We did not have a lot of rules in my family. Oh, the usual safety rules “look both ways before you cross the street” and “don’t stick a metal fork in the electrical outlet.” There were a couple of basic health rules like “drink your milk to grow big and strong” and “brush your teeth before bed.” That was about it.
My parents gave us the benefit of the doubt that we would behave like good children and teenagers and not run wild or grow up to be serial killers. Sometimes, visiting the homes of friends and neighborhood kids, I noticed different sets of rules. Two of my friends in middle and high school were raised in very strict homes. They were not allowed to wear jeans or buy rock and roll albums. One friend was not allowed to invite kids over to hang out in her bedroom. Now that I think about it, I never stepped foot inside of her home in the three years that we were friends.
In my family, since my mom was home most of the time when we were growing up, she was the disciplinarian. She didn’t threaten us with “Wait until your father gets home!” like other friends’ mothers did. If something happened on her watch, she handled it. I often felt bad for those other commuting dads who dragged themselves home from work after driving or taking the subway and bus, only to be met at the door with a list of infractions that their kids had done during the day. Before even taking off their neckties and sitting down to dinner, these dads had to march upstairs and yell at the kid for something that happened hours earlier.
When I grew up and moved into my own home, I instituted a few rules of my own: No outside shoes in the house, no food in the living room, use a coaster under a glass or coffee mug. My house, my rules.
A lot of rules that were set in place a long time ago just seem so archaic and silly nowadays. I like to look up odd laws that are still enforceable as a reminder of a much simpler time. In New York State, carrying an ice cream cone in your pocket was prohibited on Sundays. Who would do that, even on a Wednesday?
Did you know that it is illegal to sell dog or cat hair (fur) in New York State? A few years ago, I read an article about a woman in Florida who was making handbags and accessories out of cat hair and selling them for big money. Not in New York, lady!
It is against the law to put on a puppet show performance in the windows of your home. Law breakers can receive a $25 fine for that, as well as complaints from the neighbors. The next time you are in an office building in New York, remember that the law states “while riding in an elevator, one must talk to no one, and fold his hands while looking toward the elevator door.”
An old law that still exists requires a permit to hang clothes outside on a clothesline. A new law, introduced only a few years ago after several mauling incidents, forbids taking selfies with tigers at traveling circuses or county fairs. Law breakers will receive a $500 fine.
In nearby Connecticut, I discovered a few rules to warn you about. In Hartford, it is against the law to cross a street while walking on your hands. Seriously? When did this ever happen? In Southington, the use of Silly String is banned.
My favorite weird law in Waterbury states that beauticians may not hum, whistle or sing while working on a customer. I’d love to know the circumstances leading to that rule!
Kim Kovach always follows this rule: Read, write and eat chocolate every day. kimkovachwrites.com.