“No” is one of the most important words people learn as toddlers. It establishes boundaries, builds a sense of self, and enables one to sing the Bob Marley song “No Woman, No Cry.” So I am pretty proud of myself for learning, finally, to just say NO when people ask if I ski.
Not skiing is the blasphemy I’ve cradled ever since moving to southwest Colorado. And I don’t even have the deflector shields of handy excuses for not skiing. It’s not because skiing is expensive and I don’t have the gear (even though it is and I don’t). I, quite simply, just don’t WANT to ski. I don’t want to learn. I don’t want to try it, because I won’t like it. And I’m tired of burying this part of myself under an avalanche of shame.
Around these parts, I could say something as unorthodox as “I’m part of President Obama’s gay menagerie,” and the most severe response I might get is “Do you want another beer?” But for years I have repressed my entire lack of skilust, because other people get flayed with ski poles for admitting that they don’t ski.
I’ve seen it happen. It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure:
Chapter 1: You are with a group of friends when one of them asks you, “Do you ski?” You sense that your entire future rests upon your answer. (If you lie and say yes, go to Chapter 2. If you say no, go to Chapter 4.)
Chapter 2: “What kind of skiing?” they ask in a strangely cultish unison. (If you mumble words that might sound like skiing terms, go to Chapter 3. If you stare blankly, go to Chapter 4.)
Chapter 3: “Come with us this weekend!” one of your friends says. “I have my old gear you can use if you need it, and if the kind of skiing you mumbled requires a lift ticket, my buddy will get you a discount.” (You are forced into a corner, and rather than actually go skiing and make a fool of yourself, you admit that you do not ski. Go to Chapter 4.)
Chapter 4: Your so-called friends gape at you. “You don’t?” they say. “Surely you must be mistaken. Everyone skis.” (If you decide to backpedal, go to Chapter 2. If you decide to fake a serious ski-related injury, go to Chapter 5. If you stick to your guns, go to Chapter 6.)
Chapter 5: Your friends offer you sympathy over your trashed ACL and suggest you go skiing together next winter. You have averted disaster for another year. The End.
Chapter 6: The pack of your former friends closes tightly around you. The light dims, and you welcome the inevitable onslaught. At least, in death, you will never again have to answer questions about skiing. The End.
This year, I am finished with choosing the same old adventures. I’m writing a new chapter, where I declare unabashedly that I CHOOSE NOT TO SKI and I will have tons of fun without paying for the privilege of breaking my femurs.
Holy powder days, what a liberating sensation this is. I’m going to declare all sorts of other things I’m supposed to like that I don’t! You ready for this? I don’t like New Year’s Eve. I don’t like the NFL. I don’t like that I don’t understand what the hell a “tapas” is. And I really don’t like lists.
However, as many toddlers learn by the time they’re thirty or forty, “no” is way more powerful when it is coupled with the power of “yes.” Saying nein frees me to be loud and proud about also saying ja. If I am crystal clear about both what I like and what I don’t like, then I will live life true to myself, even if I lose my remaining friends.
So what do I like? That is an excellent question, one I intend to spend much of 2017 exploring. There must be lots of things in the world to enjoy beyond not skiing. Like not snowboarding, for instance. But for the present, it turns out I really, really enjoy just saying no to things.
So come on. Make my day. Ask me to ski, please, so I can turn you down. And if you don’t like my answer, then ask me again. Because I might be willing to give cross country a shot.
This Fool’s Gold originally appeared in The Durango Telegraph and Four Corners Free Press.