Getting Real With Mary Swan-Bell

Once I read an article that said there are only two conditions under which you should offer advice: If you are asked and/or if it is a matter of life and death. I had a small child at the time, so that reinforced what I all ready felt since everyone from my mother-in-law to old ladies at Wal-Mart were weighing in on my abilities as a mother (or lack of abilities depending who you asked.)

“You really should put a hat on that baby.” “You should really take that baby’s hat off; she’ll get too warm in here.” “I don’t know why you want to breastfeed, I gave all my kids bottles of formula, and they turned out fine.”

Since this was a formative time, I remembered that. I rarely offer advice. I can usually put myself in other people’s shoes and know what I would do, but that’s me not them. So, I am hesitant to offer advice for fear of the “If I were you, I would…” gene.

mommy dearestSee, that was one of my mother’s favorite intros. As in: “If I were you, I would wear black shoes with that dress.” “If I were you, I’d put a girdle on.” “If I were you, I would give that baby a little cereal, she’s starving.” “If I were you, I would be a nurse. What in the world are you going to do with that professional writing degree?” (She might’ve been right there, but that is beside the point.)

But I am a grown up woman with a wonderful marriage, three great kids, and a happy life, so I no longer let my mother’s unsolicited advice bother me.

Except when it pertains to my weight.

My mom is extremely thin; I am not. For the past 6 months, I have been trying–mostly unsuccessfully–to lose 20 pounds, by eating healthy and going to the gym nearly every day. Upon one trip to the gym, I saw that they were offering a senior citizen’s class and thought it would be a good way for my recently widowed and relocated mom to get a little exercise and maybe meet some friends.

She agreed, joined and has been going for about a month.

Last week, during week three of the Fast Metabolism Diet when I was enjoying a nice dinner of cucumbers and oysters, while my family scarfed down pizza, my mom said…”You know, if I were you, I’d quit that diet. You could just come to exercise class with me…” and she proceeded to show me how she no longer had excess skin under her arms or any flab on her 81-year-old stomach.

You might think I’m writing this from jail, but I promise, I held my temper and responded with grace and dignity: GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!! I AM NOT COMING TO YOUR OLD LADY EXERCISE CLASS! She shrugged her shoulders and responded with her second favorite line, “Suit yourself,” but I’ll tell you about that one another day.