The Painful, Burning Itch of Rejection

They would only look at each other briefly across the table and in a perfunctory manner;  only when they had to.   When the situation warranted it…or when the silence became too uncomfortable.

“The bread is good here”.

“Yes, it is”.

He nodded; she managed a forced smiled as they exchanged a brief glance at each other.  She then looked away in silence to ponder that large, protruding mole on his cheek; the one that  she knew if she looked close enough, she could probably see Sir Edmund Hillary planting a flag upon the peak.

He took a sip of his drink hoping the alcohol will help errase his memory of witnessing that extra chin bubbling out from under her two pre-existing ones.

This is a hell date; one arranged by Satan and greenlit by God JUST  because you called Tommy Moranz a ‘Tick Face’ in fourth grade and well, karma is after all, a bitch.

Ever been on one of these?  I have.  They’re horrible.   But I’m convinced that bad dates are payment for being the cause of a bad date.  If you’ve ever been the reason behind why a date didn’t work, then you have this karmic debt that has to be paid.   

I’ve been the root cause and I’ve also  been the victim.   Both are painful.  But why does it have to be like that?   We hurt others so indiscriminately—especially when we’re younger–we think we’re bullet proof.   We’re not and that’s one of the ridiculous foibles of youth.  We make decisions based on such limited experience.  In my mid 20’s, I rebuffed many men because they weren’t up to par or what my idea of par was,  whatever that was.   One man I met while completely inebriated at a bar in Mexico one Friday night, apparently asked me out for a date. I suppose I said yes because I gave him my number.  He called the next day.   I didn’t remember him at all, but he sounded kind of cutem, so I pretended to remember him and we arranged our date for that night.  

He arrived at the prescribed coordinates.  I opened the door and he saw an average looking face attached to a behemoth’s body.  We’re talking at least 120 pounds overweight.   I left with him, utilizing every acting skill my High School drama class taught me in order to appear interested, but I’m afraid I showed a skillset more like Pia Zadora than Meryl Streep.   The worst part about this date was that I couldn’t hear a thing he said.   All I could focus on what how large he was and how completely turned off I was.  We were supposed to have drinks then see a movie.  I made it through one Scotch and then developed fabled bad date cramps.

I saw his face as he looked at  mine as I lied to him to end this fiasco.   He knew I was lying and sadly,  I think it wasn’t the first time this had happened.  He took me home and I never saw him again.  

But rest assured–I got mine.  The Precarious Nature of Dating Life came full circle.

In 2004, I distinctly remember three dates like this.  The first two ended in “headaches”–his, not mine.   The first “headache, gotta go” I exeperienced, I knew was a cop-out, but I wanted to give him the benefit of  doubt.  I wanted to believe that maybe….just  maybe  that old Korean war wound (a stab to the head with a bayonet) was in fact, bothering him as he was insisting.  

OK…so he was born two years after Korea ended.  

The second date I knew from the beginning I would at some part of the evening be rejected and ejected from this particular man’s realm of dating possibilities.   He left about an hour later—a headache was the reason.   Sadly, it got to the point where I could recognize the signs–even in their very early stages.    It’s the small talk.  The disinterest that echoes in his voice; that radiates from his eyes.   You could chill a Key Lime Pie in his cold “I’d kill to be anywhere but here, with her” demeanor.

By the time I went on the third date, I knew when I took one look at him, it was going to end early–one way or the other.   I’d become quite versed in reading the semaforic nature of all those red flags and 37 minutes into the date, I was right.   His cell phone rang–obviously a a fail safe set up and he went through the motions of acting upset with the requisite “Oh no’s” and “Oh God, when did it happen?” and the classic, “How’s mom taking it?”  

He hung up and then announced in a hushed tone that his grandmother just died.   It took a sip of my drink and replied, “Well,  if yours hadn’t, mine would have had to!”

He said nothing and instead threw a couple of $20s in my direction and ran out of the restaurant before they even fluttered down to the table.   I sat there a moment, feeling the sting of  emotion-fueled blood, or what I call “Embarrassment Juice”, pulse all over my body.    I was ashamed.   That was it—I’d had enough. 

I vowed that I would never place myself in that situation ever again.  I stopped dating after that and I’m pleased to say this self imposed moratorium has been good for me.    I’ve learned something about myself; namely how shallow I’d been and how shallow most people are.   I still have bouts of short-sightedness, but I do know that the older I get, the more accepting I am of others and their looks or the lack thereof.   

And as I do the work needed for self improvement, I have to ask why?   Why do we make sweeping rejections based on one’s physique?   We don’t want to get to know each other at all based on the fact that one person has the audacity NOT to be physically appealing in the dater’s eyes?   That’s how I felt with my Mexico date 25 years earlier.  And this came from a woman who even back then, hated rejection.   But while thinner, cuter, certainly younger all those years ago, was I any kind of prize?     Well,  I can do nothing about how others perceive me,  but I can damn sure be more fair in the way I perceive others. 

I’ve been talking to a lot of other love and dating reformers and there are a lot of us out there.   We’ve lived long enough to know that we need to start nursing the bruises received during our matriculation through the School of Hard Knocks.   Doing that requires patience (I’m working on that, too) and the painful effort we have to make in order to look at people and situations differently.    Why?  Because there comes a time when we we’re forced to understand that our windows of opportunity to be hot little objects of wanton desire are narrow and extremely sporadic, especially as we age.   At 51,  all I can hope for is to be regarded as  ‘tepid’…and even that would be a stretch.  

