Season 1 of Rejected ends with a classic story of rejection, with a big political twist: a man decides to divorce his wife in order to be with the woman he loves, and ends up punished for it by the Communist Party. That man is my father, and this is his story.
MARIA: Heeeello listeners, how you doing ? Happy… Val… I can’t do it, sorry. But welcome to episode nine of Rejected. This is a very special one. Not because of Valentine’s Day, but because it marks the first anniversary of this podcast.
[Alien-like happy birthday song]
Yep, I know, I can’t believe it either. Please, keep singing. A year ago I was launching the teaser for what became a monthly dose of funny and healthy rejection. And this is very special for me because even I’m surprised that we’re here today. I’m very grateful for everyone who’s been involved with Rejected so far, whether you’ve championed this show or been on it. And I’m sooo excited for what’s coming this year. Which I shouldn’t really tell you about yet. Maybe… God, I’m terrible at secrets.
But I can tell you about two of the exciting things. One is the Rejected Hotline. Which is a mobile number you can call to tell your story of rejection. It goes straight to voicemail, so don’t worry, you won’t have to have an actual conversation with me or some underpaid employee in a call center in India. Just wait for the beep and tell your story. I promise I will listen to all of them, and I’ll never call you back or give away your number or text you. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? You can find the number on therejectedpodcast.com/hotline so please please please fill that voicemail with stories.
The second exciting announcement is a person. On the last episode, I spoke to three therapists about why relationships break down around Christmas. And I really enjoyed speaking with Luisa, I found her very insightful and funny and I felt we had great chemistry. Which is why I’ve asked her to become the show’s therapist. And she said yes! I will be consulting with her from now on on most episodes and we’ll try to give you guys a therapist’s view on rejection. In fact, there will be a follow-up to this episode, a part two, if you will, which will include a little conversation about what you’re about to hear soon. So yaaaay for having Luisa on the show!
And actually there’s a third announcement about a book giveaway, but you will have to listen all the way to the end for that.
Because now it’s time to get to the good stuff. I want to open today’s show with a look back at the first episode. Remember, when I put my good friend Catalin through a slightly awkward conversation about how he rejected me a few years ago? If you remember, or if you haven’t listened to it yet, a while after he rejected me he started going out with a girl from my group of friends. They dated for about a year, and they eventually broke up because he couldn’t handle the constant rejection coming from her. Let me refresh your memory.
[Extract from Episode 1 – Just Friends]
MARIA: Who rejected who at the end of that?
CATALIN: Well I did but only because she made a point of rejecting me at least once a month I think on the 10th or 11th of the month she wouldn't break up with me.
MARIA: Yeah. That kind of rejection. But when they broke up, the weirdest things happened. This girl and I started hanging out. A lot. We quickly became best friends and we still are, to this day, even though we live in different countries now. And I was really worried about her hearing that conversation because… they’d never had it. She had no idea how he felt about their relationship, and suddenly all of that was made public. And it was kind of bad. But it turns out, that episode had a way bigger impact than expected, which made me feel really good about doing this show. So a year later, you get to hear from her.
A: It was really hard for me because I've been living with this idea that I was the victim in the relationship, and I was hurting a lot and I felt betrayed… and I felt he hasn't treated me right. And just listening to that stuff made me realise that I used to be a total bitch and so immature and then it made me feel so bad and so sorry. And it just brought up all sorts of memories and feelings and it was such a whirlwind.
M: But that's good!
A: Yeah… now! But at the time it was a real bitch.
M: I'm sorry. I’m sorry.
A: So anyway…
M: So like the the show went went online and then you listened to it and I was really worried about your reaction to it. Because of things that you'd never heard before…
M: And it was very honest… And I was also worried about him and what it will do to your relationship because you didn't really have a relationship at the time. You just kind of ignored each other and it was awkward.
A: Yeah, it was really awkward. Everytime we saw each other it was like ‘hey’ – ‘hi, how are you?’ – ‘good, you?’ – ‘good’, lalala. But then after listening to your podcast I remember I wrote to you and said that it made me feel really bad and I remember apologising for what I did to you then. And how stupid and immature I was. And then I wrote to him on Facebook and said ‘hey I just listened to Maria’s podcast and just wanted to say I'm sorry for being so immature’ and then we had this really good talk and sort of had closure. Finally.
