By Sue Chase
Sue is a Creative Writing student who's spent the last decade coming to terms with the many untruths from her own childhood.
When I look back I realise that my initial perceptions of life were driven largely by the type of meaningless platitude and overworked cliché that I have purposefully outlawed from my vocabulary when addressing my own children. A young and impressionable child, desperate to fit in and craving acceptance, I was surrounded by dominant women of very little real intelligence who knew everything and explained nothing.
I was a perceptive child and would ponder deeply about some of their offerings, not being able to fully accept, but hampered by some deep rooted belief that it must be correct. An adult had said so.
Luckily I have managed to delete most of these banalities from my memory bank. Those few that stubbornly remain deep rooted still leap out and wrong foot me on occasion – unsurprisingly when my teenage daughter and I conflict.
“Patience is a virtue” Not true. Then it meant always being last as I waited patiently whilst others, not so emotionally cowed, would demand and grab; in later life aching for an errant husband to return, guilt and inadequacy overshadowing broken promises and infidelity.
“Only the good die young” To an impressionable and thoughtful child, this was a horror. So, anyone who didn’t die young must be bad? I recall covertly studying family grownups and wondering what they had done to live so long. Out in the street I would stare at the old men and wonder how they could be so wicked when they appeared so ordinary. Of course my knowledge of sin was very limited at that age – lying and stealing – so the novelty of speculation soon wore off and doubt as to the veracity of the statement crept in.
The untruth of my title was not realised until my early twenties when I went to work in the accounts department of a well-known frozen food factory. Here, for the first time in my life, I was mixing with a wide spectrum of people, most of whom were older.
“Adults know best”
“Wait until you’re older” (….wiser, more knowledgeable)
“Don’t argue with your elders” (they know better than you)
“You’re too young to understand”
My formative years were peppered with such sage pieces of wisdom – all with a common theme; adults were all seeing, all knowing, sensible and wise. My early life was overseen by women of strong character who believed they knew everything - and what they didn’t know they had a platitude or cliché to cover. I was a quiet, shy child not given to questioning but to absorbing and internalising. And I learnt my lessons well.
I can still, over thirty years later, recall the moment of enlightenment when I realised that not all adults were intelligent. In a factory block across from mine worked a very chatty administrator; anyone new was easy prey. It took about a week, but having been trapped yet again by a torrent of meaningless gossip from a practical stranger, I could only stand and think ‘How odd. How silly.’ And surging up from some hidden well of understanding the startling realisation that far from being universally intelligent, ‘Some Adults are really quite stupid’