But there’s one solid about Time:  it’s an outstanding equalizer.   It chills the hot, engorges the thin; slims the tubby; hippens the geek; makes nuns out of wild, aimless women and can make decent husbands and fathers out of the jerks and heartless, uncaring players.   Don’t believe me?   Well, class reunions are wondrous 3-D Viewmasters that contain vivid Technicolor examples of how the passage of time can weave its magic.  

And there will be those days where you take trips down memory lane…back to high school or college, perhaps.  And this gets you thinking, providing your still capable of at least, transient thought.  You reflect back on your life and those care free days of youthful  narcissism and misplaced ego.     You think about how many social zeroes you  met at a bar or while on a blind date.  Or  you thoughts wander back to those loser kids in high school you never considered talking to, much less be friends with, who are now even more forgettable…just nameless, grainy black and white photos on the yellowing pages of an old high school year book.

Or maybe you come across names in an old diary that you don’t remember  or ones hastily scribbled in a dusty old address book that spent your 30s and 40’s at the bottom of a box that’s at the bottom of an even dustier storage room.   

These nameless, faceless people become this faceless, nameless crowd that you may have at one time, celebrated or they you.   Whatever the relationship was, whenever it was, it must have mattered albeit briefly, right?  

Or did it?   The uncertainty spurs on a chill that runs up  your now osteosporotic spine. You realize that someday somedone will come across your name and your old phone number in a dusty and forgotten address book……or they’ll look at your grainy, black and white photo on a yellowed page of an old high school year book and to them, you’ll be just as unrecognizable.

Just as unmemorable.

Just as meaningless.

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One comment

  1. Laurie,

    Sorry your dates haven’t been more productive and more fun.

    Myself, I think there is a question you face that is related to something I pondered a couple of years ago. In my case, I was stuck with the question – we tell kids (and older folk) not to have sex outside marriage, or long term relationship, etc. But – where is the accepted wisdom, about when sex is expected? Nationally I don’t believe today’s society has an answer. Not an answer that satisfied me.

    I have to wonder – do you have a good understanding of why you would date at all, and what outcome you expect? You are focusing on physical attributes as if they are important. Is the social status of whether your partner is considered “eye candy” the reason to share a life? Does “settling” for someone less than ideal demonstrate lack of fashion sense or style, lack of personal values, or obsession with the morbid?

    I figure that character is essential. Regardless of appearance, are the actions and words consistent with honor, integrity, honesty, and respect? A shared life, adults finding partners of character and interest where they create a culture they call “home” with mostly-agreed-upon values of what is right and wrong, and where they acknowledge and enact shared traditions and rituals. These values and traditions and rituals are usually adopted from the homes each grew up in. If each respects their raising, there will be an impetus to pass on the shared culture to another generation, as the adults adopt the roles of mates that they learned at their parent’s knees.

    Thus, a date starts with selecting a partner of character and interest. The date has several aspects. First, of course, is to have fun. Your immediate task it to make sure that he enjoys the date – if you cannot find what he enjoys, or don’t enjoy helping him enjoy the date, your responsibility is to courteously thank him for the invitation, and go home. (You need to be courteous; it comes with acting with integrity and respect, else you won’t be attractive to those respectful people out there.) Should he be making sure you enjoy yourself? That takes empathy, ability to see the other person, to relate to their emotional state and circumstances, and to share something sensitive and meaningful – without straying from truth, respect, and honor.

    A date should be an interview of the cultural background – the ingredients you would mix with your own, to arrive at a shared “home” culture, should you each decide to live a shared life. A date should be a confirmation of the selection you already made, that his character is sound, and he has an understanding and interest in living a shared life.

    If you are interested in something more than finding someone to cuddle until someone better comes along – you aren’t selecting cleverly enough. I doubt that many of the good men out there expect to find women of honor and character looking for contacts where alcohol is served.

    That is – a date should be absolutely hectic inventorying character and culture, and sharing yourself, and making it an enjoyable social occasion.

    *****

    You wrote: I doubt that many of the good men out there expect to find women of honor and character looking for contacts where alcohol is served.

    If you really feel this way then I do believe you are grossly out of touch.

    Most dates involve dinner…at restaurants….where alcohol is served. And just because alcohol passes one’s lips does not make a person devoid of character.

    I’m also saying that physical attributes shouldn’t matter. But they do and you and I would both be lying if we said they didn’t. That’s not a negotiable argument, Sweetie so don’t try.

    Now, these days, I’m trying to refuse to let looks be the ultimate deal breaker. I would like to get to know the man and his character before ever being as shallow as I once was 25 years ago. How many gorgeous woman have you known that turned ugly the minute they opened their mouths. They were devoid of personality and character and that made them less attractive. By the same token, how many times has a rather unattractive person suddenly become adorable BECAUSE of his or her wit and sparkle?

    And one more thing, I don’t go out with every man sizing him up to be the next Mr. Kendrick. I don’t look at every male and ask myself if he’s “the one”. I’ve reached a point where doing that is pointless.

    There are a lot of variables involved in dating and they are often complex ones. Sure ,you can look at dating as a black and white issue, but there’s so much more to it than that. We like who we like..and we run from that which scares us and for those who have been burned before, running away (while never right) is still easier than staying put and risking having to endure another dead end date and a chink in your emotional armor. There are serious psychological ramifications to contend with here, Brad. And once again, it is far more complex than you’re making it out to be.

    That said, I appreciate your thoughts and opinions and the basic permise and core of what you’re saying is true and they are lovely “dating textbook” axioms from say….1958. But with all due respect and in a real world application, I think they’re rather jejune, all things considered.

    LK

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