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Learning To Date Part 4: Rejection

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You don’t have to have a reason not to want someone. I didn’t realize that at first. It turns out though, that sometimes a person can be perfectly wonderful, and still you just don’t feel it. That’s okay. You’re allowed to walk away. Not wanting someone is not a crime because, unfortunately, you do not have much control over the people you are and are not drawn to. What can be a crime, however, is the way you decide to turn somebody down. Whether you have been dating someone for a long time or have only been on a few dates, there is always a right and a wrong way to leave her, and in my opinion, lying and ignoring—which the comfort of hiding behind our screens has made it so easy to do—are never an option.

I used to be terrified to turn people down. I was afraid of being mean, of making someone feel bad, but eventually I realized that in the long run she’ll feel a lot worse if I ignore her texts or tell her I’d love to see her again and then continually say I’m busy when she asks to hang out.

It can be so scary to be honest with someone, but it’s the right choice, and it really is a much kinder choice to simply tell someone you don’t see it going anywhere. It really doesn’t scare me anymore. I find people actually appreciate it. I’ve even been thanked for being upfront. I just do what I wish so badly people would have the courage to do to me. I would rather be told the truth every time than waste my energy on someone who is just trying to get rid of me.

I’ve gotten a lot better at gauging when someone is, in fact, attempting to do that. Forever the optimist, it was hard for me at first to believe someone would say she wanted to see me again if she really didn’t, which is why when I first started dating I had a conversation or two that went like this:

Me: “Hey! Still want to hang out again soon?”

Girl: “Yeah that sounds great! Sorry, I’ve just been so busy at work.”

Me: “Oh no worries! How about Wednesday evening?”

Girl: “Unfortunately I have meetings that will go really late on Wednesday, but another time for sure!”

Me: “Okay, does Friday work?”

Girl: “This week really isn’t good for me. I’ll let you know when I’m free!”

Me: “Okay sounds great, talk to you soon.”

Girl: Silence…forever.

I know I should have taken the hint sooner, but I don’t think it’s all that crazy to assume someone would want to see me again when she says “that sounds great!” I mean, she even used an exclamation point for crying out loud. Just say no thank you, woman! I can take it! I’m not even saying it needs to be done in person—at least not for someone with whom you only went on a date or two. A text is fine as long as its kind. I’ve realized now, though, that if she does not propose an alternative date when she says she is busy, I should probably just stop responding.

I am not claiming to be completely innocent in all of this. I have done my fair share of dodging and deceiving, but I do like to think I’ve grown.

The other problem I had for a while when it came to rejecting others was that I felt really guilty every time I wasn’t into someone. With my newfound determination to embrace my homosexuality, I felt like I wasn’t in a position to be turning people down. Here I was, newly out and so ready to date, and I felt like a girl as eager to find someone as I was shouldn’t get to be picky, shouldn’t get to turn people away and still talk about how badly she wants to meet someone.

That feeling, it turns out, was completely wrong. I am always in a position to be turning someone away, and going out with someone just because I want someone is not a good reason. Sometimes, beggars can be choosers, and I think dating is one very important place where that is true. I realized that just because I really wanted to be dating someone didn’t make it wrong to wait until I found somebody that I actually liked.

I read a fantastic book by Cheryl Strayed recently, called Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. Before my friend recommended it to me, I had no idea that the author of Wild once ran an advice column called Dear Sugar. Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of some of her best columns, and they are some of the most beautiful and worthwhile pieces I have ever read. I didn’t know an advice column could be a work of art, but hers is.

Strayed brought up more than once in that book that the only reason anyone needs for not being with someone is not wanting to be. She discusses it with such logic and states it so matter-of-factly that it will make you wonder how you ever thought about it any other way. I think Sugar’s right. If you don’t want to be with someone, don’t be with her. It does not make you a bad person, and it will only hurt you both in the long run if you stay somewhere you don’t want to be. But if you don’t want to be with her, leave her kindly, leave her right. Your true character shows far more in how you handle negative situations than in how you handle positive ones.

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