Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Dating And Rejection

I was walking home after dropping J off at her friend’s house. Other than some chores, I did not have much to do that evening. So when N, my neighbor asked me over to join her in her balcony for a drink,the timing was perfect. N teaches physics at a local college and is a single mother like myself. Her son is getting ready to go to high school this fall. At forty something, N is very attractive and in great shape thanks to her workout discipline. If you’ve spent any time with her you would not fail to notice the bracing sense of humor and a sharp mind.

When conversation turned to relationships (she has recently parted ways with a boyfriend of a couple of years), N mentioned some of her challenges. She does not have the time to meet people “off-line” the good old-fashioned way. When her family or friends try to set her up, the pressure is too high for things to go well - plus she hates it when people "check in" after the date to see how things went.She does not want to have a picture on her profile on a dating site – to be seen by a student would be much too embarrassing. Apparently, men she contacts (which is more often the case because her picture-less profile garners very limited attention) ask to see a picture right away. She has lost count of the number of times they have written back to say “Thanks for the pictures, but I am not interested” or something along the lines that is equally blunt.

I had a really hard time processing this. The average forty something guy would be hard pressed to find a woman in his age group that looks as good as N does and that is not even counting everything else she brings to the table as a person. In physical appearance and fitness level she can still give women in their late twenties a run for their money - “Why on earth would they do that ? Are these guys looking to date only women who have been Miss Universe within the last five years ?” I asked. N’s response gave me much to think about.

She reasons that men who are not secure in their own manhood (literally and figuratively) feel empowered at least temporarily by rejecting a woman based on her looks – despite all the gains women have in gender equality, this is still culturally the cruelest cut of all. More likely than not, they will reject a woman who appears confident about herself and her place in the world - someone who is not in need of a man's validation of her worth.

Rejection helps them establish that they and not the woman are in control. A lot of women are not equipped to handle such rejection (specially when it happens over and over again and they are over a certain age) well. It undermines their confidence and makes them vulnerable in relationships that they do get into.It was not so long ago, that my friend K, who moonlights as a model, was told by a guy that he "felt no chemistry" seeing her picture. That comment prompted her to call me to talk about it. N probably had a point about rejection chipping away at a woman's self esteem - it had certainly bothered K.

According to N, if a man is indeed a man (I will skip the colorful language she used to emphasize her point about what it takes to be a real man), he is likely to compliment a woman on her looks sincerely – her eyes, the slant of her throat,her skin tone, the shape of her lips, the texture of her hair, the curve of her body – whatever it is about her that is really nice, he will notice it and tell her how he finds her attractive. When a man is able to do this, a woman should know he will not disappoint her in bed as well. This is the kind of man who is able to bring out the best in a woman emotionally and physically. Whether or not the relationship works out in the end, he would have impacted her life in a positive way. “In a way, it’s good for me to get rejected by guys based on my looks” N laughed. “Who wants to waste time with losers who won’t even be decent lays. Life is too short”.

In N’s mind, it is perfectly okay for a man to not feel attracted to a woman for a variety of reasons even if she were considered good looking by most standards (my friend K comes to mind as an example). However, the manner in which he extracts himself from the situation says everything about what kind of man he is – namely if he is self-assured, confident and most importantly virile. As far as N is concerned being a “picture- rejecter” is the calling card of an uncultured cad (for obvious reasons) with a near certainty of being entirely underwhelming in bed. In short, imminently avoidable irrespective of the woman's relationship goals. N loves guys who don’t ask to see a picture (are thrilled if she sends them some), are curious to learn what she is all about, enjoy talking to her and set up a date just to get to know her better.

This is the kind of man who makes her want to look her absolute best on their date - exceed any expectations he may have had. “How does it usually go ?” I asked. “Swimmingly well. No exceptions” N replied. Unfortunately the garden variety “picture-rejecter” is dime a dozen, the other type is a rare find. And so on a Friday evening, when her son is with her ex, N has to content herself chatting with a girlfriend instead of being out on an exciting date with a man who can for a few hours dissolve the many stresses of the week, make her laugh and feel totally desirable.

I tell N, may it’s not men – it’s all those pesticides at work feminizing them. Maybe we reason, they are going through this transitional phase when they are losing touch with the masculine in them but have not become fully feminine yet. According to our bizarre theory, in this transitional stage, they might have a strongly negative reaction to any woman who challenges them to be more male than they are able to be. That would explain the patently inexplicable phenomenon of why one such as N (or my buddy K) would get “picture rejected” time after time in by men in the dating pool. By then, it was time for me to go fetch J and I had to defer the discussion of our fascinating hypothesis for another time.


Anonymous said...

I do not think that experience of N or K is unique. There are plenty of guys which get rejected day after day for their looks and sometime for lack of money. You just happened to meet women because men tend to not talk about it or discuss their rejections.

Zahra said...

Hi :)'ve got a nice blog here.
I think there are many women who can identify with N. Unfortunately, looks are still the deciding factor in a woman's appeal no matter how talented or intelligent she is. I know guy friends who haven't considered a smart, confident young woman for a girlfriend just because she isn't all that 'hot'. And most of the time, the girl didn't fare too badly in the looks department (my judgment).
Methinks the problem is that women define desirability as a combo of many things...while most men narrow it down to looks plus a coupla others at the most. Here's hoping that N and others like her don't remain disappointed for long!

Heartcrossings said...

Anon - You are probably right. Women talk about their feelings more and are more likely to share stories of rejection than men.

Zahra - Thanks for stopping by ! It seems to me that N's good looks work to her disadvantage because guys are comfortable with bimbos or geeks depending on who they are and what they seek. When someone is flagged a "geek" and looks hot enough, the package becomes a little too much for most guys to handle. She'd fare a lot better if she looked plainer and did not men feel insecure.

My buddy K who models on the side can be slotted into the "bimbo" category because she always looks so dolled up. When a guy talks to her, he discovers she has mind and did very well in both undergrad and grad school. Same issue as N - both don't fit the category that they are initially slotted into.

Anonymous said...

Great blog (w/ great points)! I can relate to what your nabe said being a single desi myself.

Heartcrossings said...

Emma - I hear you, sister. The neighbor brings up some great points and gives us all food for thought.