M: Yay! Haha.
A: After I don’t know how many years, six, seven?
A: So it was good it was really really good and now we see each other pretty often and we talk and it's normal and nice. It feels just like things are just back on track. No resentments, no hard feelings, just kind of letting it go and just moving on.
M: Nice! I've noticed. Like, I remember when I last saw all of you as a group and you would normally not even make eye contact and this time you were cracking jokes and stuff. Fuck yeah, that's progress!
A: Yeah, it was really good. So you did a really good thing.
M: Yay, I have a purpose in life!
A: Yeah you do.
M: Oh, I have a question! Remember when he said on the podcast that you used to break up with him once a month like on the 10th or 11th of the month you would break up with him and I thought that's the most insane thing anyone's ever done to someone they loved. Why why did you do that?
A: I think it was even more often than that actually.
M: More often than once a month? Holy shit, what’s wrong with you?
A: Like every two weeks? And it's true because he was always surrounded by girls and I was so insanely jealous and so in love with him and I just wanted constant reassurance. I wanted him to show me that he loves me. Because he wasn't this really sort of kind, affectionate person all the time and I needed that. I wanted that. And I was trying to get that by forcing him to admit that loves me and wants to be with me.
M: You made him fight for it.
A: I mean I had this crazy idea what I was doing was normal and that he wasn't really mindful of my feelings that didn't love me and I’m so ashamed of it now.
M: It's fine I think all of us do it when we're in our early 20s…
A: Yeah I was twenty-one or twenty-two, I don’t remember. But it was good for me. It’s taught me never to do that again. And it's because of that that I now have no relationship, I mean that and the relationship after him, of course. Yes, I learned a lot and now I know what not to do.
M: Mmm-hmm, don't break up every two weeks.
A: Yes. And don't say to someone you love I don't love you anymore and I don't want to be with you anymore when it's clear that what you want is just more affection. You just haveto say ‘hey, come and give me a hug’. Baby.
M: So who should I do next? Which ex should I do next? I mean on the podcast not have sex with them, haha.
A: You mean one of my exes? Oh, that’s tough. Uhm… maybe we should do one of yours.
M: Oh god no. No no no no no no no no…
MARIA: I know what you’re thinking. I should rebrand myself as a friendship rekindling expert. Right? So you know, if you wanna find out what happened with an ex, send me their deets and I’ll get them to spill the beans on the show. And then you can stop whining about whatever you think they’ve done to you and actually be friends.
But this is important for me. Because it proves that we can get over rejection if we’re open, and honest and kind to each other. And it sets the tone for the rest of this episode. Since it’s Valentine’s Day, and this is Rejected, today’s show is all about kindness. Whether it’s giving someone the time and chance to understand why they’re being rejected, or just finding better ways to end a loving relationship, or even… never having to have endings again.
You’ll hear all about this from my guest today, who is similarly as fascinated as I am with rejection and break-ups. But on a whole new level. She is an accomplished comedian, a broadcaster, a musician… she's toured a series of comedy shows on relationships, including the famous Endinburgh Fringe. Last year she wrote a very funny and insightful book called ‘Is Monogamy Dead’, and this year she’s got her own podcast called The Break-up Monologues. We met at the Southwark Playhouse on a Tuesday night over tea and hot chocolate and talked about how her worst rejection kind of fuelled her comedy and writing and how she feels about relationships and break-ups after everything she’s learned.
My rejected ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rosie Wilby.
