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The 'Lesson from Mom' I Still Live By Today.

I remember reading in a book a few years - a psychology book at that - the story of a woman who always cut about a fifth of her meat off before she cooked it.  When asked why, she replied because her mother had always done it.  Then she decided to ask her mother why she always did that.

The answer was because her mother had a rather small pot and she always had to cut a piece of meat away so it would fit in the pot.  So like a Pavlovian dog, her daughter had followed her, practising this habit for no particular reason.

What's a Pavlovian dog?  Well, haven't you heard of Pavlov, the famous Russian scientist who did some psychological research on canines?  Dogs, not teeth, dogs!  Pavlov  used to ring a bell just before he fed his dogs.  He noticed that on hearing the bell, the dogs would salivate in anticipation of the food to come.  Pavlov started ringing the bell even before mealtimes and the dogs would salivate anyway.  So a response just for the sake of a response is now referred to as a Pavlovian dog response.

In another book (or maybe the same book - can't remember the name for the life of me) I read the story of a woman who became unreasonably angry every time a member of her family put a coat on a bed.  Again, the same story.  Her mother always did the same.  When she was questioned, her mother was discovered to have lived in a city and time when there was an epidemic of fleas.  Putting a flea-infected visitors coat on your bed was a sure-fire way to give your whole family fleas (at least the members who slept in that bed).  So even in non flea-ridden times, our subject was still reacting like a Pavlovian dog.  Curious, isn't it?

I've probably picked up similar habits.  My mother never liked us to look in her handbag.  I can well understand it. If we wanted something like money, we had to hand her the handbag and she'd give it to us.  I like my privacy too.  No matter what, even if it's an internet bill, I never send one of my kids to look in my handbag.  It's strictly 'bring me the bag and I'll get it for you.'  It's not that I have any guilty secrets hidden away in there.  I just like my privacy.

I was very surprised at how annoyed I was when one of  my  friends asked my permission to look for a photograph in my handbag.  I suppose that habits you learn at that level - at a young age, at home with your mother - are very hard to break.  Some people might hate you looking in their bag, others probably wouldn't mind at all.

It just depends on how and where you learn these habits and values.

I personally don't think, though, that it's wrong to want privacy in certain matters.  But I do think that it is ridiculous how many stupid and meaningless customs are carried on in the name of tradition - because this is the way it's always been done.

I remember, as a child, maybe eight years old, in a Catholic school, being warned by an elderly teacher that on no account was I ever to touch a sacred communion host.  I was told that only a priest's hands were holy enough to do that.  It's quite ironic that by the time I was fifteen, communion hosts were being distributed in my local Church by individuals who were not priests.  We were also encouraged by then to receive communion in our hands.  What we'd been taught by the elderly teacher was not an eternal truth but a tradition.  A very degrading one at that.

Yes, some traditions have no place in society, they are quite obsolete.

But I still won't let anyone look in my handbag.  So there.

This is my weekly post for my blogging group, the Loose Blogging Consortium. We post weekly (usually simultaneously) on a given topic and visit each other to see the different takes we have on the same topic.  We are, in alphabetical order, AnuDeliriousRummuserGrannymarMaxi, Magpie, Maria SFocdwriterPadmumPaul, The Old FossilShackman and Will. If you have time, please visit my friends too.  This topic was suggested by Maria SF


  1. I suppose ladies handbags are a little like a man's jacket pocket.

  2. One lesson from my mother that I have resisted learning is to put the milk in first before the tea. Sure it'll be less painful if you spill it. And it ensures that there'll be enough room for the milk if it goes in first. But NOOOOO Never.
    It tastes better with the tea first.

  3. You and Grannymar are most welcome to inspect my brief case or my jacket pockets.

  4. Hi Maria!

    I smiled through some of your post- yet it's true. I would never want someone to rifle through my handbag as well. Not because of secrets, but of losing my tidbits of papers etc!

    Thanks for this post!

  5. In all our years together my husband never went in my purse, and I never looked in his wallet.

    We also never opened each others mail.For us, it was a matter of respect.

    Blessings to you ~ Maxi


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