I watched it unfold before my eyes.
The girls huddled in one corner, the guys in another. The girl in the pink Nike shorts ran over to her friend in the purple Lululemon headband, whispering something in her ear. Lululemon giggled, in the most innocent way possible for a 7th grade girl to do so. She looked over both shoulders, eager to share the news with the rest of her posse. The rumor mill was turning, and it was turning way faster than I had ever remembered at that age.
Memories of middle school flashed before my eyes: braces, frizzy hair, and bitchy girls all included. The only difference was that instead of LG enVs, they all had iPhones.
I watched them violently tap on their screens, all scurrying around the top floor of the boat to spread whatever gossip had just erupted. Something exciting was about to happen on the 7th grade field trip to Spectacle Island, and I was intrigued to find out what it was.
They must have received a mass text, all 100 of them. I watched them swipe right on their smartphones while simultaneously watching their eyes light up. They ran down the stairs, one after the other. Suddenly, I was so distant from the breaking news of the pre-pubscent teens…and I was awkwardly upset about it.
I heard screaming from the deck below followed by stream of high-pitched laughter. They had only been gone 5 minutes at the most, but clearly it was long enough for something fairly entertaining to occur. Again, I found myself awkwardly intrigued.
They began to fill the top floor once again, eyes glued to their phones while roaring in laughter at the same time. “I got it all on tape,” said the boy in the Vineyard Vines shirt. They congregated in small circles along the boat. “Are you adding that to your story, bro?” “Haha!! Oh my gosh, that’s perrrrrrfect.” “OMG send that to me!!” I was ready to rip their phones out of their hands and see what all this fuss was about.
Why did I care about 7th grade gossip? I couldn’t tell you.
After we dropped them off, I asked my coworker what had happened on the lower deck. He explained to me that one boy had publicly asked another girl on the boat to be his girlfriend.
She said no.
The rejection that should have stayed inside the confines of the ship was now posted to Snapchat and iMessaged out to various group texts. I felt my heart sink for the kid, whoever he was.
“The fear of rejection,” is something we all cope with, it’s something that we run as far away from as possible to avoid the feeling of vulnerability and embarrassment that often goes hand in hand with putting yourself out there.
To the young 7th grade boy: you’ll probably look back on this day and laugh, or maybe it’ll haunt you for years. I wish I could tell you rejection stops at some point, but it doesn’t, you just learn that it’s a part of life.
For the people who fear rejection, let me tell you a story:
I woke up next to him in bed (again), and the first sentence to cross my mind was, “Fuck, I’ve done it again.” I promised myself I wouldn’t, I promised myself that the last time was the the last time. The good morning kiss was subpar, empty, and destructive. He got up fairly quickly, because cuddling for too long would define our relationship as something more than it actually was…even though it actually was something more.
For months I had found myself wondering what I was doing, why I was pretending to be OK with being someone’s “sometimes.” I found myself wondering why I wasn’t worth the “I love you’s,” the “I can’t wait to see you,” text messages. We are told to never settle, but sometimes it feels like it’s our only option. We had been in a limbo for several months, and I was trying to figure out why I wasn’t worth the label. I don’t know what came over me that morning, but for once, I decided that I was better than what he was giving me.
I sat there with my iced coffee in my hands, the condensation dripping down the edges of my fingers. My foot tapped against the kitchen tile, uncertain of the words that were about to spill from my mouth.
“I don’t really know how to begin,” I started.
He stared at me with a blank face, the ice in my coffee continued to melt.
I had a speech prepared in my head, a way to phrase the way I was feeling without coming off as too pushy, desperate, or needy. They were thoughts that had been lingering for several weeks, but when it came to verbalizing them, I found myself stumbling over my own words.
“I want to try again,” I muttered.
I had rehearsed it again and again in my head, and to my roommate. The words were supposed to come out as fluid, calm, and simple. I told him I was still in love with him. I told him I thought we were great together, that he was the first person I wanted to share my exciting news and darkest secrets with. He was the one I wanted to fall asleep texting with, the one I wanted to wake up next to.
I told him that all I wanted was to be with him, because to me, it just made sense. It made sense because I was tired of ignoring the feelings that I was having simply because I was afraid of being rejected after all this time. The connection between us was undeniable, and I wanted to stop ignoring that obvious fact.
He sat there, I watched his lips quiver, his face turning more red as the seconds passed.
“I do agree with you, we do complement each other well,” he painfully paused, “I appreciate you being honest with me, but I don’t have feelings for you. I thought this was more of a friendship.”
I stared at him for a second, but suddenly the sight of him made my stomach turn. My hand slid down my iced coffee, I pushed it away from me and stared at the ring on the table that it had created. “Ok,” I said, “Thank you for the coffee.”
I pushed the dining room chair out from underneath the table, the friction creating a screeching sound that pierced my ears. He followed me out the front door. “Beth,” he called. I didn’t turn back. I refused to allow myself to turn back this time. I let the door shut behind me and got into my car.
I sat in his driveway for a second, waiting for the tears to fall. I waited for a wave of emotions to spill over me. I waited for rejection to rip my heart out, for me to feel so weak and destroyed that I couldn’t drive home.
I waited for 3 minutes.
And suddenly, I felt nothing. I stared rejection in the eyes, allowing it to violently smack me across face. It left a red handprint on my cheek, but nothing more.
I put the car in reverse, switched on the radio. I began the drive home from his house for the “last time,” but this time I knew it was the last time. I was driving away from my past, driving away from someone who simply didn’t want me. And I was oddly OK with it.
Rejection didn’t define me, it solidified a truth that I had ignored for so long. Rejection allowed me to move on, allowed me to cut ties with someone that simply wasn’t meant to be.
Too often we aren’t honest with our feelings because we are so afraid of what will happen if we are. We are afraid to put ourselves out there, to admit that we in fact in fact do feel something. I don’t regret the conversation we had at the dining room table, I don’t regret a single word of it. I want to call him a “coward,” but he isn’t even worth my breath anymore.
He’s simply a piece of my past that needed to be kept there. I decided I didn’t want to wake up saying, “Fuck, I’ve done it again” anymore. I decided getting rejected was way better than allowing to define myself by the half-assed treatment I was getting in return.
You may say that my story is incomparable to the seemingly insignificant 7th grade scandal, but I’d have to disagree. Life is full of rejections, it’s full of “I don’t want you’s,” and harsh realities you may not be prepared to deal with. We approach things in life with the best of intentions, and our expectations often fall short of what we hoped for.
Maybe my rejection wasn’t posted on the 7th grade snapchat story, but it still stung. I’m not trying to tell you rejection doesn’t suck, because it does. I’m not trying to tell you to “see the beauty,” in someone throwing your feelings back in your face, because I know you won’t.
I’m trying to tell you to stop fearing rejection, and start embracing the idea of putting yourself out there. Stop running away from your feelings and start figuring out how to avoid saying, “Fuck, I’ve done it again.”
You aren’t stupid for being honest, you’re stupid for avoiding honesty.
To the 7th grade boy: Keep putting yourself out there. I’m sure this gossip has blown over, but I hope it doesn’t scar you for too much longer. I watched you try and hold it together, I saw a single tear stream down your face before you quickly wiped it away. People may laugh at you, they may say, “I told you so,” but don’t define rejection as a failure. Define it as way of moving on. Life doesn’t get easier, you just get smarter.
How is my love life post-rejection(s), you ask? Well, it’s not so bad. I’ll let you know when I get back from spending a weekend on Nantucket… 😉