Now, I know we’ve all had our fair share of anecdotes ever-so-generously conveyed to us by the older and possibly wiser folk. From little yarns about behavior, eating certain food, how to do this and how to do that- everyone’s grown up hearing most of these little Lankan quips and possibly even believing and practicing a few. Maybe (as have I) you’ve raised an eyebrow or two at a couple of them. To free us all from passing on yet another empty wisecrack, we’ve conducted a little investigation (brace yourselves) to help settle those qualms and queries.
Volume 1: menstruation, pregnancy and beauty
The day my ‘friend’ first visited me
Ladies, we’ve all been there. That awkward young age when we come into womanhood- ready to traverse our new territory, innocent with excitement, anxious for what the future holds- feeling like you’re finally growing into the young woman you wish to be- until…They lock you up in a room and feed you par-boiled egg (cringe) for a week!
There you find yourself, locked away from anything of men, with the women of the family hovering around you with looks of pride and love and the ever welcome ‘when I was your age, I too…’ line. Moms and grandmoms of the good old days insist, just like the generations of women before them, that upon the first menstrual cycle in a girl’s life- special care must be taken to protect her from evil eye and bad influence. Keeping her safely locked in a room, until her cycle is over has been just about the most common way to do it. After the five-odd days of pain and many home-remedies, she is then washed with milk and jasmines and officially announced back into the social circle with a small (or in some cases, big) celebration of sorts. Now we all know the stigma that surrounds the very natural, very feminine process of monthly bleeding but a week of solitary confinement has no effect on the process or a woman’s health, happiness or luck, for that matter. That yucky egg however, can actually help those period cramps (I’m sorry) because of its richness in the vitamin B group. Now, does it need to be parboiled? Nope, you can scramble it, fry it, poach it or have it hard-boiled- know your options!
Rounding up the Gender
“Oh your stomach is so oval and set so low- you’re definitely having a baby boy!”
“You’re glowing and you’ve become so rounded and set high, you must be having a girl!”
This one’s a real hoot. I know of women so deeply convinced by this myth; they’ve done their ultrasound a second time- just to reconfirm. No, the shape of the preggy-belly doesn’t reveal the gender of its occupant.
The pineapple express and saffron side effect
No food, drink or spice- regardless of how fragrant or pungent, how colourful and sweet smelling- can affect the colour or gender of a baby. Genetics and purely genetics- namely chromosomes and nucleic DNA will determine this. So for all you ladies that drank milk with sprinkles of saffron to make sure your little-one would be born with fairer skin- we apologize. Here’s a scary observation our research pointed out- If taken in large doses, saffron can have negative effects on pregnancy causing complications that can lead to miscarriages. Before you get alarmed (on a lighter note)- the spice does have many health benefits when taken in small quantities, these include- improving hair growth, mood and purifying of the blood. In our next case- the poor pineapple. You may have been told by someone or the other, that eating pineapple during the early stages of pregnancy will result in a miscarriage. Disregard this! Pineapple is a safe and healthy choice of fruit, full of vitamin C and antioxidants that is said to help prevent cancer, fight-off parasites and infections and aid in weight loss and digestion.
Chocolate surprise with a side of fries
Your mom catches you prodding your face. Mom: “Serves you right! I told you not to eat so much chocolate and fried things and Mrs. Perera’s dinner last night.” You continue to prod and poke those pimples making a mental note to go easy on the free Cadbury and fries, next time.
Acne caused by pimples and blemishes are not a direct result of eating too much chocolate and fried food. A lot of factors come into play when it comes to acne- hormones, environmental changes, skin care products and so on. Now, we say direct because the over consumption of any particular unhealthy diet can result in excess oily skin and darken the skin tone. This can very well lead to irritation which in turn, when coupled with dirt and bacteria, will result in those unsightly pimples we all like to avoid.
Volume 2: Grooming, hygiene, omen and charms.
Get sick or die ugly
‘Bathing on a Sunday can spoil your appearance’.
‘Having a bath after six o’clock will make your hair grey and give you sinusitis’
Rumour has it that bathing on a Sunday may be frowned upon, due to a custom that stems from ancient Hindu culture where after a week of devotion to their husbands and families, women would gather at communal wells and apply clay over their bodies (darkening the appearance momentarily) as a moisturizer, after which they would wash and perfume their hair- quite the only reason our research has turned up that may have brought about this ludicrous saying.
Now, this next one could result in some Lankan aunties sending me hate-mail, but facts are facts! No, bathing at night does not make you grey or cause sinusitis. Sinusitis is the inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining in the sinuses. It can be caused by bacteria and allergens attacking the upper respiratory system and weakening it. It can even be caused by tooth aches or a deviated septum- therefore, do wash your hair and enjoy a nice shower after a long day of work- you’ve earned it!
The cut-off time
Here’s one of my personal favourites. It’s been quoted to me by 3 generations of women! ‘Never cut your nails or hair after dark- they won’t grow back properly’. Some variations of this particular one even go on to state that the act of cutting hair and nails after daylight hours, will bring one ill-luck. This myth is completely unsound and lacking any logical support. If however, you do decide to cut your nails and hair after dark, make sure there is ample lighting just to help you stay neat and avoid any mishaps- no one wants to see you take a chunk of skin off your pinky.
Goodbye and good luck
It’s a lazy, humid Saturday afternoon and everyone’s gathered in the hall. The windows are left open for ventilation and to make the space more airy. Suddenly, a crow darts across the room, flapping his wings till he escapes through to the back-garden! Solemn glances are exchanged. “If a crow flies through the house it means that someone is going to leave the household soon”, grandpa says, gravely. Often, in my own experiences, an adult would go on to reminisce and relate to me; a story from their past that supports this curious superstition. Very convincing too, the narrative- but alas all of it is just coincidence. A crow cannot drive away a member of the household!
Here’s some irony: the bird that supposedly brings departure is said to also bring positive reinforcement. ‘Good fortune’, as they call it. Yes. All you have to do is become the next oblivious victim of a crow with IBS and you just may win the lottery! If it’s any consolation folks, even though luck is completely independent from the deed- at least being consoled with a line like this will lighten the mood after that cunning bird has used you as its target practice.
Oh, what shall I wear?
Wearing too much black does not attract ‘evil eye and demons’ to a household. Wearing black does not make you undesirable and flighty. We think black is a great colour on Lankan complexions and it slims the figure too. Go right ahead and be bold in black but of course also be tasteful and remember- too much of anything isn’t very good, anyway.
Pearls have been deemed unlucky to wear to important occasions like a wedding day or graduation- any beginning of something new! Diamonds on the contrary, are said to be lucky for some and unlucky for others. Now we all can safely agree that this is bogus. No semi-precious/precious stone or metal can protect you from luck or karma or whatever you may call it and Gold is no exception. You can deck yourself from head-to-toe but, come on folks- life happens.
Though we can safely ignore these household myths, we know they have become second nature to some of us and some form of household rule of sorts. If you’re feeling a little ashamed about it, don’t be. Do what you personally believe in and that which makes you feel at ease. As long as it does not get in the way of others- who’s to stop you? We all have weird mantras that help us get through life!