Harassment? All Signs Point to Yes

Harassment? All Signs Point to Yes

Harassment? All Signs Point to Yes

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 2 2001 11:30 PM

Harassment? All Signs Point to Yes

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Dear Prudence,
I have been with my current employer for a few years. About six months ago, my boss's attitude toward me started to change. He went to see a psychic, who told him he would eventually settle down with a younger woman who has a passion for food and music. Now that could be 60 percent of the women in this office. However, he started telling me that the two of us "were meant to be together" and making weird advances. He now stares at me in a longing way and has started bringing me small gifts. I am getting looks from others in the office. I even changed my style of dress, to be more conservative, and tried to stay out of his way. He is a lot older (about 40 years), and I am really uncomfortable. I am now looking for another job. Until I get one, how do I tell him to stop without putting my job in jeopardy? I can't afford to be unemployed.

—Grossed Out

Dear Gross,
Now there's a line Prudie hasn't heard ... a psychic, no less, told him of your joint destiny. This geezer—theoretically of an age to be your grandfather—is having a severe, if delayed, midlife crisis. Until you find a new job, Prudie suggests you deal with this drama head on. Tell him 1) his psychic must have been mistaken because your crystal ball shows no future for the two of you; 2) you are not interested in a relationship; and 3) for the good of the workplace, the attentions and gifts must stop. Tell him you have no wish to hurt his feelings, but you want to be professional and do your job to the best of your ability—minus the gifts. Should you have a boyfriend, referring to him might be useful. IF you should be fired for spurning your boss's attentions, there is legal recourse. Being pressured to put out to keep your job is against the law.

—Prudie, rightfully

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Dear Prudence,
I am writing in regard to my high-school sweetheart whom I have kept in contact with for the last 10 years. We have always been friends and occasionally lovers. I am a married woman who has cheated on my husband with this man. He has nothing to lose (or so I thought), whereas I have everything to lose. Last week I received a phone call at work from his NEW WIFE. You see, I didn't even know he was dating anyone as he often tells me he loves me and wants me to come visit him. He lives a long way away, and we made a mutual decision that we can't be together permanently. I didn't even know that this woman existed, let alone about his getting married. I was reprimanded by the new wife and told I would not be allowed to talk to him anymore. I've heard nothing since this phone call from my high-school honey and wonder what I should do now. I've dialed the phone several times just to ask, "What the hell were you thinking?" But my pride always makes me hang up. Maybe I should send them a wedding gift (ha-ha)! I feel betrayed since he had no reason to keep this from me as he knows I am married. Any thoughts?

—Sincerely,
Cheating Idiot

Dear Cheat,
Well, yes, Prudie does have a few thoughts. Your "high-school honey" was trying to have his cake and eat it, too, but the new wife put a stop to his having all those calories. You didn't get advance notice of his marriage because he feared that would louse up the situation with you ... and you didn't hear from him after because the bride read him the riot act. Recede gracefully, stay away from the phone, and take the lesson this humiliation has to offer: You had a lot to lose, and he was just entertaining himself. Perhaps you can improve things at home by redistributing some of the old boyfriend's, uh, cake.

—Prudie, tutorially

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Dear Prudie
I recently quit my job after only a year. I left mainly because my boss is the bitch from hell. I am still very bitter that she treated her staff terribly, so you know my bias. I am in a dilemma. She is doing illegal things, i.e., copyright infringement on various software copies (not just one, but over 100 copies). I never felt great about it. Part of me wants to report her, and the other part of me just wants to forget about it and let life go on. Am I just feeling evil, or is it OK to report people who commit illegal acts? I think I would feel like a fourth-grade snitch. What do you think is the proper thing to do?

—Pondering

Dear Pon,
Alas, no easy answers from Prudie today. Self-examination is necessary on this one because motive is important here. Is it to "get" her or to be a good citizen and put an end to illegal practices? You might ask yourself this question: If you liked this person, would you still consider turning her in? If you do choose to make trouble for your old boss, make sure you are comfortable with the reasoning underlying the choice. And if you don't decide to get even for her rotten treatment of subordinates, along with the copyright infringement, it's OK to feel evil about her. She sounds like one of those people who makes you wonder where the Hezbollah is when you need them.

—Prudie, pensively

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Dear Pru,
My ex-husband and I divorced in 1989. He died last year. How in the world do I refer to him in conversations? Late ex-husband? Ex-late husband? It's an odd question, but rather awkward! Thanks.

—Puzzled

Dear Puz,
Prudie cannot help but free-associate. She is thinking, relax ... unlax ... Ex-lax. But to be serious, you can say whatever suits you in a given situation. He is late and he is ex. If anyone should be seriously interested in your history, you could say that you were married and divorced and that the gentleman died some years later.

—Prudie, linguistically