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Oh for the love of god

So. I go to sleep at 5:00 in the morning because damn it all I am going to finish my writing goals for the day, and the day doesn't end until I've slept, and wake up to kate_nepveu's completely correct and yet entirely confusing post.

Why is it entirely confusing? Because the content seems so entirely obvious that saying it at all causes cognitive dissonance. And the fact that she did state it clearly meant she felt that she had to make that point. You know, the one that seems obvious to me.


No is one of those words that, as children, we were taught not to say too much of to people we care about. It's often contextual, but even the context can be subtle. For instance, if your mother (or mine) says "Do you want to help me with the dishes?" while no may in fact be the entirely truthful response, it is not the response that is expected, and it's not really the acceptable response.

There are other examples. "Would you like a piece of cake?" seems trivial, but if someone baked that cake for your gathering, and you say no, your mother will quietly explain that your (truthful) use of no in this situation might hurt the feelings of the person who went to all the trouble of baking it. So. You learn to say yes.

You learn to say yes, a lot, as a child because you don't want to hurt people's feelings. "Do you like my dress?" or "Did you like (food item that person cooked)?"

Yes is almost hard-wired. Learning to reclaim no is a lifelong endeavour.

I am not known as a person who is afraid of saying no. I'm not known for being shy about it. But the truth is: I don't like it. There are still little traces of that early, learned discomfort for me in saying no. The alternatives, in anger, resentment, and frustration, are all worse, so on balance, no seems the lesser of two evils.

My understanding of the pressures of the word no lead me not to ask people for many things, because I don't want to put them in the awkward situation of having to say it to me.

When I was a teenager, which was not that far off of dinosaurs, really, questions of sex, sexuality, and the confusion that is love at that age, emerged, and no became about personal rejection. It was so very, very difficult. To say it, while knowing that this is entirely how it would be taken. It was a hundred kinds of awkward. I decided early on that this was not a type of interaction that I wanted to have to deal with because for the most part, I liked a lot of these people a great deal and I did not want to hurt them. I did hurt them. I did say no. But I hated having to say it.

So... I decided that I would avoid situations in which this rejection would come up. There are entire gender interactions that I simply withdrew from. Someone asked me once, on-line, if I ever flirted. My response was "What, Old Enough to Be Your Mother, flirt?" He laughed (he's about ten years younger than I am, but in that particular on-line environment, the age was a lot lower in general).

I'm comfortable, by the way, with that. In my WoW guild, I was guild-mom. I am not interested, at this point in my life, in being anything else.

And so we come to kate_nevpeu's post. There are some things in life that we can reasonably expect not to have to say no to because we can reasonably expect that no one is going to ask us. But my reaction isn't fear; it's anger and the sickening sense of what, this again? Because this is not a game I want to play. I opted out thirty years ago.

And yes, while in theory, 'no' is a perfectly acceptable, valid response, you are dumping the responsibility of it on me. You are not a part of my life. You are not someone I know. You should be aware that your freedom to ask is also your freedom to burden me, who grew up in a social context of which you must be completely and utterly unaware.


edited to clarify the teenage years.

Comments

msagara
Apr. 22nd, 2008 09:02 pm (UTC)
Sorry. That was incoherent. The pressure of the word no is something I've had a difficult time articulating and explaining for a very long time—it seemed so self-evident to me, and yet it's something that causes so many problems.

It was perfectly coherent the first time :). The challenge of living in any multi-cultural society is evident in the way we respond to things like this, because people from a different background (and this is generational as well as cultural, to make things harder) respond in different ways to the same things, so anything tricky has to be translated from context -- yours and theirs.

The idea that No is free is rational and logical.

The last time I lived with people who were entirely rational and logical on a consistent basis? Was never. People are people. They are always going to have emotional reactions because they are emotional. The level of rationality vs. emotional that anyone can tolerate is entirely individual; I tend to process on the higher side of rational than some people like, but I would never, ever claim to be unemotional.