I’m Finally Learning How to Reframe Romantic Rejection

I’m lying across from my flatmate Lottie. She wraps her hair around a flamingo-pink curling iron and holds it there until steam rises from the metal. “But, I know I’m hot,” she says. “Whereas, when I first meet people, I worry I come across as boring.”

I don’t know how we’ve got onto it, but we’re discussing whether we’d rather someone think we were ugly or boring. Unlike Lottie, I’m confident that I’m interesting and funny so, if someone wasn’t able to see that, I’d just think they were stupid. When it comes to my image, I feel less sure.

I keep bringing up the dilemma throughout the week—I guess because it seems to say a lot about what a person deems important. “Definitely would rather them think I was ugly,” says one friend. “The thought that she’d be watching me thinking, ‘Get to the point, will you?’ makes me want to die.”

“Wait, who is she?” I ask my friend, realizing they’ve just introduced another factor to the dilemma that I hadn’t even considered: that whoever it is you imagine making that snap judgement about you is probably the sort of person you tend to seek approval from. It turns out my friend is thinking of a woman we know, one who is beautiful, yes, but also wittier than a Succession writer and with the charm of a narcissist without the personality disorder.

I’m almost too embarrassed to say who I was thinking of. My mind went to a man at a bar… No particular man, just a man.

I’ve known for a while that I have a problem with needing male affirmation, but this conversation crystallized it. I want to sort it out because I’m noticing more and more how it’s impacting my sense of self.

The other day, at a house party, a man I liked didn’t seem that interested in me. I probably looked like I was just dancing with my friends, but really I was trying to get the attention of guys because I knew it would make me feel better. Then I had that annoying thing where one side of my brain is talking to the other—“Why can’t you just have fun? Stop being weird!”—and then I drank until I couldn’t hear myself think anymore, until my head felt fuzzy and warm like cotton wool.

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