#980: “I don’t want to ride bikes with my coworker!”

Hello Captain!

My issue feels so petty, but it’s seriously giving me anxiety…

I am fairly close friends with an older male coworker. He is very into bike riding, and over the years has tried to get me on board with his hobby. I’ve been fairly straightforward in telling him that it really isn’t my thing, and reaffirmed this just a few weeks ago when we were out together. Coincidentally, he was leaving the next day for a big cycling trip. While he was gone he texted to ask me what my hat size was and, thinking nothing of it, I replied.

I came in to work the next week to find, of all things, a brand new bike helmet on my chair. WTF?! I thanked him for it, but reiterated that I was making no promises as far as using it, but joked it would come in handy if they sky fell in at work. He responded that he understood, and then immediately asked it the helmet fit. I ignored the question.

Then a few days later he shows up in my office, and tells me that we’re picking a night after work for a short, 30 minute ride. I commented that he really doesn’t listen, and he laughed.


I am really frustrated and angry, and don’t appreciate being strong armed into doing something I very clearly said I don’t want to do. This guy is a good friend, and I don’t want to make him feel bad, but at the same time I am (maybe unreasonably) miffed about this. I’ve been getting way better at saying no and pushing back, but saying no and pushing back is just not working here. I don’t know if this matters at all, but he is older and married, and I am a younger married female- our relationship has always been platonic, but he has put a toe over the line a few times with regard to references to my looks, and comments about marrying me if he were younger.

Please help.

Thanks in advance!
No Means No

Dear No Means No:

He is being so fucking weird, intrusive, aggressive, and oblivious that I want you to immediately absolve yourself from ever worrying about “making him feel bad” about this. HE is making YOU feel bad, and then making you do extra emotional labor to worry about his feelings.

I suggest that you take the bike helmet, still in its box, put it back on his chair with a note that says “Thanks, but I don’t ride bikes.”

Other options: Donate it. Put it in the garbage.*






When he comes to weirdly talk about it with you (and he will), say: “I do not know how to make myself clearer: I am not interested in riding bikes with you. I know you mean to be thoughtful but your ‘gift’ and subsequent insistence on planning a bike ride is making me very uncomfortable. What will it take for you to understand that this is not something I ever want to do?

If it hurts his feelings or he gets weird about it (which he will), OK. GOOD. FINE. If he wanted to avoid hurt feelings he could have listened to you the first time you said “No thanks!” and the at least 27 times you’ve said no since then. You saying “no” to riding bikes at this point is “hurting his feelings” like you holding a fork and him running across a room to impale himself onto it is “stabbing him with a fork.”

Then, if he ever brings up riding bikes with you again, say a flat “No” and move away. If he retaliates against you at work in any way, document all this stuff and report his ass to HR. I’m serious. It’s great that y’all have been work “friends” all this time, but he is the one killing that friendly vibe by trying to force his hobby on you.

Incidentally, when I think back to the (non-zero)(always gross)(never pleasant or cute or friendly) amount of times that older male coworkers or older male customers or old men in general have said “I would totally marry you if I were younger, heh heh!” to me I wish I’d had the guts or wit to have said something deeply crushing in return, like “I think that you think that’s a compliment, how interesting” or “Yikes, there‘s a mental picture.” Mostly what I did was cringe away and wait for the earth to mercifully swallow me while Geezer McPatronizing laughed at my embarrassment. Dudes, especially older/old-ish dudes, this is never the “compliment” that you think it is. Never. Even if you are an “adorable” old Grampa with a mustache talking to a precocious 16-year-old at her diner waitressing job and everyone in this story is from the South where theoretically people just put up with this bullshit and pretend to find it cute, just shut up about your alternate timeline marriage offers, forever.

In short, friends listen to you when you say “no thanks!” If he can’t hear you loud and clear, he’s not acting like your friend, and that’s not your fault.


*Wasteful, I know. Who cares. She doesn’t want the fucking bike helmet and sometimes you need to get a thing out of your life more than you need to spend time and emotional labor finding the perfect disposal solution.


  1. wirving said:

    I get hair raising “This guy would really really really like you to be more than friends and he’s going to ignore your feelings on the matter in a creepy way to get there.” Who the hell cares this much about bike riding!? I feel like it’s just a pushy way to get you alone outside of work and I hate it.

    • Amy said:

      This is the vibe I get too. He sounds like an older man trying to creepily hit on a known-to-be-uninterested young woman while keeping the ability to fall back on “I was just being friendly, you misinterpreted!” if she tells him off for it.

    • Long time reader, first comment. I just wanted to say I think virving got it right; this was exactly what hit me when I read it. Here’s an older married man trying to get you alone and isolated outside of work and we already know he doesn’t take no for an answer. Screaming red flags, shut this guy down.

      • Bobbin Ufgood said:

        100% agree – this tripped my skeeve-o-meter; also this type of boundary-testing is what abusers do . . .

        • Fishmongers' Daughters said:

          Yeah, the boundary testing was the point I was going to make. This behavior is straight out of De Becker’s section on “Beware of men who refused to hear ‘no’… No matter the context.” He said the worst thing you can do is to say no at first, then give in under pressure. Because then he believes that your “no” is not solid. So when he tries to start a physical relationship (which in my experience, is the inevitable next step for men who make “jokes” like this guy does), he will likely continue to push after LW’s initial refusal/clear discomfort.

          Something I love about the CA community here is that I’m never the first one to make this point. I usually am on most of my other sites. This is a good place. 🙂

          • KJ said:

            Also from Gift of Fear, loan sharking – “giving unsolicited help to the chosen victim and anticipating they’ll feel obliged to extend some reciprocal openness in return.” (wiki)

          • Working Hypothesis said:

            Totally unrelated to the comment, Fishmonger’s Daughters… but did you get your name from Cat Valente’s _Orphan’s Tales_? It sounds like something one of the djinn said. 🙂

          • Fishmongers' Daughters said:

            @Working Hypothesis You’re the first person to recognize it! Yup – I listened to the S.J. Tucker album with the readings from that book, and loved the way she said that: “It is necessary for the glorification of the Djinn, and also so that we may not be endlessly ensorcelled into various kitchen items for the purpose of granting the wishes of fishmongers’ daughters, that the name of Kashkash be adored and feared.” 😀

          • Working Hypothesis said:

            @Fishmongers’ Daughters: Hooray! I’m rereading the Orphan’s Tales right now and remembering why I loved them so much. And yes, the Sooj album of readings and songs connected with them is awesome.

    • JenniferP said:

      I think you’re spot on – he’s fantasizing about the Letter Writer coming with him on those “big cycling trips.” All the more reason to SHUT. IT. DOWN.

      • Even if she hadn’t mentioned that she was younger and female and he is older and male, that’s exactly what I would have pictured. Just imagine him doing this with someone close to his own age (or gender) and imagine how weird it would be. He’s manipulating the fact that you guys work together and that he’s got gender and age on his side status wise to push you around.

        • SamKD said:

          Exactly. And the fact that he texted during his big bike trip means that he was thinking of LW co-worker way too much for someone on vacation from work. Totally endorse the fantasizing.

      • Greg M. said:

        reminds me of this woman who had previously come on to me and then kept trying to get me to come over to fix her computer at her place.

        • JenniferP said:

          And you’re like “Not even if you brought your computer to a public place would I be up for that, sorry, byeeeeee!”

          • Greg M. said:

            wish I’d had the backbone to say that. might avoided the time where I leaned over to show her something on a computer at a friend’s place and she started rubbing her face on my arm. *shudders*

          • JenniferP said:

            Sorry you had to chew that arm off to get out of there.

          • JustKate said:

            I actually have an “older male colleague who’s really into bike riding” – in fact, he sounds a lot like this person except that he’d never, ever, never pin someone in a corner and try to force that person to ride a damn bike. Because unlike this guy, my bike-riding colleague is not a creep.

            Interesting, though – never heard of anybody trying to seduce somebody with a bike helmet.

      • JustKate said:

        I actually have a colleague who’s an older guy who’s really into bike riding – in fact, he sounds a lot like this guy except that he’d never, ever pin anybody into a corner at try to coerce him/her into riding a bike. And the reason is that unlike this guy, my bike-riding coworker is not a creep.

    • Even in the extremely unlikely instance that a guy like this “only” wants a platonic friendship (and to be clear, the LW is getting non-platonic vibes and should not downplay them), what kind of friend would he be? If you could somehow know for a fact that he would never be sexually/romantically attracted to you, ever, you’d still have a “friend” who won’t respect your boundaries, makes extravagant gestures to manipulate you into thinking you owe him something, has no interest in learning about your hobbies, and only wants to spend time together doing his stuff. That would be an unpleasant “friendship.”

      • jaynn said:

        This. I could actually kinda understand feeling this…desperate? Needy? Eager and oblivious to boundaries? But it doesn’t really matter because he hasn’t just crossed a line, he’s so far past it it’s in front of him again.

        • Modern Culture said:

          I love this SO much: “he hasn’t just crossed a line, he’s so far past it it’s in front of him again.”

        • Tattie said:

          Non-Euclidian morality, I like it.

      • notleia said:

        Oh gawd, I’m flashing back to my ex-dude.

    • BioGirl said:


      In his mind, this guy is trying to lay the groundwork for an affair with you. If you go on these bike rides, he’ll take you to an unfamiliar, isolated place with no people to make a move – no witnesses to tell his wife and to create a he said, she said scenario if you report him that he’ll probably win because older male privilege. Then when you reject him, he’ll either deflect behind the wife smokescreen or be all “WHY DID YOU LEAD ME ON BY COMING ON BIKE RIDES WITH ME?! I THOUGHT WE HAD SOMETHING SPECIAL!!!” He won’t care that he pressured you hard into coming with him – it will be your fault for accepting (and if this goes to HR or the courts, your acceptance will be used against you). Then either he turns violent or weepy, so you either need to get away from him unscathed or do a ton of emotional labor reassuring him in an isolated place with no people around and no escape route except through him because he knows the area/terrain.

      This scene came to me like a movie reel in my mind. He is not your friend – he is a creepy old man trying to browbeat you into playing into his fantasy because you’re a younger woman he thinks he can take advantage of because of your kindness and socialization to not be mean or say no. I bet my entire life savings that he doesn’t pull this crap on older women because they can see right through his intentions.

      Do not feel bad about hurting his feelings because if he acted like a decent human being that respected women, his feelings would not need to be hurt. If he feels bad that he does creepy things, then he shouldn’t do creepy things!

      • He doesn’t pull this crap on older women because we’d have made this a serious legal problem for him well before getting to this point.

        LW, find out what your workplace harassment policy is, and invoke it. It’s far past time.

        • Anisoptera said:

          Is it HR time though? I don’t think you’d get much joy from that process at this stage and it’s also a pretty intense escalation for the LW who’s currently at “my friend who I am friends with is being pushy about bike riding how do I get him to hear no?” Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely red flags here and the LW should be aware of the process and ready to invoke it if it should come to that. Just… I don’t think she has anything to go to HR with (yet) and I don’t think she’d want to (yet)?

          Invoking HR in a workplace can be risky as hell, you’ve got to have realistic expectations about it – they’re not necessarily on your side and they’re unlikely to act on something like this that just has a wiff of skeevy about it. Even if they have a chat with him and ask him to back off (best case scenario) you’re now the lady who called in HR because someone who thought you were friends invited you on a bike ride. There are a lot of workplaces where that would be terrible for your career.

          I think she should return the helmet and follow the Captain’s advice above re delivering hard “no” first and save HR for if it escalates, or gets explicitly sexual in nature.

          • It depends on the workplace and their policy.

            At my workplace, it’s way past time to invoke the policy and start running it up the hierarchy.

            LW, even in a workplace with a stronger policy and enforcement, like mine, you’re likely to find that you’re in a stronger position if you have already told this guy to stop talking to you about biking. Even better if you do so in an email, so you have proof you have taken this step.

            The policy where I work says that telling the person what to stop should be the first step *If you feel able to do this* — they’re aware there might be reasons why you can’t. But it makes things happen faster if you can.

            If it were me, in my current workplace, I would send an email telling the guy not to talk to me about biking anymore. Then I’d set a short meeting with my boss, verbally clue in boss on what has been happening, give boss a copy of the email, and say I am not asking for any action unless the problem continues, but I just wanted the boss to be aware in case there were escalation.

          • Anon, Goodnight said:

            I think it could be time for a “This has gotten weird and uncomfortable, and I’m concerned it will escalate. Please help me shut it down before it gets bad enough for a formal complaint.” conversation with the LW’s boss and/or HR.

          • NameChange said:

            Replying to Anon, Goodnight — yes, a chat with the boss and HR would be very good at this stage. It would give the LW a clue about what HR thinks of these situations, too (whether they would hem and haw or if they’d shut it down then anyway).

            I haven’t finished reading all of the comments, so someone may have mentioned this already. Chances are there’s at least one other young woman he’s tried this with. Maybe not in that office, but I get the sense that this is a practiced routine and not his first bumbling attempt to crush boundaries.

          • “Even if they have a chat with him and ask him to back off (best case scenario) you’re now the lady who called in HR because someone who thought you were friends invited you on a bike ride. There are a lot of workplaces where that would be terrible for your career.”

            And here is where we return to that famous dictum of modern times: document, document, document.
            If he ‘just’ asked and she ‘just’ said no, then no HR.
            If he ‘constantly’ asked and she ‘constantly’ said no, and he bought the helmet – not just invited her on a ride but went out and took monetary steps to pressure that established no into a yes – then you’ve got harassment, even if not sexual harassment.

            It’s hard to get work done when you’re constantly fending off Mr. Rerun. It’s bad enough that it got it’s own Dilbert comic strip: someone who always always always visited and could not be made to stop talking came to visit dilbert & he said, “They laughed when I dug this escape tunnel.”

            Go Away, Mr. Biker.

          • LW (Who STILL doesn't want to ride bikes!) said:

            Hello! It’s not HR time for me yet. I agree there are red flags, but I have the added benefit of the fact that this person is a lawyer for our company, so I need to tread very lightly. I will be returning the helmet and all future bike conversations are going to be immediately shut down.

