This time on The Romantically-Inclined Survival Guide, we conclude the Rejection story. In this case, the girl of my teenage dreams and I follow up on our date.
Well boys, this time it isn’t all rainbows and fairytales. Simply put, this is an anti-climatic conclusion to a story about hope, rejection, and the lessons learned from a pretty hard fall.
"I need you,
Need you baby.
This craving makes me crazy.
I'm dying inside.
Baby make up your mind.
I need you,
Need you baby.
I'm holding on but baby.
I'm dying inside.
I cannot hide my need."
I woke up the next morning faster than ever. As soon as my alarm clock went off to the tune of Disney music, I sprang out of bed. I was a boy with determination, purpose, and general excitement about the day ahead- and then I remembered it was Sunday… Immediately, I sunk back down into the covers, hoping this terrible nightmare would end and I would wake up to a bright and shinning Monday morning.
That was clearly strange thinking, I now realize, but when you, in the last 8 hours, secured a second date with the girl of your teenage dreams, you would be ready to see her in the halls between classes too. I wasn’t dreaming, and so I managed to crawl out my bed, now in the form of a drowsy, teenage lump. I loafed over to the sink and then realized today might be worth it after all. I needed to plan, of course, for the next week. The week when I would engage in what I shall phrase “the follow-up” stage. This stage is critical in the dating world. It is the stage where rules of thumb such as “wait three days” or “let her make first contact” drive entire plots in Hollywood movies. The follow-up is the stage where you either make it happen or lose it all if you can’t muster the mojo and confidence to ask the dreaded question that simply begs for rejection: “So… what are you doing this Friday night?” Let the planning commence.
“This part should actually be quite easy,” I thought to myself as I worked my way through my daily routine. ”I already got her to say ‘that sounds nice,’ so I should be in perfect shape.” But of course, it wasn’t that easy to convince myself that I was in a good position. And so the day went on, my mind wandering through various scenarios all afternoon. And I try to tell people I’m spontaneous…
Monday morning came. It was a beautiful day, just as I planned. I got to school ready to greet the week with gusto unmatched by any tall, skinny, underdog in the entire school. I kept my eyes peeled all day long, looking for Grace. Looking for the girl I couldn’t wait to ask a question and then to give an answer. I wanted to tell her about my dreams. She had asked on our last date, and I wanted to tell her so badly. My hopes, my aspirations, and my longings all boil down to one dream. But before I could tell her, I had to pursue one more chance to impress the girl I held in such high regard and that floored me every time I saw her. I had to find her, and I had to ask: “So… what are you doing Friday night?”
But I didn’t see her on Monday. So I retreated to my home for the evening. A thought of calling her, or even texting, crossed my mind. I almost immediately rejected the notion for a couple of reasons: 1. Psychologists say that more than half of communication is in body language. It’s possible they know what they are talking about. 2. I sucked at texting. But the lesson I had learned from my father to confront situations head-on was certainly a good one. And I was going to stick to it.
Then Tuesday came… And Tuesday went. Still no sign of Grace. I was beginning to get nervous, and one more day of looking was about all I could handle.
Then Wednesday came. As the universe’s not-so-coincidental ways would have it, Wednesday brought ironic refuge, the moment when you want to do something that frightens you: There was Grace, being popular, liked, confident, beautiful, and a hundred other things that I was not. And here I was, looking like the lanky, uncoordinated, and goofy teenage boy I was. Nonetheless, my confidence was high, as I was still riding the unbelievable wave that was last weekend. I strode up to Grace with an embarrassed grin plastered across my face. As her friends parted ways and ducked into their fourth period math classes, I caught Grace just as she turned around. The surprise on her face quickly turned into a cool, collected, and enchanting smile. She greeted me with a hug. “Is anyone watching this?” I thought to myself as I scanned the hallway in the over-the-shoulder view I was enjoying in the midst of our embrace.
“How are you today, Zach? It feels like days since we have seen each other.” I was melting already.
“Well, it kind of has been days… hasn’t it?” And… I was getting awkward. I pulled it together. “Hey, I know we need to head to class pretty quickly here, but I was wondering if you had plans for Friday night? I still was hoping to pay you back for your treat the other evening, which I had a great time at, I should add.” There. That was smooth, right?
“Oh, dang it!” She said it so quickly I was caught off guard. “I am heading out of town to a ranch this weekend. Sorry!”