M: I really liked your book. I felt really honest stories
R: Thank you! Well, yeah, I mean obviously the book and the new podcast all come from a whole body of work about love and relationships which really started back in 2009 with a show called ‘The Science of Sex’ which then I didn't know it was going to be the beginning of a trilogy, of which obviously the middle part was ‘Is Monogamy Dead’, which became the title of the book. And then the final part was all about breakups because, you know ,that makes sense. If we're gonna have a trilogy about love and relationships you begin with a show about attraction and the initial fancying of people and those initial heady stages of lust, and then you look at the thornier questions associated with long-term commitment, and then you think about breakups. And I think breakups are so interesting in our society now because we have all as weird language around breakups. From the sort of less compassionate ones like ghosting and breadcrumbing and things like that, to this sort of more compassionate ideas like conscious uncoupling which, were it not for the associations with Gwyneth Paltrow, I think, you know, a lot of people I know quite liked the idea of it but just think the phrase itself sounds a little bit…
M: Pretentious, yeah.
R: Yeah, Hollywood.
M: Until you mentioned it in your book and my first reaction was the same, like, ugh, conscious uncoupling, but it made sense when you talked about it. We do need that after a significant relationship. You can't just never speak to that person again.
R: I think it's pretty horrible if you do. I think it compounds the sense of loss. I think you're probably more likely to stay angry for a longer time. I mean, it really depends. If that person did something really terrible then and maybe you're right to cut them out. But I think if it's one of those break-ups where it's just that the relationship has run out of steam and both people are aware and conscious of that, and kind of both want to move forward in some way… then I think maintaining some kind of closeness and connection, almost a sense of family, is a really good thing and healthy thing to do.
M: But it's an unpopular thing to do, isn't it? I've been judged for doing that.
R: Oh really?
M: You’re friends with your ex, what’s wrong with you? You’re not over them?! And I just thought we were never supposed to be together in the first place and that's run out of steam.
R: And actually maybe you were meant to be friends.
M: Yeah, exactly.
R: Because sometimes I think in our society the assumption is if you connect with somebody and they're of the appropriate gender or sexual orientation, you think ‘oh well, I may as well have sex with them because they're sane and they seem quite nice and they're available’.
M: Exactly! What else am I gonna do, be friends?!
R: Yeah, exactly. We have this idea that friendship is inferior. I talked in the book about this sort of language around love and relationships… So maybe we sometimes get into relationships that aren’t the right ones with people we probably would be really good being friends with so particularly in those instances it's really important to hold onto the friendship afterwards because like we were saying, maybe that was how you were meant to be together in the first place.
M: I'm curious because in your book you've talked about a few of your most meaningful relationships and break-ups, and heartbreak. but there's one that stands out. Sarah.
R: Ah, yes. Well, that’s not her real name. But yes, she's called Sarah in the book. M: M: Yeah. What’s her real name?
M: I was curious… is that the worst rejection you’ve ever had? Or maybe, for the sake of listeners, cause they probably haven't read the book…
R: No, they probably haven't read it… So, I think the relationship I had with Sarah and I write in the bookm I write about it deliberately when it was good. I deliberately write about it throughquite a rose tinted lens, in quite a romanticized way. Particularly when we went to Australia for a trip and I was doing a gig as part of the Mardi Gras Festival. And I had an amazing gig, she had an amazing time cause she used to live there in Sydney and she saw loads of old friends she hadn’t seen for many years and she was kind of free of some of the pressures of work and some of the pressures she had over here in the UK, where she wasn't out to her family. Obviously it was Mardi Gras season in Sydney so everything was super gay there were rainbow flags everywhere and she felt, you know, kind of probably… one of
the few times but I was with her where she was comfortable being being gay. So I suppose of all the shackles were we off on this trip in particular. so I deliberately write about it a bit in a slightly unreal way, cause it was in a sense one of those unreal relationships where there was probably a lot of projection on both sides. And writing each other really really sweet love letters which was a wonderful thing to have experienced. But I suppose there was not that sense of reality of how can we actually be together. Because actually ,the reality in that relationship, because her family didn't accept her being gay, was quite challenging. So I suppose we wanted to
escape from that into our own little fantasy world, and write love notes and have funny fantasy characters that we talked about… Anyway it was very very sweet and cute. But it was almost kind of fantasy-escapism and the surrealism of the relationship was something we didn't deal with as much. I think it was very easy to get caught up in that. So then when the relationship became incredibly challenging, of course, that was that was really difficult and really really sad and a perhaps contributed to why we couldn't in the end salvage a kind of ongoing friendship. Because the relationship had been almost this ghost of an idea of what we were and who we could be together.
