Switching my default response

If you asked my child what my favorite word was, without hesitation, he would respond: no.

No has been my go-to word for a while now.

I felt a certain sense of pride in saying no when asked to do things I didn’t want to do, things I felt infringed on my personal time and space.

Being raised by two independent women taught me to speak my truth long before it was some kind of personal development rally cry.

And my truth was usually “No.”

Did I want to get together?


Did I want to volunteer for something?
Um, not really.

Would I like to watch someone’s kids while they ran errands?
Absolutely not – my house was not childproof. Yes, I knew I had a child. However, my house was not childproofed for other people’s kids.

No was my favorite response and reaction.

I heard my friends getting sucked into things they didn’t want to do, and they were miserable.

“If you didn’t want to do it, why did you say yes?” I asked once.

I knew the answer before they said it.

They didn’t want to disappoint someone or let them down. A lot of women are raised to be accommodating and to put everyone else first, even if it causes them to neglect themselves. A lot of women, except for those raised by Helen and Jean, feel that way, that is.

I have joked to my girlfriends that any time they needed me to say no on their behalf, I would be happy to. Delighted, thrilled, ecstatic even.

My child knows no is my initial response, yet, he still tries.

“Can I –?”
He sighs, knowing not to press the issue because I can dig my heels down in a no and make it stick.

In professional settings, my variation is a softer “no, no.”

I don’t want to seem quite as unyielding, so I put the extra one in as a gentle decline.

It had worked so well, of a number of years, this whole no thing.

Until one day, I heard some friends talking about an outing they had over the weekend.

I was kind of hurt; why hadn’t they asked me to go?
“You always say no,” I was told.

True. I do love my no. And being an introvert makes me also avoid most social gatherings like the plague.

But what they did sounded fun. I may have actually said yes this time.

My no wasn’t set in stone – was it?

Did it seem like it was?

“You would have said it was too far, or we’d get back too late,” my friend said.
That did sound like something I would say.

Or, I had too much to do, or I had plans.

Plans that involved putting on yoga pants and watching Hallmark Movies & Mysteries while looking at cat videos on social media.

“We figured you couldn’t go so we just went without mentioning it.”

Had my no become so standard and common that people were pre-emptively using it on my behalf?

I did not like this.

Sure, I liked saying no, but I wanted it to be my no, my choice.

It was my no to use, gosh darnit.

“If we go back, we’ll ask you,” my friend promised. “But you will probably just say no.”

“No, I won’t,” I said. See – I found a way to work in a no.

“Yes, you will.”
“No, I won’t.”
Perhaps I needed to change my default in some way. A slight tweak.

I had missed out on a great afternoon; what else had I missed on by saying no all these years?

Had my love for the no caused me to stop saying yes to everything that was potentially good?

“So, you will go if we go back?”


“Maybe?” My friend groaned.

It wasn’t as harsh as no; didn’t feel as locked in as yes.

It had so much open-ended potential that could give me the opportunity to decide if I really wanted to do something or not.

Maybe is my new favorite word.

The judgment of small talk

Being an introvert makes social situations a little challenging at times.

Even when it is with people I like or want to know better, I find gatherings quite hard to deal with.

It’s not that I hate people, mind you. Even though I do prefer the company of animals to most humans, that is not it.

No, it’s the small talk that does me in.

I loathe small talk.

I can talk at length about things that range from random trivia to deeper subjects but the tedious ‘getting to know you’ questions and chatter drive me batty.

Mainly because the mundane conversation can be used to judge and people have sorely forgotten how to be polite and inquiring without belly flopping right into someone’s personal life.

“Are you married? Do you have kids?”

If you answer no to either question, you can bet the next question is “Why not?”

People sometimes forget one is not necessarily a precursor to the other, which can make for some uncomfortable exchanges.

But perhaps the most annoying one is, “What do you do?”

Such a simple question really.

But one that is very loaded.

Depending on your answer, people are going to decide how to treat you.

If you say you are a doctor or other professional, people will treat you with respect.

If you say you have a blue collar job, their reaction may be a little different.

It’s wrong, but it is something I have witnessed far too often.

I was raised to treat everyone equally, and to not let their job title dictate the level of respect they received.

Yet, that one simple question carries a tremendous amount of weight to it.

Many times, people feel like titles and what they do for a living defines them, and sometimes, it can.

We do tend to get caught up in our jobs and worry about the image we are projecting into the world.

I have met a few people who let you know with every breathe what they did for a living and how important they were.

And, I have known folks who were humble and down to earth that did not need any kind of recognition for their positions.

In parts of Europe, it is considered rude to ask someone what kind of work they did. It is a matter of pre-judging someone.

Deciding if the person was worth getting to know. Evaluating if the person’s net income would put them on equal footing with us.

And trying to size up if the person can be valuable to us in any way.

I hate this question and it’s kind of hard to avoid it when you are in most social situations.

