A while it was fashionable for scientists to pointlessly collect together the amount of time we spent doing regular things into a comically large amount of time (in the hypothetical situation that we would do those things back to back). ‘Did you know you spend cumulatively eight years in the bath?!’ newspapers cried, in a bid for the ‘wacky humour’ that they inexplicably covet.
The scientists covered most of the basic things: eating, sleeping, weeing, having sex. But they missed out one key activity: the amount of time we spend being rejected.
We face it trying to get into university, trying to get a job, trying to find someone other than our mum who will love us and, horrifically, even in really banal things like finding a home or getting your offspring into a school where people don’t stab each other.
A friend of mine had three interviews before she succeeded at getting a room to rent in a shared flat. It made me think: At what point did trying to find a double room that you are paying over the odds for in a standard flat in Mile End become an activity where you could become rejected? When did people start interviewing for something that is a basic human right?
Look into society further and rejection is everywhere. The rejectors love to reject the rejected and then in another situation they become the rejected themselves. It’s a twisted variation on the circle of life.
What are the consequences of this rant that I have gathered together? Well one consequence is that in the UK we’ve become a nation obsessed with rejection. If you want some proof of this wildly journalistic hyperbole just look at the most watched shows on TV in our time (a sensible indicator, of course). They are all about some poor sod trying their best to: be a pop star/ hold onto their celebrity status/ get a top job sucking up to Alan Sugar’s potato head. Trying, but more importantly: failing and being rejected.
Millions watch, week after week, to experience the thrill of seeing people get rejected. Want to be a singer? No, you’re shit. Are you a celebrity? No. You’re shit and get out of the jungle. Could you be the next big business mind? Nah, you’re just another suit-wearing, shit-munching pen snaffler: you’re fired. Even the ones who win walk a fine tabloid-strewn line between being accepted and rejected - leading them usually to a massive self-conscious coke habit and a natural spot on the This Morning sofa.
I’m not sure where it started. I’m not sure when it will end. I’m not sure whether it’s a sign of our bleak times or part of the universal human condition. I’m not sure whether I just made the whole thing up to make my column sound better. It could be the last one.
Maybe all this rejection is why we are a nation of shoppers and comfort-seeking consumers even though the whole country agrees that were all in monumental debt. Anyway, I’m not Jean Baudrillard, the late celebrated philosopher of consumerism, so I’m going to stop that point there.
Searching rejection on the internet (as you do when you are writing a column on it) there’s a whole shitheap of advice and study of it. Apparently social rejection of the kind Mark Zuckerberg experienced is enough to make you an internet billionaire. The advice on dealing with rejection is all a bit PSE lesson for me: ‘Understand that anyone can be rejected’ ‘Understand that ongoing feelings of sorrow are self-delusions’ and so on and so forth.
My advice on the topic of rejection is this: actively seek rejection just for the fun of it. Maybe draw up a list of activities you can do to look rejection square in its metaphorical eyes (which would probably be cold and black). Highlights of my own rejection bucket list are: trying to forge a secondary career as a hand model, completing a course of hot yoga without passing out and attempting to find a secret society to join, but hey, everyone’s different.
Just think of all the things you could get rejected for: Planning permission in Afghanistan, applying for a Coutts account with a starting deposit of £0.75p, getting a book about sellotape published, getting a senior railcard on your 35th birthday, applying to study biochemistry at Oxford with only one Physical Education GCSE, flying the plane to France on which you should be a passenger. There’s loads: the world is your rejector.
Worst case scenario: you get arrested. Best case scenario: you become an internet millionaire.