[Extract from audiobook]
We spend a blissfully peaceful few days together cushioned away from the outside world eating, reading newspapers, and watching films. ‘You mean everything to me’, she said one evening as we squashed up together on my hopeless sofa. Everything felt back on course. I had righted the ship. But less than 24 hours after she kissed me goodbye an email wormed its way into my universe, like a terrible virus and shattered my sense of calm. The subject line read ‘Pushing and pulling’. I already knew it wasn't going to be good. Words danced about the screen in a seasick sense of unreality. ‘I have been distant and trying to push you into getting rid of me. I think we should recognize the end of our relationship. As hard as that is now.’ This couldn't happen. This undid everything I believed in and was fighting for. Everything that had defined my sense of purpose. This invalidated me. But even I knew that there was a real sense of finality this time. I picked up her toothbrush in carefully and deliberately dropped it into the bin. She was gone and now I was nothing.
R: So yes, I think it was a sad ending in the end because it was a letting go of
something that had been really really lovely. But I suppose this realization that maybe it hadn't even been real in many ways. I mean it is real, but it's also kind of unreal. So yeah, obviously, in the end the breakup was, as far as I saw it, kind of sudden and out of the blue and one-sided. It was an email which I sort of thought, after kind of five years together, going through various stuff together., that to me seemed to kind of brutal…
M: And cold.
R: Yeah, totally. But yeah, I mean, I guess if we'd have just tried to talk it out maybe we'd still be discussing it and negotiating it now. It was very difficult, but at some point maybe someone does need to take action to kind of say how do we get ourselves out of this situation.
M: It sounds like you're grateful and that it was an email.
R: Well, not at a time. Not at all. But I suppose.. yes, ultimately I found a better relationship. But it was a very complex thing to deal with for a very long time. And what I would say is that I didn't really process it and put it away psychologically until I had the full story.
M: Mmhmm. Which happened five years later.
R: Which happened quite a lot later, yeah. So I think… You know, a lot of people say ‘oh no, when someone breaks up with me I don't want a big discussion, I don't want an appraisal, I don't want a breakdown of all my bad points’. Whereas I think I… Maybe not right away, but I think I did want the information about, you know, where are you at, are you with someone else, what is going on, what's happening…
M: I think we owe each other that.
R: Yeah, kind of. So I think the lack of communication can be deadly and it can cause a lot of wandering and confusion and paranoia and you know… Was I wrong? Was I crazy in thinking maybe they already found someone else? All of all of these doubts that we have, you sort of doubt yourself. And you don't want to be doubting yourself when you move forward as a single person or into a new relationship.
M: She doesn't sound very likable.
R: Oh dear. Well, I hope she’s not, you know, completely evil and doesn't seem like a person, because she obviously had some good points and we had a nice relationship that had its good moments for sure. I think she was, at that time, a troubled person who had some difficult challenges in her life. And I think it is tough for people when their family don't accept fully who they are and that kind of thing. So, I mean, we are
not in touch now but I know that she did move on to be in a healthier happier relationship that eventually her family started to accept. So actually she is probably in a better place. But, of course, initially that was quite difficult to know about that.
M: Yeah! It's what you talked about in the book… I found this hilarious and I almost self-fived myself. It was when you talk about how frustrating it is to see your exes become better people after your break-up. Now they’re in a new relationship and the alcoholic you rejected is suddenly not drinking and…
R: Yeah, and the agoraphobic has gone to therapy and is suddenly going out in the world and you're like ‘what?!’
M: You’re welcome!
R: Yeah, exactly. I talk about in the book about my friend Rachael, when we were chatting in the pub and she said ‘oh you know, it's a bit like when you're trying to
loosen the lid on the jar and you’re like I can't open that, and then you pass it on to someone else and you ask them can you open that, and they go yeah it's really easy’. Yeah, but I loosened the lid!
