It never ceases to amaze me how much my dad taught me. Or how inappropriate some of these lessons were.
When I was growing up, I hardly ever stood up straight, to the great chagrin of both of my grandmothers.
“You’re a beautiful girl! If you would just stand up straight!” my mom’s mom, BJ, would say.
“If you don’t stand up straight, you’re going to end up with a hunch back!” my dad’s mom, Marybelle, would say.
“If you don’t sit up straight, you are going to end up with hair in your food and syrup in your hair,” Marybelle said over the breakfast table.
“Don’t hunch over your food like that, unless you want me to put it in a bowl on the floor and you can eat like a dog,” BJ would tell me over the dinner table.
“Kimberly, this dress was not made for shlumped shoulders!” Marybelle told me while making my Homecoming dress.
“Kimberly, I swear, I am never taking you shopping again if you don’t straighten up!” BJ told me in a fitting room at Fashion Island.
(I always knew I was in trouble when a family member called me “Kimberly”)
Despite all of this, I wouldn’t listen. As I’ve said before, I really never stood up to my full height unless I was on a basketball court or a softball field. Even to this day, I have trouble remembering to stand up to my full height and at a dinner table I still have to remind myself to plant my butt at the back of the chair and keep my shoulders back.
However, of all the advice everyone gave me about standing up straight, one piece of advice still pops into my head every time I catch myself slouching.
It didn’t come from my grandmothers or from any etiquette book or fashion magazine. I didn’t hear it from my mom or from a movie or television show.
It came from my dad. Here it is:
“Stand up straight and put your shoulders back. It’ll make your boobs look bigger.”
I don’t remember what age exactly he started saying it, but I do remember my grandmothers being appalled and mildly offended by it. He did not mean it as a serious comment or in some creepy, incestuous way. Like me, my dad would make a joke out of anything and it would usually be inappropriate.
Even though he was saying it as a joke, I knew that he meant not to slouch because it made me look like I was not confident and that I was unsure of myself. He might not have always been proud or self-assured, but he made sure I was proud of all that I have to offer the world.
On a side note, last Halloween, when I wore the Elvira costume, this was the conversation we had as I left the house:
Dad: Make sure to stand up straight and put your shoulders back.
Me: Dad, I don’t think I need my boobs to look any bigger.
Dad: No, because if you don’t your boobs will fall out of that dress.
Sometimes, father does know best.