“I don’t care what someone does for a living,” I told Mama one day. “I don’t care what their level of education is or if they have a big, important job. And if their opinion of me is only based on how I earn a living, they can stick it.”

Mama gently agreed. “Well, Kitten, you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat their wait staff in a restaurant. If they are rude to them, they will be rude to others, too. You weren’t raised to be that way so it is a bit hard for you to understand.”

It reminds me of how someone I knew once whined she was ashamed of her fiancé’s job and didn’t know if she could marry someone who “wore his name on his shirt.”

“Lots of people have their names on their uniforms,” I tried telling her.

“Like who?” she sniffed.
“Doctors, for one. Cops have name badges, too. There is nothing wrong with wearing your name on your uniform.”

She never saw my point, but I am sure she is the type that uses the small talk question of “what do you do” to decide if someone was worthy of her or not.

The good thing about small talk is people usually aren’t listening; they are waiting to respond with more stuff about themselves.

“What do you do for a living?” someone asked me recently.

“Whatever it takes,” I replied.

Thankfully, they didn’t even notice.



Mama’s last bastion of communication (7/1/2015)

Who ever created texting, thank you.

From the bottom of my introverted heart, I am grateful.

I truly have grown to loathe talking on the phone. Phone calls have become more of a nuisance than a form of communication for me in the recent years.

Outside of work related calls, I only talk to three people on the phone – Mama; my soul-sister and partner in crime, Sara Jean; and my sister-in-law, Karla.

Sara Jean and Karla typically use modern methods of communication, sending a text or a private message. And if they do call, I know it’s important.

If the phone rings and I don’t recognize the number, I don’t answer it. I know it is a telemarketer or a wrong number.

Since I don’t have voicemail (don’t ask me why, but I won’t check that either), I always just check the number online later. That’s when I find out it is a robo-call about switching satellite services or someone else trying to sell me something.

Mama, however, freaks out every time the phone rings.

She will call me at all hours of the day to Google a number for her, convinced who ever called her has an ulterior agenda.

“Mama, if you don’t know the number – don’t answer,” I will tell her.

She can’t do that. She has to answer. She retired from the phone company, so I guess it is ingrained in her to answer every ring-a-dingy she hears.

“What if it’s important?” she wants to know.

“They’ll call back.”

“What if they don’t?”

“Then it wasn’t important. Or they can text.”

Mama says, of course, that it may be a landline and the person may be unable to text.

“Do you ever answer your phone?”


I don’t.

I will if she calls and I am not busy, but Mama’s preferred time to call is when I am in the middle of work, and she has an emergency. Her emergencies typically involve the aforementioned Googling of a number, or could I maybe tell her what day the “NCIS” marathon is on this week – “You can find that on the computer, can’t you?” she will ask.

Sometimes, she will text. But God forbid she sends a text and I don’t respond with lightning fast speed. She will call. And if I am not able to answer, she does the unthinkable. She sends the sheriff out to my house.

She’s done it before, and has threatened to do it again.

“Mama, you need to just get rid of your landline if you are going to have a conniption every time the phone rings and you don’t know who it is,” I said.

“I am not getting rid of my phone. Some people still believe in talking on the phone,” was her response.

Why in the world would anyone do that?

Granted, when I was younger, I loved to talk on the phone.

I ran up phone bills so high, had Mama not had to pay them, she may be living in high cotton today. I truly doubt it, she would have just blown it at the mall on something I needed like hairspray or shoes.

But now, I cringe anytime I have to talk on the phone.

Not Mama.

She is holding on to the last bastion of communication – believing the landline and talking on the phone are the way to save civilization.

“The world took a trip down the toilet when we started all this ‘LOL-ing, texting and nonsense,” she said.

Since Mama is not up to date on her emojis or her texting shorthand, she thinks the rest of the population are struggling to keep up.

“Mama, texting and technology have helped make things much simpler,” I gently reminded her.

She still doesn’t like it. I can be in the middle of a text response and she will call before I finish.

“Did you get my text?”

“I did and was replying – you don’t have to call to see if I got it.”

I could understand if she had just started texting, but she’s been texting for years. And just as long as she’s been texting, she’s been calling to see if I got her text.

She commented to me recently she needed a new phone, but expressed great ire at the only available option being a Smart phone.

“I am not using one of those things, I don’t want it. I want my flip phone, thank you very much – I am used to this and I don’t know why I have to change,” she said, exasperated when I told her what she would have to get.

“Mama, everyone else is using smart devices. You can figure it out.”

I paused to add an incentive: “You can FaceTime with Cole and get to see him.”

She thought about this for a moment before deciding it probably wouldn’t work and would result in further frustration.

“I don’t know why people can’t just use the phone the way God intended,” she said. “And I don’t know why you hate the phone so much now and act like it is such a great inconvenience.”

