Such a Lonely Word

People talk a lot about honesty and wanting it.

I’m persuaded to think that they’re lying about this.

Perhaps they lie only to themselves and, since that’s as human as pretending that alcohol has no calories, it’s commonplace. Oh wait. That’s the same thing.

At any rate, a friend of mine from long ago posted on Facebook that a girl he liked who said she “wasn’t dating” turned out just not to be dating him. He lamented that he hadn’t learned this line in 40 years. I attempted to defend my gender saying that we don’t want to hurt a guy’s feelings with the honest answer, which could be “ick.” Another commenter said he’d want the honest “ick” so he could learn what to improve on.

The thing is, I think he got the honest “ick” to begin with and didn’t want to hear it.

There’s “ick” on many levels in life, from the color of a shirt, to the taste of avocados, to your best friend’s new boyfriend. And often there’s absolutely no reason for it. Maybe you got sick on bad avocadoes once, maybe it’s just a texture thing. Maybe you secretly think it makes you interesting not to eat avocadoes, gallantly passing on the tableside guacamole with a wry smile.

I’m not sure there really is an honest reason for rejection.

Writers lament that agents and editors don’t give good reasons for rejections. There’s the nearly universal “full client list,” which is really not far off the “I’m not dating right now” response. If the perfect manuscript came along, of course there would be room. More often you get the “not for me,” which is the nicest way they’ve found for saying “ick.” Just I don’t like avocadoes ick, not I wouldn’t rep you if you were the last author on the planet ick.

One hopes, anyway.

That’s the beauty of a little fudging, a gentle dishonesty: you don’t have to elucidate the level of ick. Believe me, I’ve been rejected, too, both as a writer and as a female. The honesty of some of those male rejections left me bruised for years. I didn’t need to know how deep the ick ran.

Because, in the end, it didn’t matter. “Not for me” is really the most honest explanation there is.

(And no, I haven’t heard back from the agent yet. Here I am, sitting by the phone, hoping she meant it when she said she’d call…)

One Reply to “Such a Lonely Word”

  1. You know what’s the worst? “It’s not you. You’re fine. You’re great. You shouldn’t change a thing. It’s just not meant to be.” That’s the worst, because it leaves you without hope. If there’s something concrete you can improve upon – use more commas, brush your teeth more often, keep your hands off those other women, something, anything – then you have reason to believe that you might do better in the future. But if you’ve done the absolute best you can, and still got the big kiss off, then there is nothing left for you but despair. Well, and then setting new goals. Which is probably good. But, still, very sad in the meantime.

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