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Rethinking Rejection

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Online dating is supposed to make rejection easier, right? Maybe I was misinformed, but I'm pretty sure that's one of the alleged perks. And yet, I find myself rethinking rejection from both sides as I butt heads with the reality that the people on these dating sites -- despite their cheesy headlines, canned photos and borderline offensive pickup lines -- still feel real to me.

For those of you who haven't yet dashed head-on into the online dating fray, there are several different kinds of virtual communication:

First you've got your "winks" (also known as smiles, interests, etc., depending on the site), which let you feel out the interest level of the cutie you just found.

Depending on whether your dating service offers "guided communication," the next step is some kind of icebreaker: you either send each other questions, rate your dating priorities or respond to a short-answer interrogation designed to make sure your profile wasn't, in fact, full of lies.

The last phase is email, an unencumbered mechanism through which your love is supposed to blossom (as long as there aren't too many typos involved) and the two of you can hammer out the details of your first date and subsequent life together.

Along the way, either person can decide to halt the process at anytime. The problem is that once you start actually communicating in almost any way, it gets very tricky to bow out. How is this done gracefully?

"I really enjoyed your digital diatribe on the evils of processed flour, but I think I'm looking for someone with a different and more open-minded outlook on cheeseburgers."

Ok, so that seems pretty cut and dry, but it's not always this simple. The bottom line is that rejection -- whether you're giving it or taking it -- doesnt get any easier, even when you don't have to look the person in the eye while it's happening. It might be simple to click "no thanks" when some skeezeball you've never spoken to wonders over email if you're tired (because you've been running through his mind all day ), but if you've established even an ounce of respect or affection for someone (even over the InterWeb), it's probably not going to go any smoother than it ever did in person.


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