Saturday, May 31, 2014

Recon and Rejection

"I don't want anyone who doesn't want me."
~Oprah Winfrey

Turning back once again to the wonder years of Junior High School, I recall how we used to insulate ourselves from potential rejection as much as possible. If a young woman set a young man's heart a-flutter, he immediately employed a reconnaissance man (this was usually me).
"Hi, Lark."
::rolls eyes:: "Hi, Bradley."
"It's, uh, Brady."
"Um, I was wondering . . . do you know my friend, Mark-Paul?"
"Do you know if your friend, Soleil Moon, likes him?"
"Likes him? Or, like, likes him, likes him?"
"Um, likes him, likes him."
"Does he like her?"
"Um, yeah, I think so. (Play it cool.) I mean, you know, maybe."
"Just likes her, or, like, likes her, likes her."
"The second one, I think. Maybe. He doesn't know I'm asking you. (Of course he knows. He sent me.)"
"Okay, I'll ask her during third period. Meet me after lunch, and I'll tell you what she says. (Like she doesn't already know.)"
"Cool. And then you can stab me through the eye with a spoon."
"Nothing. See you after lunch."
Two days later, after another half dozen or so humiliating exchanges between myself and the other consigliere determining that a proposal would be greeted favorably, my friend would ask out his crush-of-the-moment, she would accept. They would spend a week giggling and holding hands, and then promptly break up.
The braver among us would forego the reconnaissance and employ the use of "the note." (Sometimes, this required two notes.)
Well played, Tiffani-Amber. Well played.

This had the unfortunate potential of leading to "the rejection note." I had an interesting collection of those. My friends thought that I was pretty brave for skipping the recon, but the truth is that I only ever asked out the girls I was positive would say "no." I had a video project on World War II propaganda to finish. I did not have time for giggling and hand-holding. (Yep. I was that kid.) Besides, with all of the recon missions I was running for them, I was spending more time with the girls than they were.
However, when I did start to become genuinely interested in girls, the use of notes and blatant reconnaissance was by then outmoded. We were, after all, high schoolers at that point - practically tie-wearing adults. I was already wearing ties. (Still that kid.)
From that time and through the years that followed all the way up to now, I would become no stranger to rejection from women.
If ever there was a face that screamed: "Expert on Rejection". . .

Armed with Grandmother's wise words, I managed to deal with it pretty well all things considered. I even learned a few things along the way that I am willing to share with you now.
1) Rejection happens, and it's a good thing it does. Can you imagine what would happen if every invitation led to a passionate love affair? (Okay, stop imagining it.) Life is about "no"s and "yes"s. The "no"s keep life interesting.
2) It's (usually) not about you. Like Grandmother said, you can't help who you're attracted to and who you aren't. Now, there are things you might be doing that are getting in your own way a little bit: hygiene, being a pushy jerk, etc., but really, if there's nothing there, there's nothing there. 
3) Your disappointment is mostly in your head. Look, your brain painted up a couple of pictures in your head the moment that you decided to ask that person out: one where she laughs in your face and says "Dream on, loser," and one where she says, "I thought you'd never ask!" and she throws her arms around you, and you kiss passionately to the swells of an overproduced 80s love song. Whatever her answer is, it's usually neither of these, but if she does say, "no," we tend to mourn the lack of the latter scenario rather than be grateful that it wasn't the former. Silly humans.
4) Possibility is a big part of the attraction. (This is kind of related to 3.) I used to think that I was strange, because, as soon as a girl let me know she wasn't interested, I found that I immediately lost about 80% of my interest in her. (If she was rude about it: 100%.) Did this make me a sociopath or just calloused? Well, it turns out that it makes me pretty normal, actually. There was a study that showed the possibility that someone might be attracted to you had a big impact upon how attractive they are to you. Until, someone has told you, "no," there is at least a 50% chance that they're interested in you as far as your brain is concerned, making them all the more attractive to you. You're attracted to the possibility that this person could be the one (in addition to their other attributes, of course.) When that possibility is eliminated, the attraction diminishes significantly - or it does for me, anyway. (Admittedly, the degree may vary.) I still like her. I still think she has pretty eyes and a great sense of humor, and everything else that I liked about her before, but the "swoon" factor just isn't there. (Although there have been exceptions, even for me.)
5) Animosity is pointless. Grandmother said, "Don't blame," and she was right. Remember, your disappointment comes from the "possibility" scenario that your brain created. The rejector had no part in creating that. She had no knowledge of that scenario, and even if she did, that's not her responsibility. She owes you nothing for the fantasy your brain created. That's like thinking that the lottery should just give you the jackpot, because you have a really cool idea for what to do with it, and then getting mad when they say, "That's nice, but we'll just stick to the number draw."
6) There are 7 billion people in the world, so, if you're sure you've found THE ONE, but she just doesn't know she's interested in you yet: it sucks to be you. (It also sucks to be her if you don't snap out of it.) Stop wasting your time and hers. Every minute that you're spending trying to "win her over" (not going to happen, by the way), you just missed noticing a dozen women who might actually be THE ONE.
7) Cut women a lot of slack. At the bottom of this page is a cartoon that demonstrates a guy's worst-case scenario when he asks for a number versus a girl's worst-case scenario. It's powerful. Scroll down and read it. Guys, the worst among our gender may be making dating (or even having platonic friendships with) women kind of difficult for us, but they're making it a nightmare for the women. When a woman says to me, "I'm not interested in you in that way," I say, "Thank you." 
Why? Because that may be a difficult thing for her to say. The last seven guys she said that to may have had some scary reactions, and - for all she knows - I could be psychopath number eight. Then when I say that I'm okay with being just friends, I have to take into account that she may have heard that from someone before who didn't really mean it, and then later put her in an awkward or even dangerous situation.
Sometimes I think being a guy who respects women is like being a vegetarian Great White Shark. You have to get used to people screaming and swimming away from you even when you mean them no harm, and you have to learn not to take it personally. It's getting better, but gentlemen, we have to remember that if we aren't part of the solution, we're part of the problem.

