Gentlemen, every man faces rejection at some point. This time on the Romantically-Inclined Survival Guide, we will take a look at that fact. Some receive more than others. But every man faces rejection. If he does not, he is not striving for enough. He is not pushing himself enough. In the romantic world, rejection can be especially painful. We fall hard for a girl. And by fall, I mean flat on our faces fall. But there is more than that one girl and more than that rejection. This is a story about hope, rejection, and the lessons learned from a pretty hard fall.
It was senior year of high school. As you take yourself back to high school, imagine for a moment any high school movie with an underdog, average, but likeable guy. In this case, he plays soccer, is tall and lanky, and has a good group of friends. But he can’t touch the “popular” crowd, and by all rationale, has no reason to try (or really want to). In these movies, though, there is always one girl. That one girl is transcendent of cliques. She is beautiful, kind enough to look him in the eye, and wasn’t corrupted by the plastic nature of her cheerleader friends. She has known the boy for quite some time, often since childhood, and she asks him to help her out with things like Calculus homework.
But, as we all know, without a special circumstance, the boy doesn’t stand a chance. Hollywood, tauntingly, always provides. In this case, there is a raffle. But not just any raffle. No, this raffle peaks the boy’s interest. This raffle isn’t just a fundraiser. This is a chance.
The girl, naturally, is on Student Council for the senior class. She holds an office, which, in high school, is made up of mostly girls because guys are too busy playing sports and creating mischief over the weekends. For this year’s fundraiser, the aforementioned raffle will be dealing out “reverse-dates.” You buy a ticket, and you have a chance to win a date with the girl you bought the ticket from, all expenses paid by the girl. It offered hope to any guy that either wanted to donate money to some good cause – or, in most cases, to get a date with the apple of his eye.
So, the young man, we will call him Zach (that’s me), strained over the smoothest, most non-obvious way to buy tickets from the girl, who we will call Grace (not her actual name). This, of course, was crucial to the plan. If my true objectives were spilled, I would seem like I hated society and the poor. Or worse, I would be seen a creepy stalker with some desire for a girl I can’t actually bring myself to have a real conversation despite the fact that she is lovely and nice. Oh wait, that is every high school kid ever. Nonetheless, I need to be smooth.
“How many should I buy? One, two, ten? At two dollars apiece, I’m not sure I can afford ten. Should I buy them on the first day? The last day? Right after a bunch of guys bought some? Where the heck am I going to get this cash?” All of these thoughts spun in my head. I had one week to purchase the tickets and the rest would be up to the gods.
Well, seven days past. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I knew that if I purchased those tickets, it would possibly be my last interaction with her in a one-on-one situation. I could hold on to this “dream” of a perfect conversation ending up in a date, but it would certainly be shattered as soon as I spoke to her. As I was leaving school, dejected that I had blown my last chance, someone called out my name. As I spun around,and just as Hollywood would have it, she stood there. Her sunlit smile and the slight-breeze-blown did her wonders. She was beautiful and walking straight towards me at one of those girl-scampers that looks completely ridiculous if a guy does it but is really cute when a girl does. She was holding a bag of tickets in her left hand. I snapped out of my trance and looked up: “Hello Grace.”
“Hey Zach! I haven’t seen you in forever,” she said cheerfully. “I was just about to take my tickets to the office, but I am trying to grab some more donations from anyone I can. Would you be interested?”
I played it off as if I hadn’t even heard of the fundraiser. She explained it to me, I think, but I wasn’t really keeping track of her words, only her smile and the way her eyes sparkled when she giggled at the circumstance. I mumbled replies, and eventually blurted something audible out. “Sounds like a great cause! Let me see what I have in my wallet.” I only had four dollars. Crap. “This is all I have on me. But I hope it helps,” I muttered as I wrote my name on two tickets. I handed her the last tubes of life support on which my nonexistent love-life survived.
I pulled the plug and walked away… I didn’t look back.
A couple days later, I was sitting in English class next to my best friend, Knox. He was pretty popular but hung out with me because we had been good friends since 4th grade. We liked each other because we were both tall and we really could never shut each other up. As if sent by God to interrupt our conversation on Wuthering Heights, an office aid walked into Mr. Carroll’s English class and handed him an envelope. “Knox, you have a letter.” Knox accepted the letter and without any tact or hesitation, ripped it open. It was a letter saying he had won a date with our good friend Marissa, who was also on the Council.
Immediately, I knew the rumors were true. Every letter that had been handed out so far indicated this hypothesis. This raffle was not random. Every girl had picked the guy she wanted to go with. Marissa wasn’t interested in any of the other guys around school, so this would just be a friendly, easy date. Other girls “drew” their prom dates or boyfriends out of the “random” raffle. Now, not even the romantic forces that offer a good kid his chance, were out of play. It was worthless to hope any longer.
Just when I began to get my mind off of the hopelessness that I had suffered, another aid walked in. After a few moments, Mr. Carroll called my name. I retrieved my letter. On it was written Zachary Pyle in a girl’s smooth, gel-pen handwriting. “There is no way this is possible,” I thought to myself. At first, I couldn’t open the letter. I didn’t think they were handing out rejection letters, but maybe I deserved a special one with some sort of condolence. Eventually, and I’m talking a full 30 seconds later, Knox made me open it.
Congratulations! Your name has been drawn as a result of your donation! ….
….Please contact Grace at #xxx-xxx-xxxx in order to set up your reverse-date! Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!”
I let it sink in for a couple moments, rereading the letter to make sure there wasn’t a triple negative hidden somewhere. There wasn't. And then my world spun 180 degrees. Yes, I'm saying there's a chance.
This wasn’t random.