Imagine raising your kids without ever telling them “no”? To anyone of a certain age, that may sound outlandish, and yet, in many ways, that’s exactly where Americans are headed culturally — and it’s infantilizing us.
Unchecked, we get to rant (also known as, throw tantrums) on our Facebook newsfeeds in an avalanche of words anytime we want. We can feed our endless need for validation by publishing the most moronic posts imaginable — “Buying a bagel. Yummy, I love bagels!” — expecting our “friends” to “Like” it. Twitter, with its 140-character limit, plays directly to the fidgety, digitally over-stimulated, slightly spastic adults we’ve become. The innumerable media outlets that truncate complicated ideas and news items into packaged listicles don’t help. Even our Gchats and text messages read like gibberish: c u @ 2, k?
Indeed, social media — that stage upon which every hopeful can nab the lead part without a nay-saying casting director in sight — has increasingly allowed us to bypass “no.”
And we’re likely to regret it.
At 38, I have a long and plentiful history of rejection. My first “no” came from a feisty Greek woman who inflexibly denied most of my youthful cravings — my mother. When I’d sneak a box of Nerds or pack of Garbage Pail Kids into our shopping cart, she’d stare me down and say in her native tongue, “No, we don’t have the money.” We weren’t rich, but we definitely could afford the occasional 50-cent splurge. And yet her frugality and the regularity with which she denied my requests imparted important life lessons: I’m good at budgeting and expert at postponing — or refusing — my consumer lusts, crucial skills in surviving on a thin income.
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