Phi has a worthwhile post on Beta-hatred and Jane Austen. It’s difficult to quote any of it without quoting all of it, but the crux is that in the course of the novel, Elizabeth Bennett rejects the advances of the oafish-but-earnest Mr Collins. When Elizabeth finds out that her friend is going to marry Collins, she hits the roof and all but threatens to disown her friend. She doesn’t merely reject Collins herself, but rejects the very notion that Collins is worthy or capable of finding happiness with or providing happiness to anyone.

It is, in short, the perfect example of the hatred that women have for men that do not fit a certain charismatic type or exude a certain presence.

I have a few thoughts on the subject, most that I will share here and one unrelated enough that it gets its own post.

What strikes me about the above situation is that it plays muchly on my paranoid fears but doesn’t jibe with my experience.

On the fear front, it’s never been the case that I have asked out two female friends. I was never good at asking out anybody, but this was unofficial policy. My speculation was that if I asked out Girl A and she said no, there was no way in tarnation Girl B would consider going out with me. Why would she stoop to a level below her friend? My assumption is that Girl A and Girl B and Girl C and Girl D sat around talking about me and how pathetic it is that I had this crazy idea that Girl A might go out with me that whatever nascent interest Girl B, C, or D might have had in my dissipated when she had to laugh at me with everyone else due to the social protocols of girl-talk, which can involve nothing if not talking up hot guys and talking down everybody else.

Guys do this. A guy that is dumped by his good friend is not likely to be asked out for a variety of reasons, but one of which is the fear of “sloppy seconds”. To go out with someone that our friend dumped is to suggest that we are worthy of their left-overs. It’s a pretty brutal way to look at it, and I don’t think that it would prevent us from asking out someone that we were really enthralled with, but absent that enthrallment guys do pay attention to these things. Hubert was in a relationship with an attractive young lady who is exactly the type I would have asked out under a lot of circumstances, but since he dumped her (that was the story, anyway), it was never going to happen. What’s funny, though, is that despite all of these gears turning behind our eyes, I don’t think that I would ever denigrate someone for dating someone that I dumped. I was pleased as punch for Tony when he took up with my ex-girlfriend Julie.

So a lot of this can be chalked up to paranoia.

Paranoia aside, though, the above behavior of Elizabeth Bennett doesn’t really seem to fit. Historically, when I’ve made my interest known to somebody that didn’t reciprocate, they’ve been nothing if not thrilled to see me interested in and/or partnering with someone else. By-and-large, few young ladies that rejected me (after the Original Nine, at any rate) actually wished me any ill. Most of the Original Nine didn’t give me enough care to wish me ill. I suspect most wished me well. Or at the very least wished me out of their hair, which my interest in someone else accomplished pretty nicely.

It’s possible that they were outwardly kind while quietly sabotaging any attempts I made at finding romance and happiness, but that doesn’t entirely square, either. I’ve been the friend and confidant of many (ahem… too many) young ladies in my life. They’re rarely hostile to guys asking them out. They really don’t seem to go out of their way to say awful things about them. There’s no real tactful way to say this, but when they do go out of their way to run-down the guy, he’s often got it coming. Sometimes he’s actually a nice guy, but his dealings with her have brought out the petty and embittered parts of his personality that make his behavior towards her seem manipulative and/or antagonistic.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. I think that most of the above is true because, apart from the Original Nine, I have generally asked out nice and good people. If I went around throwing myself at people that were not that way or if I’d befriended them and listened to them prattle on… well then the story might be different.

So in that vein, it could well be said that Collins’s problem is that he was interested in Bennett in the first place.

Category: Coffeehouse

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10 Responses to The Post-Rejection Conference Call

  1. a_c says:

    Good post. I think it’s easy to fall into the error of thinking that rejection hurts; therefore it must be the product of malicious intent. My own experience, on both sides, is that there’s usually goodwill; at worst, neutrality, on the part of the rejector.

    On the other hand, you gloss over something interesting: notwithstanding the above, there *is* extreme hostility towards the idea of dating someone repugnant, and this extends to hatred of the person involved. Guys will go out of their way to ridicule fat chicks, who have done them no harm except by being female and ugly; girls will do the same for loser guys. It seems that without the rapport that a personal interaction brings (and more cynically the ego-boost that asking out bestows), there is a tendency for hatred of the undesirable of the opposite sex.

  2. Webmaster says:

    My assumption is that Girl A and Girl B and Girl C and Girl D sat around talking about me and how pathetic it is that I had this crazy idea that Girl A might go out with me that whatever nascent interest Girl B, C, or D might have had in my dissipated when she had to laugh at me with everyone else due to the social protocols of girl-talk, which can involve nothing if not talking up hot guys and talking down everybody else.

    Having been in hearing-range of some of these conversations… “girl talk” ranges all over topics, but in terms of discussing guys, you’ve pretty much (alas) hit the nail on the head.

    And of course, I’ve my own experiences with an ex-girlfriend not being even simply content with talking badly of me to her “friends”, but to anyone in earshot and a few times hunting down other girls I had asked out specifically to speak badly of me. Then again, this particular one happens to be insane.

    My guess is that girls do not “let go” of the relationship as often or in the same manner as guys do – part of the whole “let’s be friends” package as well. If they can “just be friends”, then they aren’t the “bad one” even if they did the dumping, but it also gives them the chance to spy on the guy and assert some level of control/ownership in the “relationship.”

  3. ? says:

    A [girl] that is dumped by [a guy’s] good friend is not likely to be asked out for a variety of reasons, but one of which is the fear of “sloppy seconds”.

    At least, I think that’s what you meant.

