Ask any parent of a child over five – homework can be a harrowing experience for both the child and the parent. (Except homeschooling parents, in which case the frustration probably lasts all day long.) I think the 6.5 hours my daughters spend in school five days per week should be enough to teach them what a third grader and a first grader need to know. And is it just me, or does homework regularly involve me asking “but what did your teacher say about this” and Fiona or Bridget saying “nothing – we didn’t do this in class, Mommy”? Wait. This post isn’t about homework; homework is just the spark to the flame, which is bullshit. One day a few weeks ago, Bridget was whining about homework. “I don’t want to do this. I can’t do this. It’s too hard.” Two possible answers came to mind: 1) You’re reading your way through “The Twits”, but you can’t think of four words that start with M and sound them out and write them down and draw them? and 2) Nothing worthwhile is easy. I didn’t want to make her feel small and silly by pointing out the obvious in such a rude way, so I opted for the second response, hoping to encourage her by making learning a goal. It was barely out of my mouth when I realized that it’s not true.
Lots of worthwhile things are easy. Sinking into a near-overflowing tub of hot, bubbly water. Laughing with friends. Sipping wine and reading a book in the backyard on a sunny day. Dancing to good music. Listening to steady rain on the roof at night. Toast slathered with peanut butter and honey. Coffee and a newspaper. A hug. Paying a compliment. I retired that expression that day. Then, I started thinking of other bullshit expressions that people say all the time. I came up with a decent list within minutes.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Do I even have to go into this one? Words hurt. The bruises and scrapes of my childhood, aside from the major ones, have been forgotten – but I still remember nearly every cruel name or line that was ever hurled at me. I can even remember who said what.
“Just sayin’.” Nobody who says that is just saying anything. When someone says that, it means they have just made a point they feel trumps everything that’s been said so far in the conversation. It’s a parting shot that means “I know what I’m talking about, and if you were smart you’d agree with what I just said, because there really isn’t any other way to see it”. Well, that’s what I think, anyway. Just sayin’.
“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” This is something that is said by only two kinds of people: winners who want to make losers feel better, and losers themselves. Neither one actually believes it. Sure, how you play the game is important, but everyone’s playing to win.
“We’re all special.” So, I guess that means special is the new ordinary. You know, since we’re all special.
“Loving every minute of it.” This saying is used to illustrate photos uploaded to social media, as a hashtag, or sometimes as the last line of a paragraph in a Christmas letter. The problem is not necessarily the phrase itself. What makes it bullshit is what comes before it. The photos are usually of a child in a highchair covered with slop, finger-painting or sitting in the middle of a room that looks like the toybox threw up. The hashtag is usually added to a line that says something like “only slept four hours last night – I’ve got one hungry baby girl” or “it’s only nine a.m. and little Mortimer has already asked me forty-seven questions”. The Christmas letter paragraph usually describes a week in the life of the sender, and merely reading it will make you tired. From piano on Monday, drama on Tuesday and ballet on Thursday to hockey and swimming on Saturday, this family is “loving every minute of it”. Bullshit. I’ve never even been to a party of which I’ve loved every minute. Sure, we’re all enjoying life to some degree most of the time, but can we dispense with the illusion that it’s one endless, cheek-cracking, side-splitting LOL?
Speaking of “LOL”, you’re probably not. You might give a half-hearted smirk, or even a breathy chuckle, but are you actually laughing out loud every time you type those three letters? Nope. And don’t even get me started on “LMAO” or “ROFL”.
“We’re pregnant.” No, you guys aren’t. She is.
“I don’t mean to blow my own horn, but ….” But you are doing exactly that, and you know it. Otherwise you wouldn’t have prefaced the trumpeting with that line. So, yeah, you probably do mean to blow your own horn. You just don’t want to sound like you do.
“To each, their own.” This is a close relative of “well, it takes all kinds” and “we’re all different, and that’s a good thing”. People don’t say this as a verbal expression of their admiration, or even tolerance, of different people doing different things. People say this because they can’t understand why anyone would ever think / like / do X, but they don’t want to look like a jerk – so they shrug and pretend they’re not even raising an eyeball, let alone judging hard with every cell of their mystified brain.
“Practice makes perfect.” Depends on what it is. Most of the time, practice makes better. Sometimes, it does nothing at all. Very rarely does it make perfect.
I could probably write about this for hours if I gave it more thought and time. But I don’t want my dear readers to stop reading due to the necessity of getting on with their life …. So, I’ll throw it open to everyone: what bullshit sayings do you or people around you use regularly? I’m sure you can think of at least one. In the meantime, I’ll close with what Ryan said less than thirty seconds after I asked him for a contribution.
“You’ll sleep on the plane.” (Related: “I’ll sleep on the plane”.) Bullshit. Unless you have an aisle seat. In my flying history, the only people I’ve ever seen sleeping on a plane are the people who sit between other passengers and the washroom. Oh, and that baby with the voice of a wounded pterodactyl – during the last fifteen minutes of the flight, after she’s inflicted a pounding headache on everyone except the aisle people, she sleeps on the plane. But you won’t, and neither will I.