“What is the hardest word for you to say?” Can’t.
I really don’t like having to say I can’t do something. It’s been quite a struggle then to have to tell people, no, I can’t eat your… And living in a different culture makes it even more of a challenge. Food allergies, or at least awareness of them, aren’t that common. So here I am, politely refusing roti prata, naan, and anything with soy sauce. I would if I could but can’t. 不可 Bù kě yǐ.
Since I have had to come to terms with not having it all, I get frustrated when I hear “can’t” when what people really mean is “won’t.” For every “can lah” I hear, I get some surprising “can’t”s:
-The taxi driver who can’t take me to my destination because traffic is too heavy in that part of town.
-The repairman who can’t adjust my hob for propane because hobs are meant for natural gas.
-The police officer who can’t remove the 7-foot python from my neighbor’s yard because it’s on private property.
-The man who can’t move his car from in front of my house because he’s too drunk to drive and can’t turn off his engine because it’s too hot out to sleep without aircon.
I know I need to get over it. My grammatical hangups are not their problem. Maybe I could even take a lesson from them. Stop being so polite about my limits. Keep it simple. Can’t.