Saying "no" without having to consciously account for the potential consequences is something women have found challenging since the beginning of time. Whether it's turning down a potential suitor that you're just not into, or getting out of a girls' night you simply aren't feeling, we've learned to tiptoe around people's feelings, lest we offend them with our no-ness. We have to get so creative with our no-ness that some of us come up with a secret code word. One woman is sharing the "out" word she used with her mom as a kid, and it's giving the internet major flashbacks to all the times we've had to come up with a subtle way to get out of a situation, because "no" wasn't enough.
In a post on Reddit, user SnakesCatsAndDogs explains that as a child, she was very introverted and nervous. If a friend asked her to stay the night and she wanted to, she'd call up her mom and ask, "May I stay the night at so-and-so's?" If she didn't want to stay, she'd call her mom and say, "So-and-so wants to know if I can stay over tonight." When her mom heard that, she'd say no, giving her daughter an "easy" out so she had an excuse for the friend. Why? Because. Because saying, "I don't feel comfortable and would rather sleep in my own bed," just doesn't fly.
It's no surprise if you've been in that situation as well. I know I have. If a friend asked me to stay the night and I didn't want to, I'd call my mom and ask. If she said yes, I'd pretend she had said no. "Why, Mom? Come on. It's just one night." On the other end of the phone, she'd pause for a few seconds, obviously confused, before saying, "Oh...okay, I'll come get you in an hour."
"FINE, Mom. Whatever."
I can even remember faking sick.
We're not alone, either. Plenty of other women chimed in on their own "out" stories.
Even as kids, we were hyper-aware of how saying no might lead to our friends judging us. What if they thought we were lame for wanting to go home? What if they got mad? What if they excluded us from everything after that? Simply saying no without some kind of "valid" excuse — valid meaning something is preventing you from staying — had become off limits.
And it didn't end with sleepovers from our childhood. As adults, we still feel uncomfortable in our no-ness unless there's a concrete reason. Whether it's dinner with friends, a second date you don't want, or a work event you're not required to go to, "no" doesn't cut it, and "no, because I don't want to" certainly doesn't cut it. It might be, "I can't, because I have a dentist appointment," or "I can't, because I have to visit a friend in the hospital," or "I can't, because I couldn't find a sitter in time." You're required to provide an excuse — an obstacle you just couldn't overcome, and that's why you can't be there.
It goes without saying that it's a real drag we feel like we need an "out" even in adulthood. As grown-ups, we need to be so concerned that someone will take it personally when we say no, although it might not have anything to do with them.
It may seem like there's a simple solution here: all women need to do is hold steadfast in their no-ness. Yes. Fantastic. Why didn't we think of that before?
Oh wait, it's because even when we do say no, people will sometimes take it as a challenge and continue harassing us until they get what they want. If you don't think that's an issue, then you've clearly never heard of the Mary Sue Rejection Hotline. Allow me to introduce you.
The Mary Sue Rejection Hotline is a fake number you can give people (646-926-6614 — write that down) when they won't stop bugging you for yours. If and when that person calls or texts you, they'll either hear a voice recording or get a text back saying, "Oh, hello there. If you’re hearing this message, you’ve made a woman feel unsafe and/or disrespected. Please learn to take no for an answer and respect women’s emotional and physical autonomy. K THANKKS."
Badass? Obviously. But also depressing — because our culture is such that women have come to feel so uncomfortable, pressured, and even threatened by demanding men asking for their numbers that "no" doesn't get the job done anymore. "No" has mysteriously turned into, "You're going to have to try harder than that"; and some people love rising to the occasion. And if you think these situations don't ever leave a woman fearing for her safety, you're wrong: that's why the Mary Sue Rejection Hotline waits an hour to send the text message. That way, if they text you immediately so you have their number, they won't get that automatic response while you're sitting right in front of them.
In a better world, no is enough, end of story. You won't have to justify it, explain it, or make excuses. Unfortunately, the only way we'll get there is to stick to our guns, and not apologize for it afterward. NO. Period. No, I will not give you my number. No, I do not want to be touched like that. No, I'm not in the mood to go hiking with the girls. No, I will not take on your project at work.
No. No. No.