There is a scene in 27 Dresses, where the cute guy and the cute girl are at a bar, and the cute guy says to the cute girl “You don’t know how to say ‘No'”, she of course says she does, and he argues she doesn’t and then tests her something like this:
Cute Guy: “Give me 50 bucks”
Cute Girl: “No”
Cute Guy: “Please give me 50 bucks”
Cute Girl: “No”
Cute Guy: “Seriously, I really need it and I’ll get it back to you”
Cute Girl: “Er, NO”
Cute Guy: “Very good, cute girl, can I have your drink?”
Cute Girl: “Sure”
AHA! I relate to this, except that I would have given him the 50 bucks, pretty much the second he said ‘Please’.. That is, if I had $50 to give, which I wouldn’t, so I would give up $5 because I don’t know how to say “NO”!
With the tsunami of wisdom that seems to be flooding me in this my 40th year, I have discovered a few things about myself, one of which is my complete inability to say ‘No’. Not so odd really, I am a woman after all, but I really, REALLY don’t know how to extricate myself from things I don’t want to do and as a result, I often feel really cross and conflicted because I’m caught in a situation I don’t want to be in…and it’s my own fault.
So, this is the year I’ve decided I’m going to learn to do it. And I have many friends who agree that not only is there a genetic disposition in women that leans toward ‘not-saying-no’ but that this is something I’ve sorely needed to figure out. I’m wondering if 39 is a bit too late to learn this though – the whole ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ and, yes, in this situation, I am the dog – I am the dog (name that movie).
However, something else that I’ve recently discovered in the midst of my aforementioned tsunami…not everyone wants you to say ‘No’. In fact, NOone wants you to say ‘No’…can you believe that? Hmm, what a surprising problem.
Being able to say ‘No’ is one of those things that everybody talks about (everybody who is female and over 34 anyhow), but people don’t actually want you to do it…at least not to THEM.
I’ve practised on the kids to the point where they moan the MINUTE I step up on my soapbox and start pointing my finger, (ungrateful little…) but saying it to people I am not married to or gave birth to is HARD. Mostly, because they try to convince me to change my mind. This tells me that a) they believe I am a pushover and 2) that I am a pushover.
When trying new tactics to change negative behaviour in children, it is not unusual for the child to try increasingly rotten behaviour to push against the new rules in order to see if the parent will give in, kind of like checking the fence to find any weaknesses (name THAT movie)…guess what? That’s right, tsunami time, grown-ups do it too and they’re sneaky! In the last month, I have managed to “No” myself out of a duty visit, a job I didn’t want and an ‘opportunity’ to take free tickets to a show I didn’t want to see, in return for a favor I didn’t want to offer. Yes, it kept me up at night, but I’m working on it. It’s the guilt.
In the meantime, if you hear someone loudly, firmly and unnecessarily saying “NO, I DON’T want fries with that!” or “NO, I don’t want to upsize my meal!” or “NO I do NOT want to buy a $6o pen, or a $40 tea towel to support the ‘Save The Poor Foxes Fund!” know that I am getting there and while they may be small, weird steps for mankind, they are HUGE empowering and guilt-free steps for me.