Right now I’m thinking of a text I got from an ex-boyfriend I broke up about four years ago. The text showed up on my phone about eight months after the breakup. He began the text by saying he would like back the padlock I borrowed from him. What padlock? It took me a minute before I remembered that it was the lock he once loaned me when I went to the gym. NOW he wants his lock back? He also droned on about how the lock came in a set . . . that it was a handy way to lock his gear at the gym . . . blah-blah-blah.
But there was more. This request mutated into a hopeful invitation to “catch up” and “hopefully remain good friends.” There it is. Ugh, I hate being put on the spot like that, even if it’s just a delete-able text. Should I take the high road and respond? Or realize his thinly veiled appeal to remain “good friends” a way to hook up.
Dating this guy wasn’t the most regrettable thing I’ve done. There were a few good things about him. He shared my politics and worldview. We enjoyed eating at new restaurants. But . . . there was the way he chewed his food with his mouth open. Gag. And when we went out to eat, he would find something to complain about to the wait staff . . . Every time. And the nagging. . . oh god, the nagging about what I wasn’t doing correctly, soon enough, or enough of in general.
When it came to responding to his text, something occurred to me: “I don’t want to.”
I now shake my head at how much I struggled rationalizing not wanting to remain “good friends.” I think I’m like a lot of women. I have difficulty expressing what I want or need, especially if what I want will make someone unhappy. We women have been socialized to please others. To apologize if what I do or say might make someone else feel even slightly uncomfortable.
These days I feel increasingly more comfortable saying no when it’s in my best interest. A few years ago, a guy asked me for a date while I was at my favorite dive bar. He just couldn’t accept my courteous, but to-the-point, “no, thank you.” He kept asking, “Why not?” as if I had to justify my not wanting to date his dumb ass. After too many minutes of his pestering I looked at him straight on and said, “I just don’t want to.” This Casanova was so unprepared for my comeback he just slithered away. And you know what? The guy left me alone after that . . . Nothing else happened.
After two weeks of my classic procrastination, I finally responded to my ex’s text. I didn’t want to hold his padlock hostage; he could have it back if it meant that much to him. But I had to ask myself one more time, Do you want to stay friends with him? Again, my answer: I don’t want to. So, I typed:
“Hi. Of course we can and should be on friendly terms. But getting together to catch up is not something I’m interested in right now. Thanks anyway. I have your lock for you on my door to pick up. Thanks”
Almost immediately, he responded,” I’m sorry you feel that way . . .” plus more blah-blooey-blah-blah.
From now on, I pledge the following:
- If someone wants something from me, and if I want to say no, I will say “no thanks” or just “no.”
- I will not do something I don’t want to do just because it would make someone else feel a little more comfortable.
- Within reason and with tact and grace, I will not be afraid to express my feelings.
- I will not rationalize or argue for how I feel.
This was truly teachable moment in my life. I feel more comfortable knowing what I want. I will not apologize for it. By the way, I still have the padlock.