M: But no one acknowledges it!
R: No one acknowledges is. And I want them to know I loosened those lids!
M: Yeah, it's so hard to look back and see all those people become what you wanted them to be when you were with them.
R: Yeah, yeah. Well, I suppose if you want to take it as a compliment in a way… Ha! That they kind of saw the light in what you were trying to hammer home.
M: yeah I mean there is this galvanising power of breakups. And I talked about this on the last episode I did for Christmas with a bunch of therapists, all very talented women who were actually very pro rejection, seeing the good side of it.
M: It was actually Luisa the one who said there's something actually galvanising about rejection because you can become a better person, you can progress, you can suddenly pursue the things you've always been interested in.
R: Yeah, there's almost a sense of renewal. It’s paradoxical, isn't it? That heartbreak, something that makes you feel very sad, would kind of give you that kick to go out and seek out new friends and challenges. And I sort of talked about this idea of breakup energy and how a friend of mine whose partner had left her, she started posting all these exciting new activities on Twitter.
M: But was she doing them?
R: Yeah, she was doing exciting things. Like today I've gone windsurfing, today I've gone skiing now, I'm going off to Australia for the holidays, bye everyone… She was just kind of doing doing lots of really really fun things that she'd never done, and taking on new challenges. You know, new classes and social activities… I think we always attack life with a new vigour after that window of just kind of feeling very
lethargic and in bed listening to sad music and crying… and thinking ‘oh god, really? Why?’. And probably still texting your ex all the time, telling them ‘you must
be wrong and we must meet to talk about this, and you will surely see sense’.
M: I'm a new person!
R: But then after that window when you have that kind of sadness and that inertia, you do start to get out in the world and do stuff, which we don't always feel energised to do in a relationship. I mean that's the paradox, isn't it? Relationships can be wonderful, and very nurturing, but they sometimes can feel safe and cozy and we can cocoon ourselves in and stop challenging ourselves to achieve things and do stuff.
M: Yeah. There’s this scene… I don't know, do watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?
R: I haven't watched that actually, no.
M: Ah… I wonder if this is not a spoiler… There was a scene in one of the last episodes where the main character breaks out of a relationship as she was kind of addicted to love in a way… And she realizes that now she's got all this time to do other things now that she's not obsessing over him and you know what's going on on that relationship she just starts singing about saving the world and all the things you can do. And it is true.
R: Absolutely. There’s suddenly headspace as well. And somehow a physical energy as well.
[Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song]
Without love you can save the world!
Put those hours to good use instead.
Without love you can save the world!
Sing out, branch out, get out of your own head.
M: I like how you address break-ups and you push kindness. And I really admire that, how you don’t… There’s that metaphor of dumping people like empty crisp packets that we don’t refill, just dump. And I really liked how you said that when someone approaches you and tell you that they like you, and even though you might not be interested in them, you won’t push them away, you won’t reject them. You let them befriend you, and get close, and you let that beautiful friendship blossom.
R: Yeah, it's interesting. I don't think I've got any friendships like that at the moment, but certainly in years gone by I have made friends with people who've made it clear that they like me and want something more. And rather than just go like ‘ugh, no, I don’t fancy you, go away’, I've had kind of often had long long friendships with people that wanted morem but I've been pretty clear that let's be friends. But yeah, if you want to hang out with me, let's do it, let's have fun. Let's have a laugh, let's go to the gym, let's play tennis, let's go and have lunch, let's chat… It was one of my friends who sadly I don't see as much now, but you know, I used to try and encourage her to go out and do fun stuff. I encouraged her to join a choir and because she said she wanted to do some singing. And she did and she started really getting on and making new friends in this choir. And that starts from her liking me. And I couldn’t really give her what she was wanting initially but hopefully…
M: A friendship.
R: I gave her other stuff too. And I got stuff from hanging out with her. She came and supported tons of my gigs, and, you know, as friendships do, that's kind of drifted a little bit but we’re still Facebook friends and I occasionally send a message. But I suppose I feel if someone’s got the courage to say to you that they like you, they’re probably worth a little bit of your time.
