No. Hot.

The first two words I learned to speak came in tandem. “No” and “hot.” This is because my parents used those words to keep me from doing things they didn’t want me to do. Like change the channel on the television. I would reach up to grab one of those alluring knobs (I liked the clicking sounds they made when I turned them, I remember that distinctly) and Dad would say, “No, Manda, it’s hot.”

Somehow I knew “hot” was not something I wanted to touch. I don’t remember that particular lesson though. What I do recall is that it wasn’t long before I figured out it was a lie. The knobs weren’t hot. These people, these so-called parents, were just trying to keep me from doing things I desperately wanted to do.

Cue a lifetime of having to learn things for myself. Never trusting when someone else warns me or tries to share their experience as a caution. What if they’re lying? What if their experience was an aberration? Do they really have my best interests at heart, or are they just trying to make things more convenient for themselves in some way?

Yeah, I have trust issues.

Once I figured out the television knobs weren’t hot, it became a game. I would creep toward the telly, looking now and then over my shoulder.

“No, Manda, that’s hot.”

I’d reach out slowly. Look back. “Hot?” I’d ask, grinning madly.

“That’s right. Hot.”

“Hot!” I’d cry as I gave the knob a sharp turn. Then I’d run away laughing hysterically.

As for “no,” well, that’s the word I probably heard most as a young child. Whether or not I took it seriously is another matter. Perhaps my parents unwittingly primed me for a lifetime of rejection. Such is the writer’s lot. It’s not fun to hear, but I’ve become long accustomed to it. And there are worse things. Things that really are hot, that leave a blister, a scar. Not always physical. But at least I know I tried instead of taking someone else’s word for it. That, to me, is living.

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