The sting of rejection

Here’s a little vignette. It just happened.

I was in a pizzeria, grabbing a slice. I’ve been trying to eat a little healthier, trying to shed a few pounds that I put on in recent months, and trips to the pizza parlor are guilty missteps in my quest.

But that’s not the point.

I was in the men’s room – a dingy, tight little space (don’t pee in New York pizzerias if you can avoid it) – and I felt a tightness in my chest. I recognized the tightness: it’s the tightness of rejection. I was feeling abandoned, rejected, by a woman. Bodily, I felt clenched, tense, on edge. Emotionally, I was angry, bitter. As if I had just that minute been rejected by a woman in whom I was deeply invested.

This hadn’t, to my knowledge, happened.

The feeling was fresh footsteps in the snow, though. Something had just happened – I could feel it. I just didn’t know, couldn’t remember, what it was.

No one rejected me. No one abandoned me.

Some moments passed.

I thought back. I had one conversation earlier in the day that stung just a tiny bit. But this wasn’t it. I knew that. It just wasn’t.

And then, it dawned on me. On my way into the men’s room (less than ninety seconds earlier), I had read an e-mail from “Erica M.” at yeah write, a weekly writing contest. I had just submitted this post as an entry (my first) in their weekly writing round-up.

The e-mail read, in part:

For the purposes of yeah write, personal essays give new perspective on some aspect of life, in which the writer includes dialogue, imagery, characterization, conflict, plot, and setting. Anecdotes, of course, are the little slices of life, be they the traumatic, the joyful or the mundane. You can learn more about yeah write submission guidelines, by visiting how yeah write works.

As written, the post you’ve submitted does not meet this guideline and for this reason, it’s been removed from the grid.

In the men’s room, I re-read my post. “Damn it,” I thought. “My post meets their requirements. It is dialogue. It has imagery. It has characterization. It has conflict. It has plot. Admittedly, setting is a bit obscure. But what do they want?” I had read other posts in their round-up, and while mine was the only one that was sexually explicit, it seemed (to me) to (mostly) fit in. Did they reject me because it was explicit? Because I’m male? What was the issue?

A moment passed. I moved on. This was no big deal. Who cares.

And then came that moment, above, when I noticed that tension in my chest, that bodily sensation of rejection. A sting so sharp I went searching for a cause, and a cause so proximate it seems insane that I had lost it already.

[I don’t contest yeah write’s rejection of my post. They, of course, can do what they wish. I like their contributors, and though I find their layout a bit confusing, I like what they (yeah write) do. With or without me.]

This is my relationship to rejection.

Here, I’d gotten an e-mail from a woman (Erica M.) whom I’ve never met, saying, essentially, “We (I) don’t want what you have to offer.”

And my response – my bodily response – was not unlike that I expect I would feel if V told me to take a hike.

That’s how trauma works: the body responds to one threat, or affront, as it did to some long-ago one that it remembers, ignoring the current context.

And this is how I work: after the body responds, I write.


  1. You rock. And, damn, we are working on clearing up the confusion our layout, but we sometimes get busy rejecting men in pizzeria toilets. Welcome to our tribe; you should fit right in.

  2. I, as part of the existing we, feel we can never have too many men at yeah write. I look forward to more explicit anecdotes for weeks to come.

    1. Sexy pictures? Audio files? Written tributes? Those all help.

      And thanks for asking! (I wish it were possible to put a winking smiley face in parentheses without looking all goofy. But it isn’t.)

          1. I’m not allowed to email people or receive emails from people. What I thought I’d do was wax poetic and have your photo be included in a post. But I’m sure that’d just piss off my husband. Fuck, I can’t win these days.

  3. hmm I wonder why it hit you in the men’s room? is there another story there? haha!
    welcome to yeah write!! was totally entertained by your rejection. 🙂

    1. May my rejections always bring someone somewhere entertainment. Um, I think it was in the men’s room because that’s where I finished reading the e-mail….

