Saturday, January 4, 2014

30 Days of Quotes About Life ~ Day 4 ~ Mae West

Day 4 ~

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” 

~ Mae West

Welcome. By this point, I think I've lost most of you already on this 30 day quote journey. I'm going to keep at it because I'm just that stubborn, and because thus far I have managed to pick apart all the prior quotes.

Having an overly analytical brain is a blessing and a curse, I tell you.

This one is simple. There's not much to this quote, one liked by over 67 thousand people on the wonder that is Goodreads.

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” 

It, among many other things, passed over the lips of Mae West, one of the most interesting actresses in the history of theater and cinema. Her biographical information taught me all kinds of new things about her that I didn't know before, like the fact that she was alleged to have been married twice, the first time at 17. The second marriage, she never admitted to, but a court dissolved in divorce proceedings anyway. When she was older, she took up with a much younger thirty years younger. Paul lived with her until she died.

She was a playwright, an actress, a comedienne, a boundary pusher, and a lover of all things inappropriate. She was even found guilty of the crime of obscenity for her play Sex and sentenced to ten days in jail.

Clearly, she was my kind of gal.

Now, for the quote itself.

I don't think it means what it seems to mean on the face. The most obvious way to interpret it is to say that if you do things the right way, you'll have a fabulous life and never regret anything.

I don't think that's really what she meant, which is good, because it's fairly impossible.

There's this whole doing it right thing on the internet these days. People use that phrase most often with parenting issues, but also with anything that they want to judge other people about. Doing it right implies that someone else is doing it wrong, after all. The trouble I have with the phrase is that if it was only ever used by people to celebrate what they think is doing it right, that would be fine...but you and I both know that the internet doesn't work that way.

My point, which I am making in the most long winded possible way here, is that there isn't one right way to do anything. Believing that there is, well, just is wrong.

I think she's talking more broadly about life. I don't think she is saying that anyone has to make all the right choices, never screw up, live authentically 24/7, be awesome all the time. Which is good. Because that would be totally freaking exhausting.

Instead, I take this quote more as a hey, do your best, don't do things you'll regret too much, if you do them, try to fix whatever you break in the process or apologize to the people you hurt, you only get one shot at life so make the most of it, try to remember that kind of quote.

Unless you believe in do-overs, time travel or reincarnation, you have to accept that this life is the only one you've ever going to have.

Try not to screw it up too badly.

And if you are going to be thrown in jail, make sure it's for a damn good reason.


  1. Still reading ... and learning. Thanks for your words of wisdom and for the smiles this morning :-)

  2. You have not lost me at all.. I love it.. and yes I take it the same way.

  3. This is a great quote, especially when people often fail to live at all. I mean, they are alive, but not really engaged.

    I still want to live twice though. There just isn't enough time to do all of things I want to do!

  4. I agree with your analysis of "doing it right" relative to the Mae West quote.


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