Doctor NerdLove understand that being shot down sucks. But you have two choices: bitch and moan, or deal with it like a man.*
If you go by a lot of the advice being handed out to guys about dating, you would think that getting dates and getting laid is simple: act as alpha as possible, remember that women are gold-digging, status-climbing whores who only want the highest status males (and will ignore, use and/or cheat on everyone else) and endeavor to give as few fucks as possible.
Of course, the unspoken problem is that for all of their protestations that they’re a guy who doesn’t care… they care a lot. And many of them are already feeling angry that they’re not getting the sex that they “deserve”, which makes them even more determined to score that 9 or 10 that they’ve been cut off from. So when that mix of that anxiety, pressure and entitlement issues starts to build, they have no way of dealing with being shot down. As a result, we get guys who respond to rejection or being Friend Zoned by freaking the fuck out at women.
The pattern is fairly simple:
Guy likes girl.
Guy works up nerve to ask out girl.
Girl says no.
Guy calls her a whore and a cocktease before going on to rant to his friends online and on Facebook about how women don’t appreciate a Nice Guy. For extra bonus points, they may include this in their OKCupid profiles.
Now admittedly, this is territory that I’ve covered before, but it’s been a subject that is fairly evergreen and recent tumblrs like Nice Guys of OKCupid and OKCupid Goldmine have sparked the conversation again over how hard guys have it in dating and it’s so unfair.
Now I will be the first to tell you: being shot down sucks. But you have two ways of dealing with it. You can bitch, moan and whine…
Or you can deal with it like a man1
Fear Leads to Anger. Anger Leads to Hate. Hate Leads to Suffering.
Dating can be a maddening exercise in frustration, shredded egos and constant confusion and more than a little resentment; when you’re not socially gifted or are uncomfortable dealing with the people you’re attracted to, it can be even worse. It’s bad enough when you get anxiety attacks at the thought of approaching someone you’re interested in. It’s even worse when you manage to fight through the fear… only to get your heart torn out, stomped on and ground into the dirt. You can be absolutely convinced that you did everything right and still have no idea why you’re not getting a second (or even a first) date. It’s understandable that you’re going to feel frustrated, angry even. When you hold onto that frustration for too long, it begins to look for an outlet… and a target. It can feel only natural to want to lash out at the apparent cause of your misery – women.
“I JUST WANT TO BE LOVED, YOU BITCH!”
If you’ve bought into the ideas that women only crave status or material goods or that only “alpha” men get laid, that frustration is only going to confirm all of the most misogynist beliefs that these memes encourage. It’s so much more satisfying to put all the blame on women rather than to admit that perhaps you’re doing something wrong. By buying into the idea that women rule the social scene with an iron hand, queen bees lording it over the poor witless men who only want their due absolves guys of the responsibility for their own actions and own failures.
It also means that we don’t have to face up to how we really feel.
Men are still taught that expressing their emotions isn’t “manly” and that they’re supposed to keep things bottled up. And small wonder – trying to be honest about your emotions is conflicting, confusing and awkward and at times humiliating. It makes us vulnerable.
It’s human nature that we may try to avoid this feeling of vulnerability; we are afraid of how it makes us feel and we become afraid of that fear. Many of us—especially those who’ve been dealing with rejection and ostracism frequently have years of pent up frustration, and every rejection is just one more pebble into an already enormous pile of anger, recrimination and shame. We hate how that makes us feel and it can feel only natural at first to want to rail against the perceived cause of our pain.
Which is why I’m telling you to that you need to learn to embrace the suck.
Most, if not all of the frustration and anger that we feel at being rejected is misdirected; we aim it outwards because we feel as though it should be directed at ourselves, and that can be incredibly difficult to admit to. We’re pissed off at ourselves the most because… well, because we wanted to be perfect. We wanted to succeed. We have an ideal vision of ourselves and we failed to live up to it. Each rejection—or so we perceive it—is a judgement on us, and therefore a sign that there’s something inherently wrong with us as individuals.
Except that it’s OK to fuck up and to get rejected. Literally everybody does it. Everyone has gotten shot down by someone they were attracted to. Brad Pitt doesn’t go five for five when chasing after women. Neither does Ryan Gosling or Tom Hiddleston. Neither does Mystery or Style or Tyler Durden or any PUA you’d care to name. Neither did the various naturally gifted fellows I knew growing up who made it all look so damn easy, and whom I resented because for me it was so fucking hard.
It only seems like they have it easier because you’re comparing your unedited footage to their highlight reel. Behind every popular guy is a long line of women didn’t want to put up with their shit.
