I was watching Annie Hall with my new-ish beau on Friday night. There’s a scene on Annie and Alvy’s second date when they’re walking fast along a street, and Alvy stops her and asks her to kiss him. Annie is taken aback and replies “Really?” to which Alvy says, “Yeah, why not, because we’re just gonna go home later, right, and then there’s gonna be all that tension, we’ve never kissed before and I’ll never know when to make the right move or anything. So we’ll kiss now and get it over with.”
This technique is actually not so different to the way my first kiss came about with the aforementioned new-ish beau. On the dancefloor at the club night I run, I said “I need to go queue up Robyn now, but before I go I would make out with you”. He was obliging, but taken aback by my unsubtlety and abruptness.
As I watched that scene in Annie Hall, I realised where I’d got that awkward approach from, but also realised that it’s something I stand by. Saying what you want in clear, unambiguous terms gives the other person room to accept or reject. And I suppose that’s why a lot of people avoid it. Because rejection is scary.
So this post isn’t really about my awkward and abrupt ‘seduction technique’, but about rejection.
My fear of rejection is on its way out. It’s almost all gone. And that’s for two reasons.
Firstly, the reasons for rejection. When I was growing up, I was convinced that the fact I was fat would be the one and only source of rejection for my whole life. If someone didn’t fancy me, it was definitely because I was fat. I suppose in a way that was the main area where I wasn’t happy in myself. Not the being-fat, but the being-rejected-cos-fat. Of course someone would reject me, and they’d reject me because I was fat. The word ‘rejection’ swirled around in harmony with the word ‘fat’: they were intertwined. Now I like my fat, and I like my body and I like my looks and I’ve had abundant life experience that tells me that other attractive people also like my fat body and my fat face, it’s not the go-to setting anymore. If someone doesn’t want to fuck me, I’m not going to assume straight off the bat that it’s because they’re repulsed by my figure. It could be any number of things that make us, at that moment, incompatible.
Unpicking what ‘rejection’ meant to me (it meant someone could see I was fat and didn’t like it) simultaneously to feeling confident and empowered in my existence as a fat woman has improved my ability to cope with rejection enormously. I’m not scared of being rejected anymore because now I’m less likely to assume it’s a ‘me’ thing and more likely to assume it’s an ‘us’ thing. (is that egocentric and evasive? I don’t know; it sounds healthy to me somehow)
Secondly, the source of rejection is less likely to cause me anxiety. I’m filling my life with people who make me feel safe and happy and comfortable, and I hope so desperately that I’m someone that also makes others feel safe and happy and comfortable. So if I made a tentative awkward advance on someone who didn’t share my curiosity for that particular thing, I genuinely trust that a rejection would be coming from an honest and compassionate place rather than ‘lol why would you think that u weirdo’. I’m operating in spaces where enthusiastic consent is key and in order to have that, there must be room for rejection. We must be people who are capable of hearing and tolerating a ‘no’. Even if rejection means we’re not getting what we want, we must be able to hear and process that our interest isn’t shared, that that kiss isn’t going to happen.
Yes, rejection can be painful and embarrassing, and I wish everyone’s attractions tallied perfectly in the right times and places and ways. Since they don’t, I applaud the creation of social spaces and groups where advances won’t be met with derision, and communication and honesty are valued more highly than personal pride. It’s not a site of teenage angst anymore. Rejection isn’t all about my personal shortcomings.
Feeling more at ease with being rejected myself has put me in a better position to be assertive, which has always been something I’ve struggled with in romantic situations. Last night I had a first date with someone. I just wasn’t really feeling it. He wasn’t unattractive, wasn’t unintelligent, wasn’t un-charming, but it just didn’t happen for me. So on the walk to Vauxhall bus station, when he asked outright what my intentions were and whether I wanted to see him again, I answered truthfully. “I had a nice time, but I don’t think I would do it again. I don’t think we had any chemistry”. This in itself opens a whole can of worms of ‘what is chemistry’, but essentially I made my point fairly unambiguously that it hadn’t been a great romantic and sexual success for me. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but it was what I needed to say.
So if, on the dancefloor, I had been met with a quizzical expression and an ‘I’d rather not, thanks’, I could have heard ‘no’, and gone to queue up Dancing On My Own and gone about my business. It wouldn’t have killed me, and it probably wouldn’t have stung too much. Rejection: it ain’t so bad.