Crushed, or: a PSA on rejection.

So, it didn’t work out with The Crush.

And that sucks, but that’s dating. Chemistry and timing and that magical elusive element that makes two people want to be together at the same time are all finicky and unpredictable things. This happens.

What’s different about this for me is that I don’t usually fancy someone for this long before doing something about it. And I won’t get into why that was this time, and it definitely was the right move to wait, but it meant that my crush stretched on for months when normally, I’d have asked him out months ago and this all could have played out without all the wasted time. Part of my current feelings about this entire thing is how upset I am at the wasted time. Which is 100% no one’s fault, but there you go.

We went on two dates, sort of. On (what I thought was) the second date, we went for dinner and then walked around, ended up back at his place, sitting on his porch overlooking a park.

“So, yeah…” he started.

Oh no, I thought. I made a face.

“Oh, you don’t need to make that face,” he said. But honestly, I kind of did. The tone he started out with wasn’t going anywhere good. That much I could tell, on a visceral level.

He proceeded to tell me that it’s not a good time for him, that he has relationship baggage, that he needs to focus on his dissertation, etc etc. Which is basically all dating code for “thank you, but I’m not interested.” Which, I get that. I’ve been on that side of things many times. There isn’t necessarily a ‘reason’, and when you go to articulate it, saying that you simply aren’t interested seems too harsh, or something. Though I do long for a culture where we could just be that straight up with each other. As someone with anxiety, I actually find clarity reassuring.

I went quiet for a while, because I’m pretty bad at being in touch with my own feelings about things on the regular, let alone when I’m a bit blindsided by something like this. But one thing I did say, and I’m pretty proud of myself for having the self-possession in the moment to even think to say this, was something like: ‘I appreciate the intention behind telling me this in person, but you know, this kind of thing is often better dealt with online.’

And I meant that. I do get the intention. And when I said that, he said a bunch of things that were confusing and sort of hurtful, to be honest. Something about how he wanted to make really sure that he wanted to be alone, that he wasn’t being crazy. Which, I’m sure he can’t have meant it like this, but which rang in my ears like: ‘yeah I just really wanted to be sure that I really didn’t want you, and yup, after my second appraisal I’m definitely sure.’

Ugh. It felt gross to hear that.

Because basically, we’d set up another (what I thought was a) date, which I’d been looking forward to, and came out with one set of expectations not only to be rejected, but to find out that I’d come all the way downtown so that he could be really SURE that he wanted to reject me. Meanwhile, now I find myself in front of the person who just rejected me and wants to be friends (I believe that’s true, I think that’s also part of why he wanted to hang out, because he’s afraid that might not happen again, which again is just about… him? and his needs?) and now I have to process my feelings in front of him while feeling foolish and self-conscious and super exposed.

And there is, I think, just this pervasive idea that letting someone down in person is kinder, that it’s more respectful, more ‘honourable’. And let me take this opportunity to be really clear: it isn’t.

Now, this varies, depending on context. Like, don’t dump someone you’ve been with for years via text message. That is definitely a dick move. But two dates? A text message or (preferably) an email is just fine. It’s kinder. It doesn’t waste my time, it doesn’t get my hopes and expectations up, and it allows me to have and process my emotions in my own damn time, in private, in my own damn space. It is *less* humiliating, not more. It is more respectful, because it considers the needs of the person you are letting down over your own.

Anyway, the whole thing sucks. No matter how you get let down, it sucks. But it is what it is. And I’m hanging in there, taking care of myself, trying to both honour the feelings but also not dwell too much in them. And I know I’ll fancy someone else again, eventually. Though right now looking down the dark tunnel of online dating is just deeply, deeply depressing.

Anyway, that’s the latest update. Onwards and upwards. Or whatever.

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The Accidental Date

It was back in February of 2014. I had just started dating The Ex and I was also still dating another man we’ll call Poly Guy. Poly Guy (PG) and I had been dating for about a year and a half, and our relationship was kind of falling apart a bit when I met The Ex. Shortly after this PG and I would break up and I’d be monogamous with The Ex for almost two years. But this is a story for another post. This post is not about that.