          • I think it is, at the very least, a “let HR know that Co-Worker is not taking NO for an answer and is making LW uncomfortable as a result” chat couldn’t hurt. I do not know that I would escalate it further than that, but I’d certainly want to alert someone in HR that persistent unwelcome pushiness was afoot.

          • Good grid, LW, this guy is a lawyer? Then I assure you he knows EXACTLY how inappropriate and not-good-for-the-company-y his behavior is. And he doesn’t care.

          • thathat said:

            “If it were me, in my current workplace, I would send an email telling the guy not to talk to me about biking anymore. Then I’d set a short meeting with my boss, verbally clue in boss on what has been happening, give boss a copy of the email, and say I am not asking for any action unless the problem continues, but I just wanted the boss to be aware in case there were escalation.”

            That seems like the best thing, honestly.

            At the point that an actual gift came into play, it became time to at least clue in one other ranking person. The Mighty Power of HR doesn’t necessarily need to be invoked yet, but if LW has an understanding boss or supervisor, it might be good to let them know what Creepy Dude has been up to. Having an email sent at the same time as returning the bike helmet is a good idea–a written record where LW says “I have repeatedly told you that I am uninterested in this, despite your constant insistence. Thank you for thinking of me, but I do not want or need this bike helmet, and I am returning it to you to be perfectly clear. Please stop asking me about this.”

            Or something

        • NameChange said:

          By the way, LW, if you do go to your boss/HR, even informally, and they try to brush off his behavior or try to get you to compromise somehow, that’s a hint to start looking for another job FAST.

          • Markethill said:

            Apologies to NameChange for replying here, but the comment where LW said he’s a lawyer is out of replies and I wanted to respond to that. Your comment was just nearby!

            LW, if he’s a lawyer, he has standards of behaviour set by his governing body. In many jurisdictions, including the one I practiced in, the code of conduct extends to how you conduct yourself outside of your legal practice if the behaviour is bad enough. It doesn’t sound like you’re at a level right now where reporting him to the Law Society/local equivalent would be appropriate, but I wanted to let you about this channel in case he gets worse or escalates.

    • Just wanted to pop in and add to the chorus of voices saying yep, I think so too

    • Carpe Librarium said:

      My uncle is very much into bicycling, and my aunt (his wife) conveniently enough is *also* an avid cyclist and they go on amazing cycling adventures together were they cross multiple continents in epic journeys. And lo, when they return they regale us with spectacular stories about the people they’ve met and the places they’ve been without ever even *hinting* that we should all jump up and join them on a quick jaunt ’round the neighborhood.

  2. Buni said:

    Yeeeeeah, I think we’re past being polite here. I absolutely second the good Captain’s idea of leaving it back on his chair with a ‘thanks but NO THANKS’ note. If he questions it you could probably get away with ‘pleasantly baffled at how he didn’t hear you the first eleventy times’.

    If you’re uncomfortable with a Hard No – and that’s fine – you could always make the refusal softer by following the note up with a profuse apology at this terrible mix-up which OBVIOUSLY must be partly your fault for not being clearer (…).

    • MJC said:

      I wouldn’t stray away from a hard no. The OP making this seem like partly her fault basically absolves this guy for all of his previous transgressions and boundary-charging.

      • Buni said:

        Nope, I wouldn’t stray from that either! But while I’m good at a hard no and have no problem with it, I recognise that other people are still working on it. I only meant ‘better a soft No than no No at all’. Lots of Nos. All the Nos.

        • True, but what you’re describing is still a hard no. It’s made more palatable by an excuse, but the presence of “No” in the “No I will not be going, I’m so terribly sorry I wasn’t clear about all this” still makes it a hard no.

          Hard no doesn’t mean [i]mean[/i], it just means explicit.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          Agreed. Alison at Ask a Manager often gives advice along these lines–that while it might be ideal to say, “No, that’s inappropriate,” full stop, a lot of people won’t because of socialization, personality, office politics, whatever. And that being the case, it’s better to give them tools to say a softer, “Oh, I don’t think I can, sorry!” than to leave them with the other default, which is *nervous giggle* *stares at hands, hope they go away*.

          (I say that as someone who tends to default to *nervous giggle* *stares at hands, hope they go away*.)

          It can be extremely useful to give someone a rung on the ladder in between zero and blatant, you know?

          • SarahJane said:

            I thought of Alison at “Ask a Manager” with this question too, because she often uses variations on that great line, “Is this something you can commit to doing?” In this case it would be used in this way: “Coworker, you’ve asked me many times to ride bikes with you, and I’ve said no many times, and yet you continue to ask me. And now you’ve bought me biking equipment! I need you to take the helmet back (hands helmet to coworker) and never try to involve me in your bike riding hobby again, full stop. Is that something you can commit to doing, starting now?”

            It’s a great wrap-up, because it leaves so little wiggle room. It’s a yes or no question. And if he tries to wiggle (“I was just being friendly!” “But exercise is good for you!” etc.) LW can just wait for him to stop talking and then say noncommittally, “Uh-huh. I still need you to stop asking me. Can you commit to that today?” LW, if you do this, don’t argue his points, if he tries to make them. You don’t need to make a case for yourself – your request is more than reasonable as it stands.

            For the record, if I were in this situation, I’d tell Bike Guy I didn’t want a relationship with him outside the office any more at all, instead of just shutting down the bike riding, because I don’t think this is about bike riding – if you shut down the bike talk, next week it’ll be skydiving or some such. I’d just say, “You’ve been ignoring my repeated refusals to bike with you. It’s making me uncomfortable. So I’d like to keep our relationship strictly professional from now on – no non-work outings – and I need you to stop asking me to go places with you outside work. Is this something you can commit to doing, starting today?”

            This is so crappy to have to deal with at work. I’ve been there…I know! Good luck.

        • As a person with Avoidant Personality Disorder, I *very much appreciate* this. A hard no is just flat out not always an option for me. I am working on it, but that work does *not* happen instantaneously. Options in the middle are very useful to me at this stage in my life, as someone who shuts down for weeks at a time if someone yells at me. I would appreciate it if other commenters would chill a little on this front, thanks.

    • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

      I don’t like that idea at all. No is a complete sentence. It’s clear. She’s said it. “Do you want to go bike riding with me?” “No.” There’s no confusion or lack of clarity there and the LW shouldn’t have to offer an apology and take blame for this guy being an ass. It’s exactly that kind of behavior that keeps this kind of thing out there. He’s an adult and the one at fault. LW, please don’t soften this to protect some fragile male ego.

      • “We need to pick a day this week to go bike riding!”
        “No.” (or “No, we really don’t”)

        “If I were x years younger, I’d marry you.”
        “Um, no.” (Or “no you would not, because I would not attend that ceremony.”)

        No is awesome and powerful and people don’t use it enough!

      • Megsammor said:

        I agree. No is a complete sentence that she’s been using over and over. Saying anything along the lines of “Oops, sorry, I guess I wasn’t clear the last 27 times, my bad!” just puts the onus on her and gives him more leverage to pretend he was clueless. She ISN’T sorry, she WAS clear, and he DID ignore it.

        • Corinne said:

          Thank you for, “No is a complete sentence,” Megsammor. That’s going in the toolbox.

          • Working Hypothesis said:

            I’ve heard Miss Manners use the “No is a complete sentence” line. It is full of awesome. So is the word No in the first place.

            There is a terrific article on the Rands in Repose management blog, describing “No” and “Yes” as a manager’s best superpowers. The thing is, they are really EVERYBODY’S superpowers. It’s just that at work, managers are offered the responsibility of exercising them on behalf of their teams, so that the teams don’t have to spend time on them and can focus on getting stuff done instead. In personal contexts, we’re each our own manager.

            This situation is partly personal, partly work… which means that LW has the right to use her own No, but also to bring her manager into it if that makes it easier or more effective for her.

    • Alli525 said:

      No. OP, absolutely do NOT apologize for your refusal. It will do no good and will in fact encourage him to continue his behavior. Sorry Buni, but that’s bad advice.

    • I think a strong” no” is appropriate and a necessary muscle to build. If there’s anything good here (and thats a tough case to make), it’s that it’s a chance to build the “No” muscle.

      I’m thinking rather than “I’m not making promises” next time, I’d stick with more very definitive language next time. “I’m not going.” “I’m not a bike person.” “Not doing that.” “We work together, not looking to do anything more than that.”

      And then… Don’t go.

      He wants something. You want something. You win the second you don’t go. You never have to go. Never have to consider what he wants about it. It’s your time. It is annoying that he brings it up and that you have to shut it down in such an awkward way. That’s what this site is about. Embrace the awkward and let him own his behavior. You’re not the person he wants you to be? Oh well!

      “On a gut level, I just feel like you need to let your own truth be enough. Which is not to say ‘I’m sorry I can’t attend because you are boring to me.’ You do not need to go out of your way to be hurtful to people. Nor do you need to deceive. Every time you deceive I think you do a little damage to your soul. So let your own truth be good enough. Say ‘I’m sorry, I will not be able to attend.’ And then offer no further explanation. You also have the right to decide how to spend your time. Evenings of dinners that are not for you shouldn’t be an obligation just because someone had the idea to do it.” John Hodgman

      • The Green Door said:

        Yes to Sketchee’s John Hodgman quote. Ms. Manners also gives the same advice. “I am unable to attend” is both polite, truthful, and all that is required of Etiquette.

        He’ll push back with “Why can’t you go?”
        Your answer (also backed by Ms. Manners): Because I”m unable to attend.

        Him: But why?
        You: Because I cannot go.

        Him: But I don’t understand why!
        You: Asked and answered.

        Asked and answered is a fabulous response to put on repeat. Works with my 3 year old just as well as with adults – both of whom don’t always understand that I’ve given my final answer already, the answer will not change, so quit asking.

        • IrishEm said:

          I’ve had good mileage (among friends, in fairness) with “No. I’d love to but I don’t want to.”

          • LeighTX said:

            I absolutely love this. I’m going to start using it on our church’s women’s ministry leader who keeps pushing me to spend my Saturdays at their events. Not giving up my one day off to be polite and do crafts, lady! I’d love to but I don’t want to.

          • sayevet said:

            I’m glad that works for you(r friends), but when dealing with people who disrespect boundaries this can sound like an open invitation to keep asking or try other tactics.

          • halfmanhalfshark said:

            Ha, yes. And it reminds me of Jerry Blank from Strangers with Candy: “I came as soon as I felt like it!”

          • LW (Who STILL doesn't want to ride bikes!) said:

            I love this. I occasionally show up to meetings with a “sorry I’m late but I didn’t want to come” (this is used when I have the right audience, obviously)

        • attica said:

          I’d give room for a guffaw and a ‘..Now you’re just being funny!!!’ as you dismissively wave and walk away chucking at the charming absurdity of a grown-ass man chasing after an unreachable goal. (and by ‘charming’ I of course mean ‘omg so gross’.)

          I’ve used that with some success in my life.

          • attica said:

            I’ll point out that the distinction between ‘you’re being funny’ and ‘that’s funny’ is a crucial one. One is a needle, the other one leaves you open for jokesplaining.

        • tlh-in-tlh said:

          Yeah, I love Ms Manners’ progression of “No thank you” in different tones of voice from friendly to freezing to “HELL TO THE NO!”. LW, I am sad on behalf of the non-jerk bike riders out there that this boundary-pushing tool is ruining any possibility of your ever being seen on two wheels in your city. ::sad::

          • Jiggs said:

            Can we not “not all men” but with bikes? Thanks.

          • B. said:

            +1 to Jiggs.
            The LW doesn’t like bikes, period. We shouldn’t cheapen her decision not to ride bikes by making it all about this jerk.

          • AllanV said:

            There was no possibility for him to ruin. His boundary-pushing nature became apparent because she already didn’t want to ride bikes, not the other way around.

    • Rhoda said:

      People who don’t recognize boundaries would view a note like that as proof that they just need to work on their target a bit harder.

    • Nah. If LW is uncomfortable with a hard no (unlikely, as she’s actually given them already), go straight to HR. They can give the hard no.

      • sayevet said:

        I love the idea of LW taking the helmet to HR… “I said no and then he bought me a helmet” is hard to dispute or explain!

        • Aurora_Belle said:

          I’m on the side of bringing it to HR and saying, “Cycler dude has been persistent in asking me to join him, and I thought I had been clear in saying ‘no’ each of the several times he asked. However, he bought me this bike helmet and continues to try to set something up, despite my consistent expression of disinterest. What are my options at this point? (or, “how would you recommend I proceed?”)”

          That way you have documentation of his behavior.

          You might also bring the helmet back to him and say, “I thought I had been clear, but I’ll say it once more: I am not interested in cycling. Please stop trying to get me to participate.”

          • Working Hypothesis said:

            “How would you recommend I proceed?” is a wonderful way to present issues to bosses. They either have to come up with something effective they’re prepared to support you in doing, or handle it themselves, while you get to look proactive and businesslike. You’re not complaining, you’re just seeking professional instructions!

        • This is very wise.

          FWIW, I work for a small firm, and if this were my problem, I’d go to our (only) HR person, with whom I am reasonably friendly, and have her return the helmet to the culprit for me. She would be very pleasant about it, the bike person would retain face, the bike helmet would go away, 99.9% chance I would never hear about bikes in the office ever again, and it would no longer be my problem.

          This is an approach you have to tailor to your specific circumstances and company, however.

      • OMJ said:

        It really depends on the place of HR within your organization as to whether they would do anything about this. In my workplace I’d either intervene directly or coach their direct superior to do something about it. Other HRs would be unlikely to do much because they don’t function as mediators for things that don’t have a potential legal consequence for the company. This interaction is irritating and may have some potentially gross undertones, but likely doesn’t rise to the level of harassment per US employment law.

        I think it’s always worth contacting HR to see if they’ll help, but just wanted to be realistic about it.

