“¿Queráis otra?” he asked, sticking out his thumb and pinky finger and tipping his thumb toward his mouth, something that in the United States meant “hang loose,” but here was the cultural sign for drink.
We looked at each other, unsure how to respond. Studying abroad in Sevilla had taught us plenty of cultural norms, but as three Americans invited to an exclusive caseta during Feria de Abril de Sevilla, we didn’t want to overstep our welcome. Part of what makes Feria magical are the privately owned party tents set up by wealthy Spaniards, complete with their own bar, tables, and restrooms. These tents ( truthfully more like mini-houses ) are shared among families and close friends, so we were lucky as American students to even be invited, let alone be offered free manzanilla all night.
“No?” he asked, not about to play the back-and-forth game of offering three times before the recipient finally says yes ( why is that a thing anyway? )
We looked at each other again, “¿Como se dice: sure?”
He smirked, fully understanding the English word, but laughing at the cultural stupidity of it, “You say yes.”
The same thing happened a few years later. I was making a small batch of popcorn for myself and my roommates and roommate’s boyfriend were in the kitchen with me. I was about to head out of the room to get some work done, but figured I would offer some popcorn on my way out since the smell was irresistible and I could tell everyone was drooling.
“Would you like some?” I asked.
“Oh no that’s okay,” said my roommate in a voice that sounded more like she wanted to shove all the popcorn in her mouth and lick the bowl clean. ( note: I have been informed that this is a smug mischaracterization of this interaction )
“Do you want some?” I asked, turning toward my roommate’s boyfriend.
“Yes,” he said, taking a handful.
Yes. Not “okay,” not “sure,” but a solid, “yes.”
And it was refreshing to hear. Because the thing is, everyone in that caseta knew that of course we wanted another manzanilla. Everyone in that kitchen knew that of course everyone else wanted in on that popcorn. So why is it so uncomfortable to just confidently say “Yes, I would like some,” or “Yes, I’ll go there,” or “Yes, you can treat me to dinner this time, that is so sweet, thank you.” Note: Saying “yes” doesn’t mean you can’t say “thank you” or otherwise express gratitude and appreciation.
Sure doesn’t actually make us polite or meek, it’s a wishy-washy way of watering down your confidence so you don’t appear too eager or aggressive. It’s dumb.
I’ve caught myself in the act of shrugging my shoulders, putting on a face that I think looks like a sweet and humble smile, but really probably looks like I’m constipated, and then offering the s-word in a voice that is several octaves higher than normal. I look back later and am embarrassed to be embarrassed about voicing what I want, and I’m sure in the process miss out on opportunities that could be offered to someone who is sure about what they want and doesn’t just say sure.
So let’s make a pact together, right here. Let’s all agree that if you’re sure about something, don’t say “sure,” be sure, and say “YES!”