Here’s the thing, I have an extremely difficult time with an extremely simple word. In fact, I have the same problem in two languages. And, the word is so straight forward (seemingly). It rolls off the tongue. Easy to pronounce in French and in English. But, for me at least, it’s exceedingly difficult to break my brain connection to it and let it slip out of my mouth unencumbered by apologies and explanations.
|Cartoon by Charles Barsotti.|
I don’t know about you, and I suspect it’s a girl/woman thing. (I don’t think men are afflicted with the same malady, and good for them.) I have an impossible time with saying, “no” or “non“. Oh, of course, I can whip out a “no thank you” that’s easy. “No thank you, I think I’ll pass on that third — OK fourth — glass of Champagne.” Or, “no thank you, so kind of you to offer; we don’t need another storm window, how very thoughtful of you to call and ask during our dinner at 8:30 though.”
You get the idea.
Why is this I ask myself. What’s wrong with me, am I, at my age, still that insecure little girl who wants to please? Do I want everyone to love me? Why oh why, when someone asks an unreasonable favor of me or even a reasonable request, but because of circumstances I cannot comfortably say “yes” or “oui” — I’ll almost always say “of course, yes, oui” every time. Probably those of you who understand this “condition” have also experienced the side effects: resentment, snarky thoughts (if not behavior), stress.
Non is another reason why I so admire Frenchwomen. They say it with such ease and grace. “Non, I cannot take your children to rugby practice. Non, I cannot host the senior citizens’ Christmas party again this year. Non, you cannot bring all of your children and their friends to swim in our pool.”
By-the-way, they are also quite adept at saying non to their children. “Non, you may not have a third cookie,” for example. I have yet to meet a child over five who tries to argue the point.
And on it goes. They say each of their very firm “nons” with a smile. At no time do they feel obliged to launch into a lengthly explanation of how terribly sorry they are or how they wish they could comply or any other nonsense to soften the intent. At no time does one who hears the non believe it’s negotiable.
And, do you know why this is? I’ll tell you: because Frenchwomen don’t care if everyone likes them — or not. They are not out there doing handstands and back-flips for love and appreciation. They save their precious moments for what counts. Sometimes it’s simply to allow them to carve out alone time. They know instinctively that squandering precious time can cause wrinkles.