A while back, a friend of mine (whom I will not name, nor will I draw too much attention to as he is both white and male, but mostly because I honestly don’t think he wants the attention or the credit, so he will remain nameless and referred to only as a he/friend :) said something to me after I asked him something regarding his toddler daughter that I cannot remember now (&was clearly, largely unimportant) to which he responded (&I’m paraphrasing here as I am also too lazy to go into my DMs to get an exact quote), “When she says, ‘No,’ I completely surrender so that I can model what should happen if she says ‘No’ to a man.”
I thought about this for a long time, not because I didn’t agree with what he was saying, but rather, because there was something clearly deeper at work, but my mind couldn’t quite come up with it on the spot. Obviously, I cheered him on and encouraged him, like I would any father who has taken on the parenting role of father head-on, but what he said to me has been brewing in the back of my mind for some time now, and I finally have a little something of a nugget about which to write.
Perhaps he’s on to the nugget of truth that in America (perhaps in other places as well, but I can only speak to white [yes, I am Korean, and I recently learned in Franchesca Ramsey’s book that I’m technically transracial…as in, born of a specific race but transplanted, i.e. adopted, into another racial custom, not ‘transracial’ like the disgusting trend of not-black folks posing as black] American life with confidence) ‘No’ doesn’t mean No. And the sad thing is, I cannot even count how many times I’ve heard men (boys, who am I kidding) say things akin to, “99 Nos and 1 Yes is a Yes,” etc.
And then all of this made me realize that if Americans are unwilling to respect someone’s “No,” then they are quite literally incapable of respecting anyone at all. Everyone loves a Yes-Man, but a No-Woman is seen as troublesome. So, there it is.
“I can’t breathe.”
In America, No doesn’t mean No. It means nothing at all, which means that words, as a whole, largely have no meaning here in These United States.
But that can all change! It’s easy.
We need to respect the words coming out of each other’s mouths.
No matter how much we may disagree with them, no matter how flawed we believe them to be, no matter how uncomfortable the words are making us, we all have the right to say what we want, to be heard, and to hear. But this does not mean that your words have no consequence. In order to truly be heard, we need to be creatures that can hear, can see, can understand the truths of each other. We don’t live in a simulation. If we did, we could all feel the underlying programmed truth &or reality. We live inside our own heads with our own brains that interpret the world for us in our own unique way. This means that in order to get inside each other’s heads, we must speak, communicate, use words (&yes, obviously, people who are incapable of using their physical voices are quite able to communicate with words). This also means that in order for you to successfully get inside someone else’s head, you must listen to what they are saying; you must hear them.
There are no right answers to life.
There is no right way to live.
There is only the right to live.
When someone says something to you, and you say, “No,” to be disrespected and not heard means that that person does not care about your right to your own life. They desire to control you. They see you as a piece in their life. The people who respect your Nos are the ones who ask you why you’re saying no in the first place. Imagine if, when a coworker (or whoever) says no to you, instead of becoming frustrated or upset that they’re not going to “do something for you,” you simply asked why they’re saying no. Maybe it’s because you’re perceived as lazy so they don’t want to help you out. Maybe they’re just tired because they were up all night with the baby, and they just need a break today. Maybe they just don’t want to, and it’s none of your business why; do it yourself, etc. The bottomline is that the reason for their “No” matters a lot less than the fact that they’re saying it.
Yea, of course, we all have to do stuff we don’t like (which is obviously my concern when hearing this strategy from a parent), but the larger, more important Truth is that we need to respect the words that come out of each of our mouths. Perhaps if we do this, we will be more careful about what actually comes out of our mouths because now we actually feel like someone is hearing us, listening to us, validating our right to life.