When I told a friend that I was thinking about writing a post about rejection, his reaction was quick and strong – “don’t”. My mother’s reaction was similar – “maybe not, honey”. Let’s face it – no one wants to talk about rejection. It makes us cringe, lower our heads, and turn the other way. But these reactions only make me want to write about the topic more. Because the fact is, we all know what it feels like to be rejected – and to reject someone else – and while it’s unpleasant at best, it’s a very real part of life. And here at O-HI-30, I’m all about “keepin’ it real”. So let’s talk about rejection, shall we?
Lest you think I’m going to launch into a rant about all the men that have rejected me over my 30 years of existence, I’m not. Well, maybe just some of them! But before I get into that, I think it’s important to understand that rejection is not limited to dating. It’s something we all experience in many aspects of our lives, starting with our earliest years. Maybe we weren’t invited to a sleepover as an 8-year-old or to the dance as a 16-year old. Or maybe we were the last to be picked for volleyball in gym class (true story), or had no one to sit with at lunch. Or maybe we didn’t get accepted by our college of choice, or asked back for a second-round interview, or promoted to the next level at work.
The fact is, rejection is something that we experience over and over throughout our lives, in various shapes and sizes. So in my mind, the question isn’t “how do we ensure we don’t get rejected?”, but instead, “how do we deal with rejection when it does occur?” The former puts the onus on others and implies that we can control their actions, while the latter puts the ball in our court and challenges us to take responsibility for our own behavior. Of course, doing so isn’t always easy – especially when it comes to dating.
Let me give it to you straight: dating can be a real b*tch. It’s not for the faint of heart. You can go on what you thought was a great date with someone, only to never hear from them again. Or someone you’ve been seeing decides they’re no longer into you, or that someone else strikes their fancy more than you do. Texts are ignored, voicemails go unanswered, emails are left hanging. Left-swipes are made on Tinder. As Drew Barrymore laments in one of my favorite movies, He’s Just Not That Into You,
“I had this guy leave me a voice mail at work, and so I called him at home, and he emailed me to my BlackBerry, and so I texted to his cell, and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It’s exhausting”.
I empathize with Drew’s plight. I, for one, really do put myself out there – those of you who know me know that I’m hardly a girl who hides in her house and then wonders why she hasn’t met someone. On the contrary, I’m really “out there” – I ask men out on napkins, I strike up conversations with boys at the gym, I encourage people to set me up with their cousin’s cousin. I belong to multiple dating sites, and lest you think I wait around for the cute guys to email me, oh no! On the contrary, I send emails all the time – most of which go unanswered, sometimes at an alarmingly high rate. Just recently, I received a response to a match.com email I had written over a week prior. I got excited, thinking that finally someone had written me back – only to discover this:
Yea, I didn’t need a canned email to realize you’re not interested – not responding was rejection enough. Thanks.
To be fair, I’ve rejected my fair share of men. Probably more than have rejected me. I fully understand it’s a two-way street. But knowing this fact doesn’t make it any easier when you find yourself on the receiving side of “I’m just not that into you”. Friends will offer condolences like, “his loss” and “he wasn’t the right guy for you”, all of which might be true. But it still doesn’t change the brutal reality that It Didn’t Work Out, and It Wasn’t Your Choice.
When you put yourself out there, you run the risk of it not working out – of being rejected. It’s far easier to not date much, or at all. For if you don’t go on dates, or even try to go on dates, then you don’t get rejected. Plenty of people operate this way, and it usually works out for them. They meet someone anyway – through a friend of a friend, or in their first month of an online dating subscription, or in grad school, and things just work out – without a whole lot of rejection in the process. Could I operate this way? Sure I could – and I’d probably end up meeting the man of my dreams all the same.
But here’s the thing: it’s just not in my nature to let go of the reigns. And so while it would be so much easier to just sit back and relax, I simply cannot do that. I keep sending match.com emails, I keep chatting up men, I keep asking friends of friends to set me up with random strangers. And – I keep getting rejected. Not all of the time, sure, but when you’ve been dating as long as I have, it sure feels that way sometimes. But the fact remains, I just don’t know how to live my life any other way.
No matter your age or circumstance, rejection is a part of life. It never gets easy, but it does get easier. All you can do is kick that dirt off your shoulder, hold your head high, and keep on keepin’ on.
I admire your honesty & courage, Sarah! A lot of people miss out on some of the best things in life because of fear of rejection or failure in some way. Good for you for going after what you want! Truly though, some of the best things in my life found me :), when I wasn’t even looking.
Working off of Lauren’s comment, I think since you’ve been so brave about being rejected — or not — in the dating world that might be making other forms of risk seem much easier to tackle. You’re doing so many brave and potentially scary things personally and professionally. So it’s not fun, and these guys *are* missing out but…silver lining?
Also, if we were in the same gym class, I would’ve been chosen last for volleyball. Well, I was chosen last for everything, but if it were possible to be negative-last, that would’ve been me and volleyball.