This post is about an accidental date I once ended up on in the midst of this.

I have heard friends of mine claim, mostly when we were younger, that they accidentally ended up on a date. I never quite understood how this was possible until it happened to me.

I had just found out that I had won a Teaching Fellowship at the university I was (and still am) attending. I wanted to celebrate, but none of my friends were around, PG lived in a small town 2 hours away at the time, and The Ex already had plans.

So, I went down to a monthly poly cocktails event that happens in Toronto, on my own. And this is not a thing I normally would do, but I was feeling like celebrating and like I didn’t expect anything to come out of this night. And it was great and I ended up talking to a slew of people and meeting some folks and having some lovely conversations and it was great. And I think I was just so full of excited, confident energy that night that I think I just sort of ended up accidentally flirting with people, or sending out some sort of energy because a few people expressed interest but at the time I was dating two people and that was maxing out all my time so I was pretty clear about that, but this guy (let’s call him A) was like ‘hey we should just like hang out and chat more and get coffee’ and silly me I thought I’d been clear I wasn’t interested in dating anyone else at the time (like when I had explicitly said that, oh, three or four times) so I was all naively like ‘sure why not’, and so I gave him my email address (because fuck phone numbers I do NOT give out my phone number to just anyone). And a few days later or something he emailed me and we decided to hang out for coffee.

I showed up at the cafe to hang out with this guy, and I don’t even know how to explain it other than to say that he had his DATE FACE on. Like, he had (was trying to have?) swagger and just I don’t even know how to explain it exactly but he was being datey. I might do a post at some point about the ways in which my ability to read body language, while I was always pretty good at it, have been fine tuned and honed by years of SO MANY DATES but yeah. This was a date.

Ugh.

So anyway then I had to sit there awkwardly for almost two hours (why? WHY? I WOULDN’T DO THIS ANYMORE but this was still back when I felt like I should ‘be nice’ idk) making polite conversation with this man who was a) trying too hard to impress me and b) spent a large portion of our conversation complaining about his wife? Like, it was unpleasant. And when I mentioned that I write theatre reviews sometimes he basically invited himself to them, saying how much fun we’d have seeing theatre and talking about it, and this is yet another phenomenon I’ve notice in dating, when men tell you how things between you will play out between you in a way that I just don’t really get what that is about or where that comes from. Because… that’s not how this works. That’s not how desire works. That’s not how friendship works. That’s not how dating works. That isn’t how any of this works, guys. Usually this happens with men (I mean, maybe women are like this too but I don’t often date women so I don’t really know) who have been married for a long time? Like, it’s as though they are just so used to having a fully formed relationship, that they don’t really know what a burgeoning relationship looks like, or something. That it’s a back and forth, it’s a process of gauging desire and interest and the other person’s judgement and figuring out reciprocity and the nature and level of that reciprocity. It’s sometimes a long process, and it takes patience, and good judgement, and being attuned to the other person, and these guys just want to bulldoze over all of that and just get to the later stages. And it’s in some ways understandable, I guess, if you’re just used to that, but it’s unsettling, to say the least, to be on the receiving end of that, and to be asking like, ‘hello? do I get a say here in how this is going to go?’ because the answer seems to be: no, not really, not without all the work that it takes to push back against that.

And this is unsurprising, from this guy, to be honest, because there I was, after saying that I did not want to go on a date with anyone I wasn’t currently dating, ON A BLOODY DATE. And so yeah this is not someone who was winning me over in any capacity, because he has already shown me that he is manipulative, that he doesn’t listen to what I say I want or need, and that his desire matters more than mine. Like, NOPE to that. All of the nope to that.

Anyway at some point I managed to make my excuses and head out and the next time he emailed me I told him I’d be busy for the next while but that I would email him.

I never did.

