Thursday, May 20, 2010

Just say no

I went to buy dog food for our JackChi yesterday. Her name is Sparkle, we've had her for three months and she's an amazing rescue dog. But this post is not about her. I bought her some Solid Gold Just a Wee Bit adult dog food. The one guy at the PetCo that seemed to know stuff about the products recommended it to me. It was also ok'd by our Vet neighbour Susie. You probably know him. He's the one that all the other employees call over when you ask them a question. But then again, I'm not writing about dogfood. Not today anyway.

I bought the big case and ambled to the counter. It was my luck that the manager was at the checkout counter. I think it was AP exam week and all his highschool worker bees must have taken the day off. I stood in line and watched as he did three cross sells and then closed by finally asking the lady in front of me if she wanted to donate $5 today to the dog cancer society.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am very much in favor of science and research. I also like to help people and do what I can for the environment. I just do not like being pressed into it.

It gave me great pleasure therefore to stand there and say a curt 'No' or 'No thanks not today' for each cross sell and the $5 donation.

As I walked out, I felt a calmness and contentment. It was a comfort in the belated realization that when I said worked extra hard to please people I didn't know, the end result was that I would walk away feeling slightly cheapened or deeply irritated. Being a consensus builder and agreeable are great traits; I value them both. I also know now that I don't need to exercise them all the time.

There was this guy Bob. A balding African American man that showed up at the game room at Haverford College to play ping pong. I always beat him, altho he played well. I would subsequently spend 30 - 45 minutes listening to him talk. About any topic of his choice. I just did not know how to say 'sorry Bob, have to go' and walk away'.

I went into a RadioShack when I was 14, to look at radios. We looked at a model and the salesman sold himself to me. I didn't realize this till later. While it was more expensive than I would have liked and not what I wanted, I fought with my father about it because I didn't want to let the salesman down.

The problem was that this was the result of perfectly good middle class values and a community upbringing. When you are taught every day to think about other people and do more for others, it is then a confusing thing (at least for me) to throw those ingrained values out the door the moment you were talking to a stranger or a vendor. I think part of this is that I did not develop a strong notion of an inner, middle and outer circle of loyalty.

So how did I learn to start saying no? The good news is that after life pounds the decency out of you and beats you down to a pulp, you start to realize the need for self protection. The awareness comes slowly and you hold it close to your heart and look around surreptitiously, checking to see who else saw it delivered. There's this guilt you have to overcome about abandoning childhood values. You can circumvent this by saying that this is a more sophisticated treatment of those same values.

The conversion comes the very first time you use it. You say it.
It's foreign. Scary even.
What's even more frightening is the feeling afterwards. The relief, the load off your shoulders. The unwanted responsibility now turned into a polite, yet diffident negation.

Why in the world did I not do this before?

That was my general refrain once I started swinging the No hammer.


Damn, does it feel good.


  1. lovely post,Branavan.
    another thing i totally hate about middle class upbringings is that, we cant read menus from left to right :P
    i still havent succeeded.i dont think my father has either.

  2. I need to learn this. I have not mastered it yet. I fear letting people down.

  3. @rhea. Maybe this blog should just be about bourgeois whimsies. I know there certainly are a lot of them

    @DeeAnne By no means am I a master. It's like Yoda that word. Small, and packs a real punch

  4. Interesting post. well written.
    Although I am proud of my middle class upbringing. It taught me honesty, integrity and of course to value money.

  5. Thanks Godot.
    A middle class upbringing does have its values. Including those that make you read menus from right to left as Rhea points out.

  6. aww the man calls me Rhea :)
    also i am linking your blog to mine.

  7. This is good or bad? I can adapt as necessary.
    Oh and I only got the right to left comment last night. I started laughing in the dark and startled our unsuspecting dog, who I will have to blog about soon.

  8. Sigh. A lesson I learnt the hard way, but not yet mastered fully. :)

  9. @shail. yes indeed. This lesson is a lifetime of learning