How to Say No

About a month ago I walked into a bread shop and got offered a job. They needed someone in their kitchen and I bake bread far more often than I need to (there are three loaves of bread in my freezer right now and my fridge is half populated by bagels, rolls and the end of a challah). How could I say no?

Except, they needed someone from 11pm to 4am and I work full time from 8am to 4pm. I said, “Can I have time to think about it?”

I’ve thought about it. I keep thinking about it. But I haven’t responded to their email about whether I will take the job. The answer is no, I can’t take the job. But on some level, I can take the job.

I get off work at 4 and get home by 4:30. I could sleep until 10:30pm or so, get up and go to the bakery until 4am, get writing done until 6am then get ready for my day job.

I’m not going to do this. I need to remind myself every day that I’m not going to do this.

But it’s an impossible task to admit I can’t add something new to my plate. It’s an impossible task to say¬† no. I work full time and hold 4 different writing positions. I’m manage the blog for Luna Station Quarterly, write literary magazine reviews each month for New Pages, read fiction for Five on the Fifth, and am an editor for Polychrome Ink.

I can’t say no. As women, we must work twice as hard to earn half the recognition as men, and saying no to a professional opportunity is a stupid move. You’re backing out before you’ve even tried! You’re selling yourself short! You are admitting defeat.

My goal is always excellence. My goal is to be the best. But my goal must also be to be kind to myself.

And saying no, in any and every context, is a matter of consent. Being a feminist is not about competing with the boys to show you’re just as capable. It’s about trusting yourself and listening to your voice, even when no one else will notice you’re speaking. It’s about learning to say no and taking control of your life.

Saying no, even to an opportunity, is a feminist decision.

Advice for White Allies

I don’t know what to say about the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille. I don’t know what to say that will not be repeating platitudes that their deaths must be mourned, that these are not isolated incidents. Castille was the 561st death at the hands of police this year, according to The Guardian’s “The Counted” project.

And because I am not part of the black community, there is only so much I can say as an ally. It’s important to be an ally to the black community, even if there are no black people in the room. Allyship is not a part-time position. You are an ally 100% of the time, or you are not an ally at all.

Advice for White allies:

  1. Saying someone is black or African American is not an insult. Growing up in CT, my hometown would speak about black people by speeding up our speech and avoiding even saying the word black. Black was coded to mean less-than. But we can change our speech patterns and remove our ingrained racism when we pay enough attention. When speaking about Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, or any of the black people murdered by police, race cannot be removed from the discussion.
  2. Recognize that you don’t understand what your black friends/co-workers etc are going through. This doesn’t mean you don’t care, but do not compare your own experience, even if you hold other marginalized identities. You still hold white privilege.
  3. Attend protests and vigils, but understand this is not your place to speak. Listen instead. Be silent and listen.
  4. Know you won’t always say the right thing. Be willing to apologize.