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Vintage Etiquette – How to say “No” (Moral Maturity)

It may be old but the fundamental truth is still relevant!


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  • Lisa August 25, 2014, 10:06 am


  • Anonymous August 25, 2014, 11:36 am

    I’m not a huge fan of this video. I mean, besides the fact that the “teenagers” here look positively middle-aged, I found the advice to be a bit simplistic, and not always effective. I’ll go in point form to make it easier:

    1. Boy at the tavern with his football teammates who orders a hamburger and fries because he doesn’t want beer: That looks awkward, and his food is going to take longer than his friends’ beers. It would have been better if he’d asked for a Coke or something, and said something like, “I don’t like the taste of beer,” or he could say he had to do something involving driving, later that day…….although, that might not have worked in the 1950’s, because drinking and driving wasn’t illegal yet. So, yeah, I’d stick with “don’t like the taste of alcohol.”

    2. Girl at sleepover who gossips about a couple breaking up, in order to distract her friends from the fact that she doesn’t want a cigarette: That’s rude and hurtful. How would you like it if you were one of the members of the newly-separated couple, and you arrived at school the Monday after the sleepover to find that the news had spread like wildfire? Suppose the girl who’d spilled the beans wasn’t your BFF, but she was someone you liked, and you’d always trusted her, and felt safe around her, because she’d never given you any reason not to, until now…..right after you’d broken up with your significant other. That’d make school pretty untenable for a few weeks, wouldn’t it? Maybe the distraction approach could work, but if you have to use gossip, make it about a celebrity, not someone you see at school every day. If this happened in a teen movie, then the subject of the gossip would probably do something like spreading a retaliatory rumour about the spreader of said gossip, or maybe “accidentally on purpose” not catch her while stunting during cheerleading practice, or something like that. In real life, that might not happen, but it’d still be rude and hurtful.

    3. Other girl, whose boyfriend wants to be more intimate than she does: Really? It’s incumbent upon the girl (or the partner who wants less intimacy) to set up a whole elaborate plan to prevent this from happening, rather than just saying “No, I don’t like that,” or “We can kiss, but no tongues,” or “You can put your hands on me, but only on top of my clothes, not under,” or otherwise outlining clear boundaries? No, just no. Maybe this video was made in the 1950’s, when people didn’t know better, but now it’s 2014, and we do. Besides, how can you possibly expect to have a real, authentic relationship with someone, if you can’t clearly state what you want, or how you feel?

    4. As for Bill the narrator’s examples, what’s the harm if a man tells his wife he likes her new outfit, when he doesn’t? It’s not as if he has to wear it. I can see saying no to an entire year’s newspaper subscription, but “Do you like my outfit?” could easily be met with “Yes,” or quickly finding one or two positive things about it, and moving on. Everyone else finessed their “how to say no” moments with little white lies, or subterfuge of some kind, so why couldn’t the husband have done the same thing?

    5. One other thing this video neglected to mention–at what point do you decide that “losing” friends isn’t such a bad thing? If your friends are constantly putting you in situations where you want to say no, but you feel uncomfortable saying it (or worse, if they’re mean or rude to you when you DO say no), maybe it’s time for a change of social scenery. Maybe it’s a good idea to have not just one group of friends, but two, or three, or more. That was my saving grace in high school–I had my music friends, my theatre friends, my student government friends, and my “been around since grade nine” friends. My music friends were my core group, but they’d sometimes start acting cliquey and obnoxious, so I’d just spend more time with my other friends. Yes, I did have a few “crossover friends” who belonged to more than one category, but fortunately, most of them were “safe” people who didn’t initiate or participate in any of the stupidity. I did the same thing in university, when I had to drastically re-vamp my social circle in my last year, after a falling-out with a good friend (and, by extension, several mutual friends who sided with her), and made friends with some of the people in my painting class. My point is, at some point, saying “no” might alienate you, but sometimes that’s okay. It’ll reveal who your true friends are, and who they aren’t.

    • Lizajane August 25, 2014, 9:31 pm

      Re: #1 Indiana enacted a BAC law in 1939.

    • Elsie August 25, 2014, 10:55 pm

      ^^^^^ Everything Anonymous said here is true. #3 especially.
      Person A’s body > Person B’s desires. And you never have to sugar coat it to make it “nice”.

      Bean-dipping is an AWESOME tool, sure, but this video doesn’t do it justice. 🙂

    • Phoenix August 26, 2014, 1:50 am


      I stopped watching after the first scenario with the boy and his sports friends. Rewatching all of this just makes it worse.

      If your significant other can’t take a “no”, then forget etiquette — you run away as fast as you can and never look back. That’s a red flag for an abusive relationship.

      Dame, I understand that there are times where a “tactical no” must be implemented . . . but this video is a terrible example. People who force you uncomfortable or dangerous situations should be dropped like rocks, and given a firm “No.”

