It’s a very specific sting that pierces the surface of our delicate flesh when we find ourselves suddenly dumped by someone we weren’t even dating.
It’s akin to the dissociative sensation of an out-of-body experience: hyper surreal and strangely unsettling.
After all, the entire reason we decided to casually “see” (as opposed to exclusively “date”) someone was so we could avoid the bitter pitfalls of rejection and inevitable pangs of heartbreak.
I can vividly remember the first time this ever happened to me.
I was spending the summer in San Francisco fresh off the skillet from a brutal breakup, attempting to heal my wounded, cracked heart.
I began casually seeing someone who really wasn't even close to my physical or emotional type, yet was just interesting enough to engage in pleasant conversation with and just attractive enough to share late-night drunken kisses with.
One particularly chill-inducing bay-area evening, I ventured downtown to meet my “casual hookup” for a late-night cocktail.
As soon as my lips penetrated the cold glass tumbler and the cruel burn of whiskey made its way down my throat, the words fell out of this person’s mouth:
What. The. F*ck.
Time stood still. I wanted to scream: “You can’t DUMP me. We aren’t even TOGETHER!”
But herein lies the ugly truth: Like it or not, you can break up with someone you’re not even dating, and it was happening to ME. And tiny shards of glass began to prick the entirety of my body (wait -- this wasn’t supposed to hurt. That was the point!).
We engage in these “seeing each other” dynamics to avoid real pain, yet they leave us on an epic, wild, emotional rollercoaster with no harness keeping us safe:
Your heart isn’t hurt, but your pride is shot.
You feel a thick heaviness making its way toward the center of your chest; it’s not dissimilar to heartbreak -- except it’s a type of pain that only scratches the surface of your heart, never piercing deep into the crux of it.
It’s the great crush of the massive ego.
It makes you acutely aware of how powerful and dominating your ego actually is, which is equally as unsettling as the out-of-the-blue rejection.
You begin to wonder what kind of red flags you're emitting into the universe.
How can someone break up with you before having had the opportunity to experience dating you? The brief time you’ve spent with one another has been nothing short of simple and nice, a calm stream of intoxicated kisses, giggles and light conversation.
What could you have possibly done that is deeming you red-flagged and crazy when you’ve only been in this person’s presence about five times?
You haven’t spent enough time with this person for him or her to know about the crazy, broken-hearted, fearful and weirdly eccentric parts of yourself yet.
You’ve been acting like a finely curated art gallery, specifically exhibiting only your very best work.
So WHAT is it? What's wrong with you?
You fear you're unattractive (as you’ve long suspected).
Since it hasn’t been nearly long enough for this person to discover your wickedly dark side — there could only be one reason this “relationship” ended before it began: You’re ugly.
Maybe all those insecurities that plagued your soul in middle school are true, but none of your friends or family members had the wherewithal to tell you.
The deeply suppressed fears about your appearance you’ve stuffed down in the name of feminism for over the last decade begin to swell to the surface:
It’s my bad skin, isn’t it? Those acne scars never quite healed themselves, did they? I will never have a shot at love because of that one disgusting pockmark on my left cheek. Why didn’t my mother let me go on Accutane?
Once you’re fully convinced you’re nothing but a freaky, scarred, overweight specimen -- a new fear creeps into the core of your soul:
The anxious thoughts that maybe you're a BAD kisser consume you.
There are few experiences more traumatic than kissing a bad kisser. Though you’re a willing participant in the locking of lips, you’re left feeling mildly violated afterward.
Kissing a bad kisser is enough to make you entirely lose your sex drive after the 30-second mouth-to-mouth exchange.
It fuels you with an irrepressible desire to dial up every single one of your closest girlfriends and break down the bad kiss with a moment-to-moment replay, analyzing what made it so horrendous.
It makes you want to close your mouth and never open it again.
What if you were the offender this time? What if you’re the one who's going to be discussed at brunch, forever known as the girl who couldn’t kiss?
"Unattractive" you can maybe deal with -- but bad kisser? It’s enough to make you want to retire to the Catskills, resign to a life working on a farm at the Women’s Collective never to return to the modern world again.
You’re plagued by the fact that you can’t even ask WTF you did wrong?
Your head has become an ever-spinning merry-go-round with painted glass horses replaced by your twisted thoughts.
You scan different scenarios in the darkness of your brain (was it the skin or the kiss or the stupid thing you said?).
You’re consumed with what the f*ck you did so wrong?
When you haven’t even ventured into the realm of dating with a person, you can’t exactly ask what turned him or her off about you. It hasn’t been long enough. You’re owed zero explanation.
This is torture for girls, and the only way in which we’re equipped to handle this sort of ambiguity is to create our own reasons -- pulling them out of thin air. It’s a pesky downward spiral that can take months to crawl out of.
You have irrational fears about your reputation.
All of a sudden, it hits you like a fist in a delicate moment: It’s not your looks. It’s not the way in which you kiss. It’s your reputation that sent him or her running in the opposite direction.
This person has been warned by an army of exes that somehow banded together as a united force set to destroy you by blasting every social media outlet with stories detailing how bat-sh*t crazy you are.
The only thing to do is move to another country (I have always dreamed of living in Paris) and start a new life somewhere no one knows your name.
You're reminded of the brutal sting of rejection.
All of a sudden, you remember how much rejection truly sucks. How little it really takes to knock you down.
If you’re this crushed by a stupid rejection from someone you didn’t even like — how will you ever handle rejection from someone you do like?
You conclude you'll never throw yourself out there again. You're too vulnerable for this cruel, cold world.
Fueled by the fire of rage, the healing begins.
HOW dare this person break up with you? I mean you weren’t even dating? F*ck this — you didn’t like him or her anyway.
This person was nothing more than a pathetic filler, and this is the way the UNIVERSE is working to protect you (it's always all about you, remember) from dating a LOSER.
And it's the powerful flames of anger that will burn down the sting of your rejection, empower you and set you FREE.