Thursday, March 22, 2012

How To Be A Gentleman

I always find it a difficult balance to be a woman in today’s world. The Womens Movement made it so that women, previously resigned to a life of domestic duty, are now able to enter the work force and hold their own, not being assistants to men, but as formidable forces in the boardroom. We are no longer expected to sit passively while ideas are being discussed, nor is it our duty to get married and have children. We are allowed the choice to do what we want.

I am appreciative to live in a time where to be independent and strong is considered an attribute rather than an aberration. I don’t know how content I would be in a life where I felt compelled to be demure and subordinate to societal norms.

That being said, there is a different kind of pressure that I, and perhaps other women, feel. For us to “have it all” we need to have a career but also manage a family. We need to display that we don’t need a man to support us, and we often go to great lengths to prove that, this includes shunning the idea of gentlemen.

Being a gentleman is often disregarded because women “are equal now” and men either feel it unnecessary, view it as simply a tool of seduction, or worry that a strong woman will be offended by gestures. Or it has taken on a different approach than its true meaning. Being a gentleman is not about money, in fact I strongly believe that it is ridiculous when women expect for a man to pay for everything. For the most part, we’re all in the same boat, earning a living and we should be in a position to afford thing for ourselves. (Not that I don’t enjoy being wined and dined, I mean, who doesn’t?) but being a gentleman is more about attitude, and how to treat those around them correctly. Most women I know like to feel cared for and protected, and at the other side of things, most men I know enjoy being nurtured.

A gentleman is a gentle-man, and is above all, kind. Kindness underpins so many qualities; respect, compassion, attention, thoughtfulness, consideration. I have known several guys who have 'prided' themselves on being a 'nice guy' but a lack of kindness - for themselves, fundamentally - has meant any nice-ness has been inauthentic; their bitterness and negativity seeps through and colors whatever, whoever, they touch. (Not just that… but there is a fundamental difference between nice and kind. Kindness is inherent, whereas being nice is more out of propriety)

So what is a gentleman? A true gentleman gives of himself without any strings, without any expectation of return. He's comfortable to be with as he's comfortable with himself, and has no need to prove himself to others. I would also say that he respects himself, and so errs on the side of strong, contemplated, moral values which also respect others by personifying the following traits:

Chivalry: It’s not dead, and those who say it is are wrong. Yes, I am perfectly capable of opening my own door, pulling out my own chair, or carrying my own bags, just like I can walk out of an elevator after you…however, it’s these little gestures, these signs of respect, that go a long way. My friend Matt (who is definitely a gentleman) reminded me that the dictionary definition of gentleman is: “A well-mannered and considerate man with high standards of proper behavior” which is not exclusive to the lady in their life but rather extends to everyone around them. Things like, giving up a seat in a bus/train for the elderly, a pregnant woman, or a mother balancing a stroller and a young child, or helping the person around you on an airplane stow their baggage (without being asked) these are all marks of a gentleman.

Courting: In a culture where most people meet out at bars, and go home in an alcohol infused haze, there is something magical about going on a real date. I have spoken in the past about how I find the concept of dating contrived and makes me feel anxious but it’s the kind of anxiety that is fueled by anticipation and excitement. It’s a way of saying, “Hey, I am interested in you and want to get to know you better.” As forward thinking as women are, I don’t know a single one who doesn’t enjoy being asked out on a date. I tend to air on the side of, “I do what I want and make my own future”… but not when it comes to courting, in that respect, I am old fashioned. I want someone to pursue ME, I think it’s more fun that way. (In university, I dated a guy who was a master at this, from the day we met he began courting me; taking me on dates, doing considerate things like bringing me my favorite chocolate cake, making me a cd of songs he thought I’d like, writing me notes and leaving them in my bag, walking me to class etc) It’s no secret that men like the chase and women adore feeling wanted. It’s easy to rely on running into someone at your local watering hole, but a gentleman aspires to make the woman feel desired, and courting is a good way to go about that. And men? If you’re going to properly ask someone out, don’t text them, pick up the phone and call them. It doesn’t matter if it’s going to the opera or grabbing street food, the process takes about a minute. If you’re a situation when you ask them out in person, call for the follow up. (In fact, a lot of my friends, all strong independent and successful women, will not go on a first date with a man unless he calls them to ask them out.) Women want to feel considered, not like an afterthought. Oh yeah, and picking her up/dropping her home are nice touches.