      • Steve August 26, 2014, 8:15 pm

        Thank God we have all reached perfection, so no future generation will ever judge us.

        • Phoenix September 2, 2014, 2:40 am

          Actually, yes, we should judge events, actions, and attitudes of the past — lest we suffer the phrase “History repeats itself.”

          After all, the 50’s were not “sunshine and rainbows”, as the people back then were extremely sexist and racist.

          • admin September 2, 2014, 3:24 am

            Some of the biggest milestones of the Civil Rights Movement occurred in the 1950’s,most notably the 1954 Supreme Court ruling on the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans., with all nine justices unanimously agreeing that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The ruling paved the way for large-scale desegregation.

  • Phoenix August 25, 2014, 1:06 pm

    I couldn’t watch the whole thing. If your friends force you to tip toe around things you don’t want to do, then they are not friends. Friends should not be offended by the word “no”.


  • Dessa August 25, 2014, 1:25 pm

    This is one of the things from the past that is very relevant today.

  • Anonymous August 25, 2014, 1:44 pm

    P.S., I forgot another point: This video didn’t mention what to do if a lot of different people are asking you to do things that, individually, are perfectly reasonable, but when you add everything together, it becomes too much. So, suppose your band teacher asks you on Monday to bake cookies for the concert on Friday, and then on Tuesday, the student council president asks you to make posters for the upcoming dance, and then on Wednesday, the captain of the soccer team asks if you can help with a car wash on Saturday, and so on, and so forth, until your schedule is completely full. There’s only so much “I have to check my calendar” you can say, because most of these requests are time-sensitive, and sometimes, being the first to ask isn’t a good enough reason to say yes, because you might not know on Monday what your Saturday is going to look like. This situation happened for me when I was young, way more often than being pressured to drink, smoke, do drugs, or have sex, so I wonder why the video didn’t cover it?

  • Rebecca August 25, 2014, 3:27 pm

    Hahaha, early bean dip advice!

    • Anonymous August 25, 2014, 9:41 pm

      Except, sometimes “bean dip” (or, changing the subject with no transition) doesn’t work–at some point, you have to just say “no.” I don’t know what it is about these old educational movies, but it’s always the same group of (affluent, Caucasian) kids who hang out together, and nobody else seems to exist. Also, in the world of 1950’s school films, being alone, or failing to conform, is the Worst Thing Ever, as introverts and people with their own ideas are castigated as being “snobs” or worse, as we see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4_D4KS70Y4

      Fortunately, real life isn’t like that. In real life, you can move away from one group of friends, and into another, or you can decide to enjoy your own company for a while. I don’t know what real life was like in the 1950’s, because I wasn’t there, but really, “go along to get along” isn’t the answer to everything. If you have to come up with elaborate schemes to prevent your “friends” from forcing alcohol, cigarettes, and sex on you, then maybe you should make new friends.

      • Steve August 27, 2014, 10:35 am

        What you describe is real life sounds like high school or college to me.

        In real life, you don’t get to choose your family. You just have to deal with them. The same is true for the people you work with. The people you meet on your commute. Your neighbors. The members of your church. Business contacts. In real life, the world is full of people you need to interact with whether you like them or not. And some of those people won’t take no for an answer. Etiquette teaches how to say it anyway.

        • Anonymous August 28, 2014, 7:13 am

          Well, Steve, you need to be civil to everyone, but you don’t need to be FRIENDS with everyone. I’m done with school now, so making friends doesn’t happen quite as quickly and easily as it’s done in the past, but I still wouldn’t compromise my health, safety, and beliefs to please them. If I lost friends over that, I could still make new friends; it’d just take a bit longer, because I obviously live a less densely populated life than I did in university. However, in the meantime, I’d be fine with keeping to myself, because I believe that it’s better to be alone for a little while, than to stick with friends who make you feel uncomfortable. I’ve never done the big, dramatic “friendship break-up” thing, but I’ve definitely cooled things off in friendships that don’t work for me, if they’ve repeatedly not respected my feelings and boundaries.

  • Steve August 25, 2014, 7:26 pm

    I thought the video was really cute. However, I have a headache from the comments.

    • Pat August 27, 2014, 1:02 pm


    • Joy August 27, 2014, 6:49 pm

      You are so right!!

  • Paws August 26, 2014, 12:38 am

    I say you have to give credit to past educators that at least an attempt is made to teach a life skill like this. Being able to say “no” in a socially adept way can definitely gain you a lot of ground, especially when you’re an inexperienced teenager. I’d love to know what the kids back then thought of the film. I do have to agree with previous poster that while swapping one vice (smoking) for another (gossip) isn’t perhaps net gain in the long run where character is concerned, it does illustrate bean-dip distraction in the moment very well. My favorite part? “But Lucy! You promised not to tell!!” Bwaa haa haaa.

    • Joy August 27, 2014, 6:49 pm

      I loved that part too!