M: Hear that, listeners?
R: Rather than just go ‘ah, go away, horrible person’. I mean, you know, I guess we can all you can filter, you can tell if someone is a crazy. But I could tell this person with was just a nice decent person. She just didn't happen to be my type in terms of who I would fancy and want to have a sexual relationship with. But she certainly seemed an intelligent, nice person that it was perfectly fine and lovely to hang out with.
M: That's sweet.
R: I think, whoever has too many friends? You know I mean? I kind of find it weird. I guess there was one person I had a brief fling with and I then said I wanted us to be friends and she was like ‘I've got enough friends’. I thought really does anyone
really have enough friends? But even her… We kind of ended up bumping into each other in quite a few times over the years…
M: Where are you friends? I can only count three!
R: Haha. But you know, we hugged and had a laugh, we hadn’t seen each other in a while. I mean really, the only acrimonious breakup is Sarah, as we've discussed. That’ the one person that if I saw her walking down the street I'd be like ‘oh god, what do I do…’
M: What would you do?
R: I mean I don't… I wouldn't run away and hide. But I think it would be more that she wouldn't want to see me.
M: That she would have to face the lying, and all the deceit…
R: Yeah. I don't know (sighs). I think…
M: Well I’ve got a surprise for you. Behind this door…
R: Oh god, noooo. What a terrible thing!
R: But I also think she found it difficult with me because I was doing all this research into sex and love and relationships. I think that it can make you quite annoying in a way, because you start to talk to a lot of relationship therapists and reading a lot of psychology books. I suppose she was worried that I was always gonna outargue her and find a way to sort of almost be intellectually superior to her in our discussion about what we needed to do to fix the relationship. So I can see how that could be quite annoying in some ways.
M: You talk about that in the book, when you did it with Jen. You brought up the idea of polyamory, and I thought ‘god, that must’ve been an uncomfortable conversation’.
R: Well, you know, in the end I've gone back to having a monogamous relationship in a sexual sense at least. But I wanted to address this question of non-monogamy and think about how simultaneous relationships could knit together and work and support a central primary relationship. Because I don't really subscribe to this idea that one person is going to meet all your needs. I think if we all put that much expectation on our partners, it fuels our cycle of serial monogamy, which of course means a breakup every few years or something.
M: But no one sees it like that. Serial monogamy not serial breakups.
R: Yeah, serial monogamy is serial breakups. Let's face it, that is what it means. So yeah, I suppose I wondered if open relationships, polyamory, different way of looking at love and it not necessarily being exclusive to one person at a time would open it up to not necessarily having to break up. I mean, obviously, people who are polyamorous do still break up sometimes. Sometimes things go wrong, but it doesn't put you in that position where you have to break up with somebody just because you like somebody else. Or you've slept with something else. It’s very interesting.
M: So why, and how do poly people break up? Is it easier?
R: Well, I think it is, from the people I've spoken to. Because there's already been a lot of communication about what the relationship is, what the boundaries are. People who I know who've broken up as a poly relationship perhaps because
it's become a non-sexual, or it's become more like a friendship… There's an easier recognition of that change in the relationship different level of embracing it and looking at it. Because there's perhaps just more language and more thinking around those different stages and forms of the relationship. So the people I've spoken to who are polyamorous, they generally have a bit of a different take on breaking up. M: Mhm, maybe then rejection is not that big of a deal in that case?
R: Well it can still be. But an ending a relationship doesn't have to mean an ending of all contact. I think polyamorous people would be more likely to embrace concepts like conscious uncoupling and maintaining a sense of family. I mean, what I would say is well about this idea of conscious uncoupling,which you said at the start that it’s quite popular… I don't think it has been unpopular in the LGBT community, where a lot of these ideas are, if you like, pioneered before the wider straight society sometimes knicks some of our best ideas. ‘These were our ideas, not yours!’ Often you'll find that that new relationship forms and new relationship concepts and ideas have originated in same-sex couples. Things like living apart together, which became a buzzword a few years ago…
M: Yeah, love the idea of that.
R: Yeah, well, lesbians were doing that years before everyone else.
