains.) Ironically, the one barber I never tipped — because it was prohibited by the club rules — was the barber at the Harvard Club of New York. And I am quite sure that he didn’t own the club.

    • Suzy says:

      I was about to say that, other than the bra advice, it wasn’t just applicable to girls. But I guess the hair mousse and the wedding garb are also gender-specific (although in our college days many of the guys would have benefitted from hair mousse if it existed then). And of course your barber wouldn’t complain about getting a tip, but he probably is secretly amused that you don’t realize it isn’t necessary since he owns the shop.

      • John Shutkin says:

        Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a barber not tipped, owner or no. I’m wondering if that may just be a gender-specific (i.e., salon vs. barber shop) thing, since, as mentioned, I do know that that advice applies to salons. And, if so, another example of equal pay discrimination. (Or, per the anthropologist in me, another way that society discourages female ownership of businesses. I once did a paper on the correlation between societies in which women were dominant economically and the likelihood that only women would be accused of withcraft.)

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    LOL, Suzy. My mother also had a thing about standing up straight and tipping the owner of salons. Sadly, as she aged, she could no longer stand up straight, and I fear I have inherited her scoliosis lately.

    • Suzy says:

      Sorry about the scoliosis, Laurie. I have recently been making more effort than ever to stand up straight, because I worry about my osteoporosis. My mother got a little bent over in her 90s, and I’m hoping I can avoid that.

  4. Mister Ed says:

    Nice memories of your mother’s advice. I must admit I’ve never learned to “Lean over the table.”

    As for a song, how about Que Sera, Sera?

    • Suzy says:

      Yes indeed, Que Sera, Sera is one of the “many songs” I reference in my first sentence. That mother’s advice wasn’t very useful IMO – no matter what the daughter asked her, the answer was “whatever will be, will be.” Thanks a lot!

  5. Marian says:

    Great lines, Suzy, and the “Stand up straight” was repeated ad nauseam in my house. Didn’t help that, being relatively tall for that era, I tended to slouch to fit in. I’ve also heard about not tipping the salon. I had hair as wild as yours as a teenager (until it grew in much straighter after a bad case of mono with prolonged fever), and my mother encouraged me to straighten it using those “reverse perms” with which you combed the chemicals through. Did it once and never again.

    • Suzy says:

      I did straighten my hair in high school, once at a salon, and several times with those at-home products called “Curl Free,” “Uncurl,” etc. Each time my hair looked great until it rained or got super-humid and then it exploded anyway. The mousse comments came much later, when I was in my 40s and 50s. By then curly styles were acceptable, but mine was too frizzy curly.

  6. Yep Suzy, those all sound like mother stuff!
    My mother always said, Dress more dramatic, and put on lipstick.
    And when things went wrong she always said, This too will pass.

    And she was always right!

    • Suzy says:

      Dress more dramatic? What did she mean by that?
      My mother wore lipstick, but I never have, and I am thankful that she never told me I should.

      • Suzy, to answer your question, altho by no means a clothes horse herself, by telling me to dress more dramatically my mother meant just that – one shouldn’t be a slave to fashion or peer pressure but should wear more dramatic clothes to look one’s best.

        But as for pierced ears, my mother didn’t like the idea and only wore clip or screw-on earrings which often pinched her ears and so she’d periodically pull them off! But I wanted my ears pierced and one day on a lark went with a girlfriend and had it done in a jewelry store.

        And BTW my mother also told me I needn’t tip the salon owner. How did our mothers know all that important stuff!

  7. Kathy Porter says:

    Your mother sounds like a very wise and practical person. Of course, we all have to allow for the times in which our mothers grew up. More often than I want to admit, I find myself telling people something I got from my mother.

    • Suzy says:

      Sometimes I feel like I am turning into my mother, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. She was an incredible mother, and I’m glad I was able to tell her that, saying further that if I did half as good a job as she did, I would be happy.

  8. Betsy Pfau says:

    Suzy, I guess mothers give the same advice everywhere. My mother also used to pull back my shoulders and tell me to stand up straight (I have osteoporosis now and am getting really bent over)! She was horrified when I stopped wearing a bra in college. I also learned not to tip the owner of a salon (true for facials too, tho my mother never got those).

    As you will read about next week, I always take my glasses off in photos, but I can’t remember if it was my mother who told me to do that. We really had a lot of advice in common.

  9. Damn! Those are some very specific tidbits of advice you recall from you mother. This was fun to read and interesting to contrast to my own mom’s advice-giving, which I think was a lot less down-to-earth and specific.

  10. Jim Willis says:

    I enjoyed reading about your mom’s words of wisdom, Suzy, and it sounds like she lovingly gave you a lot to think about! Van Morrison’s song certainly fits all of us as we try to navigate the ups and downs of bad and good days. I actually rediscovered “Days Like This,” a couple months ago when it was used in a Modern Love episode on Prime. If you haven’t seen it, that’s a fun series, taken from the column of the same name, I believe, in the New York Times. The song grew on me, and I wound up recording it. Thanks for sharing your memories about your mom!

    • Suzy says:

      Jim, I don’t know the Van Morrison song. My title refers to the Shirelles’ song from 1961. I’ll have to find Van’s on youtube and see how it compares. I also didn’t know about Modern Love, so will be sure to start watching that as soon as I finish Grace and Frankie.

    • Dave Ventre says:

      Jim, Van is one of my favorite artists ever (despite him being a huge dolt and schmuck). I have always thought of his “Days Like This” as being the anti-“Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This.” To me it seems to say that some days, things will go well. An oddly upbeat attitude for Morose Morrison.

  11. Yes – take off my glasses for photos and smile no matter how I might feel at that moment.

    • Suzy says:

      Of course, smile for the camera too. That goes with taking off the glasses, and lasted even after I stopped wearing glasses. I think there is only one photo of me in existence where I am not smiling.

  12. Jim Willis says:

    Suzy, my wife loves Grace and Frankie. I got interested in Modern Love when it premiered its first season last year. The NYT guest essays the episodes are drawn from are funny, moving, and sophisticated — that is, they make the viewer think. The Times began publishing the essays during the lockdown era when readers wrote about how they found and managed budding relationships during that time. Season 2, Episode 1 is where the Morrison song appears, at the end of this episode called, “On a Serpentine Road, with the Top Down.”

  13. Dave Ventre says:

    Suzy, I for one have always loved wild and crazy hair on women!

    Parents do come up with odd beliefs and expressions about them. Mine was for some reason obsessed by the idea that it was unhealthy to take a drink too soon after eating a bite of food. You had to swallow, then wait an unspecified number of seconds to drink, or be admonished “Don’t float your food down!”

    I have never known what horrible fate might result if you did.

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