Reflections on Rejection

Posted by in July's Magazine

For some years, principally from around 1986 – 1992, close proximity to the female of the species was a great trial for me. Seriously, I struggled greatly in the presence of women. Initially it was no more than the serial blushing, sweating and stammering you often associate with pimply youths beset by the ravages of onanism, unsightly bum-fluff and a near crippling shyness. But the much-maligned ‘awkward phase’ lingered more than a little too long for my liking.

It wasn’t really until mid-way through university that the vile paralysis loosened its grip. I mean I didn’t become some rampant swordsman overnight. But I could strike up a conversation with a girl without blushing her into the local burns unit. It wouldn’t have taken more than a brief fart on a psychiatrist’s couch to work out I had rejection issues.



The rejection complex didn’t start with unrequited couplings in my head though. Oh no. Grade A rejections came way before then. To this day I can’t go near a Jesus sandal. Not after being encircled by a whole playground and crucified for daring to wear said footwear to school in Primary 4. Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do…actually, scratch that, blight them with a vengeful pox for they are malicious little bullies and I want to see them suffer. Slowly.

Then there was being ostracised by the local youths of my street in the burbs of East Kilbride (actually, East Kilbride is pretty much one big suburb really.  Spotted with triangles of greenery and statues of Dee Hepburn). I say youths to afford them the status of the Jets and the Sharks. The reality was, they were less West Side Story and more Bed Time Story. But the rejection still stung.

My transgression? Failing to properly adhere to regulations during a game of British Bulldogs. In some lesser parishes that was a hanging offence. Thankfully, South Lanarkshire was a veritable oasis of enlightenment and my punishment was the cold shoulder from any future hide ‘n’ seek and/or two-man hunt for a week. I wept copious tears, staining my white and green Adidas crew neck.

Fast-forward to me as a beanpole wrestling with an outsized portfolio in a back staircase at Glasgow School of Art (The Mackintosh Building if you’re a purist). What a little plamf I was back then. To be fair, I secretly knew that I wouldn’t make the cut. Glesga was in its pomp back then fuelled by the fame of Howson, Campbell and Wiszneiwski. It was a tyranny of talent…and self-regard. 

But hey, I secured a berth on the infinitely more prestigious Fine Art MA course in Edinburgh (stick that up your Third Eye Centre, Glasgow!). And within a few years I was robust enough to take on the rejections of any number of fragrant ladies. Although, using the term ‘fragrant ladies’ explains many of those rejections to be honest.

It’s that point in the article where anyone still awake is wondering, where the hell is this going? I’ll tell you: Ramsgate in Kent. For it was there, on a recent jaunt south, I encountered rejection afresh for the first time in many a year – and realised just how potent it can be when it falls into the wrong hands. Specifically, the hands of grubby little political opportunists like Farage et al.

Our cautionary tale started in surreal circumstances. My cousin and I were awaiting a speech in front of a derelict building site by Ramsgate Promenade, to be made by top thesp Brenda Blethyn (a resident champion of local matters). A lovely old couple approached us; both well dressed, seemingly intent on some polite community chitchat. Then the accent was detected and it all went wrong…

Despite imploring her to avoid politics, Lady Wrinklie went into full Daily Mail mode, expressing horror at some anti-English slight she claimed to have suffered around 1980 in Edinburgh. “A 37-year grudge isn’t an accurate reflection of matters north of the Tweed,” I countered. Alas, she followed up with the classic “Why do you Scots want to be ruled by Brussels” trope. Any vestige of restraint was gone.

They’d felt rejected by politics. Been exploited by the lies of a reject (step forward Nigel, their hero, who was doing a “great job” in Brussels). As a result, they’d rejected reason – when my cousin and I quizzed her and her husband on which EU laws they wanted to reject with their vote, they glazed over and made fish sounds. And now they were rejecting my cousin – a Ramsgater (a top town BTW) for 10 years – and me, purely because of our heritage it seemed.    

Brenda kicked off her speech and they drifted away. But it left a bad taste in the mouth. An isolated incident? Probably. Yet on the other hand, look at our public and political discourse as another election hoves into view. I shudder to think how the silent, ill-informed fulminations of the rejected are now dictating the direction of travel in the UK. Maybe it’s time we rejected the cult of rejection.

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