The XX Factor

Mama Always Said …

Each week, in collaboration with the Washington Post Magazine, DoubleX contributors debate a new question. This week: What old adage have you found to be most true?

Emily Yoffe : “Never say never.” In 1984, I left Washington, D.C., for Texas. I was never coming back. I laughed when I ripped up my notice for $200 in parking fines. 10 years later I was living in California when I met, fell in love with, and married a Washingtonian. One of the first things I had to do when I moved back was spend the day at the DMV paying the fines.

Jessica Lambertson : I always loved “Cheaters never prosper.” I was an excruciatingly competitive child, and my sister loved to cheat to drive me nuts. I definitely used this adage more than once over a board game loss. I find myself using the phrase in a catty way now as an adult (my own way to stick it to a friend who steals WiFi or a philandering girlfriend who shares her exploits).

Amanda Marcotte : “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” The earlier I get up, the more productive I am. This issue rarely comes up on weekdays, but often I’ll plan all this fun stuff to do on weekends-Go shopping! Go to the farmer’s market! Check out an exhibit at the museum!-and if I go out to a party and end up sleeping in late on Saturday, none of my best-laid plans get accomplished.

Dahlia Lithwick : I put a lot of stock in good old “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” I am a huge brooder, constantly trying to rewind and reshoot tape. Nothing is more useful than reminding yourself that what’s done is done, so move on.

Dana Stevens : “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.” I was about 30 before I figured out what this actually meant, and when I did, it was like an epiphany. I spent a lot of years having a very unrealistic relationship to my cake.

Hanna Rosin : This is not exactly an old adage, but my friend said to me recently, “Life is boring.” For an impatient person like me this is a critical thing to remember. As I’m waiting for the subway doors to open, tapping my feet, listening to my mom recount minute details of her irksome commute, trying to parse out what happend in some argument between the kids, it helps me focus. This is not tedious distraction from something more important I have to do. This is life.

Ellen Tarlin : “You reap what you sow.” I was getting off the subway once, and we have a rule in New York that you let people get off before you get on, but this teenage boy just plowed right into me. I just kept going and he was pushed back as I got off the train. I guess I injured his ego or pissed him off or something, because as I was walking up the platform, I felt a jolting push from behind, so hard that my back hurt for two days afterward. I’ve found that any time I push against the world, it always pushes right back.

Laura Moser : Rome wasn’t built in a day. Except I think the Senate’s been taking this one too seriously of late.