Thursday, February 17, 2011

Myths of origins and other sophistry

My mother tells me that I was born at 4:34 pm, on October 11th in the Letterman Army Hospital on the Presidio in San Francisco, CA. She tells me this because she was there, doing all the pushing and sweating that brought me into this world, without the aid of painkillers. My brother, however, insists that this is just a kind falsehood she invented to spare my delicate feelings. According to him, I was actually found on the side of the road, under a rock, where I had been placed by the wild mountain lions* who raised me.

This was not only, nor even the first, or a series of outlandish things my brother told me during my formative years in an attempt to shape my world view. It worked. I've always looked fondly upon mountain lions.

Also, I tell crazy stories like this to my friends and family as well. I don't have quite the strength or flair for it that my brother does, nor even do I compare with the skills of my Jeopardy-wiz friend Paula. I wish I could say that I developed a finely-tuned awareness for the nuances of truth in modern day legends. I wish I could say that I could sniff out a falsehood from amidst the true-sounding rubble. Truth is, when it comes to some things, I'm just as gullible as ever.

For example, a few years ago, after a minor surgery, I was whiny and in a level of pain that seemed too much to keep to myself. While telling my darling husband about the profound agony I was experiencing, I decided that the only cure for my distress was ice cream. I chanted my need for frozen dairy dessert with a feverish intensity. My calm, rational, ever-loving husband obligingly drove me from the doctor's office to the nearest Baskin Robins. He explained that it was only natural that I was craving Jamoca Almond Fudge. Just like an onset of anemia can cause cravings for red meat and tomatoes, or a need for potassium causes people to seek out bananas, my pain was caused my muscle cramps and everybody knows that there is a natural muscle relaxant found in ice cream. My eyes got wide. I searched my brain for tid-bits of information about the sleepy-making qualities of turkey and the antioxidants in my favorite fruits, and flavanoids in chocolate. For a shining second, I looked at my husband with wonder and awe. Could it be true? Did this explain years of pre-menstrual cravings? Was my body really smart enough to guide me to foods that would help me? "Oh, wise and wonderful husband, it it true?!" I cried.** Then his beautiful but smug face split wide in a grin that told me that it was a miracle his eyes weren't brown, given the current level of manure he was shoveling...

So, I'm still susceptible to wild tales of organ-stealing and corporate give-aways if only I'll forward that e-mail to 100 of my friends. Thankfully, I also discovered Snopes.

*Many years later, my brother claims that he said it was mountain people who had been raising me, but I distinctly remember there being lions in that story

**Translation: "Really?!"

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