Proverb – Sarcoxie, Missouri

Proverb- “Don’t buy the cow when you can get the milk for free”

Andrea said that she heard this proverb from her mother when she first started dating in high school as a sophomore, which is roughly around the age of fifteen.  She said that her mother learned this proverb when she was growing up in Sarcoxie, Missouri, which is a very small Protestant farming town.  This is made clear by the references to farming in the proverb.  Someone who grew up in the city is probably not likely to refer to a cow when giving advice to their children, since it would have less significance to them.

Andrea’s mother used the proverb to warn her of one of the dangers of being too promiscuous.  Essentially, the proverb says “Why get married to a girl when she will give you sex without any strings attached?”  Andrea’s mom wanted to teach her daughter that by being too promiscuous, men will think that they can always come to her for sex without having to worry about “paying for it” by being in a relationship.  Especially since Andrea’s mother grew up in a very religious area, teaching her daughter to abstain from sexual activity until marriage was an essential part of Andrea’s upbringing.  This proverb is just one example of how cultural values were transmitted from one generation to the next.

I heard Andrea use this proverb when she was giving her friend relationship advice.  Her friend was conflicted because she did not know whether to become more intimate with her boyfriend of a few months.  Basically, Andrea used the proverb to tell her friend that until she  is in a committed relationship with her boyfriend, it is very risky to be sexually active because her boyfriend may not choose to follow through with their relationship once he has had sex.  For Andrea, the proverb is just one of many reasons why it is dangerous to be too intimate with someone other than a spouse, in addition to the risk of getting pregnant or contracting an STD.

Andrea’s interpretation of the proverb comes from a more feminine viewpoint. For instance, my mother has also told me this proverb, and both she and I interpreted it in the same way as Andrea. However it can also be used to advise a man as well.  It is possible that a man might use the proverb to tell a friend that he does not need to marry a girl who is willing to have sex before marriage.  In this case, the proverb is being used to encourage a man to engage in premarital sex since he can get away with it.  When comparing the two different ways the proverb can be used, it seems that for most women, the proverb is used to prevent other women from being promiscuous, whereas men use the proverb to encourage that behavior in other men.