If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Right?
That is the mantra we are taught as children and teenagers.
It is the story arc for almost any romantic comedy ever made – Boy meets Girl. Girl rejects boy. Boy pesters girl in evermore inventive ways until she gives in and they live happily ever after. It’s been called the ‘stalking for love’ trope.
But maybe there’s a time and place for perseverance, and it’s not when asking out a girl – that is what one aunt is teaching her teenage nephew in the US.
Her message gained extra potency after a school shooting which killed 10 in Santa Fe, Texas, USA on Friday. The mother of 16-year old victim Shana Fisher told media her daughter had “endured four months of problems” from the shooter and publicly rejected him days before the attack.
Many on social media are now debating how girls can respond to repeated romantic approaches or harassment from boys or men, and how boys should cope with unrequited love.
In a tweet shared almost 130,000 times, @adigoesswimming explained a conversation she had with her nephew after a girl turned him down.
“You know what do to now, right?” she asked him.
“I know, I know, keep trying,” he replied.
“No. Leave her alone. She gave you an answer,” his aunt responded.
@adigoesswimming then explained her nephew was shocked, and no-one had ever told him that before. “Teach. Your. Boys,” she concluded.
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Her story chimed a chord with many, who shared their own experiences and views about respecting boundaries, especially with young love.
“We should downplay high school crushes, which leave such an imprint but are the product of very unformed ideas about character, romance, love, and life’s possibilities as well as brains that aren’t done growing,” commented L J Platt.
Chris Csernica suggested the problem may be that boys are generally taught that failure is not an option, but when applied to asking girls out, this advice is flawed.
Suzanne Kco added movies and books coaching boys ‘not to give up’ are part of the problem, and that people who turn away romantic advances need to be respected.
Some parents shared their experience of teaching their sons to accept rejection.
“I am having this conversation with my son, who is extraordinarily shy. It’s important he learns rejection is not necessarily about him, and it’s really none of his business why a young woman would turn him down,” wrote @JTRJules
Maro Virino added, “I am raising my three boys to hear and accept No from girls without reacting nastily to rejection.”
“I asked my boys about this, up to the “do you know what to do now” point. I was glad to hear “find different girl” from both of them. They expanded, if she doesn’t want to go out with you, move on. I’m not a complete failure as a parent,” wrote Ayerene Isme.
However, some warned against such a cut-and-dry approach, pointing out times when a bit of perseverance led to a happy ending.
“I know someone who asked a young lady out, she said no. He asked her again, she said no. But he decided to ask her one more time. She said yes. Now they’ve been married for 30 years,” commented @PrezMisterSix.
Nick added, “My mum rejected my dad at first then eventually gave him a chance that turned into marriage. Persistence isn’t always a bad thing if done politely”, while advising “I would still suggest that boys not react nastily or be disrespectful to rejection.”