THEY TELL YOU WHAT TO DO, BUT WHO ARE THEY? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Authority

When I was a kid, I was always hearing, “They say you can’t do that.” I always assumed that “they” meant grown-ups. Then I grew up.

I still don’t know who “they” are. Clearly not ‘the adults’ since I’m way past maturity. None of my friends — well, at least not most of my friends — say “that’s not how it’s done,” implying a right and wrong way. There are right and wrong ways — for some things. But not for everything.

If I had to follow rules for everything, I’d totally lose it.

So here I am, senior citizen and all. I still don’t know who they are, Who are the people in our world who have the authority to tell us how to do it? Hardly anything is done the way it used to be done, but “they” are still telling us how we have to do it.

One of the really good things about being older is that you don’t have to listen to what “they say,” especially since they have never said it to me. Wherever and to whomever “they” are saying it — I must have missed it.

How come half the world eats without changing the fork from hand to hand and the rest of the world (really, American in the U.S.) still swap.

38 thoughts on “THEY TELL YOU WHAT TO DO, BUT WHO ARE THEY? – Marilyn Armstrong

  1. People swap their fork from hand to hand?? 😐 Huh. Now that’s the memo I missed! I eat with my right hand and trying to hold my fork (say if cutting up some meat or something) in the left hand, is uncomfortable and makes me twitch. I don’t do the swap thing. “They” must have overlooked me when making that ‘rule’.

    My opinion about who “they” are? “They” are those who are not “us”. They are faceless, nameless and in my experience “they” are pretty dim witted too. Pity “we” pay such strict attention to them, isn’t it?

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    • Throughout most of the world, they do NOT switch hands. Mostly, in the U.S., we do. I do because my parents did and that’s how I learned to eat. I can NOT switch, but I find it awkward. My right hand is much better at handling materials than my left, but I suppose if you are left-handed, NOT switching would be much more convenient. Regardless, it’s not a memo. We learn from the adults with whom we eat and if they came from Europe, for example, they probably don’t switch and then, neither will you. Which will make you more like the rest of the world. I think ONLY Americans switch.

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      • The more I hear about that, the more I remember that this was something that always intruiged me when I was visiting the USA. I looked at ‘how I eat’ and as soon as a knife is involved, it’s clear that the fork stays in the left hand and the knife in the right (except for left-handed people where it’s the other way around; I also always have to make sure that nobody has to sit at Hero Husband’s left side because he needs so much space to figure out his ‘best way of eating’ that he knocks the stuff from the neighbour’s fork when seated too close!). IF however, I eat something without needing a knife, it’s clear that the ‘tool’ is placed in my right hand, as that one is more agile, tactile etc. I sometimes use a piece of bread in the left to act as an aide though, or to clean up some especially nice dressing or sauce. There, sorted and explained! 😉

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  2. I feel like “they” stems from the very beginning of humankind, when people became more self conscientious and instead of pointing of specific people that were type A and judgmental, it was easier to say “they”. “They” refers to the haters, bullies, hipsters, ordinary people that believe that there is a way to do things and one way only. Meaning that whatever you think, is invalid. However, screw “they”. Be you and don’t fear how you should act, fear that time in life is limited and you are wasting time if you act as “they” suggest.

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  3. Hence one of my most frequently asked question: Who is They?!
    What’s that business with fork changing from one hand to the other. Pls do enlighten me!

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    • That’s how my parents ate, so that’s how I learned to eat. I didn’t know until I was nearly an adult that there was even a choice. It was nice to know there IS a choice, but my right hand is a lot more agile than my left, so I’m just as happy having the fork in my right hand.

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  4. I’ve never understood the fork thing Americans do. It must be even more confusing if you are left-handed. One thing we can be sure of “they” are usually invoked when we are supposed to be in the wrong. What I want to know is who are the people who post these things online saying “You have been doing such and such wrong all your life.” Who are they and who told them they were the judge of me?

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    • I tried NOT switching, but I’m right-handed and found using the fork left-handed very clumsy. I suspect however you grow up is whatever works for you. It certainly makes more sense to NOT switch. One less thing to do at the table. But how you’ve learned it tends to stick with you … even when it doesn’t make any sense.

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  5. Once a woman was making coffee. I suggested she use cold water instead of tepid. She asked why and when I said “they” suggest it makes better coffee, she asked who? The manufacturer of the coffee maker was the answer. However, I know what you mean. Often times someone says “they say” and have no idea where the “idea” came from. and I’m with you. I consider myself “Old enough to know better, young enough to do it again!” wooot

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  6. I don’t know who “they” are, but they might have the answer about the fork. 😄 Google had a variety of answers, from early colonists in the U.S. to an etiquette teacher about 100 years ago. While “they”are at it, would they also tell us why our cars are designed to drive on the opposite side of the road than many other countries?

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  7. My dad always said “they like that sort of thing” when people did differently to he did. He was saying it all the time when he visited in Switzerland, and was also known to use the expression when referring to women and their favourite pasttimes like shopping and cooking. One of the old school.

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  8. “They” must have never told me about that fork swapping rule, because I sure don’t follow it. I don’t even understand it…. you mean some people poke stuff with one hand, then use the other to lift it to their mouths? Why would anyone do that? Even if using a knife with the other hand, I’m still keeping the fork in the hand I was using it with…

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    • I grew up swapping because my parents did and I don’t think they thought about it much. It wasn’t until I read something about it that it occurred to me that it’s not the only way to eat! Although to be fair, I’d much rather hold the fork in my right (dominant) hand than in the left, which is clumsy.

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  9. What I’m wondering are all the things my mother said “if you only knew”. Unfortunately, I still don’t know, but now I can guess.
    Leslie

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