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.

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