  4. I have submitted in the past and this week was encouraged by my editor to put more emotional risk into my posts. I did that and got my first Yeah Write rejection. I was pissed. At who? Dont know. BUt rejection sucks. YOur post helps clarify some of my own feelings about this one. Im glad you regrouped and resubmitted. I just dont have it in me this week. Maybe I expended too much emotion in that frigging blog post?

    1. I’m a little confused, though. I had the sense that it wasn’t exactly a “rejection” kinda thing, that I was rejected because, somehow, I failed to meet the basic, objective criteria, not because I didn’t write good enough. But I’m a little thick….

      1. oh no…its totally that…I didnt meet the criteria either. This was an independent editor who is editing a book for me. Not a Yeah Write editor. does that clear it up? Also take into consideration I am prone to being pissed irrationally at times… Still Im glad you regrouped. I will next week.

  5. I don’t do rejection well, either. Now that I’m off the booze, I eat my feelings, but I’m trying to stop that…no one needs thirty extra pounds.

  6. I enjoyed your post. I *felt* your rejection, and there is a lot of truth in what you wrote in your closing sentence – that’s definitely how trauma works. I’m glad you ignored the old stories in your head and resubmitted your piece.

  7. I got that sort of an email from Flood over at Yeah Write. Yes, the feeling of rejection is so so profound. I wouldn’t have described it very different from you if I were a guy. The last time it happened I was sort of waiting for the email as soon as I had submitted my entry because I knew what was wrong with my entry and I had absolutely no substitute for it. And but I guess soon enough you get the hang of all the guidelines. As I see you are already totally fitting into the yeah write community. I loved your post!

  8. I’m pretty sure that everyone on the grids have gotten a love letter from an editor at some point. Last summer, we made a conscious effort to grow as a community and I know I sweated bullets until my posts came out of moderation. Welcome!

  9. Welcome, welcome. We love our men at YW!!! I spent all last summer going back and forth with that darling Flood, who helped me tremendously. And there was nothing worse than pushing “submit” then waiting for that email to arrive because somehow you knew it would. I know that chest pain like my favorite tee shirt. This was great writing. I, and I’m sure it’s not just me, love explicit and just spent a few minutes navigating around your blog (thoroughly enjoying myself).

  10. Welcome to yeah write. I can tell you that when the grid was moderated (as in you did not appear until you were allowed to appear) I spent many a Tuesday morning trying not to vomit up my breakfast once I hit the submit button. And when I did get my post sent back, though I was not in a pizzeria bathroom, I felt much the same way you did. LOVED what you did with this post and look forward to seeing you on the grid again.

    Also, now I want pizza, so thanks for that.

    1. Here’s the interesting thing. You and several others have mentioned nervousness in anticipation. I didn’t, don’t, won’t feel that. I simply felt rage and betrayal when rejection came. Anyway: thanks for the warm welcome.

    2. Also: this is notthe first time a post of mine has inspired desire, but it is definitely the first time it’s inspired desire for pizza.

  11. I’m right there with you on this one. I am pretty new to Yeah Write and I think I’m 2 for 4 on rejections. The immediate reaction is an elaborate f__k you response. But a few minutes that settles down. I agree hat its a molecular response. Not sure if being man has anything to do with it. I’ve been turned down my male editors and it hurt just as bad.

    1. Yeah, see, the thing is, I never submit my writing anywhere – not for fear of rejection, but because the blog is where I want to publish, not elsewhere. I didn’t think that was what I was doing here, either. Mostly, I just write, and occasionally, I engage with platforms for interacting/sharing with other bloggers. I didn’t even understand there was a possibility I might be “rejected.” Not that that would have stopped me, but it was genuinely surprising.

  12. Love the last sentence… and so glad you keep writing! I, too, am thouroughly enjoying your blog… and yes, there might be some euphemism there too 😉

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