Hey is For Horses: How to Take Rejection Like a Human

Right before my mother passed away, I went out on a date with this dude I’d met online. We had a good rapport over text and chat, and he seemed like he’d be a nice dude. I needed some normality in my life, so I decided a date wouldn’t be a terrible idea, and went out with him.

It was a deeply boring date. We got coffee and went for a walk. He was late, and dressed like a slob. He didn’t have a clue what to order at the coffee shop (not a bad thing in general, but a mark against him for a relationship with me in particular). And he was boring. So boring. About half an hour into the date, I faked a text from a friend and left.

He tried to text me a few times over the next week, to which I didn’t respond. I didn’t even know his last name, wasn’t attached, and oh, yeah, my mom died. A couple of days after the funeral – three weeks after our initial date – I got a message from him on OkCupid, berating me for not responding to his texts, saying I was “immature for a 28 year old.”

It almost goes without saying that this did not endear me to him any further. Granted, there’s no way he could have known about my mother, but the continued texting after silence, culminating in a mean message over email, secured for me the idea that I never, ever wanted to talk to this man again.

This series between me and Emmy has been an attempt to focus on less gendered aspects of dating. Emmy has been talking about women dating women and other gender variant, and I’ve been fairly focused on opposite sex relationships, as that is where my experience lies. Today, I’m going to address this specifically from a male-female relationship perspective, as the power dynamics in these relationships affects rejection differently than in many other potential romances.

Telling a man no is a very delicate process for a lot of women. Even when I departed from the Worst Date Ever, I quietly said, “It was nice meeting you. I’ll call you,” and then vowed to never respond to him again as I walked away. Rejecting him to his face seemed like a dangerous move, and in a world where women have been stabbed for refusing to respond to street harassment, it’s a reasonable assessment to make.

You see, cisgender straight men, we women are taking massive risks by going on dates with you. Comedian Louis CK once described a woman going on a date with a man as being only able to date a half-lion, half-bear and going “oh, I hope this one’s nice.” Problematic though Louis is, this analogy is particularly apt for the risks women take in dating men. I don’t think men realize what a risk it is.

Here’s what I do before a date with a man. I tell people I’m going – I facebook about it, I message a friend, I say something to let people know where I’ll be and when. I schedule the date for a public place, like a coffee shop or a bakery, during daylight hours. I always choose somewhere I’ve been before, some place I know is easily accessible and will have people around. I have ready excuses if the date starts to go badly – a phone call, a text, something that signals “someone else knows where I am and expects to see me.” I do all of this as second nature - it's part of how I function.

This is what women face when we are also placed in a position to reject men. We are well within our rights to do so, but we’re constantly doing a calculus about how. There are a number of lessons that men who date women should learn in order to understand this calculus and to handle rejection well.

Silence is an answer and that answer is no.

When a relationship is only one or two dates in, it’s not out of the norm for one person to just go radio silent. You text a couple of times and get nothing back. You know they’ve had plenty of time and you think “maybe they just didn’t see it,” so you text again. Life lesson: if a date’s not texting you back, it’s because they don’t want to see you. Done and done. Their sudden disappearance from your corner of the world translates to “I’m not interested in anything further.”

It seems mean, but for many women, it’s the safest path. We are distancing ourselves from the problem as quickly and as kindly as possible, because we don’t want to get drawn into an argument about why we’re not feeling it. Silence is an answer in this situation.

What you should do: Stop texting. Stop contact. Move on.

“I had a nice time but I’m just not feeling it" means "Quit trying."

Here, the person is being honest with you. It’s a risk to say these things, because, like I mentioned, it can become an argument about what could be done differently or giving second chances. The nicest thing to do in response in this situation? Accept it and move on. If a person is actually telling you they don’t want to be with you, the least assholish thing you can do in response is respect their feelings and their space.

Do not make your feelings their problem.

In the earliest stages of a relationship, there’s little commitment and there’s little emotional reliance on the other. When you feel bad about being rejected, it is your responsibility to take care of yourself. Do not make your feelings the other person’s problem, and do not spend your time blaming them for your broken heart. Leave that to your Livejournal.

Other things that should be obvious but for some reason still need to be said.

Don’t insult the person for rejecting you. Why? Why is this a thing?

Don’t make a list of why you’re rejecting someone or why you don’t deserve to be rejected. That’s just desperate. Private pro/con lists are okay. Sharing them with the person is not.

Don’t follow the person on social media or comment on their blog after they rejected you. This is, my friends, called stalking. Don’t do it.

Don’t arrange “spontaneous meetings.” See again, stalking.

Don’t vague-book or subtweet about how terrible this person is for not loving you. Song lyrics count. Go listen to Taylor Swift on your own time.

Social and power dynamics between men and women affect the ways in which we behave when we're rejecting someone. This makes us perform rejection in ways built to keep us safe. We need to recalibrate our understanding of rejection and why people are afraid to do so - and then change our behavior so they feel safe. Rejection is tough to take, but if we really care, we need to be ready to step aside.