        BTW, if you’re looking for a profession in which you can build up your “no muscle” (as someone called it upthread), HR is where it’s at. My whole life is being polite but *very* straightforward. It’s also a good source of object lessons in how poor communication or bad boundary-setting can really mess up a workplace.

        • Kdfe001 said:

          Personally, I wouldn’t go to HR unless it gets really bad. HR, in the current business culture, are often toadies for the company and their response is often to just fire the complainant. I would confide in my first-line supervisor, then make it a personal polcy to never be alone with this man. If he approaches you at your desk/in your office, stand up and go into the hallway or a trusted (female) colleague’s office. (I say female, because often other men can be remarkably “obtuse” when it comes to this stuff).

          Give him back the helmet in front of a witness (cue the colleague) and say, “I don’t know how to make it any clearer to you that I have no interest in bike riding, never have, never will. Please stop pestering me about it now.” He’ll pout and might be embarrassed about the presence of a witness, but too bad.

      • Adrian said:

        You can soften the “No” with “No. Thank you for inviting me, but no.” Or “No. I’m sorry you misunderstood before, but no.”

        I’d hesitate to involve HR at this point, though I would start documenting.

    • Leonine said:

      I’ve been out of the “I’m sorry” habit for a long time, and I’ve recently recognized that somewhere along the line, I replaced that submissive “I’m sorry” with the equally polite, equally meaningless, but not at all submissive “thank you”:

      Rando A: Hey, let me be boring at you!
      Leonine: Wow, thank you, but no.

      Rando B: I am invading your personal space!
      Leonine: Oy! Back off! Okay? Thank you.
      Leonine: [mutters] Jesus.

      Rando C: So, got any kids?
      Leonine: Uh…thank you.
      Leonine: [departs]

      It’s very effective.

    • Modern Culture said:

      No. No. No. No apology for it being partly her fault; he can turn that back on her and make it something that she has to explain and discuss.

  3. Lizards80 said:

    “You saying “no” to riding bikes at this point is “hurting his feelings” like you holding a fork and him running across a room to impale himself onto it is “stabbing him with a fork.””

    A million times this.

  4. This is a frustrating scenario at the very least, and of course our fearless Captain A. has delivered the best possible advice. I have only one thing to add, and I think C.A. hinted at this by saying older men who make comments about marrying you are never ever cute. But I’d go a step further and say that this guy has a thing for you. A pretty big crush. He’s making it all ok because you’re both married and maybe also because of the age difference, but I still find it very creepy that he is pushing himself in this way and I would just warn you that he might become scarier when he is rebuffed, if you communicate with him as directly as Captain Awkward has recommended. I do think that straight-up bluntness is necessary, but I also have been in situations where this kind of directness does not work, especially if the person you are addressing has a thing for you. I think this guy is totally infatuated and I urge you to only speak to him in the presence of others. I would also absolutely expect retaliation if he does take the hint. And while documenting is important, it is more important to consider your safety. Please proceed with caution, and maybe consider letting a trusted co-worker know of this situation and what you plan to do about it. This story makes me nervous, and while I don’t wish to be a fearmonger, I do want you to be forewarned and forearmed.
    Good luck!
    Dee from Boston

    • I would probably find some time for a water-cooler chat with a couple coworkers, like:

      “Oh, you guys, the weirdest thing happened. You know how Coworker X is really into bike riding? He’s been trying to get me to go with him and I keep telling him no, and then he BOUGHT ME A HELMET! Who does that? It’s so strange!”

      You might hear “oh gosh, he bought one for me too, a few years back” or “…you know, you’re like the third young woman in this office he’s done that to, that is really weird”. The other thing this does is put it out to the office gossip pool that Coworker X is being weird to you and you find it weird, which might be a useful and protective thing for you to have in the office gossip pool.

      • JMegan said:

        Yes, yes, yes to the office gossip pool. This is one time it can really work in your favour!

      • JC said:

        If he starts pushing you about again and you are within hearing distance of your coworkers (or even if you are not), and if you feel safe and comfortable in doing this, I think there is some power in saying in that kinda joking tone something like: Thanks for the offer, but as I said before Biking isn’t my thing… why are you being weird about this? This positions the behaviour as odd and insistent to everyone listening, and it’s that kinda thing that makes the people around you go: yeah, he IS pushing really hard about that. That IS weird.

        • sayevet said:

          “Why are you being weird about this?” is a great question!

        • BigDogLittleCat said:

          I would change the script from “Biking isn’t my thing” to “No.”
          Biking is no longer the reason she’s refusing.

        • I’d change this script to “I have been refusing these invitations from you for YEARS. Why are you being weird about this?”

          And make sure you’re loud enough for the co-workers to hear you. Not screaming, or anything. Just loud enough for them to hear you. Maybe drop something first, so the “clunk!” catches their attention, and then speak in a just slightly-louder-than-normal volume.

      • Adrian said:

        Oh yes! Involving others is great. So is asking him directly why he’s being so weird and pushy about this.

      • Pina said:

        I can’t believe she did not tell anyone in the office about that creep…. Question: WHY did she not do it? Apparently this goes on for a while.

        • Pina said:

          Just for the record: I agree with OP, it is getting creepy. But without telling a firm “No, I’m not interested”, “I don’t bike”, it’ll never end.
          Putting the helmet on his chair with a note (I would go with an additional email, as evidence) “Thank you, but NO. I don’t bike and I’m not interested”. I was in a similar situation and sending an email with very particular content and giving him some (serious) options, solved my problem. Additional, I would start sharing with younger women in the office… maybe you get some “oh, he tried that with me too!”. Still, I don’t understand that if she really is bothered by it, why did she not talk to somebody in the office about it. There is usually always ONE person who you talk about ‘office-stuff’. My experience. Through the grapevine. PLUS a serious NO to the creep.

          • Vicki said:

            Seconding what winter said about not scrutinizing LW’s behavior.

            Also, you’re assuming facts not in evidence. She did tell him, more than once, that she doesn’t bike and isn’t interested. Her creepy coworker is someone whose response to being told “no, I’m not interested” was to stop asking and outright tell her that they would be going on a bike ride, and to treat her answer of “you don’t listen” as a joke. There is no magic phrasing for a firm no that he’s going to suddenly understand.

            Plenty of coworkers might express sympathy in that situation, but their sympathy wouldn’t make the cycling creep back off. And some coworkers might tell her “it’s a compliment” or “he doesn’t mean anything by it,” or “if you’re really bothered, I don’t understand why you haven’t done something about it.” You’ve said that here, are you sure everyone in her office would be more usefully supportive?

        • winter said:

          LW is not being the person being an ass here so it would be nice not to scrutinize her behavior like that.

        • Nanani said:

          Why do you assume she didn’t….?

        • LW (Who STILL doesn't want to ride bikes!) said:

          1. Why do you assume I didn’t discuss the bike helmet issue with someone in my office? Because I did, and that person agreed it was weird.
          2. I don’t consider him a creep, but certainly understand why that is the prevailing reaction/opinion here. I have a history of friendship with this man.
          3. I DID tell him I wasn’t interested and didn’t bike, hence my letter to CA.
          4. Even if I hadn’t told anyone in the office about his behavior, does that somehow lessen or invalidate my discomfort at the situation? Your words come off as victim blaming (or they would if I considered myself a victim, which I do not, but I would caution you to be more conscious of this for other comments).

    • ” I think this guy is totally infatuated and I urge you to only speak to him in the presence of others.”

      I’m curious, how would you actually accomplish that in the work environment?

    • LW (Who STILL doesn't want to ride bikes!) said:

      You nailed it, he absolutely has a thing for me, which is something I’ve been trying to ignore for a long time because up until now I really considered him a good friend. But the bike helmet incident has made me realize that I HAVE to put some boundaries in place and enforce them.

      • Working Hypothesis said:

        Okay, this is a scenario I see way too often. Rational person observes that friend has a thing for them, that friend isn’t explicitly stating. Rational person interprets this as it would be if THEY were the one doing it, namely, “Oh, Friend has a thing for me but recognizes it’s not viable and isn’t saying it outright because he doesn’t want to let it interfere with the friendship.”

        Except that Friend, not being rational themself, is not doing that at all. They’re not saying it explicitly because what you don’t ask, you can’t get rejected for; and they’re plotting ways to get around your boundaries without ever admitting that they want to.

        Bottom line: nobody can EVER maintain a friendship with somebody who has an unrequited crush on them, unless the person with the crush is willing to 1) truly accept that there is NO chance for romantic involvement with this person, and 2) cooperate in prioritizing the friendship over the fantasy. Without their active assistance and shared priorities with you, their crush will doom a friendship no matter what you do.

        Thankfully, lots of people *do* understand that having a crush on a friends doesn’t mean the friend is going to want you back, and are willing to accept that and move on. But they’re almost always the ones who will tell you up front that they’d like to date you, give you a chance to say No explicitly if that’s your choice, and accept the No the first time it is said.

        Beware the romantically interested friend who *doesn’t* tell you of his romantic interest in so many words. They’re almost always the difficult ones.

        • Thanksforallthefish said:

          ooh I like this.

      • It’s frustrating when someone you’ve thought of as a friend makes it clear that they aren’t.

        You have my sympathy on this.

      • Wulfwen said:


        An older coworker, in a position more powerful/influential than yours (I am guessing?) bought you an unsolicited, expensive present and delivered it to you at work. This isn’t just creepy – this is really textbook “Please proceed to HR for advice ASAP” land, if you are in the US.

        I hope your boundary-setting takes! Best of luck with Wishful/Delusional Biker.

        • Spc. Agent Bluejay said:

          Bike helmets aren’t necessarily expensive; they can be anywhere from $10 to over $100.

          Not that the exact value matters when someone is favour sharking.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      yuuup. I had a married older dude coworker come in to my office one day just to profess he cares deeply for me but then to add that he thought of me like one of his nieces and he just wants me to be happy……ugh ugh ugh No. if you just think of me like one of your nieces, then you would never need to come into my place of work to tell me you “care for me deeply.” and/or I feel very sorry for your nieces. P.S. he also once confessed he would lie to his wife as to his whereabouts whenever he was going to be around me…..no just no

  5. ASJ said:

    For the record, I don’t think your issue is petty at all. That sounds super creepy. In addition to the Captain absolving you from worrying about making him feel bad, I’m absolving you of worrying about your issue being petty. IT’S NOT.

    • Agreed. The guy’s not taking no for an answer. To me, that’s a very big issue.

      • Jadelyn said:

        Right. Like…if he invited you on a bike ride, and you were upset with him for inviting you at all, that would be petty. That’s not what’s happening here at all. The problem isn’t him inviting you on a bike ride, the problem is him completely ignoring your expressly stated disinterest and trying to force you to go on a damn bike ride. The ignoring and the forcing you to do stuff is the problem, and that is never a petty thing to have a problem with, no matter what the surface issue is.

        • Yeah. I mean, even if he agrees to leave you alone about bike riding, what’s to stop him from then saying, “Have you tried yoga? OMG! Yoga is great! You should join me on a yoga retreat! Here! Have a yoga mat!”

          What’s to stop him? Basic respect for you as a human being, that’s what.

  6. MrsLokiofAsgard said:

    This little gem here is why I love Captain Awkward! ——-> “You saying “no” to riding bikes at this point is “hurting his feelings” like you holding a fork and him running across a room to impale himself onto it is “stabbing him with a fork.””

    I stumbled across this blog a few months ago when I was looking for advice about setting some boundaries with a woman I knew. I stayed for the amazing advice doled out.

    LW, the advice is spot on. Right now you’re being a better friend than this guy is only because you’re worried about hurting his feelings. Screw that. This guy isn’t listening to you. Friends listen to you. This guy laughed at you when you clearly told him he didn’t listen to you. Friends don’t do that. He’s made inappropriate comments about dating you. Ewwww! Friends don’t do that.

  7. Amy said:

    You are in no way unreasonable to be miffed about this. This guy is being a jerk and ignoring both the explicit and the implicit boundaries you’ve put up. That’s not friendly behavior–it’s gross and controlling and you are absolutely right to be not OK with it.

    Here’s what I would do:
    -Attempt to give him back the bike helmet. I’d probably say, “I appreciate that you thought of me, but I am never going to use this. Hopefully you can return it.” If you’d like, you can leave off the appreciation bit.
    -If he won’t take it back, get rid of it. If he asks, tell him “I told you I’m never going to use it. You didn’t want it back, so I (donated it/threw it out/whatever).”
    -If he asks you to go on a bike ride again, tell him “I don’t ride bikes and have no interest in starting. Please stop asking me about riding bikes.” Then, change the topic to something work-related.
    -If he EVER mentions your appearance or marrying you or anything remotely similar again, tell him “I’m not comfortable with that kind of comment.” If he does anything but apologize and promise to never do it again (including conditional apologies like “Sorry, I was just joking around” or “sorry you feel that way” or “I can’t help it, you’re too cute”), walk away. If he ever does it again after this conversation, immediately turn around and walk away, no commentary needed on your part–he already knows.

  8. The very first thought that popped into my head was that a bicycle helmet might make an excellent planter for an african violet.

    • roramich said:


    • oh yes, that would be awesome

    • Pina said:

      haha, never thought about that, it would be an answer too! And put it on your desk, visible to everyone. RoFL. But, I think he’s not gonna GET IT.

    • zeph said:

      Yes! Me,too! Full of soil with a violet plant — on your desk,so that when he comes by to harrass you again, voila!

    • Nanani said:

      don’t bike helmets have air holes and whatnot though?
      The water and soil would fall right out when tipped, too.
      Therefore, the solution is to plant it on HIS desk

      • I was just thinking this. Bike helmets usually have ventilation and stuff

      • Put a nice coir liner in it and attach some rope to make a hanging planter!

      • You can get plastic liners for planters and whatnot.

        Trouble is this sounds like a whole lot of hassle just to show someone who doesn’t deserve that much effort.

        In theory though, it’s a delicious thought 🙂

      • Jenna said:

        It would make a better orchid pot, with orchid bark, but then we’d miss out on the African violet inside joke.

