Rejection – it never gets any easier. But there really is an art to it, both in how you do it and how you deal with it.
I remember the first time I got dumped. “I’m just not sure. Honestly, you’re attractive, but it’s just not right,” he said. I took a deep breath and replied, “Oh, of course, it’s fine. I was totally thinking the same.” I smiled, called for the bill and had one last hug before leaving him for the final time. I was fine. Of course, I was totally fine.
That night I met with a friend. I spoke of how fine I was and proceeded to drink (/shot) every white, green and spicy red liquid in sight. I was fine. Of course, I was totally fine.
Later the next day I caught up with my friend Ali at a pub in Peckham. She’s my go-to for all things ‘of the heart’. A wise creature with an ability to relax you with just one smile. I had two pints and told the story over and over again. Each time it became a little bit more real. A little bit more raw. I broke down in tears. But why? I was fine. Of course, I was totally fine.
Some years on and the feeling of rejection in dating is just as tough; but I’m now at a point to recognise why these things happen and how I should respond. It’s also made me reframe how I treat other people and deliver those awkward, “I don’t think this is going anywhere,” conversations.
Photography by Kyle Galvin
Don’t Be Reckless
There’s a great line in Everybody’s Free (to Wear Suncreen) by Baz Luhrmann. The song – based on an advice column from the Chicago Tribune in 1997 – talks of the lessons of life. My favourite line says, “Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts; don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours”. It really is how we should be operating. Upfront. Honest. Respectful. But why is it so hard to deliver rejection; and why is it even harder to receive it?
We question ourselves; our motives; our personality; our style; and begin on the ‘what if’ cycle. What if we’d gone somewhere different? What if I hadn’t worn that shirt? What if I had been less confident? What if I had seemed a little more nonchalant? But there really is no right answer to ‘what if’. There will always be something, but we can’t change ourselves in order to change other people.
“You Got The Vibe Right Then”
Last week I had yet another experience of rejection. It was harsh, it was unfair and it was unjustified. But the best part of it all is that I held him to account.
I had been on a second date with a guy. We’ll call him Alex. He was 27, had returned from travelling and was quite the conversationalist. I thought it was going so well… all until he delivered the first blow of the night, “right, I’m going to bounce if that’s cool?”. I’m honestly not sure if I was more offended by the fact that he had used the term “bounce” in a sentence, or that he was suggesting that he was totally over the date, but again, I went with it and said, “sure.”
It was good really. He was clear that he wasn’t in to me. And I decided that I wouldn’t hear from him again. But I was wrong.
When I got home I received a message from Alex, apologising for leaving so abruptly. I wasn’t too sure how to reply, but thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. He was apologising, which showed he cared. He must have a good excuse. “Hey, just got the vibe you weren’t really into it,” I replied.
“You got the vibe right then,” he snapped back.
I had a total WTF!? moment. I was actually furious. He had reopened the dialogue just to really make sure that I knew that it was done. Why couldn’t he have done this in person; and why did he feel the need to be so blunt?
I wasn’t upset about being rejected, I was upset by how cold he had been. Not okay, Alex. Not okay.
But I was dealt a good hand on Friday when I bumped into (read: I saw him and I went straight over) him at a music festival. He was queuing for the toilet and instead of trying to avoid him all day, I made the conscious decision to go over and talk to him. I was polite and civil, asking how he was and who he was looking forward to seeing. My smile never dropped and my hair was on point. Winner.
For someone who had been so upfront and blunt in a message, he was particularly sheepish in person. It was funny to see him out of the ‘date environment’ and in the ‘real world’. He was cowardly and had nothing to say for himself.
It’s so important that we are held accountable for our actions. Dating does not mean that we can hide behind the veil of our phone. Nor does it mean we are shielded by it.
Dating should be fun. Sure, we all want to find ‘the one’, but it should be about meeting new people along the way. Some of these people may even become friends.
When we reframe it like that, it makes it all a little easier. There will be some people that you don’t get on with or – in extreme situations – take an instant dislike to, but there should still be a mutual respect.
And then there will be others that we – in our heads – marry ourselves off to. You’ll have imagined the perfect life together, but they just won’t share your vision. And that’s okay. It’s totally okay.
The Art Of Rejection
There really is an art to rejection, both in how you do it and how you deal with it. The answer is honesty and respect.
We should be honest and respectful of the people we meet. Saying how you feel and what you want is not a negative. Placing your cards on the table and being completely upfront is how it should be done. If you’re not feeling it, it’s okay, but be respectful. Place yourself in their position. How would you feel?
And more importantly, you should be honest and respectful towards yourself. If someone has said, “no”, then it’s time to move on. Be respectful of yourself and your time.
It can be very easy to lose yourself in dating. But try not to. Remember that we are all in it together. Have fun, laugh and talk about your dating experiences with friends. Some will be bad, some will be good. But enjoy it. Rejection is an art – it’s all in how you look at it.