Because it is. Just because it rings, does not mean I have to answer it.

“A lot of what’s wrong with the world is people quit talking to one another. You get on SlapFace, and text and it’s not the same as really talking to people. And that includes talking on the phone, too, Kitten.”

Mama may have had a point. Maybe we as a collective whole did stop talking – really talking to one another at some juncture, and replaced it with emojis and “likes” instead of really giving our feedback and attention.

Maybe we should make it a point to try to communicate with one another better, make an effort to see how folks are doing, even if it means, horrors of horrors, calling someone.

People may like to know someone cares and want to share what’s going on in their life.

Besides – if it is important, I’m sure they will just text it anyway.

queue here

Meltdown in the checkout lane (3/4/2015)

I sometimes think people have lost all sense of boundaries and personal decorum.

I’m not talking about selfies and technology driven issues, either.

I’m talking about when folks are in stores. Rudeness has become the standard on aisle four and in the deli.

I am not even talking about how people like to stop and hold conferences in the aisles at the store.

Or how they will bump into you with their buggy as they pass, with half an aisle to spare.

I am talking about when I am trying to unload my buggy and the person behind me feels like it will somehow speed up the process by tossing their stuff up there before I am finished.

Or they get really, really close to me. As in hover so close to me that I have to say, “Excuse me,” when I bump them to get my wallet out of my purse.

It makes me feel claustrophobic and nervous.

As an introvert, I feel very uncomfortable with a stranger having such close proximity to me.

As a human being, I also feel like it is the height of rudeness.

But people -most people, anyway-seem to have lost all sense of personal boundaries and proper public behavior.

Sadly, I was less shocked by seeing a girl walk in wearing a bikini once than I was by the man behind me that just saddled on up beside me to buy his pack of Marlboros while I was still handing my coupons to the cashier.

I shot the guy a sideways glance as if to say, “Back up, buddy,” but he didn’t seem to notice.

Another time, as I was in line, a man just appeared from nowhere and proceeded to cut in front of me in line. I actually called him out on it.

“You go ahead,” I said. “Whatever you are doing is evidently so much more important than what I have to do.”

It was urgent, after all, he had to load his card so he could save 10 cents on gas.

I get so frustrated and upset, I have gotten to the point I hate shopping of any kind.

Cole tries to be my buffer, but he is just a child.

In Aldi once, a man started placing his items up on the checkout belt while I was unloading.

The look on my face must have been horrific – I wanted to say something snarky and rude but my raisin’ wouldn’t allow it.

Evidently, my generation was the last to believe in having any kind of decorum.

Cole turned around until he made eye contact with the man’s wife, who tried to stop the man.

“I think that lady is still putting her stuff up there, honey,” she said.

He tossed a box of rice on the belt.

Cole grabbed it and handed it to the wife who finally made her husband realize he was tossing his items up there with mine.

When Cole turned back to me, he said my face was as red a pepper.

“I got this, Mama,” he said. “I won’t let them make you have a meltdown.”

Why can’t people take two seconds and realize they are not the only ones in the world and see how rude they are being.

If they aren’t all up on my backside, they are cutting in front of me. Cole wanted a sub sandwich at the deli one day. I had stood in line behind two people for about 15 minutes, when some rude lady approached and cut in front of me as the folks ahead of me moved away with their order.

Personally, I think the deli person should have known the lady was not next – I was – because I had been standing there so long.

Maybe I was wearing my cloak of invisibility that day. Or putting on a good imitation of a statue.

“Sometimes, I swear, I hate people,” I mumbled getting in the car.

Lamar didn’t say anything, because he knows I can turn on him like a feral cat if he says the wrong thing.

“You need to be my buffer,” I told him.

“You’re what?”

“My human buffer. You need to go in stores with me from now on – none of this sitting out here, napping. You need to go in there and make sure no one gets all up on me in the checkout and maybe help me run interference so people won’t cut in front of me.”

Lamar didn’t say a word -again, I can go feral cat.

“Maybe you need to speak up,” was Mama’s suggestion.

But in a world of road rage, it can be scary.

Even scarier, I am the type that takes and takes and takes and when I reach my limit, I am the scary one. I don’t want to do that. I would probably be escorted by police officers out of the store. Maybe wearing handcuffs.

After visiting Mama the other day, we stopped in Barnes & Noble.

As we went to checkout, I noticed the sign that said: “Please wait here until called by the next cashier.” What a lovely idea, I thought. A queue to give boundaries and parameters.

Some banks have the queue and even the ones that don’t, people have some cognizance it is not acceptable to get all up on someone while they are taking care of business.

Banks and bookstores apparently have a higher level of decorum, keeping the sales transaction sacred, away from rude, overzealous people.

Why can’t all the other stores have those signs or the little metal rails to get through?

But they don’t.

The rest of the world has just lost any and all civilization it once had.

And it all started at the grocery store.