Communication: We all communicate in different ways, but it goes without saying that if you’re attracted to/like someone, this should be brought to light. I am not saying one needs to send an endless slew of messages, but as I stated above, we women like to know that you’re thinking about us. If you go on a date with someone and you want to see them again, tell them. Don’t play the stupid “wait for three days” game that is archaic and counterproductive. Unless of course, you are the kind of man who wants someone who likes to play games, which honestly, isn’t a good precedent to set in a relationship. When women play games they’re all about manipulation, power, and drama, and from what I can deduce, most men aren’t into that. It makes for an unhealthy and pointless relationship. I’ve heard men state that “looking too keen makes women less interested” but I disagree, if a woman is intrigued by a man, she generally likes to hear from him. There is, of course, a degree of displaying attention: sending flowers every day or showing up at her house with a guitar to serenade her under her window, will probably scare her, despite her previous notions. Just a simple, “I had a great time, when can I see you again?” should suffice, along with periodic check ins as mundane as, “How was your day?” (Don’t come up with weird excuses to get in contact, be straightforward without being overwhelming)

Compliments: On the tail of communication, if you think she looks beautiful, tell her. If you notice something is different (like hair style/cut) mention it. If we’re into you or out with you, chances are, we’re trying to impress you, so recognition of our efforts will make us happy. Physical attributes aside, we want to know why you like us, and hopefully there’s more to it than how great we look in a skirt. Why did you ask her out? Tell her. (Not necessarily in the form of “I asked you out because X”) If she does something cool or surprising, let her know. There is no need to gush or go overboard as this looks fake and weird. Keep it genuine.

Consideration: This goes hand in hand with chivalry actually. It’s about taking into account the people around you, and making them feel at ease, and happy. If, at a social event, there is someone standing alone or seems out of the loop, a gentleman will approach that person and draw them in so that they feel engaged and comfortable. On a intense level, a gentleman will take into consideration things such a Valentine’s or Women’s Day and take heed to make the women in his life (coworkers, girl friends) feel special. My old housemate bought a bouquet of roses last Valentine’s Day, and gave one rose to each woman in his office (This was my idea, I told him he’d reap the benefits for the rest of the year, which he did), my friend Matt did the same thing for the women he works with on Women’s day (except he was acting on his own accord, which makes him even more wonderful) Just taking time out of their lives to make someone elses better.

Patience: We live in a world of instant gratification, and patience is a virtue that has been shoved aside by its evil cousin, consumption. Be patient with each other: we all have issues that we’re working on, see past those and the good that’s underneath. When it comes to taking things to a physical level, a gentleman doesn’t rush or pressure or guilt trip. He takes his time so that the woman knows it means something. Women are so used to having to fight off advances that to NOT have to is refreshing and piques our curiosity even more. I’ve dated guys who waited WEEKS to kiss me and I can safely say that the anticipation drove me crazy and made me want them all the more. That being said, that was extreme, ridiculous and unnecessary… kiss her (but don’t attack her.)

Propriety: This is the information age and we all over share way more than we should. I am no exception to this rule but a true gentleman will never use his dalliances as conversation fodder. You don’t have to deny anything but rather, not divulge too many details. You may be pressed by those around you to expand on more intimate details but a gentleman will graciously rebuff these and maintain the integrity the private events concerning him and his love interest (including personal conversations) as he wouldn’t want her to be in position where she felt uncomfortable or embarrassed.

