Monday, April 9, 2007

Attraction and rejection

This weekend it came to my attention that someone may be attracted to me who very much shouldn't be.

In the past, I have been very naive about matters such as this. I run under the assumption that, with the shared knowledge that I am in a committed relationship (and what I presume is also the shared knowledge that I believe in monogamy), that the boundaries are solid enough that I no longer have to worry about crossings.

This strategy has, unfortunately, come to bite me in the ass on occasion. For instance, I once let a male friend who knew of my relationship, spend the night on my couch after losing his car keys, only to have to push away a kiss attempt. Had I been smart, and perhaps a little more skeptical, I would have seen it coming, but I presumed he would respect the boundaries I thought were clear.

This leads me to wonder what is the appropriate strategy for dealing with such hunches if stating your commitment to your significant other is not sufficient. Am I to cut off any communications with anyone who might plausibly be attracted to me? Am I supposed to state multiple times over how I would never cheat before they express any explicit interest? Considering I am hardly beating off men with a stick at every turn, I really do loathe to assume that all men I come into contact with are secretely plotting entrance into my pants, especially when I have several long-time close male friends who have never attempted any such thing.

I read one article which suggested that human beings, in general, are very bad at rejection. We so despise the notion of hurting another's feelings that we sugarcoat everything.
For instance, one time, I thought I had made a very clear rejection speech, and was perplexed as to why it didn't seem to phase the fellow as much as I'd anticipated. A friend later told me, that by virtue of including the whole "You seem like a really great guy who I'm sure a lot of girls would love to be with with, but..." spiel, he probably assumed I was one of those girls, while I thought I was making it clear I wasn't in that category. Strike one against sugarcoating!

I also think these boundaries may be especially to establish for women. We have this whole culture of "nice-ness", especially when we are so petrified (at least I am!) of falling into the seemingly only other category... that of bitch. As such, I have been witness to many friends continuing to hold conversations with utter slimy creeps because they don't want to seem mean, or even hold onto friendships with men who clearly have only one motivation in mind because they are apparently, underneath it all, "really nice guys". I also do know that my gender can be experts in leading men on, which may contribute to some of this. However, lest you think I am being too extreme in this perceived dichotomization of women by some men as "interested" or "bitches" , let me just say that one time I kindly told a guy at a bar that I wouldn't dance with him because I had a boyfriend, he threw an utter fit, asked me why I would even come to a bar in the first place, and followed me around for a good proportion of the night screaming profanities at me.

Tangents and stereotypes aside... what are the best ways of setting these boundaries?


Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

This is making me rethink a considered attempt at revealing my feelings to someone when, perhaps, I shouldn't be.


So hard.

Do you say something, then deal with the consequences?

Or do you keep quiet, and hope against all odds that such feelings will pass?

Or do you answer the question that has been posed in the post?

iFreud said...

I am the last person who could be at all helpful here... All I know is that guys seem to proposition women who are "safe" and approachable. Perhaps you are viewed this way?

I have not had many unwanted advances... and now I wondering why this is.

To deal with it - maybe body language, eye contact that is cool (meaning cold, but not evil), and a bit of avoidance would send a message. Do you have a friendship with this person? If so, you may need to take space.

I know that is not really helpful, but I thought I'd throw in my two cents anyway.

Beth said...

At my age, I am no longer fighting off the men (if I ever was). But based on my limited past experience, setting such boundaries is an incredibly frustrating endeavour. Maybe even useless. I don't think it's just a case of women being too nice - I think it's that some men are unable to handle (or even fathom) rejection.
If you turn them down nicely, they don't think you mean it. If you're adamant about it, they get ticked off and hard to handle. And that's scarier than the other response.
I haven't helped at all, have I?
Just keep saying, "no" and best of luck.

The Duke said...

Speaking as someone who has been rejected in thiss situation, snap the neck. Honesty is a virtue for a reason and sugar coating things only leads to false hope. I am sure he'll get over it, none of us are as soft as we pretend to be.

