Rejection 101: A Lesbian’s Guide To Getting Turned Down, Keeping Your Head Up

Having a crush on someone sucks. It sucks because when it comes down to it, after the fawning and warm fuzzy feelings and bunnies and rainbows, you only have two options:

1. Tell the object of your affection.
2. Don’t tell the object of your affection.

I belong to the school of thought that says telling them always trumps not telling them. The colloquial term for this stance is “effing crazy,” and has, among other things, allowed me to become an expert on rejection.

Example: I finally approached a girl I really liked after class, and after talking for a moment, she physically ran away from me. Like, she sprinted. For real. Once I got over the shock of someone actually doing that, I laughed it off because at least I knew where I stood and I didn’t have to waste any more time wondering. And now I have a good story to tell at parties, so there’s that.

The lesson, for me at least, is that once you survive the initial sting, knowing someone doesn’t have feelings for you is infinitely better than the suffering of ambiguity. Because that sucks, and so at some point, you have to stop wondering and start taking initiative. You can ask your friends, her friends, the mailman, anyone if they think she likes you, but you have to confront this girl herself if you ever want things to move forward.

The solution here is to never miss even the smallest opportunity; go big or go home. You’re not exactly putting your heart on the line every time you casually flirt with someone, and every time you do it, you’re making the next time a lot less scary. When you flirt, you’re risking rejection, but is it really that devastating that the girl who gets your coffee doesn’t also want to get in your pants?

Maybe you see a really cute girl at the student union. Instead of walking past and wondering what could’ve been, you go up to her, smile, and introduce yourself. “Hi, I saw you were studying, and I thought you were cute, so I brought you this doughnut.” (This is, of course, assuming you brought a doughnut. Which you did.) (I guess you could not have a doughnut. And/or be SLIGHTLY less forward. “Hi, sorry to interrupt your studying, but your glasses are really cute. Want to share my doughnut?” will also suffice.)

Doing something like that has the potential to blow up in your face. I mean, experience has taught me that she could run away or say something nasty to you or laugh at you in front of her friends. But if you don’t at least try, you’ll never get to see the way she smiles at you and only you. It’s worth it, I promise.

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Of course, the better you know someone, the higher the stakes. If you’re attracted to someone who is a major part of your life, you risk completely driving them away. You could lose a part of yourself.

And that’s scary as hell.

Some people will tell you that you shouldn’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Those people are full of shit.

If you don’t feel your heart beating in your fingertips, if your voice isn’t shaking, if you’re able to have coherent thoughts, then you don’t understand the importance of what you’re doing. This is a big deal. When you approach someone as more than friends, you’re making yourself defenseless in a way that, quite frankly, isn’t fair. Whenever you ask someone out, you’re knowingly giving them the chance to stomp on your heart on the off chance that they want to make out with your face as much as you want to make out with theirs.

The jury’s out on this one, and most people tend to disagree with me, but as I see it: The important thing is that you can’t let that stop you from trying. Be brave, little toaster.

As long as you stay quiet, you can stay in your blissful bubble of quiet infatuation. You’re safe from disappointment, and that feels good. But you have to roll the dice to win the game. Otherwise, you’re just sitting there while everyone else is making out with girls and yelling “Yahtzee.”

So how do you do it? Maybe you write a letter because as confident as you are, she makes you too nervous to breathe sometimes, so it’s maybe better not to risk accidentally throwing up all over her shoes. (Just hypothetically, obviously. This is totally theoretical!) You hand-write it, and your friends pore over it with praise and (constructive! loving!) criticism. In your letter, you outline everything you want to say, all of your truths. You tell her how she makes you feel safe. You tell her how you want to kiss her and make cookies at 3 a.m. with her. You tell her how you want her to be happy and how you want to be her friend because she sincerely means the world to you. You tell her you’ve never made yourself this vulnerable before because you’ve never felt like this before. You are cheesy but honest.

Maybe you give it to her roommate and wait for a response.

Maybe, also hypothetically, she sends you a painfully nice Facebook message turning you down. You’re just two very different people, she says. You wouldn’t work as more than friends.

Maybe your world stops turning. You get that feeling that you get when you do poorly on an exam everyone else did well on: sadness, disappointment, nausea, embarrassment. You want to scream and cry and crawl into a hole. You might hate her a little for making you feel this way. You know she’s right, but still.

It’s okay to be hurt. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to feel misled. It’s okay to feel stupid. It’s okay to listen to “Jar of Hearts” on repeat.

Some things you might say to yourself:

“I thought for sure it would work out.”/“How could I possibly think it would ever work out?” It seemed reasonable at the time. There’s no point in beating yourself up over trying. If you hadn’t, you still wouldn’t know.

