My Word, Please
a revealling game you can play alone or with others.
has been invented that allows you to call yourself at age 16. You
can say whatever you like---but only one sentence. What would it
the many responses I received, two generalizations can be made.
Most men advised taking more chances while many women suggested
caution. (From this I conclude that the women had led more adventurous
lives.) And the majority of both sexes ignored the one sentence
rule. In fact, a few wrote treatises on the nature of reality suitable
for a teenaged Voltaire. So, out of necessity, I've edited or paraphrased
but, I hope, remained true to the spirit of the long-winded originals.
advice ranged from the classic "Be a doctor" to the intriguing
"Study Adlerian psychology," and all-purpose "Learn
to sing, dance and play an instrument---girls love that stuff."
There was a relationship/food consideration: "Husbands are
like pancakes---you may have to throw out the first one" and
a philosphical nostrum: "Forget 'live fast and die young' and
develop a taste for bran." There was an effort to change the
past: "Tell President Kennedy not to go to Dallas." Some
ways to profit from it: "Save all your Barbies", "Bet
on the '69 Mets," and, my favorite "Move to Seattle and
buddy up to a kid named Bill Gates."
advice was aimed directly at life at puberty: "Take off that
silly headband and get out of the sun," "Don't date so
many losers" and "In two years, a hot cheerleader will
ask you to smoke a joint with her and trust me, this is no time
for your usual lecture on drug abuse." Also: "Stay in
school, honor your parents and B.L. has a social disease."
were several variants of Believe in Yourself such as: "Don't
give up what you love for the agendas of others"; "Experience
as much as you (I) can;" "You have everything you need
to get everything you want," and G. B. Shaw's ultimate advice:
"Don't take any advice from anyone."
no one directly mentioned G-d (odd, I thought for a Havurah-heavy
sample), there were responses of a spiritual nature: "Life's
greatest gift is lie itself"; "Obey the 10 Commandments";
"Treat everyone as you would wish to be treated"; and
"Compassion, compassion, compassion",
answer was a bumpersticker: "Follow Your Bliss (Not My Rear
End)"' and many defied categorizing: "Be curious";
"Define Yourself"; "Take more time than you need
before you proceed"; "Dont be so arrogant as to not learn
from those you trust"; "Anytime you think to yourself
'Oh, it'll be okay, it WONT be okay"; "Love is more important
than money but you can't imagine how much money you're going to
need to live decently"; and "Your heart size is more imortant
than your bra size".
own response, inspired by my wife and daughter, is both advice and
blessing: "Live many lives", But if I had a second shot,
I'd invoke Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan's great wisdom: "To expect
life to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting
a bull not to charge at you because you are a vegetarian".
At any age, we remain wistful for what might have been. Or, as the
sage said: "You live and you yearn".
thanks to everyone who contributed and, to all of us, good luck
in dodging our personal bulls.
Return to Our Two Cents