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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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.

Dating and Rejection

I started going on dates again a couple of months ago. The first couple of dates were actually really lovely. The first was in a trendy bar, and the second was at a café. Bars, in my opinion, make better first dates than coffee does, but that’s for another post. Both were with smart, handsome young men grad students at the university that has adopted me while I write my dissertation from afar. Conversation was good, and they were both enthusiastic about me in a way that I found flattering. (Men can definitely be enthusiastic without being creepy, even when the recipient isn’t interested, but that’s also for another post.)

In any case, both wanted a second date, and though I felt positively towards both of them, I just couldn’t find enough excitement in myself to justify going out with either of them again. In both cases I replied to their request with something like ‘I had a good time, but unfortunately I don’t think this is going to a second date for me.’

I can’t remember where I got that wording, but I kind of love it because it lets me be honest and say ‘I’m not interested’ but without saying those words and without saying anything at all about the other person. Even ‘I’m not interested’ sounds kind of personal, because it implies the inevitable ‘IN YOU.’ Like, there’s just something about it that sounds cold to me, so I find those words difficult to say. There’s something about ‘this isn’t going to a second date for me’ that makes it more about the fact that we are not a match, that it’s about the situation, or something, that feels accurate and yet not unkind.

They both took it well, though the second guy wrote back ‘It looks like those messages you receive when you don’t get a job!’ I kind of bristled at that (even though he didn’t mean it unkindly) because I think it’s really hard to find language to reject people that everyone finds acceptable. Because it just sucks to be rejected. And later, when I recounted this to someone, my friend, laughing, suggested I create a form letter for rejection – exactly like the kind that you get when you apply for a job, except this is for dating.

So I did.

Bureaucratic Form Rejection Letter #1:

Dear (insert name):

Thank you for your application. We received a high number of competitive submissions for the position. Although the first date was enjoyable, limitations of space, time, energy and compatibility are a reality, and we regret to inform you that we will not be able to accept your request for a second date.

Do take care, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours!