Mantalk: How to handle rejection like a man

Mantalk: How to handle rejection like a man. Photo | Photosearch

What you need to know:

Rejection stinks. It means someone has taken a long hard look at you and was like, ‘No thanks.’ 

Her name was Sharon. Because getting heartbroken by a bland Susan, or a picayune Mary, or a tasteless MaryAnn is just pure carelessness.

Sharon was short, about this high, and I still remember the pickup line I used to seal her firmly in my Balenciaga box:

“Sharon, how tall are you?”

“I’m about 4 foot 11…” she said.

“Oh great! You’ll fit perfectly into my life.”

Then she broke into a deep grunt, like a pirate with stage 4 throat cancer. The kind of laugh that tells you, you hit the bull’s eye. By the way, men, feel free to use the pickup line. It works.

She had nice legs too. And that chief defining attribute of a certified Kenyan lady heartbreaker: She had the forehead. Didn’t matter. Copious episodes of “El Cuerpo del Deseo” made me feel like a Spanish matador oozing malandro charm. In short, I was in love. On account of her forehead, our heads would bump into each other—probably the Lord trying to knock sense into me—but it wouldn’t be romantic if it made sense, would it? We would get married, have a few babies called Ty and Kly—yes, Ty and Kly—and settle in the woods. I had my life planned out. Hand to God.

And then she did that very Kenyan thing that Kenyan ladies like to do. She said:

“I need space.”

Space? What do you mean you need space? Okay fine, we live in a bedsitter but we can move out? In fact, I was thinking about moving out? Please don’t go? You can have my bank password. Babe? Baby? Please, listen to yourself. You can’t leave me. I’ll shave. Everything. Everywhere. This bedsitter would be empty—okay not so empty—but not as full without you. Is it the bedsitter? Is it the man? Pathetic.

Suffice to say, my pleas were fleas in her ear. Therein lies the first lesson of heartbreaks: don’t grovel.

I sunk into my emotional wheelchair, with a nasty weeping gash over my heart. She broke me real bad. I’m telling you, brother. I almost shaved my signature locks. I was this close. This close. 

Takes a man to admit that, I think. And here’s the thing about stories, if you don’t own yours, someone else will take liberties with it. They’ll even say you shaved your head (you didn’t) or you became a Mormon (you didn’t) or you contemplated becoming a priest (okay you did, but nobody has to know).

Rejection man. It does things to you.

And you see, I am one of those happy-go-lucky guys. I traded a full body weight for a perfect smile. I was pissed. I had never been rejected before. Oi. Rejection stinks. It means someone has taken a long hard look at you and was like, “No thanks.” I canceled all women. Hand to God.

Anyone over thirty knows this; in the immediate blast radius, heartbreaks can cause temporary insanity. So, I went on a quest to find my tribe of heartbroken men, you know, misery loves company. Voila! 

The second lesson: quit the pity party. “Oga urudi sokoni!” my friends would say, while drowning in the embrace of their women. Someone advised me that the best way to get over someone was to get under someone. But I had already cancelled women, remember?

Look, there is a reason Jesus stayed single for life. The son of a man, knew (knows?) something we don’t, giving the other gender a wide berth. The son of a carpenter can handle nails but not a broken heart? But I get it, JC. I get it.

I had a hole in my house, and one in my soul.

It’s like broken glass, you know? You can piece it together, but the cracks will always be there. 

It hurt like a mother-…, brother.

The strangest part was, that there was no build-up. No signs. The earth did not shake. The air didn’t crackle. There was no sound of footsteps approaching through the forest. It hit like an onrushing bus. 

This heartbreak is forever tattooed on your brain, and heart. You go with it everywhere. It’s there when you are saying hi to your mother. It pees next to you in the urinary. It is the elephant in the room when you go to a restaurant and order your favourite Americano, and the waiter asks for your order; before turning to it and taking its order too. It sucks, man. You live with the kind of hatred only love can understand.  

Final lesson: down the road, it will all look frivolous. So put that rope down. Especially, that revenge you are contemplating. Not worth it. Trust me, holes heal. Cracks fill. Rejection is the price you pay to be a full human being. That’s the stiff learning curve you go through to get your, well, shit straight. Or perhaps it’s easy to direct the film once everyone’s watched it.

Eventually, we all break. 

The question—may be the only question that matters—is whether or not you’re able to use the pain and the heartbreak as fuel. Feel that pain. Feel all of it. This whole process is why there is an Otile Brown in the first place. Sometimes, the thing that ties you down sets you free. So treat yourself to some chapati and mbuzi, that rare 3am booty call or that long-lost ex.

Rejection is not for the weak of heart. It's like KDF boot camp or a top boy for the mob; if you're not cut out for it, if you don't have that essential thing inside, it will eat you alive. It’s an enclave, a place where it seems no one quite has the authority to tell the children when it’s time for bed. And rejection doesn't just require simple cojones, either. It requires the devotion of a monk, the aloofness of a politician, the doggedness of a field general, the patience of a pine tree. Everything, the Buddha says, ultimately ends: time, distance, or death takes it all away; and if we are not wary, we end up creeping through the lonely streets with our eyes staring hungrily into other eyes and seeing the same hunger there. Brother, by all means, follow your heart but take your brains with you.

Take it from me, I know all about the emptiness of loss, I know that happiness dwells in the shadow of pain. Maybe now, you’ll start ruminating on life as opposed to fulminating against it.  

Now that you’ve read my rejection story, I’d love to read yours. Mail me. Tweet me. Even if you are the one dating Sharon. Especially if you are the one dating Sharon.


[email protected] @eddyashioya 


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