Perception: I was once involved with the most beautiful man I’ve ever laid eyes on (who, in fact, embodies everything on this list and is the inspiration behind this post) and, without fail, whenever we were out together, he’d be swarmed. He, however, never let his attention wane from me. I’m not suggesting that when we were out that we were joined at the hip. If in a group, we’d circulate and socialize but he never once let me (or anyone else) believe that he wasn’t there with me. We weren’t the type to hold hands or make-out at a bar, but it was shown in other ways. While always charming and gracious, he didn’t flirt with anyone else, he’d frequently come up to make sure if I was ok, ask if I needed anything. If he came with me, he left with me. A gentleman knows how to balance: to remain endearing to those around him while never letting his date for evening second guess where his affections lie.

Some of you have sent me notes regarding how high I set the bar, stating the my standards are nearly impossible. Maybe they are, but I am not saying we have to encompass all of these, and I am very adamant that what I write is just as much a guideline for myself as it is for others. What I do know is, that I try on a daily basis, to live so I can be happy and proud of the way in which I conduct myself. Knowing that, despite any blunders, my intentions come from a genuine and good I don’t believe is a unrealistic standard to hold other people to. Kindness is key.

The line I often throw out to my male friends regarding how they treat women they are with is, “Treat her how you’d want someone to treat your sister.” If you don’t have a sister, use your imagination, cousin, niece, best friend. This can and should also apply to how women treat men. If you follow this motto, I think it’s almost impossible to fail.

*Thanks to all the gentleman in my life (especially AJ, AK, BL, CG, JB, MC, NM, TFC, VN) who made writing this post so effortless. All I had to do was think about times I was out with you and draw from that.

*Also Anya, again, my pearl of wisdom and insight, you’re the loveliest

Monday, March 19, 2012

On To The Next One

As discussed in my last post, going through a break up is never a pleasant endeavor, we are suddenly in a position of transition, where we have to start certain aspects of our life over, whether or not we want to.

One of the most difficult things people, myself especially, struggle with is coping with the knowledge that our ex has moved on and found someone else. I particularly struggle with this because I feel ridiculous for caring or allowing myself to be upset about it. Every break up I’ve endured, however painful at the time, happened for a reason, and I was satisfied with that reason. I never left a relationship wishing that I could still be in it nor do I look back at my past boyfriends and have any desire to get back together with them. However, when I find out that they have found themselves a new relationship, this sense of pain and hurt consumes me. (I also realize that this is incredibly hypocritical because in 99% of the cases, I have “moved on” to someone new before they have. I think this is perhaps because the men I seriously date are the ones who don’t engage in meaningless flings, they go for quality over quantity-whereas, I tend to float from serious boyfriend to a series of distractions back to a serious boyfriend-so when they find someone new, I have to take it seriously)

When an ex starts dating someone else, it’s like the final chapter has come to an end, even if we closed the book a long time ago. It makes the whole break up real, and we are faced with the revelation that we are replaceable. We feel a mixture of rejection and jealousy. Who is this other person? What makes them so great? What does our ex like about them? Did our ex go for someone completely different? Is it because they didn’t want another us?

Apparently these are all common feelings and thoughts (does this mean that I am...normal?) However, instead of allowing them to bring down our mood, try and remember the following:

You broke up for a reason: It’s very easy to look back and remember the positive, especially when enough time has passed. I stay good friends with all of my past boyfriends (because they’re incredible) but that can cloud reality at times. At a platonic level, I am reminded on a daily basis why I liked them so much, and don’t often see the sides that made maintaining the romance side impossible. Or if I see them, they don't bother me like they did when I was dating them. However, if you’re suddenly grieving for the loss of the relationship again, try and take a few steps back and objectively look back at the relationship. Remember those reasons, and realize they’re (hopefully) still relevant.

