Day One Rejection – chatting up a stranger in a coffee shop

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 11.30.20


Well, it turns out that the stars collided, the Universe intervened and the self-help Gods came out to test me after I did my intro post to Rejection Therapy yesterday.

They made me start this challenge with the big one: being rejected by a man. My worst nightmare. Although the fact that I imagine men rejecting me every time I see a guy I like means that it’s not so much a nightmare as a virtual reality.

Anyway, I was in a coffee shop when I wrote yesterday’s post. After I’d finished writing I was wasting time on Facebook, when a good-looking man walked in. When I say good-looking, he’s my current version of good looking – scruffy, beardy and intellectual looking.

And it wasn’t the first time I’d seen him.

He’d been at the same coffee shop about three weeks ago, the last time I’d been there, scribbling away on a notepad and in his laptop. He looked clever and serious and I imagined him writing a brilliant book or a screenplay.  He made enough of an impression that I told my friend about him. You should have said hello, she said. I told her that I would never ever in a million years do that.

Now he was back. I had started rejection therapy. It was a sign!

A sign that I should completely and utterly panic and freeze and do nothing.

For four and a half hours – and no I’m not exaggerating – FOUR and a half hours, I nursed cold coffees and pretended to type while trying to get the courage to talk to him. But even though I knew rejection was the name of the game, and that crashing and burning would be a success, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

First there was the actual embarrassment of the act itself – chatting up a stranger. How would I do it?? Just go up to him and say ‘Hello’? And then what? He says ‘hello’ back and there’s silence and I want to die of embarrassment and I walk away?

People in American sitcoms can handle these situations, I can’t.

Then there’s the reality of being rejected by a member of the opposite sex which I find devastating. Even though in reality I know that if he had no interest in me, my life would not be any different to the way it was half an hour earlier, it would feel like a blow, the kind of blow that could get me on a self-doubt spiral for weeks. I’d use his rejection as confirmation of all the stuff I already tell myself about how unattractive I am etc.

All this stuff was going around in my head in between me stirring my coffee and staring at him.

At one point my staring must have been getting obvious because he looked up from his laptop and smiled. I felt embarrassed.   I panicked and looked away. A guy I liked smiled at me and I blanked him. I’m so bad at this stuff!

After another ten minutes he looked up again, smiled again, and this time I smiled back. I felt my cheeks burn.

It’s such a tiny thing – this smiling business – but it feels to me that I may as well be naked bar a t-shirt that says ‘I’m single and lonely, please like me! Do you like me? I bet you don’t like me, Of course you don’t like me…’ It’s so exposing.

It’s a miracle I’ve ever had a boyfriend ever.

Then disaster struck. A friend joined him.  It was harder if there was two of them. I kicked myself. Then he must have told his friend about the weirdo that had been staring at him all afternoon because the friend turned around to look at me. He smiled. I smiled. We all smiled.

Now time was ticking. I was due at the launch of a new book at 6.30, and it was now gone past 6.10pm. I texted my friend.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 11.55.22

But I really couldn’t do it. I could pose naked, do stand up and do public speaking but I couldn’t go up to an actual man I liked. So at 6.20 I left the coffee shop and kicked myself for being such a coward.

I got the book launch, downed a glass of warm prossecco and stood at the edge of the room hating myself. My PR friend, who was organising the event, came to say hello and I told her what had happened. She said that if I’d seen him there twice before I was sure to see him again. But I knew that life doesn’t work like that. I’d already been given a second chance, which is more than most people get. I had to act now. I told her I had to go back to the coffee shop.

And so that, ladies and gentleman is what I did. I WENT BACK. I walked up to his table with my heart pounding and with no idea of what I was going to say. Before  I knew it, I was standing right next to him. He looked up. His friend looked up. The world stopped. It was surreal. My mind froze.

Then his friend, quick as a flash, before I even said anything, announced: ‘I was just leaving, would you like my seat?’

I said ‘yes’ and sat down. Mr Cutie looked a bit surprised but didn’t miss a beat. He asked: ‘Can I get you a coffee?’ I said yes. He went to the counter, came back and started talking to me like it was the most normal thing on earth.

