I challenged myself to ask someone on a date, and I got rejected. I’m learning that’s okay

Sure, dating can be fun. It can also be stressful, confusing, heartbreaking, weird, and…boring. But we still do it, and we want to know how you do it, too. In our series “Adventures in Dating,” one writer documents their love life for three months, and we get a peek into every part of their experience—the fun and the frustrating. Starting us off is N.Y.C.-based sex writer Shelby Sells, who will be telling us all about her summer. (Catch up with Shelby’s summer journey in her first pieces for the series herehere, here, and here.)

Sitting with my singleness has given me a lot to reflect on. Hearts are fragile and intimacy can be scary. The last two weeks dragged me through the mud. Whether you believe in Mercury in retrograde or not, there was definitely something in the air—something that made me revisit past relationships, throwing all my emotional baggage in my face. Fun! There’s nothing like trying to create room for healthy relationships while all your trauma is continuously brought up again. I guess that’s why they call them growing pains.

I won’t go into details out of respect for this person, but I got into a heated argument with an ex. And it triggered me beyond belief.

The amount of emotional labor I’ve had to do, even in my most casual relationships, has been exhausting. It has made me hold up a mirror to myself and examine why these people are attracted to me, and I them. I’m proud of myself for having stepped away from these people so I could create new patterns for myself. It’s almost as if the last couple weeks of my life were testing me: “Are you sure you’re done with this relationship? Have you really had enough?” And that test couldn’t have come at a better time because I am capped on people who project their traumas onto me. Best wishes to them all, but buh-bye.

Part of my butterfly journey into dating as a woman in her late twenties means recognizing that I get to choose my partner. Most of my dating life has consisted of partners choosing and pursuing me. I’m easy to get along with and I’ll just go with the flow. I figured the prospects were cute enough, and thought that, maybe if I got to know them, I might really like them. I gave everyone a chance, hoping they’d surprise me. Why?! What the fuck. These were not arranged marriages (or Shrek)—I have options! I have a choice!

I’m not really sure why it never dawned on me that I have autonomy over my dating life (or over my life in general). I suppose you can chalk it up to the fact that we live in a patriarchal system and (almost) everything modeled to me in real life and in the media told me that a heteronormative relationship was what I should aspire to have. A gallant man on a white horse would show up, choose me, and I would ever-so-joyously get to be his wife, serve him, and have his kids. Give me a break—societal norms have changed (thankfully!), and it’s about time my mentality changed with it.

“Part of my butterfly journey into dating as a woman in her late twenties means recognizing that I get to choose my partner.”

I can count on my hands the amount of times I’ve asked someone out or given a person my number without them prompting me. I’m pretty sure that I have been rejected every time, hence my hesitation to continue asking people out. See, when you’re the one who gets approached first, you have the upper hand; you get to be the rejecter, not the rejectee. There’s no risk involved when you’re on the receiving end; it’s safe. And let’s be honest, who likes being rejected? No one.

When I think about rejection, my mind immediately goes to the people on the street who are always trying to get you to sign up for a nonprofit organization. All day every day they’re standing around, trying to talk to strangers for a good cause. And every day, I’m sure they’re met with a ton of people either completely ignoring or rejecting them in some way. I admire the strength, resilience, and complete lack of giving a fuck that these people possess. They have a purpose, and you know what? From time to time, they get people to join their cause. That’s a win! And I really want to channel this energy into my approach for dating.

This does not mean I want to ask out every stranger I see, but I don’t want to be afraid of going after what I want. I don’t want to take rejection personally. Fear of rejection holds a lot of us back from introducing more love into our lives. Is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all? Protecting our hearts seems to be a top priority for most people, but the only way to ever truly love is by making yourself vulnerable. The purpose of love is to grow, and growth is messy. Of course, we’re going to get hurt, but at least we have control over how we choose to deal with our pain. (There’s that word again.)

Perspective is everything. I’ve learned to view my experiences as lessons, and this has helped me soften the blows. There’s a great line in the Cohen brothers film Burn After Reading where one character asks the other, “What did we learn? I guess we learned not to do it again. Fuck if I know what we did in the first place.” I think about this scene whenever my life seems to derail. Life is chock full of lessons to be learned, and sometimes we have to learn the same ones over and over again until we choose to do something different. Introduce change, introduce growing pains, introduce new opportunities.

“This does not mean I want to ask out every stranger I see, but I don’t want to be afraid of going after what I want. I don’t want to take rejection personally.”

I chose to ask out my crush (one of them) in hopes of having the opportunity to get to know him better. I texted him to see if he wanted to go for a walk in the park over the weekend. He replied saying that, unfortunately, he was going to be out of town. I told him to hit me up if he wanted to hang out when he was back in the city, and he told me that he would. He hasn’t hit me up, and that sucks.

At first, I was really bummed about it. I kept hoping he would text me. I mean, it seemed like we had a connection. On paper, he checks off a lot of the qualities I’m looking for in a partner. Also, did I mention how hot he is? Like, insanely hot. He’s sooo hot…and he doesn’t want to go out with me, and it’s fine. Does it suck? Yes. Will I be okay? Yes. Are there other hot guys out there who possibly want to date me? Yes.

Most importantly I’m proud that I put myself out there. After having my heart broken a couple times it’s comforting to know I’m still capable of love, and that I’m choosing to be vulnerable. The fact of the matter is that everyone rejects and gets rejected. No matter who you are, you’re going to be on both sides of the coin at some point. And that’s okay. If anything, being rejected is necessary to keep our egos in check. It’s a natural part of life that should be talked about more often. Rejection is not the end of the world. If door number 2 doesn’t open, remember there’s always 3, 4, and 5. You have no idea what surprises await when you keep an open heart and an open mind.

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