You’re not being replaced: Everyone and every relationship is completely different. So this new person your ex is seeing may make them very happy, they may be a great couple but that doesn’t detract from your relationship with the person. They are completely unrelated. (Side note: I just started crying) This new person doesn’t make what you and your ex shared any less special or beautiful. It’s different. It’s not that they found someone better than you, more that they are with the right person for them at this time.

It was inevitable: This isn’t a surprise, we have to expect that when we are no longer involved with someone that they will, at some point, start a relationship with someone else. We should actually be grateful for this (unless we’re still in love with the person, in which case, I have nothing to say other than try and move on. Please take this as the push you needed.) …why would we want someone to not move on? Burn a candle for us for all of eternity? Who would want that? It would be terrible. These feelings are, in some ways, slightly selfish. Stop being selfish.

Be happy for them: Regardless of your feelings towards your ex, there was, at one point where you enjoyed seeing them happy, perhaps even made their happiness a priority. Remember that. This person is someone you had wonderful memories with and cared about. If you’re friends with them, you have no (rational) excuse to be anything other than thrilled for their newfound joy, if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, try and find some part inside of you that recognizes the good in the situation. Bestowing positive thoughts is healthier and more beneficial than focusing on the negative. Plus, when you're happy, you radiate better energy, and are more likely to have good things come to you.

This isn’t a competition: Just because your ex is moving onto someone new doesn’t mean you have to rush and do the same thing. Doing so doesn’t prove any kind of point other than you probably aren’t ready to date yet. If it happens naturally, then let it unfold, however let it be for the right reasons. You’ll never be happy or able to sustain anything real by turning this into a “Who is happier after the breakup?!” contest. (This also applies to not trying to show your exes new paramour how much better you are.)

Manage your expectations: Things will be different, but not necessarily worse. These days it isn’t uncommon for exes to stay friends but it can still be a little daunting when there is a new person brought into the equation. Your ex will most likely feel protective of their new love’s feelings, especially in regards to you (normal) so try not to take this too personally. This doesn’t mean they don’t want you in their life anymore, or don’t care about you, it just means they’re doing their best to navigate a sticky situation. Let it be, be normal, be understanding, don’t push, and it’ll smooth out.

Gossip and Bad Mouthing are BAD: Don’t do it.

Vent to the right person: As I said, it’s natural to feel a little rueful with this new information, and talking about it is ok (as long as you aren’t saying mean things about your ex or the person they’re with)…however, your ex is not the person to have the conversation with. Call your parents. Your best friend. Go to your closest friend of the opposite sex (heeey J) Go to your coworker if that’s the only option, but do NOT discuss this with your ex. The feelings will subside more quickly than you think but if you’ve told your ex about them you’ve gone down the road of no return.

This can be difficult, really difficult, but as I said, everything about this is natural. It’s natural to feel slightly distressed, and it’s natural for people to move on. Isn’t that what you’re doing too?

*Thanks JCB (aka TCO) for stepping out of your hectic world to shed some reverence on this subject matter, and for listening to me cry.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Post Break-Up Etiquette: Do's and Don't's

While an inevitable part of life, break ups are never easy, whether it be a long time coming or a complete shock, we all of a sudden have a loss that we have to cope with. Our world is turned upside down, emotions are fragile and egos have taken a beating. Regardless of how independent we were whilst in the relationship, we are no longer part of something, we have lost our partner.

We all deal with break ups differently, and that is attributed to our personality and how we handle certain situations, but, we are not at our most lucid when we are surrounded by the chaos that a dissolution of a union creates. There is no “right” way to do things, we need to do what is best for us, but should do our best in the circumstances to be objective as possible, to see past the situation and think about the big picture.

Here are some Post Break Up Etiquette Do’s and Don'ts:


Hook up: I know it’s tempting, and we often hear about “break up sex” as being some of the best that there is. Usually, however, it’s not, because someone (if not both parties) is going to be upset by it, because it’s highly emotional and confusing. Break ups should be clean, and keeping the physical aspect alive will keep things messy and volatile.