M: This is a bit of a sadistic question.
R: Oh no, really?
M: Because I was thinking about your break-up with Sarah. And how awfu it was and it's on my top list of bad ways people would break up with me. But could you think of a worst way someone would break up with you right now? Something that would top Sarah?
R: Oh my god. I mean, you kind of hear stories… I kind of Google some of the stories like I guess you do too, and I was really surprised to see that as some people have been stood up on Valentine's Day. Which is just the awful, like if you're kind of waiting at a restaurant, expecting a romantic dinner. It must be so humiliating. I suppose because I talk quite openly about relationships and love in my work, it would be quite challenging to me if someone somehow turned the tables and dumped me quite publicly. Yeah, that would be challenging. You know, they flashed a message up at one of my events. While I was on stage to like 100 people or something like when I'm giving my presentation about my book. And suddenly a new slide has been inserted into my powerpoint.
M: I’ve got a question…
M: It's interesting you said you're now in a monogamous relationship, and I was gonna ask about that. After the book, after all that research, even I'm almost convinced I’d try a polyamorous relationship.
R: Well I think the thing is I've kind of redefined monogamy for me and I think
the idea of the book is that monogamy isn't a fixed concept like we think it
might be. And it's very personal, it's not black and white. I was asked an event the other week, would I still be open to being polyamorous and I said, you know, in some ways I am doing something that might be seen as a bit poly because I still have an ongoing friendship with my ex. She came over for lunch the other weekend with me and my partner and the three of us and had lunch and chatted all very friendly. M: And your partner is okay with this?
R: Yes, she's fine with that. I mean, at first she was a bit like ‘oh, you're still…?’ But, you know, that is not a million miles away from what some of the polyamorous people I know would do. But in general they would probably be having sex with more than one person, whereas I'm not so I'm defining monogamy in that sense. But I still have that connection with my ex, so you arguably could say that’s still a relationship of a sort.
M: Yeah, but to me it sounds more like a friendship.
M: Or a family…
R: Exactly. But these things are very nuanced. How do we define them? How do we put these barriers and boundaries between relationship and another?
M: It’s almost like when friends used to ask you, I guess people used to do this when they were very young… I'm your only friend, I’m your only best friend, you can't be friends with other people.
R: It did use to be a bit like that at school, didn’t it? You had one best friend, it was a real hierarchy, there was a real exclusivity about female best friendships.
M: And then if you were seen chatting to another girl it was just the end of it.
R: I mean it was cheating, wasn’t it?
R: And then you had breakups with female friends…
M: Oh god…
R: I don't think I do like rejection. I think renewal is a great thing. But, you see, this is the whole reason I looked into polyamory. I suppose my big question in life is to have new beginnings, do you necessarily have to have endings? Can you not just keep having new beginning, new things flourishing? Why do you other things have to die down?
M: Why does it have to be so linear?
R: Yeah why does it have to be so linear and kind of serial, as opposed to parallel? Why can’t things all flourish and thrive together? I would certainly like to do without deceit and affairs, of betrayal. And rejection is part of life, isn't it? You know we have rejection in our career, obviously, I have rejection in the work that I do, in comedy and performance and writing.
M: How do you deal with that?
R: Sometimes I really feel quite pissed off, actually. Why has that person not replied to my brilliant funding application or brilliant book proposal. I mean, what is wrong with them?
M: Ah, that’s interesting. What’s wrong with them, not me.
R: I know, haha. Well if you're a comedian, you have to… Sometimes obviously you've got to look at your work and go ‘actually, you know, that wasn't up to scratch’. But often I do put good stuff together. And certainly now I've being creating work for this many years I know when I've got something good and when I've got something that still needs more work. So yeah, you have to have some kind of robustness, and certainly being a comedian has given me a bit of a thick skin because you have to kind of get up on stage again after that audience did universally reject you. Not that I’ve been booed off stage or anything, but I’ve definitely had audiences that probably couldn't be that bothered about whether I was there talking to them or not.
M: And does it affect you on the spot?
