Originally appeared at GoLocalProv.com.
I’m a freshman in college. I never had a girlfriend in high school and I have always been very shy so I made up my mind that I would try to force myself to be more social in college, especially with girls. I met someone in one of my classes shortly after school started and we got along great, hung out all the time, etc., but it turned out she only thought of me as a friend. Now, the same thing has happened a second time! I don’t get it. We’re hanging out, we’re having fun, we’re doing everything I picture doing with a girlfriend, but then something happens to remind me that isn’t what’s going on at all. (With the first one, it was when she started confiding in me about this guy she had a crush on.) The worst thing about it is after it comes out that we’re just friends, we’re not even really that any more because it ends up being uncomfortable. How can I prevent this from happening again? How do I tell if a girl likes me as a boyfriend or “just” a regular friend? I definitely don’t want this to keep happening.
I understand you’ve waited a long time for this, but it sounds like you might be trying to force things a bit. How can you prevent this from happening again? It depends on what you mean by “this.” If you mean, how can I stop being attracted to girls who in the end just want to be friends, you really can’t. But you can get better at determining whether a young woman’s interest is sexual, and a good basic rule of thumb is this: if you have to wonder, it’s probably not. If a girl views you as potential boyfriend material, you’ll usually know. If you’re unsure, the answer is most likely not the one you’re hoping for.
But in a way, all this is jumping the gun a bit. The worst way to find a girlfriend is to be overly anxious to find one. This tends to act as a repellant. The good news in your letter is that it seems to be easy for you to relate to women, have fun with them, and enjoy their company. While these qualities haven’t yet made you irresistible to the women you’ve crossed paths with, eventually they will for someone. And when that happens, you’ll know it. In the meantime, be patient, and don’t try so hard.
I’m gay. My family knows and could not be more supportive, my friends know, etc. It’s not a secret. The only people who don’t know are my co-workers. I’ve just maintained a lot of space between my job and my personal life.
For about a year, I’ve worked for a very small company. There are only about five of us who work together every day. The owner of the company, a man ten or so years older than I am, is one of these people. Unfortunately, he is one of the more homophobic people I’ve encountered—usually under the guise of “comedy,” he tells a lot of gay jokes, makes a lot of stupid cracks, and is just really crudely immature and maladjusted. It’s pretty much a daily thing. I have a sense of humor, and I don’t take myself seriously at all, but this has reached the about-to-boil-over point. I feel like I have to do something I’ve thought through or I’ll do something impulsive that I’ll regret. But what to do? There is really no HR person to go to—if anybody had that role, it would be him! I can’t go outside the company because I work in a very close-knit, very small field and I would immediately have a reputation as a “troublemaker,” even amongst people who would be sympathetic to me. I love my career, and I don’t want to do anything that might undermine it. I’ve got to do something, though, because if I don’t, I’ll snap! Any ideas as to what?
At The Breaking Point
Dear Breaking Point,
If you don’t want to make a formal complaint but you can no longer ignore this man’s boorish (or worse) behavior, there’s only one thing you can do: talk to him. Ask for a word in private and respectfully tell him that you find a lot of his jokes and comments regarding gay people offensive. (There’s no need to tell him you’re gay, and that’s irrelevant anyway. What he’s saying should be as intolerable to heterosexual people as it is to gay people.) He may react with grace and make some positive changes. Needless to say, however, there’s an excellent chance he’ll react churlishly and make your work environment even more uncomfortable, so it would be smart for you to start exploring your employment options. But if you let this fester to the point where you blow up at him, you’d have to start doing that anyway.
I make my living as a self-employed craftsman. I do excellent work, I behave like a professional, and I charge a fair price. I’m well established, and I make a good living.
Occasionally, I will take on an assistant to teach while he or she helps out in the studio. Like an apprentice. It’s always understood that the apprentice is preparing to go off on his or her own someday—this is not supposed to be a permanent arrangement. I’ve gone through the cycle several times, and it’s always worked very well. I like to teach, I need the help, and I feel like I’m helping to maintain interest in and appreciation for my craft.
But now I’m learning that the most recent assistant I’ve had is apparently saying untrue and unkind things about the quality if my work. I have no idea why he would do this—nothing in our time together would have indicated this would happen—but I can only assume it’s to create a clientele consisting of former clients of mine. What other explanation could there be?
I’m angry, surprised (very), disappointed (also very), but maybe most of all, mystified. So far, this has had no impact at all on my business, and I’ve only heard about it from people who can’t believe the audacity of this kid, but what if anything should I do about it? I’ve thought of everything from showing up at his shop to ignoring it altogether, but I can’t make up my mind – or rather, I think I have, then I have second thoughts. It’s beginning to take more of my mental energy than it’s worth. Once and for all, what should I do?
So far, everything you’ve heard has been second-hand, right? So I would go to the source of these comments. Call your former assistant and tell him exactly what you’ve heard. Ask him if it’s true and if it is, ask him why he said it. As of right now, you’ve just caught wind of a lot of upsetting allegations. The person who is supposedly making them deserves a chance to tell his side of the story. It’s possible he said something that was misunderstood or misinterpreted. It’s also possible this guy is a malicious liar who’s trying to destroy your business. So the first step is to hear what he has to say.
If there is an innocent explanation for all this, then you have nothing more to worry about. Granted, that’s pretty unlikely, and if his motives are more sinister, you will have put him on notice that you’re aware of what’s going on and you’re not happy about it. If things continue this way and he persists in badmouthing you even after you talk to him, you may have grounds to pursue some kind of legal action, but that’s a question for an attorney. I think the best course, though, would be to ignore him, especially if your business doesn’t suffer. The work you’ve done and the trust you’ve earned will refute any accusations he makes. The only reputation he’ll succeed in destroying will be his own.
Photo credit: Flickr / lynch