Monday, May 23, 2011

The Inability to Say "No"

Yeah. This is me. I know why I can’t say “no” to my kids. Don’t get me wrong – I SAY it often but mostly I end up saying “yes” to avoid any prolonged ugliness. Some would call it “caving”. I call it “picking my battles”.

I have no problem saying “no” to telemarketers, door-to-door lawn chemical companies and traveling missionaries. I crack-up when my kids think I’m being rude to solicitors. Just once I want to put it in perspective for them. “Okay. We will get the lawn care services being offered by the cool looking guy in the cowboy hat and you can spend your summer watching from inside because you can’t go play in the now chemical-laden lawn and all of the summer drama camp money went to pay for this new form of entertainment. By the way, you do realize that it won’t be the cool guy in the cowboy hat fixing the lawn – right?”

Saying “no” to certain other adults is harder though. I really enjoy volunteering my time to community or school endeavors. Promoting and maintaining the arts for our kids is especially close to my heart. It seems downright selfish to withhold my ability to paint a set or a face. (I am particularly skilled at vampires, zombies and frogs.) Only time constraints and physical inability inhibit my involvement. Well, there was that one time when I had a strong personality clash with a certain director but even then, I knew that my continued involvement would not be beneficial to the play. And even then I was riddled with guilt enough to help with make-up for every performance.

But there is always that one person that it is impossible to say “no” to. It is the person who gives so much of themselves that to say “no” to them would put you squarely in the ugly step-sister/Madoff/King John realm. I would like to claim that she is a master manipulator but no – I put myself squarely in the path of her do-gooding.

For the next two weeks we are into what I call the “hell weeks” prior to a middle school production set in the 1920’s. My friend, (and I think I can call her that now since we bonded over the brown vs. black painting of a speakeasy platform and the make-up & costume transitions of numerous costermongers to Ascot attendees back to costermongers), is energetically flitting from one rehearsal to another. It amazes me how she so graciously handles the mysterious vanishing parent pool that to came to the original parent play meeting then – poof – are gone. But those of us that remain, in a secondary way, share in this crunch time and the pressure can manifest itself in odd ways.

Last night I had a dream. Generally I don’t remember my dreams and if I do – their meaning is pretty transparent. In this dream, a group of us were on a school bus and my friend turns to me and asks me, in her “it’s-okay-to-say-no-to-this-but-you-will-feel-like-crap-about-yourself-if-you-do” tone, if I will just help her out with some music event. She just needs a few people to fill out a little number that is kinda weak and needs some rhythm guitar in the back ground. Of course I agree. I remind her that I don’t play guitar. S’okay. We’ll get there early and I can get together with so & so who can get me up to speed. The thing is we need to get off that bus, run to her house, change into formal wear and get to the venue as this event happens to be that night. The bus drops us at some house I’ve never been to before and I am escorted to a closet filled with all sorts of showy clothes where I spend an inordinate amount of time on footwear buckles then rush back to the school bus.

Along the way to the event, the bus stops to pick up an unusual array of people. We get the local supermarket cashiers, my high school boyfriend whom I haven’t seen in over 20 years and Hoda and Kathie Lee. Goody. Comic relief. I’m gonna need it because just then I look down and realize that I am wearing Ga Ga-esque black leather Daisy Dukes, over-the-knee boots and a billowy, transparent black poet shirt with a chartreuse green bra under it. I think my hair may match the bra but there is no mirror handy for me to confirm this – just a gut feeling.

As I de-bus, my kids are there waiting for me. My philosophical oldest son is kindly saying something about finding my “inner alter ego” being cool at my age. My oldest daughter is shrieking, “Mom?! What?! Mom!?” and laughing hysterically. Only a mortified college student can do these both – like - simultaneously. (Her alarm is genuine as she had previously dubbed me her “little monochromatic mom” in high school once she got taller than me.) My ‘tween daughter is nervously wringing her hands not knowing if she should join in the circus revelry as any normal kid would want to do or mimic her older sister’s sophisticated, yet affectionate, disdain. My 11 year old son is wandering around looking for his friends so they can partake of their own form of entertainment which will probably involve ping pong balls, aluminum foil and lighters. But I can’t focus on my children’s reactions. I am busy looking to follow Hoda and Kathie Lee because I don’t really care what day of the week it is; I’m going to want some of whatever they are having – or at the very least – a sympathy make-over.

In my dream we all stream into an auditorium. There is my friend – decked out in an elegant evening gown. I am just starting to hate her but she rushes over to me saying; “It’s okay. It will all work out. It always comes together. Let’s go find so & so for your music. Did you bring any duct tape?” We find so & so and my friend flits off to be one of the other twenty places she needs to be right then. So & so looks at me with disdain and hands me a book of sheet music. Uh oh. Not having actually learned how to play an instrument, I really had no need to learn to read music.

Yes! I’m awake! Covered in sweat - but awake. Whew. Note to self: Make sure the electric blanket is not set at #6 in mid-May no matter how chilly and damp it is outside. I’d better get finishing the faux brick walls for the current set. I’ll let you know if they develop into head banging or wailing walls. Could go either way…