Napkin Notes: How to say “No”.
On shaving blind, self-respecting “nos” and reading tell-tale parenthesis
Six months in the gym and I get 8 calluses, 2 reddened bunions and not too many visible signs I had actually rowed, biked, and tread-milled. (Unless one counts the uploaded photos of a certain mileage counter on FaceBook.) Sometimes all the hard work can only be seen in the subcutaneous layers on a molecular level too biological to go into without experiencing the heebie-jeebies. While at the gym one day, I wend past all the heavy-duty ironman equipment to try the bench press. There are steel donuts of all sizes and a young muscular man sidles over to offer help. Now, I’m no weakling (I’m no Irene Andersen either…) but when he asked if I needed help, I said “yes”. He locked and loaded the scrawniest 5 kg on either side. It behooved me to internalize the universal question: “Why is it so difficult to say no?”
I say “no” as frequently as I take afternoon showers. This reminds me of something quite untoward as I had my second 3pm ablution this year. I never shower with my glasses on, a bit of information that does nothing but inform you reader, other that I’m quite blind while reaching for sharp instruments, like a razor. Can we say “hematophobia” (Fear of bleeding)? No, because it’s not a real word, but it has never stopped me from using it indiscriminately. It’s a matter of time before it circulates to an unfamiliar boondock in Australia where a word-embracing tautologist will use it in a blog and voila!- instant acceptance in the slanguist’s dictionary.
Not forgetting my point at the beginning of this sentence, (Call me “meanderthal”)- it’s fairly difficult for many of us to say “no”, mean “no” and follow through with a clearly defined, absolute irrevocable- “no way”, “not happening”, “the opposite of yes.” I find this a particularly female-prone malady, do you?
Take another example my little naughty excursion to dessert last night at Sammy J. Peppers with my womanpal. Now most women would read between the lines (or skim around my parenthesized thoughts). This is going to come to a complete, utter, no-win, sorry, self-deprecating end. A chocolate mousse cheesecake by any other name is sweet re-toxification! The internal commentary went like this:
I’ve just had Rack of Lamb Paidakia. I’m stuffed!
I still have some space in my stomach.
We said we would be done at 930pm and it’s 930pm!
I hadn’t had dessert for a long time; I can afford this.
I brought this home to my 16-year old son Myron who sliced through the fog of my bimbling like a hot knife through herbed butter.
“Mum, you really don’t know yourself and you care too much about looking like a good person.” Ouch. Trust a tweenager to deliver the coup-de-grace with a sledgehammer. As I said before, I’m no weakling (especially in the verbal jousting department), so I pressed for clarification. He made several poignant and brief points that only a tight-lipped, 16-year old of the male species can. His observations:
1. Think with your brain, not with your stomach. (we can also think with other organs but that’s another blog entry) If you look at my internal dialogue again, it’s brain-stomach-brain-stomach.
2. It’s about knowing yourself.
3. It’s about respecting a person’s choices.
I found our little jaw-jaw most enlightening. The fact that I feel more obliged to preserve harmony at the expense of internalizing guilt and regret is a viciously debilitating thing. A dim 15-watt slowly got replaced with the Cree TrueWhite light bulb and it made an impact in my brain the same way the chocolate mousse fell to the pit of my stomach with a dullish thud. Strangely enough, it brought to memory the lasting words from Polonius to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
By "true" he means loyal to your own best interests and by "false", disadvantageous or detrimental to your image; so, cut to the chase and put this down on my chocolate-smeared napkin before I lose the plot:
which makes perfect sense when one begins to respect and know one has the God-given freedom to choose; one would inevitably respect that someone else also has the same. Next time you have to say no, if it’s in your best interest to say “no”, then by golly, that’s all the valid reason you need have in order to say it.
As the old adage goes, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. So remember to smile, and with a gentle tilt of your head, deliver your most deliberate and firm, “no”. Give it a go. I’m fairly certain you will be able to comment here, and live another day to tell someone else the liberating, self-respecting, non-offensive way to say what you mean and mean what you say.