Quick disclaimer: I’m not a man-hating femi-Nazi determined to raise up an army of girls bent on the destruction of the male ego. I just know that sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, and having some kind of structure for the process may make the whole half-traumatic venture a little smoother for everyone involved.
Furthermore, please don’t infer from this post that I am in any way an expert on all things romance; my romantic experiences total nil, if not an actively negative integer. However, having been told by a handful of different guys that my rejection of them was “the nicest one ever,” I figure I must be doing something right.
A few basic definitions/concepts we need to delineate before we begin:
DTR: Define The Relationship (talk). The part of the show wherein a boy approaches a girl and lays it all on the line, romantically speaking. All the rage in Christian circles, they also have the potential to be the third most awkward experience an adult person can have, right after giving birth in public and being present when someone else give birth in public.
The male ego: Fragile as a baby bird, the male ego becomes even more frail when it risks rejection by an attractive female– as fragile, we’ll say, as a baby bird that has fallen from the nest and is currently in the jaws of a hungry Rottweiler, and who has a head cold to boot; we’re talking a baby bird having the worst day ever here.
Got the basics? All right. . .we begin.
The stage: You’re just hanging out one day when you are suddenly ambushed by a dude toward whom you feel no particular attraction. In a few impassioned and stuttering syllables, he throws his heart at your feet. Your soul recoils in shock and you stand there for a moment, dumbfounded, before you remember reading this post and promptly engage L-Wie’s Fundamental Guide to Heart-Breaking. Ready?
1) Be complimentary.
Remember: his ego is on the line here. I’m not typically an effusive stroker of egos, but you can be pretty sure that any rejection, no matter how nice, will leave his ego whimpering on the floor; there’s no need to annihilate it. Remember: baby bird having the worst day ever. Have some empathy already.
Key guidelines regarding said compliments:
- Make sure they have to do with his person, character, or some other fixed quality about him. “I like your shoes” won’t do a whole lot in this instance; he’ll just go home, take your compliments off, and throw them sulkily across the room. (If you’re coming up blank, some variation of “I really respect the guts it took you to ask. . .yada yada” usually work well.)
- Make sure you mean what you say. DTRs can be some of the most awkward conversations in the world. You’re probably going to ramble and mumble and use words which may not even belong to an actual language; remove authenticity from that mix, and your resulting attempts at communication will just lead the guy to conclude that you speak in tongues (this may be enough to effectively turn him off, but it’s a gamble).
- Don’t go overboard. Remember–you’re about to wallop him between the eyes with a heaping dose of rejection, and you don’t want to get his hopes up. This is just the proverbial spoonful of sugar; no need to dish up the entire candy aisle. I once overshot it and found myself later having to justify my refusal in light of all the evidence I had just given the fella that he was, in fact, awesome.
- Don’t end on a hopeful note. Don’t let the compliment sit and stew in his head and heart while you try to think of a way to let the bomb drop. Heck, you don’t even have to punctuate: “OhwowTomIreallyrespectthegutsittookyoutoaskmeoutBUT–“. When, and only when, you’ve let out that conjunction, you can take a moment to breath and put together your next sentence.
This step is hard to do well, and if you’re not feeling it, then just go with Step 1b: “For crying out loud, be compassionate.”
2) Be clear.
All right, ladies, you’ve dashed off a few of his good qualities and that very crucial “however. . .”, and are taking a deep breath while he fidgets and looks at the floor and both of you turn shades of red that Crayola would pay big bucks to be able to box. . .now what? I call upon Alexander Pope to set the stage for step two; “Hope,” as Mr. Pope once wrote, “springs eternal in the human breast.” It’s true.
I learned that the hard way when I (and I am not proud of this moment) literally turned tail and ran, nay, sprinted away from a guy who was threatening an imminent DTR. The plucky gentleman, bless his determined soul, followed me. Nothing about the sight of me high-tailing it from the scene of the crime could have given any indication that this would end well. And yet, he hoped. (For the record: DTRing mid-run ups the awkward ante by about 93.2 percent. Not recommended).
All that to say: ladies, if there is no reasonable cause for hope, just do a mercy killing on it. It’s the kindest thing in the long run. Be totally, gut-wrenchingly honest, rather than telling him that “this isn’t the right time” and leaving him in hope of the day when the right time shall come skipping along and smack you in the face.
If the guy is a “no,” don’t say “maybe.” If he’s a “maybe”, do some quick thinking and ramble about the weather for a bit so you can give him a definitive answer before the conversation ends.
If he’s “like a brother,” say no; that’s 10 kinds of weird. If he’s a “good friend” that you’ve been labeling “brother” because that saved you from having to admit to the gossip train of your small Christian campus that you do, in fact, like a boy, then say yes and suck it up when people laugh you for all those months when you were clearly lying through your teeth to yourself and to them.
3) Be concise.
At this point, he’s avoiding eye contact. He’s red-faced. He’s hope-dashed. Every extra word you say will be akin to gently rubbing a combination of acid and salt on his wounded ego. And you may be so awkward that you’re stumbling over every third word and wishing that he had asked you out somewhere other than across from your dorm, because your friends are not at all subtle about enjoying the free entertainment outside their windows (true story). Finish this sucker before they have time to bust out the popcorn.
There you have it, ladies; tried-and-true rejection tips to guarantee your rejection success.
Bonus Round Tips:
4) Don’t coquet*.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Just because a guy asks you out does not necessarily mean that you’re a shoe-in to teach “Strumpeting 101”. Guys can be unpredictable, and there are some guys out there who love to employ a literal shock and awe technique in their DTR campaign.
However, that said. . .ladies, ladies, ladies. . .the best advice I can give you in this instance is: “Don’t be an ignorant fool.” Guys typically don’t do subtle very well, while girls play the “oblivion” card so often that I usually don’t find it credible. Ladies, if he’s up all hours of the night texting or writing you, he’s interested. If he compliments you a lot, there’s a good chance he’s interested. If he makes up excuses to hang out with you all the time, homeboy’s interested. If you aren’t interested, don’t play along; don’t text him back, don’t hang out with him one-on-one. . .there are very, very easy ways around this problem. I don’t care if you don’t want to look like a jerk–you’ll look dumb and mean when you turn him down after you gave him reason to hope.
Side note: I’m a big fan of opposite-gender friendships when appropriate boundaries have been drawn and both parties understand the lines. Don’t assume you’re just friends until you’ve heard the actual words come out of his actual mouth in actual conversation pertaining to your actual relationship.
5) Don’t console.
Once you’ve turned him down, have mercy on the poor soul and let him go lick his wounds alone. Don’t text him asking him if he’s ok. Don’t go out of your way to be nice to him later to “make up for it.” There’s no getting around the fact that he’ll be hurt, and possibly angry with you; but he’ll get over it much faster if you move on without giving him reason to think that you’ve changed your mind or coddling him to the point where his already crushed ego is utterly humiliated. Be polite and kind and maintain emotional distance until he regains emotional equilibrium. (Also: guys generally bounce back quickly. Two rounds of paintball and a flag football game, and he’ll be good as new.)
6) Don’t Christianize.
I get all aflutter in my soul, and not in a good way, when people put God on the hot seat for their relational decisions: “Well, I’m not interested now, but if God makes me interested, then maybe. . .”, or “God told me not to date you right now”, and especially “I’m dating Jesus right now”. This is unbelievably uncool, not to mention theologically unsound. You’re a big girl, and he’s a big boy. You are each old enough to own your decisions. So do so. It’s not a sin to not be attracted to someone, and you don’t need a Divine “Pass Go and Collect 200” in order to admit to it.