I was asked not to write about politics, so I’m forced to shift my focus to the only other thing I have any real experience in: being turned down by beautiful men and women.

If I could offer everyone interested in dating (but mostly straight men) one piece of advice, it would be this: learn to politely accept a rejection. I ask a lot of people out. Most of them say no. This isn’t really surprising; I’m an average looking guy with no particular charisma beyond being funny and supportive of my partners. No, the surprising thing is that I like getting turned down. I like knowing upfront what is and isn’t on the table. I like knowing I’ve taken the necessary action. I expect to get turned down later today and frankly I’m kind of looking forward to it.

Too often, people (mostly men) allow their feelings to grow out of control by building idealized fantasies of someone they barely know. I once decided I was going to marry a girl after sitting behind her on a two-hour flight. If you have never done this, you are a liar. Developing intense feelings for someone before you start seeing them romantically is (and I mean this in the nicest way possible) incredibly stupid. You grow into love with another person; it’s a mutual act. If you’re five steps ahead when you let them know you’re interested then your relationship has a serious problem before it starts.

The solution is simple: ask out anyone you want to immediately after you recognize you like the person. People (again, mostly straight men) are horrified of rejection. I really don’t understand this. Do you know what happens when someone rejects you? Nothing. You feel sad for an hour, and then you go get frozen yogurt with your best friend. The only way rejection can actually hurt you is if you’ve let those feelings fester for too long. If you’ve created a world in your mind before taking the first step to make it real, then rejection becomes an internal apocalypse instead of a mildly uncomfortable conversation. Why? Why do we do this? It’s needlessly painful, not to mention delusional. In real life, the person you like isn’t that special, and frankly neither are you. Stop wasting time and see if (s)he’s interested. If (s)he is, great! If (s)he’s not, nothing in the world could matter less than whether or not someone feels like dating you. Attraction is random and stupid; the laws of probability and evolution are not picking on you.

Amazing things can happen when you open yourself up to possibilities beyond “I want a relationship with you and nothing else will cut it, so I’m just going to sit on my hands until my feelings explode out of me in an unhealthy way.” Yes, my shoot-from-the-hip asking out policy led me to my first real relationship last summer, but just as important is what I found because I didn’t worry too much about being rejected. There was a girl I tried to ask out in Café 100 who told me about an experimental theatre troupe she was in; I haven’t missed one of their shows since. Four of my closest friends are people that I briefly dated, or people I asked out who then proceeded to turn me down or date me and dump me. People (almost exclusively straight men) constantly complain about being “friend-zoned.” Well, y’all are morons, because the friend zone is awesome; do you know how many friends I have now? Most importantly, I don’t live in constant worry over whether some cute person will share my feelings because I skip that step.

I like the guy my friend says I’d be good for? Asked. Wasn’t feeling it. Well, time to do some homework.

I think I’d be good with the cute girl in my ethics class? Asked. No thanks. Okay, where am I going for dinner?

At a certain point, it becomes easier to accept rejection than to deal with someone saying yes. When somebody else is shutting a door, that’s easy; you gave it your best shot. When the door stays open and there are infinite opportunities to make stupid mistakes on the other side…well that’s an entirely different rabbit hole and I don’t have time to talk about it.

So, to anyone reading this article (but quite especially heterosexual men), go ask out that cute person you’ve had your eye on. (S)he said no? Just say the magic words: “Okay, I just wanted to ask,” and then go do something productive with the hours you won’t waste obsessing. The Young Pope is great, maybe watch that. At least now you know, and you’re still the same cool, valuable person you were a second ago. (S)he said yes? Wow…I don’t really know how to help you there…good luck, kid. You’re gonna need it.

This article was written by Alec Petsche. Click here to see more of Alec’s work.