Getting rejected is about as fun as taking a shit and falling back in it.
It hurts and it stinks.
There are a myriad of ways one can get rejected in this life. You can get fired from your job. You can get dumped. Hell, you can be denied entry to the club purely for wearing Tarocash and square-toed dress shoes.
Rejection is a natural and necessary evil, especially when it comes to dating. But what sucks only a smidgen less than being crushed à la Ralph Wiggum Second When His Heart Rips In Half?
Having to reject someone.
As a 22-year-old straight female, I have some experience in this realm, in virtue of being a 22-year-old straight female.
While some of the more archaic dating norms are slowing dying out, others persist. Like persistent guys.
It’s worth noting here that I don’t have a problem with being approached by guys. Some of the most fulfilling romantic relationships I’ve been a part of have started this way. Where would we be if Homie never asked Marge to senior prom?
But there’s a difference between a respectful, contextually-appropriate dude approach and a dogged, creepy dude approach.
Ask any other straight woman and I promise they’ll be familiar with an age-old tactic we use to shut down persistent guys. It’s call the Boyfriend Excuse, and it works the first time, every time.
That grunty guy at the gym wearing a nipple-bearing singlet who wants to know if you’d be down for a bulletproof coffee and gluten-free avo toast? I have a boyfriend.
The taxi driver who mentions that you’re really cute after asking one too many personal questions? I have a boyfriend.
The drunk dude grinding up against you at the club who insists on buying his ‘sweetheart’ a drink? Boyfriend.
Often, the boyfriend excuse is used in conjunction with an unnecessary apology.
I’m sorry, I’m actually seeing someone.
It’s a foolproof way to divert a dude’s attention quickly and mercifully. But it’s not without its faults.
As Clem Ford wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald back in 2016, deflecting a man’s advances with the boyfriend excuse undermines your own autonomy:
It’s one thing to take care to offer rejection with a degree of kindness. It’s quite another to feel unconsciously obliged to not only apologise, but allude to the fact that things would be different were you not already promised to another landowner. Men who really respect women listen when those women tell them how they feel – they don’t needle and prod and try to manipulate those feelings into what they want to hear and then, when all that fails, finally pay attention because the sudden presence of a male competitor has made Shit Get Real.
Sure, there are times when you just cannot be bothered having the ‘I’m not interested’ conversation.
There have been times when I’ve been honest and guys have gone on to regale me (drunkenly, almost always) with the reasons why I should be interested. Pardon my French, but that shit is annoying as fuck, and the BF excuse is totally warranted in this scenario. There’s nothing wrong with picking the non-confrontational route, especially when you’re in a position where you feel unsafe.
But, if you fib every time you’re approached by a seemingly harmless guy you just don’t wanna smang, you’re doing us all a disservice. You’re perpetuating an outmoded way of thinking, and you’re ensuring the dude never learns how to properly deal with straight up rejection.
Think about it this way.
Let’s say you’re a bloke. Your name is… Bradley. Brad for short. (Sorry, in this hypothetical you do not bear the last name Cooper or Pitt. Next time.)
You’re a single, 25-year-old straight dude. You go out with your mates most weekends. You go to the clubs, where your non-Tarocash shirt is welcomed.
You’re not afraid to go up to a woman and strike up a conversation if you feel attracted to her.
One night, you do just that. She smiles, gives you her name (Jennifer), but when you ask if you could buy her a frosé (great choice, Brad), she tells you she’s actually seeing someone. You’re a respectful human being, and so you tell her it was nice to meet her and walk away, Craig David-style.
Plot twist: Jennifer is single.
There’s a litany of reasons Jennifer mightn’t have wanted Brad’s drink. Maybe she’s out with her girlfriends and just wants a girl’s night. Maybe she’s got her eye on someone else in the bar. Maybe she didn’t like his square-toed dress shoes.
None of those reasons involve a significant other.
But now, Brad walks away thinking that if Jen didn’t have a man in her life, he’d totally have had a chance. She didn’t give him the opportunity to experience rejection and deal with it appropriately, so that when a woman is eventually honest with him, it’ll probably hit him harder than it should, like runaway frisbee to the face.
I’m not suggesting Jennifer should have been a straight savage and told him his fugly shoes were the real reason. Honesty needn’t beget cruelty. But she could have politely, nonchalantly said to Brad, “Appreciate the offer, but I’m cool thanks,” and let him go get on with it.
Other iterations of this line include:
- No thanks, I’m hanging out with my mates tonight
- Not tonight, I don’t feel like dancing
- I’m flattered but I’m actually really into these cheese fries
- Thank you for the compliment but I’m right for a drink
- Not tonight
- Yeah nah
The common thread? All of these responses are honest.
Honestly in and of itself is artful, and it’s the best policy (except when your Scottish Mum asks you who took a shit in the toilet and didn’t flush. Always deny that).
If you’re the Jennifer in this situation and you’re worried about hurting Brad’s feelings, remember, it’s just a polite ‘no’. You’re not going to crush him.
And if you are, so be it. If a mans gets butthurt about an honest, polite ‘not interested’, then he’s the exact mans who needs to hear it.Image: Sex and the City