No Thanks!

I found out this morning that the kid who carried out the most recent school shooting (Santa Fe, Texas, just for the record - because, who can keep track, am I right?) was seeking revenge against a female student who had "embarrassed him" publicly.  To put it another way, he had repeatedly made unwelcome advances toward her which she rejected.  Finally, she'd had enough and called him out on it in front of people.  So, she, the young woman he killed, embarrassed HIM.  Riiiiight.

Look, it sucks to get rejected.  I get it.  I've done the turning down, and I have been turned down.  It is mortifying both ways, but it's part of the human experience.  You don't get a yes to everything from everyone. It's just the way the ball bounces.

My senior year of High School, I was looking for a date to Homecoming.  I wasn't seeing anyone, I didn't have a ton to pick from.  As a Senior girl, you really didn't date downstream (ie, Junior/Soph/Frosh).  The guys I was in classes with were all people who didn't see me as dating material.  Many of them had girlfriends, or they had crushes on someone who wasn't me.  So, I went out there on a limb and asked a guy friend who I liked (and kind of liked liked a little) and who I thought would be fun.  He said he'd need to check.  He called me that afternoon and let me know that Homecoming was also the opening weekend of deer season and while he appreciated me asking... maybe we could get dinner sometime.  We never did.  I knew we wouldn't, but it was nice of him to say.

He should have brought you a corsage.

For what it's worth, we're friends on Facebook, and he's still a huge hunter and fisherman - he eventually married, has a steady job, no kids and a great career in a primo location.  And he was nice enough about the whole thing.  Rewind to the year before that.  A girl in my class was going to try and set me up with a mutual friend.  She confirmed that she had laid the foundation, and so I asked this guy to Homecoming.  He refused saying that he thought he already had something lined up, and so I cringed inwardly, and cheerfully said, "Ok, thanks!" and beat a hasty retreat.  During the next period break, our friend explained to him that I was the something lined up, and after some initial awkwardness, we ended up dating for a few months.  We broke up even more awkwardly than we got together, but that's neither here nor there.

I also said no thanks to a few people, and I hope I did it nicely, but in retrospect, I was probably not as kind as I could have been.  Nerves were my motivator in those cases.  To be clear, I was never cruel.  I am confident of that, even now.  Back then, casual dating wasn't the order of the day.  You went out with someone and you either didn't go out again, or you were a couple.  But in a year, you likely didn't go out with more than one or two different people.  And in my case, you maybe didn't go out with anyone. Mid-Senior year,  I went out a few times with one guy who I liked pretty well, but he dropped me because I think I scared him.

Scaring guys off with my intensity was a signature move.  Even (and especially) in college.  There was a perfectly nice guy I had known in a gifted program in Elementary school.  We reconnected, and I saw him for about a month before he bailed because he didn't want to get serious.    He now lives in Nashville - he accidentally friended me on Facebook, then sent me an awkward apology for how he ended things in college.  It was super weird.  I have not as of yet run into him in town - though we do occasionally comment on each other's posts from time to time.

I flirted hard with one guy for most of a quarter my Junior year  I invited him to my formal, and as we were walking in to the dance, me dressed to the nines - hair, makeup - the whole deal hoping to dazzle him, he emphasized what a good friend I was.  Like, he made it very clear he was doing me a huge favor by going to my formal. I was home removing scads of bobby pins from my hair by 9PM.

I went out with a nice guy on a blind date.  We went out a second time, and then he told our friend he respected me too much to date me again.  That is to say, he wasn't going to sleep with me, and if he wasn't going to sleep with me, then - what was the point?

When my husband and I ended our first and only date in college, I said, "We should do this again sometime."  He said, "Maybe in about five years."  Spoiler alert - we did wait almost five years to go out again.  But that night, I felt chagrined.

So, yes - dating is embarrassing.  But when these guys said no, I left it at that.  I didn't press it.  I usually slunk off and licked my wounds quietly.  I didn't ask again and again.  I didn't make them feel uncomfortable.  I didn't act as though I was entitled to their company.  I was pleasant toward them, but I didn't ask them out again, and I typically avoided eye contact with them for as long as practically possible.

For what it's worth, I did not go to Homecoming my Senior year.  I went out with some girls to a community production of Blythe Spirit and it was awful.  I bet that my hunter friend had a better weekend than I did.  Hell, the deer probably had a better weekend.  That play was terrible.

But I want to put this out there:

"No" is a complete sentence.  You don't have to explain why you aren't going to go out with someone.  You don't have to lie about being busy, blame restrictive parents, cite an old ice skating injury, create an imaginary boyfriend, or refer to a real boyfriend.   Don't be ugly - you also don't have to say, "You're a zitty dweeb, and you make my skin crawl."   Hearing no won't kill you to say or to hear, and it certainly doesn't give you the right to kill.

Why am I even having to write this?

I don't know.  I hope I never have to again.



Christopher said…
I hope you never have to write this again either. And I hope we--and by "we" I mean the larger society we live in--can have a larger discussion about mental illness because in the case of the Texas shooter the fact that he was rejected--regardless of how public and embarrassing it was--was incidental. We need to talk about the effects of mental illness and destigmatize it at the same time, which is a fine line to walk.
And, yeah, continue to emphasize that no always means no.