Why is the male ego is so fragile?

In the age of the #metoo movement, I’m quite surprised that I have to deal with so many men refusing to hear a “no”.

While women are used to hearing “no” constantly, we aren’t used to hearing “no” in regard to sex and relationships — if anything, we have men throwing themselves at us…just not necessarily the men we want.

So, I sort of understand it when a woman loses self-respect and continues to chase a man despite his insistence that he doesn’t want her.

Believe me.

I’ve been there. I’m not condoning the behavior. But I do understand it.

Yet, I’d expect men to be very, very used to hearing “no” in regard to the subject of sex and dating.

So why fight it?

Why not just move on?

First, some backstory.

It’s not difficult for me to strike up conversation with people, and I’m very open, thus I’m willing to discuss topics with people whom I’ve just met that most reserve for closer relationships — family, friends, partners.

The upside of this: I’d expect people to know what they’re getting from the get-go.

You love me or hate me. There isn’t much in between.

However, I’m learning there is a major downside to this. It is not uncommon for me to inadvertently lead men into thinking that I’m interested in more than friendship with them, or that I feel a deeper emotional connection to them than I do.

This story involves just that.

My friend Sarah and I started working out of a new co-working space in May. For a brief while, we were fairly talkative to a man who sits a few desks away from ours. Let’s call this man Seth.

One day, when Sarah wasn’t around, Seth and I got into a conversation about organic farming and backyard gardens. He started very proudly discussing his garden and offered to show me what he was working on at home.

He said he lived right around the block.

I had my dog with me, and since she’s very large and protective, I felt safe going with him. I had nothing else going on and had some time to kill, so I figured it couldn’t hurt anything — I’m always open to new friendships.

— Don’t worry. This story isn’t going where you probably think it is. —

It took 20 minutes to walk to Seth’s house (so, not “around the block” like I’d been told), but that’s only partially relevant to the story. As soon as I arrived, I started to feel that he was interested in more than just friendship.

He started offering me drinks, a tour of the house and then began discussing his past relationships, emphasizing that he’s been divorced for 3 years and has taken time since then to evaluate what he wants in life and love.

He then moved on to asking me details about my own dating life. This made me a bit uncomfortable and I tried to steer the conversation in a different direction. Soon, he began discussing the idea of a happy hour on his roof deck — suggesting that perhaps he’d extend an invite to the folks in the office.

I said, “Yea, it would be a great networking opportunity for people. I’m sure Sarah would love to attend something like that, too.” This back and forth continued.

He kept finding ways to leave Sarah out of his thoughts, despite my insistence that she be included.

Perhaps he was just being friendly. Maybe, he’s a little socially awkward and didn’t realize how he was portraying himself. That’s entirely possible, but I wanted to do what I could to be polite while also getting out of there and not lead him on any further.

I declined the offered drinks and used the 20-minute walk as my excuse. “I really only had an hour available and I still need to walk back to my car so I can make it home in time for my video conference.”

Things got awkward…

After those events, things got a little weird at the office. Seth asked me to grab a drink with him after work several times that week and continued to do so about once a week for the following month, despite politely turning him down every time.

In retrospect, I could have been a bit more direct. I could have said, “I’d be happy to grab a drink as friends, but I want to be very clear that I’m only interested in friendship.”

Maybe I should have.

I didn’t.

I didn’t because I was worried he’d ask further details as to why I wasn’t interested, and since we sit so close at the office space, I didn’t want to do anything that would cause further discomfort.

Do I even need to bring up the fact that a woman shouldn’t have to waste brain cells on the fear that a man might not accept “we’re just friends” to begin with?

Over the next 6 weeks or so I continued to be polite-yet-brief on conversation — putting in headphones most of the time so that it was clear I was working and not wanting to interact with anyone.

He seemed to finally take the hint, and stopped attempting to converse too much outside of, “Good morning,” “Have a good night,” and “How was your weekend?”

…and then the confrontation finally occurred.

I was laid off last week.

I’m not looking for sympathy or condolences. It’s merely relevant information to the story.

The people who run my co-working space are amazing and have offered to allow me to stay under a lounge membership in exchange for being a part of their Ambassador program. This means that in exchange for doing administrative work — making coffee, unloading and running the dishwasher, taking out the trash, etc. — I get to sit at a non-dedicated desk, free of charge.

Sounds good to me.

This also means that I needed to move my things out of the dedicated desk space that I had been renting.

I was walking to my car with a box of my things. Seth was walking out of the office with his dog at about the same time. He said, in disbelief, “Are you leaving?”

“Unfortunately, yes. But I really don’t want to talk about it,” I replied.

I continued to walk to my car, put the box of materials into my trunk, and began to trudge back to the office.

I passed Seth and his dog on the way.

“Seriously, what’s going on?” asked Seth.

“Seriously, I don’t want to talk about,” I answered, as I continued walking past him.

“Did I do something?” he asked.

“No, I just don’t want to talk about it,” I said, still not stopping.

“Why?”

At this point, I’d completely passed him, so I turned around, continuing to walk backward and replied, “Dude. I got laid off, and I don’t want to talk about it.”

Frustrated, he replied, “I’m sorry that happened to you, but how am I supposed to know that? Come to my house, we can talk about it!”

At this point, I’m about 100 feet away from him.

I stop dead in my tracks.

I sternly say, “You’re not supposed to know that — I don’t expect you to know that. Which is why I very clearly said, ‘ I don’t want to talk about it.’ Because that’s all you need to know.”

“Seriously, what did I do? You’ve been so mean to me since that time — ”

I cut him off and shouted, “Actually, no. I haven’t. I’ve been perfectly polite. I just don’t want to talk about it. And that’s okay.”

I turned around and walked away.

I slay my own dragons.

Sure. I get it. “I don’t want to talk about it,” could be a woman’s way of testing you to see if you’re actually willing to show interest in her life. But this is a game that is played by women who are actually involved in your life.

This is not something a woman does to someone who is very clearly not her friend, family, or lover.

I don’t want to talk about it.

This is very direct. There’s nothing ambiguous. Accept it and move on.

You are not my friend.

I am not being coy.

I am not looking to play a game.

I am not hoping for you to save the day and be my hero.

I have my own emotional support system, and frankly, most of it comes from inside of myself, because only I can slay my own dragons.

Sassy+Loving. Scientific+Spiritual. Nomadic. Always sincere, often wry. Hopefully romantic. Polymath.