 

Emotional Labour

I’ve been thinking a lot about emotional labour, what it is, what it looks like, and what it means.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, here is a great post about it: Brute Reason on Emotional Labour

In brief, emotional labour is the kind of work we do to take care of our own feelings, our own state of mind, but also that of others, whether that be in romantic relationships, friendships, familial relationships, and even more broadly in social situations, online, etc. It involves both having a sense of how others might be affected by actions, situations, words. It means putting thought into your words and actions beyond your own perspective: it means imagining how they will be received by others, both concrete and abstract.

Emotional labour is everywhere, basically all of the time. It means checking in with your partner so that they don’t always have to bring something up when they are bothered by something you do. It means thinking ahead about social events you are organizing to make sure that such events are accessible to everyone invited, and if not, what you might to do make it accessible. It means taking turns with inviting friends out to events, sharing housework so that it doesn’t automatically default to the women in relationships, it means speaking up when you have needs so that the other person doesn’t have to guess about what’s going on in your mind.

And so, so much more.

It strikes me that the distribution of emotional labour is gendered, and in a way that is very very difficult to combat. Women are raised to do it, we are raised to feel *responsible* for it, and so in a sense it is invisible to us how much we do. Men are not raised to do it, and so in a sense it is invisible to them in that a) they don’t know what it is or how to do it and b) other people have done it for them their entire lives.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this summer, and I’ve been having some revelations that my past relationships have largely broken up over exactly this. It’s an unsettling revelation and one that has raised a lot of feelings but I hope that in part I can start some conversations about what it is, how it affects dating and relationships, and what kinds of things we can do to make it more equally distributed. There will be many posts about this in the next few months.

Dating and Rejection, Part Two

About a month ago, I went on a date with a guy from Tinder. I increasingly appreciate OKcupid for helping out my intuition about who is and is not going to be a good date. I just don’t have enough info on Tinder and more and more I’m wary of it as a dating medium. For me at least.

Anyway we met up, and it was okay. He’s an attractive guy, but a bit awkward. I mean, I try to be generous about people’s awkwardness since it’s something that makes a lot of people nervous. I realize that’s just going to influence people’s behaviours, so I try not to let it guide my sense of someone too much. But between the fact that I wasn’t getting a spark/vibe/whatever about him, and the anxiety attack that I spent half our date trying to breathe and smile through, after about an hour and a half I was ready to get out of there.

Amongst other characteristics, this man wasn’t the best at picking up on my signals, and after I got back from the washroom he had his camera out, as though we were going to go on a fun photography excursion? Or maybe just to show off his camera? I mentioned that I needed to get home to do work (which was sort of true) and he said ‘awww I was hoping we could enjoy some of this weather’. (Uh a first date does not usually involve that much of a burden on someone’s time, dude.) I was a bit nervous as we were leaving, but his awkwardness also translated into being kind of slow to speak so when we got outside I turned and said, ‘okay well it was good to meet you! Have a good day!’ and turned on my heel and walked away. I was super relieved that I got out of there so easily, though felt a bit bad that I’d made it pretty clear I wasn’t interested in a second date.

Or, so I’d thought.

A few days later I got a text, saying: “So, how’s your week been going? … I am curious to hear how you felt about our meeting. I thought it ended a bit abruptly, but I was grateful for the outing. And you?”

I wrote back: “Heya. My week has been good! I don’t think it’s going to a second meeting for me. Good luck with all your projects, they sound really interesting!”

But, that wasn’t the end of it. Next I get:

“What put you off?”

Which like, omg. So, on the one hand, ON THE ONE HAND I do get this question. When dating doesn’t go well it’s frustrating, and he’s looking for feedback.

HOWEVER.

There is just absolutely no good way to answer this question. There just isn’t. And here’s why: there is never (or like, at least, only very rarely) an objective answer to this. Any answer I give will be personal to me, because I’m not looking for ‘the best one’ or whatever, I’m looking for a match. A match for ME.