“No worries,” I mumbled. “There’s no rush; we have plenty of weekends left.” Of course, there was a rush. My heart was pounding and I was doing all I could to keep my hands from shaking. My second statement was true, though; there were plenty of weekends left. I took the deal, possible prematurely.
“Ok, well I will just talk to you next week then? I’m pretty sure I’m free.”
“For sure. I don’t know my plans yet, but let me know what yours are.” And with a quick smile, she was gone into the abyss of Statistics. The smile made the whole conversation worth it.
Over the course of the next week, I played my next move in my head over and over again. I couldn’t use the same wording or one of the only things I had going for me, creativity, would be lost. I decided on using the “dream” question. I rejected numerous offers to hang out with friends for the next Friday night. If Grace was available and I wasn’t, certainly that would blow my chances with her for good. I carefully selected the outfits I would wear to school that week. Although, looking back, choosing my “nice t-shirts” to go with the “clean” cargo shorts in my drawer was probably not the most sophisticated fashion choice. But I prepared nonetheless. This did little to calm my still-on-edge nerves. As the next Wednesday came closer, I awaited my ironic refuge.
And so it came. The same place, the same time, one week later. The same approach. The same surprise. The same smile. The same me, being awkward and nervous. A different line: “So, I still haven’t gotten to answer the question you asked. And I have more questions for you.”
For a moment her eyes lit up and her smile broadened. My hope was rising. My anticipation reached a peak. But in the end, it was the same result. “I have plans with my girl friends this Friday. I’m so sorry...”
Imagine me, at this point, knowing I was down in the count. I just swung twice. Two strikes in a row, although I am going to call the “that sounds nice” as a ball. I will also count the results of the “random” raffle and the date as balls, just for proper record-keeping’s sake. That made gave a 3-2 count and one pitch to get a hit. The next week would be the bottom of my ninth inning.
I walked into Calculus, my fourth period class, and couldn’t pay attention the entire time. Derivatives? Who cares? The only thing I could derive was that my situation looked grim. Not only did I have to throw the pitch of my life, but I also had to get a hit. Since when have even the professionals been asked to do that? I picked my head up: I was down, but not out. At least not yet.
The next week rolled around. If this was movie, music by John Williams would be shrilling in the background as I fast-pace-walked toward math class. Then, with a sudden key change and decrescendo, my approach to Grace would be accompanied by an ominous march, led by a snare. An unwavering beat signaled my march toward romantic destiny. This was my chance to be something more, someone that someone else cared about and was attracted toward.
With the entrance of a low hum of the cellos, I stopped in front of Grace. The nonchalant scene does not match the terrified trebling I feel inside. The music begins to fade in and the camera centers on my face as I throw my pitch. By the time the camera angle has changed toward grace, the entire orchestra swings into dissonance, ready to be resolved. The smile on Grace’s face, although you cannot hear her words, shows sympathy. The audience already knows what has happened, and the orchestra confirms, with the dissonant chord quickly cut off into a lone French horn. The horn is beautiful, like she is. It is full of life and potential and it begs to be joined. But it never is, because I struck out. I went down. And I went down swinging. The horn plays me out of the hallway before the professor shuts the door and welcomes me back to my reality: a life unfair and alone. Queue the credits.
I learned a lot since those few weeks in high school. I learned how to move on, and that it takes a little time. I learned that high school is a really tough place to date, anyway. I learned that girls in California are a completely different breed. I learned that being single can be great. I learned that you have to look before you leap, and that blind love, while enchanting, is a dangerous thing. I learned that rejection is hard from both ends. I learned that sometimes it’s ok to not pick yourself up by your bootstraps, that others will be there to help. I learned that I am not alone.
Yes, rejection sucks. But that doesn’t mean you can’t live through it. Find the people that will always be there for you. Lean on them. They want to be leaned on. If you are rejected, don’t search relentlessly for the answer of why. That takes too much energy. Instead, bask in the notion that you are not alone. Life is full of rejection, and it is comforting, although it may not seem like it at the time, to know that rejection will prove to make you better. So next time you get rejected, listen to some country music with your best friend. Take a shower and eat some chocolate ice cream. Wake up the next morning, go for a run, and stretch it out.
Then come to a fantastic conclusion:
Sometimes life isn’t fair. But then again, neither is grace.