Nancy Roman

Beyond Clean Underwear: Advice From Mom

Today is my mother’s 88th birthday, so I thought it would be appropriate to re-issue this post from August. 


My mother’s advice extended far beyond bus-proofing my unmentionables.

My mother’s advice was wise, witty, and right.

The first advice I remember her offering – (there were lots of  “don’t touch that, you don’t know where it’s been; You’ll put an eye out; Your face will stick that way” warnings) – but this was the first grown-up advice, and it’s a subject dear to my superficial heart:

“Never go to the hairdresser looking like a slob. Always dress up and do your makeup. If you look like you don’t care about your appearance, the hairdresser won’t either.”

Very sensible.

Here are my favorites bits of Mom’s wisdom:

DATING.   Mom’s dating advice served me well for many years. Of course it prevented me from marrying for many years too – but that turned out to be a good thing:

“Never play dumb to attract a boy. If he’s intimidated by your brains, you wouldn’t want him anyway.”


“Only date generous boys. If he’s cheap when he’s trying to impress you, just think how cheap he’ll be after you’re married.”

MARRIAGE.  On the subject of marriage, there was lots of good advice:

“Never marry a doctor.” (This from my mother, the nurse)  “They need to exude confidence to reassure their patients, but it spills over into their private lives. They think they know everything.”

“But on the other hand, if you insist on marrying a doctor, go for a dermatologist. They have very steady incomes. Their patients never die, but they never get better either.”

“Never disagree with your husband in public. There will be plenty of time later to tell him how wrong he was.”

and its corollary:

“Never let your kids pit you against your husband. Mom and Dad have to present a united front. It’s a matter of US versus THEM — and YOU (meaning us kids) are THEM.”

“Don’t crowd your husband.  Let him go out and have fun. He’ll come home happy. You do the same.”

LIFE.  When it came to my personal development, Mom was practical and aspirational at the same time:

“Learn how to cook one thing really well.  Serve it when you have company. You’ll look good.”

“Don’t try so hard to be like your sisters. We had you because we wanted something different.”

“You can do anything. You won’t be good at everything, but you can do everything.”

“Learn how to work sick. Life goes on no matter how you feel.”

“If you have to choose between getting a chore done and having fun, pick the fun. Years later, you won’t remember how many chores were done late, just how much fun you had.”

“Be as creative as you want, but also develop a skill to fall back on. I’ve never seen a want-ad for a poet.”

Good advice, right?  Take it from a novelist/accountant who’s married to a generous non-physician. And I still get dolled up for a haircut. So does Mom.


Happy Birthday, Mom


  1. What great words of wisdom!


  2. And your mom is very pretty 🙂


  3. RVingGirl

    A very happy and blessed birthday to a very wise lady. No wonder you turned out so well.
    Love it!


  4. My mom is famous for.saying, “Life is too short to hang out with people you don’t like.” And you know what, I never do.


    • I used to spend too much time with people I didn’t particularly like. Now that I am older, I have less tolerance for crap.


  5. What a wonderful tribute to your mother. So maybe all those tidbits of advice I give my sons may actually be getting through? Hmmm, something tells me you were a better listener than they’ll likely be 🙂


  6. Margie

    What a very wise lady! I hope my own children learned some of those things regardless of the fact I wasn’t as good at spelling them out!


  7. Beautiful words of wisdom – Happy Birthday to your Mom. I really like:

    “Never disagree with your husband in public. There will be plenty of time later to tell him how wrong he was.”

    I’m already really good at that one! Except the whole “never in public” part . . .


  8. Great bits of wisdom.


  9. Wonderful advice – I particularly liked “you can do anything” and “don’t try so hard to be like your sisters”. I wish I could remember my mom giving me advice, but I can’t. It’s probably more to do with the fact that I have the world’s worst memory than an actual lack of advice, though. 🙂


  10. pharphelonus

    Still funny, and want ad for a poet is beyond funny


    • My mother told me that after I won a prize for my poetry. My mother was afraid I would continue my flighty ways and never learn a practical skill after that award.


  11. Great advice all around.

    My mother’s one bit of advice on dating and marriage was “you know, you can fall in love with a rich boy just as easily as you can with a poor boy.” I didn’t hit rich but did manage fairly comfortable, as well as smart and funny. Not a bad deal overall!

    Great post! Happy birthday, Nancy’s Mom!


  12. Farm Queen

    My sister and I follow your blog and your words ring so true.
    We must be related .
    Today is our mother’s 89th birthday.


    • Then it’s a special day for sure.


      • Farm Queen

        Indeed, it is.


  13. I love this!! “But on the other hand, if you insist on marrying a doctor, go for a dermatologist. They have very steady incomes. Their patients never die, but they never get better either.”


  14. Loved it then. Love it now. I love my mom, and I wish your mom was my aunt! 😉


  15. Hope your mom has a lovely birthday. It appears mom’s of that generation had a lot of things in common when it came to giveing similar advise. Some with more humour than others. Your’s for instance.


  16. Your mom is a smart cookie! Great advice, obviously. Look how good you turned out!


  17. Would your mom be willing to adopt me?


    • I think my Mom has reached her capacity of how many people she can worry about…


  18. Your mother should write an advice column or a book. She is seriously way better than Dear Abby.


  19. Happy Birthday mom


  20. Amy

    This brought tears to my eyes! Happy Birthday to your mom! 🙂


  21. Happy Birthday to your mom – her advice is/was wonderful…I miss my mom so much, she also was bright and funny.


  22. I received the 7×7 Link Award which means I have to pass it along. You were one of the first people I thought of! So Merry Christmas! Oh yeah, there are things you’re supposed to do. You can read my post and figure it out. Did I say Merry Christmas?


  23. You were a lucky child, to have the time well spent with such an intuitive woman (mother) and I thoroughly enjoyed your post. If mother’s received a grade, yours certainly would deserve an “A.”

    Nice work.



  24. Talk to me...I'm your Mother

    Happy Birthday to your mom. You portray her as a mother we would all like to have.


  25. Great advice – and oh so familiar. nice post


  26. Great post!



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