USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘stomach’
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

“Worms in Your Stomach”

Context & Analysis

The subject used to swim competitively in high school and often had to deal with having wet hair. Her mother used to tell her the belief below to frighten her into keeping her hair down. Even though she recognizes that it is a folk belief, the thought of getting worms in her stomach was a deterrent to tying up her hair (and potentially damaging it). The subject stated that her mother most likely learned the saying from her grandmother, and she is uncertain if it is a belief that is shared by anyone outside of her family. I find it interesting that she continues to heed her mother’s warning despite not believing it herself.

Main Piece

“So my mom tells us that we’re going to get worms in our stomach if we tie our wet hair—not joking. Not joking. Yea. So when I was younger and started swimming I used to see all of the older girls in the locker room tie up their hair in really tight buns after swimming because obviously you don’t like the feeling of wet dripping hair on your back cuz it’s really gross. So I started doing it and my mom was like ‘[Subject’s Name] not only is this going to damage your hair, ‘cuz you’re going to rip it out—’cuz wet hair is weak hair or whatever— but you’re also going to get worms in your stomach’ and I didn’t believe her. But when my grandma was in town she started saying the same thing, and I thought ‘If this old lady is saying something, chances are she knows even more than my mom, so I probably shouldn’t tie it up anymore’ and I’ve never tied it up when it was wet since.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“You only take with you what you have in your stomach.”

“You only take with you what you have in your stomach.”

 

This proverb was shared with the informant by her mother, who told her that you have to enjoy what you eat because when you die, the only thing you take with you to the next life (or death) is the food in your stomach. She says that she lives by the saying because the most important thing to her is what she’s eating next. She says food is important to her because it’s a sense of nourishment and it comforts a primal need while still remaining very personal. The informant said it was one of the few things she doesn’t mind splurging on. She feels food is different from material objects because it makes you happy in a different way because it represents comfort, family, and home (“it’s like being loved”). She feels especially happy when eating Mexican food (her mother, the family’s primary cook, is Mexican).

The informant finds this useful and important because it has maintained her good relationship with food. The proverb serves a dual purpose of championing eating healthily as well as well (food that “nourishes the soul;” things that taste good), because the body is important, but also transient, and the pleasures that come with it are impermanent.

Care taken with food is a commonality in all cultures, and this saying is representative of a positive outlook on food that is often absent in certain circles of developed worlds (because food is sometimes at odds with body image). The positivity of this proverb is important and emphasizes the relationship between the feelings shared between people (as here between a mother and daughter) and links that with a healthy relationship toward food (i.e. food is love itself).

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