Kid 1: "Can I have a new cell phone?'
Me: "No! Costs too much. You don't need friends!"
Kid 2: "Can I have a friend over?"
Me: "No! Play outside!"
Kid 3: "Can you stop yelling?"
Me: "Who's yelling?"
Nobody says "no" more than I do. Co-workers run when they see me; neighbors pull the shades when I drive by. The sun is out and somebody says, "Nice day!" I reply, "I prefer hail."
If Jim Carrey can act in the movie "Yes Man" as a crotchety jerk who always says "no" but then changes his tune to say "yes" all the time, and that movie is tops in America, I can change and say "yes," too.
I started saying "yes" on Christmas Day.
At the convenience store around 6 a.m. (because I had said "No!" to going out for milk the night before) my friend Frankie the clerk called out, "On the nice list for Santa?" and I immediately declared, "Yes!"
I have not been off the naughty list since 1971, when I was 5. But this was "yes" day, so I said, "Yes!"
Felt good, too.
A pretty lady was in the store paying for gas and she said, "Merry Christmas!" and there was no doubt that she was giving me the eye because I am so tall and dashing and handsome. So what that my hair was greasy and I wore old jeans and the T-shirt I slept in and I was a full foot shorter than her.
"Yes!" I stated. "Merry Christmas to you!"
She clearly thought I was gorgeous. This "yes" thing was working already.
The kids got up for presents, and the older ones got iPods and cameras and jewelry and posters and other good stuff when you are 13- and 12-year-old girls and the oldest one said, "Did you shop for this all by yourself?" and I said, "Yes!"
I said this while my feet were up on a stool. The mother who had done all the shopping alone because I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to malls and ruined it for everybody else the one time I did go, was in the kitchen cooking dinner for 15 people who would later show up hungry.
My entire assistance for the affair was to purchase two bags of ice.
She didn't hear the "Yes!" over the clatter of pots and pans and mixers.
Yes, I felt like a Sultan.
My youngest at age 6 got great stuff from Santa including all kinds of dolls and dollhouses and she asked, "Did you tell Santa I wanted this? Thanks, Daddy!"
"Yes!" I proudly boasted.
I am a husband and father so what I got under the tree was, of course, socks and a 5-pack of undershirts. The white ones. All fathers/husbands get them for Christmas. Because we deserve even less. But wives feel sorry for us. We who deserve coal in our stocking ask for a motorcycle, we get a pack of T-shirts.
"Like your present?" I was asked.
"Yes!" I said.
Everybody else got great stuff that glittered and I got blue socks.
But I had to say, "Yes!"
I then had to assemble the dollhouse.
"Can you handle it?" I was asked.
"Yes!" I declared.
This fabric and metal job seemed bigger than the house I grew up in with six brothers and sisters. I counted 87 parts. After 30 minutes, I had it assembled wrong, and pieces were missing, and the house had a roof that looked like a drunken carpenter had put it on.
The frustration mounted, and my 6 year-old daughter said, "Daddy, can I go downstairs until you are done?" and I said, "Yes!"
Alone, I could fail without witnesses. And use bad language while messing up a dollhouse that an elementary schooler can assemble.
I was asked to carve the turkey because fathers/husbands certainly have that one holiday skill.
"Yes!" I say.
After five minutes, the turkey looked like it had been hit by a truck.
"Wanna take out the garbage?" I am asked.
"Yes," I stutter. Meek, like a mouse.
People showed up to eat and I mixed a drink for somebody and he said, "Want one yourself?"
My reply? A clarion call.