I envied that girl and I’m sure most of you do too. Ultimately I became that girl and honestly, life is so much better now.
No is such a non-feminine word in this world that we are always scared to say it. It has traditionally been associated with a certain disregard for rules, headstrong ways and rebel personality traits.
But none of that was true of me. I was a sweet, patriarchy-raised, misogyny-fed, wholesome and homegrown version of a Pakistani woman. I was the antithesis of no. I was the woman that every Pakistani man dreams of making his bride and ultimately his family’s bellboy. I had all the necessary prerequisites to be a malleable sheet of nothing.
And I was that! For the longest time I was that. And that didn’t me any good.
For some reason my autopilot “yes” became an expectation. For that I hold people not responsible at all. That’s a huge problem with programmed responses. They create an expectation.
But soon the “yes” became inconvenient and even detrimental. It started to take over important principles that weren’t even so important anyway but were my principles nevertheless. Things like integrity, individuality and choice started to get threatened. So I started to selectively say no.
I was reminded that I was becoming unpopular. I was told that I wasn’t being invited places. I was even threatened with some social boycott. Honestly, when the very society that has abused you, threatens with a boycott, it appears a blessing.
“So you said no! What’s the big deal?” My naive husband said. “Is that why you’ve been excluded from trips and parties?”
My dear husband! He hasn’t breathed out of his male privilege enough to know that two humans can have very different experiences of life while living under the same roof.
“Yes”, I said. “I guess they’re upset I didn’t offer them our place when they visited”.
“Well did you tell them we were dealing with sick kids and we both work?”
“I sure did”.
“Okay then you can’t help stupid people”. And just like that patriarchy shrugged this huge problem off its shoulders. Something that had been bothering me for months.
But it was an epiphany! Like a lightbulb went off in my head. Like I saw the light for the first time. I compared my headless frenzy with my husband’s indifferent awareness of the conundrum. He didn’t feel like he had to fix it. He didn’t feel like my no deserved an explanation. He just shrugged at something he couldn’t help.
So ladies! Here’s my awakening. Here’s all of it. Here’s my coming of age, one more time. Here’s my entire story of learning to say no and not being ashamed at the no doing exactly what I intended it to do.