He held out his hand and told me his name which sounded Greek. So I asked him if he was Greek, and he said yes. He asked me if I spoke Greek and I said no. He asked me if I’d been there and I said yes. I started babbling about being in Athens once and it being very hot. My hand was shaking drinking the coffee.

I then started prattling on about a Greek friend I had at university who used to have this Greek phrase for when it was raining that translated as ‘We are not made of sugar, we will not melt.’ – ie it’s only rain, get over it. He laughed. He knew it.

Then we were properly chatting.

Turns out he wasn’t a great author, but a PHD student studying something to do with film and he divides his time between London and Greece. He was interesting and very easy to talk to.

Then the coffee shop was closing and he asked if I’d like to get a glass of wine. I told him I would.

And that was that – we spent the next four hours in a wine bar talking about anything and everything.

I told him what I was doing and that I’d come up to him as part of rejection therapy.

‘But I didn’t reject you.’ he said. Which was true. So I asked the guy at the bar if he could give us two glasses of wine for free- he said he’d love to but he’d get into trouble with his manager. No worries. Rejection accomplished. It could not have hurt less.

Over wine he told me that he had noticed me and that he would have kicked himself for not having the courage to talk to me but he was terrible at approaching women. He said that he was stunned when I appeared at his table and that when he was queuing for coffee his heart was beating like crazy. It didn’t seem that way to me.

When he walked me to the tube (actually on to the platform! What a gent!) he asked if he could see me again and I said yes. He told me that me coming up to him was the loveliest thing to happen to him in a long time. That made me happy.

Triumphant and slightly tipsy I phoned my friend, who was stunned. ‘Is it really that easy?’ she asked. ‘Just walk up to a guy in a coffee shop and start talking?’ Well, yes and no. It was simple but it wasn’t easy. It was almost up there with the stand up comedy on the fear factor – but just like the stand-up, it made me feel like anything is possible. I’ll keep you posted on date number two.

74 thoughts on “Day One Rejection – chatting up a stranger in a coffee shop

  1. Alice Graves

    Love it! Another great blog Marianne. Does the fact that you are blogging about these challenging situations make you more determined to overcome your own fears?

  2. Rhona Mercer

    Marianne, hello! Just stumbled across this on Facebook and had to say hi as it’s so brilliant! Can’t wait for next instalment. Hope you’re well xxx

  3. Marianne Cantwell (@FreeRangeHumans)

    THIS IS BRILLIANT! Smiled so much through this post. And this line I think sums it up:

    “Over wine he told me that he had noticed me and that he would have kicked himself for not having the courage to talk to me but he was terrible at approaching women. He said that he was stunned when I appeared at his table and that when he was queuing for coffee his heart was beating like crazy. It didn’t seem that way to me.”

    So often we think we’re definitely going to get rejected by the person who looks like they have no interest but they only look like they have no interest because they are afraid of getting rejected (cue my entire theory of English social interactions).

    Love that you did this, look forward to the rest.

    1. Marianne Power

      marianne, thank you. You’re exactly right about his reaction – I’m always too busy thinking that people are rejecting me to ever think that the could be just as scared and lacking in confidence and defensive as me. Let me know next time you’re in the UK, would be lovely to get that coffee. Where are you now? Any ideas for other things to do?

      1. Marianne Cantwell (@FreeRangeHumans)

        Thanks Marianne, I’d love to when I’m back in May. Am in Mauritius now (sounds exotic, but it’s where my Mum’s from!). Ideas for more rejections… have you watched Jia Jiang’s 100 days of rejection video? Sweet guy, saw him speak at an event the other year, he had to come up with 100 so I’m sure there’s some gems in there!

  4. charlotte

    that’s really romantic! look forward to your next date… I should really give it a go!
    Charlotte xx

  5. Darlene

    Good for you! This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Reminds me of the time I asked a customer out on a date. Turned out he was gay and in a relationship with one of my other customers. Felt a bit embarrassed – especially since I had no idea he was gay or dating David. But it’s a good story. Now.

  6. Adrian Vincent


    Well done Marianne 🙂

    I always remember an old housemate complaining one day that a guy smiled at her in a queue in the post office, but didn’t do anything about it, like come over and say ‘Hi’. But you did! The girl! Well done you!!!

