Rejection is one of those things, isn’t it?
Even when you tell yourself, “This could go either way. I know I might not get the outcome I am hoping for. I am prepared for that,” it’s hard to actually be ready for it.
Nobody wants to get bad news. Nobody wants to hear the opposite of what they were hoping for.
There are a lot of affirmations out there – I’m sure you’ve seen a few on Instagram or Pinterest – that say “be brave” and “go forth” and “all you need is courage to do something amazing.” And all of that is true. You should be brave. Going forward is the best way to go. Staying in place is no good (physically it might be fine, we’re talking mentally and emotionally here) and going backwards is worse. Everybody tells you to take that chance, and they should.
But then, after that, what do you do?
Iʼll admit Iʼm a little late to this game, but Iʼm still going to play.
In the last few weeks, issues that women have been dealing with for centuries have become a huge topic on the internet. It started with an episode of Louis CKʼs show, Louie, titled “So Did The Fat Lady.” In the episode Louie is pursued by a woman, Vanessa, who is confident, smart and cool, and also fat. Later, the shooting in Santa Barbara started the hashtag, #YesAllWomen, which has given woman a platform to share their stories about inequality, harassment and assault. It’s become clear; we all have a story.
For women, everything about us is a topic of discussion. If you wear a dress, you are open to any and all comments from the opposite sex. If you wear makeup one day and not the next you get asked, “Are you okay?” If you gain weight, itʼs an entire discussion, an intervention even. As my friend Sarah explained it to her boyfriend, “How would you like it if people talked about your hair loss…ALL OF THE TIME?”
These topics have made me so proud that they woke up the eighth grade feminist in me. Talking about these issues is touchy, to say the least. They are raw and honest. However, no matter how taboo these topics are, they are important; we need to tell our stories.
I have always struggled with my weight. It was something that was not tip-toed around when I was a child. My parents would sit me down to discuss my weight, and kids would make fun of me because of it. Good times had by all. But, a chubby kid grew into a chubby adult and, here I am, single and the best friend youʼll ever have, but never fall in love with. I am not the girl who gets set up on dates. I am the girl who gets over looked on Match.com. I am the best friend to all of the beautiful girls and the chubby, funny sidekick to all of my guy friends.
Over the past year I’ve gotten much better at taking initiative. If I don’t understand something, I don’t wait around, hoping for an answer to appear. Instead, I ask questions until I find an answer, or I just start trying to solve problems on my own. This taking-control-of-the-situation approach works more often than not. In fact, by taking a chance and trusting that things will work out, I’ve gained a lot of confidence. (I’ve also learned that doing a job the ‘right’ way vs. the ‘wrong’ way is usually open to interpretation.)
While it has become easier to approach work and writing with this newfound confidence, I’m still working on taking initiative in my love life. There are days when I feel like I could walk up to any smart, funny, attractive guy and start a riveting, non-stumbling conversation on even the most boring of topics. There are moments when I feel like I’m this super-interesting lady who could casually ask a guy out without seeming too awkward about the whole thing. But usually I feel like a girl who is pretty sure of herself but is still too scared to take a chance on anything that has to do with love or even the feelings circling around it. And so I do nothing.
Why do I do this? Probably for the same reason a lot of people do: It’s safer to live with not knowing what will happen if we take that chance rather than actually taking it. That’s because it’s much easier to imagine what could go wrong instead of considering what could go right. Imagining worst-case scenarios is scary and intimidating, and who wants to risk feeling scared or intimidated? Reserving emotion is less dangerous—or, perhaps more importantly, it’s less embarrassing.
Late last night, after saying goodnight to my boyfriend and retiring into the bathroom to get ready for bed, I was jolted into shock and horror when I saw a large black spider crawling on my mirror. Honestly, the spider seemed more like she was dancing. I’m calling it a she, because I’m telling you, that thing was a total bitch. It had no right to invade my apartment, sneaking in there like, “Oh hey were you planning on ever going into this room again? My bad.” I just stood there, watching its big black abdomen slink against my mirror. I felt like a little kid again, moments away from shouting for my mom.
Then I realized that I am an adult and my mom doesn’t live with me. And neither does my boyfriend. And he just left. I couldn’t really text him and beg him to come back to kill a spider, could I? (He wouldn’t actually kill the spider, he would insist on putting it in a glass and escorting it outside, like the spider was just some friendly drunk who wandered into a bar after closing and needed to go.)
“No,” I thought. “That’s ridiculous. I am a grown woman. I will take care of this spider.”
Hey, can we just talk about the shower, and how it’s a safe place?