  9. roramich said:

    I would also be blocking his texts, if it were me. YMMV, of course. I do not believe he is a friend, or not the friend the LW needs or wants.

    • clorinda said:

      She might not be able to block his texts, if they work together and that’s one of the expected lines of communication. But she can certainly develop a habit of responding ONLY to the work-related texts and not even acknowledging any of the creepy/icky/over-the-line ones.
      And definitely give back the helmet! She doesn’t even have to do it in person–just leave it on his chair with a firm and unmistakable NO note.

      • roramich said:

        good point… I was assuming the texting was the friend part, forgetting that some workplaces do that. thanks!

      • Anon, Goodnight said:

        Not responding to non-work texts is great, but I hope the LW saves/archives them as documentation.

  10. The Green Door said:

    “Plan that bike ride all you want. I won’t be there.”

    “What’s your end game here, CoWorker? You keep asking, I keep saying no. Nagging me and buying me bike toys isn’t going to get me to change my mind. Knock it off.”

    “Oh, you’re feelings are hurt that I won’t go with you? How do you think I feel being trapped at work with you – my “friend” consistently refusing to take my no for an answer? Respect works both ways, man.”

    “Would you be pressuring a male coworker this much?” “Do you nag your wife this much?” (A subtle reminder that, um, he has one of those).

    Just keep that “No” on repeat, LW. Go ahead and get that bitchy, so-tired-of-this-BS tone to your voice if you feel like it. Let his feelings be hurt. He’s the one being weird and aggressive – all while you’re trapped at work. That’s crap. And you can go on and tell him so!

    • l8rg8r said:

      I love the question of “what’s the end game?” Like, does he think that after he annoys you to death into trying this hobby you already said you don’t like, will you suddenly have an epiphany and love it? Probs not. I feel this way about people who tell me that I would benefit from meditation if I just tried it again or that I must be doing it wrong if I don’t like it. Your unwillingness to hear my “no” isn’t going to somehow magically turn into me loving the thing I don’t want to love.

      • Saturnalia said:

        There are certain things I can’t stand specifically because of the people who are pushily into selfsame things. I know it’s not the best reasoning and I’m sure I’m missing out on some legit great experiences but it’s a fair trade off to avoid preachy fans.

      • Angel said:

        There’s basically been one time that has ever worked on me, which is my boyfriend used to run and tried really hard to get me to go with him about… three times? And after I told him no, it became kind of an “in-joke” where he would ask or make a comment like “when someday I get you to go running with me…” and I would roll my eyes. Turns out, I actually love running. Who knew?

        The big difference between that and this guy is that in my case, it was a joke. He wasn’t actually invested in getting me to run with him. It would have made him happy, but he didn’t “care”. This guy doesn’t just “care”, he CARES. Same with you it looks like, that people are serious about it. I bet a friend saying in very clearly joking tones “Ooh, you KNOW what I BET would HELP??” every time the subject of meditation comes up would probably make you laugh more than want to strangle her.

        • whingedrinking said:

          Yup. It’s like, let’s say that there’s no ulterior motive here at all (DOUBTFUL BUT OKAY), this guy just really, really, REALLY wants the LW to ride bikes because he wants her to love it as much as he does. It’s his religion and he thinks he has a calling from the goddess Velocipedia to bring people into the holy embrace of tight shorts or whatever.
          He is still being a colossal assbutt of the highest order, and counterproductive to boot. Badgering people and being annoying doesn’t make them want to participate in your hobby, because even if they turn out to like the hobby, they’ll then have to hang out with you.

          • Chameleon said:

            “Colossal assbutt!” Serious lols!

          • roramich said:

            I desperately need to add the goddess of Velocipedia to my altar now. !!!

      • violetofjuly said:

        People like this actually do believe that if they can just badger you into doing their hobby that you will absolutely love it. I have a coworker/friend like this who is not actually a creepy person, but he has a hard time understanding anything besides a firm “No, I am not doing that because I do not want to.” He has a firm belief that his interests would be widely and universally shared if only others would try.

        Of course, I think it’s far more likely that creepy old guy doesn’t actually care whether OP likes riding bikes or not, and is really attempting to use this as an opportunity to start an affair.

        • Clover said:

          I know quite a few evangelical bicyclists. It’s weird. I agree with the Captain’s assessment of this situation, but I’ve definitely had to tell a few otherwise perfectly nice people, in a purely platonic context, “I don’t want to ride bikes! Stop asking! Leave me alone! No means no!”

          • This is a thing? an actual thing?

            Put aside your worries and your cares, for there is nothing in your life more important than picking up someone else’s hobby! At once!

          • Thanksforallthefish said:

            Bikevangelists are very much a thing! They are super irritating to me and I love biking. Maybe my irritation would fade away if just try embroidery! Thanks @SylviaMcivers for helping me see the light.

          • AllanV said:

            Sadly, Dr. Seuss teaches us that people will totally like something if you can badger them into trying it.

        • BeautifulVoid said:

          I generally have an excellent relationship with my father, but one of his…let’s say “quirks” is that he often believes his way is the One Right Way, and as such, once he has a vision of the way something should work, it’s very hard to get him to change it. Anyway, he got it in his head one day that my husband and I should do Activity X, despite us never expressing any interest in it. Long story short, he got together with my mother-in-law (who sometimes does X, but not as much as he does), and they decided to buy us expensive equipment related to X. “But we’re not sure if we’ll use it.” Shot down. “Why don’t we start with a less expensive version of Expensive Equipment, and then if we like it, you can upgrade?” Shot down. My mother eventually pulled me aside and said that clearly nothing we said was going to change their grand vision, so I might as well keep my mouth shut and let them waste their money.

          Except my father didn’t let up and kept badgering me about X. Finally I had enough, and since he wasn’t listening to me and I felt ready to explode, I went to my mother and asked her to speak to him. Interestingly enough, that same day he happened to bring up X again in front of both of us, and my mom took the lead in telling him to knock it off.

          I realize my father is not coming off well in this little story, but you know what? When he was firmly asked/told to STOP TALKING ABOUT ME DOING X, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, he stopped. This was 2.5 years ago, and he hasn’t brought it up since. I forget how long it’s been since Expensive Equipment was purchased (probably closer to 3 years ago, maybe 4), but it has sat at my house, untouched since the day it arrived, and no one has spoken of it again. Which is fine by me. Not my fault they didn’t listen.

        • apricity said:

          I’ve met evangelic cyclists (including one who took a while for “I have a back injury that means I physically cannot sit on a bike without excruciating pain” to sink in) so I actually think that it’s quite likely he really, really wants to Spread The Word About Biking. Or maybe he is creepy! Or possibly loves biking with a side of inappropriateness! LW, you are the best placed person to make that determination…

          …but in any case, he can’t force you to go cycling. Take comfort in that fact. Let the invite be super awkward.
          “No, I’m not interested, but I hope you have fun!” is a socially polite way of firmly declining.
          “I appreciate the thought behind this, but I’m just not interested, thanks! You have fun though!”
          “No thanks! Bye!”
          “Cycling just isn’t my thing! Thanks but I’ve got other things I’d rather do.”
          “Thanks, but I’m going to keep my helmet strictly for use in the apocalypse. Cycling would get in the way of my preparedness.” (laugh, walk away)

        • Perhaps not creepy, precisely, but people like this are still jerks. Because they are assuming that everyone is like them and that anyone who says “I am different from you” is either lying or in denial. That’s… really not cool.

    • Aveline said:

      “Do you nag your wife this much?””

      I love this phrasing.

      “Nag” is so often a word used to describe wives asking their husbands to do things (usually their share of household chores) and people forget how often men nag women for attention and sex (i.e., “kibbles”).

      There is no worse a nag on the planet than an older man who thinks he is owed attention from a younger woman.

      I’d also add, after the nag question. “You are aware that someone looking at this from the outside might think your intentions are less than honorable. You should be more careful in how you relate to younger women. You wouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt.”

      • Anon, Goodnight said:

        “There is no worse a nag on the planet than an older man who thinks he is owed attention from a younger woman.”

        OMFG, yes!

    • Rose Fox said:

      “What’s the end game?” is great—makes it clear that you’re aware he has a strategy that he’s attempting to execute, and it won’t work on you.

      I’m the sort of person who will be even more blunt: “When you don’t take ‘no’ for an answer you are being extremely disrespectful. I no longer trust you to take ‘no’ for an answer in other circumstances. Stop trying to be my friend; friends respect each other. If you continue to push my boundaries I will make it an HR matter. Good day, sir.”

      • “I no longer trust you to take ‘no’ for an answer in other circumstances.”

        I. LOVE. This. It makes your No absolutely clear, AND it makes absolutely clear even to the most clueless OR “Clueless” person the reason why you are no longer hanging out with them. A clueless person might learn from it and change the behavior, apologize and seek to regain your trust. A “Clueless” person will rant and rage about how unfair it is, but realize that they have lost this war, and go find some other borders to invade.

        However, please be warned: A person who doesn’t even claim cluelessness may very well show their true colors, and the reason for their repeated invitations, so be prepared, when you say this sentence, to deal with a possible escalation. Try to say this sentence in public, with witnesses who you know you can trust to back you up, in case of escalation.

        And yes, even if you don’t make a formal complaint to HR, give them a heads’ up. It might not be “under their jurisdiction, because it’s not an actual work issue” now, but if it does escalate, and it escalates at work, it most certainly WILL be under their jurisdiction. And HR people love to cover their butts, so if they know that you know that it might become a real work issue under their jurisdiction, should he choose to escalate at work, and if they know that you know that they know and were warned, and had the opportunity to take steps to stop it, and didn’t do it, that it could be grounds for a lawsuit, and they are just more likely to help you than they would be, if you came to them after the fact.

        Warning work wonders.

      • KS said:

        If you invoke HR in his presence, only do it AFTER you have given them and your boss a heads-up! No matter how much of a “friend” he is, that’s the equivalent of getting a divorce lawyer–the relationship is now adversarial, and you need to protect yourself before entering that field of combat. Not at all saying you shouldn’t do it, but absolutely DO NOT give him the opportunity to go to boss/HR before you do and poison them against you by warning him that you “might” be involving them.

    • A rotten, but sometimes effective technique in this vein is “What’s wrong with you? I’ve already told you I’m not going biking. Ever.”

  11. SamKD said:

    First time commenter. As a boss, writing from my work computer, I heartily endorse everything Captain A just wrote. I wanted to add that you would be, after the events you describe, TOTALLY correct/within your rights/acting appropriately to go to your boss/supervisor/HR right now today with “I’d like to make you aware of a situation…” followed by the story you just told. Bike Fiend needs told by Higher-Ups “you can’t be doing that here.” I’d be talking to him before end of day if it happened in my department.

    • Emmmmmm said:

      The helmet itself is pretty good evidence to present to HR right?

      • SamKD said:

        Yes, that’s fairly invasive and would be enough to get manager/HR involved but “unwanted gift” is still nominally in the realm of “just weird” so even with the “keeps asking” it might not get as much attention depending on who works in HR.

        What crossed my line was “shows up in my office, and tells me that we’re picking a night after work for a short, 30 minute ride. I commented that he really doesn’t listen, and he laughed.” That’s hostile work environment. Invading space, making a demand, outright ignoring (again!) refusal…LW has every reason to feel unsafe. Bike Fiend needs told by a superior that his behavior is wrong and will not be tolerated.

        As a related aside, I too sometimes wonder “where is the line of wrong?” with stuff like this and here’s something I’ve found helpful: Replace the passive/receptive person in the story with The Rock (or hot burly human of choice, YMMV) and see if it seems reasonable, okay and non-ludicrous. If it does not, then it is, by definition, inappropriate. We converse with other _humans_ and we do not get to have separate standards for what kind of humans they may be.

        • Aveline said:

          Also trying to get her alone in an isolated area.

        • Well, there’s also the repeated “If I were 20 years younger, I’d wanna marry you.”

        • GinnyQ said:

          “As a related aside, I too sometimes wonder “where is the line of wrong?” with stuff like this and here’s something I’ve found helpful: Replace the passive/receptive person in the story with The Rock (or hot burly human of choice, YMMV) and see if it seems reasonable, okay and non-ludicrous. If it does not, then it is, by definition, inappropriate.”

          This is absolutely fantastic. It makes it abundantly clear that issues like this are all about power dynamics. Thank you for this suggestion! Noting for future reference 🙂

          • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

            I agree. So many times people say things like “but I do this with everyone”. Using this formula allows a person to see that they, in fact, don’t do it to everyone because I have little faith that a co-worker would TELL this hulking man “one night this week we’re going for a 30 minute bike ride”.

            I would also have resorted to mom speak in that moment: “Are you telling me or asking me? Because if you’re telling me then you’d better walk away before I get more angry and if you’re asking me the answer is no.”

          • SeluciaV said:

            MrsLokiofAsgard, I LOVE your “mom speak” idea. What a great way to frame her response! It does a really beautiful job of articulating both that he’s being inappropriate by “telling” another grown adult what they are going to do AND clearly reiterating her response of a thousand no’s. I’m totally putting this one in my tool box.

    • Ardea herodias said:

      As a manager I backup the Captain 100%. I would also want this reported to me (or HR) as well. This is harassment, at least by our policy/law. You’ve said “No” and he continues to badger you with unwanted social invitations. I want my reports to feel safe and comfortable at work and this makes that impossible. As SamKD said, I was talking to a person that was harassing in a similar fashion within 24 hours when I had a complaint.

      Of course, the LW knows their works culture and environment best and they might want to follow their gut, but definitely document, document, document.

    • LA said:

      This is what I was coming here to say. Let someone else at work know this is happening, because it is not something that should be happening at work. A coworker should not be trying to pressure you into any kind of after work activity (esp. not one-on-one at night!).

    • Yes. Even an HR group who will say “He hasn’t broken any work rules, yet,” and “we can’t do anything until he breaks the written rules,” should be informed, and told that if it *should* escalate, it is on record that they knew and did nothing. Email is good for this. It has an unequivocally dated paper trail, and any HR person with any experience will recognize that.

