No matter how old you are, how well you can recover from a stubbed toe, a rear ended bumper or a jack ass move from your boss.. nothing quite stings like rejection.
Rejection has been around since long before Facebook ‘defriending’, being ostracized by the cool kids at school or even being dumped. In fact the term, first used in 1415, actually means to ‘throw back’. Ugh… even 400 years ago it sucked. .
Rejection is something we all deal with from the first time we try to climb onto a lap and get removed by a busy mother, through to the presidential nomination you didn’t receive (Hillary). We’re rejected all of our lives. And while you learn how to deal with the college acceptance you didn’t get or the job offer that never came.. rejection by a specific person, whether friend, colleague, lover or family member … well that never gets easier. Its just so damn personal.
Like most of us over the age of 12, I’ve been rejected by friends (‘sorry, you don’t have kids, you wouldn’t find it interesting), by family (for eloping at the age of 31), and of course, by dates. Oh the date rejection…its endless.
My first real taste of date rejection came in 1985 when Sean Lundy, a platonic boyfriend of sorts, agreed to ‘see me’ outside of school. By ‘see’ I mean ‘meet at the bus stop and walk around a bit’. We weren’t dating or anything other than staring at each other a lot, but since he picked me to ‘see’ I had high hopes.
It was Christmas Eve, I stupidly thought it was appropriate to bring a gift (Fahrenheit, still can’t stand the smell of it) and it took all of 2 seconds for him to end my fantasy, ‘ Um.. I don’t like you any more’.
Potentially the fastest relationship of my life, I cried the entire bus ride home. But then promptly decided I didn’t like blondes anyway. At least I’ve always been good at bouncing back.
Straightforward rejection is relatively easy. Fast, painful but done;
‘You wanted a promotion? Sorry. No.’
‘You are not Americas Next Top Model’
‘Pack your knives and go’
‘I don’t want to be married any more’
‘The time has come for this phase of our relationship to end’ (yes, honestly)
But all the other flavors of rejection drive me nuts.
Rejection is often so hidden and low key, we don’t realize we’re rejected until days, weeks or even months later. I’m still waiting for ‘Todd’ to call me back after our second date in 1999, and I think I might actually still be dating a few guys who just fell off the map somewhere in the early 2000s. My ex husband and I never said goodbye, so I hope he knows we’re divorced (its been 6 years), and I can’t count the number of coffee dates who said ‘I’ll call you’ and then apparently were hit by a bus. That is.. until I saw them back out in Match.com, or in one delightful instance, working at Banana Republic. So much for his ‘career in sales’.
The low key rejection – the guy who stops calling, the email from 2005 which says ‘see you soon’ (I haven’t) and the low grade downgrading of communications is like nails on a chalkboard to a left brained logician. Either we’re friends or we’re not; lovers or not… but this weird slow death of things… this rejection drives me insane.
My friend is currently experiencing the ‘soft rejection’ from a guy whose calls have dropped off, sends one word texts and has ceased planning dates. To an outsider its done.. but you just know that as soon as she starts reaching out for other dates, he’ll reconnect and send her spinning. ‘Maybe I was just too keen?’ ‘Maybe he actually likes me?’ ‘Maybe now the timing is right?’ and the whole process starts back up again. He won’t ‘throw her back’… but he’s kind of ‘teasing her on his fishing line’. Whether its deliberate or not, damn it seems cruel. I wouldn’t ever ask for her to be rejected (god I wish someone would actually get to know how awesome she is), but this ‘slow death’ .. I just wish he’d throw her back or reel her in. Its excruciating to watch and all I can do is be a good friend and sit on my hands (my preference would be to whack the guy upside the head and ask him to make a decision.
No-one likes to think that they don’t matter and its not only a personal thing, its an ego thing. I was rejected via email after a torrid affair last year with a promise of ‘in 6 months maybe we can…’ I was definitely ‘thrown back’ but he told me his line was still in the water. I couldn’t help myself but count the months to see if I truly was off the hook.. even as every cell in my body screamed ‘done’. Which is why I pray these days for the swift kick to the head over the slow death on a line.. its just cruel.
But its not just a guy thing. We’re just as bad at ‘throwing back’ men.
I used to have a pathological need for people to like me and would often deliver the ‘great date.. we must do this again’ speech even as I was deleting his number and blocking his profile. Those puppy eyes would make me think I was doing him a favor by rejecting him in slow, excruciating stages of non communication. I conveniently forget how awful it is to be on the receiving end of that phone which doesn’t ring, that text that doesn’t arrive. That absence which so clearly shouts ‘you don’t matter to me’. I didn’t want to tell him that I’ve ‘thrown him back’.. because…. well I didn’t want to be hurtful.
Such a hypocrite.
These days I’m more honest and I call it progress to deliver the swift kick to the groin rather than the slow death of hope. There’s nothing you can do to soften the landing of rejection except speed the process by which you or the other person can get back up. It cuts down on the ‘what if’s’ and the ‘maybe’s plus hell, I figure if someone wants something bad enough they’ll pick up the phone and we can talk like adults. So go ahead and reject me, and I’ll reject you. But lets be clear about it so there’s no confusion and neither of us it sitting around checking our phones.
Now I wonder if I need to check that my ex knows about our divorce?