Try and get revenge: I don’t care what happened, really I don’t. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, hurting someone doesn’t make you hurt less. It may be a short term solution to a problem, but the when the chips have fallen, we probably won’t feel good about ourselves if we have vindictively tried to destroy someone. We can’t control what those around us do, but we are able to control how we conduct ourselves.

Disparage: Post break up, we aren’t at our most objective. We either tend to wallow in the good or focus on the negative. If it’s the latter, we get animated thinking about all the things that were wrong with the person and the relationship, which is fine, and actually a natural part of the letting-go process. It’s not WHAT we think but what we do with our thoughts. Saying horrible things to and about your ex is never the answer, even if they did something despicable to you. Break ups are messy and complicated, details and emotions are heightened and it’s unnecessary to mar someone’s name because you’re angry or hurt. I am not suggesting that you lie, but keep the information confined to a small group and don’t over share too much. The fact of the matter is, you will not be able to give the whole story anyway. Remember: at one point, you really liked this person, and you cared about them. Trash talking them is undignified and also makes you look kind of stupid. (I mean, why were you with them if they were so terrible?)

Involve others/Create drama: Friends and family are important support networks, and we’re going to need them at this time, however there is a way of doing that. Have your friends take you out on the town to take your mind off of things, or let them come over with wine, ice cream, and DVDs, but do not drag them into your drama, or try and create more. This is especially applicable if you share these friends with your ex. You may be sad, heartbroken even, but if your friends care about the both of you, it’s going to be awkward for them that you broke up, and if you respect their friendship you can not put them in a position where they have listen to negative remarks about your ex, or feel like they have to choose sides. It will only alienate the people who want you to be happy/to help you.

Flaunt your new status: You break up and move on. Ok fine, but is it necessary to flaunt your new relationship? This of course, has a time sensitivity relevance. I certainly am not suggesting that we should be *sensitive* in regards to someone we dated 10 years ago but if it’s been less than six months (or a year if it was long term) bear in mind that your newfound happiness may cause your ex some heartache, even if your split was amicable. Once again, I am not saying you should have to lie or walk on eggshells, but just practice some consideration to their feelings. (Examples: making out in front of your ex-immature and mean; gushing facebook statuses about how you “Finally found someone who understands you,” also unnecessary) On another level, if you’re still on decent-to-good terms with your ex you should, considering the duration of your relationship, let them know if you’ve entered into a new relationship that you think may potentially blossom into something serious. It can be slightly awkward but I think it’s better for your ex to hear it from you rather than see you out, read about it on Facebook, or hear about it from mutual friends.

Also, in regards to flaunting, this also applies to your new single status. If you’re happy to be single, be happy, good, but nasty, callous public digs at your former partner isn’t the way to go.

Drunk contact: People tend to drink and party more when they’re newly single. While I think this is a bad idea, it’s a fact that won’t change. I implore you, please, to try and have a sense of control when it comes to drunk contacting your ex. Calling them sobbing to tell them that you love them and miss them? Makes you look (and feel) pathetic and desperate. Angry messages will just reinforce to the recipient why they are so much better off without you. You may have lost a lover, but that doesn’t mean you have to surrender your dignity at the same time.

Torture Yourself: Playing the relationship over and over in your head trying to figure out what went wrong is not going to help you move on. The cold hard fact is that it’s over and there’s nothing you can do to fix that. If it was “your fault” you need to learn from it and not make it again, if it was something they did, you need to accept it and move on. Reading old emails, Facebook stalking, and obsessively going through old pictures of when you were “happy together” are not recipes for success, they’ll just keep you stuck in a place of turmoil.