      So, if they dig in and say, “We can’t do anything about this, not even call the guy in for a chat about respecting boundaries,” then that is your cue to start looking for work elsewhere.

      If they say, “We can’t do anything officially, but we will certainly do something to try to put a stop to this,” and there are really quite a few off-the-record options for them to try, then you know that they’ll have your back if it does escalate. Because in this situation, where you have already given them the information before it became an official issue, having your back will also be having the company’s back.

      Biker Boy has already proven himself to be a boundary-pushing jerk. Now it’s time for your boss and HR to prove what kind of people they are.

  12. l8rg8r said:

    I don’t know where I read this quote, but it reminds me of: “When a man says no, it’s the end of a conversation. When a woman says no, it’s the start of a negotiation.”

    • JenniferP said:

      Great quote! It is one of my missions in life to end that nonsense.

      • Clarry said:

        The quote is Gavin de Becker, Gift of Fear. (“When a man says no, it’s the end of the discussion.” When a woman says no, it’s the beginning of a negotiation.”)

        • JenniferP said:

          I knew it sounded familiar, thanks.

  13. Drew said:

    This guy is being gross and you are right to be frustrated and annoyed. Personally, i’d be tempted to line the helmet with plastic and turn it into a little desk planter. (I was going to suggest saying, “This helmet would go great with the bike that I DO NOT OWN,” but this guy might show up next week with a Schwinn if you did that.)

    LW, you’ve done all the necessary polite refusals and friendly demurrals. Congratulations and te absolvo. Now you get to be direct: “Stop with the bike shit, Coworker. I’m not interested and this is bordering on harassment. Let’s just keep things professional and focused on the job, and we’ll each do our own thing after hours that doesn’t involve the other.”

    • Dove said:

      Oh no, no – he’d turn up with a Very Expensive, Super Specialized bike that’s meant for going on super-long fancy bike trips. And then make a big deal about how he had to put down *so much* money on it, and try to leverage that into guilting LW to going along with what he wants. Definitely don’t give him any openings to turn up with more unwanted gifts; he’s shown he doesn’t know how to behave appropriately.

      • Planegirl said:

        Ugh! Reminds me of that letter to CA a couple of years ago from someone whose (crush-ridden and creepy) co-worker *bought her a laptop*. Favour-sharking is always a bad sign, even if the thing (bribe) being offered is something you might actually want or need.

    • Amphelise said:

      Using it as a desk planter – literally lining it and planting a plant in it – would be the most hilarious thing ever.

  14. Laura said:

    I’d rope your boss into this as well before going to HR. If someone I managed was having this kind of issue with a colleague, I would want to know!

  15. policychick said:

    I have found, when I was at the very end of my rope with this kind of situation (and who buys a bike helmet for ANYONE who is not an SO and does not ride??) I would try to think of the other person as a small child who just doesn’t -get it-. Then you just repeat yourself, over and over with the same phrase.

    So you return the helmet in person, and say, “Listen, I don’t ride and I’m pretty sure I mentioned that? – so I hope you can return this.” Don’t ask why he bought it, don’t ask any questions that would then invite a give and take on the topic. Just statements.
    Person argues Point A:
    You ignore Point A and start with the “Are you a small child?” tactic. You can put a puzzled look on your face and just repeat yourself, a little more slowly because apparently they didn’t understand the big words. “Oh that’s nice but I don’t ride bicycles. Okay you take this nice helmet back to the bike shop, or give it to one of your friends so you can ride bikes with them.”
    Person argues Point B:
    “I don’t ride.”
    Person argues Point C:
    “Yeah but I still don’t ride, so. Okay I need to get back to it (indicating work)”

    Rinse and repeat.

    • I don’t advise sticking around long enough for him to say anything.

      The boring repeated response should start when he shows up at LW’s desk.

  16. Polychrome said:

    I dunno about the confrontational / involving HR responses (though she should definitely write it all up and put it someplace for safekeeping). I like the throw the helmet in a donation bin, never explain, ghost the co-worker approach. Dude is a narcissist (Venn diagram with male cycling enthusiasts: not complete overlap, but whoa). He knows he’s being a creep and he knows you are not interested in fucking him. He will HAPPILY TAKE A DRAMA starring him with you in a “supporting” role as second prize, even one involving HR as audience. Then he can tell people all about how it “got weird” and you “freaked out” with a heavy side dose of implied mutuality. Gift of Fear, grey rock method, all of that “shut it down” strategy is your go-to here, I think.

    • I completely agree with Polychrome. Any further engagement — be it returning the helmet or saying “no” a million more times in a million different ways — is still engaging with him.

      Donate the helmet to Goodwill and scale your interaction with him way back to “coworker only.” Be polite but distant and only speak to him when you need to. He’ll soon give you the old, “Are you mad at me? Did I do something wrong?” poor-me B.S. You can disinterestedly reply, “Yes, you tried to shove biking down my throat and I can’t be friendly with a coworker who tries to force things on me.”

      And he’ll whine and fake-apologize but just say, “I’m fine being coworkers with you but that’s all. Please leave my office.” Keep HR in your back pocket as a threat if he doesn’t leave you alone.

      Always remember: it’s HIS fault that you two can’t be friends anymore. Don’t feel bad about it.

    • Dove said:

      Ehhh…at this point, LW kind of *needs* to involve HR if they’ll be helpful. Yes, Creepy Bike Dude is going to try and spin it how he wants, but LW *needs* to have it on record that he’s behaving extremely inappropriately and that she’s repeatedly told him no – very hard ‘no’s, even! there’s no ambiguity in “I’m not interested”! – and he’s *still pushing* and has now escalated to unwanted, inappropriate gifts.

      This is a work problem, not just a “creepy dude” problem. If HR or LW’s manager can’t back her up or if this dude is a missing stair in the workplace, LW needs that information so that she can do things like start looking for another job if necessary.

  17. brightlights said:

    I also think it is reasonable for the OP to loop her manager in on this. If one of my direct reports was feeling pushed and weirded out by a coworker who wasn’t taking no for an answer and being intrusive, I would want to know. This is pretty clearly affecting the OP’s comfort in working with Bike Dude and that makes it a work problem.

  18. JayFernz said:

    Ew ew ew ew ew he’s been pressuring you to do something you don’t want to do for YEARS? He’s married, but making “jokes” to you, his coworker, about how much he’d like to be married to you? This is very weird, gross behavior and you are in no way responsible for it.

  19. nein09 said:

    Lady who enjoys riding bikes here. I think the Captain’s advice here is great and everyone saying that this guy is being weird and inappropriate is right. I see this dynamic from people who like riding bikes a lot- if I like a thing, this person who seems cool must also like a thing! They are missing so much in their life by not doing that thing! If only they would try that thing, they would see how amazing it is!

    LW, underscoring the fact that he is making you never ever want to ride bikes with his approach may strengthen your ‘no’. Be clear that the bike-riding ship has sailed (hello mixed metaphor) if you do that though.

    (As an aside, since I am a lady who rides a bike, I often have middle-aged bike riding men ask me how I got into it. They want to know the secret key, the magic word to make their wives/girlfriends/attractive office friends magically enjoy riding bikes with them. They dislike that my answer is something along the lines of ‘my friends were doing it, and it looked fun, so I tried it, and it was fun, so now I ride a bike all over’, because it’s probably just like THEIR answer to that question, because I am a PERSON JUST LIKE THEY ARE and SO IS THEIR WIFE/GIRLFRIEND/AGGRIEVED COWORKER. I make them sad with this answer because you cannot just wave a magic wand and make someone want to come riding with you so that they can see what an amazing bicyclist you are. Ahem.)

    • Rhoda said:

      I used to spend time on Bike Forums from time to time and that was a common question from male participants – “How can I get my wife/girlfriend to ride?” In many cases the wives/girlfriends didn’t want to be dropped and desperately trying to keep up or were afraid of traffic, in some cases these men just couldn’t understand why childcare+housework+full time employment would prevent these women from making time to go for bike rides of an hour or more, in some cases they already had a bike for her to use that was clearly unsuitable (“Yeah, it’s three sizes too big, but we’re *only* doing a 30 mile ride this weekend. She can make do with it.”)
      The answer, in most cases, was “Try to find a local women’s group and encourage her – just once – to try it.” Also “Don’t expect her to keep up with you on her 50 pound department store mountain bike when you have a 19 pound carbon fibre road bike.” It was truly amazing how many of these men didn’t see why her heavy cheap bike should prevent her from keeping up.

      • Rana said:

        These are the same sort of dudes who are surprised that their girlfriends hate backpacking after said girlfriends’ first experience of it was lugging a pack twice their size on a ten-mile hike while dude charged up a hill at top speed and expected them to make do with borrowed gear. It is, unfortunately, A Thing.

        • nein09 said:

          Both of you are 100000% correct.

          Also, these same guys tend to make it way more about their own enjoyment than their partner’s.

          • Rocketship said:

            “Also, these same guys tend to make it way more about their own enjoyment than their partner’s.”

            I suspect that observation extends to far more than just the hobby in question.

          • whingedrinking said:

            EXACTLY. I have seen dudes get actually mad because their girlfriend isn’t interested in, say, tabletop RPGs, but they’ve made no effort to suggest the kind of game *she* would like. Maybe she doesn’t wanna kill orcs, maybe she wants to be a renegade hacker or a space captain or whatever – but if you insist that it’s D&D or bust, she’s never going to be interested.

          • I’m still laughing about the RPG gamer I used to know who tanked a promising relationship by behaving this way. He lost his job. His girlfriend generously offered to let him move in with her, right before New Year’s. He immediately, without asking her, invited us all to her house for a New Year’s Eve gaming session. He was quite sure that she would be thrilled to cook for us and watch. She wasn’t. When he offered to let her play (she wasn’t a gamer and we were all advanced gamers), he was astonished that this was not good enough.

          • Bex said:

            “I have seen dudes get actually mad because their girlfriend isn’t interested in, say, tabletop RPGs, but they’ve made no effort to suggest the kind of game *she* would like. Maybe she doesn’t wanna kill orcs, maybe she wants to be a renegade hacker or a space captain or whatever – but if you insist that it’s D&D or bust, she’s never going to be interested.”

            Well, those dudes are still a step above my partner and his gaming group! Fortunately he doesn’t mind that I’m not interested, but I think some of the group’s significant others have had to explain that “no matter what RPG you and your friends are playing, you only seem to be aware of one possible source of humor, and it is penis jokes, even though in real life you like to discuss and laugh at a wide variety of topics! It is weird and off-putting and not a game I am interested in.”

          • Raptor said:

            Even when they start with a reasonable version of their hobby (like, King of Tokyo for board games, or a short lake hike), I can’t stand the “my hobby is objectively fun, and your hobby will never appeal to me even enough to try it” attitude. Can you imagine this happening with hobbies associated with women?

            “Here, Coworker, I bought you a rotary cutter and a self-healing mat. We’re quilting tonight.” “But I don’t quilt…” “Now you do, we’re quilting tonight.”

            “Coworker, I appreciate the thought, but you’re really going to have to return these interchangeable circular knitting needles.” “No, you’re going to need them.”

        • nottakennotavailable said:

          I don’t get people (okay, let’s be real, here – guys) like this, at all. I climb 14,000-foot mountains. The last person I would want to take on a trip like that is someone who has little to no experience with hiking in the first place, much less hiking up a steep slope, exposed to the elements due to being above treeline, at an elevation where you’re burning energy simply trying to *breathe,* much less keep putting one foot in front of the other…oh, and it really behooves you to get to the summit before noon, because the afternoon t-storms here in CO will rain down with the vicious wrath of the Old Testament God – and may He have mercy on your soul if you’re still above treeline when they start! In other words, you generally want to be up and on the road before the sun starts peeping over the Eastern horizon, which is not a time most people like to be dragged from the coziness of their beds on their days off.

          Dudes who take their female SOs on their hobby-of-choice’s equivalent of a fourteener for the SO’s very first outing – which, unfortunately, many seem wont to do – are setting themselves up for failure but not realizing where the fault lies.

          • Anisoptera said:

            Hah THIS. A beginner hike is a 5km amble through lovely, flat-ish terrain on a nice day with a picnick or a cafe at the end. It’s walking *slowly* so they can keep up, and taking breaks.

            I had so many miserable experiences when I first started hiking (or cycling) with friends who would drop me, then wait for me to catch up, then as I came gasping into view ready for a break they would take off again because they’d already had a break waiting for me. For some reason I pushed through and got really into it but there was a lot of stuff that wasn’t fun and I now really like doing this stuff *alone* because of it.

          • Anisoptera: Yeah, when I introduce hiking newbies to the wonders of the sport, one of my go-tos is Dinosaur Ridge, because it’s low(er) elevation, the road is paved, it’s short-ish, and it got its name because there are dinosaur fossils! Right there in the rocks! It’s been a big hit with even my most outdoors-averse friends, since you kind of *have* to stop regularly to admire the unearthed wonders, and it’s soooooo coooooooool!

            I also do a lot of solo hikes, not just because I generally prefer the company of my own thoughts and some kickass music on hikes (Beethoven ftw! XD), but also because I am usually the slow one in whatever hiking group I’m in. Fortunately, I’ve managed to hike with groups that understand that the slowest person would generally like a break, too, thankyouverymuch!

          • Anisoptera said:

            Oh yes – fellow slow one here! One of my favourite things about going alone is not feeling guilty about stopping for a break or to take photos or whatever. 🙂

            Also good job with the dinosaur walk – that sounds awesome.

          • violetofjuly said:

            Because for these guys, it is not about whether the companion in question actually enjoys the hobby or not; it is about showing off their skill or prowess in this particular area (or alternatively, showing off the partner to other people in the hobby).

          • Raptor said:

            Castlewood Canyon is really nice! (Avid hiker who is slow due to permanent medical issues.)

