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The Grown-Ass Woman's Guide to: Saying No

You’re a grown-ass woman. For some reason these days that means this insane “having it all” dream, where you’re an entrepreneur and a part-time model and you have four kids and a boyfriend and a lover (IF YOU WANT) and a successful gardening blog and you are just constantly meeting “the ladies” for high-powered gin and tonics and shared appetizers.

The problem with this is that you just end up being an insane robot woman with a too-busy schedule, crying softly into the mat at your aerial yoga class while you think about how you’re going to have time to cook vegan, gluten-free dinner tonight before grown-up laser tag for company bonding reasons. Wooooooof. Take a break. (I think Kit Kat technically owns that phrase now, but London 2012 won’t let me use the word “summer” or “London” or “2012” so I’m taking back the night, language-wise, on this one. DEAL.)

As with badly-orchestrated high school make outs in the backs of Toyota Siennas, it can be helpful to remember that you can always say no to things. It can feel awkward to turn down well-intentioned invitations to nights out or book club meetings or whatever, but get over it, your time is all you have on this rock in the middle of vast, empty, nothingness, and if you want to spend it watching 4 episodes of Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals back-to-back instead of at the free drinks launch of a new anal bleach brand, that is fair enough. Here are some tips for making sure you’re not overloaded, taking some “you” time, telling everyone to leave you alone so you can test out different hair and make up looks all night, etc. etc. etc.

Look at your life. Look at your choices.

You can cut being overwhelmed off at the pass by thinking about what is really important to you for your happiness, life goals, and general well-being. Maybe a fitness routine is really important, but you don’t have time for early-morning pilates 5 x a week. Maybe you want to read a novel before bed at night but you can’t join a book club. Maybe big date night with your partner can only be once every ten days. Life is full of little, tiny things that steal hours from us over the course of a week, so you have to plan for some “free time” that will be anything but that, as well. Focusing on what really needs to be in your week can give you the clarity to cut some things that don’t.

No means no

This stupid culture we have, where your friends are allowed to make you feel bad for not wanting to drink with them, or like you are some kind of nightmarish wallflower for wanting to have a night to yourself instead of standing around a darkened basement space with strangers, is rude. Don’t let anyone guilt you into going out—a guilt trip is never the start to a fun night,  anyway. Stick to your guns if you really don’t want to go out. You don’t have to! No one has to do anything! We’re adults now and that’s why we eat breakfast for dinner at 10pm and don’t floss unless we feel like it! We can do whatever we want.

Flake with a conscience

There are times when you can skip out last minute and times when you can’t. Do not flake on a friend who has been counting on you as a +1 for a long time. Ditto if you’ve had longstanding plans with a close pal for something big like a birthday or reunion or if there’s no one else going and the person will be left solo. You gotta go. Sorry. You agreed. Some friends will be more chill about this than others. I have a dear friend who is a social croissant—the loveliest little treat of a person, but also the flakiest. She and I have an anytime, any-flake, unspoken agreement, and it suits us both fine.

Be honest about it

Your friends or colleagues will know what you mean when you say “I think I really need a quiet night in” or “I have a lot on my plate right now”, because, hello, they do too. If you’re making up weird excuses instead of telling them why you can’t or don’t want to participate in something, that can build resentment—AHEM, high school friend who once had food poisoning thrice in one month. Thrice. As always, honesty is the best policy.

Really love what you’re saying yes to

This pertains to the first point, but it bears repeating. Do you really need to spend your time doing something you don’t super care about? As life moves forward I can only presume things will get busier—imagine if you had a full-on career, with people you were in charge of, or a baby, or a spouse, or nieces and nephews or an ailing parent or an illness or who even knows—meaning less time for the weird, frivolous extra stuff. If you’re not into something, or it’s making you drop the ball on things that are more important, ditch it! You can take up pottery when you are 65, have saved well, and are wearing your Retirement Caftan. 

Have good reasons

“I’m hungover” is not a great reason to ditch on brunch, although, like… sometimes you just can’t make it. That being said, I wasted a lot of time sleeping during my first year of undergrad, and sleep is good and all, but it is no first year memories. It turned out I was anemic and now I am a party aniJUST KIDDING, I basically still sleep through 50% of my social engagements. But do as I say, not as I do, my lovelies. I am missing out. If you need time to decompress from a busy week, that is a real reason not to go out dancing, but if you can’t find an outfit that you like, put on an old favourite and suck it up, buttercup. People will stop inviting you to things if you’re constantly rejecting them for nothing. Time your lounging-like-a-pile-of-garbage-leave-me-alone nights well, and you’ll be fine.

I don’t know why I always write about things like “go out dancing.” There are other things to do in life. Go play a board game. Go sit on a porch. Go play a sport, maybe? People do that, I hear. Go write bad poetry in your dream journal. I don’t even care and I won’t judge. The point of this particular advice column—and most of the other bits of advice I will give from here out, SPOILER ALERT—is that you should be kind to yourself and other people, and also try to make the most of your youth and your life and have fun where you can and oh my god, it’s happened, I’m my mom. But you know what I mean, right? It’s okay if you don’t want to do everything all the time. Don’t do it, then. Just be cool about not doing it. That’s my thesis, A+, I have a degree. 

~ Monica Heisey

Follow Mom-ica on twittter @monicaheisey

Read more of Monica’s Grown-Ass Woman guides on twittertalking about your body anxietieshangover maintenancevintage clotheshow to have a long-distance relationshipsounding smart at cocktail parties, and packing to disappear.

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