I replied saying just that: “that’s a hard question to answer, to be honest. In cases like this there isn’t usually something that ‘happened’. Dating is about figuring out who feels like a match and who doesn’t. this just wasn’t a match for me.”

To which I got: “I get that a lot, and it’s really depressing. There’s nothing I can do with it to better myself. I feel completely disempowered by this sort of response. Do you expect to be swept off your feet?”

So, I was feeling compassion for this guy, sort of, up until the last line.

I mean, yeah. Dating feels personal, rejection feels personal. And, in some sense it is – this person isn’t into YOU.

Like I’ve said before, dating isn’t about being objectively ‘good’. It’s not a competition. It’s about finding a match. So with that in mind, what does it mean to ‘better oneself’? It might mean figuring out if you’re doing something wrong consistently, which might be the case for some people. But it’s not as though he was doing something I could point to, like talking over me all the time. (This happened once, and when the guy noticed that I was visibly frustrated, he asked what was wrong and I told him.) That would be a concrete thing that is fixable.

But what worries me is the bit about being swept off my feet. Like, what does that even mean? Like the guy is supposed to swoop in and be impressive and then I, the lady, am impressed and amazed and entranced into a second date? And somehow he’s annoyed because a) I think this and b) that he failed to do it, and please can I just tell him how to do it better?

I just worry that is the wrong way to think about bettering yourself, as a means to an end, to ‘get’ a lady, whose affection will deem you worthy of value?

I am seriously reminded here of Fred from Middlemarch by George Eliot. Fred is from a ‘good’ family, but is kind of self-absorbed and lazy. He is also head over heels in love with Mary, who is deeply unimpressed by his inability to get his shit together. When Fred sends his friend to vouch for his potential (yet again) she gets visibly frustrated:

‘I think Fred ought not to need telling again what I have already said to him,’ Mary answered, with a slight resentment in her manner. ‘I mean that he ought not to put such questions until he has done something worthy, instead of saying that he could do it.’

This is like, one of my favourite lines from literature, ever.

What I love is how Mary is calling bullshit on Fred’s inability to take responsibility for himself. That somehow Fred can think himself worthy of improvement if Mary is his prize for that, and I love how right here she totally eschews the responsibility for that, and throws it back to him.

Like, if you think you need to improve things, IMPROVE THEM. If not, that is also fine. But women are not prizes. I find that attitude somewhere between manipulative and lacking self-possession. Don’t expect a woman to give you a ‘reason’ to improve yourself. Just take some responsibility for yourself and do it.

If, on the other hand, there’s nothing you feel like you should improve, and you are just feeling compelled to because you aren’t finding a match, then it seems like the opposite of what you should be doing? Like, changing yourself to fit what others might want or expect from you is the fastest way to find someone who will like you for who you are not. And that just seems like a bad route to go.

But yeah. I feel sort of bad, like I’m being too hard on this guy? Because I get frustrated and annoyed too, sometimes. And it’s really easy to let that resentment bubble over at people, but it’s also really important to resist. Because no one owes you anything, and people are not prizes for getting your shit together.

And the thing is, dating is frustrating and invalidating a lot of the time. And as I get older I try to combat this the best I can by taking care of myself, and not overdoing the dating thing, and focusing on myself and my projects and self-care, not as a means to an end but because that stuff is just really important for its own sake.

Opting Out

I have an upcoming post about how I decide who to go out with or not and how that decision is sometimes arbitrary and sometimes very much not. This post is related to that idea, though it is about the kinds of red flags that go up between saying ‘yes’ to a date, and going on the actual date, and how if you decide to cancel, for whatever reason, that is very very okay.

I had decided to go on a date a few weeks ago with a woman who messaged me on a dating site. My reasons were vague and varied – I haven’t dated that many women and I would like to just do that more, and she messaged me, she took the initiative, she seems like she has an interesting job (arts programming) that she is passionate about, and she asked me on a date. So, I said yes. (In retrospect, I don’t think we’d have been much of a match – she was a bit liberal with her use of exclamation points, and she didn’t seem to have much to say in her messages apart from just being ‘very excited’ about her job when I asked for details. Then again, sometimes certain people read much better in ‘real life’ than they do online. I am sometimes one of these people. So I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and err on the side of generous interpretations. Sometimes this means I go on dates with inappropriate people. This is a balance I am still trying to get right.)