          • @Anisoptera: Hell yeah to taking a zillion photos! I gotta justify all the time I spend huffing and puffing my way up granite slabs with attitude problems somehow. 🙂 Also, I’m happy to spread the word about the dino walk wherever and whenever I can – I honestly forgot about it until a few years ago, when I had some friends coming to town and panicked because my typical weekend agenda either includes one of those damnable fourteeners or skiing off something marked, “EXTREME TERRAIN! ABANDON HOPE (of rescue), ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE!” depending on the season, and that’s just not nice to inflict on people you like who aren’t ready for it (hint, hint to any super intense hobby dudes reading this thread).

            @violetofjuly: That makes sense. I mean, it *doesn’t* make sense, not to me, personally, because I don’t think of myself as a total phlegmwad. But I have encountered guys who are so intent on proving themselves the pinnacle of manhood that they block out all other considerations, such as whether their companions – or, hell, they themselves – are honestly enjoying themselves.

            @Raptor: I love Castlewood Canyon! That’s another of my go-tos for visitors who want to see rugged beauty while still being able to breathe and not get blown off a ridgeline by a 50+ mile per hour wind gust as well as on the days when I want to hike but don’t feel like dealing with whatever’s going on in the high country.

          • Cyberwulf said:

            Would it be terribly, terribly mean of me to suggest that the COME ON THIS ARDUOUS HIKE THAT IS NOT FOR BEGINNERS WITH ME guys are *really* after some nookie in the Great Outdoors?

            and also to suggest that these guys would be really cheesed off if their girlfriends were miles ahead of them, leaping from crag to crag like mountain goats with huge packs on their backs?

          • Nanani said:

            And all this is with people who are in a relationship and presumably WANT to spend time together – unlike LW and her Creep

          • johann7 said:

            “Because for these guys, it is not about whether the companion in question actually enjoys the hobby or not; it is about showing off their skill or prowess in this particular area (or alternatively, showing off the partner to other people in the hobby).”

            Thanks for this. I was having such a difficult time figuring out what the motivation could possibly be, because the reason I do things with other people is because I want to spend time with them, else I’d do it alone, as I often do with lots of activities I enjoy. I have a really hard time remembering how important status is to so many people, despite knowing intellectually that it’s a near-universal aspect of human tribalism.

          • Jadis said:

            14ers represent! Grey’s and Torrey’s here. 😀

          • nottakennotavailable said:

            @Cyberwulf: According to a Westword article from, like, 5? or more? years ago, people DO get it on atop 14ers! Which amazes me, because you’re really exposed up there…not just to the other hundreds, if not thousands, of hikers who also decided the weather was nice enough to tackle an unforgiving granite monolith, but also to the elements. I cannot imagine what windburn on sensitive parts feels like – actually, I take that back. I CAN imagine what it’s like, because I’ve gotten windburn on less sensitive parts just from braving the non-sheltered parts of various summits just long enough to snap a few scenery pics and hunker back down again. I do agree that the male halves of the cishet pairings would be PISSED if their ladyfriends darted up those slopes like they had wings on their boots, however. XD

            @Nanani: I sometimes see some of these couples on my way up these mountains. They do not look like they’ll be intentionally spending time together for much longer. :/

            @johann7: I did take my ex skiing and also invited him to come up a fourteener waaaaaaay before he was ready to do either of those things with me. In my shameful defense, I was 1) younger and dumber and 2) inviting him because I *did* want to spend time with him and introduce him to activities I myself enjoyed considerably, not to emasculate him by proving how superior I was at largely male-dominated hobbies. The relationship ended for reasons that had nothing to do with fourteeners or skiing, though maybe he *did* feel emasculated, despite my intentions, and started piling on the passive-aggressive bullshit as an unconscious result.

            @Jadis: Grays and Torreys high-five! Front Range fourteeners FTW! 😀

          • Elizabeth said:

            “I had so many miserable experiences when I first started hiking (or cycling) with friends who would drop me, then wait for me to catch up, then as I came gasping into view ready for a break they would take off again because they’d already had a break waiting for me.”

            You have just described a substantial part of my childhood. My own mother would wait until I appeared around the bend, then immediately take off before I could catch my breath. Not fair!

          • johann7 said:

            @nottakennotavailable: Heh, this reminds me of one of my mom’s dating stories. The guy took her to a shooting range, she turned out to be WAY better, and he broke up with her right after. Such fragility!

          • nottakennotavailable said:

            @johann7: Awww, poor dude, being outmanned and outgunned by a woman! XD

            I had a guy whom I thought of in platonic terms and who thought of me in romantic ones teach me how to shoot. I turned out to be way more accurate with a revolver after one attempt than he was after practicing for years, but alas, he did NOT retreat to soothe the wounds I had dealt to his delicate ego when our “date” was over. Suffice to say I can breathe easier knowing that each of us has moved since the last time we spoke…

      • Polychrome said:

        ahahahahahahahah my boyfriend in college and his lightweight titanium bike and me with my heavy cheap ass aluminum one and our mountain biking trips together where he had so much more fun than I did… I did not know this was a THING

        • Mellie said:

          UG going on a road ride with my college boyfriend on my chunky mountain bike and joking “will you think less of me as a woman if I have to walk it up this steep hill?” and him saying “yes” seriously. I should have dumped his butt right there.

        • Marna Nightingale said:

          It is a thing.

          I love this blog post about it: http://lovelybike.blogspot.ca/2010/05/so-my-husband-wants-me-to-get-bike.html

          And once nearly fell off my bike in horror at passing a couple where the lycra-wrapped roadie dude was, in fact, yelling about cadence to a woman in jeans on a hybrid bike. I honestly wanted to go up to her and say “hey, hon. Come ride with me for awhile.”

          A thing my spouse cleverly Did Not Do, with the result that after ten years of one-cyclist marriage I suddenly said out of the blue “I think I’ll buy a (heavy, steel, three-speed, utility) bike!” And now I still have that bike, but I also have a lighter, seven speed, sport/tourer/utility bike and occasionally he has to work to keep up with me and he has basically never ever given me unsolicited advice unless I was genuinely about to endanger my actual life.

          • That’s a great blog post.

            My husband did it right, too. When I first met him he was in the middle of an extensive self-directed training programme for an upcoming event. Which was, he had decided to cycle the entire route of the Tour dear France all by himself. As in, completely solo, no support person with a car and spare parts just in case. I sometimes rode with him during the training on my crappy, heavy old mountain bike but he always warned me beforehand that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him and if I wanted a leisurely side by side meander I wasn’t getting one (and we could do that another time). That was fine! Because he made sure I was ok with it first.

            Well he did the Tour, and when he came back I decided I wanted to do a big cycling project of my own. Husband said I’d need a new bike if I wanted to do the thing I was proposing but never gave me unsolicited advice. I asked for advice because he knew pretty much everything there was to know by that point but he never once tried to influence my choice of bike beyond that. There were one or two moments while shopping for equipment when I had to remind him I was only doing a maximum of 86 miles a day between towns and was not going to get stuck up a mountain but he was generally pretty good.

      • hummingbear said:

        I’ll bet anything a lot of those guys were Vehicular Cycling advocates, aka, “Well, *I* don’t mind dodging in and out of heavy traffic and taking the lane, so no one should ever build separated bike paths. People who are scared to ride in traffic just aren’t Rational and should not be accommodated” (pulls out thick binder of traffic models and accident statistics). It’s the perfect approach to not getting more people to ride.

        • Raptor said:

          The Adam Ruins Everything podcast had the LA DOT director on for an episode who mentioned how the male hardcore bikers love paths women and casual bikers don’t. I didn’t know it was a thing before! (And it was a good interview, so I’m mentioning it.)

        • antimony said:

          Ahahaha, yeah. (Admission — I was one of them, except female — with a big helping of “not like those other girls” internalized prejudice, for a long time. It actually gives me good ammunition for talking these guys down, because I can speak the lingo fluently and not completely fly off the handle at the rhetoric.)

        • Emmers said:

          Augh god the Vehicular Cyclist evangelism is the worst! I have a dear friend (female) who does that and it’s just like…no. please don’t.

          • Marna Nightingale said:

            *hangs head* it me. Well. It mostly not me, I try HARD to say “you should stop me if this is boring.” But I tend to want to share all my joys and obsessions in life and sometimes I need a gentle or less gentle correction.

            Since you say she is a really dear friend, I have a suggestion, which worked on me, for your amusement.

            One of my long-suffering dear friends told me firmly that IF I agreed to stop the actual evangelism, I would be permitted to talk about my cycling and how happy it was making ME with her at reasonable intervals for a reasonable amount of time so long as I listened to her enthusiasms equally.

            This has worked well.

          • Marna Nightingale said:

            Ah whups. Not a VC evangelist. At ALL. But I can be a bike evangelist and sometimes need gentle correcting.

      • CommanderBanana said:


        I have reached the point where I flatly refuse to do any activity I’m not already into and/or realllly enthusiastic about trying with prospective partners. You’re into hiking? Great! Have fun! You like to ride bikes? Great! Have fun on your solo bike ride! Ditto for kayaking, running, CrossFit, veganism, anything that requires me to spend money on gear, roller coasters, sports events, drag racing, hang gliding, camping, ESPECIALLY CAMPING.


        I don’t demand that dudes go to teahouses with me, troll the country for tiny antique stores, or spend hours happily trying on vintage hats. FFS.

        • rubymendez said:

          YES EXACTLY TO this about biking!

          There are many dudes for whom biking is the be-all-end-all… my husband is constantly pressuring me to bike up to and including going on a bike ride in an organized group trip overseas that was WAY beyond my skill and fitness level (and I’d just come off of exams, was on my period, and jetlagged).

          I literally cried for the last twenty miles of a ride and fell several times in front of all the big biking dudes because I didn’t know how to clip in and out of the pedals…and then whole dynamic of being a WoC in front of a group of rich white men falling and crying? Yup. FUN.

          Anyway: so now, fastforward. He rides 1-2 hours per weekday and more on the weekend. What does that mean for household chores and cooking? It means that I do them, otherwise they don’t happen.

          Of COURSE the wives/girlfriends of those biking dudes don’t want to go. Of COURSE. Of course the organized group trip was 27 men + training female spouses + 3 single ladies.

          AND biking has such a steep learning curve in terms of EVERYTHING — gear, technique, endurance — and it takes multiple 3-5 hour rides per week to get to the level where “serious bikers” are at.

          Yeah, no.

          Best part: I tolerate this (meaning, take on the extra laundry and housework that comes because of this hobby) because biking means he’s relaxed and happy and nicer and doesn’t whine nearly as much.

          Yes, biking is good for health and community building and seeing a new place and being ecofriendly. Lots of good things about it, and not all folks who bike have these attitudes, for sure. The above is a rant, not a well-reasoned and calmly stated opinion.

          • Rhoda said:

            Stop washing his cycling clothes. Seriously. My husband and I met at a bike race and have been in it a long time, but even when I injured my knees in a car accident and couldn’t rid with him for more than 30 minutes, he never expected me to do all the housework at home so that he could go for a ride and then just come home and relax.
            I’m sorry you had such a miserable experience on the overseas group ride. If he wanted to get you into cycling, he should have looked for something more beginner friendly, or even an all-women ride group.

          • I guess washing his bike clothes and cooking his meals doesn’t need to happen!

            (I get that you are ranting, but he sounds like a complete selfish baby.)

        • Janissary Jones said:

          You sound fun. If you ever want to do a meetup at a teahouse, hit me up!

  20. nein09 said:

    also, a bike helmet is an A+ ace Goodwill find, if you donate it don’t you dare feel bad about that for one second, you’ll be letting someone else save their noggin on the cheap.

    • Bex said:

      Many thrift stores in my area won’t take helmets, because it’s so difficult to tell by looking whether they’ve been involved in a collision that might render them useless. YMMV.

      • True. Might be alright if it’s still sealed/in packaging, depending on the kind of packaging involved? (Or the Biking Creepazoid might have taken it out of the packaging. Ugh.)

        If you find it meets your needs to pitch that thing in a dumpster, LW, you do you and I wish I could be there to hold your coat.

      • Yeah, I’d never buy a second hand one from someone I didn’t know well, for exactly this reason. But in this case, if it’s obviously brand new (packaging, labels) they should hopefully be fine with it.

      • Put the helmet up for sale (Craigslist? office bulletin board?) and use the money to buy something you really want. Or to buy an African violet. Or donate the money to your favorite cause.

        I agree there are creepy-guy vibes. Listen to your gut because it hears them, too.

        • IrishEm said:

          Seconding putting it on the office bulletin board because it’s flagging the unwantedness of the gift and making coworkers aware, even subliminally, that LW has been given a bike helmet that she neither NEEDS nor WANTS, and it can also make it more blatant of a no to Creepy Bike Dude without confronting him.

          But make sure manager/HR are aware of the situation before doing this because Creepy Bike Dude may escalate/retaliate at work.

          • I rather like this suggestion.

        • That seems like too much effort.

          My vote goes to either returning it, or throwing it out.

        • Penny said:

          Also agree with putting it on the office bulletin board, because if it is donated elsewhere, Creepy Guy might claim he was Only Lending It To You and Now You Have Got Rid Of His Helmet. This way, he’d be able to see it and claim it back

    • Especially an unused one – wow.

  21. Bellatrix said:

    +1 on absolving yourself from caring about his feelings. He clearly doesn’t care about your feelings, or he wouldn’t continue to push this on you after you’ve said no multiple times. Good friends respect boundaries.

    When he inevitably gets weird after you’ve executed your next move (leaving the helmet on his desk with a “no thanks” note is my personal favorite), take this as a sign of success. He should feel weird. He’s being a bad friend by trying to manipulate you into doing something you don’t want to do. And the fact that he is older/male and you are younger/female makes it extra weird and awkward for you.

    Repeat after me: It is not your job to take care of the feelings of people who treat you like shit.

  22. I have to say, Dear LW, you’ve been doing everything right. You don’t need a script here. HR needs a script.

    Assuming your workplace is reasonably non-toxic in your opinion, I’d walk into HR, with the helmet, which is a handy bit of concrete backup for your narrative, and say exactly what you’ve said here. And then I would leave the helmet with the HR person and walk out.

    They can return it to him. With his verbal or written warning, I hope.

    • Marna is absolutely right.