Take a break: I read a book called “It’s Called a Break Up Because It’s Broken” (written by “He’s Just Not That Into You’s Greg Behrendt, and his wife) that suggests, when we break up with someone, we need a month, minimum of zero contact. This seems impossible to do, believe me I know, but I think it is one of the healthiest decisions we can make in regards to maintaining our sanity, dignity, and being able to delve through our convoluted emotions and come out on top. This person is no longer our #1 and we have to learn how to be on our own without them, we can’t expect them to be our rock. Instead, we should take this time to see how we can manage without their constant presence in our world, we need to be aware of the strength we possess without them. Keeping them around during this time will just delay the process of repair and moving on. Personal tip: When, and if, you are ready to start contact again, I suggest starting by email and building from there.

Change your scene temporarily: One of the worst parts of a breakup, for me, is the constant reminder of a life shared that no longer exists. In a relationship, you form memories and affection towards certain things and places or groups of people. Giving them up completely is not the answer, but at least, initially, it is better to avoid them. You don’t want to go to your favorite cafĂ© only to find that you’re suddenly crying into your coffee cup, nor do you want to purposely place yourself in a situation that will drudge up pain. This is a good time to try out new spots, reconnect with friends you may haven’t seen as much, a discover new activities in your city that have nothing to do with your old life. You can go back to your old habits eventually but when you do, you’ll have a new perspective and resilience than you did before.

Mourn: Regardless of what you might allow yourself to think, you are not ok right away, and nor should you be. We suffer from five stages of grief, and, after a breakup, we are left with a serious void that can be as bad as having someone in our lives die. One of the worst things we can do is act like we don’t care, we’re lying to ourselves and to everyone around us. No one expects for you to bounce back immediately. Doing so, can be incredibly destructive and backfire a thousand times over, especially if you are trying to fill the void with something like over partying or by jumping into another relationship too quickly. (I talk about this a bit in my Relationship Handbook, see “The Distraction”)  I am not saying to not date again, but really think about why you are, is it to take your mind off of your ex (not good) or is because you’re actually ready to get back out there? When my ex and I first broke up, I went on a slew of dates that left me feeling depressed and crying in my bedroom. I was pushing myself towards something that I wasn’t ready for, and doing so was not necessary. Take the time you need to mourn, be sad, cry, lean on your feel like yourself again. When you’re ready to get back out there, you’ll know.

Be polite when you inevitably run into them: Unless you are in a long distance relationship, there is a 90% chance that, at some point, you will run into your ex. This will be slightly uncomfortable but it doesn’t have to be awkward or horrific. Remember, this person is someone you used to care a lot about, and despite what unraveled between you, has good qualities and feelings. Also, despite how they seem, they might be devastated about what transpired between you two. You are, by no means obligated to spend a significant amount of time with them, but you should always treat them with respect. Go over, say hello, have polite chit chat, and if it feels appropriate, depart with a hug. The first time will be the toughest but doing this will set a precedent for future encounters. In the event that your ex is aggressive and responds badly, do not rise to the bait. Simply walk away, knowing you behaved with integrity and remember that you’re accountable to yourself so behave in a way that makes yourself proud. Keep it classy, always.

Respect the other persons wishes: This can be a tough one. I have said that we need to do what is best for us in this time, but yes, we also need to take our ex into account as well. If they tell you that they need to take a time out from speaking, then you have to respect that. You may want to talk and hash things out endlessly, but it won’t be conducive to the process if both aren’t onboard. It may be difficult to give the person their wish but try your hardest, it is the best way to ensure that the breakup will stay as amenable as possible (and also keep the door open for a friendship down the line) Be honest with what you want and need but also listen to them. This isn’t an overnight process. *On a side note, if you ask someone to “give you space” you can not be angry or hurt if they actually do it. This is not a time to play games or test out if they care about you. They are showing that they care by acting in accordance to your request. Plus, if they go against it you may be secretly happy, but then will, at some point, turn it around and say, “Well, I asked you to do this and you didn’t even listen to me then!” Vicious cycle. Don’t do it.