    Funny, though, this is exactly how I go together with Mrs. ?. I was sharing a house with the outgoing boyfriend when he broke up with her, so I knew when she became “available” (valuable intel, by the way. A girl’s attachment status was the kind of thing that, by the time I could figure it out, the answer would probably be disappointing.) I had had my eye on her for a while; not in an obsessive way, but more like she was on my list of girls who seemed like reasonable candidates if their current situations didn’t pan out.

    It helped that the ex didn’t badmouth her. It helped too, in reference to the “sloppy seconds” concern, that the context was such that I was reasonably sure he hadn’t slept with her.

  4. Peter says:

    Back in the mid-1990’s, a woman who had just LJBF’ed me must’ve felt sorry for what she had done, because she introduced me to an available co-worker of hers. This second woman was quite a character; she basically threw herself at me, in a way I thought happened only in fiction, and after less than a month dropped me like a hot potato.

  5. econoholic says:

    Yes, but…
    Surely you have noticed that Jane Austen holds a special place in the hearts of most women who have picked it up. Pride and Prejudice is quite often a young lady’s favorite novel, and I think it has to have something to do with an identification with the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings.

    Now this doesn’t mean *all* of the thoughts and feelings resonate with all readers, but it suggests that any one thought of Miss Bennett is more likely to be an accurate depiction of what goes on in womens’ heads than something that (say) I would make up.

    If I were to critique Phi in his post a bit though, I would say this isn’t really about women per se.

    Hierarchies are way too clearly defined in a “sloppy seconds” situation with either gender. Miss Bennett is probably behaving like a woman, but she is also behaving like a human. The exception that Trumwill points out here and the one Phi mentions here in the comments don’t disprove that (in my opinion). These aren’t hard and fast rules, just human leanings.

  6. trumwill says:


    I’m not arguing against the notion that hierarchy is important or that people don’t want to take on somebody that was just rejected by a peer. In fact, what I was trying to get at in the first part is that one of the two things that seemed hollow about the premise is that Charlotte agreed to marry Collins after he was so thoroughly rejected by Bennett. Then the other odd thing was Bennett’s insistance that since Collins was not good enough for her that he should not be good enough for anybody and anyone that thinks otherwise is unworthy of her friendship.

    Scenario that seems odd: Beta risks being disowned by Alpha by dating Gamma, who Alpha rejected.

    Scenario that seems more likely: Beta refuses to date Gamma because Alpha rejected Gamma.

    Scenario that seems odd: Beta commits to Gamma despite Alpha’s thorough rejection of Gamma.

    Scenario that seems more likely: Beta dates Gamma, but then dumps Gamma when Alpha expresses disapproval.

    Scenario that seems odd: Alpha disowns Beta for dating Gamma.

    Scenario that seems more likely: Alpha expresses pity and condescension towards Beta. Maybe talks about Beta and Gamma behind Beta’s back.

    Scenario that also seems more likely: Alpha enjoys having a leg-up on Beta. Alpha is relieved at no longer having Gamma’s unwanted attentions.

    This all assumes that Gamma is not actively dangerous to Beta. I suppose at the upper echelon of things, dating the wrong person – even if they are not physically dangerous – could be socially toxic. That sort of thing matters a lot in high school, but I expect better of it in adulthood. And honestly I see better.

    This also assumes that Alpha places zero (or negative) value on the affections of Gamma. If Alpha enjoys having Gamma’s attentions despite (or because of) not wanting to or being able to reciprocate, Alpha could feel that something has been lost in all this.

  7. trumwill says:


    I guess it makes sense that the sex thing would be of greater import. For me the question would be… “Who ended it? And why?”

  8. Becky says:

    I see it as a different way. If you asked out my friend and she said no, I wouldn’t reject you just b/c she rejected you — I would most likely do it b/c you chose her first and I don’t care for being a consolation prize. It might also depend on how much time has passed in between.

    For Pride, I didn’t have the same impression of the story, but maybe it comes down to peoples’ different interpretations of the same thing. I think it was more that Elizabeth was shocked and then saddened that her friend Charlotte was so desperate to marry him — even Charlotte admits that she’s doing it just to get out of her parents’ house and he would be good enough to her. Elizabeth just felt that marriage was more about passion and love than just settling for companionship. I never got the impression she threatened to end the friendship, esp. since she goes to visit them just a couple of months later for about six weeks.

  9. trumwill says:


    I think that you’re right. But you’d also be right by removing “of the opposite sex”. When I look back at my younger years, the popular girls that were way out of my league were usually as nice to me as anyone else that didn’t really exist on their radar. There were of course exceptions, but I got it ten times worse from guys. That being said, it was the appraisal of girls that probably stung more. When me and my friends run people down, it’s more typically other guys.

    On the other hand, it doesn’t take a long perusal of Half Sigma to see “undesirable” women denigrated pretty rough and hard for their undesirability. And I’m sure the inverse exists on some female blogs. But I think that’s more a matter of criteria. Guys use different criteria to criticize girls than they do when criticizing guys or than girls do when criticizing girls. The same goes the other way, too. A different dynamic, but the same sort of sorting out.

  10. trumwill says:

    Becky, I know what you mean. I remember a separate case of a girl that ex-roomie Hubert never dated but who had this weird fascination with him. She and I sort of had a flirty thing with the potential for more, but it was obvious to me that whatever she and I might develop, at that point he had a bigger part of her and that was something that I simply couldn’t accept. Then again, had she been interested in almost any of my other friends, it might not have been quite as much an issue. At the time, my thinking was sort of along the lines that anyone more interested in him than me was obviously somewhere short of mentally sound. He and I weren’t on good terms at the time, despite our ostensible friendship.

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