Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Question of Rejection

A couple of situations I have observed recently have me thinking about what lengths we go through to avoid rejection, and how inconsiderate we become in attempting to “avoid” rejecting someone. I will admit, freely, that at least one of these observations is related to my own life. The other, more complicated one, is a situation a friend of mine is in. Two friends, you might say.

They aren’t really in the situation together, and that is the issue. He thinks he is in love with her and that they are happily ensconced in a relationship. She, last I knew, has no intention of being monogamous. This isn’t to say she is cheating on him. In her mind, they aren’t in an exclusive relationship. It is clear, however, that even if she has sat him down and tried to tell him, he didn’t get the picture.

It is interesting, watching the story unfold. As it often is with me, I have a sense of dramatic irony. I know more about what is going on in the background than all the characters in the story do. I keep the moral quandaries of others to myself and let them dig their own graves, so people tell me things they often don’t share with others.

I am not sure what I think about her choices. They bother me, to a certain degree. She continues to move forward with their level of intimacy in spite of her distaste for the intensity of his. Beyond being somewhat lonely in this town, I am certain that she enjoys the fact that he practically idolizes her. She states that she doesn’t want to lose his friendship and that is where I really start to take issue.

Unless her feelings for him magically transform into something greater, the whole thing is going to come crashing down at some point. He is going to climb higher and higher on the wings of Icarus until they melt under the harsh light of reality. Their friendship was doomed from the moment he fell for her. He told her in a drunken conversation months ago that he didn’t think he could just be her friend.

At this point, what is the path they are traveling but selfishness on her part? She is afraid of losing someone she is almost guaranteed to lose, so she holds on and allows him to mislead himself. Indeed, she allows her actions to continue misleading him as well. I am not really looking forward to the inevitable. Even more so because I listen to our mutual friends talk about their relationship in the same terms he does, and whistle to myself internally.

I find myself wondering about her deeper motivations. What are they? Is there some fear of being alone, of rejecting or being so thoroughly rejected she loses a friendship? Is she too afraid to stab Caesar in the front, as was Brutus? Will Caesar’s last thoughts run through our friend’s mind as he finally sees through the mask and cries out, sadly, “Et tu, Brute?”

In my world, where no one is negligently plotting an assassination of the heart, I find myself frustrated by the simple mechanics of rejection. If only I was the one doing the rejecting. No, I am simply testing the sincerity of someone’s plea for friendship and finding it lacking. Did I expect better? No, not really. Did I hope for better? Well, I am always one for hope.

This brings us to the crux of the matter. Why is it so difficult for us to reject someone outright? We have become a world of silent rejections, which I find worse than an honest one. I put my hand out in friendship with an invitation to a specific event. The woman I am referring to plead work. Understandable. A more general query was ignored.

Why ignore me? Am I not good enough for a no, if not a no, thank you? I assume if she honestly wanted to build a friendship, she would have replied with at least tentative interest. It is difficult for me to accept a silent answer. My opinion of myself is too high to easily take being ignored. If she can’t reject me to my face, fine. But what harm to have the common courtesy to actually reject me. We all want to be acknowledged. Acknowledge me, even if it is with a negative response. Even a rude acknowledgement would be better than no response at all.

It seems to me that the answer is that we, as a society, are as afraid of rejecting people as we are of being rejected. Tragically, in our fear, we do more harm than we might ever do with a direct answer. Cut me with a sharp knife and it will heal cleanly and quickly. Tear my pride with the rusted, jagged metal of silence and the wound becomes infected, it festers, it heals slowly and scars.

Who do we truly save from agony when we try not to hurt someone’s feelings? I think it is a selfish, self-preserving action we take. It is not his or her hurt we fear, but our own guilt at causing harm. The wounds of negligence, however, are easy to ignore. We don’t see them. We have moved forward, moved on, nursing our own aching hearts. We are “innocent” in our ignorance.

I ask you not to, no matter the situation. Don’t offer to be my friend if you aren’t sincere. Reject me out of hand, if you will. Say to me, “Fuck, no.” Say to me, “No, thank you. Sorry.” Let me move on when I catch my breath instead of leaving me with this gaping, seeping sorrow. I know I am good enough for the effort it will take for you to give me that simple negative. I will recover faster, better, stronger if you have the common decency, the common courtesy, the respect to acknowledge that I am an adult capable of hearing, “No.”

Not getting rejected would, of course, be great. But when it happens, don’t fuck people with your silence.

And a thousand words, goodnight.

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