The power of saying ‘No’ and meaning it

Musings of a Matriarch

Sunday morning I got out my waffle iron and made eight golden waffles to share with a good friend. When he arrived, everything was ready. The coffee was hot and strong just the way he likes it. The syrup, direct from a maple tree instead of an ear of corn, was warming on a burner, the bacon was fried to perfection, and the table was set with my favorite china. By the time “Ben” sat down, the sunny side up eggs were placed on a warm plate. Everything was perfect. Or so I thought.

As soon as he saw the waffles he started complaining. He said he was expecting pancakes. I explained the recipe was the same. It was only the shape that was different, but Ben pouted. He said waffles were too difficult to butter and he didn’t like the way syrup settles in the little grooves. I countered by saying the butter was soft and would easily glide over the waffle and with one jab of his fork, he could shake off any excess syrup. I apologized and promised the next time he invited himself over for Sunday breakfast he could bring his own.

I’m tired of people taking advantage of my good nature. Here’s another example. The other day I was on my way to town when I saw a neighbor walking. I stopped the car and “Joe” got in. I don’t know this fellow, but his mother told me a few years ago he had a drinking problem. He seemed sober enough, so that wasn’t a concern, although it was obvious he was long past due for a shower and some strong lye soap.

Nevertheless, I’m not one to judge folks by how they look or smell. Joe requested I turn on the heater. I patiently explained that I had just taken the car out of my garage and if I turned the fan on now all he would get was cold air. This seemed to satisfy him. Mind you, the man was ready to walk 10 miles to town in 30 degree weather. He had no hat, his gloves were full of holes, and his jacket looked light, yet he had the audacity to complain about my cold vehicle. Within five minutes the car was warm and the smell was enough to knock me out, but being a hardy old gal, I kept driving.

My first stop was Meijer’s. I left the car unlocked and said I would only be a minute. He got out and lit a cigarette before going inside. Fifteen minutes later, he was waiting for me and we were on our way again. My next stop was Tractor Supply. I left the car running and the heater on and Joe stayed in the car. I returned in five minutes to find he had cranked the heat up to 90, but I kept my mouth shut and tried not to breathe. A few minutes later, I pulled into Walmart’s parking lot. Joe got out and lit another cigarette. I told him I wouldn’t be long.

Grocery shopping is one of my greatest pleasures, but the weather was threatening to change and light snow was starting to fall. I didn’t want to get caught in a storm, so I hurried up one aisle and down another. Even at a fast clip, I was in the store at least 20 minutes. When I wheeled my cart out the door, Joe was nowhere to be seen. After unloading my groceries and returning the cart, I got in the car, opened a window, and waited. And waited. And waited. The longer I waited, the more frustrated I became.

I went back in the store and asked a friendly clerk to page Joe. Then I returned to the car and waited. The weather had cleared, so I opened another window and waited. For 30 minutes I sat in that stinking car and waited. Finally, I’d had enough. I picked up his Meijer purchase. The two fifths of whiskey and liter of Squirt weren’t all that heavy. I went back in the store and asked the friendly clerk to give the bag to Joe if he ever showed up. I was going home.

As I was backing up, Joe appeared. By now I was fuming and his explanation didn’t help. After making his purchase of more booze, he had run into a friend and gone for a “visit.” He got in my car and I drove a mile down Mackinac Trail when something came over me. I’m always naive when it comes to men. I let them control me.

But something snapped in me that afternoon. I told Joe I needed $10 for the ride. He was silent. I asked if he had the money to which he replied no. I pointed to the two bags of booze, expressed my opinion, and pulled over to the side of the road. I said two words, the same two I said to Flash after 17 years of torment: “GET OUT.”

There comes a time in our lives when we have to take a stand. I’m not talking about the “Me Too” movement but about the little things we let slide. I will never be anyone’s doormat again. Whether it’s a waffle or a whiskey, I’m done with being a sucker. I’ve had enough. How about you?

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at sharonkennedy1947@gmail.com. In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle format.