November 4, 2006

The Opposite of Yes

In undergrad I went on a date with a guy who almost immediately repulsed me. He called up for another date a week later and I made up an excuse about being busy. Soon thereafter he called to ask me to a formal dance.

"Maybe," I said.
"What do you mean?"
"Maybe," I repeated carefully, stalling for time while trying to think of a polite way to get out of the conversation without telling him that he was a slimy creep.
"Can you or can't you?" he asked, confused.
"I might be busy that night..."
"Just say yes or no!" he said, sounding a little disgusted.
"Well...I'm not sure..."
"Yes or No!?"
"I don't think so..."

He hung up on me and I never heard from him again.

I can't say no. I simply can't. Try me - perhaps I'll give some weak unenthusiastic response, maybe even a painful grimace and squirm, but I rarely return the word 'no' to friends' or family's requests. My most terrible can't-say-no experiences were in dating and boy, things got ugly.

Obvious Disclaimer - I say no all the time to my toddler. But this doesn't count since she seems to think it means yes.

Favorite tactics for avoiding a "no" situation include:

Saying yes
Pretending I didn't hear the person
The "I'll call you back" line
Changing the subject
"You're cutting out"
Lighting myself on fire

I was dating a really sweet guy named Shad when I met my husband. But Spike and I experienced the elusive "love at first sight" and I instantly forgot Shad existed. I did'nt return any of Shad's calls and avoided him on campus. A few weeks later Spike and I were sitting on the couch on my front porch (don't you love college living?) when Shad walked up. I was snuggled firmly under Spike's arm and giggling. "Hi, Hollywood," Shad said politely, pretending not to notice my entire left side was superglued to Spike's. "Would you like to play tennis with me this weekend?" "Maybe..." I replied, feeling 1 inch tall as I did. Of course, that was the end of Shad. I feel terrible about it to this day but the alternative was to be honest with him which I was in no way emotionally mature enough to do. It's a good thing I got married because I was a disaster in the dating pool.

These days my 'no' dilemmas are more subtle. Do I want to take on a new important job in my church organization? "Well...if you think it's the right thing..."

Do I want to vote Republican? "It's better than voting Democrat..."

Do I want to wear skirts to church every Sunday "If women didn't suffer so much, we'd be no better than men."

There are lots of creative ways of saying no. I just thought I'd run out of them years ago. Some call me 'diplomatic' others say I'm evasive and rude. I prefer to agree with the former but have a feeling the others are on to something.


Th. said...


Problems with the World #45

And now we know who to blame.

Lisa M. said...

I SUCK at saying no, too.

We should form a club.

I do, by the way, miss, college living.

Oh so much.

(why again, was I in such a hurry to grow up?)

kaff said...

I remember those stories! You always cracked me up. If I didn't like Adam so much I wish you were still dating just to hear the disaster stories.

Catherine said...

Shad was so nice too...

Boys are the hardest to say no to. One time a guy sent me a huge bouquet and promised to buy my love with Chanel parfum. He said I was good enough to marry.

Then I went back to Provo. He called the first week. When I heard his voice on the phone I set it on my bed and ran out of the house to the neighbors house.

After a few minutes, my polite roomate took pity on the phone and picked it up and told the poor guy that I was gone and she didn't know why.

I got a very nasty letter in the mail demanding a return of the souvenir tee shirt and earphones and that explained why I was total dirt.

All this so as not to hurt his feeling by saying "no".

Anonymous said...

Wait, was Shad's last name Solis?

Sarah said...

Not Solis. As unanonymous as this blog is, I would hate for poor Shad to ever find this entry. So in efforts to preserve his true superhero identity, lets just say his last name starts with "R" and ends with "oberts."

Poor dear.

Torchness said...

Well... what I actually meant was getting your tonsils out as an adult sucks compared to getting them out as a kid. Frankly I'd still recommend it if you have frequent throat problems, because I haven't had strep since. I thought it was painful just because I was bleeding from my nose for a week too (got both at the same time). My vote is you take a week off, come home, get it done, and have your mom take care of you. :) Worked for me.

Anonymous said...

Well luckily Adam came along or you would still be playing tennis with Shad or have little Shads running around.

pinoy stupid said...

Sometimes you just have to say NO to people. You have to get used to the fact that there will be times when we have to reject people or let them down by saying what potentially could be the strongest 2-letter word. I know sex is the strongest 3-letter one. LOL.

Adrienne said...

Okay, is this a window in the the Mormon dating world?? Never calling back and then dating someone else without telling them? Putting the phone down and just LEAVING THE HOUSE when they call?

Good thing you guys marry early. You! Out of the dating pool! ;)

Or, is it maybe just a girl thing? Because we're taught to be affable and polite and "no" isn't affable OR polite?

chronicler said...

How have I missed you? I clicked on you through NaBloPoMo link and found you. (I'm giving it a try too!) Then come to find out you have my sis and my friend Lisa as links. Hmmmmm.

I love this post. It so reminds me of every person I knew in college. heh.

caroline said...

ahh sarah, i like having a sneak preview on your stories.
are you coming for christmas?

Suzie Petunia said...

That's funny... I was going to ask if Shad's last name started with a "V" ... cause I dated that Shad in high school. Shad can't be that common of a name, can it?

As for saying "no"... I'm a pro. I can give you lessons. For now, try saying it in another language to soften the blow.

I had a bad date (2 dates) with a guy and felt lucky and grateful when he actually ASKED if he could see me again so I COULD JUST SAY NO!

Sarah said...

You could run into some problems with the "no in another language" thing. Most romanic languages just say 'no.' But say some guy asked me if I wanted to go on a date and I replied with the German 'nein.' They would probably think not only do I want to go out, but I wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than nine dates.

But there are a plethora of linguistic options. I found this great website that tells you how to say no in over 520 languages! Why didn't I know about this in college?

Catherine said...


Could it be that the reason Mormons get married young is nothing more than that they can't say "NO" to the man who asks their hand?