Day One Rejection – chatting up a stranger in a coffee shop

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Well, it turns out that the stars collided, the Universe intervened and the self-help Gods came out to test me after I did my intro post to Rejection Therapy yesterday.

They made me start this challenge with the big one: being rejected by a man. My worst nightmare. Although the fact that I imagine men rejecting me every time I see a guy I like means that it’s not so much a nightmare as a virtual reality.

Anyway, I was in a coffee shop when I wrote yesterday’s post. After I’d finished writing I was wasting time on Facebook, when a good-looking man walked in. When I say good-looking, he’s my current version of good looking – scruffy, beardy and intellectual looking.

And it wasn’t the first time I’d seen him.

He’d been at the same coffee shop about three weeks ago, the last time I’d been there, scribbling away on a notepad and in his laptop. He looked clever and serious and I imagined him writing a brilliant book or a screenplay.  He made enough of an impression that I told my friend about him. You should have said hello, she said. I told her that I would never ever in a million years do that.

Now he was back. I had started rejection therapy. It was a sign!

A sign that I should completely and utterly panic and freeze and do nothing.

For four and a half hours – and no I’m not exaggerating – FOUR and a half hours, I nursed cold coffees and pretended to type while trying to get the courage to talk to him. But even though I knew rejection was the name of the game, and that crashing and burning would be a success, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

First there was the actual embarrassment of the act itself – chatting up a stranger. How would I do it?? Just go up to him and say ‘Hello’? And then what? He says ‘hello’ back and there’s silence and I want to die of embarrassment and I walk away?

People in American sitcoms can handle these situations, I can’t.

Then there’s the reality of being rejected by a member of the opposite sex which I find devastating. Even though in reality I know that if he had no interest in me, my life would not be any different to the way it was half an hour earlier, it would feel like a blow, the kind of blow that could get me on a self-doubt spiral for weeks. I’d use his rejection as confirmation of all the stuff I already tell myself about how unattractive I am etc.

All this stuff was going around in my head in between me stirring my coffee and staring at him.

At one point my staring must have been getting obvious because he looked up from his laptop and smiled. I felt embarrassed.   I panicked and looked away. A guy I liked smiled at me and I blanked him. I’m so bad at this stuff!

After another ten minutes he looked up again, smiled again, and this time I smiled back. I felt my cheeks burn.

It’s such a tiny thing – this smiling business – but it feels to me that I may as well be naked bar a t-shirt that says ‘I’m single and lonely, please like me! Do you like me? I bet you don’t like me, Of course you don’t like me…’ It’s so exposing.

It’s a miracle I’ve ever had a boyfriend ever.

Then disaster struck. A friend joined him.  It was harder if there was two of them. I kicked myself. Then he must have told his friend about the weirdo that had been staring at him all afternoon because the friend turned around to look at me. He smiled. I smiled. We all smiled.

Now time was ticking. I was due at the launch of a new book at 6.30, and it was now gone past 6.10pm. I texted my friend.

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But I really couldn’t do it. I could pose naked, do stand up and do public speaking but I couldn’t go up to an actual man I liked. So at 6.20 I left the coffee shop and kicked myself for being such a coward.

I got the book launch, downed a glass of warm prossecco and stood at the edge of the room hating myself. My PR friend, who was organising the event, came to say hello and I told her what had happened. She said that if I’d seen him there twice before I was sure to see him again. But I knew that life doesn’t work like that. I’d already been given a second chance, which is more than most people get. I had to act now. I told her I had to go back to the coffee shop.

And so that, ladies and gentleman is what I did. I WENT BACK. I walked up to his table with my heart pounding and with no idea of what I was going to say. Before  I knew it, I was standing right next to him. He looked up. His friend looked up. The world stopped. It was surreal. My mind froze.

Then his friend, quick as a flash, before I even said anything, announced: ‘I was just leaving, would you like my seat?’

I said ‘yes’ and sat down. Mr Cutie looked a bit surprised but didn’t miss a beat. He asked: ‘Can I get you a coffee?’ I said yes. He went to the counter, came back and started talking to me like it was the most normal thing on earth.

He held out his hand and told me his name which sounded Greek. So I asked him if he was Greek, and he said yes. He asked me if I spoke Greek and I said no. He asked me if I’d been there and I said yes. I started babbling about being in Athens once and it being very hot. My hand was shaking drinking the coffee.

I then started prattling on about a Greek friend I had at university who used to have this Greek phrase for when it was raining that translated as ‘We are not made of sugar, we will not melt.’ – ie it’s only rain, get over it. He laughed. He knew it.

Then we were properly chatting.

Turns out he wasn’t a great author, but a PHD student studying something to do with film and he divides his time between London and Greece. He was interesting and very easy to talk to.

Then the coffee shop was closing and he asked if I’d like to get a glass of wine. I told him I would.

And that was that – we spent the next four hours in a wine bar talking about anything and everything.

I told him what I was doing and that I’d come up to him as part of rejection therapy.

‘But I didn’t reject you.’ he said. Which was true. So I asked the guy at the bar if he could give us two glasses of wine for free- he said he’d love to but he’d get into trouble with his manager. No worries. Rejection accomplished. It could not have hurt less.

Over wine he told me that he had noticed me and that he would have kicked himself for not having the courage to talk to me but he was terrible at approaching women. He said that he was stunned when I appeared at his table and that when he was queuing for coffee his heart was beating like crazy. It didn’t seem that way to me.

When he walked me to the tube (actually on to the platform! What a gent!) he asked if he could see me again and I said yes. He told me that me coming up to him was the loveliest thing to happen to him in a long time. That made me happy.

Triumphant and slightly tipsy I phoned my friend, who was stunned. ‘Is it really that easy?’ she asked. ‘Just walk up to a guy in a coffee shop and start talking?’ Well, yes and no. It was simple but it wasn’t easy. It was almost up there with the stand up comedy on the fear factor – but just like the stand-up, it made me feel like anything is possible. I’ll keep you posted on date number two.

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