Mentorship August 9, 2017
Don't ignore your instincts for the sake of being polite.
Women are often expected to be overly courteous, polite and considerate. So anyone who has ever valued being nice over being happy can understand the struggle of being pressured into saying yes to dates because it’s the least offensive thing to do. Unfortunately, that’s only short-term nice instead of long-term considerate.
In high school a friend of mine started showing signs that he was interested in me. At the time, I feared that if I didn’t reciprocate, I would lose him and all of our mutual friends. So I denied it. I continued talking to him at school and answering his texts, but insisted that he didn’t “like-like” me. I was obviously very, very mature about it.
But the more I resisted, the more he persisted. He texted me late at night, followed me to my classes and plagiarized a love song for me. He wrote out the lyrics to a pop-punk screamo song, playing it off as his own poetry, addressed it to me and had his friend give it to me during jazz band. It was a wild time.
“Friend zoning” was something I had only ever been on the opposite side of; I would develop an unrequited crush on someone I already established a friendship with. This is still my terrible tactic for falling in love, by the way. I was used to being rejected, but I somehow felt like it wasn’t okay for me to reject someone else.
After all, I didn’t have a concrete excuse. We were friends, so I obviously thought he was an okay enough person. I wasn’t interested in anyone else at the time, either. I just knew that I didn’t want to pursue a relationship with him. The chemistry wasn’t there for me.
Regardless, I felt guilty. I felt like I owed him a chance. He was polite and obsessed with me enough to plagiarize a love song for me. How considerate is that? But I didn’t want to be that shallow jerk who shot a guy down because I wasn’t attracted to him.
I followed my strong gut instinct and promised myself that I wouldn’t be pressured into putting politeness first. That’s the most important thing, to trust your gut. If it’s not right, it’s not right. You don’t have to date someone you aren’t attracted to. You can still treat them with respect, but you don’t have to say yes to them.
With that securely established in my mind, prom season fell upon us. Word around the band room was that he was going to ask me to be his date. Again, I denied it. Maybe if I stood really still and held my breath, he would pass by me like a shark. But in my English class, I got the text asking if we could meet during passing period because he had to ask me a question. It was the greatest mystery of our generation.
Two of his best friends, my friends, too, were in my class. I asked if they would hate me if I said no to his promposal. But they were more considerate, rational and understanding than I had expected them to be. They didn’t let their friendship with him cloud their reaction to me. They said they understood why I didn’t want to say yes, and promised they wouldn’t treat me any differently if I rejected him kindly. Thanks, guys.
So in a surreal blur, I went to the student-made gazebo outside of the art classrooms, and was asked to prom. It was the first time we had both verbally acknowledged that he wanted to be more than friends.
I think about it every now and then to remember that life is full of disappointment, but also of empowerment. It tears you down and teaches you lessons with every interaction. I had my time to say, “Thank you, that took a lot of courage and I respect you so much for it, but no thanks.” He would post passive-aggressive things on Instagram about me, and a few months later I would be 86ed by someone else. It’s a beautiful cycle of “like-like” and loss.
Everyone hates rejection, both getting and distributing, but it’s absolutely necessary to grow and develop the right relationships for you. Don’t feel guilty for saying no to someone you’re not into, because it will be doing both of you a disservice in the long run.
Pity dates are worse than honesty, I promise. Everyone will move on eventually, and the sooner you dive into happiness and authenticity, the better.
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