January 6, 2008

Life would be so much easier if people just said, "I don't like you." Think of all the time it would save. No more lying to get out of relationships. No more trying to figure out what you might have done to make someone distant or wondering if you're being paranoid. They wouldn't even have to offer a reason. "I don't like you" is all I need. Knowing where they stood would be enough.

A few weeks ago I met someone at a party and instinctively knew that she didn't like me. I could tell. Even before we were introduced she had been standing nearby and I saw her give me a look. It was a look one woman gives another woman which conveys a mild and silent revulsion; invisible to everyone else in the room.

Usually there is no justification for this look so it seems irrational. And when you mention it to someone - a mutual friend - the friend will invariably tell you that you're imagining it. Especially if the person who gave you the look is more popular. Which for me, is often the case. Then I regret having said anything at all. I'll think to myself, she appears to be a warm person. To others.

When you get the feeling that a likeable person doesn't like you, it's best to keep it to yourself. No good can come from mentioning it.

If you ask a friend for confirmation, you're not going to get it. And then if you do, it's even worse.

There will be a fleeting satisfaction knowing you were right which will immediately give way to a desperate need for more information. And this won't make anything better. Plus, now you know that the person who doesn't like you has talked about not liking you to other people. Who needs to know that?

Of course everyone reacts differently. Some people respond to not being liked by trying to win people over. I don't have that kind of energy. When I get the feeling someone doesn't like me, I'm relieved. It's one less person I have to worry about alienating.

The problem is, no one ever comes out and says it directly, which leads me to spend hours wondering if my instincts are on target or not and trying to figure it out. This is time I could spend obsessing about other more pressing matters. Like why someone hasn't called.

When it comes to being disliked on first sight, gender plays a part as well. If a man dislikes me on sight, I assume it's because he's not into me and who cares. With a woman, it's more serious. It could be any number of things. The only time being disliked doesn't play out along gender lines is when I'm in a restaurant. Then there's no confusion. Both waiters and waitresses hate me and I know why.

I do understand not wanting to hurt someone's feelings but I've always felt straightforward rejection is far more considerate. I've been rejected plenty of times and the more direct the better. Especially when it comes to relationships. There's something missing? Fine with me. You can't see a future with me? No problem. I can't see a future with me either.

I'd much rather hear that someone doesn't like me because chances are, I don't like him either and at least then we have our mutual dislike in common.

Then again, "I don't like you" is one thing. That I can handle. "I don't like you any more" is another story. Then it gets messy. This means at one point I was liked but now - not so much. What could have happened? There's only one explanation. They got to know me.