“We would be so perfect together!” There’s no point in wasting time yearning for someone who doesn’t yearn back. Don’t sell yourself short: You want mutual yearning.

“What did I do wrong?” Probably nothing. Sometimes, a relationship just doesn’t happen. It’s no one’s fault.

“I’m not good enough for her.” This statement is never true.

“I’m never going to meet anybody new.” Only if you never try again.

Don’t wallow in your pain. Don’t regret saying what you said. Don’t say bad things about her because she’s trying to do the right thing. It’s not easy to tell someone it wouldn’t work — someday, you will be in that position too, and you will know how hard it is.

It takes time to recover from a harsh rejection. Keep taking care of yourself. Do things that you love to do. Find new things you love to do. Distract yourself for as long as it takes. One morning, you’ll wake up and realize the earth is still turning and that you got to spend time with a great person, regardless of whether she was attracted to you or not. Maybe you can still be friends. Maybe you’re proud of the way you both handled yourselves.

Loving someone is never easy. It takes a certain level of courage to expose your deepest desires to someone while knowing that they can reject your feelings. Wear your heart on your sleeve, take a leap of faith, and hope for the best. Or, to put it another way: You do you, and hope that she wants to also.

Awesomeness by Laura

Grace Ellis has been writing and making hack-job graphics for Autostraddle since 2011 and is a co-creator and co-writer of the comic book series Lumberjanes. She is mostly an intern in name only. (Mostly.) She lives in Columbus, Ohio because why anything. Also, she wants to write the Black Widow movie and feels like if she just keeps telling people, eventually she will be allowed to do it. She has a Twitter and a Tumblr, both of which are pretty above average.

Grace has written 92 articles for us.

189 Comments

  1. I hope people keep adding their stories to this as it has helped me a lot and although it is an old post, I think it’s helping a lot of people too.

    I’ve had a crush on someone for about a year, at work. We exchange pleasantries and have a bit of banter, but are acquaintances more than friends.
    It had been getting me down that I was just thinking about her all of the time without doing anything (I’m a massive over thinker).

    Then 2014 came and I decided to think less and do more. Having a conversation with my friend last week, she told me how she HAS to tell guys that she likes them and that for her, there is no other option.

    This spurred me on and I vowed to tell her before she leaves in 2 weeks. I spoke to a friend at work about it and she suggested doing a valentine’s card. I chickened out of this idea in the end and glad I didn’t give a card!
    I told her yesterday after work. I haven’t been able to eat properly for four days since I vowed to tell her until now the day after.
    I practised what I would say, was feeling sick building up to it, shaking and ridiculously nervous.

    Then I told her. Explained I really like her and have liked her for ages but just thought I should tell her to get it out in the open so I can get over it and that I didn’t expect a response. She said it was unexpected, nice but she didn’t swing that way. I was actually convinced that she was at least bisexual. I think I may have sort of ran away or trailed off after I told her as I was not in control of how the words came out or what was going on at all. But she was as nice as she could have been to me.

    I was shattered, left work quickly and cried all the way home. I was in a state of grief for about 2 hours before addressing it all. I wrote down how I felt, told my sister, wrote a poem, told a friend and just let myself feel it. I’d been in this state of infatuation for too long for it not to hurt that much and it REALLY hurt. But the initial grief and pain has passed!

    What I’m feeling now is shock that I actually did it, as I’d never done that before. I’m also feeling apprehension as to how things will be at work (I’m hoping to tell her sorry for being awkward and thanks for being pleasant about it). I’m feeling embarrassment for how awkward I was! I’m feeling quite liberated in a way for opening up. Also feeling a bit empty as it had sort of taken over my thoughts. But now I KNOW how she feels and there is no doubt about it and I’d been living in doubt for a year, being affected by any way she interacted with me.

    So my advice is, DO IT! If I, a socially awkward introvert, can open up to someone and tell them how I feel, then YOU can too. The outcome will always be better than the trauma you put yourself through of thinking what may or may not happen and creating scenarios of your life in your head, it just hasn’t been good for my health having a fantasy.
    I’m happy I have told her and I know this can only be helpful to how I deal with things in the future; emotionally battering – YES!, character-building – YES!, regrettable – NO!

    (We shall see how I feel after being back at work!)

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  3. Oh boy. I know this article is super old but I had to sign up and comment.

    Currently lusting after my gender studies tutor.Last time I see her is next week when our whole class has a break up thing at the local pub.Don’t really know anyone from the class. Considering giving her a note or if i’m up to it maybe tell her she’s sexy(unlikely because of nerves).I don’t think she would want to go out with me anyway because she’s trying to get a full time job at uni,but i can’t help myself!I swear I’ve caught her staring at me.

