Ouch! How Do Guys Deal With Rejection?Not well, says a recently dumped Jake—not well at all. Allow him to explain the six stages of male-ego grief. (And forgive him if a couple of them involve alcohol.)
I take out my phone. I stare at it. I put it back in my pocket. Take it out again. I think for a second. I start texting. I hate myself a little as I hit send.
If you think women are the only ones who text-obsess, you couldn’t be more wrong. Jake is supposed to know better. Jake does know better! But here I am, sitting with my dog, Piano (who tries to tell me gently, with his eyes, that I’m being pathetic), desperately texting a woman who probably won’t text me back.
In short: J. is blowing me off. We had a few great dates (see my November column). We argued over favorite bands, laughed into the wee hours, fooled around a little. She hung around long enough for me to develop a monster crush. And then she got back with her ex. Thus began, for me, the six stages of rejected-dude grief.
Stage 1: Denial
What’s the first thing that all guys do after being dumped? We reject your rejection. How could J. not like me back? I’m reasonably hygienic, successful, loving, a proficient swimmer. So I indulge in creating elaborate excuses for J.’s radio silence, some involving a heavy work schedule and contagious illnesses. And I text her, because I assume one great message, with the right combination of warmth and cool insouciance, will convince her that I am the awesomest guy in the universe. Of course, by this point she’s moved on, and nothing I say will change that. I’m Myspace, watching its users dwindle as Facebook conquers the planet and asking, “What if we add more features?”
Stage 2: Drinking
After rejection, I like to take a nice long run…to my local bar. I surround myself with drinking buddies, who say upbeat things like “She’s an idiot,” “I hope she gets hit by a bus” and “She doesn’t know what she’s missing; you’re a great swimmer.” Their critiques ring hollow because I still like her; flattering me doesn’t help because I don’t like myself at the moment. Still, I keep cheers-ing out of politeness and then make out with someone under an overpass. Later, I throw up.
Stage 3: Calling in the FWBs
The makeout gives me an idea: Sex is the answer! I turn off my feelings for J. like a light switch, pull out my little black iPhone and start contacting my friends with benefits (FWBs), like the art history student who doesn’t believe in monogamy and Klepto Hipster Girl (she’s cute, and I have too many stereo speakers anyway). Additional symptoms of this stage include watching too much porn.
Stage 4: The (Theoretical) Big Life Change
This is when I say to myself, I’m done with love. I’m going to ride the Trans-Siberian Railway and post it on my Tumblr. This stage may include a visit to med school websites and a rereading of Into the Wild. I dream about transforming myself—mainly, if I’m being honest, into someone J. would want. Eventually I put down the Marine Corps pamphlet and remember that no heroic deed will make J. love me.
Stage 5: More Drinking
Do you know how many glasses of wine you can drink and still complete half of a Spin class? The answer is six. Six glasses.
Stage 6: Acceptance
Around the time I resolve to ease up on the booze—usually after my boss asks if I’m OK—I realize that J. has moved on and I should too. Slowly, as I trade in hookups and junk food for (sober) exercise and hard work, I see that J. wasn’t right for me, nor I for her. Because now that I think about it, she took herself too seriously. And My Morning Jacket as a favorite band? No. Then I get back on the horse (well, OK Cupid) and try again.
So what does all this mean to you? It means that just because a man doesn’t appear to be reeling from a breakup doesn’t mean he isn’t. He’s just going through his own, very male process. And if the new guy you’re dating guzzles martinis and starts multiple sentences with “my ex,” you may be part of stage 3; behave accordingly.
love: friendship, dating, sex & marriage
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