There’s No Such Thing

Don’t make noise.

Be quiet.

Don’t make that face.

Sit up.

Get your hair out of your eyes.

Get some fresh air.

But don’t run around.

Come out of your room.

Go to your room.

Turn down your music.

Look nice.

But not like that.


Maybe without showing your teeth.

That’s too loud.

You’re too loud.

Sit still.

But don’t sit like that.

Make friends.

But not with them.

They aren’t nice.

These aren’t my rules.

But they have to be yours.

Why would you do that?

What will people think?

Do you want to be judged like that?

Because, I’m just trying to help you.

No one will listen if you say it like that.

It reflects back on me.

It reflects back on you.

This is just something I understand.

You don’t understand.

I don’t understand you.

I don’t expect you to understand.

That’s too much.

That’s not enough.

You’re too much

You’re not enough.

You’re making too much of this.

You’re not making enough of this.

That’s not a good use of your time.

I don’t have time for this.

It’s time.

This has gone on too long.

Someday, you’ll thank me.

You’re welcome.

Turn it down.

It’s about balance.

And moderation.

You’re exaggerating.

You’re not getting the whole picture.

This way.

No, this way.

Actually, don’t do that at all.

This is not for you.

That’s selfish.

You’re not for them.

They’re not for you.

This is for your own good.

This is experience talking.

I’m the one talking.

I’m talking to you.

You don’t know what you’re talking about.


Not to them.

Listen to me.

I can’t hear you when you speak like that.

Just be quiet.

So I can think.

It’s like this.

Can’t you see?

This is what people see.

The world sees what it sees.

I can’t help what they see.

Not everyone has to look at you.

Look at you.

Everyone’s looking at you.

You’re an example.

Act like an example.

A good example.

You’re not making sense.

I can’t make sense of you.

I’m not making this up.

It is what it is.

Just ignore them.

They know what they’re talking about.

You’re making this difficult.

For me.

For them.

For yourself.

This is just how we do things.

But it depends on the situation.

You should be able to tell the difference.

You’ve brought this on yourself.

I told you.

So many times.


But not like that.

Don’t look at me.

I didn’t do anything.

Don’t do that.

I don’t know what you’re doing to me.

You’re the one doing this.

You have yourself to blame.

I don’t blame you.

I blame them.

Don’t make it easy for them.

Don’t make it hard.

This isn’t hard.

You’re going to have to try harder.

But not like that.

Try again.

You’re not trying.

That’s not how they were doing it.

They did it like this.

That’s how you do it.

Don’t do that.

You’re getting ahead of yourself.

You’re getting behind.

It’s like I keep telling you.

Not like that.

I’m disappointed.

You’re disappointing.

Well, this is disappointing.

Don’t disappoint me.

You’ll disappoint yourself.

I’m not mad.

I’m disappointed.

Anger will not solve anything.

Don’t be a part of the problem.

You’re the problem.

This is a problem.

Like I said.


Not exactly.

It’s still too loud.

About Mary Ann Rivers

Mary Ann Rivers writes smart and emotional contemporary romance. Read more >
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8 Responses to There’s No Such Thing

  1. I love this.

    Don’t go there.

    Where are you going?

    You don’t know where you’re going.


    Go away.

    Are you lost?

    Find your way.

    Don’t follow me.

    Come here.

  2. Ruthie Knox says:

    Oh, this hits me so hard.

    It makes me think, most powerfully, of parenting — all the ways in which we confine, confine, confine our children. How tempting the urge to confine can be, and how unfair it is because it’s so disrespectful of autonomy.

    My husband does a lot of scholarship and learning, himself, in First Nations Studies, and I’ve heard from him often about First Nations principles of ethics and how they apply to learning and scholarship. Particularly of the concept of sovereignty as it applies to personhood and how we treat ourselves and others.

    I think often of my son’s sovereignty, and how imperfectly I preserve it.

    Giving people their sovereignty is difficult. Giving ourselves sovereignty is difficult, too, with these voices, always, telling us every possible thing we need to be afraid of.

    But it’s so important to try.

  3. They all pretty much boil down to “Behave” in whichever way is good/appropriate/what I want in a given situation. Which reminds me of Deb Marquart’s poem by the same name.

    Debra Marquart

    On TV when the cops crash
    through your door they scream,
    Stop, or I’ll shoot, but I recall
    a newly-minted deputy
    storming our kegger years ago.
    Fingers itchy for the stiff leather
    of his holster, he made for
    the bonfire yelling, Shoot,
    or I’ll stop. Such things

    stay with you, like the way
    my ex used to say, Now you
    just behave, when he though
    my neck had slipped too far
    out of the loop of his noose.
    I’d curl my legs under me,
    and purr, Oh sure, honey,
    I’m being-have, pronouncing it
    with a slight southern accent,
    a word like a silk sheet
    slipping, perfectly,
    off my tongue. But you know

    how it is with cats, all sweetness
    curled on the couch
    when you’re home,
    but shredding their nails
    on the chiffon as your car
    backs down the driveway.
    Don’t kid yourself,
    they’re looming large
    over the gerbil and pissing
    wild arcs into the flowerpot,
    even as your garage door
    yawns to its slow mechanical
    close. Lately I’ve been thinking
    about the word, behave,
    how it’s made entire of verbs,
    but it’s all about getting nowhere.
    Being-have means, being had,
    means, having been, means,
    being a has-been. It reminds me

    of the way I could never breathe,
    when I was a kid, that long, slow
    hyperventilating experiences
    of childhood. I’d go white and claw
    my neck. My sisters would turn
    and groan, Dad, she’s doing it

    again. And Dad would get
    his red face right next to mine,
    hunker down as if to adjust
    the TV, and scream, Now you
    just relax. Sure, the air of fear

    rushed greedily into my lungs.
    But even though they all believed
    it had worked, I always knew
    it hadn’t.

  4. Shari Slade says:

    I had a panic attack in the middle of this, A+ terror.

    • Shelley says:

      I had to stop reading, and come back to it, and tell myself it was okay, and use my coping skills, to get through it.

  5. sofia says:

    I couldn’t read it all, couldn’t take it, too much boundaries, limits. Feels like being put in a very small crammed box. Maybe death itself. Denial of self means death of self.

  6. Justine says:

    Since I’m reading this while listening to the CMA Awards, this post immediately made me think of songs written by Kacey Musgraves, who just won Best New Artist. I especially like “Follow Your Arrow” and “Mama’s Broken Heart” (recorded by Miranda Lambert).

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