    Plus, I only admitted/realised that I like women since last year, so after being previously pursued by guys I have no idea how to handle this.

    Anyone been in a similar situation? Student/teacher boundaries suck.

  4. I’m soooo happy I found this article when I did! I’ve been crushing on this girl hardcore for several months and I swear I think she’s into me, but I’m too afraid to say anything to her. And today I had the perfect situation to ask her on a date, but I chickened out because I was so afraid she would reject me.

    My friends tell me I should just go for it and ask her out, but they don’t understand how nervous I get around her. So after failing to ask her out today, I felt pretty bad but decided to give myself a pep talk. I’ve decided that next time I see her, I’m going to ask her out and hopes that she says yes. But if she doesn’t I’ll be okay (a little hurt, but I can always bounce back) and after a little pity party, I’ll go out in search of the right person!

    Thank you for this article! I’m going to keep it ope until I finally ask out my crush. Wish me luck!

  5. 4 years later this has changed my life, I’m dating the woman of my dreams because I took initiative and became a brave little toaster, this has taught me to be positive and never think the worst of any situation, take chance and put myself out there no matter how it turns out in the end, it will pass. Thank you

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  7. Was online looking for advice on how to reject a friend and came across this article.I feel like the advice you gave only considers the luster and not the lusted after.After being friends for over 20 years my recently single friend suggested we sleep together. Granted we slept together in 2001. It wasn’t for me so it stopped.fast forward 14 years later with husband and children in tow we have remained friends. Or so I thought when I did tell her that I wasn’t interested in cheating on my husband she became very upset n tried to persuade me saying we’ve done it before etc. At this point I felt disrespected. No means no when it comes to men or women. I told her go try someone else and she told me she’s not attracted to any other woman but me. I’m very sad about this situation because I feel like I lost a dear friend due to lust. I started questioning everything. Was she really my friend, was everything she said and did a product of her lust and not out of genuine concern & friendship. Was the marriage advice she gave me to divorce my husband and be happy just a ploy to make me single available and as lonley as she was. And the main question that haunts me is after over 20 years was she ever really my friend. Everyone is praising the author for her great advice but take it from someone on the other side of the fence. If you have a friendship you value don’t take the risk. I feel duped, disrespected n played for a fool all under the guise of friendship.All these years of marital advice and all you were ever concerned with was bedding me in the end. Putting anyone in a situation where one can be rejected is always tricky. But when you confess to a “friend” just remember it hurts them just as much or even more because likely they will view the friendship as a sham.Stick to gay women because no one wins in unrequited love.

  8. this was posted a while ago but i just found it and honestly it is so comforting and nice (i’ve read it like two separate times) and just what i needed 2 read .. thank u.

    most of the advice my friends who arent lesbians give me is so unhelpful so i just wanna genuinely say thank u. for this space. for ur writing. it’s just nice 2 find some understanding and advice that doesnt come from ppl who r just different in general etc !!! :’-)

  9. woah!! so many comments!!
    I decided to leave one too
    at some point I thought that you spied on me and then posted this. this is more or less EXACTLY what happened to me with the first girl i had a crush on (*cough* last year *cough*). the only difference is that i didn’t write her a letter, i just wrote her a message to “meet me outside during break.” i did feel misled and all the things you said there
    makes me wonder if all rejections go almost the same way

  10. This doesn’t apply exactly to your article (which was really nice, by the way) but I just really need to get this off my chest. For a long, long time I had never had a crush on someone, or been attracted to someone. My friends asked me if I though I was asexual, I told them, no, not really, but that I honestly had no clue. I was afraid that even if I ever had a crush, I wouldn’t be able to recognize it, because I had no idea what romantic feelings felt like. I just kind of wanted to fall in love with a roommate or something and get married and cuddle and have tea and cats. And then several months ago, I realized that maybe the intense admiration I had for a specific person was turning into a crush. I still don’t know, but it seems more and more likely. I have been told that she is in a relationship, and I’m not going to follow your advice any time soon, because I would never want to suggest that she even consider having a relationship with me if she is happy as she is. I really would be content with some sort of a friendship between us, because then I could still have her in my life and that would be enough for me. But I am afraid, and she is a year above me, and in a year and a half any opportunity of my ever becoming her friend will be lost. I know that I should just befriend her, but as I grow older I have become more and more socially inept, so instead I simply watch her from afar and love her for her kindness, and occasionally get to hear her say hello to me because even though she barely knows me she is nice enough to do that. I just hope that someday I drive up the courage to make a connection with her, not even necessarily a friendship, just something that would give me permission to Facebook message her, or write her a letter, even after we have both graduated.
    Sorry for that strange and unnecessary confession of love…please ignore it. I just want this to be out there so that I can feel a bit more calm.
    Thank you.