As for the toaster, I'd go for it. Once again, being that guy, it feels a million times worse to walk away.

Plus, seriously, rejection isn't that bad. Who is still torn up over it, we've all been rejected afterall. It's the old 'everyone is a pussy but me' syndrome.


Ant said...

Agree primarily with the duke's take on this...

My theory is that people don't like rejection because they take themselves too seriously. If we lighten up and treat it like a game (in the beginning) it makes the whole process a bit more fun - if we get rejected, who honestly cares? It's not the first time and certainly won't be the last...

As for respecting boundaries, I'm a bit bad in this regard, because the boundaries are in no way clear cut - the fact that a lady is in a relationship means diddly to me unless there's a ring on the finger. I look out for if she talks about the boyf (positively) or if there's no signalling body language to me, then I'll back off. It really depends on the case but if I'm picking up a spark and a sizzle - I may or may not try my luck...

At the very least it's flattering, and I know I won't go into a strop if she knocks me back...

Indiana James said...

Just make it as clear as possible that you're not interested in him like that. For whatever reason, men are not always that bright when it comes to direct messages. We sometimes tell ourselves there must be something else. Perhaps it's because we think we should get what we're going after and when it doesn't work, we have to do something to somehow save face... That just makes it worse. So for the dummies out there, sorry. : P

The Butterfly Bar said...

Ahh, check me. I was going to jet over to my blog, but then I saw the title of this post and had to read. Well done, Princess.

Men traditionally have problems with taking no for an answer. Maybe this continues because guys sometimes are able to steamroll women into relationships of one sort or another by force of will. It does happen. When you think about it, that's really fucked up: Rape on a relationship level. I've even overheard it summed up: "It's easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission." That's fucked.

Do me a favor and read a short story called Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta by Kate Braverman. It is exactly about this, a guy who wears a girl down over several months--but it's told through her point of view. He's a creep, she knows it, but she doesn't fall for him so much as he destroys her will to resist. It sounds depressing and kind of is, but it's actually really good.

But back to your recounting, the lost car keys guy--he was down on his luck, you were doing him a favor. If he thought that meant that you wanted him, that's just pathetic is what it is. And a waste of a friendship, I'm sure.

And I remember the loser at the bar story from other bygone musings. If that ever happens again, go straight to a bouncer and tell them you are never coming back to their bar again. I'd bet you the next round of drinks that they would kick him out. Why? Social pressure. If one guy is chasing of women and other guys hear of it, they positively will do something about said loser. And bouncers act fast. I just wish, like you probably do, that the guy would have realized what an asshole he was being of his own accord. Obviously, he couldn't respect himself enough to have any kind of dignity and had to show you that he had none by trying to destroy yours. Honestly; berating you like your being at a bar is a "tease" situation. I'm no psychic, but I see prison and a sex offender list in his future. Do they have the sex offender list in Canada?

Honestly, reading this each time embarrassed me for my gender, and made me feel a visceral "sorry" feeling for your experience. The loser was trying to steamroll you. Obviously, he was used to dealing with human putty with no self esteem. Could you imagine what it would be like to be in a relationship with him? Now that is a depressing prospect.
Aside from content, you write so good!

Considering I am hardly beating off men with a stick at every turn, I really do loathe to assume that all men I come into contact with are secretly plotting entrance into my pants

I loved that line. So to the point. Awesome work. It's hard to single out lines with your work, but this one stood out on its own.

Great reading, great discussion. There's a big difference between this crap and Toast's desire to ask a girl out. Huge. I'm sure you agree.

The Butterfly Bar said...

You can snatch up the pink lion for powerful words, too, Princess. If you choose to accept it, I'll edit you in.

That's what I hate about the awards thing--the selecting people to give it too. I hate doing that. It really does feel like a popularity contest.

You're popular, but in this situation, I am the arbiter of cool.

Oh yeah!