Q: I’m a 40-something married woman with an unwanted admirer. Last year, an 80ish married man, a member of my literary club, called me, confessed his passion for me, and begged me to have a romantic dinner with him. I reluctantly made plans to meet “Romeold” for coffee, intending to let him down gently. He took this “date” as a green light to e-mail me a lurid “fictional” story — a detailed blueprint for the affair he wanted us to have. Horrified, I canceled, apologized for any confusion, and made it clear that no affair was going to happen. He replied with a terse “So be it!” I avoided him all year, missing many club meetings. Last month, I ran into him at one. I was civil, but left him to chat with others. Afterward, he e-mailed a “special invite” to a critique group he’s started at his house. When I didn’t reply, he sent another invite with a bizarre faux-pology. I haven’t replied, and feel I can no longer attend the meetings due to his fixation on me. How can I get it through Romeold’s thick, balding skull that I’m totally uninterested and to please leave me alone?
A: The elderly horndog can be kind of cute — when he’s working the senior moment angle and asking all the girls in the bar, “Say, do I come here often?” It’s a whole lot less cute when the horndog isn’t some random old man but somebody you know socially; somebody who sent you “a detailed blueprint” of exactly what he’d like to do to you with his veiny, wandering hands. Never mind that this attention was utterly unprompted by you, that you’re both married, and that he’s twice your age, meaning that the movie stud he most closely resembles is Yoda.
Where you went wrong is in not shutting the guy down right away. You don’t make a date with a guy to tell him you don’t want to date him. You especially don’t when the guy starts hitting on you at defcon “Let’s play Doctor Zhivago!” Chances are, you didn’t respond as you did because you’re some naive bunny, but because you’re a woman. Women evolved to be the nurturers and peacemakers of the species, making them prone to shove aside their best interest in favor of preserving people’s feelings.
True to form — as a woman — you even apologized for causing “any confusion.” By doing what, existing in his eyeline? It’s not like you plopped into his lap in an I Heart Grandpa t-shirt and asked for an, um, oral history (starting in his boyhood years, back when families subscribed to the Dead Sea Scrolls instead of the newspaper).
Don’t be “civil” to this creepus. Don’t be anything to him — unless he persists in approaching you or contacting you, in which case, you should be the person who says “Don’t contact me, don’t speak to me, don’t come anywhere near me.” In the future, resolve that your safety and comfort level will take precedence over not wanting to hurt or disappoint people or seem rude or unsympathetic. There’s a time to respect your elders and a time to recognize one of them for the dirty old masher he is. Yeah, sure, there’s all the “Do not go gentle into that good night” stuff he’s been reading, but I’m pretty sure the rest of that isn’t “Get her alone after lit crit group and blurt out, ‘Say, young lady, wanna see if I’m wrinkled all over?’”
Q: A woman I met somewhat recently admitted she was “head over heels” for me. Because I like to get to know a person before contemplating anything romantic, I said we should be friends first, take it slow, and see where it goes. She agreed, but ends conversations by calling me “sweet pea” or “sweetheart,” making me suspect she isn’t okay with taking it slow.
A: It’s sometimes what people don’t include in their requests for advice that’s the essential detail. It took me three e-mails to pull it out of you — the answer to my question, “Are you attracted to her?” Your reply: “I like her as a person but nothing more.” Well, she’s a girl, not an acorn you store up in case it’s a long winter. If you aren’t into somebody who’s into you, that’s what she needs to know — not that you want to “take it slow” (because with a little time, she could grow a new head and body and become exactly your type?). As for how this woman ends conversations, you won’t have to fret about what “sweetpea” really means once you help her get a sense of what you really meant by “taking it slow”: True love waits. But nowhere near as long as “couldn’t be less attracted to you.”
© 2010 Amy Alkon, all rights reserved.