I am a university student, and a few months ago I met the fiance of an acquaintance at a social event. He was friendly and seemed like a nice guy. I didn't think anything of our encounter, but he soon found out my phone number and friended me on a networking site. A red flag went up when I got his first instant message, but I talked to him and was cautiously friendly. He told me how interesting I was and asked me personal questions. Over the weeks his texts and instant messages, which I only rarely responded to, became uncomfortably frequent, so I told him that I respected his fiancee and thought his behavior was inappropriate. He was shocked and emphatically assured me that I had nothing to worry about and that he just really enjoyed meeting me. He then told me he couldn't wait to see me again and would make sure that his fiancee was there. After we finished talking, he sent a text message saying, "I just wanted to say goodnight." This freaked me out, so I blocked him online and ignored his messages. It worked for several months. Recently he e-mailed wondering if I was OK and saying that he was looking forward to seeing me at a certain school event that I will be required to attend. I didn't respond, but now I'm terrified to see him. Do you think I'm being paranoid? How do I avoid him at this event?
—Leave Me Alone,
Dear Leave Me,
There is something insidious about this guy's behavior, and your internal alarm system is smart to keep warning that you need to get him out of your life. If he had been the kind of lout who simply came on to you, you could have brushed him off, and he'd have moved on to other targets. But he has a creepy mind game going, in which he buzzes around you, apparently fantasizing that you two have a relationship, then professes to not understand why his interest would make you uncomfortable. Cue the staccato, squealing violin music. Although laws vary from state to state, this guy is harassing you, and you need to create a record that you have unequivocally told him to cease contact. Collect all the evidence of his communications that you still have. Reply to his e-mail by stating that he is not to communicate with you in any form. Say any further contact from him will be harassment, and you will take the appropriate action with the authorities. Then go to your event with a friend, ignore the creep, and try to have a good time. If he approaches you, just repeat calmly and quietly, "I've told you to leave me alone" and walk away. If you hear any more from him, the next step is the police. This is also something you should tell your parents—you need people to talk to about this, and they might want to look into getting a lawyer if you keep getting contacted. You have resisted the temptation to tell your acquaintance about the lunatic she is planning to marry. Let's hope someone clues her in, but it shouldn't be you. You don't want to do anything that would get you further involved in this jerk's real or imagined romantic life.
I am a female involved in a four-year-long polyamorous relationship with a married couple. We are all happy and love one another very much. They have invited me to move into their home, and I would like to. The problem is that their two teenage children are beyond angry with the relationship. Even though they are not losing anything as a result of the relationship, they blame me for breaking the family apart and are very rude to me and their parents as a result. We don't want to break up to appease their children, who will be out of the house and on their own soon enough. But I can't imagine putting myself in the middle of such an uncomfortable living situation. Any suggestions for getting these teens to learn to accept me and the relationship?
—Three Is Not a Crowd
Teenagers are just impossible these days. Mom and Dad go out and get a perfectly nice girlfriend to share, and the kids totally destroy the great erotic vibe you've all got going with their insolent remarks like, "Ewww, gross!" and "Why can't you be normal like other parents and just get a divorce or something?" They sound like complete downers who don't even understand the stimulating couplings and triplings that could take place when they have their friends sleep over (before the friends' parents hear about this, and all of you end up explaining polyamory to social services). It's too bad these rotten kids don't understand that their parents' need to fulfill their sexual appetites takes precedence over providing them a stable home. But since the teenagers are doing nothing but making life unpleasant for your happy threesome, my only suggestion for you is to find a couple who had the good judgment not to have children and leave this family alone.
I received a beautiful bouquet of roses at work on Valentine's Day. Although the card was not signed, I immediately text-messaged my long-distance boyfriend and thanked him for the flowers. But during our nightly phone call, he informed me that he was not the sender. Flabbergasted, I reassured my annoyed boyfriend that there was no one else who I could imagine sending me flowers, except possibly my forlorn ex-spouse, whom I divorced several months ago. My boyfriend was so upset that he stated his own Valentine's surprise for me was "ruined," and I did not receive anything from him. Although I apologized for assuming the flowers were from him, our conversations now feel strained because of this misunderstanding, and I don't know what to think of his behavior toward me for my honest mistake. I don't know or care who sent the flowers, and when I found out they were not from my boyfriend, I threw them in the garbage. How should I have handled this situation to avoid him being annoyed with me?
Maybe you need to look at whether you have a special attraction for forlorn guys with emotional problems. If your ex sent you the flowers (and I'd call the florist who delivered them to solve this mystery), then that is pathetic. Even more pathetic is your beau's hostility and anger toward you for assuming the flowers were from him. Sure, it's understandable he was taken aback, but he should have called or texted you immediately to say he didn't send them. Even if he felt jealous, your reassurance should have assuaged him, and you both should have been able to laugh off your admirer. Instead, he sulked all day and canceled his own gift to you. (Another dozen roses? A trip to the moon on gossamer wings?) Sure, the problem is compounded by your distance—all you've got is tone of voice when a hug or a kiss might better relieve the tension. But you've got to realize the issue is not how you should have handled this to keep him from being annoyed with you. The issue is that you're worried about how to handle someone who's being emotionally punitive over something that's not your fault. Stop apologizing, and tell him you both had your Valentine's Day ruined, and you're wondering how you two now clear the air and move on.
My partner of two and a half years bought a set of clippers when he started growing an experimental beard. He used the clippers two or three times to trim his beard, but now he's shaved it off completely and has no need for the device anymore. It cost about $25, and the purchase was made roughly a month ago. He wants to return the device to the store and get a refund. I checked the return policy, and it says that all returns must be new and unused. I told him that returning it would be immoral. He says if the store is willing to take it back, then it's perfectly fine to return it. I find the fact that he would even consider returning this razor shocking and disgusting. I told him if he insists on returning the razor, I would buy it from him. Then we had a stupid fight about the whole thing. Can you settle this?
Perhaps your partner was motivated by a previous success getting a refund on a half tube of athlete's foot cream when his fungus cleared up. Basic good manners and the compact between merchant and customer dictate that one can't return a used personal care product just because the cause for which it was purchased is no longer extant. The nicest thing to do would be to clean it with alcohol and see if a local shelter would like it. He could also put it on eBay—although he'll have to compete with the other men who think there's a market for used beard clippers. The real problem here is that you are seeing an aspect of your partner you find more unattractive than his erstwhile beard. But you've expressed your displeasure and disapproval to no avail. This isn't worth continuing to fight over. Let's hope the store has the good sense to resolve this by saying, "I'm sorry, Sir, this simply can't be returned."
Photograph of Prudie by Teresa Castracane.
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