Yes, No Means No

When we were kids, I’d often spend time with Reed, my mother’s brother, who was merely three years older than I was, so he seemed more like a cousin than an uncle to me. Or even at times like an older brother.

Often when we were in a group playing war games or kick the can or whatever, he could be very protective of me if the other kids, who were generally older than I was (they were usually his friends, after all) seemed to start picking on me, so there was that.

But when it was just the two of us, and Reed wanted to do something, he could be very insistent, and he’d never take no for an answer.

We might be sitting in the living room, and Reed would suddenly get the idea that he wanted to go outside and play catch. The dialog might go something like this.

“Hey, Jimmy. Let’s go play catch.” 

“Naw, I don’t wanna. I’m watching TV.” 

“Aww, c’mon. You can watch TV any time. Let’s go.” 

“No. Maybe later.” 

“Oh, you just wanna be coaxed. That’s it.” 

No, I didn’t want to be coaxed, I just wanted to watch whatever it was that was on TV, but Reed kept pestering me, and eventually I realized I couldn’t watch the program anyway, so I gave in, thus confirming in Reed’s mind, that, yes, I just wanted to be coaxed.

So we’d go outside and play catch. Or whatever.

Then I got older.

The first few years that I worked in Philadelphia in the early 80s at DPSC (the Defense Personnel Supply Center as it was known in those days) there was a woman named Dorothy who rode the same bus to work that I did. She worked in a different directorate, so I only got to know her from those early morning bus rides. She was a very pleasant woman with strong opinions, and she was reaching her retirement age.

Shortly after she retired, probably in about 1984, I happened to see her late one afternoon as I was walking home from somewhere. We stopped and chatted for a bit, and suddenly she noticed that we were standing right outside of a bar, so she said why don’t we go inside so she could buy me a drink.

Well, it was 5:00 in the afternoon, and I didn’t want a drink at that hour. Five years earlier and sure, that would have been happy hour for me, but not now, not this day, not at five in the afternoon.

The more I protested, the more insistent she became, and I’m sorry to say that we parted on somewhat unpleasant terms, and that’s the last time I ever saw her.

A few years after that I was living in an apartment in South Philly, and a neighbor called me up around ten on a Saturday morning and asked me to come over to his house. When I got there, I found he had invited several other neighbors because he had just finished some house renovations that he had been working on for several months, and he wanted to celebrate by pouring us all a glass of champagne.

He didn’t even give us a chance to say no.

Well, I’m not fond of champagne at the best of times, and at that point in my life I really didn’t like drinking alcohol in the morning at all. But no one else seemed to be objecting and not wanting to be the only spoilsport, and not being near enough to the kitchen sink to surreptitiously pour it down the drain, I drank the champagne along with the rest.

Why he couldn’t have invited us over for an impromptu party in the evening (or even a well planned party), I’ll never know. As it was, the champagne did what champagne normally does to me—gave me a slight headache, and left me somewhat grumpy for the rest of that Saturday.

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