Rejection is a part of life. Sometimes you're the rejector and sometimes you're the rejectee. With a little courtesy and a little compassion, it is survivable. Or it should be.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Let Go

"Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love." 
~ Charlie Brown (Charles Schulz)

I haven't posted in a while. I guess I haven't felt that I've really had anything to add to the multiple blogs out there serving nerd culture, so I haven't gone to the trouble of writing a new entry. I'm not crazy about this whole Batman vs. Superman movie, but that has little or nothing to do with the whole Bat-Fleck controversy, and pretty much everything to do with the fact that Zack Snyder still hasn't given us a Superman movie yet that was very good.
I'm also not as thrilled as everyone else on the internet that we're getting three more Star Wars movies that will include Grandfather Han Solo, Grandma Leia, and Grandpa Luke. I like their cinematic stories having ended in Return of the Jedi. It was a good place to say goodbye to those characters. I am not particularly excited at the prospect of a curmudgeonly Han Solo complaining that he's "too old for this Sith."
So, rather than being the dissenting view on these upcoming projects - and coming across as a bit curmudgeonly myself - I just took a little break from posting my superfluous nerd stuff. I am looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy (but I fear that it won't be the moneymaker that Marvel/Disney seem to think it will be.)
However, I did have something else that has been on my mind lately that does impact nerd culture quite a bit. There was a mass shooting recently that got quite a bit of attention. I wish these things got a little bit less attention, because I believe it sends a message to attention-seeking, disturbed minds that an act of terrorism is a great way to get yourself some notoriety.
However, it has sparked some important discussion lately on the subject of misogyny and the perceived entitlement of men hoping to earn the affections of women.
There have been many insightful and thought-provoking posts on this topic all over the internet of late. Notably, I recommend reading what Arthur Chu had to say on the topic. Again, I didn't feel that I had much to add, but a friend of mine shared her own story of a scary situation with a persistent admirer, and I was inspired to write a Facebook post, which I will share here now: 
Way back in Junior High School, a couple of us accompanied a buddy home who had received the dreaded "I don't like you in that way" note from his crush after he had worked up the courage to ask her out. (Out where? Who knows, since we never went anywhere, but that's just what you did.)
We got to his house, and my other friend said, "Forget her, man. She's just a [word we really need to stop calling women, guys]."
Well, Grandmother came out of the kitchen at that and wagged her finger at us.
"Not the girl's fault she don't want to be your girlfriend! Not your fault who you love. Not your fault who you don't love. She just being honest. Don't blame. She not right girl for you. So find another girl. Lots of other girls."
Grandma's words have always stuck with me, and - given some of the national discussions currently about misogyny in light of recent tragic events, it seemed right to share them.
In movies and television, the sweet, slightly neurotic guy makes a bold gesture and gets the girl. Or maybe his dogged persistence eventually wears her down. We are told since we are little boys that we have to "win" the girl's heart.
Guys, in my experience, that's a fantasy. If a woman isn't interested in you when you first meet her, no bold gesture, dogged persistence, or "winning" strategy is going to change that. And here's the important part: that is not her fault. She's not being mean, she's not a [oh, that word again], and she definitely, definitely doesn't owe you anything for your efforts. Why waste your energies on someone who isn't interested in you? I don't get that. There are 7 billion people on the planet. Odds are that you will eventually find someone whose heart you make sing as much as she makes yours - but not if you're chasing after some poor girl who really wishes you would stop buying her stuff.
If a woman says to you, "I'm sorry (and she has nothing to be sorry for), but I'm not interested in you in that way," that is a GIFT. She just eliminated a TON of guesswork on your part, and let you know that you should be looking elsewhere. If you're smart, you thank her and make friends with her. Women friends are awesome. They know so much cool, useful stuff. And I'm not talking about "secretly pining and waiting for the opportunity to show her how you're always there for her" friendship. Do NOT be that guy.
What you don't do is blame her, get mad at her, tell her she's making a mistake, call her a [seriously, who started this?] or some other derogatory term. First, it's not nice. Second, it ignores the fact that she is a person with her own preferences, dreams, and opinions. And third, when the next guy comes along who she's not interested in, it makes her afraid to be honest with him. Don't make it hard on everyone else because you got your feelings hurt.
Rejection happens. It happens a lot, if you're willing to take a chance. That's why it's taking a chance. "No" was always an option, but let me ask you this: did you follow your feelings? Were you honest with the woman about how you felt and respectful of her in doing so?
Congratulations! That, my son, is what being a man is. If she's not interested, it's okay to be disappointed, but it's the same kind of disappointment that comes from a baseball game being called on account of rain. It's nobody's fault.
Can you handle your disappointment with dignity and grace? Good. Here's a stamp for your man card. Nine more and you get to grow a handlebar mustache.
"But I bought her a gift!" Well, that was nice of you - unless you were expecting something in return, in which case, it wasn't a gift, was it? I'll just take that man card back for now while you think about what you've done.
"But she is the only one for me! I just know it!"

Brother, you should get some help . . . and a statistics book.

I wrote a follow-up post that I will share tomorrow on: handling rejection. (I'm practically an expert.)