Grits and Purls

Spinning yarns about the grit of life

ovaltine_cropMy mom always told me not to brag. She said, “Let your accomplishments speak for
themselves.” She often warned me that if I bragged about myself too much, I would end up eating crow.

As a child, I would grow frustrated when I heard other adults talking up their children, showing everyone their children’s report cards and latest certificate or newspaper clipping. I took quiet solace from the fact that I knew that my grades were better and that I was writing the newspaper columns, not just reading them. I kept these thoughts to myself (most of the time), assured by my mother that the people who needed to know about my accomplishments did and that a simple statement of the facts when I was asked about things would always suffice.

Mom had a point. There is a time and a place to acknowledge your accomplishments and highlight your achievements: on your resume, during a job interview, on a college application, but not in the line at the grocery store or while you are getting your hair styled at the salon. I once had to sit through a dental cleaning in which the hygienist told me all about her daughter’s achievements and talents and how the local college, where I happened to serve on the faculty, simply wouldn’t provide her with adequate challenge and education. I switched dentists.

At the same time Mom admonished me not to brag, she also encouraged me always to do my absolute best, because simple, unsurpassed excellence is the key to success in life, personally and professionally.

Mom’s wisdom about bragging became abundantly clear on my thirteenth birthday. My sister and her husband, Bill, joined Mom, Dad and me for a birthday dinner, cake and ice cream.

I was in the seventh grade, and my home economics teacher had invited a guest makeup artist and hair stylist to speak to our class about his profession and give us tips for makeup and hairstyles. One of the first things he discussed was basic facial shapes: oval, square, heart, and round. He discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each one, giving examples of hairstyles that flattered each facial shape. When he introduced the oval face shape he said that of all the shapes it was the most versatile, looking good with virtually any haircut, and in his opinion, it was the best facial shape to have. After that introduction, he went around the classroom and told each of us what facial shape we had. He told me that I had an oval face.

That night at dinner I monopolized the conversation, telling my family about the class. I declared oval as the fairest of the facial shapes, the best in fact, and I proudly stated that I had an oval face.

My brother-in-law didn’t miss a beat. “You’re turning thirteen?”


“And you have an oval face?”

“Yes.” I stated proudly.

“Well then, I guess that makes you an oval-teen.”

I buried my head in my plate as my entire family roared with laughter. “Shelly is an Ovalteen. Shelly is an Ovalteen.” My sister chimed. I knew that this nickname was going to stick. For seven long years, until my twentieth birthday, someone always managed to give me a jar of Ovaltine, and I found myself begging, “No more Ovaltine, please!”

So, Mom was right. Watch how you brag about yourself and your accomplishments or you will end up eating a lot of crow—or, at least, drinking a lot of Ovaltine.

© 2008,2009 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

One thought on “No More Ovaltine Please

  1. Alice says:

    I love this post. I was taught the same way growing up–that is, you don’t brag about yourself and the family didn’t brag about any of us either. It was my Hubby who gave me the best line, years later, when he told me his grandmother’s retort about bragging or self aggrandisement was “if the crow has anything to crow about, you’ll see it as he flies overhead.” That about says it all for me.

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