Then we started organizing. She suggested the following Saturday. I said okay, and asked for more details (where she’s coming from in the city etc). She never got back to me. I messaged her on the Friday and said that we’d have to postpone, because leaving it so last minute wasn’t working for me. She replied and apologized, said she’s not on the site often, and could we do it the following Saturday. I said sure.

That happened two or three times. Finally, after I returned from a holiday, it seemed like we were nailing something down. We were going to go out the following Wednesday. She suggested walking around a park, which I was less than enthused about (I often prefer the social lubrication of alcohol on first dates. I also prefer facing the person to get a better sense of how I feel about them.) But I said sure (trying to not be too difficult at this point). I asked more details, including her name, which I never actually got from her despite having asked her (the fact that she wasn’t reading my messages for detail was also another bad sign). She got back to me fairly quickly (okay, better) but then sent two or three messages in a row suggesting that we go to an art show instead, where you make your own digital art.

I sagged inwardly. Digital art is not something I know much about. If a friend had asked me then maybe it would be the sort of thing I’d go for, but not a first date. First dates, for me, are about actually chatting with the person you’re on a date with. I said that I would prefer just that, talking, and maybe we could grab a coffee and walk around Trinity Bellwoods since I also have a party to attend later that evening (giving myself a serious exit strategy at this point).

She wrote back, saying that was totally cool, maybe we could meet at Queen and Bathurst? Then she wrote another message saying how great this art show is, and how a cool artist would be there, and wouldn’t that be fun though?

At this point I realized this was no longer worth my time. I cancelled our date, and she immediately started backpedalling, but it was too late.

Because she’d not only wasted my time for three weeks by bailing constantly at the last minute, but she was now not respecting my boundaries, nor actually treating her proposal as a proposal but as a directive. I may not have known enough to judge at first, but now I did.

The process of dating is, as I’ve said in previous posts, partly an exercise in exhibiting good judgement. And this is a precarious thing, especially at first, because the other person does not have a large sample size of your behaviour which means that an error in judgement can sometimes be given too much weight. I try to take that into account and interpret generously, but I have limits.

I felt really bad about cancelling at first, but since I did, I’ve felt so, so much better. And the thing is, anyone can decide to opt out of dating someone else at any point, for any reason, and that is really really okay. That’s part of what dating IS. And I think it’s especially hard as a woman to not feel guilty, or like you should give someone another chance, or that you are somehow being a ‘jerk’ by doing this, but it isn’t. Sometimes it’s an excellent act of self-care.

Useless Internal Narrative

Right now I haven’t been posting much because I’m sort of stuck on a post I started writing. The post itself covers a lot of ground, and is more feminist than some of my posts have been, so I want to take my time with it; and yet, I need to try to subvert the bottlenecking of thoughts that it’s caused, so I’m going to try to write a few shorter entries while the rest of this one cooks.

Dating causes anxiety. I am also an anxious person. This is not a great combination, in theory. One of the single best pieces of dating advice I have ever gotten has addressed the intersection of these two things.

Dating is often thought of as a game. I don’t like this metaphor, for lots of reasons, but I understand why sometimes people use it. Dating is a weird combination of both a genuine attempt to get to know someone else, and figuring out how you feel etc, and also a kind of exercise of and performance in judgement. So, you’re interested in getting to know this person, and you want to know what they think about you, and this causes all sorts of doubt and speculation and will very easily bring many an insecurity to the surface of one’s thought. At the same time, it’s hard to just be really honest about all of this, because you’re also trying to put on your best behaviour and show the other person not only a good version of yourself but that you have good judgement, you understand social cues, social norms, that you are not creepy, etc.

