a Barak & Sheba Article

I said, "NO."
Monday Mar 9, 2015

“No.” It's a one word sentence. It is clear. It is concise. It doesn't require explanation. It doesn't invite debate. It can be enunciated gently, harshly, or somewhere in between. But the meaning is undeniable, unmistakable and irrefutable. If this is the case, then why do people have so much trouble with it?

Let's chat about this for a few moments.

Not so long ago, Sheba and I went to Orlando. We had been working and working and working… and felt we needed a break from reality. Upon checking the calendar, we miraculously discovered that we both had a 4 day opening in our respective calendars that actually overlapped. So, where should we go? What should we do? Sheba’s eyes gleamed and she immediately gushed, “to the home of all my favorite princesses! Disney!

With a little help from American Airlines and an old flight waiver, we were soon on our way. Let me tell you, just the warm Florida air in an Ohio Mid-winter was enough to brim tears of joy. Once we had our rental car, GPS set up, and hotel squared away… it was off to our first stop: Epcot Center! Then, the next day, a fun-filled day of the Magic Kingdom… and Magic it was. I recommend if you don't have kids? Go during the off-season.

Finally, our last day arrived. We had to make it a good one… so we went to Universal Studios. So much fun! But all good things must come to an end, eh? And I don't want to digress about the wonders of each location – they were all amazing… event as an adults. Let’s get back on topic, shall we?

The No. We had just come out of one of our last rides of our weekend adventure – the MIB – Men In Black ride at Universal. Sheba had found a conveniently marked smoking area, and proceeded to indulge. I stood slightly upwind, and had just opened a conversation about this and that when a young man approached. He walked right up to Sheba. She turned slightly toward him as he asked, “Ma'am, may I have a cigarette?” Sheba, without much ado said, “No.” Then she angled back toward me.

I thought our conversation was going to continue, but apparently not. The young man stepped slightly closer and said, “Why not?” My immediate response was to close the distance and prepare for war; but Sheba waived me off. She turned directly toward the gent, and said, “They are mine. I don't owe you any explanation why I won't give you one or any. Now go away.” He stood for a brief second measuring… I am still not sure if it was the fact Sheba’s eyes were on fire… or perhaps it was that I was standing a half dozen feet away… but I have been banking on option number 1. Regardless, he retreated into the night.

Sheba looked over at me, and commented how ridiculous it was that her “No” required any justification. We spent the trip back on the Hogwarts Express discussing the challenge of her answer. Why is it that some people believe it's ok to question another adult's decision about what’s theirs? From their cigarettes, to their manner of dress to access to their body?

But interestingly enough, our experience with “No” wasn't over on this trip. We had dropped off the rental, and were on time for our flight, when we decided to grab a bite. We strode into one of the airport cafeteria style cafes and waited in line. When it came to order, we did so, and awaited our food. We had both elected for a 2 course meal – Coffee and a sandwich – and had placed our 4 items on the tray. As we were nearing the cashier, a harried looking woman stepped up to Sheba. She was looking around, and had a water and a banana clutched in her hand.

As she was talking, she was also edging in front of Sheba. She asked, somewhat dismissively, “Do you mind? I only have these two things.” Nodding to the less-than-person sized space in front of Sheba. Sheba shook her head negatively, and said, “Why yes. I do mind.” Then Sheba stepped forward slightly, further illustrating her point.

The woman stared at Sheba incredulously, and turned to me – possibly assuming we weren't together – and said, “Do you believe this? I just have these two items, and I don't know if I am going to be late for my plane, and she won't let me get in front of her.” I gestured to the dozen or so people behind us, and commented, “If she doesn't want to let you in, she doesn't have to. Each of these people has a couple things, or less. Each of them is waiting for a plane. Maybe you can start at the rear and get everyone to let you move up accordingly? The woman, exasperated, stalked to the back of the line, and continued to glare at us from there.

Truth is? Each one of us is worthy and valuable. There was this special workshop a while ago. In this class, the students learned about self-worth. You see, the instructor placed a chair on top of a table. It was explained that this chair was the single chair in a lifeboat. You could only pick one person, and once you did so, the others would surely die. Each person was asked to survey the room, then pick the person they were going to choose to sit in that chair. Once the choice was made, the student had to go around the circle, look each person in the eye and tell them the decision.

Round and round the students went. It was amazingly tearful – to tell a person that they had not been chosen, and because of your decision, they would have to die. Some people picked the young – because they had more life. Others picked the perceived “heros” – for they might do more good. Others picked the elderly or the infirm – believing they might not make the swim… Finally it was over, and all the students had gone through the heart-wrenching experience of telling each other who deserved to live and die.

They watched as the instructor stepped up and then spoke these words, “I would pick myself.” For a moment, the room was silent. Then the tears, the outrage, the protests… all echoed. And when the silence returned, the truth remained. For one reason or another, none had believed themselves worthy to take that seat.

Why is that story so important? Because we are worthy. We are worthy of the sanctity of our own property, of our own lives, or our own bodies. If I choose not to share? My seat on the lifeboat. My gum, my flogger, my tongue, my pictures, my thoughts, my genitals, my property, my personal space? That is my decision to make. MINE.

Every one of us has power and authority. Unfortunately, in today's society we are so invested in others feelings, we sometimes fail to honor/stand up for our own. Furthermore, there are many ways that our society has been conditioned to “get around” another person's decision… Whether it is questioning, challenging, demanding, guilting, negotiating, forced teaming, or other power-under or power-over games, but that would be a whole other article.

Regardless, we need to pay attention. It is important that we all respect the decisions of others – especially when it comes to a “No” or a “Yes.” Not just in the scene… but everywhere. Respect for other people, isn't just a momentary choice… it's an ongoing life decision – one that is invaluable.

Barak & Sheba

©2015 Barak & Brat Sheba

(return to main library page)