The Best of Auntie Mae’s Various Ramblings on Life in a Small Town Series

Ida Mae Nowes

Nubbins Special Correspondent 

I don’t know why people come to me for advice. Maybe it’s because I’m a widow with no kids who manages to have a pretty good life, so I seem to be on the ball.  

Or maybe it’s because so many people refer to me as “Auntie,” even if they’re not related to me. I guess someone with a title like “Auntie So-and-So” should know what she’s talking about.

If only that were true.

If someone asks me for advice about keeping deer away from the hostas (green, smelly soap), the best place to hunt wildflowers (the woods behind my house), or the secret to great cornbread (buttermilk and a hot skillet), I’ll give them a definite answer. The rest of the time I’m usually winging it.

I found out long ago that people get disappointed with me if, for example, they ask, “What’s the best way to give a cat a pill?” And I answer, “I have absolutely no idea, but when you find out, could you let me know? My cat just about clawed my skin off last week when I was giving him one.”

I don’t mind disappointing people when necessary, but I have a little admission to make here: Sometimes I make things up. And the scary part is how often it works.

For instance at bridge club the other night Ruby Crapman was asking how to get rid of lice (hypothetically of course – in case it ever came up). Several people piped up with solutions, but after listening to them, she turned to me and asked, “What do you think, Ida Mae?”

Now why would someone think a woman without kids would know anything about getting rid of lice? I could have said, “How in the world would I know?” but it just so happened that I’d read about a solution in a magazine a few months earlier and it struck me as so crazy, I remembered it.

Just like that, it popped out of my mouth: “Oh, it’s simple. Just wear mayonnaise on your head for six hours, covered by a shower cap. But make sure it’s high-fat mayo, none of this low-fat stuff, so it smothers the little buggers.”

“Yes, I’ve heard of that!” shouted Colleen McGeehee, adding credence to this theory I’d expounded with almost nothing to back it up. The women nodded and one even wrote herself a note and stuck it in her purse. For all I know children all over Nubbins who scratch their heads once are now being subjected to shower caps full of greasy mayonnaise. Maybe it’s even killing their lice.

The truth is that I don’t like giving advice. Most people just want someone to listen to them, not tell them what to do, and that’s what I try to do. But occasionally something gets into me and I make myself out as the expert they want me to be. (“Duct tape works well for preserving a half-eaten banana.” “No, I don’t think anything bad will happen to your computer if you click that button.” “I’d definitely go with the plaid.”)

It’s been interesting to see how adding a note of authority to your voice when speaking your opinion or even making things up will cause some folks to take it as gospel.

If you don’t believe me, go ask a politician.