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The Boston Globe

Opinion

alex beam

Let the early bird keep the worm

And other advice for young people

Wendy Wahman for the Boston Globe

If I have one message for young people — other than “Moisturize!” — it is: Everything that you have been told is untrue.

Take, for instance, brushing your teeth. I brushed my teeth furiously as a boy, to please both my parents and my dentist. Guess what? I have no gums left. Don’t let this happen to you.

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The Native Americans cleaned their teeth with twigs and bark. Happily for them, they didn’t have the American Dental Association’s Council on Dental Therapeutics to mess up their oral hygiene.

Another example: sports. My sage advice: Give it a pass. Up until age 55, I was the Rafer Johnson of my generation. (Johnson was an Olympic decathlon champion who went on to have a successful TV career. You know, like Bruce Jenner.) I played tennis, basketball, and squash, and often ran several miles a week. Now my hips hurt when I walk. The sawbones can’t wait to have at me.

Young people: Take up birdwatching, or better still — canasta. Your body will thank you later.

Here is more advice that you can safely ignore. “Never judge a book by its cover.” Really? I’d say always judge a book by its cover. I spotted Roxana Robinson’s novel “Cost” in the tiny Tuftonboro, N.H., library because of the beautiful watercolor on the front. It’s a wonderful book, and I have since learned that Robinson’s daughter painted the cover.

Same church, different pew: “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” As someone who wooed a generation of library mice, take my word for it, this is rubbish.

“Write about what you know.” Is that good advice? I know maybe three things: that WERS is a great radio station; that you shouldn’t row on the Charles if the water and air temperatures don’t add up to 100 degrees; and that my wife’s dress size is … I’ll get back to you on that. Why would I write about these mundanities? I’m much happier writing about the vast universe of the unknown.

Does “the early bird get the worm”? Is that what you want — the worm? I thought “slow and steady wins the race.” What race would that be? The Endomorph Slo-Mo 500? And while we are at it, is it true that “less is more”? More what, exactly? How about you take less, and I take more.

Should one “get out more”? I’d like to get out less. The world is a dangerous place. Right now I leave my bourgeois cyber-cave a few times a week to buy groceries and look in at my public library. Nice Mr. Bezos of Amazon plans to change that. His army of human and servo-powered drones will soon be winging life’s necessities to my door, instantly. O brave new world, that has such people as Jeff Bezos in it!

Are “idle hands the devil’s hands”? Frankly, it looks as if the devil has been far from idle, and his ambitious plans are moving forward quite nicely, e.g. the Internet. Oh, well, “hope springs eternal.”

Or does it? I thought “nothing lasts forever.” Wait “diamonds are forever.” But “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” — right? Perhaps a girl’s BFF? Yes, I think that’s it.

Can it be true that “time is money”? Then how come everyone has time, but so few people have money? Yet another truism best left ignored.

They say “half a loaf is better than no bread.” Not according to Dr. David Perlmutter’s best-selling anti-bread screed, “Grain Brain,” the lifestyle lodestar for lowbrow lemmings. Half-truths better than no royalties, I always say.

Is “a penny saved a penny earned”? I’m far from sure. It’s more like a penny saved is a penny confiscated by Barack Obama’s Big Government machine. My mother used to send my sons checks at Christmastime with the admonition: Don’t spend it wisely. She certainly knew how to raise children, quod est demonstratum.

Is “youth wasted on the young”? Heck no — they seem to be having a grand time of it. And they’ll have a much better time if they carefully follow my generous advice. Ignore all truisms; none of them is true. And don’t forget to moisturize!

Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. He can be reached at alexbeam@hotmail.com.

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