"I put on a brave face and tough exterior for rejections. Inside is another matter."
I am currently in the process of being rejected. It is that special kind of rejection that happens via silence. It involves cruelly long exposure to his “Available” GChat status and no messages. No texts or calls.
My attempt to reach out was met with a few one-word answers and no later reciprocation or suggestions of plans. As is customary in these situations, I’ve renamed him “Have Dignity” in my cell phone in case of temptation to call again. Dude is over it, plain and simple.
And the fact of the matter is, this guy and I were probably not meant to be together. He told me I had low-self esteem on our first date and always pointed out that I was a nervous person, which just made me more nervous. We didn’t like the same Youtube videos. Those are things that might have driven us both insane. And yet.
Instead of being bummed for a while and maybe throwing on some Taylor Swift for an afternoon, I am paralyzed by a heartache much more appropriate for the end of a long-term relationship than a five-date fling.
External symptoms include but are not limited to a shaking tearfest long and hard enough that I had to leave work, weeping into the back of my poor, confused cat and listening to “I Can Change” by LCD Soundsystem on repeat for hours. And I was being completely honest when I sang along, “I can change if it helps you fall in love.” For those unfamiliar, he says, “I can change” 42 times in that song.
And I do this every time.
Even when I am rejected for totally understandable reasons, like a lack of common interests or mismatched desires about how quickly we want things to move along, I fall down a regret spiral about how I could have done things differently that would have prevented the end of the relationship or fling or whatever-it-was.
“I can change! Just tell me how!” is what I want to say.
Please be from him. Please be from him. Aaaaaand, it's from Dad.
At the end of my last relationship, my ex made the mature and ultimately loving decision to not be with me because he wasn’t contributing enough to the relationship and needed to become the kind of man who could. I’m told regularly that it was among the most amicable break-ups people had ever seen and yet I still feel it is as if it were an act of intentional cruelty. All I could hear was, “You are insufficient. You are not enough.”
And that is what every rejection sounds like to me. It is a statement about my wholeness as a person. It takes me to an irrational panic about being categorically unlovable and worthless.
As fully aware as I am that this is among the most self-centered thoughts one could have, I can’t stop thinking that any and all rejections are about me and my mountain of deficiencies.
The problem is that when it comes to my own self-worth, I treat it with the same rules that govern a scientific paper instead of the ones that should govern human emotions. Have your reported results been reviewed by your peers? Can they be replicated? Have objective outside observers been called in to verify your findings?
For a while, I tested theories about why I was getting rejected. Some brutally honest people have told me that I don’t seem desperate and therefore repellant so I crossed that off the list. I’ve tried the “Don’t try so hard and he’ll come along” game. And despite the sad sack I might seem like here, I’m actually kind of a blast on dates and have never not been asked for a second date.
At least I know I'm not alone.
But I see now that asking the question “Why do you get rejected?” is a lot less important than the question “Why does it hurt you so much?”
I’ve spent years trying to mix a magic potion of solid feminism and genuine self-esteem that should at least neutralize these feelings when they inevitably arise but I guess I just don’t have the proportions right. Or maybe I’m trying to mix the wrong ingredients. I just don’t know.
Not being affirmed as a romantically viable candidate by a man is still absolutely devastating.
I am one of many heterosexual women that have allowed a number of external forces convince them that there is a man-sized hole in their lives and that filling that hole is the only thing that will make them a complete person. I curse the day society started calling significant others “our other half” because I’ve taken that shit to heart and to whole new levels of crazy.
The most recent rejection was from a super-positive, very earnest guy. Seeing as I am neither of these things and am kind of bummed about it, I thought he could fill up the negative space in my heart with some of that energy. He seemed more content with his day job than I am with mine and I thought I’d learn acceptance through him. It went so far as seeing that he had well-behaved cats and since mine is a terror, I truly thought his pet-rearing skills might rub off on me.
What I will try to do for now is to tell myself that these holes I want to fill will not be fixed by simply inserting a man into them. I will tell myself they are not holes at all. I will tell myself I am sufficient, I am enough.
And while I won’t necessarily believe it just yet, I can change. I’m just hoping I won’t have to repeat it 42 times for it to stick.