    1. Marianne Power

      YAY, THANKS Adrian. It’s nut how such a tiny thing can seem like such a big thing. You really are the coolest cheerleader, thank you. See you for the big day on Saturday x

  7. Penny

    This blog post made me cry… So brave. I am sad that I would not have the courage to do that. And isn’t it sad that he was feeling the same way? We all have self doubt… how on earth can we rid ourselves of it?

  8. mrsgold70

    Hooray! Good on you! My heart was pounding just reading your post!!!
    Do you know that men suffers fear of rejection a lot more than most people think? Pride is one of Many men’s weakness you know. It is one of those things… I am happy for you.

  9. Karen Wallace-Jones

    It’s stories like these that make me love the universe! Delighted for you, Maza! You are one ballsy lady!
    You must keep us all updated….

  10. lonestarsky

    What an awesome story! And you really are brave, I’m not sure I’d ever have the guts to approach a good looking man like that (although the fact that I have a boyfriend at the moment, thankfully rules out situations like this…). It just goes to show how fear is in the mind, and how we miss out on so many experiences because of that fear.

    Also, I wanted to mention that I read the Pam Grout book you recommended. I did the first exercise (ask for a blessing) and within 48 hours I had won second prize in a short story comp, and received an unexpected £50 from my mother. It’s really made me wonder…..

  11. Lisa

    Ahhh I felt all nervous for you when reading that! I’m soo chuffed you went back and spoke to him 🙂 High five!!!!! X

  12. Michelle Bunt

    By the way, day 1 of my rejection therapy has started, and I have convinced 2 of my flatmates to join in. Today I asked a stranger if I could take her photograph and was rejected.

  13. Sandra Kirley

    What a brilliant blog! As a single parent with not much social life and a complete and utter cold fear of rejection, this has given me some hope. And I might just try and follow your example. Not that this would happen to me of course ( my coffee shop man would probably turn out to be married, or a psycho, or both!). But what a great story! And good luck with date no. 2!!

    1. Marianne Power

      Sandra, thank you so much. The Greek could yet turn out to be all sorts of things, but I’m just chuffed I did something so scary and that he didn’t tell me to sod off. Please do follow my example and keep me posted?

  14. Monika Kajtar

    Marianne, I love your blog, and I think so far this is my absolute favourite post. 😉 I found your blog yesterday, read through to the end of the Secret book section in one sit, and now I’m finishing the rest. You are such a great writer, your stories are gripping, funny – and I recognise my own life in every other paragraph. 🙂 Thanks for all the fun. 😀

    1. Marianne Power

      Monika, this is such a great compliment – thank you so much. It’s really wonderful to have new readers, please spread the word and keep in touch. Thanks for giving me such a nice message to start the day with. Have a lovely weekend!

  15. Kathryn Cassidy

    O M Flippin G… this is amazing Marianne. What an incedible woman you are. Well done. Keep me posted! xx

  16. Simon

    Reading this crying. What a post. Can’t work out what I’m more interested in now, more rejection trials or date#2. It’s an interesting dilemma what to do when trying to get rejected and just the opposite happens. How far do you have to go to stick to your challenge? So glad you returned to the coffee shop. What a stroke of genius. Spent the day wondering what to get rejected at. Lovely read. All the best luck.

  17. Mary

    I didn’t have time to comment when I read this blog post the other day but can I just say, fair play! As someone who is a little too practised in avoiding rejection, I love this… Keep up the good work – I’m off to find a hot guy of my own to not reject me!

  18. Edmund Wong

    Honey. Your life sounds like an american comedy/drama series waiting for an Emmy to drop on you. God, I am writing scripts for these and sell it to HBO to replace the long awaited Sex and the City (UK version) and your girl friend ie Rebecca. Don and I can be the gay couple that comes in with the cameo. Trust me. If you write your memoirs like this, your life is ending up on one of those series I will be following every week. Go Marianne!!!!

    1. Marianne Power Post author

      Ah, Edmund, thank you! You always know the right thing to say. I don’t feel like an HBO series right now, but maybe when I look back on this I’ll realise it’s all part of the bigger picture, sure I will. Love to you xx

  19. Divorced Kat

    YES! Once in awhile I have done stuff like this and it almost never backfires. Why do we scare ourselves so much in the first place?!
    Good for you, girl. Even if the second date is crap, keep the high of this success story with you. 🙂


Leave a Reply to Lucie Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *