Persistence Without Positive Feedback is More Like Stalking

Oh, the romantic comedy. Boy meets girl, boy pursues girl, girl is hard-set in her ways and doesn’t believe in love, boy continues to pursue girl, eventually girl falls in love and they live happily ever after.

Can we please spend a few moments discussing the fact romance movies have more or less entirely destroyed the concept of “I’m not interested” actually meaning “I’m not interested”?

I’ve discussed this before, but let me just go ahead and revisit this charming situation from Pride & Prejudice when Lizzie refuses a proposal, and the man believes that she is playing hard to get because it’s what all the “fashionable” ladies do.

“You are too hasty, Sir,” she cried. “You forget that I have made no answer. Let me do it without farther loss of time. Accept my thanks for the compliment you are paying me, I am very sensible of the honour of your proposals, but it is impossible for me to do otherwise than decline them.”

“I am not now to learn,” replied Mr. Collins with a formal wave of the hand, “that it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favour; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time. I am therefore by no means discouraged by what you have just said, and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long.”

 No, Mr. Collins. No. This is not happening. For real, this chick does not dig you, and she isn’t just trying to be coy.

Oddly enough, it seems like not much has changed in the past 200 years (and it has been exactly 200 years). Between books, movies, and sitcoms, there seems to be a general belief that persistence wins out in the end. That a woman will change her mind. If you just don’t give up.

Persistence without positive feedback is more like stalking.

Now, I’m not saying that women don’t do this, too – continue to pursue a man even after he states that he isn’t interested. But, being a woman, I can only speak from my own experiences. And let’s be honest, a girl is probably more likely to silently pine for the object of her affection as opposed to standing outside his window with a boom box playing Peter Gabriel.

I just don’t understand why “sorry, not interested” does not seem final to some men. The only thing that will keep them away is if you say “sorry, I’ve got a boyfriend” – like somehow that reason is worth respect, because you have a man already. And obviously the only possible reason you wouldn’t be interested in one man is because you’ve got another one. Obviously. 

Of course, everything would be easier if we were just honest from the start. If the notion of “hard to get” didn’t exist, then people would have no reason not to believe someone else when they say that they aren’t interested. But we don’t live in that world, and clearly we haven’t lived in that world for well over 200 years (if ever that world existed at all). Women mess with men’s heads, men mess with women’s heads, it’s all just a head-messing messy mess. 

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s fun to flirt, it’s fun to be a little coy. The game can be fantastic. But “no means no” is, in fact, true of both emotional and physical confrontations. 

After all, it’s not very fun to be the one standing outside of the window holding up a boom box when the cops show up. 

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