Rejection in Slow Motion

A post at Sarah’s Daughter’s blog about how to help boys overcome the fear of rejection reminded me of this classic comedy bit from the 80s by Robert Townsend.  (Warning: some salty language.)  The whole thing is good, but the part I’m talking about starts at 5 minutes in.  He’s exactly right: when you get turned down, it feels like it’s happening in slow motion, and everyone in the vicinity is watching.

Of course, that’s silly.  Not only is it not that big a deal, but how often is a girl mean about it?  I don’t know if I’ve ever been told anything as mean as, “Not with you,” even if that’s what they were thinking.  Most of the time it was, “No thanks,” or, “Thanks, but I have a boyfriend,” or some other reason/dodge.  And most of the time I felt good about myself afterwards, because at least I tried.

But the fear is real, and just as bad as he describes.  I don’t know where it comes from either; I can’t help thinking it’s natural, because I don’t think anyone taught it to me.  There’s just something about seeing a girl and wanting her, and then not acting quickly enough on it, so the wanting becomes too important to fail, and then you’re screwed.  Lesson learned: don’t put off the approach, and use the Bratty Little Sister Frame to remind yourself that she’s just a silly girl with whom you’re now going to have fun interacting.  The worst she can do is yell, “Nooooooo, not with youuuuuuuu!  Get awaaaaaaaaay!” in which case you’ll have a good story for later.




13 thoughts on “Rejection in Slow Motion

  1. I suspect that it is biological. On a base level, a man knows that his worth is measured by his ability to attract women, and by the quality of the women he can attract. If a man can’t attract a woman, then it means that he is low value indeed.

  2. I agree that the desire to succeed with women is biological, but I still wonder where that extreme fear — and even assumption, for many guys — of failure comes from. When I went to first grade and fell for a cute blonde girl for the first time, why did I worry so much that she wouldn’t like me? Obviously I had a lack of confidence, but that’s just kicking the can down the road. I wasn’t particularly lacking confidence in other areas, despite being shy: I raised my hand in class and answered questions because I knew I was good at it. When I started playing a musical instrument or working on a new 4-H project, I assumed I could do it. So why the fear that I might be terrible with girls, before I had any experience with them at all, when there was no evidence whatsoever that I would be?

    As far as I can remember, I wasn’t taught to be that way. My dad certainly wasn’t afraid of my mom. I was too young to have learned much from TV or books on the topic. So where does it come from? Why is it that only a minority of boys see approaching girls as a positive opportunity, while the majority see it as a mine field — even before they’ve tried it?

    I don’t know, but I think it has to be at least partly hard-wired somehow.

  3. My fear came from a BAD experience. In seventh grade, my going-steady-gf went for an older guy. I wrote her a note asking her to the next dance. She showed everyone in the class my note and made fun of me. It was the classic as bad as it could get fear. I didn’t have this fear until that experience.

  4. In 6th grade, I remember the notes that would be passed along, they had a list of boys names across the top and a list of girls names along the side. The girls would pass the note around and check the box coordinating with the boys name of who she thought was cute or datable. (“check yes or no”). Eventually the boys would see the note and see which girl checked their name…or they would see that no one had checked their name (ugh). One boy, I remember, who never had his name checked (we called him booger face – cuz he picked his boogers) is now a long time friend of mine. He is a banker in D.C., is financially set, very attractive and married to a young hottie!

    When I was in 7th grade, I broke up with the first boy I kissed because he was too uncool compared to the attention I was getting from other cool guys. He never dated another girl and is a flaming homo to this day… I’m horrible.

  5. “I agree that the desire to succeed with women is biological, but I still wonder where that extreme fear — and even assumption, for many guys — of failure comes from.”

    It’s due to women traditionally playing “let’s you and him fight”. If you ask out the wrong girl, he’ll get her meat-headed boyfriend to beat you up, or he’ll just do it on his own initiative.

  6. ” Why is it that only a minority of boys see approaching girls as a positive opportunity, while the majority see it as a mine field — even before they’ve tried it?”

    It’s because women hate betas.

  7. You guys are explaining why guys are afraid by high school, but I’m talking earlier than that. I had a crush on a girl in first grade, long before I’d seen girls passing mean notes or had any experience with them playing mind games (for that matter, I don’t recall seeing much of that later either). I didn’t even have older sisters. So the “Gosh, what if she doesn’t like me; maybe I should get her a special Valentine’s Day card first and see how she reacts to that and then I can have a birthday party and invite her and some other people and give her the best piece of cake and then find out when her birthday is and then…” stuff came from inside me, sickening as it is to say that. That’s what I’m trying to get at: I wasn’t that way about other things, so why girls?

    Maybe that was just me. I really was awfully shy, and maybe that manifested with girls as fear of rejection, and by the time I got older the other boys had learned it for the reasons you guys give. Maybe most boys aren’t that way at six years old. I really don’t know.

  8. There are some things that suck about being female, but not having to do the majority of the approaching makes up for those sucky things. I would be a virgin spinster if I had had to do the approaching. I asked a guy out once and got turned down and vowed never to do it again. Men have my sympathies for having to do most of the pursuing.

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  10. Hmmm. My then-3YO said to me one day as I picked her up from preschool “Wilson push me down an I wuv him”. Wilson’s dad was stationed at Parris Island – maybe his Dad was just training his boy early or something LOL. (the grammar’s all hers – she was only 3 after all)

  11. Ha, Maeve, that’s hilarious. Be careful, though; if the teachers hear that, they may think, “Uh oh, she likes a boy who pushed her — must be an abused child!”

  12. It is pretty funny, Cail. She is 20 now and every now and then I tease her about Wilson. The teacher at the preschool was actually pretty awesome. Her husband was a DS at Parris Island and she just ran a tight ship. Apparently Wilson was quite unaware of his effect on Angharad, and Kathy (preschool teacher) used to fill me in on the interactions between the two. Hysterical.

  13. Approach anxiety and this type of rejection fear are the same thing.

    it’s a vestigial fight or flight response harkening back to an existence where a potential mate would have HER mate close to her and he would attempt to fight you off. your amygdala kicks in for a fight that will never happen in the last 60 years.

    you can learn to desensitize. (mostly by understanding the biological response)

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