Things “They” Say

Am I the only the one that uses the expression “they say?” You know, when you justify some action because some mystery entity of people says something? In the past couple of years, in an attempt to try to be super self-aware, I have started following up the phrase “they say” with “you know, the people that say these things.” Conversations go as follows.

My mom: “What are you doing this weekend?”

Me: “Oh, cleaning and the like. I need to run vinegar through my coffee pot. They say you are supposed to do this every six weeks. You know, the people that say these things.”


You with me? Now, not only did I realize that I say this, but I am also a frequent flier of the “they say” conversation anecdote. People have commented on it. People have playfully teased me. And so I can’t help but wonder, is it just me? Or am I just the only one paying attention to this particular justification of using unwritten societal rules by claiming that someone else says it? It is for this reason that I am dedicating this post to common things that “they say.” Stay with me here, I know you’ve heard these.

Top Ten Things They Say (you know, the people that say these things)

  1. You should have a years’ salary saved before you quit your job.

Who is this they? Accountants? Life coaches? Apartment complex renter people? This is one of those I have heard hundreds of times. And it is one that I actually considered – seriously. This past spring I made an enormous career shift, and I was thinking the whole time “how many months’ worth of a paycheck do I have in my savings? And then the more nuanced: how much are my monthly bills, and therefore how much would I need to survive if I quit without a job lined up? Is it actually a years’ worth? Or does this more depend on how parsimonious you can be?

  1. You should have your car checked every 10,000 miles.

Again, who is this they? Car mechanics? If so, then by all means, let’s do it. Or is it car mechanics in cahoots with dealerships? Did they all get together and decide to start spreading this rumor so that once a year everybody would get some business? And if this is true, then is it a necessary cog in the machine of the capitalist economy? Should I allow myself to be suckered into this because I am helping hardworking mechanics make a living? Or, is it actually true that this is about the time that things need a little TLC under the hood, and it just has the “they say” in front of it? Am I being conned or not?

  1. You need to drink half your body weight in water every day.

Okay, this is one that I get. Not just because it is a tangible and free goal, but because this comes from all sides. Doctors tell us this. Nutritionists tell us this. My mom tells me this when my skin isn’t looking its best. Every magazine and blog says this. And here’s the real kicker: if all of these people are wrong, it’s no skin off our back. Literally, there is no real negative side effect to drinking however many ounces of water a day. Plus, bonus, it’s about 200 steps from my desk to the water cooler at work so it’s a win-win. Which actually leads nicely into number 5…

  1. You need 10,000 steps a day.

This one actually comes from The American Heart Association (I think) or some other respected medical entity. But it made the list for this reason: this number keeps changing. I went to my doctor last week and she told me that they actually upped it to 15,000. Why? And what does that mean for people with long strides versus petite people? You can’t tell me that a 6’6” man and woman that is 5 foot nothing actually need the exact same amount of stepsper day to determine their overall health. Hence, 10,000 steps becoming something that “they say.”

  1. You need to post frequently and consistently if you want your blog to be a success.

This one comes directly from all of my reading up on blogs. Usually this comes from bloggers’ advice. Is this a they that I trust? Yup, absolutely. They say it, and I shall believe it. (And therefore do it, also).

  1. The sincerest form of flattery is imitation.

Is it? Really? Are we sure? Because it actually feels like a completely insincere form of flattery. Think about it, instead of actually complimenting someone, or telling them that you like what they are doing, you just copy it and make it your own. What if the other person never sees that you are copying them because they don’t do it near you? How are you to be flattered, then? This one has always felt like a cop-out for unoriginality to me. It’s like saying no, you are not a complete phony/cheater/plagiarizer. You are just a flatterer! This one is one “they” should stop saying.

  1. The first year of marriage is the hardest.

This is one of those ones that I wonder about, because I fear it might just be a bit antiquated. Smack in the middle of my first year of marriage, I can’t help but think that this actually was really true back when you would get married after only a few months of courtship. Or when you would get married before ever having lived together. Having dated my husband for over 4 years before getting married, and living together for two of them, I would argue that our first year of marriage is actually the easiest yet. If the “they” are our grandparents saying the first year is the hardest? Sure, maybe that was actually true. But if “they” is someone that got married in the past 10 years, I don’t think I would believe them.

  1. It takes a year to feel comfortable in a new city.

This one I actually believe and repeat. BUT I will add the additional caveat that I believe it takes at least two for a place to feel like home. I have moved to a new state three different times in my life. And every time it has taken at least a year to feel comfortable, and it is not until the second year that I started to really feel roots growing. It is in the second year that you get your favorites (grocery store, fast casual restaurant, gym) figured out, and your real friends established.

  1. You will have seven jobs in your lifetime.

Alright I am nitpicking here, but I think this is another one that my generation is completely destroying. I am about to turn 28 and I have had eight jobs already. Am I done? Not by a long shot. Do they mean professional jobs? Because if so, then I’m only at three. But again, I think this one stopped becoming true when the internet took off. I keep reading articles about how my generation, in contrast to those previously, is much more particular about the job that we want and we are unafraid to quit and go searching for it. Mark my words, that seven number will be 17 or more by the time I’m giving this advice to my grown children.

  1. You need to wait 30 minutes after you eat before you go swimming.

I love this one. This just conjures hilarious images of a sad child desperately wanting to go into the pool on a hot day and pouting on the hot sidewalk as his mother points to the kitchen timer she has brought to the neighborhood pool because it’s only been 11 minutes since he had his peanut butter crackers. It’s hilarious, right? And who amongst us, once we reached adulthood, hasn’t had some chips and salsa by the pool and completely shucked this rule aside? But, again, who amongst us hasn’t thought about this rule while eating the chips and salsa and thought “oh no, what if…?” Thought so.

The truth is, I still have no idea who these people that say these things are. Mothers? All of humanity that repeats them? What fascinates me most is that despite the fact that I just spent 1300 words mocking how silly it is that we listen to an unidentified body of people that distributes advice, I still listen to it! Alas, like they say, people are sheep.


What did I miss? What else do “they” say?

3 thoughts on “Things “They” Say”

  1. I too have wondered about the “They Say” Thanks so much for making me feel better about questioning this–althought I say it quite often too! Great job!


  2. I say this ALL the time!! They do! They say it! They say all of the things. I usually say it when I’ll say something, and someone looks at me crazy, and I’ll say “well that’s what they say!”


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