This is why you need to learn to be able to feel your feels, accept that you have them and then… forgive yourself for fucking up.
Learning to be willing to say “yes, this hurts and it sucks,” is an intrinsic part of learning how to get better with women because the follow up is “But it’s OK and I’ll recover and do better next time.”
Which leads us to the next part:
Take Rejection With Some Fucking Dignity
I’ve been rejected more times than I care to count. I’m willing to bet that I’ve been rejected more than most of you guys. I know every single impuse that springs up. You want to yell at her. You want to argue. You want to cry, beg or mope your way into changing the answer. You want to do anything other than accept that things just aren’t going to go the way you want. I have been there, done that and posted the angsty LiveJournal emo posts where I knew they would see it and printed the t-shirt.
Part of what changed things for me was learning that the best thing I could do was learn how to handle rejection with some grace and that the only truly acceptable response to being shot down is “Ok… well, thanks anyway.”
There’s almost literally nothing less attractive than someone who can’t take “no” for an answer. It’s a display of neediness and a lack of social intelligence that causes sex magically vanish into the ether alongside your dignity and self-respect.
(This, I might point out, is a key component of why guys get stuck in The Friend Zone. They don’t want to accept that they’ve been rejected and thus try to hang around—as “friends”—in hopes that if they hang in long enough and collect enough Friend Coupons, they can trade in that “No” for a “Yes”.)
Learning how to be able to take rejection without falling to pieces meant having to accept that there would be people that would not like me the way that I wanted them to, and there was nothing I could do to change that.
Paradoxically, this actually helped make me better at interacting with women. Y’see, a man who can take rejection with courtesy and a lack of drama is someone who is comfortable putting himself out there emotionally, and yet secure enough to know that a single rejection isn’t that big of a deal.
A guy who can take a rejection without letting it destroy him is someone who has confidence and self-assurance. It may not help him with that particular woman, but that attitude makes him much more attractive than the one who lashes out or stores away all of his resentment and bitterness only to unleash it later like a passive-aggressive squirrel storing hate nuts for the winter.
In it’s own way, accepting rejection without drama became remarkably liberating. Once I accepted that I couldn’t win everybody, I started to get over the fear of someone not liking me… and that in turn made me better able to recognize that my fear of rejection was part of a scarcity mindset. I was so hung up on getting this one person to like me that I made them the focus of my world and lost track of the fact that there would be other women out there—millions of them, in fact—and that if one didn’t like me, then there would be others who would. So why waste so much of my time and mental energy worrying about one “no” when I could get on with finding my next “yes”?
Incidentally, another aspect of learning to accept rejection with some dignity means understanding that while she is not required to give you the relationship you may want, neither are you limited to what she is willing to offer. It’s perfectly fine to walk away2 to a “Let’s Just Be Friends” response. If you don’t want to be friends, there’s no point to trying to force yourself to do so, especially if you’re the sort of person who can’t compartmentalize one’s emotions well. Some people will get angry at this: “So you just hung around because you wanted to date me?” It’s ok that the answer is “yes”… provided you were honest and up front about this rather than trying to be “friend” under false pretenses. Better to be straight forward.
Just understand that being friends isn’t the runner-up consolation prize for not getting the relationship; friends are fucking awesome, not the booby prize.
Get Away From The Internet Echo Chamber
There are days—-usually the ones that end in ‘y’—that I’m glad the majority of my formative years were spent pre-Internet. I grew up in the 80s and 90s, when the majority of computer network access one had were on the walled gardens of Compu$erve and Prodigy with occasional forays into the chaotic metropolis that was AOL and the wild west outposts of bulletin board systems. I didn’t have full internet access until I reached college, which meant my youthful idiocy was mostly fairly contained. But once I got to college, I had an ethernet connection and a WHOLE HOST of neurosis and insecurities that I was ready to unleash on the world!
This included an especially painful rant on being a Nice Guy caught in the Friend Zone on a personal website. It was full of the usual impotent fury, raging against how it just wasn’t RIGHT that the woman I was infatuated with stubbornly refused to fall in love with me (or, y’know, touch my penis. Whichever came3 first.) and this was a crime to cruel to be borne.
Fortunately for me, I had yet to discover Usenet and the web was in it’s infancy, which meant that unless you were added to Yahoo by hand, nobody would find you without a great deal of luck. So while I got the occasional ass-pat from my fellow travellers, my venting went mostly unnoticed.