  11. I know this is an old post, but wanted to add my story, as I think it offers a different perspective that may be of interest:

    I have had a huge crush (more than a crush, really), on a work friend of mine for about a year and a half. I never, ever let on that I liked her though, as I thought there was NO WAY she would be interested in me, and crucially, she married another woman shortly after starting at my workplace (though she said it was mainly so she could get a visa to stay in the US). She did, however do some things that made me feel she maybe had a crush on me (she’s quite a shy person, and would blush and act nervously around me at times, remembering small things I’d said in passing, very thoughtful and surprising birthday gift, and another of our colleagues teased her that she was in love with me, to which she supposedly got very upset).

    Anyway, her and her wife have split up now, and during Covid she came over to my place for some drinks (it was the first time we had been alone together outside work). To my absolute SHOCK she kissed me! I kissed her back of course, and it was W O N D E R F U L. Then (and I’m almost certain due to the influence of alcohol), she told me in a cheeky way to take my clothes off and “fuck” her. I can’t express how shocked I was – even now, months later!

    I had fantasised about sex with her, and would have loved nothing more than to sleep with her but I am super insecure about my body. Also, I felt like it would mean more to me that it would to her (because I have feelings for her), so… I laughed it off, and it didn’t happen.

    The next day she sent me a text apologising for trying to kiss me and trying to make a bit of a joke about it. I wish I’d had said something then, but I massively over-thought her text and concluded she felt ashamed and embarrassed because she does not like me, and was likely horrified at the idea I would think she does. So I didn’t say anything, and to her it probably seems like I completely ignored the comment about the kiss.

    Since this happened, she has become quite distant, which is confusing and devastating for me. I feel (since kissing her) like I’m completely in love with her. I’ve decided that if we ever hang out again, and she kisses me again (which would be my green light), I will tell her how I feel.

    Just wanted to share with you all that in my case, my SHOCK and self-consciousness caused me to act in a way that belied my true feelings. From her perspective perhaps she feels put herself out there, and I rejected her because I only like her as a mate, which of course couldn’t be further from the truth! But… it’s more likely to be all in my head, and if / when I tell her my feelings, I will be the one rejected! Sigh.

    • Ok, I stumbled across this comment in the sidebar and I just had to reply, because, listen (and I say this as lovingly as possible), this is IT, this is the most Useless Lesbian™ story I have EVER READ. She kissed you(!!) and told you to take her clothes off and fuck her(!!!!), and you still are not really sure if maybe she likes you, gonna need some clearer signals here, so sorry just not sure.?? You have literally been smacked across the face with her lips. SHE LIKES YOU. A LOT. And yes she is now confused and probably hurt by what must look like rejection from you.

      Bb, I’m sorry if I’m being harsh but I really want this story to go very differently for you, and that’s only going to happen if you can work up the nerve to talk to her. Also, you remind me an awful lot of me a decade or so ago, so I’m going to make a guess that you are in fact more comfortable desiring unattainable people from afar (where you are safe and can never be hurt) than the terrifying idea of actually getting involved in real life with a flesh-and-blood person who likes you back. That could be due to some underlying insecurities or past experiences that are holding you back, and if so, I sympathize and I hope you can work through them so you can start to live your very best gay life.

      Anyway, tl;dr: I realize this was a completely unasked-for You Need Help response, but please please for the everloving love of Lesbian Jesus talk to this girl. It’s (probably) not too late. And even if it is, it’s better to know for sure, trust me.

      • Chandra! Thank you so much for your reply. Once I posted and re-read it, it really is unbelievably pitiful and the epitome of Useless Lesbian.

        Everything you said about insecurities and being attracted to unavailable people is spot on, dang!

        I really appreciate you taking the time to leave this supportive comment. I want to be honest with her, I will try!

        • Yay! You can do it! I believe in you! And please check back in and tell me how it goes.

          Also don’t be too hard on yourself, this stuff is really hard for us overthinkers. I get it. Recognizing those patterns in yourself is a big step already.

          • An update, from, let’s call her Susan.

            She texted me (after 5 weeks!) She said:

            Lucy!!!

            How are you !!!

            Miss u !!!

            Are you starting back (at our shared workplace) next month?

            and, like the useless piece of shit I am, I simply replied:

            Susan?!

            I’d deleted her number so as not to drunk-bleat at her. So am not sure this is actually her. But, I think it is though.

            And she has not replied! It’s been 2 hours.

            Ridiculous.

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