Mama used to caution me about what I said when I was younger – not just what I said about people but who I was talking to.
“Don’t say anything about anyone you wouldn’t want to say to their face,” she would say. “In fact, it’s better to just go ahead and say it to them because chances are whoever you’re talking to will go tell them and it won’t be the way you said it when they do.”
Mama was a wise old bird, but back when she gave me those little nuggets of wisdom, I was a mere teenager, which meant anything she told me was wrong and ridiculous.
As I grew older, which meant within a few days of Mama’s warning, I learned that to be a truth.
Things I had said – that I thought were in confidence to a ‘friend’ – were repeated. Not just to the person I had said them about, but to everyone else.
To make matters worse, by the time it got to the person it had originally been about, it had been modified, changed and twisted so horribly it was nowhere near what I had said.
“I didn’t mean it to sound that way,” I bemoaned my case to Mama who tried to be sympathetic.
“Well, Kitten, you know the old saying: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Great, I thought, I was gonna be the only 13-year-old with a vow of silence.
I learned though.
I kept my mouth shut.
If I did say anything, it was only something positive or beneficial that could not be misconstrued in any way, shape or form.
I watched my words and for the most part, kept most of my thoughts to myself. When I did say anything that was not 100 percent nice, I felt bad – almost borderline evil.
Was it wrong that someone got on my nerves? Did that make me a bad person?
Evidently it did, or it could – depending on who had that knowledge.
But you get to the point where you get tired of being all warm and fuzzy and sweetness and light all the time and just want to blow off some steam.
Like Claree said in “Steel Magnolias:” “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit next to me.”
So you find a real-life Claree that you think you can trust – “think” being the operative word here – and tell them what you think about a few things. Of course, the trouble about the Clarees is just as they are sitting and talking to you about people, they are doing the same about you with others.
You may think they are sworn to secrecy and that you can trust them, but usually, you get bit in the tater and the person you thought you could trust spreads everything you said.
The good things, the bad things and especially the private things you wish you had never ever shared – whether it’s about yourself or someone else.
I know some things, no matter how juicy, how important they seem, don’t need to be shared. Some things can be hurtful and can do more harm than they can help. Some things though are just the truth.
“Careful there, Swoozie,” my friend Todd will warn, “there’s a nasty little thing called ‘karma’ you are about to call down on your deep-fried hiney.”
“I don’t care,” I will protest. “I am just speaking the truth.”
“May be the truth; doesn’t mean it needs to be said,” he will scold. “Didn’t your mama ever tell you if you didn’t have anything nice to say to not say anything at all?”
“If that’s the case, I’d never say anything!”
Pause for emphasis.
“And that’s a bad thing?”
My husband won’t even let me get on my not-so-nice bandwagon.
“Can you find anything nice to say about that situation?” he will ask.
“Does that really need to be said though? Really?”
To me it does. But apparently males do not want to hear any tales, truth or no.
Even Cole will reprimand me when my horns come out and I am saying things I shouldn’t. I’m in trouble; I can’t even say the not so nice things to the people I can trust.
“I was getting worried,” Mama said one evening when she called me around 9 p.m. “I hadn’t heard from you today.”
“I didn’t have anything to talk about,” I replied.
“You didn’t have anything to talk about?” she repeated, not sure she understood. I always have something to talk about.
“No, Mama,” I said, feeling a sigh growing in my chest.
“You’ve always said if I didn’t have anything nice to say, to not say anything at all. I ran outta the nice things so figured for once, I’d just be quiet.”
Being quiet has never once been misquoted or gotten me in trouble.