Yesterday I went to the forest with my boyfriend and a friend. It was still quite early when we arrived which meant was nobody really there, expect for the three of us walking around and exploring the trails. After we had hiked around for a while and had started back in the direction of the car, somebody in the distance started shouting over at us. I didn’t understand what he was shouting in Turkish as he waved his arms in our direction, but it seemed really important. It turns out he wanted a lighter because he was desperate for a smoke: my boyfriend had a lighter so the guy began running comically over to us to get a light.
Following behind the guy who wanted a light approached his girlfriend and their dog. They told us it was their dog’s birthday and they were taking him to the forest for the first time. The dog was really excited and was running all around sniffing everything. The conversation switched to English and we chatted, passing a little small talk. I thought they seemed like fun and interesting people and I thought it was cool how we had come across each other in the otherwise empty forest. As part of our chat, I asked the guy’s girlfriend where she lived. She said it was quite far from Istanbul but she didn’t say where. Even though I don’t know many places in Istanbul, I felt that I wanted to press her further on this to say where exactly she was living because I also live ‘quite far’ from Istanbul. It turned out that she was lived in the next town to where I live, only about 10 minutes away by car, which is very close by in a huge city of 15 million people. In my magical-thinking mind this was one of those ‘meaningful coincidences’, as the forest we were in was completely on the other side of Istanbul, really far away from where we both lived. At this point I said that we ‘should stay in touch’ because we lived close by one another. (Plus, they seemed fun and nice and I have been wanting to meet friends who live close by to us too).
When I invited them to stay in touch with us, they replied enthusiastically saying that would be great. Around this time we continued our walk all together for about 5 minutes until we reached our car and they would continue their walk onwards with their dog. At this point I said it was nice to meet them and I was about to do the swapping telephone numbers thing when I noticed a stiffening in the guy’s girlfriend. It was like she had recoiled or slightly moved away, but it was subtle and momentary. I was aware of the change in body language but I proceeded to ask, ‘Do you want to swap numbers?’ asking the guy’s girlfriend directly. At this point she said in quite a harsh voice, ‘Not numbers. Facebook,’ as if asking for her number had been inappropriate. I was a bit stung by the harshness of her reply but I bumbled on regardless — ‘Okay what’s your Facebook?’ — No response.
I think by this stage everyone was aware that the atmosphere had flipped from warm and fun to peculiar. Her boyfriend then said to break the silence, ‘Here you can add me on Facebook.’ I asked him what name to add and he then said I wouldn’t be able to spell it, so he gave it to my boyfriend instead. — Basically, it took me a lot of bumbling to realise that the girl didn’t want to stay in touch with me/us either by phone or Facebook and also for me to realise that the guy also didn’t seem to want to give his Facebook name to me.
The reason I decided to write about this is because I found the reversal in their warmth and openness to be confusing. I couldn’t understand what had happened in the space of only 5 minutes. One moment they seemed like fun and carefree people who would like to stay in touch with random people they had met in the forest; then, the next moment a shutdown occurred and I got rejected when I moved from empty talk about staying in touch to action regarding it. While I think it’s fine and totally okay for people to say no or to decline offers; it just confuses me when people project an image of themselves ‘open/friendly’ that doesn’t match who they really are ‘guarded/closed.’
If this were just one example of this kind of thing happening to me I probably wouldn’t bother to write about it. The truth is, without exaggeration, that this kind of thing happens to me when I meet and reach out to a new person 9 times out of 10. After reaching out or inviting the person somewhere, in some overt or covert way I will then be rejected by them. For example, if I invite them places to do something with me, they will have a reason to say ‘no.’ If I give them the benefit of the doubt (they could be busy, afterall) and keep inviting them to do different things, they will always have a reason or excuse why they can’t meet. There are different ways this happens; sometimes it’s just straight out ignoring.
I often turn to self-generated philosophies of life to understand this kind of thing. Why does this keep happening to me? (1) Am I attracting people who don’t want to be friends for some kind of metaphysical lesson? (2) Is this just how people are: people ‘pretend’ or fake being warm and open when in reality they are closed and exclusive? (3) Is it just because I am in Turkey and people are closed against meeting new people outside of their established friendship networks? (but this also happened to me outside of Turkey) (4) Is it because I am a bumbling Asperger’s person who doesn’t understand from the beginning that someone doesn’t want to be my friend? (5) Is it because I come across in some way weird for which reason they don’t want to be friends with me? — It could be any of these reasons or a combination.
In response to these repeated rejections I vacillate in terms of how to respond to them: I feel like I need a code of conduct to help me navigate these social let-downs. Of course, I could just shutdown completely myself and stop reaching out to people or inviting them anywhere because in that way I wouldn’t get rejected so often in such confusing ways. However, at the same time I wouldn’t really stand a chance to have more friends in the future — so this does not seem to be the right way forward. The other way to go is to follow up these ‘connections’ regardless; keep inviting people to meet and following up with them, even if they don’t really seem to be warm to it and they keep turning down offers from my side. In this way I invite them half-expecting their rejections, backtracking and cancellations etc. This way seems better but still not ideal — why should you keep inviting people places who don’t put effort back in return? Or at least don’t put any effort in at least once in a while?
I don’t have any answers for dealing with confusing social rejections from people as they turn from warm to cold and open to closed. If you have any advice for me or experience to share let me know if the comments!