Posted by fxckfeelings on April 13, 2015Share This Post
As we often say when pontificating about Assholes™, the great paradox of self-awareness is that those who worry most about whether they’re bothering other people mainly bother themselves, and those who don’t worry at all are a huge bother to anyone unlucky enough to cross their path. You can find a happy medium, however, by using reasonable tools for managing your social behavior, like keeping things friendly and superficial and pursuing goals you’ve defined for yourself. Trust in your own rules of etiquette, pursue your social goals, and you will find the sweet spot between obsessive and oblivious.
I’m a divorced mother of three with a nice job who would like to get married again, so I was very interested when I got a message on Facebook from an old high school crush whom I hadn’t see in twenty years. He and I never dated, but we were good friends, and I was pleased to hear he was also divorced and happy living in a nearby city I often have cause to visit. So after we had a great time catching up, I suggested that we have dinner next month when I’ll be there, and he seemed eager but also a little unsure about whether or not he’d be free. We’re still messaging each other, but he hasn’t said yes or no to meeting up yet, so I find myself thinking a lot about what he’s thinking, and whether I’m reading his signals correctly or if I’m just nuts. My goal is to figure out what he’s really thinking and if he’s “just not that into me” or taking it slow because of where we are in life and what’s at stake.
Given that this guy is a teenaged crush, it makes sense that you’d revert to your younger self and worry about what people are thinking about you and whether the boy you like is going to ask you out or ignore you on Facebook or maybe even take you to the prom.
Equally juvenile, however, is this notion of writing him off simply because he’s “just not that into you.” He might not be—hell, he might be too tired after football practice—but as an adult woman and mother of three, you’re old enough to decide whether his wishy-washy flirtation means you shouldn’t be that into him.
A major advantage of being an adult is that your goals in a relationship need not be dramatic or complicated, and your risks are much easier to manage. You need to know whether he’s good relationship material and whether he’s really interested in you. If not, you may feel hurt or just disappointed, but it won’t be for long and there won’t be many people to witness and gossip about your humiliation.
To figure out whether he’s worth being into, find out more about his divorce; you might feel like you know him already, but that was a youthful crush, on a prospective adult partner. As usual, the ideal is Jane Eyre’s Rochester, a guy who remained devoted to a crazy wife until she tried to murder him (obviously, he had no trouble with commitment). The opposite, however, is a guy who gets married, doesn’t want kids, and gets restless with a partner when she’s older and boring.
If the facts you gather about him check out, ask him whether he’s still looking for a partnership. Don’t put yourself in the position of having to persuade him that partnership would be wonderful because you’re wonderful; partnership is always sometimes awful and that means he has to like the idea enough to weather the storm.
If you think he wants what you’re looking for, offer to schedule some time and see what happens. Don’t second-guess yourself about whether you should have waited or asked him differently, because life is short, you already know one another, and nobody’s going to gossip about you in the halls. Give yourself credit for doing your evaluation, making your decision, and putting down a good offer. Then see what he does. You may not find a happy romance, but you’ll know you did your best to find one.
A good guy will benefit from your directness and find a way to tell you he’s interested, and a poor candidate will get pushed away. Just remember that what he’s into isn’t what’s most important; it’s keeping yourself from getting into something complicated with someone who isn’t worth your time
“I can’t help feeling nervous about my ability to turn an old friendship into a romance, but, by now in my life, I know what partnership requires and I have the tools to find out whether this old friend has what it takes.”
I’ve got hardworking, experienced workers on my team, but there’s one problem that may cause me to lose one or more of them. Recently, I promoted this guy from an outdoor to an indoor job—similar skills, but indoor pays better—but I didn’t realize that he has strong, unfortunately bad body odor until the person in the cube next to his came to tell me she just can’t get used to it. She’s very polite, but she’s tried to drop some hints about hygiene and sweet-smelling soaps that he’s been oblivious to, and we don’t have the space to move either of them to somewhere more isolated/better ventilated. I don’t want to lose either employee, but if I tell him he has a problem, I’m afraid he’ll take offense at me or her or both, and if I say nothing, his cubicle neighbor will probably quit. My goal is to figure out a way to keep both of them on my team.
It’s too bad you have to talk to someone about his bad body odor, but then again, that’s why they pay you the administrative big bucks, so brace yourself and prepare your aroma intervention. Begin by reminding yourself that just because people commonly talk about body odor in personal and negative terms, that doesn’t mean that you need to.
Instead of assuming that you’re giving someone bad news about a stigmatized problem, consider the possibility that you’re orienting someone to a situation he hasn’t encountered before and is relatively insensitive to. The information you’re offering is designed to help him succeed at his new job, not embarrass him or put his offended co-worker on the spot.
Create a positive context by reminding him why he deserves the promotion to the great indoors. Then tell him you’re aware that an inside job has disadvantages as well as advantages, and that one of them is that it pushes people together in enclosed spaces and thus accentuates their responses to minor physical differences, like sound and smell.
Eliminate his co-worker from the problem by telling him that you’ve noticed he has a strong masculine smell when he’s working hard, and that you think it probably needs some toning down now that he’s going to be working in an indoor situation. Some people will like it, some not, but that’s not the problem; indoor work requires people to be relatively unobtrusive, which is why you decided it would be a good idea to bring the issue to his attention.
Rule out any accusation of bad hygiene by telling him that you think he’s very clean and that his smell is just a normal, natural characteristic. Nevertheless, it needs controlling in an indoor work situation, so he may wish to work with a dermatologist to find tools for managing it, like a powerful deodorant.
Since smell is a stigmatized topic, urge him to make it easier for his coworkers to give him feedback. He might try joking about being a human rainforest, and asking them to let him know if they’re uncomfortable.
Having given him a brief, pleasant course on indoor etiquette, ask him to give you an update in a week or two and congratulate him again. You can’t ensure that this will smooth things over between him and his co-worker, but you’ve given him the tools to manage the problem and given yourself a good shot at keeping your team intact.
“I feel like I should get these two, experienced workers to communicate about a difficult problem, but I will frame the issue of body odor without stigma and assign responsibility for managing it where it belongs.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname