Some of the best life lessons I got from my own mother. When I first worked as a translator at a large conference with participants from 104 countries, I was just 16. It was all very exciting, and I worked as hard as any adult in the organizing committee. Looking back, I can see that they were very kind and some of them sort of took me under the wing. Naturally there was one man, quite old to my eye, close in age to my father, that is circa 40 at the time. It never occurred to me that the way he looked at me was anything but fatherly. No, he never overstepped the bounds. When the event was over, we said goodbye. Before going to sleep next evening,I chanced to look out the window and saw a male figure standing on our street corner, smoking. A passing car threw a beam of light on him, and I recognized the man from the org committee. He stood there for some time, looking up at my window; I knew he could not see me. I pondered, not being knowledgeable in the romance sphere but guessing enough. And then I told my mother about it. She listened to me calmly, and then said just one phrase: “Imagine your father standing below some young girl’s window, how would you feel?” I imagined. Yuck! I asked Mom what I could do, and she taught me. I asked her some clarifying questions, for instance was it ok to mention a boyfriend when in reality I didn’t have one? Sure. So when our paths crossed during one day and I clearly saw that longing, some sadness which might seem very romantic to a young girl were it not for Mom’s advice I greeted him politely. And when he stopped in his tracks obviously wishing to somehow prolong the encounter, I said brightly, “Sorry, have to rush, my boyfriend is waiting for me, we are in the same Teen Chess Players group!” And I ran away merrily with a little hop skip and jump. That was it. I was lucky I guess because it was an infatuation on the man’s part, not stalking. A few years later, when I first started teaching at a university, a pretty young student came to me for advice. At first I was astonished, being only a couple years older than her. But then I realized that age had nothing to do with it, it was my position, my occupation. I was a trusted adult. I knew her parents were far away in another city; I had no idea whether she had a good relationship with her mother or not, but I rather thought not, since she came to me. Her situation sounded painfully familiar. There was this married man who of course would not get a divorce because there were children involved; he simply met the girl occasionally after her studies for a dinner, held her hand, talked to her about his troubles. She was worried, was she doing something wrong, was it bad if nothing happened? Did I think it was all right to continue those clandestine meetings?
I was appalled. “So he wants to simply spend time with you, and then he goes back to his wife and kids? For how long will he do it? These are the best years of your life, bdo you want to spend them like this?” I told her that obviously she already felt that it was not a good situation, and that she did the right thing in seeking advice. And then I told her what my mother taught me a few years ago. Imagine this is your father, would you like him to do this? Imagine this is your boyfriend, your future husband. Would you like him to have a “simple” relationship on the side? Would you like him to hold somebody else’s hand and talk about his life with a stranger?
Sure, I know adultery exists. But I am a believer in Love and in good marriage and in bringing up kids together with that one someone. Ah, my Mom’s advice is still not obsolete. It still works.
From m a granny I learned patience and kindness, tolerance and the belief in Good. My Mom added Honesty and Understanding. Both of them taught Love and Tolerance. When I,look at the Nativity scenes now I think of my very good female inherited wisdom, and I feel eternally grateful.