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I'm Erin Judge. I'm a comedian and a writer. I live in Los Angeles. Let's hug.

May 27, 2014

okay no

I really enjoyed Arthur Chu's piece "Your Princess Is In Another Castle," in which he questions the messages our culture gives to young (and in particular nerdy) guys about women. To me the most impressive parts come when Chu turns the lens on himself and talks about his own sense of frustration and entitlement in his younger days. But I think his argument falls short of offering a more productive, empathetic and self-respectful way to view the fundamental event that creates the very frustration he's talking about: the experience of rejection.

We, as a collective culture and as individuals, could really stand to examine how we deal with rejection. Most of us need to learn how to communicate it better, how to receive it more gracefully, and how to grow from the experience instead of allowing these necessary interactions to harm us for good.

So let's start with the fundamentals.

Most of us have one of two knee-jerk reactions to rejection. I call them "Fuck Me" and "Fuck You."

The Fuck Me's

This perspective on rejection operates under the guise of personal responsibility, but in actuality it results in staggering self-doubt and, ultimately, self-negation. If you want to, say, ruin a kid's life, here are a few steps for indoctrinating them into this way of thinking:
1. After the kid gets rejected, always ask follow-up questions that imply they did something wrong. "Did you forget any of your lines?" "Did you check your resume for typos?" "Did you wear those shoes everyone hates?" It doesn't matter if you know absolutely nothing about the context of the situation. Just be certain it's all their fault, and then take wild stabs in the dark as to how it's all their fault. 

2. Speculate about what the kid could've done better. Do this immediately, and be as critical as possible. "Maybe if you lost 20 pounds a year ago, she would've gone to the prom with you." Don't hold back here. Really go for the knees.

3. Whatever you do, DO NOT let them feel sad feelings. "Don't you dare sulk! At least you HAVE a prom to not go to, you unemployable fatty!" or some such admonishment should really do the trick.

This attitude towards rejection, where every "no" is further evidence that you're lazy and ugly and bad, comes with some super-awesome additional implications for your own choices too! For example, if you believe all of this AND you're empathetic and kind, you can't ever reject anyone else ever, because that's the very cruelest thing you can do to a person. You have to kiss everyone who tries to kiss you, and date and marry anyone who asks you, and never break up with them no matter what, because rejecting another person is the most condemning and humiliating thing you could possibly do to them.

The Fuck You's
The most important element of this perspective is victimhood victimhood victimhood. Everybody else is simultaneously an idiot and a cruel manipulating mastermind. They can't see your brilliance because they're too busy trying to keep you down. You are always at the center of their thoughts, and they're simultaneously scared of you and too dumb to realize that they should be. Most importantly, they are a bitch.

If you want to encourage this frame of mind in a kid, I recommend the following tactics:

1. Threaten violence upon every teacher or other adult who ever dares to correct them. 

2. Help them pull pranks on kids who outshine them. Encourage sabotage.

3. When all else fails, place the blame on those around them. And don't forget to teach them the value of holding a lengthy and vitriolic grudge. 

The Third Way
If, for some reason, you're interested in creating a different relationship to rejection that lies outside of these two unhealthy yet very common frameworks, how might you go about forming that? I'm not 100% there myself, but I have some ideas that might be helpful:

1. Build fundamental self-respect. Every life has ups and downs, and many of the setbacks we experience have nothing to do with anything we can control. If you can love and support yourself through illness, then you can love and support yourself through heartbreak or downsizing or any of the other difficulties in life we believe we have more control over.

2. Build self-awareness. If you find yourself trying and failing to do something over and over again, turn to people you trust to check your reality. Maybe you're just trying to do something that's super hard and have to keep plugging away. Maybe you need to change your perspective in order to have more success. Many people are crushed to find they've been going about something the wrong way. But isn't it liberating to learn new things? Can't it be refreshing to find out you can stop banging your head against the wall and instead approach the problem differently?

3. View others as responsible, accountable peers. This really brings back Arthur Chu's point about seeing other people as protagonists in their own stories. Everybody has a million reasons for doing what they do that we may or may not understand. Trust them to know what's best for themselves even if it doesn't make sense to you. And, on the doling-out-rejection front, be sufficiently honest and kind and respectful. It's so difficult given how screwed up so many people are about rejection, but it's the best any of us can do.

I'm not perfect in any of these arenas. I've got plenty of Fuck You and Fuck Me floating around in my consciousness. But, I'm learning. And I hope that we can all work to lift the stigma on saying or hearing something as simple "no."

1 comment:

Something More Fantastical said...

This is great and insightful and "encourage sabotage" is now my favorite phrase ever.