Everyone hates dating.
Sincerely. Who says “Oh, I love sitting across from a relative stranger while we silently appraise each other like potential runners-up at the Westminster Dog Show?” Malcolm Gladwell told us in “Blink,” that rapid cognition allows us to make most of our decisions in about two seconds. That, I believe, is true of our romantic assessments and I never understood my girlfriends who would go on dates, feel no sexual frisson and then, inexplicably, try again. Why? For the same reason they used to run a bell rope into a coffin in the 19th century — in case the thing isn’t quite dead?
My dim views on the subject of romantic job interviewing darkened further last week when the story of 1615 word email made it’s way around the web: an investment banker named “Mike” went out on a date with a woman named “Lauren;” a date he thought was terrific but she thought was “horrific.” The International Business Times said Michael was calling Lauren “incessantly.” The Australian Telegraph gave Lauren’s brief backstory verbatim: 'Friend couldn’t make it to philharmonic at last minute so I went alone, met this guy, went on ONE, HORRIFIC date. Then got this...' the 1615 word email expressing Michael’s sadness, disappointment, confusion and clear inability to either accept or understand her unresponsiveness. If you actually go to Reddit, where the email is supposed to have been originally posted, it’s hard to tell whether Lauren is the original poster or someone ‘several degrees of separation’ was, or if the people’s real names were used.
It’s a disturbing story on a number of levels, but the first to me was the fact that so many news outlets posted the email with what felt like snarky commentary about it’s craziness, making the whole web feel for about one second, like the shower scene in “Carrie.” Granted, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to receive this missive, and a girl freaking out and feeling threatened, especially considering the ease with which anyone can be stalked, is understandable. The media waving it around like a Mean Girl reading out of another girl’s diary felt unnecessary.
Further investigation found reporting in The Frisky saying that this Mike — if he’s real — might be a strange kind of serial email harasser, having possibly authored similar lengthy letter to girl named Danielle some time ago — (one I found far and away more disturbing than the Lauren email; I’d have worried if I got it). That certainly makes one not want to minimize the danger of a potential stalker.
On still further consideration, the Lauren email does have some disturbing elements, but it’s also full of words like “sad,” and “disappointed,” and obvious confusion on the writer’s part about social cues, i.e. citing eye contact as a textbook example of flirting when, in real human interaction, it can be variously interpreted. This suggests he might even have a disorder, like Asperger’s syndrome, or just genuinely does not get it. If a teenager had written this email and kids passed it around it would probably be considered cyberbullying. And while you might think adults should know better, I can site example, after example after example, that when it comes to romance, they do not, and their inability to asses appropriate responses runs the gamut from comic to sad to deadly.
So, rather than go the smirky route, here’s some tips for how to deal with either rejection after a date or unwanted, potentially harassing contact after a first date. You might think these should be obvious, but adults have to be told not to stuff Buzz Lightyears up their asses, fergodssake. There are no rational ideas that don’t bear repeating.
First, how to be rejected.
As a freelancer I’m used to being ignored. Freelancers pitching stories are never the most important part of any editors day, a humbling-but-true fact that can help make unresponsiveness of all kinds a little easier to cope with, even though it’s got a different vibe than romantic rejection. As far as that goes, a fair rule of thumb is that if someone you don’t know well (not a friend or colleague) doesn’t get back to you after you make three attempts within two weeks — and three attempts ONLY, not three texts AND three calls AND three emails, but one of each — cut yourself off like a drunk going cold turkey. Don’t try again. Don’t convince yourself their phone fell into the toilet, their computer is broken or they have been kidnapped by terrorists or they would be responding to you. They’re aware you made an attempt and whether they respond or not…this is the hard part… is entirely out of your control. You have to practice not thinking about them and like anything else you work at with genuine diligence, you’ll get better at it.
I’m in no way minimizing this: no one researches how crazy love can make you feel unless it’s made them feel crazy too, so I get it. Whether it’s one date or one year of dates, rejection is baffling and painful, but you’re not the only one and it gets better. But you have to help it.
On the other side of it, if you feel like you’re being harassed, there are steps to take to put the kibash on unwanted attention and feel a lot safer from future trouble in the bargain. If you really feel you don’t want to respond directly to the person with an unmistakable-but-gentle “I don’t feel the same way you do,” or if you feel like harassment has started before you could even try diplomacy, you can a) enhance your privacy settings, b) report the harassment to the websites it’s happening on, c) block the person from contact via phone or social media, d) tell mutual friends (if you have them) who might intervene and/or e) just contact the police. Your protection is their job and if you report something there is a record of it. I’ve experienced online harassment, so again, I get it and take it seriously; fortunately using the above-described methods worked for me and I never had to resort to calling the cops, but if I felt I had to do so I wouldn’t think twice. They’re in my phone.
I know it’s fun to make light of other people’s evident craziness but those things can be both signs of danger and/or signs of pain. If you feel like you’ve been harassed there are avenues open to protect yourself.
And if you’ve been rejected please, please absorb the idea that releasing yourself is much greater magic than enchanting someone else.