Tuesday, December 28, 2010

No Means No

Sticks and stones may break my bones but "No" will never hurt me. Say it to yourself until you believe it. We southern girls have to remind ourselves of such simple things as this, because we behave as if "No" is a fatal flaw, detracting from our inherent beauty and diminishing our ability to attract praise and gratitude from family and friends. We fear saying it and hearing it to equal degrees.

I'm here to tell you, today is the day we liberate ourselves; and we don't even have to do something tacky like leave the girls out in the cold and burn our bras. All we have to do is embrace the power of "No."

Yesterday I e-mailed this note to a newspaper editor whom I had corresponded with since the Friday before Memorial Day about placing my column. I finally decided that I needed an answer. "Yes" and we moved forward. "No" and I could go spend my energy on another project. In the end I found that she needed me to give her permission to say "No." And still she couldn't bring herself to say the word:

Dear Sally Jane,
Let's face it. Time and tradition have both proven that it is much easier to say "Yes" than it is to say "No." How else does a PTO president get elected every year? Even the Good Book advises, "Ask and ye shall receive."

Will you please (please, please, please) make the decision to place my weekly newspaper column somewhere (you can even put it next to the obituaries if you want to) in your pages? You can either run my humor column or my advice on living fearlessly; whichever you think appeals to your readers more.

Can we partner up and do this? (That's your cue to say "Yes." It rolls off the lips so much easier than that other nasty word.)

Lucy Adams
Weekly Humor Columnist
Author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny
Distributor of Chocolate Chip Grit Biscuits (They're good if you're hungry.)

Her response:

At this time I do not have budget funds available for another family columnist.

She probably knew that in May. She felt so uncomfortable even writing something that said "No" without coming right out and saying it (a skill honed by all southern belles), that she didn't even sign her name. What a shame that she does not know she gave me a gift. She freed me from putting that issue on my to-do list every week and empowered me to at last go out and seek another opportunity. Thank you Sally Jane!

I do not mean to imply that I took any pleasure in getting the "No." Of course not. It hurt my fragile feelings. It was scary. It made me feel uncertain and unsure of myself. But what service would I have done me or this editor had I avoided ever pressing the issue and getting a real answer? We would have both ended up fully annoyed with the other; her because I constantly called and pestered and me because I felt strung along.

When responding to someone's request that you cook 10 cakes for the church rummage sale, babysit her five children for a week while she flits off to Hawaii, or that you chair the committee to run the snakes out of the downtown sewer drains, remember the old adage, No means no, and the quicker you say it, the sooner she can ask some other sucker who will say "Yes."

Likewise, go out and ask for all the crazy things you need or want from other people, without worrying that someone might (probably will) say "No." Because, No means no. It does not mean, "You're stupid. You're ugly. I think you stink. No one has ever asked me something so ludicrous in all my born days. Get yourself back to the farm," or any other insult you can conjure up in your head.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but "No" can never hurt me, because all no means is no.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Repeat it until you believe it. Then repeat it some more for good measure.

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