What rules are you following and are they helping or hurting you?

P Diddy traditionally hosts a white party, where guests are required to wear white -- obviously after Memorial Day. This photo comes from New York magazine.
New York magazine shows us P Diddy’s white party. Obviously after Memorial Day.

It seems like at least once a year I read an article in Vogue or Glamour that says the “don’t wear white before Memorial Day” rule is dead. Wear lovely white wool pants in the winter, wear a beautiful white winter coat, they suggest, and forget that old fashioned fashion dictate.

And yet on some level, when Memorial Day comes, part of me can’t help but think “oooh, maybe today I’ll wear those white pants with the black embroidery that I like so much.”
Despite regular attempts at deprogramming by the fashionista community, I’m still at least partially brainwashed into the anti-white before Memorial Day dictate. Why is that?
More absurd: I grew up Catholic but quit the church in high school, and I became vegetarian in college. I’ve been through various permutations of vegetarian since then — sometimes eating poultry, sometimes eating fish, sometimes being nearly vegan — but in some form or other, I’ve given up at least red meat for about 20 years.
Yet each year when Lent rolls around, I find myself monitoring my menus on Fridays to ensure I don’t break the “no meat on Friday” dictate.
A church I haven’t been part of for about two decades has me feeling guilty about the potential to eat something I gave up nearly that long ago? Really?
I don’t worry that my life would be better if I could put on some white pants and eat meat before Easter, but it makes me wonder how many other restrictions I’ve internalized that I should really jettison.
What about you? Do you feel limited by rules you wish you could overcome? Gender roles, traditions, family expectations?

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5 replies

  1. p.s. Sort of like the first-house rule, I remember something like that about wedding dresses. I drove all the way to some all-that bridal shop on the other side of Lansing and ended up still going with if not the very first one I tried on, then one of the first, from a cool little place much closer, in Plymouth.
    Somehow I felt like I needed to make that effort, I guess, but there’s something to be said for first instinct?

  2. That’s a great one, MJ.

    My old colleague, Scott Sigler, decided to start giving away his stories on podcasts after getting frustrated by the traditional fiction route — and I think he was in part inspired by his experience as a musician, which as you say involves selling your own self-produced CD to anyone who will buy it. Ultimately it led to him getting a publishing deal and landing on the New York Times best-seller list, and I’m not sure if that would have happened if he’d followed the rules.


  3. I drink red wine with chicken and fish on a regular basis, so screw it. And if it had been up to me, I would have bought the first house we looked at when we were house-hunting back in Ann Arbor. Lou said, oh no, you can NEVER buy the first house you look at (although the house on Miller was in fact the first one he’d looked at, and it happened to still be available when he went back to it months later). Thirty houses later, I still liked that first one best. But of course if we’d bought it we wouldn’t have come here, so everything has come to a happy conclusion.

    Among fiction writers there has long been a rule: never self-publish. Never never never. Only talentless hacks do that. Professional death. Yet, I know that among comic-book writers, self-publishing is simply what you do. And every garage rock band cuts its own CD and puts itself on MySpace or Facebook. Artists sell their postcards on street corners. So I’m beginning to wonder if fiction writers are cutting off their noses to spite their face. Being lucky enough to have the Internet exist in our lifetimes, why shouldn’t we avail ourselves of its tremendous reach? Why should we constantly submit to the inscrutable whims and questionable judgments of a handful of editors? Who says they’re the end-all? I haven’t gone forth and self-published yet, but I’m asking myself these questions.


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