    • JenniferP said:

      Not a bad idea if the Letter Writer is ready to scorch some earth and make this stop in its tracks.

      • The LW has mentioned in another comment that she needs to ‘tread lightly’ because CreepHat is a lawyer for her company.

        That means this is not “scorched earth”. It is protecting herself.

        Because CreepHat undoubtedly understands the sexual harassment policies at his company, and probably has a pretty good idea – better than the LW, at least – of how to cover his ass so he can try to get out ahead of any eventual complaint. And that (as LW unfortunately is probably correctly noting) that he can make her life at this company very unpleasant.

        • JenniferP said:

          Yes, I saw that. Good thought.

    • onamission5 said:

      This is ten times better advice than my initial impulse of mailing the helmet to his wife.

      • roramich said:

        I’m giggling at this possibly more than I should.

        • onamission5 said:


          I’d never do this, fun as it may be to imagine, because his wife isn’t the one crossing boundaries and trying to loanshark her way into LW’s pants. It’s fun to snicker to one’s friends about coworker getting his ass handed to him by angry spouse, but still mean to involve an innocent party that way.

      • “I think your husband gave me the bike helmet he bought for you! Did he by chance give you the Pirate Report I’m waiting on?”

      • Given that my initial impulse was for her to agree to one of those rides, then show up with her husband enthusing about not having done this in AGES, and send husband along while she stays behind with a book and a latte…

        DO NOT DO THIS. It’s bad advice, presented solely for the amusement value of picturing the look on Bike Fiend’s face, and nobody wants Bike Fiend any further into Letter Writer’s life than he already is.

    • “unless everyone in this story is from the South where theoretically people just put up with this bullshit and pretend to find it cute” seems an unfriendly snipe from the Captain of tolerance. Seriously, I guess I’ve been socialized to not worry about this to much, it’s cute, right? ha ha, but it’s a surprise to read such a generalization about a whole demographic even if there may be some truth to it. Sure, lots of our intelligent interesting and progressive people have moved elsewhere and made those places more cool but some of us stayed to fight the good fight, ya know?.
      My younger, hotter non-traditional-job-in-the-oilfield self did put up with, and laugh off, plenty of offers, but noone didn’t … not “get it”. And there weren’t rockin advice columnists like Captain Awkward “back then”.
      The guys a creep but he’s not an anomaly. Typical older married man having his midlife crisis, though that is not the problem of the LW! and his obnoxiously persistence needs to stop- and if he gets caught/embarrassed, that’s his problem. Personally, I think the Captain’s advice for handling the gift and stopping the invitations allows the LW to control the situation without having to invest too much into it. I would rat him out to HR only as a last resort, but that’s just me. How would that help? Would it cost the man his livelihood? Will the company make a note that the LW ia a troublemaker? That is a distinct possibility. Sad but true. Hopefully the LW doesn’t need revenge, just to be free to go to work and not deal with unwanted overtures.

      • JenniferP said:

        Not sniping at The South.

        Def. sniping at the times my harassers, plural were from The South and I was told “It’s just his way, don’t pay it no mind” or “He’s just a charming Southern Gentleman” or “Come on, it’s cute, he doesn’t mean ‘nothing by it” or “You’re a Yankee, it’s a compliment, silly.” By women. Who were also from The South.

        “Boys Will Be Boys” sucks everywhere but certain cultural settings make it a real art form and the socialization is even harder to push past. If I can’t fix it I can joke about it. I got called “unfriendly” back then, too, when I didn’t like an older male coworker consistently offering me rides home and then following me in his car when I said no and walked.

        • violetofjuly said:

          Initially I thought you were being sarcastic, but this now gives me pause. I’m from the South. I don’t think the culture is more enabling, simply that the language is different/more overt.

          There are also lots of different cultures in the South. I’m a black Southerner and the responses of my black Southern friends and family would be very, very different.

          • JenniferP said:

            I was being sarcastic in the OP – there are a million ways women are taught to put up with this shit. “That’s just his southern charm talking calm down” HAS been used on me and I made a joking reference to it that clearly did not land right.

        • Sure sorry people defended the creeps and didn’t take you seriously. I’ve never heard the kind of defenses you did, they would make me gag!

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        “Would it cost the man his livelihood?”
        Maybe if a few more men lost their livelihood because they harassed women, fewer women would get harassed.

        • JenniferP said:

          Indeed. “Would it cost the man (who harasses a coworker) his livelihood?” is a “So what if it did?” kind of problem to me.

        • Tennia said:

          And honestly, if you act deeply inappropriately at work then you should expect to be fired.

        • In a perfect world, yes, it would cost a man his livelihood.

          In the world we live in, it all too often costs the harassed woman her livelihood.

          • You really think the guy should be fired? Though obnoxious, this aspect is apparently a small part of a long term friendship. Look I don’t even want to defend this guy. I’m just not out for blood. Sounds like jerk behavior but there are lots of jerks in the world. Learn how to deal with it. I like that the LW is trying to do just that.

          • Let me think for a minute. (Beat. Beat.) Yes, in a perfect world this sort of behavior would be so obviously wrong that we wouldn’t make excuses for it, (“a small part of a long term friendship”) and he’d be fired.

            But we aren’t living in that world, and I was responding to the “he might get fired! Oh noze” before me with a bit of rhetoric.

            Here’s the thing, I don’t care if bad things happen to the Very Senior People who hit on co-workers.

            I care that a nice person has not only lost a friendship she valued, but she’s faced with the possibility that the friendship never existed.

            Also, don’t assume I don’t know how to deal with jerks.

          • DesertRose said:

            @bydabayou, actually, yes, I DO think a man who bulldozes past a woman coworker’s REPEATED statements of “No” and who is clearly carrying a romantic/sexual torch for her (even though they are both married) should lose his job for continually pestering her AT WORK to join him in his hobby in which she has no interest and has said as much FOR YEARS.

            In what universe is that remotely acceptable workplace behavior?

        • Nanani said:


          If reporting ACTUALLY ruined the dude’s life, instead of the idea of reporting harassment getting the victim swamp with HOW DARE YOU RUIN HIS LIFE, the world would be a better place.

      • Tennia said:

        I think the Captain was more making fun of the idea that it’s totally normal and okay for Southern men to do this? Because very often when they are called out on it they default to an excuse of it just being them being Southern gentlemen and you’re just some oversensitive New Yorker or something, which is kind of hilarious to me as someone who grew up in a fairly Southern state.

      • Would it cost the man his livelihood?

        Can we not with the bending over backwards to protect jerkbags from the obvious and predictable consequences of their willful bad behaviour? Nobody forced him to harass LW, it’s in no way unfair or “mean” to let him reap what he sowed.

        And no, reporting him to HR will not in any way “cost the man his livelihood.” What would do that is his decision to harass the LW and to keep harassing her after being told no multiple times.

        But sadly, you’re not wrong about the possibility that going to her boss or HR could get LW branded a troublemaker. I think that would be very useful information for LW to have (I’d certainly want to know whether I should start looking for another job because HR just wants to sweep problems under the rug), but I also want her to be forewarned that going to HR might not be at all helpful.

        • Ah, I think “creepy guy” sounds obnoxious and pushy but not a big threat. I don’t feel it’s bending over backwards for the LW to brush off the unwanted advances of her FRIEND without getting the guy fired. Honest communication might alleviate the whole problem and scripts were forthcoming.

          • Friend or not, if *his* bad behaviour gets him fired, that is his fault and his alone.

          • Tennia said:

            If you make unwanted advances at people in the workplace you’re acting inappropriately and should be fired.

          • Janissary Jones said:

            Friends treat each other with respect. This dude is a creep with decent mimicry of friendship. You don’t have to be a puppy-eating monster to get fired from a job, or to deserve getting fired. Now, at many workplaces, there aren’t many first offenses that result in immediate firing; however, with dudes like this it’s never just one, and the additional reporting can be the thing that gets him out of a workplace he’s made shittier for other humans. He is not more entitled to a job than they are to a workplace without harassment.

          • sistercoyote said:

            A man (or, really, anyone, but we’re talking about a man in this situation) who will not accept “no” and continues to wear at a person like wind over a stone is not “just” obnoxious and pushy. He is a big threat. He’s hoping that she’ll be the stone that is worn away by the wind of constantly having to say “no” until finally she crumbles and he gets what he wants.

            This is not okay and it is not normal, and she has engaged in honest communication from the get-go.

      • ToxicNudibranch said:

        I’d argue that if it “cost[s] the man his livelihood”, that’s kind of a natural consequence of being a boundary-trampling creep and favorshark.

  23. Dear LW,

    I have thoughts. Oh I have thoughts.

    – This man is not your friend.
    – You are under siege.

    Because he is not your friend, and he is besieging you, you don’t even owe him courtesy.

    Nonetheless, do as the Captain suggests. Drop the helmet on his desk with a note stapled to the box I don’t want to bike. I don’t want this or any present from you.

    I’d also immediately after dumping the helmet send an email (work email address) saying:

    I’ve dropped the bike helmet you gave me (against my stated wishes) on your desk.
    As I have repeatedly told you, I am not interested in biking.
    Stop harassing me.

    I would then forward the email to my manager, and/or HR.

    I repeat, he is not your friend.

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

    • tapati said:

      I was thinking that taking a photo of the helmet on his desk with the visible, readable note, could act as an insurance policy. If LW isn’t ready to involve HR yet, it could be emailed to them later.

  24. IsayIsay said:

    “This guy is a good friend, and I don’t want to make him feel bad, ”

    This guy is not a friend. But he’s doing a good job of making YOU feel bad.

    Plus I think it matters a great deal that you are both married. I would not be happy to find out that my husband was wooing a younger woman and trying to get her to take part in his hobby. Then, if I found out he purchased a gift for her . . . No, that would not fly with me.

    I would return the helmet, in front of a witness, and tell him in the most non-confrontational, non aggravated voice,

    “Thanks for this gift and the offer to take me on a bike ride but like I said before, I’m not interested in biking. I keep pretty busy with my HUSBAND and family. If have any time available I’d want to be with my HUSBAND. You know we’re thinking of taking up rock climbing”

    Saying this without accusing him of being inappropriate is the safest way to put some distance between you without “making him feel bad”.

    BUT you have to follow it up with minimal contact with this person. Whatever makes you consider him “a good friend” needs to stop immediately. No chats at the coffee station. No lunches. If you do end up in a conversation I’d make points to say, “So how is Judy doing? Is she enjoying her garden this time of year?” or “so are you and Judy going on vacation?”

    I worked with a man like this. I knew he was crushing and on some level I was flattered. I didn’t encourage his behavior and I considered him quite harmless. I even attended his wife’s Tupperware party. A few weeks later my “Judy” called my home and proceeded to accuse me of leading her husband on. Accused me of causing troubles in their marriage. It turned into a big thing. They ultimately divorced (though I doubt I had anything to do with that as they had numerous issues).

    Believe me – as much as your “friend” is making you uncomfortable – your “Judy” will be far worse to deal with.

    • Aveline said:

      This guy is not her friend. He’s a “nice guy” who has been waiting until she feels close enough to him for him to try and get what he really wants.

    • Aveline said:

      “your “Judy” will be far worse to deal with.”

      Can we please, please not suggest that women who are cheated on or gaslight are worse than their bastard, sexist, entitled husbands?

      I understand this frustration and her response to you was NOT cool. But she’s had her reality messed with by him. I’m sure he told her it was your fault. I’m sure he’s been messing with her head for a while.

      Whatever she did to you doesn’t excuse you blaming her MORE than him. He created this situation for both of you. Whatever bad behavior she did, it was rooted ultimately in his gaslighting her and hitting on you.

      (Your post does read like blaming her, if that’s not your intent, you might rethink your wording).

      This is easy to do, but it’s an exstension of an old, sexist narrative. Somehow, men are never the ones who are behaving the worst and never the ultimate cause of all of it.

      • Madeline said:

        I agree. I always wonder about situations where infidelity is a factor: why is it that “the other woman” is a thing? Why is it that the girlfriend/wife finds out her boyfriend/husband is cheating on her, and goes to fight the person he’s cheating with? Why is it that “the other woman” has to slight the girlfriend/wife, like she’s somehow “won” by being momentarily better?

        “The other woman,” blameless like LW and lsaylsay or not, is in no way beholden to the cheatee. The boyfriend/husband is the person who has agreed to be committed to you.

        I think this woman-on-woman conflict is entirely generated to divert blame, and the aggression should be rerouted into disappointment and anger at the person who cheated, and the person who cheated exclusively, posthaste. I think calling it “being cheated on” kind of trivializes it, because being cheated on is incredibly traumatic. It destroys your sense of trust, which leaves shocks and cracks spreading out through the rest of your life, through every relationship you’re in. People go into therapy, JUST because they were cheated on. And the cheater is constantly reinforcing this narrative that some outside force caused the infidelity to happen, i.e. the cheatee picks too many fights, or gained weight, or works long hours, “the other woman” seduced him, etc. When the center of your emotional world – the person you selected to spend the rest of your life with – is yanked out from under you, you’re fragile and broken and you’ll take hold of whatever wisp of hope you can get, even if that wisp is the possibility of pinpointing a cause that isn’t simply “you picked the wrong person to trust and love.” Your “Judy” was probably reeling from loss. Judy probably found out subsequently that you weren’t the only one. Your Judy is probably humiliated and regretful.

        Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

        Much of comment is heterosexually-coded because I think it’s a widespread phenomenon between men and women, when men cheat; but being cheated on will dent your life, no matter who you are or who it was the cheated on you.

        Anyway, all of this is neither here nor there, because LW’s issue is a Get Dave To Back Off problem, not an Avoid Judy problem. If I were the LW, I would just stop responding positively to the coworker unless he is talking only about work. As soon as personal stuff comes up, I’d just visibly shut down in the face and stop talking, and then physically leave the room. That’s what I was taught to do when I don’t like a certain behavior from my dog.

