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.

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


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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.