So you go on a date. It ends well, and as you part they say that they will be in touch or that you should go out again, or whatever. A few days go by, they don’t call. Doubt starts creeping in. What’s going on? You had a good time, you thought. It doesn’t make sense.

Has something happened to them? Did they get in an accident? Did they actually hate you and were just being polite? Did you have something on your face the whole time and they were so disgusted but they didn’t want to say anything but now their impression of you includes a big smudge over your nose? What if that thing I said about that thing was totally stupid and now they hate me? What if they met someone else at a party and eloped? WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT IF.

Continue ad infinitum if you are an anxious person with a creative imagination, like me.

A good friend of mine, who was my dating guru for a time in my mid twenties, coined a term that exactly describes this line of thinking: Useless Internal Narrative. UIN, for short.

Once I had this concept, every time my mind would wander in the direction of the dramatic and unknowable, I would repeat this to myself, as a mantra. UIN. UIN. UIN.

Dating is seriously hard enough without speculating about people’s lives and motivations. It’s useless because it’s time consuming and anxiety-inducing and most of the time, it’s not even close to being accurate.

Maybe they DID meet someone else. Maybe they have a deadline. Maybe their bunny died. WHO CAN SAY. Maybe CALL THEM AND ASK THEM OUT AGAIN. If they don’t respond, or say no, then at the very least you will have that information and you can move on with your life.

Because honestly, even if the answer is that they aren’t, after all, interested, there probably is no dramatic reason for it. It is not personal, it is not a final judgement on you, it does not mean that you are failing or somehow un-datable. If I think of all the people I have had decent dates with but not wanted to go out with again, there was never a ‘reason’. It wasn’t that they said something stupid, or had something on their face or did anything in particular. It was that, on reflection, it just wasn’t a match. And there is something kind of banal about that answer, but it’s also often the most true.

And, if you can accept it, it is also very reassuring.

Negging

It is news to nobody that women receive a lot of online messages. From ‘hey’ to guys sending lewd messages, to unwanted cock shots, to men who send messages ‘arguing’ for why they should get to date you (‘we’re a 75% match! the algorithm is telling us to date!’), to messages that are just outright hostile.

I received a message yesterday that falls into that last category. I think it was a ‘neg’ though to be honest sometimes I’m at a loss to determine what might have motivated someone to send a particular message.

In the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail,’ Meg Ryan’s character Kate despairs that whenever she’s confronted with a jerk, she freezes, and it’s not until much later that she realizes what she should have said. There’s a point in the movie when she is actually finally able to do that, when she gives Tom Hanks a piece of her mind: it just bubbles up fully formed from her psyche, and she just lets him have it. It’s like in that moment, she connects with a part of herself that she never had before.

I’ve had a similar experience. Often in the moment I freeze from the shock that someone has been mean, and it isn’t until later that a good response occurs to me. Until recently anyway. Lately the snarky part of my personality has been bubbling back up to the surface. It’s been dormant for a while – in my last relationship, my boyfriend hadn’t really understood my sense of humour, and when I was snarky he often thought I was being mean and moralized about it, or he didn’t understand it, or he just didn’t think it was funny. So I think that I didn’t live in that place in my personality for a long time, and my snark just sort of atrophied. Post break-up it came roaring back and I’m just kind of going with it at the moment because I’ve really missed this side of myself (which to be honest I didn’t realize I was gone until recently) and also it’s just so cathartic. Especially when someone is a jerk.

So anyway yesterday a guy sent me a message on ok cupid, presumably negging me, and I was suddenly reminded of this xkcd comic:

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 6.08.48 PM

So here’s my version. I could still make it more my own, but I’m pretty proud of it:

 

okc neg

 

I’m not even upset about the initial message, because it gave me the opportunity to respond, and also to post about it. And it feels great. Honestly the most upsetting thing about the whole exchange is that this guy is an 85% match with me. I don’t know how the fuck that happened, but I think I might need to go answer some more match questions now…