At the time, it was frustrating, feeling like I was yelling into the void. My friends, much as they loved me, would only let me moan for so long before they’d tell me I was being an asshole. I would have loved to comisserate with my fellow prisoners about the fickleness of women. Now, with the harsh light of maturity, I’m incredibly greatful… because it means that I didn’t have my bullshit issues validated by what would have felt like the entire world. Not having the massive “I know that feel bro” circle-jerk It meant that I could vent… and then I had to move the fuck on.
These days though… well, there’s any number of subReddits, Tumblrs and forums where I could go and find other guys just like me – angry and confused and frustrated – where I could scream about how unfair it all was and how the system was rigged against us and I would find hordes of responsive people who felt exactly the way I did. But while this can feel empowering, having nothing but people who agreed with me also meant that I wasn’t going to hear the unpleasant truth: that ultimately it was my own damn fault and I needed to put on my big-boy pants and deal with it. Instead, I would be surrounded by people who agreed—yes, that istotally unfair. And the more that we could agree that it’s unfair, the more we could shift the blame away from us and onto others. That echo and amplification—that it’s unfair and it’s all women’s fault—only makes it easier to buy into other hateful ideas about women because… well, these are all people who I agree with and who feel the way I do and I’m not exactly hearing any dissenting voices, so maybe there’s something to it.
It’s incredibly seductive—after all, we do tend to like and respect those most like us—but it’s also limiting and, to a certain extent dangerous.
That cyber-balkanization—communities that self-select for specific viewpoints—would make it harder for me to get what I ultimately needed to hear because… well, I didn’t want to hear it. I just wanted people to validate my victimhood—even more than I wanted a solution to my problem.
It’s great to have a place where you can vent, where you can find people who understand you and have gone through similar experiences and who can offer you moral support. But it’s also important not to be seduced by the call of a uniform community that could prevent you from getting an alternate viewpoint that you may well need.
Quit Expecting Life To Be Fair
A key word that comes up over and over again is “fairness”. The idea that somehow things should be fair and equitable informs a great deal about how we relate to one another and how we perceive our interactions with people. A lot of guys, for example, will insist that because women supposedly have all the power in dating that it is somehow “unfair” for guys. The idea that men are “forced” to approach is somehow an injustice because in a truly just world, women would approach too.
Never mind that women are discouraged from being the aggressors for a multitude of reasons—it’s theperception that there’s an imbalance that places an unjust burden on men that matters.
The same goes to the supposedly disproportionate “risks” that men have to take by virtue of being the aggressors. It would only be fair for women to indicate their availability before we invest ourselves in trying to approach them, right? Right?
Let’s be honest: nine times out of ten, what we mean by fairness translates to “makes it easier for me to get what I want.”
Is it fair that men “have” to be the aggressors? No, not really… because “fair” never really comes into the question. “Fair” assumes that men and women are otherwise completely equal; it ignores that every interaction doesn’t occur in a vacuum and that interaction between men and women is informed by thousands of years of enforced gender roles, female subservience and views of male and female sexuality and interrelations that have only started to change in the last hundred years or so. The “risks” that men have to subject themselves to are frankly not equal to the ones that women face in return. To quote Margaret Atwood: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”
Even if we ignore the subject of privilege4 , the things that guys so often complain about with dating as being “unfair” has less to do with “fairness” and more with “It would be nice if…”
Because yes, it would be nice if everybody – men and women alike – could tell in advance who was single and looking and who wasn’t. It would be nice if women felt as though they were more empowered to approach people they were interested in without fear of recrimination or even physical danger.
It would also be nice if I won the Powerball this weekend.
Instead of tying ourselves up with the idea of “fairness” and complaining about how things “aren’t fair”, it’s better to accept that no, things aren’t fair and deal with them as they exist in reality instead of through the lens of “but I really want it this way.” Because frankly it’s laughable to talk about how “unfair” it is that guys feel as though risking the sting of rejection is an injustice and how easy women have it when we’re still fighting over the idea of whether women are allowed to control if, when and how they have children.
So no. The world isn’t fair, and no amount of complaining is going to change the fact or make things any easier. You want things to be fair? Good. Start helping to build a world with true social and sexual equality.
Until then, you can complain about how “unfair” it all is like a child that isn’t getting ice cream.
Or you can man up.
Originally appeared at Paging Dr. NerdLove
- *Normally I try to avoid gendered phrases like this that carry the implication that acting like an adult is a masculine trait and that whining and complaining is a feminine one. But since I’m addressing guys in this case, it feels apt to use the gendered pronoun. It’s not about men vs. women, it’s the difference between acting like a boy or a grown-ass adult. [↩]
- Well, not literally, that’s just rude… [↩]
- fnar [↩]
- Marvel at my restraint! [↩]
Image courtesy of Flickr/xlordashx