Q. Do I Just Vanish?: A couple of weeks ago I went out once with “Sophie,” a girl I met through friends. Although at first I was interested in getting to know her better and kept communication via texts and occasional phone calls, I just met another girl that just seems a better fit for me. I don’t want to sound harsh, but I have no intentions of going out with Sophie again. Some friends have told me that it’s more correct and gentlemanly of me to give Sophie a heads up and directly let her know that I’m no longer interested as to not give her false hopes; but some other friends say that I just have to slowly fade away (and eventually vanish) as it will be easier for both and less awkward than having “the talk.” What should I do?
A: Going out on one date, even if you’ve had occasional communication since, does not obligate you to have “the talk.” The absence of a second date speaks volumes about your level of interest. When things are so nascent and casual, either party can fall silent without being rude. But if your conversations have given the clear impression that you intend to get to know her better—and the friends who fixed you up are all waiting for the wedding announcement—then it would be more polite, especially if she initiates a text or phone call, to simply say that you’ve enjoyed her company, but you don’t feel you two have a romantic future.
Q. Re: Online Humiliation: If the prof doesn’t already spend some time talking to her class about the purpose and impact of online evaluations, that might be helpful! My typical spiel—”I’m really, very, very interested in your thoughts on the course and how to improve it! I’ve found in the past, that there’s a certain kind of student that uses evaluations to convey that they not only hate my course, but hate me personally. If you know that student, please let them know that this kind of feedback does a disservice to everyone. I know profs who no longer read evaluations because of this kind of hurtful feedback; this is really a shame, because I’ve found that honest, constructive student criticism is really essential to improving my courses!” In my own case, I’ve found that this works pretty well.
A: I like this idea, but I think the way you convey it sounds a little too defensive. I like that you say that you carefully read student evaluations and look forward to helpful insights about the class. You can add that as your comments about their work will always be respectful and on point, so you would appreciate the same courtesy from them.
Q. Not Your Sweetheart: I’m a young female in a male-dominated industry. I enjoy my job, but there’s one thing that really irks me. Older male co-workers and especially outside contractors occasionally refer to me quite inappropriately as, “Hon,” “Dear,” etc. In one instance a contractor asked, “Can I get your business card, sweetheart?” I had the card in hand and automatically responded with, “Of course. Here’s my card,” before I realized how he had addressed me. I never corrected him, but I’d like to as he’s someone I’ll work with in the future and he needs to understand that this is not OK. How do I bring this up with him now? Do you have any suggestions for snappy replies when this happens with others?
A: My suggestion is that for now, forget the snappy replies and just deal with this in a pleasant, low-key way. You are doing well in your field, which clearly needs more women, so you want to pick your spots if you’re going to call out bias. Of course, no one should be calling you Hon, Dear, or Sweetheart (unless you’re in Maryland, where everyone is “Hon”). Sure, you’re irked, but accept that these guys are speaking out of longtime habit, and likely have no idea how it sounds to you. So be prepared for the next time, even practice with a friend or in front of the mirror. Role play someone calling you “sweetheart” and your replying, with a big smile, “Dan, here’s my business card. And please call me Jessica!” Just keep smiling and repeating. Eventually this should get through to them.
Q. Re: Not a Cry Baby: When my son went to college, he was only 400 miles away from home and I could (and did) drive to see him on holidays, etc. For the first year I think I cried for the first 50 miles on the drive home. Eventually the crying tapered off and now I just tear up a little—he is doing great and so am I. But it is not easy to separate from someone who has been around you daily for 18 years—crying helps!
A: Two weeks to go until my daughter goes off to college. I’ve loaded up on the extra soft tissues and waterproof mascara.
Q. BIL Getting Too Close: My husband and I moved to the same city as his brother and wife. Since my husband is temporarily working overseas and I’m pregnant, I’m seeing them quite often, especially my BIL. Lately I’ve been feeling uncomfortable with his behavior—he’s always trying to find an excuse to touch me and makes comments that are out of line (how his brother got the hot deal, for example). I don’t know how to distance myself from him and tell my husband without making things awkward in the family. What do I do?
A: Creeps like to use the fact that their targets don’t want to make things awkward, which give them cover for getting away with their actions. Your brother-in-law has no worries about making things awkward for you. He’s inappropriately touching his pregnant sister-in-law and making sexual suggestions. Do not protect him. First of all, tell your husband what’s going on and say you want his advice. You will also be laying down the predicate of having someone know about this. If you make an accusation, people like your brother-in-law are prone to saying, “She’s the one who came on to me!” I hope your husband calls out his brother, and you certainly should, too. Next time something happens say, “Bill, don’t touch me again. And don’t make any more sexual comments.” Just for your own comfort you may have to distance yourself. And if your sister-in-law asks you why, tell her the truth about her husband.
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