By Rebecca Pitzer
Dating is really freaking scary. I’m constantly thankful that I have a healthy, thriving relationship during these strange times. On top of not having to deal with the world of dating and it’s guessing games, I always thought that another perk was that I no longer had to deal with rejecting unwanted attention from men I had no interest in.
However, a few months ago, I had an interaction with an old “friend” from high school. It was after midnight and I had just gotten home and into bed. I snuggled into my sheets, ready to attempt at least a few hours of sleep before work, then I checked my Facebook and noticed that I had a message.
“Hey what’s up?” he asked me. I told him I had just come home, and asked how he was. I saw where the conversation was going before it took its first step. He asked me if we could hang out. “Now?” “Yeah.” God, no. I told him that I was really tired, he persisted, I told him I had to work at five in the morning, he persisted, I flat out told him that I wanted to go to sleep, and yet the conversation did not end.
Finally, I told him that “my boyfriend probably wouldn’t be thrilled with me spending time with other guys by myself after midnight.” He apologized, profusely. I was actually surprised and mildly annoyed with how quickly and frantically he apologized. It was like I had suddenly grown a giant wart in my eyeball that had the magical ability to repel men.
The only thing that this guy respected, out of all of the perfectly valid excuses I’d presented, was the fact that another man was in my life. I had successfully used my boyfriend as an escape when faced with unwanted attention.
But, now, looking back, I wish I had just said “No, sorry, I’m not really interested” rather than try every excuse I could think of. My boyfriend is one reason why I’m not interested — I am committed to him and I want to be committed to him. But, I shouldn’t have to bring him into the conversation to be taken seriously. When we involve our significant other in a rejection, there’s a difference between “I’m not interested because I have a boyfriend” and “I have a boyfriend, so I’m not allowed to be interested.” I doubt anyone would use the exact words involved in the latter, but when you say “I have a boyfriend” it could suggest either.
When you’re a woman telling someone you can’t be with them because of someone else, (say, a man) it does two things: 1) It reinforces the idea that you belong to a man, and in the eyes of men, that’s what should be respected; and 2) it presents your significant other as an excuse (romantic, right?). It can also cause the man hitting on you to think that if you didn’t have a boyfriend, you would actually welcome his advances, when the fact of the matter is you’re just not interested. That could get very messy very quickly.
Don’t misunderstand me: telling someone that you have a significant other so that they will get your situation and stop pursuing you is a perfectly valid thing to do. But, sometimes in these situations a woman’s only chance of being taken seriously by a flirting male is to bring up another male. I had to make known the presence of a man in my life before this guy took my hinted rejection seriously.
I felt more comfortable bringing my boyfriend into the conversation than telling the truth, which was that I had no interest in this guy. Maybe I felt bad for him, and presenting a scapegoat was easier than outright rejection. But, I don’t think I felt too much sympathy for him — I never knew him that well and I was too tired to think of the feelings of others. I honestly just knew the conversation would be easier for me if I used my boyfriend as an excuse.
I understand that rejection hurts, but what’s more frustrating is coming up with excuses to try and get someone to stop talking to you. I feel like one of these days I’m just going to start making things up, “I moved to Australia,” “My dog has rabies and no one’s allowed over until her mouth stops foaming,” “I have an extremely contagious skin disease, sorry have a nice night.”
These, of course, are ridiculous excuses. And yet, there’s something about excusing my way out of unwanted situations that makes me feel really defeated. On one hand, I’m too worried about someone else’s feelings to be honest. But, coming up with an excuse, every single time, is draining in its own way.
I don’t want to be forced to bring up my boyfriend because it’s the only excuse that men seem to take seriously. I don’t want to lie to get someone to leave me alone. I want to be able to be honest and not feel guilty about it. Rejection hurts, and it sucks to hurt people. But, honestly? Why should someone else’s feelings keep me from being honest about how I feel and what I want from my life? So, I’m going to start saying, “Sorry, I’m not interested,” leave my boyfriend out of it, and be honest with the people around me.