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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.


Apr. 22nd, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC)
The original open source project seems, however, to be some teenage-boy's secret wishfulfillment...

To be honest, what came to mind first -- and I realize this sounds stupid -- is ... toddlers.

I have had any number of toddlers, most of whom aren't mine since I can only account for two of them, casually reach out to touch my breasts. They are often fascinated by them. I have frequently explained, quite gently, that they don't actually work anymore; there's no milk. This is not entirely gender dependent behaviour, either -- but more of the boys do it than the girls; I'm not sure why.

On the other hand, they seem to accept this explanation while their mothers are squirming in embarrassment for me.
Apr. 22nd, 2008 09:36 pm (UTC)
Having never had children, I can only reply with my baby cousin who was a boob grabber until the age of 6. He would grab my boobs and the boobs of his teenage sister and friends. Of the boob-owning females he grabbed on to, I was the only one to object. The other girls would just laugh... partly my point, these girls thought since he was a kid, he didn't have to be responsible for these actions.

At 7, my cousin is one of the most sexist little boys I know.
Apr. 22nd, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
I think at age 6, or 4 or 3, some corrective action is necessary.

But at 18 months or two years, there's not a whole lot of argument you can make (or that I can) that will really sink in, because for the most part you've hit a language and cognitive development wall. But in the cases of younger children, explaining that my breasts were in fact defective and that I had no milk seemed to make enough sense to them. But it wasn't a repeat problem, fwiw.

And this is not to say that it shouldn't bother you, or that you shouldn't have had an entirely different reaction. My own reaction was informed by the fact that, after childbirth, I never really thought of my breasts as sexual again; functional, yes; I assumed that small children who are not hormonal would see them the same way, because they were nursing or had nursed.
Apr. 22nd, 2008 10:49 pm (UTC)
That's a good point, the functional vs sexual. Having never seen my breasts as functional, I can't completely understand, but I do see where you're going with it.

And yeah, not much you can do about a hungry baby grabbing boobs. They might starve otherwise!!