Years ago, I watched a film called Yes Man, starring Jim Carrey. The message of the film was to open yourself up to more opportunities in life by saying yes more – bollocks!
I was inspired to write this piece when the movie came on TV the other day and it made me think about my own experience of being a “Yes (wo)man”. Allow me to digress.
I grew up in a very normal Catholic household in Adelaide and had a regular childhood. When I was a teenager, I grew boobs and had a pretty face, so I started to be followed. One of my “crushes” was a boy named Jonathan Fitzgerald and he was one of the only boys who didn’t chase after me. It was the case of them staring at me while I stared at him. Eventually, he cornered me at a school dance and he asked if I wanted to have sex. No pleasantries, no nothing. You have to admire his gall! I was 16 and didn’t want to pass up the only opportunity I would probably have to be with him. So I said yes. And so I started to become the “yes girl”. I’d say yes to just about anything so I could be included. I ended up dating Jonathan and when he asked if I would let him kiss another girl, I said yes. I said yes to my own first heartbreak. I still didn’t realise I was being too much of a pushover and saying yes to things I didn’t want to say yes to. I should note that 10 years ago I did not try to sue Danny Wallace for plagiarism of my life story – I wasn’t really know as the “yes girl”, I wasn’t known at all for my ability to specifically say “yes’, but more so for being up for anything, and being easy to walk all over.
I’d say yes to giving lifts to far too many teenagers at once. I’d say yes to going to the creek at midnight to smoke stolen cigarettes. I’d continue to do this until I said yes to a man who asked me to marry him (note: not Jonathan Fitzgerald). I guess I was scared if I said no to someone or somebody that I was disappointing them. I felt the pressure to be at every event just so I didn’t let anyone down. I looked at the diamond ring Warren Kerry passed across the table to me and I just stared, wide-eyed. He said, “Well? What do you say?”….”Yes”. We were married in 1971 when I was 19 and I’ve never been more glum in my life. I was on the brink of tears all day. But my mother look at me and said, “Nancy, are you okay?”….what do you think my response was?
We were married for 7 years before I walked out the door. “Are you leaving me?” “Yes”, I said, and drove off. It was the first time I’d done something I actually wanted to do and I was able to step outside that fear that I felt. I realised that fear was not real and I never had anything to worry about – I just thought I did. I was trapped in my own prison. I went on to be remarried and have 2 children, whom I love and adore. And parents out there will know just how hard it is to say yes to a naughty child, so I got out of my habit pretty darn quickly.
A friend of mine recently had her youngest fly the coop and she was worried that she was going to have to be selfish. She is a retired customer service officer at a shopping centre and has been doing so much for so long for so many people. And as we sat down with the telly on, Yes Man came on the set and I turned to her and grabbed the remote, then turned it off. I pointed at the TV and told her to learn to say no. I think we forget to be selfish sometimes, especially our generation. We’re more generous and more homely than our children and grandchildren are or will be. We thrived off family and providing for people, and often forget that we need to look out for number one.
When was the last time you did something selfish? Are you more of a yes or a no person? Tell us below.