Focus on the positive: When I was going through a breakup, my friend Harry challenged me to put my life into perspective. He does this for a living, and is very good at it, so I felt compelled to take it seriously. He gave me two writing exercises: “1. Write down everything you are grateful for…start with ‘I have four limbs, I can see/hear, I have a job…and build from there.'” (You’d be surprised how quickly the list accumulated and I was able to discover how lucky I am) The second assignment was: “Reasons Any Man Would Be Lucky to Date Me”, again, the list grew before my very eyes. I had spent so much time focusing on the negative that I'd forgotten to remember anything good about myself. (I don’t think we should be in denial and think we are flawless but it’s important that we embrace our attributes) At first, I felt a bit ridiculous writing all of these things down, but do you know what? After I did, I had a newfound sense of confidence, a glow, a skip in my step that I didn't have before I sat down with my pen and paper. A breakup is not a failure, it’s a life lesson, a chapter in the never ending story that we are writing for ourselves.

I think the important thing to remember is that, however excruciating the loss, that we need to realize we're going to be ok. That, despite our previous beliefs, this person is not the right one for us and we can't change that. Sometimes, after time has passed, we may rekindlewith this person and try again, but we shouldn't count on that happening, instead we should take the time to focus on ourselves. We need to accept it and look at it as an opportunity for rediscovery and exploring options that were previously unavailable to us.

*Thanks: AH for the inspiration for this post; AK for helping me do all of the above right; HK for being good at your job

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hurricane Drunk: The Acquired Skill of Rejecting/ion

I am constantly amazed by the stupidity imparted by people when it comes to how they handle certain situations, in this particular instance rejection/rejecting someone. It’s never a nice thing feeling to be made to feel unwanted or to hurt someone’s feelings (unless you’re a horrible person) but it is an inevitable fact of life, that at some point we will be denied something that we want.

Sometimes it’s regarding a position in a university or a job, sometimes it’s when we apply for something extracurricular like tickets to a game or membership to a club, and sometimes it’s in relation to a person. Either way, the simple two letter word can crush our spirit and bruise our egos despite the confidence we usually have in ourselves. It’s particularly difficult because we are made to feel like we aren’t good enough, that we are flawed. We put ourselves out there only be to be informed that sorry, we’re not good enough.

I have no insight as to how to make rejecting less harsh, or taking the sting that comes from being rejected. I guess I can throw out the generic phrases, “When one door closes another opens…” “There are plenty of fish in the sea…” “You’re better than that,” “It’s not the right X.” or the ever popular, “It’s THEIR loss.” While these phrases might indeed be accurate, somehow they do little to mollify us. I always wonder why, if I am so great, that I am in this situation of being unwanted and imagine I am not alone in this sentiment.

Personally, I handle the art of rejecting someone by simply not handling it. I simply fade into a whirlwind of being too busy and blaming other obligations. (Though the truth is we are never too busy to get what we want and if I wanted you, I’d make you a priority) I’m the girl that you come up to at a bar and start a conversation with who will actually talk back, whether interested in you or not, because I know how difficult it is to put yourself on the line and I don’t want to be responsible for wounded ego or feelings. Much to the chagrin of my close friends, I can’t find it in myself to be a bitch to unwanted suitors, so I give out my phone number and make plans, only to not pick up or cancel (or the ever classic Alice move of running away and hiding.) I have since found out that I’m been lying to myself, that doing these things is just leading someone on, which is, in fact, more mean (though unintentional)…I am not condoning rude or callous behavior but am slowly recognizing that rejecting someone is an acquired skill, one that we should all strive to obtain.

The way I see it there are several forms of rejection: 1. Flat out and 2. Residually. While I think both are unpleasant there is something about the former that has the same effect as ripping off a band aid, it hurts but then it’s over. We move on. Or should.

