The summer of 2014, at the ripe age of thirty-five, I played the eighteen-year-old pubescent Ado Annie in the musical Oklahoma!
Having been born and raised in Oklahoma, I was very familiar with the show but had never been in it. Had never wanted to be in it. Probably some silly rebellion like not wanting to be a figure skater simply because your mom was one.
Ado Annie has a famous song all about how she can’t say “no” to the boys now that she has grown into her body and is flooded with attention.
I, too, have not been able to say “no” in my life.
Not only to unwanted attention from boys but to everything.
Is that because I grew up in Oklahoma?
Because I’m a woman?
Is it a boundary issue?
Perhaps it’s all of the above.
When I was growing up, if I didn’t want to do something, my mom would usually get me out of it. Looking back, we were kind of a pro team.
If a friend invited me to do something, but I didn’t want to do it, instead of my having to admit to my friend that I wasn’t interested, my mom would bail me out.
Sorry. I’d love to. But my mom won’t let me.
This was easy enough if I was on the phone with someone. I could verbally ask my mom, “Can I go to Susie’s house?” while simultaneously shaking my head no to let her know my true desire.
But what about in public? With the person right there?
Don’t worry. As I said, we were pros.
I would put myself between my mom and my friend, so my back was to the friend. As I asked, I would give my mother a very clear “face” as to what I wanted her response to be.
Even as she was saying no, I would argue with her, tell her how unfair she was being.
All to save face with the friend.
While this all felt great, or at least comfortable, I didn’t learn how to say no to things I didn’t want to do.
When I was sixteen, I worked in a local IGA grocery store. A twenty-five-year-old male coworker asked me out. I wasn’t interested but didn’t know how to tell him. So I told him I’d have to ask my mom.
That only gets you so far in life.
It’s not a cute look to be in your thirties and forties and still need your mom to fight your battles for you.
It’s still hard for me to say no to people. But I’m getting better at it.
Now, I’m just a girl who can sometimes say no.