Rejection Sucks

It was Tuesday date night again and there I sat at Donohue’s across the table from my boyfriend. Sidenote: he ordered ranch dressing on his salad. Never knew he liked ranch. The things we learn about the people we love!

Anyway, over our leafy greens, I told boyfriend that I’d come up with my next blog post: Rejection. His response was instantaneous: “nah, not interested in that” — which I pointed out was itself a blatant rejection of my idea of writing about rejection.

He’s a smart, creative guy, so pointing out his reaction challenged him to engage in the conversation. And since I’m a smart, creative girl who’s fully aware that he is a guy, I knew that sex — discussing it, obviously — could make a humdrum conversation a bit more enticing. Would he feel rejected, I asked, if he requested that I do a certain sexual favor for him (use your imagination, girls) and I responded with “nope, not interested”?

His answer: No. In fact, he said, he’s never been rejected, save maybe back in 1976; he couldn’t really remember. Or maybe, yes, he might have been rejected once in China in a business meeting gone flat, but that was only because he was a Westerner. In his mind, using the word “rejection” meant that you were a “reject,” a loser. It was simply not part of his vernacular.

I couldn’t fathom it. Never? I brought up something else: Tinder. When you swipe left, are you rejecting? Not then either, he said. Of course I had to up the ante, make it more personal: When we’d started dating a year ago, and I went “crickets” after our first few dates — his words, not mine — had he felt rejected? “Nope.” It was the same as with the no-go Chinese business deal: he rolled out euphemisms like “passed over,” or “not chosen” for reasons that had nothing to do with him. Never the word rejection. Not in his wheelhouse.

We’d hit on a fundamental difference. He rarely — if ever — took being “passed over” personally. There were so many reasons why things happened in the world; why assume it was him? I, on the other hand, had come up with a different coping mechanism. As an actress, I’ve gotten rejected every day for the last 20 years. Every. single. day. I get rejected when I don’t get the job and I get rejected before then, when I don’t get the audition to get the job. At some point, I thought, why not create the job myself? Even Brad Pitt has his own production company. So that’s what I did. Pink Wisdom is my tiny little start-up, meant to support and inspire woman in their love lives and their careers, and also to support and inspire me.

But what happens when you create your own projects and you even get rejected from those?

Pink Wisdom is a creative outlet for me, sure, but it’s also a business, which is why I applied to a conference for Women called The Women’s Entrepreneurship Festival (The WE festival). I’d been to this fabulous conference last year and hobnobbed with 300 of the coolest entrepreneur chicks in NYC at a variety of panels and discussions. This year, though, they’d implemented a new vetting system, presumably to keep it fabulous; one “applied” for admission to the festival to its genius-in-chief, Joanne Wilson.

Now, I’ve followed Joanne’s blog, The Gotham Gal, for a few years. Joanne has my dream job. In a lot of ways, she has my dream life! Creative, interesting, fun. I like everything about this woman, including how generous she’s been with me: when I was launching the career section of Pink Wisdom, interviews with Joanne and AOL’s very awesome Susan Lynn (introduced, of course, by Joanne) were not only helpful, but brought other entrepreneurs in her wake. So, imagine my surprise — a gut-punch kind of rejection — when the email I’d assumed would welcome my attendance at the WE festival instead read “better luck next time.” I felt like a complete loser.

Whew. My first impulse, in typical knee-jerk reaction style, was to bang out an all caps email boiling down to WHAT THE F*#K!?!!?? Thankfully, I’ve had enough experience with rejection to control myself. I waited a bit and responded elegantly: “Thanks for your consideration; if you change your mind, I’d love to attend.” And, inspired by my boyfriend’s experience of never taking anything personally, voila — not rejection, just a confluence of unfortunate factors!

There’s something to be said for not taking rejection personally. Life goes on, and as it does, even more marvelous things sometimes swap in for what you’d planned.

Sure enough, an email popped up a week later and I was invited to the festival. It was as wonderful and inspiring and motivating as it had been the previous year. At lunch, I happened to sit next to a woman who happened to be a writer for The CUT, New York Magazine’s online ‘zine about cool happenings around New York City. We hit it off. The next day, Pink Wisdom got a very nice mention in her article covering the event. I went from being totally rejected to being totally featured.

Moral of the story, in case it’s not already clear? Keep calm and carry on.

You may be wondering what my boyfriend’s reaction was to this whole scenario? Well, sadly, we recently broke up. He rejected me. I rejected him. Or wait, maybe we rejected each other. No, maybe we just decided to not choose each other for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with each other. Yeah, that’s it. I’m not saying things not working out the way you’d wanted to doesn’t suck.

God, I miss him.