Q: A male friend just tried to booty call me (texting after midnight that he was horny). I’m angry and revolted. I’ve known he’s liked me, thanks to his constant icky comments all over my Facebook photos, even while I was in a serious relationship. I deleted most, thinking he’d get the hint, and after my relationship ended, I hinted further by posting about how in love I still was with my ex. Yet, when I’d call this guy about volunteering we both do, he’d say things like, “I was hoping you wanted a date.” He scheduled a meeting, presumably with other volunteers, but I found myself across a restaurant table from him, alone. My body language conveys my distaste for any involvement with him — crossed arms, jutting chin, etc. I’m upset that he’s never cared that I’m not interested, and I’m ready to end our friendship. Unfortunately, we share work and social circles, so any tension would be noticed right away. Am I being rash?
A: The guy’s style of romancing is right out of Sleeping Beauty: “Hi…oh, sorry…you sound tired…anyway, I was wondering, would it be okay if I stopped over and we had sex?
And how rude that he has yet to accept how uninterested in him you are when you’ve not only left numerous obtuse hints about it on Facebook but used body language to make it perfectly clear. I mean, why would a woman ever cross her arms but to say, “I’m days away from filing a restraining order against you”? And regarding how physically revolting you find him, your chin must have told him so at least six times.
The truth is, men are predisposed to not get it, thanks to what evolutionary psychologist Dr. David Buss, in “The Evolution of Desire,” calls “cognitive biases in sexual mind reading.” This maybe calls to mind a confused psychic in a sex den but actually describes men’s evolved predisposition to make the least costly mating error — which would be overestimating women’s interest (from ambiguous signals like a smile or friendliness) rather than underestimating it. Overestimating it might lead to some embarrassment; underestimating it could mean that generations upon generations of a man’s potential descendants meet their end in an old sock (or whatever men used before there were socks).
Women tend to think kindness and bluntness are mutually exclusive. They’re not. The kindest thing you could’ve done — and the least socially awkward — would’ve been telling this guy, clearly and firmly, from the start, that the tone and quantity of his Facebook comments were a problem. Then, if inappropriate remarks and behavior kept flying, you’d tell him explicitly: “Friendship. Period.” Tell him so now — in the least embarrassing way, in writing. Explain that the text made you feel really upset and disrespected, and add, “I’m going to forget this happened (and hope you will, too).” To stop feeling angry, remind yourself that he most likely didn’t get the message because it wasn’t sent in a way he could understand — which kept him marching clueless doofus-style toward that ever-so-charming “Can’t a friend drop by at midnight for a quickie?”
Q: For my birthday, my 26-year-old girlfriend (of five weeks) gave me an “Alice In Wonderland” decorative plate. I’m a 33-year-old man, and I couldn’t fathom why she thought I’d like it. I simply did NOT want to display that thing but knew she’d expect to see it whenever she came over. Feeling trapped, I gently confessed that it was more her taste than mine and suggested we keep it at her place. She immediately broke up with me. What happened here?
— Sad But Unrepentant
A: A gift for a romantic partner is a way to tell them, “I get who you are.” Apparently, you’re a 78-year-old lady with room in your curio cabinet next to your hatpin collection. Nothing against white rabbits with pocket watches and hookah-smoking caterpillars, but what woman buys this for any man who does not moonlight as a gay British country decorator with a love of whimsy? She may just be wildly clueless, but giving somebody an aggressively wrong gift can be an aggressive act. (Was this some twisted test — maybe to see how moldable you are?) Whatever her reason, this didn’t need to end with the Queen of Hearts yelling, “Off with his head!” (although you’re probably ultimately lucky it did). Gifting gone wrong, like other relationship misfires, is an opportunity to get a better sense of who your partner is and what is right for them. And an emotionally balanced woman could see it that way — bad as she might feel that she’s gotten you a gift that begs for you to reciprocate on her birthday with a Tiffany’s box containing a Peyton Manning bobblehead.
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