For an emotionally stunted robot like myself, it’s one of the few physical locations that allow me to drain my feelings (pun completely intended). In general I have a difficult time identifying and recognizing THE FEELINGS, especially negative ones. I internalize emotions so deeply that even I can’t find them anymore. It’s typical of my partner to notify me of when I am upset before I even realize it.
Bad feelings and confrontation are physically crippling for me. Sometimes I become paralyzed by my own emotions to the point of not being able to speak. I just need a lot of time to process, and I can rarely express myself in the moment. I wish I was that girl who could just yell at her boyfriend every time something upset her. But no, I have to be a stoic asshole who bottles everything up until I end up crying over a wrong order at Subway.
The only place that it’s somewhat easy for me to talk about how I feel in the moment is the shower, which is where I like to hold emotional summits with significant others.
Here’s why I think regular old showers are the best place to have the most important conversations of your life:
One Saturday morning, a beautiful girl stood on the Spark & Hustle stage. She was the only speaker of the 3-day conference to wear tennis shoes and jeans. Her stylish t-shirt proclaimed “Save the Ta-tas.”
Julia Fikse’s presentation, which was to challenge the 100+ female business entrepreneurs to consider how their companies could contribute to non-profit causes, began with words of vulnerability. She applauded the attendees for their courage in coming to a conference, admitting how hard it can be show up in a room full of strangers. To illustrate that point, she shared an experience from the evening prior that happened to her in the hotel restaurant.
It’s a story I regret to share.
You feel what you feel, and nobody should hold that against you. But does anybody benefit from an open-ended statement like, “I like you, but…”?
“Online I was chatty, engaging, mysterious, coy, flirty… In person I am awkward and shy with bouts of mania. I am self-conscious and quiet and come across as aloof and apathetic… In person I loved him instantly but in person I lost my courage and made him feel undesirable.
Why was it so much easier to be great with a screen between our faces?”
Find yourself relating to any part of that quote? Then you should read Kaitlyn Wylde’s essay “A 2013 Love Story” over at Medium.
I sat on the Metro-North commuter train, taut, straight up and still, like a deer caught in headlights, danger coming at me from the side. To my right was the window, Mount Vernon and then the Bronx flashing by, and to my left was an elderly gentlemen, eyes closed, pretending to be asleep, who was grinding his hand into my leg, feeling up my thigh.
As I sat there, mortified, humiliated, in shock and in tearful awe, it never occurred to me that I was being sexually harassed.
Why had I chosen to sit alone in the very back seat of the train car? Why hadn’t I sat next to a woman? Why had I moved my bag from the seat to make room for this guy? Maybe he really was asleep and didn’t know what he was doing? Why was I freaking out about this when he was just an old man?
By the time we pulled into Grand Central, I had convulsed into a shaky lather of shame, embarrassment and dismay. But I composed myself immediately upon stepping from the train to the platform. I had to go about my day. I was going to see my then-boyfriend. Everything was going to be fine. I needed to get it together and stop being a baby.
I hadn’t meant to tell my boyfriend about this experience. But once we were together, alone in his apartment, it came blurting out of me. Tangled in caveats, disclaimers, excuses and over-explanations, I was choked up and emotional. My boyfriend was devastated by how upset I was.
But he reacted with anger. At me.
How could you let that happen? Why didn’t you get up? Why didn’t you tell a conductor? Why didn’t you just move away from this guy and tell him to go to hell?
As my boyfriend harangued me, I felt even worse. But it was because I knew he was right.
Why hadn’t I done anything? Why had I sat there and taken it?
Some advice for you (and your friends) about blind dates, comfort zones and the art of getting two people together.
Anxiety is something I think everyone experiences to a degree. But some people experience it to the point where it decides what you’re going to do with your time — with your life — and it really, really sucks. I mean, to just be simple about it, anxiety sucks.
I tell anybody who asks that I don’t have a love life, at all.
And while it’s true I haven’t dated in a while, I also haven’t rejected the idea of ever dating again, so it’s misleading for me to completely deny this facet of my life. But denial is waaaay easier to deal with. It’s certainly easier than talking about feelings and feeling feelings and potentially having feelings hurt.
In my recent single years, I haven’t thought (too much) about what might be preventing me from connecting with people in anything more substantial than a platonic way. This denial thing, though, is a bit of a concern, and as a young adult attempting to get back on the dating scene, it’s probably worth examining some of my hang-ups.
I recently watched a TED talk entitled “The Power of Vulnerability.” In the video, self-described researcher-storyteller Brené Brown discussed the work she has done in defining shame. Her years of research revealed that most often, shame can be summarized as this: I’m afraid someone will see what’s “wrong” with me and deem me to be unworthy of connection.
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