Saying No.

„If you don’t go out with them, they’ll never invite you again! You can’t say No!“ That was my mother’s way of blackmailing me into going to parties when I was a teen.

Yes, you have heard right, my mother had to blackmail me into going to parties. Because if I had had it my way, I would have stayed in my room with a book. Would have gotten lost in a world that was better and much easier to control than the real world and that hurt much, much less.

But there was this threat: If you say No just once, you’ll always be lonely. No one will ever like you. You have to make an effort every time or you’ll die lonely and alone and miserable.

It is a good threat. I didn’t want to be alone. Not really. I wanted to be left alone, alright, but I also wanted friends who actually liked me. And who knows? Maybe my Mom is right? She’s grown-up after all, she has experience, maybe she knows what she’s doing. Cause clearly, I’m not doing it right on my own.

So I went out. I said yes to every invitation I didn’t want to take.

And in a way, she was right. I remember one particular New Year’s party that I was dead set against. But she pushed me out of the door (“They’ll never invite you again! You’re going to die lonely!”) and the evening turned out to be quite nice. I was hardly being bullied at all and I even fell in love a little bit. I also wasn’t the worst player at darts or billiard that night. Yay me.

But in a way, she was wrong, too. I still don’t like parties. They are too big and too loud and too many people in one room are not good for me. I’ve learned by now that there are social interactions that work much better for me. Small groups, close friends, quiet settings. Or social media for bigger groups and international friends. I’ve listened to countless times of “Go out more or you’re never going to meet someone!” before I’ve met my husband – online, not at a party. Turned out to be a fine way to meet your significant other. But I can’t get rid of that nagging voice in the back of my head: “You can’t say No! If someone invites you, you have to take the invitation! They are going to hate you otherwise! You’ll die lonely!”

Bejeezus, what a scary thing to teach a child: “YOU CAN’T SAY NO!”

And to teach it so well that it is still engrained in the grown woman. So engrained, that I usually never even notice that I’m doing something I do not want to do. Because I believe I just don’t have a choice.

But I do. I have a choice.

So, dearest co-workers, no, I’m not going to watch the soccer game with you at a crowded pub tonight. I’m going home and watching it on the couch with my husband. Where I’ll tweet all about how the referee sucks. That’s what I’m going to do. It won’t be the most exciting thing in the world. But it’ll be fun and it’ll be safe. And it’ll be what I chose.

Because I’m allowed to say No.

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