Our mothers gave birth to us, raised us, fed us, clothed us, and generally watched out for us as we grew up. Along the way, she also tried to impart some wisdom for our benefit. Well, it turns out she didn’t always know what she was talking about.
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10. “Sit up straight. It’s good for your back.”
You just want to plop down on the couch to enjoy a few hundred hours of quality programming to escape the crazy hectic job of being young and alive. Then your mother storms in the room and tells you sit up straight because it’s bad for your back, like your spine might jump out of your head, waltz out the front door, and join the Peace Corps or something.
That doesn’t happen. The part about it being bad for your back, that is. Science hasn’t spent nearly as much time studying the “Volunteering Spine” theory as you might think. Scientists from Scotland and Canada found from MRI scans of 22 patients that sitting either forward or straight up at a 90 degree angle isn’t the most natural position for the spine and in fact, sitting straight up caused the most “disk movement” in a person’s spine. So either your mother is completely misinformed or she’s really trying to put that health insurance plan you never use to good use by giving you a pretzel for a spine.
9. “All that chocolate will give you pimples.”
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Every fat child has been made to suffer great guilt from their mothers just for daring to succumb to the most natural urge a human can have, outside of the urge that comes with downing an entire keg of beer and picking up a stripper in a highway motel. That urge creates an altogether different kind of skin condition, according to scientists sourcing some guy they know who told them.
One method of getting children to eat less sweets is telling them that chocolate creates pimples, even though nothing could be further from the truth. A study published in the International Journal of Dermatology conclusively found that “diet plays no important role in acne” and that genes and hormone levels acquired through heredity are the more likely culprit. So really, your mother was just using chocolate as a scapegoat for giving you the pizza face gene long before you even knew such a thing as chocolate existed. Not being able to buy a pair of pants at the mall, however, is still your fault.
8. “Did you just eat? You’d better wait an hour before going back in the pool.”
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Swimming parties are supposed to be a staple of children’s never-ending fight against the inevitability of mortality. And then Mom shows up with lunch and reminds you that you’re going to die someday and it will most likely be caused by a partially digested Fruit Roll-Up and a well-timed cannonball.
The myth that eating and swimming don’t mix isn’t as bad as it sounds. The New York Times interviewed a gastroenterologist who said that a full stomach and swimming could cause cramping but the chances of it causing you to drown are unlikely. They also found a study that looked at drowning deaths that occurred around the country and less than one percent of the victims ate before they went swimming. In fact, the more likely culprit for drowning and eating in adolescents is drinking. So unless your Capri Sun came with a shot of Very Berry Vodka Kool-Aid, you’ll be fine if you dive in.
7. “Don’t go out with a ‘wet head’ or you’ll catch a cold.”
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Mothers are obsessed with their children’s heads. They spend untold millions on hair products and trips to the barber. They take every possible moment to check behind their ears or around their scalp for head lice. Do they think there’s gold in them thar brains or something?
The concept of a “wet head” in an outdoor setting has long been a contentious one for the mothers out there because of the fear that it will cause a flu or a cold, but simple science would tell them otherwise. The American Academy of Family Physicians has constantly told parents that there is no causal link between being cold and getting a cold, other than they are spelled the same.
6. “Eat those carrots. They are really good for your eyes.”
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Parents think that playing on a child’s fear of inferiority and self-esteem will get them to do the things that they need to do like watch less TV, bathe more, and get them to just shut the hell up for five minutes so they can think without having to hear their shrill, whining voices permeating through the house. That’s how my mother put it, except it had a much deeper, gravellier tone and her hair was on fire.
Getting kids to eat their vegetables by telling them it will give them superpowers dates back to the dawn of time. The myth that carrots will give you super sight, however, is actually fairly new. The British Royal Air Force started the myth by publishing a series of stories during World War II about ace pilot John “Cats’ Eyes” Cunningham and how his steady diet of carrots gave him mutant strength night vision and allowed him to shoot down 20 enemy planes. And that was just during his walk to the plane.
5. “All that sugar is making you hyperactive.”
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Wow, Mom, seriously, you could not be more wrong about this if you ended that statement by saying “...and the Earth is being held in place by a giant stick and if we make God angry, he’ll start licking it.”
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the behavior of children who had been given high amounts of sugar and compared it with those who didn’t (a.k.a. the control group that was probably being punished for something). The study found no noticeable difference in either group of children, except that one was probably crying because the other got to eat all the Pudding Pops they wanted. In fact, the belief that sugar breeds hyperactivity is just that: a figment of parents’ fevered imagination. Or is it really just the sugar that’s making them think that?
4. “It takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile.”
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You have to go easy on the Moms out there on this one. It just breaks their poor hearts to see their children unhappy or even mildly perturbed and getting them to “turn that frown upside down” is just their way of helping them sleep at night. That being said, those who actually use the above phrase to get people to smile should be beaten with something heavy in their sleep.
Other than the fact that it’s the most annoying thing anyone can hear regardless of the mood they’re in, it’s also happens to be completely false. Syndicated columnist Cecil Adams actually sat down with a high-ranking plastic surgeon and counted the muscles that are used in each facial expression and found that smiling uses 12 muscles and frowning only uses 11. The surgeon noted, however, that smiling is physically easier since people do it more. He obviously doesn’t work on a lot of Internet comedy writers’ long and pasty faces.
3. “Don’t sit so close to the TV. It’s bad for your eyes.”
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Kids spend a lot of time in front of the television. It’s practically their friend. Mine wanted to be called Herman and he liked soap operas.
Kids don’t want to miss a minute of their favorite afternoon or Saturday morning cartoons, which is why they like to sit in front of the TV with their noses about three centimeters away from the screen. But don’t worry, Mom. Sitting that close to the set won’t damage their pretty little eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology found that children have a better ability to focus their eyes up close compared to adults, which explains why they sit so close to the set but it doesn’t have any long term affect on their sight down the road. But depending on how much they watch, their ass fat is another story.
2. “Did you just swallow that gum? You know it’ll be there for the next seven years.”
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It’s hard to know exactly how this myth got started and if you really want to know, you’re either a really sick individual who needs to have his whereabouts monitored by professional law enforcement at all times or a gastroenterologist.
Luckily, a gastroenterologist with the Mayo Clinic (who’s probably an upstanding and decent member of society with a high priced lawyer on retainer) put this myth to rest once and for all. He said that while the digestive tract doesn’t exactly break down ABC gum after it’s been swallowed, it does complete the journey the way any other normal piece of food would. He doesn’t say if you swallow enough gum if you can blow a bubble with your butt, so don’t ask.
1. “If you keep doing that, you’ll go blind.”
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Once again, science helps us live better lives, even for the people who don’t have one.
The College of Optometrists in London categorically denied the claimed link between going blind and boners in more clinical terms. They said the only possible link between the two is zinc, the loss of which can cause visual impairment and a large amount of which is found in semen but not nearly enough to cause blindness. And even if your mother doesn’t buy the scientific proof, you’re reading this with your own eyes that obviously work, unless you have a Braille computer or have already rushed off the page after learning the good news to look at porn.