Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

“N” is for No! as in “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No!”


I was only six years old in 1955, when the Rodgers and Hammerstein film “Oklahoma” came out and Gloria Grahame performed “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No!”  Someone gave my sister the soundtrack as a gift, from one of our dear Aunts, of whom we had eight!  She loved the songs, and we shared a room, so I grew up with all the words ringing in my ears!  I loved this song, and sang it off and on through college, until it was replaced by folk music, then pop.

Saying “No!”, not just in male-female relations, but in life in general seems to be very hard for many girls and women!  We are taught to be “nice” .  I’m not sure, maybe that is a Southern thing, but I doubt it…little girls and young women are supposed to be “nice”–meaning well-behaved, generous with time and talents, and kind to animals and people!

Unfortunately, as we grow older, we learn that the world itself is not always so “nice”. If we continue to act as we were taught as children…to just be nice, don’t say “No”, then what happens?  People may see us as nice, and kind, and some will love and respect us for that, if we are lucky enough to live in a sheltered world.  But on the big stage, in a corporation, in politics, in the military, omg, being nice could get you taken advantage of, disrespected, even killed!

Can we find a middle ground between “nice”, “Can’t say No!” and aggressiveness? Somewhere between “Of course I can drive the scouts to all five field trips this Fall.” and “Of course, I can wash dishes after all the Wednesday night suppers for the year, because you asked so nicely, Pastor Ryan;” and “No! How dare you ask me that?! I have a life too you know! Don’t call me again!” LOL

I was squarely in the “I’m just a girl who can’t say No!” camp in my niceness all of my life, until I reached my mid 30’s to early 40’s! I had the opportunity to teach interpersonal communication at N C State University as a Visiting Lecturer for several years, and as part of that we studied the difference in assertive and aggressive communication.  In all honesty, before then, I think I thought assertiveness WAS aggressiveness, I didn’t know the difference, and you didn’t state your mind unless you were angry and as we say in the South…”throwing a hissy fit!” LOL

I had to learn I wasn’t responsible for other people’s feelings–one of the hardest lessons for me. “What can I do to make you happy? So sorry I …made you mad…disappointed you….So glad I made you feel better!” I’d never thought about how conceited that is actually–and how controlling!  I can’t make you  happy, sad, or mad….I now know.  You choose what feelings you choose!  Ultimately, I am in charge of me–you are in charge of you—it’s freeing!  I get to say and act as I want, yes, you get to decide whether or not you want to be around me! LOL We all get to be authentic, we get to be ourselves, isn’t that refreshing.

I’m not as “nice” as I used to be as a child or a young woman, just ask my husband. But ultimately, I am a nice person, and I want to be, I choose to be, and I like to be. However, I do say “No!” more and more often, enough that at times I fear growing into a crotchety old lady! Guess I’d better watch it…choices.


Author: Helen Holshouser

Old enough to enjoy life, I am a Red Hatter, grandmother, gardener, and amateur genealogist. I am a retired clinical psychologist, master's level, who is disabled with heart disease, but having fun with family and friends. Married over 40 years, I have two grown daughters and three grandchildren. I have learned that grandchildren provide a joy one never knew existed---writing feeds my soul, gardening is therapy, and genealogy research makes me feel like a detective!

6 thoughts on ““N” is for No! as in “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No!”

  1. I used to have a hard time saying “no,” until I realized I was being taken advantage of. I quickly dropped some items out of my life that were bringing me stress and that helped! I still have a hard time with conflict, but I’m really independent and my kids all have that streak (which sometimes is exhausting to deal with!). Just this morning I told my daughter to be nice. Maybe I need to find a better way to phrase it. P.S. I tell my boys to be nice too! 🙂


  2. Lauren, I love your support and your comments! Thanks for sharing your family life with me! It seems so like mine, only younger! It is amazing when we realize that we need to monitor what we are saying to our kids, especially the “automatic” responses we let fly so often. Two of the worst I can remember, are when I was saying all the time…in the morning especially, “Hurry up, get your backpack, hurry up, get your lunch, hurry up, get your shoes on! Hurry up! And I wondered why my kids seemed harried, anxious? So I stopped! I took great pains to eliminate those words and be more pleasant to be around in the morning! It wasn’t easy. The absolute worst, much more thatn saying “Be nice.”, was when I found my self repeating , with my 4 year old in listening distance, “oh Daddy is going to kill me for buying this! Oh Daddy is going to kill me…” when my husband, their daddy is very mild mannered! LOL One day, my 4 year old daughter looked at me and said, “I don’t want Daddy to kill you mommy!” Oh, I felt terrible! Tried to explain, and of curse, never, NEVER said that again! LOL I should have blogged this–maybe I will! LOL


  3. Helen, I just love that we both had the same idea! Clearly so much in common. And its a *big* subject in which we’ve both been able to bring different aspects to the fore. What you said about understanding the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness – so very much on target.


  4. You are so right Debs! LOL Great minds think alike! I love it! We could put parts of our posts together and have a great psychological piece! Thanks for coming by and for being a friend!


  5. You know what they say; “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” I have seen this quote many times and am not sure who said it first. It’s been linked to everyone from Lucille ball to Margaret Thatcher. I am that busy woman who says yes to everything, or at least I was. I am finding my ‘no’ voice, finally.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good for you for finding your “no” voice. It will stand you in good stead the rest of your life. Thanks so much Scarlet for reading and sharing, I appreciate it!


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