“Just say no.”
The recently departed former First Lady Nancy Reagan turned those three words into a national catchphrase in the 1980s in her one-woman crusade against drug use.
The phrase lives on today in countless memes that tell us to “Just say no” to everything from clowns to selfies.
Just saying no is a lesson I never learned. No, I don’t take many selfies and I’ve never done drugs, though I do kind of like clowns if they are funny.
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But just saying no to other things is a challenge, well, most all the time.
My inability to tell people I can’t help them with this task or that task exasperates my wife at times. She suffers not a whit from the inability to say no.
She waits all aquiver when I go to booster club meetings or civic club gatherings, wondering just what new task I’m going to come home with next.
Fortunately, she and my children have suffered in silence with my inability to “just say no.”
If ever a biologist needed evidence of the existence of hereditary traits, he or she wouldn’t have to look any further than our family. My oldest daughter hasn’t yet discovered Nancy Reagan’s admonition. She can’t turn down a chance to go and do, even if it means taking on some arduous task no one else in her group wants to be responsible for.
Her inability to say no occasionally leads to calls for help, or just to whine about all that she’s got going on and how stressed she is with everything she’s doing. But the truth is, I know she hasn’t heard of Nancy Reagan’s mantra. And she doesn’t mind. She figures, as do I, that a life without a lot going on in it is a missed opportunity.
Our other daughter, however, mastered the power of the word no at about six months of age and I dare say she has used that word – or some variant of it – roughly three times as much as any other word in her otherwise broad vocabulary.
The most recent episode of my inability to just say no came Tuesday night at a meeting of a handful of parents whose kids are seniors in the band at East Wake. We were making plans for the end-of-year banquet and, already, my inability to just say no caused me to be responsible for putting a collection of photographs together for a presentation during the banquet.
But on Wednesday night, the question of who would serve as emcee of the event, came up. Everyone around the table looked down toward the floor, except one lady who looked directly at me and said “What about you, Johnny?”
Oh Lord, it was my moment of truth. Could I just say no?
Now, I’m the emcee for the end-of-year band banquet.
I figure if I’ve got to do it, I’m gonna have some good-natured fun at the expense of as many band seniors as I can.
Secretly, I harbor a small bit of admiration for those people who “Just say no.” Those people get to take luxuriant naps on the weekends and they always have impeccable lawns that would be the envy of any landscaper.
Nancy Reagan was probably proud of her instantly recognizable slogan and the same Google search that turned up the memes about selfies and clowns, had a plentiful supply of memes supporting her anti-drug message, nearly 30 years after her husband left office.
For those who struggle to “Just say no” in other ways, let’s hope the new first lady or first husband chooses to expand on Nancy Reagan’s message to reach chronic volunteers like me. My wife, for one, would be grateful.