The residual is much worse. This happens when you’re in a situation where you’re led to believe that you’re in a position to succeed. Whether it be you’ve been on an interview and had several follow ups or met someone that you like, spent time with them only to find out that they don’t share a mutual admiration. The residual is what makes us second guess ourselves, what makes us analyze every detail and wonder what we did wrong, how we could’ve made things different. The residual is not necessarily a result of something being wrong with us or something we’ve done wrong but we can’t help but feel that it is. In short, it hurts. It’s when the band aid won’t come off in a clean tug but rather gets caught on our skin resulting in another cut to heal.

As I said, I have no insight as to how to make the process easier other than having enough self esteem to believe the generic phrases above, but throughout the years I have watched people close to me (in addition to myself) handle both sides of the circumstance and have come up with the following guidelines as to how to best handle this sticky situation:

When Rejecting Someone:

1. Sensitive Honesty: If you are going to reject someone, there is no reason to be mean about it, even if you think they deserve it. Always be kind, but firm. Don’t elaborate too much, just let them know it’s not going to happen.

2. Save the Sugarcoating: No one wants a letdown that is riddled with compliments. Don’t tell the person who great they are or that it’s not them, it’s you. It may be true but it rings hollow to the recipient who will really just hear the negative. Praising someone while telling them no is almost insulting.

3. Time and a Place: I have mentioned many times how timing is a key ingredient in so many factors in life. If you’re about to give someone bad news, try and consider the forum in which to do so. Over text or email is easy, yes, but cowardly. However when delivering the news in person it should be in an appropriate setting. I once had a guy who I was interested in and (kind of) been kind of hanging out with decide to drop the bomb at 4am while we were both drunk at a bar with a group of friends. Not the best delivery and almost a guarantee that emotions will be more heightened.

4. Play Fair: Once you’ve decided and told the person no, be kind. Don’t play with their emotions. Don’t flirt or lead them to believe there is a chance. You’ve hurt them enough, so don’t continue to do so.

5. Assess the Situation: If you know that you don’t want someone or something then don’t give the impression that you’re interested.

If you are on the receiving end of rejection:

1. Accept Defeat Gracefully: You were just told that you were not wanted, which is bad enough, but know how make it worse? React badly. It will just confirm everything. You don’t need answers and frankly why would you want them. Don’t fight it. Don’t come up with plans to change their mind. You shouldn’t have to convince someone of your worth. If they can’t see it then walk away and find someone who does. (The only case where this can be different is if you lost out on a job, I think it’s ok to have a normal, rational conversation about strengths and weaknesses)

2. Cut Back on the Self Deprecation: Just because you were rejected in this once instance, doesn’t mean it’s a life pattern. Don’t concern yourself with what you could’ve done differently or any indiscretions that may have led to the decision. The fact is, if someone likes you, they’ll overlook most things they’ll see the good because they want to. There are plenty of people who will disagree with the Rejecter’s assessment, and make sure you’re one of them. (Think about it, you don’t like everyone so can’t expect them to like you.) Don’t lose faith. You’re awesome. I can’t say this enough.

3. Don't Overcompensate and Take a Hint: Once again, you're not going to change the persons mind and once someone tells you no, they mean it. No amount of cool, sweet, nice gestures on your part is going to change this. They'll only make you look as pathetic as you already feel.

4. Take the Time to Get Over It. You don't have to pretend you're ok and happy about this. Feelings and emotions are a normal part of life, it's just how you deal with them.

5. Take Back Control: Remember however bad/mad/sad you may feel, that your happiness is dependent on one person, and that person is you. You can choose how you allow things and people to affect you. You may need time before you interact with this person again, you may to never speak to them again. Whatever you need, do it. Unless it is yelling at them or verbally assaulting them (this includes drunken messages)

It is unrealistic to expect to be successful in every relationship and situation in our lives. People are complex and indiscernible at times. We sometimes don’t know why we feel a certain way. All we know is that things are the way they are. Let it be.

On a side note: I listened to this song on repeat whilst writing this: