What Do You Do At 11:11?

The world was an excruciatingly terrifying place when I was nine. Not only did I have to deal with imagined monsters under my bed, but I also was forced to endure my superstitious aunt’s outlandish admonishments. For instance:

“If you don’t finish all your rice, you’ll get a pimple for every grain left in your bowl.”

I was a finicky eater, so naturally the notion of rice-induced acne horrified me. Consequently, I would sprint into the bathroom after meals to examine my forehead for new pockmarks. I also feverishly imagined my skin exploding with blotches of angry zits, giving way to a cratered surface that would repulse even the moon. A veritable dirt bike course on my face. A stretch of gravel road incarnate. You get the picture.

“If you wear a hat inside the house, you’ll grow shorter.”

This cruelly restricted me from a world of indoor festivities. No more indoor hat play dates. Gone were indoor hat parades and indoor hat contests. Indoor birthday party hats became a thing of terror, and I rang in New Year’s Day pitifully hatless (and indoors). Restricted to a life of bareheaded indoor shame at the tender age of nine…can you imagine the permanent psychological scarring? To this day, I shudder at the thought of a hat-less indoor world.

“If you keep shaking your foot like that, all your wealth will run out and you won’t have any money left.”

Do you know how hard it is to sit still at nine years old? But I didn’t want to go bankrupt before I turned ten, so I painfully resisted the urge. I’m sure I ruptured something in the process, but my preternaturally greedy 9-year-old self couldn’t imagine life without her buddies Abraham, George, and Benjamin. For the sake of those sacred friendships, I risked my health.

“If you snip the tips of your hair, it’ll start falling out in clumps.”

Arts and crafts soon lost its magic afterwards. I was too afraid of slipping during a routine paper cutting and hacking off a segment of my hair, thereby relegating myself to a life of premature baldness. It didn’t help that I had a bald uncle with synthetic follicle implants, who I subsequently believed to have been a recovering closet hair snipper.

However, as naive as I seemed at nine, I gradually began reassessing my aunt’s statements. After all, they had no rational basis and I was accepting them on blind faith. Out of curiosity, I finally left some rice in my bowl, wore a cap in my room, gave my foot a wobble, and clipped my hair ends. To my surprise, I didn’t get any pimplier, shorter, poorer, or balder. In other words, despite my defiance of the aforementioned superstitions, I didn’t become a troll.

My disintegrating superstitious beliefs soon shattered when my closet-hair-snipping-uncle handed me a letter from Santa stating I was on the naughty list. And suddenly everything made sense. Santa had to be a fabrication, because I was a saint during the holidays! If he were real he’d never betray me in such an egregious manner. And my aunt’s admonishments, I later concluded, were nothing more than glorified falsehoods cut from the same fabric.

So I don’t care if many American building planners design their high-rises without a 13th floor (skipping instead from the 12th to the 14th), many airports lack a 13th gate, hospitals and hotels lack a room number 13, Italians omit the number 13 from their national lottery, and many cities lack a 13th Street or 13th Avenue. I think a number is a quantitative figure, nothing more.

While we’re at it, I don’t care if some think pulling out a gray or white hair will lead ten more to grow in its place. I don’t care if the Japanese think that when you sneeze, it means someone is simultaneously talking about you. I don’t care if the Chinese think small earlobes signify a short lifespan. And I don’t care if the Irish think four-leaf clovers are fortuitous finds, because I spent much of the second grade searching for them with my friends, and all I found was an imagination.

Admittedly, we all harbor superstitions, and I concede that I still make the occasional wish when the clock strikes 11:11. Aside from these few, we shouldn’t allow our beliefs in questionable truths to overly influence our everyday lives – or at least to the point of terrifying a sweet, innocent, adorable, uncorrupted 9-year-old into submission.