  • Lkb August 26, 2014, 5:52 am

    To Anonymous re the quickly filling calendar. First, in our school band was a class, so the cookies may be part of the participation grade and therefore required. As to the rest, I don’t see a problem with the check-my-calendar response.

    • Anonymous August 26, 2014, 9:31 pm

      In my school, music was a class, and everyone had to take an arts course in grade nine (you could pick music, art, or drama), but band was optional…..but we worked on a lot of music from band, during class. It was a complicated system. Anyway, any outside contributions or volunteering for band were mostly just encouraged, but not strictly mandatory. The years we travelled, each person had to do at least five hours (or maybe it was more) of volunteer work for the band, at various events, etc., but the non-travel years, there was no such requirement.

  • Yet Another Laura August 26, 2014, 9:38 am

    The concept was good but it missed on several points. It seems to be more about how not to say no.

    In Example Two with the sleepover, the girl did say no. Twice. The no wasn’t respected. If your “friends” don’t respect a no from you while trying to pressure you into illegal behavior (I didn’t live in the 50s so I don’t know how legal beer and cigarettes are for teens back then) they’re not your friends.

    The advice for getting Mr. Handsy to stop was terrible.

    I hope that there is a companion video somewhere about respecting no when it’s said to you.

    The How to Resist Peer Pressure video series from my high school days was much better. They covered the idea that in groups like the guys at the tavern, the one who says no might be saying the no that everyone else is thinking, so have the courage to say no when you need to.

  • Asharah August 27, 2014, 12:44 am

    I remember an episode of Happy Days where Joanie came home and proclaimed she gave her date a fat lip when he tried to kiss her. Her mother suggested she say, “I’m sorry, I’m not that kind of girl.” Joanie responded “By the time I said all that, I would have been that kind of girl.” Dad told Mom she did the right thing.

  • Joy August 27, 2014, 6:48 pm

    Anonymous- the film is 50+ years old. You are not a film critic. Enjoy it for the yesteryear qualities
    and take a pill. The sentiment is behind every scenario- say no to things that are not
    appropriate for your age or experience. I loved the glimpse of Moral Education from so
    long ago. Too bad they didn’t have a section on booty shorts and letting your underwear show
    above your jeans!!

    • Anonymous August 28, 2014, 11:44 am

      @Joy–I know I’m not a film critic (but, you didn’t know that for sure until now), but I’m allowed to share my opinion on that film, within the context of a discussion about it. I’ve seen several of these 1950’s school films, and I’ve “enjoyed them for their yesteryear qualities,” but some of them are better than others. This really wasn’t great advice. Jeanne posted it because she thought the techniques for saying no that were shown in the film, applied just as much nowadays, but they really don’t. Also, about “invite Mr. Handsy inside if you don’t want to make out, because your parents will be awake, and he’ll stop then” was pretty laughable, because nowadays, asking a date if he or she wants to come in afterwards, is a sign that you want MORE action, not less. It’s far better to say “No, I’m not ready,” or “I’m ready for X, but not Y.” Anyway, the crux of the matter is, this video is supposed to be about “how to say no,” but it’s really more about “how to get out of doing something you don’t want to do, without actually saying no.” All of those “solutions” were short-term–they fixed the problem FOR THAT MOMENT. The boy in the tavern convinced his friends that he was hungry rather than thirsty THAT TIME, but it surely won’t work every time. The girl at the sleepover got out of smoking a cigarette by gossiping (rude and hurtful, and even if it wasn’t, eventually, she’ll run out of gossip). The other girl who didn’t want to kiss/make out with her boyfriend, set up a whole convoluted plan to avoid the situation, rather than simply telling the guy how she felt. Now he doesn’t know that she doesn’t want to go further; all he got out of the situation was, “I went on a date with Lucy, and afterwards, she invited me inside for milk and cookies with her parents.” Maybe he’s a good guy, and maybe he’d respect a “no,” or a “not yet” to kissing or making out, but he can’t very well respect Lucy’s wishes if she doesn’t communicate them clearly.

  • Angel August 28, 2014, 2:46 pm

    For an older film it really wasn’t bad. The concepts introduced here would be helpful to kids of today. I do agree that the kids in the film looked middle-aged, but I have seen old pictures of my parents from around this time period–that’s how they all looked back then! Gossip probably isn’t the best way to go–but you are talking about 60 years ago, people weren’t nearly as sensitive as they are now. Today people look for reasons to be offended about anything. And talking about a couple breaking up–pretty ubiquitous and can translate over many time periods IMO.

  • Freq Flyer August 29, 2014, 10:50 pm

    Interesting for me, on a whole different level.

    She was 16, he was 19 when I was conceived in the front seat of a ’49 Buick parked somewhere in a Lovers Lane. I was born, then adopted, in 1954.

    The “kids” in the video are contemporaries of my bio-parents. If not for teenaged lust and an unwillingness to say “no”, Yours Truly is walking on this planet.

    I guess I’m personally glad they never saw this video.