I used to apply this particular metaphor to people.
I’m sure you know about phrases that start with, “There are two kinds of people in the world…”
Well, mine went a little something like this:
There are two kinds of people in the world: WALL-Es and EVEs.
This classification came from the Pixar movie WALL-E. For those of you unfamiliar with the film, all you need to know about it in order to understand my point is that the plot revolved around the unreturned affections a robot named WALL-E had for a more advanced (i.e., prettier) robot named EVE.
When I made that metaphor, I was, in essence, boiling down people into two types: the type who has been consistently rejected by potential love interests and the type who has been doing the rejecting.
In my mind, I always felt that a person who has suffered through rejection knows what it’s like to feel at their lowest. That made them, I believed, ten times more likely to be empathetic toward another person in a similar situation. There’s an understanding you get for another person’s sorrows if you’ve been down in the dumps yourself.
Anyways, what I want to say today is that I was extremely fucking naive.
First of all, you should never classify an entire population of people into two groups with any degree of seriousness.
Second of all, as a frequent recipient of rejection during my high school and college years, I was perceiving the world from a place of extreme subjectivity.
Recently, events in my life have made me realize how messed up my views on rejection were.
I’ll expand on that in a sec.
First, some backstory.
I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, so I’m not going to name names. The only thing of consequence that pertains to my epiphany is the fact that I had some romantic advances made towards me.
Basically, I got flirted with.
This is a RARE occurrence for me. I’m a homebody by nature, and I’m not exactly a looker.
Anyways, it happened, and since I’m normally pretty obtuse when it comes to these things at the best of times, I was caught off guard when it occurred. Several compliments had already been sent my way before I realized that I was being low-key romanced.
Once I did realize what was going on, I knew I had to set matters straight. I was not interested in the guy in that capacity, and I had to let him know without hurting his feelings.
And that’s when I found out that the only method of rejecting people that I thought comfortable was saying I was already dating somebody else.
Before I get into the massive realizations and stuff, I’ll just say that the dude I rejected was totally chill. He’d had no idea I was seeing someone, and didn’t seem to hold my rejecting him against me the way I had worried he would.
But afterwards, I kept thinking about the situation, distress about the whole thing festering in my brain.
Two questions kept me awake at night:
- Why had I needed to say that I was with someone else in order to more comfortably reject someone?
- And why did I feel guilty in the first place for not having feelings for another person?
The first question is a rather unfortunate byproduct of the second. Because you see, I think society and pop culture and stuff has taught us over time that not reciprocating feelings for somebody else is equivalent to hurting them.
Persons who go through unrequited love are considered “victims,” and if there is a “victim,” that means that the other person in the equation is an “oppressor,” “abuser,” or “perpetrator.”
In actuality, we shouldn’t have that mindset at all.
We all have our own feelings, and our feelings are no one’s responsibility except our own.
Now, I’m not advocating a mass wave of inconsiderateness. I’m not saying that at all.
What I am saying is that we need to stop having “bad guys” when it comes to romantic rejection.
It is no one’s fault if they don’t like another person. Feeling guilty about not liking another person is kind of like feeling guilty for not liking a specific food.
When I had to let down someone, I was forced to essentially say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t be interested in you in that way because I am currently interested in another person” because that was kinder than saying “I’m just not interested in being with you in a romantic capacity.”
See what I’m saying here?
I had to label myself as someone else’s girlfriend instead of just saying, “Nah, brah, I’m not looking for that right now.”
I had to do this so I didn’t feel like a terrible person.
Expressing your interest in another person is a brave thing to do, and it can put you in an emotionally vulnerable place. But just because you put yourself out there, does not mean that a person who rejects you is a villain.
Thinking of rejection in this manner can lead to outraged, yet misplaced, righteousness on the part of the person getting rejected.
Having been a WALL-E, I know it’s sometimes easier to think that someone doesn’t like you because of outside circumstances instead of your looks, personality, or habits.
But my sense of self-worth shouldn’t be valued as greater than another person’s.
If you like someone and they don’t like you back, it is nobody’s fault. It sucks to feel rejected, but it is nobody’s fault. Not yours, not theirs.
And if you find yourself in a position where you have to reject someone, don’t hesitate to be honest, but also don’t hesitate to be kind.
WALL-E and EVE ended up together, but I think we should all remember that life is not a Disney movie.
4 thoughts on “The WALL-E Syndrome: The Toxicity of Current Perspectives on Romantic Rejection”
That’s a really interesting perspective. I’d never really thought about why we feel compelled to “cushion the blow.” Definite food for thought. I too, invent an other to make a rejection feel possible. It seems impossible to say “sorry, not interested.”
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I think it’s partially a good thing to feel sorry for who you’re rejecting, but I don’t think it’s good for the rejected person to perpetuate that guilt.
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Yeah I really agree with you- having been on both sides of the aisle- there’s not really any “bad guy” when it comes to rejection (unless people haven’t been honest about their feelings/led you on). Most of the time, it’s just not gelling for one party, and that’s no one’s fault. I feel like it’s hard not to feel bad for the rejected party, but that doesn’t actually mean they’ve been wronged by the person doing the rejecting.
It’s just too easy to want to blame a person on both sides.
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