R: Yeah? Well, yeah. But you have to just kind of just think ‘well, there's another gig tomorrow and I'm gonna be a million times better’. So yes, you have to kind of just get on with it. I suppose I've been relatively thick skinned about about comedy gigs that have gone wrong because you have to be. I do feel a sense of rejection when a reviewer doesn't like a show, particularly if it's a reviewer that has either written nice things about me in the past or is written things about people I like and I think that the reviewer would get my show, and then they don't get it. And it's not so much the rejection of them not liking it, or writing a negative review. I mean, it's funny, I look back at reviews from years ago that I thought were terrible and sometimes they still come up on Google. Because it's always the bad ones that come up. And then sometimes you read them again and you think actually, that wasn't that bad. They were actually quite fair. But at the time you think it's terrible, oh my goodness…
M: Because your emotions are heightened…
R: Yeah. It’s not so much that they've written something critical is the fact that they didn't hear you. They didn't understand what you were actually trying to say.
M: And that’s what happens in relationships as well. ‘But you didn’t get me, that’s not me, the thing you’re rejecting’.
R: Yeah, absolutely.
M: Is there anything in particular that you remember they said about your show?
R: I can't remember… I mean, there's sometimes ridiculous things like one critic once wrote ‘people are laughing, but this is not funny’ and I thought, oh, that doesn’t even make sense. You just hung yourself with your own news thing.
M: Haha. Have you ever rejected someone so bad that they've been devastated? Similar to what Sarah’s done to you.
R: Well sometimes we don't know, do we?
M: That you know of, of course.
R: I mean, yeah, you know, maybe I have and not known. I mean, yes, there have been people I had flings with, like I mentioned, and then I wanted to be friends. She did take it quite badly at the time. Sometimes there are people who want to be involved with events on programming and that kind of thing but I always tried to actually reply to people as much as I possibly can. I actually stopped running a regular comedy nights because I had a policy of always replying to every actor who asked for a slot because it did my head in it when I would email comedy promoters and they just didn't reply. And I thought that's kind of the worst rejection because that's like ghosting. And it was just too much because for a while I ran a fortnightly comedy club and I replied to every single act, even it was to say we totally booked up, I'm really really sorry. I wanted to give them at least a reply. And give them that kind of respect, that I appreciate you taking the time to email me and be interested in playing at my night. But it was actually so much work having to reject all these people. And sometimes when I would try and do it nicely people were pushy. Like there was guy I said I don't have any slots until this date, so I'll be in touch around then. And then I totally forgot about it. And on the date that I said I didn't have any slots until, he just showed up! And I thought ‘oh I didn't mean that you had it on this date, I didn't mean for you to just turn up’. And so I had to put him on stage, but I felt kind of annoyed that he sort of just made this assumption, being quite pushy. Whereas I tried to let him down quite nicely.
M: Was he good at least?
R: He was okay. He wasn't my favorite.
MARIA: So… that was episode 9 of Rejected, Valentine’s Day edition. And I hope this is all the rejection you’re gonna have to deal with today. If you wanna hear more of Rosie, check out her monthly podcast The Break-up Monologues, and her book ‘Is Monogamy Dead’. I actually recommend the audiobook because it genuinely feels like you’re hanging out with her. But if you’d rather read the book, why don’t you write to me your story of rejection, and your address, and I might send you a copy, along with a very nice Rejected postcard and a sticker. For free. Because I’m nice and you deserve it. So write to me at email@example.com, okay?
Thanks again to Rosie and my friend Anduta for being on the show, thanks to my talented friend Paula for creating the awesome illustrations for this episode and the Rejected Hotline. And thank you for listening to Rejected on its one year anniversary. And don’t forget to subscribe, and if you really like what I’m doing here, maybe support me on Patreon for as little as one dollar a month. So I can do fun stuff like upgrade my equipment, and meet more interesting people, and cover the costs of producing this show.
But that’s it for today, see you guys again next week for our therapy hour with Luisa. And in the meantime have a great Valentine’s Day, or Galentine’s Day, or whatever the fuck you’re celebrating. Byeeee!
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