There’s this misconception that’s been around for generations: that women never really mean it when they say “no.” That at the very least, a woman’s “no” really means “try harder” because they are “playing hard to get” or “they don’t’ know what they want.” I am here today, to tell you, Internet friends, that no ALWAYS means no.
Somehow, despite the fact that I live in perpetual fear that one of my exes will figure out that I really didn’t change my phone number and start blowing up my phone again, I tricked myself into believing that we, as a species, had reached a general understanding: if the woman doesn’t want you, let her be.
I don’t know. Sometimes I do this weird thing where I have hope for humanity.
Anyway, a while back this retweet slithered across my timeline: “If she tells you no, you just ain’t ask her right.” I proceeded to lose it. To play Devil’s Advocate, maybe this was supposed to mean that the asker had no “game” or whatever. But the more I thought about it, it reminded me of street harassers who ask you about 15 questions (Can I walk with you? Can I have your number? You got a man? You can’t have friends?), refusing to be deterred, until you’ve said “no” so many times that you’re blue in the face and so fed up that you drop all attempts at niceness and shout at them. And then they get mad because “You could have just said no. You didn’t have to be rude.”
I don’t think I need to explain that this is part of rape culture – the not-respecting-women’s-space-or-sexual-autonomy-because-they’re-women, thing. No does not only mean no when it comes to consenting to sex. No means no if someone does not want to go out with you. It means no if they don’t want to give you their number. It means no if they don’t want to talk to you on the street. It means no if they don’t want to approve your friend request on Facebook. It means no if they don’t want to dance with you at a party.
No one is entitled to anyone else’s time, love and affection. These are things that must be willingly given. You can show your crush your best qualities, and hope for positive results…but if they shoot you down, you’ve just got to accept defeat. You can’t force someone to like you, and if feel you have to, I’m not sure that’s the right person for you.
Sure, there may be people who don’t respond to texts or calls immediately for a variety of reasons. Maybe they don’t want to seem “thirsty.” Maybe they want you to assume that they have a life. Maybe they’re one of these people who never look at their phone. Maybe they’re genuinely busy.
Or – OR! – maybe they’re passive aggressively telling you they don’t wanna be your summer boo. How many text messages have they failed to reply to? Are you the only one initiating conversation? Do not resort to begging and do not keep reaching out. That’s how a screenshot of your convo ends up on Instagram. It’s not right, but that’s how it happens. Just don’t let that happen to you.
To be fair, these are people who have (I’m assuming) seemed receptive to advances in the past. I mean…they gave you their phone number after you tried to holler, right? But you’re not going to wear them down with your persistence. If anything, you’ll just become more unattractive in their eyes. And above all else, when someone you’ve expressed interest in flatly tells you “No,” take them at their word.
For example, when I was in middle school, there was a guy who I had classes with – let’s call him “Antwon” – who decided he had a crush on me. Impressively, Antwon chose to approach the situation head-on, pulling me to the side in the hallway and professing his like. I wasn’t used to boys being that direct, and didn’t want to hurt his feelings because I respected the fact that he was brave enough to approach me…but I was not interested. At all.
I fretted for a bit, trying to figure out how to let him down as gently as possible. Antwon wasn’t a bad guy. I just had no interest in him, and we had nothing in common. So, after deliberating with my friends, I walked over to him between classes and told him, that I was flattered, but I was going to have to pass.
AND DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT FOOL TOLD ME?! He said, “I’m not taking no for an answer.” Y’all. I’d done the right thing, hadn’t I? I hadn’t feigned interest. I’d been direct and honest and I was proud of myself. And then he looked me in my eye and told me that he didn’t care what I wanted. That eventually, he was going to wear me down, and force me to date him – if you could call “going with” someone in middle school dating.
I was furious, to say the least, and in P.E. hours later, after my rage had had time to fester, I told him that he was GOING to leave me alone, in the harshest voice a 13-year-old can muster. He looked like kicked puppy and over time, he gave up…but it upset me that he thought it was OK to disregard my wishes because they didn’t mirror his own.
Over the years, this has happened a few times, (case in point, the aforementioned ex who continued to contact me years after we broke up, until I finally pretended to be someone else when he texted me) and it doesn’t stop being worrisome, and sometimes scary.
Romantic comedies and Twitter relationship experts may tell the spurned lover to try and try again, but honestly, it’s not fair to the person doing the rejecting.
Still think it’s worth a shot to ask your crush out just one more time? Ask yourself these questions: Why have they turned me down? What was their tone? Do they officially seem creeped out by me at this point? Why am I still trying to “win” someone who doesn’t want me? And remember, a person isn’t a prize to be won. Princess Jasmine taught me that, y’all.
— Lauren McEwen