        • Cyberwulf said:

          But don’t you understand, Madeline, poor poor men, they’re slaves to their dicks, SLAVES I say, none of them can resist the power of the Dick Side, and so we can’t hold them accountable for blah blah blah blah gaudy fucking BLAH.

          I never understood how men are supposedly so helpless before an attractive woman that they break their marriage/monogamy vows, or distracted by a short skirt/visible bra strap to the point where their work/education suffers, and yet somehow *women* are the ones who are “crazy” and “emotional” and thus can’t possibly, you know, *lead* a corporation/company/country.

          • Thiiiiiiiis. Can men please just decide already if they’re faultlessly rational and logical at all times or whether they’re a bunch of boner werewolves who couldn’t possibly be expected to control themselves?

          • johann7 said:

            Naw, this one isn’t a gendered tendency – see dudes fighting other dudes who “steal” “their” women, as though their partners lack agency. This is a human tendency – we blame the other man/woman/NB person because we still want a relationship with the person who violated our trust, and blaming the party responsible might jeopardize that.

        • The rage at the other woman is mostly because the wife hasn’t decided to leave the man yet.

      • IsayIsay said:

        Yikes. Nope, I was not implying that scorned woman are somehow to blame. Perhaps I did word that badly. My apologies. I should have worded my last line to read, “as much as your “friend” is making you uncomfortable, it can get far worse in ways you don’t expect.”

        I’m only saying that even when you know people (and I knew my “Judy” and liked her) you have no idea how things will unfold. The whole situation I described blew up into a separate “Judy” thing because Judy freaked out and decided that since her husband wouldn’t listen to her – she was going to “take care of it” by tossing accusations at me. An innocent person. Whose only crime was being nice, 20 years younger with large breasts. (Judy informed me those were the reasons why her husband liked me).

        It wasn’t a situation where Judy was “checking in” with me and having a “friendly chat”. This was Judy telling ME that I was DEFINITELY the cause of her marital problems. This was Judy telling me that she had already checked around to see if anyone else in our organization had noticed any improper behavior between us. She hadn’t yet found the “truth” but she was still looking for the proof. In our small town. Cringe, cringe, cringe.

        A scorned woman might be given a pass for acting out of character. Had I left my husband, and moved in with HER husband, I don’t think many people would blame Judy for her behavior. But I was innocent. And nice. And a naive 20-something. Who unfortunately had large breasts.

        The usual case is to blame the man for setting off the chain of events. It’s true, I have no idea how much he was really crushing on me. Still he was never improper with me and didn’t even toe the line. So how much do we blame a mans passive actions on a woman’s aggressive actions?

        In MY situation my co-worker was at fault for crushing on another woman to the point that his own wife felt threatened. That sucks and I don’t blame Judy for being angry. And if she already didn’t trust her husband I get why her mind went into overdrive. I don’t even blame her for placing an angry phone call to me. But I do blame Judy for spreading false rumors about me to many people. I was always nice to her and she knew I was happily married. She assumed far to much and put my work, my marriage and my reputation in limbo.

        Maybe he created the situation by being an overall shitty hubby. But Judy specifically chose to “punished” him by hurting me – publicly and before she even spoke to me.

        For the LW, the situation extends far past a potentially creepy co-worker. Her “friend” has toed the line – greatly. He also has an aggressive nature, a powerful position, a longtime wife and a family. And probably lots of friends and connections. So my advice is to rethink her boundaries and step away slowly and carefully in the hopes that she doesn’t get hurt should things unfold badly.

    • Slow Gin Lizz said:

      I don’t think he is or ever was her friend. He has been very friendly to her because he has ulterior motives. She thinks he’s being her friend but he’s really being manipulative. Sadly.

  25. segertsch said:

    Betting this old guy is constantly aware that people who ride bikes also wear tight clothes and bend over. No way he ever rides in front of any younger woman in his biking group.

    • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

      A friend of mine and I were recently having a conversation about bikes and people who ride them. He said “I don’t get it. They say they do this for fitness and then wear really tight clothes to reduce drag. If they’re riding for fitness, don’t they want the drag so it makes them work harder?”
      It was one of those things that made me go hmmmm.

      • As a keen cyclist I can tell you I get a LOT fitter when I have a decent bike and the right equipment, because it’s then way more fun, I can push myself to go farther and can tackle much more difficult inclines. With my old inefficient machine and crappy clothes it was a) too much of a drag to really do that much cycling and b) put the wrong kinds of strain on the wrong parts of my body to really get me fit.

        • Rhoda said:

          Yes, this! I feel a bit self-conscious on my Look 566, like I am not really fit enough to deserve it, but it’s so much fun to ride that I tend to go just one kilometre more, then another… then I have very tired legs from overdoing it!
          Using a heavy cheap clunker bike and unsuitable clothing is like trying to swim in baggy board shorts. You can do it, but you probably won’t enjoy the experience and won’t want to repeat it very often.

          • Old Dan Tucker said:

            You definitely deserve that bike regardless of where you fall on the fitness spectrum, and I’m glad you’re enjoying it so much.


            Being “fit enough to deserve” nice comfortable things that make you happy is bollocks. Revel in your nice things!

          • Raptor said:

            I’m glad I’m not the only one to do this! I’m afraid to show up to a yoga class with the beautiful nice mat my husband got me for my birthday.

    • Pear said:

      Oh! I’m a runner, and quite similarly there are always runners who are dudes that post on running forums about increasing their pace so they can run behind “seductively clad” (!?!?!?!?!) young women runners, as if these women are not people participating in a sport but apparently (???!!!!) doing the dudes a service… it’s so, so gross.

      Obviously you could be wearing anything and a man would still find an excuse to follow you around and objectify you, but, yeah….

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Right? The clothes I wear when “running” (really more like a meander) are pretty much like a bathing suit. But I live in a state where IT’S 100 DEGREES AND A BAZILLION PERCENT HUMIDITY from now until October. It’s not me dressing seductively, it’s me trying to avoid heatstroke.

        • You’re flaunting, I say flaunting your ankles, woman! Get thee to a nunnery!

          • Commander Banana said:

            Well, yesterday my socks kept slipping down because the elastic is shot, so I guess you’re right…seriously though, I don’t get it. Are men unable to make the cognitive distinction between ‘seductive’ clothing and workout gear? Also if I were ever trying to be seductive I don’t think I’d be doing it while dripping sweat.

          • Thanksforallthefish said:

            Seduction by sweaty worn out running socks!!! the mental image!

        • I know when I have a hot date, my go-to outfit is running shoes, reflective armbands, boob-flattening sports bra and “Vehicle of the Revolution” cycling t-shirt.

  26. Christi Nielsen said:

    I felt my blood start to boil when I read the letter. There are few things in life I abhor more than a man who dismisses my wishes. A man who thinks he knows what I want more than I do. A man who chuckles while he thinks he’s going to eventually make me see that he was right all along. It’s so condescending. OMG I am furious right now. It reminds me of when boys/men do that thing where they hold their arm out on your head and laugh that you can’t get out from underneath it. This guy is a total jerk. He is NOT your friend.

    What Bellatrix said: Repeat after me: It is not your job to take care of the feelings of people who treat you like shit. This, this, this.

  27. tinyorc said:

    When older dudes do they “oh ho ho, if I was twenty years younger…” routine, what they actually means is “I would happily have sex with you even though I’m old enough to be your dad and I want to make sure you know it, but this paper-thin veil of humour means you can’t accuse me of being creepy.”

    • JenniferP said:

      100% of the time.

    • In his case, perhaps a straight stare and a, ‘Does your wife know you say things like that to younger women?’

      • mf said:

        Brilliant! I’m totally borrowing this for future use!

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        I prefer “what makes you think I’d marry you?”

      • NameChange said:

        I have to remember this!

      • Or a not-quite smile and, ‘That’s what -you- think.’

      • Jersey's mom said:

        “My husband is a magnificent person whom I love dearly. I can’t imagine marrying anyone else. Would you like to meet him?”

        We’ve both had this creepy type of comment occur at work or at social events, and we have each other’s back and give the asshat the death stare while being verbally polite.

      • Allya said:

        “If you were $80k richer, I might consider it…”

        • AllanV said:

          I don’t think it would be super helpful to reinforce the “women are valuable for their youthful good looks, men for their income” narrative.

    • Emmy Rae said:

      Ugh they certainly do!

    • Serin said:

      Someone should reply with “ah ha ha, I’ll introduce you to my mother.”

      • Medusa in the Mirror said:

        I used to say “You’re more in my mom’s dating pool, age-wise. I’d introduce you to her if you weren’t such a creep.”

        • j_bird said:


    • Ugh, yeah. And there’s the added creepy layer of an implied lack of consent. “I would totally marry you [regardless of your feelings on this topic].” Yep, good thing you’d NOT 20 years younger, because apparently I’d find myself in a dress and hog-tied to some altar somewhere! Dodged THAT bullet! #feministhulksmash

      • “No thank you, I do not care for a ride in your windowless white van, dude.”

      • That’s exactly what I came here to say! The total obliviousness to whether LW would ever in a million years be interested in marrying a boundary-trampling jerkface is creepy as hell. When the best case scenario is that jerkface thinks LW likes him solely because she has not yet snapped and screamed “FUCK OFF FUCK OFF FUCK OFF *deep breath* FUCK OFF FUCK OFF FUCK OFF” at him, well, that’s not much of a best case.

        And LW, you are 100% reasonably miffed about his behaviour. It is tremendously rude, disrespectful, and frankly scary. Please do not ever be alone with this man if you can possibly avoid it. He’s made it very clear he doesn’t care when you say no to him.

      • Kwsni said:

        I’m totally using “Whew, dodged THAT bullet.” when men say this.

    • marthooh said:

      And “If I was twenty years younger…” is never followed by “… I would ask whether you wanted to… “, because consent is unnecessary in that kind of alternate universe.

      • Yeah.. “If I was twenty years younger, I’d propose,” is much better.

        And “If I was twenty years younger, I’d flirt with you,” would be waaaay more effective, because it recognizes the consent issue, and it makes me laugh at the obvious current flirtation. Of course, only good from a non-attached person to a non-attached person. But it would actually make me consider the whole May-December romance thing.

        • Thanksforallthefish said:

          but really the best things an older man said to me were, “It’s so great to see you!” with a big smile or “thank you for the dance” with a big smile not forcing anything. I happily give those old guys the big hugs and I even sometimes think fondly of them when not around them and feelings could actually form from there.

    • Goober said:

      If an older dude says “If I was twenty years young . . .”

      The only correct response is “. . . You’d still be too old for me.”

      I say this as an older dude. (Most of the hot young women I know would say exactly that, probably while kicking my sorry ass.)

      • Nanani said:

        Please don’t tell the women who receive this harassment what “the only correct response” is.
        The correct thing for YOU to do is tell your peers to stop saying shit like this to us.

      • tinyorc said:

        I know you mean this to sound empowering or whatever, but “hot” young women shouldn’t have to go around “kicking ass” to get older men to respect their boundaries. That’s the whole point.

  28. Seileigh said:

    I got a “controlling a$$hole” vibe off this guy immediately. I feel sorry for his wife, who I’m certain had to resort to threats to get him to stop pressuring HER about bikes. No, I will not allow you to mold me into your perfect friend. Friends appreciate each other for who they are. You’re just another dude who thinks he found someone he can manipulate. You are mistaken. If I thought the guy could take a hint (and he clearly can’t), I would’ve asked to ride with his wife first. We could have long chats about his behavior at work.

    +1 on Cap’s advice, with the added note that you should NEVER do stuff with him that involves going out of public view. Biking lends itself to ending up alone with this guy. Reminds me of creepy “camping” offers from coworkers.

    Also, what is it with older guys finding younger people to pressure/manipulate/grab? I have been queasy for days after an older fellow started stroking my back. I’m sure he thought it was “reassuring,” but I could not NOPE away from him fast enough. Do not tell me to smile, you don’t know me. Don’t tell me I’d be more handsome/pretty if I wore (outfit) or did (thing). Older female coworkers usually don’t touch you, and keep these comments to a minimum. When they do comment, the vibe is far more maternal (“You should really learn how to use an iron”).

  29. I felt my blood start to boil when I read the letter. There are few things in life I abhor more than a man who dismisses my wishes. A man who thinks he knows what I want more than I do. A man who chuckles while he thinks eventually he’ll make me see that he was right all along. It’s so condescending. OMG I am furious right now. It reminds me of when boys/men do that thing where they put their arm out on your head and laugh that you can’t get out from underneath it. This guy is a total jerk. He is NOT your friend.

    What Bellatrix said: Repeat after me: It is not your job to take care of the feelings of people who treat you like shit. This, this, this!

  30. teensyslews said:

    First time commenter. Sorry to say, but, this man is not your friend any more. Friends don’t pressure people in to activities they do not want to do. Work friends do not try to force an outside of work relationship if the other person doesn’t want that. He lost the right to be your friend the moment you said no and he heard “try harder”. Reset your relationship to be neutrally pleasant with minimal interaction, and if he makes it uncomfortable, report him to HR.

    • Slow Gin Lizz said:

      I don’t think he ever was her friend to begin with, unfortunately.

  31. jennthemighty said:

    De-lurking to say I agree with everyone who thinks the older guy has an agenda, and that agenda is to get her alone/isolated with him on a bike ride. Shut him down with extreme prejudice and zero guilt. He’s doing a bunch of classic Gift of Fear Stuff, for instance forced teaming.

    • Bobbin Ufgood said:

      EXACTLY! and boundary-testing

      • Aveline said:

        I also like the term “grooming,” The only difference between what he’s doing and pedophiles is the age of the “victim.”

        • K. said:

          Um, I think there are more differences between Bike Creeper’s bike creeping and child sexual abuse than just the victims’ ages.

        • Yeah, come on. This guy is being inappropriate, but comparing him to a pedophile grooming a victim just mimimizes child abuse. (Plus I don’t think it’s even an accurate comparison. Pestering is not grooming.) Pedophiles find it easier to offend if they can think of what they’re doing as normal; let’s not help them along. He doesn’t have to be comparable to a child abuser to be a nuisance or a creep, so let’s stick to calling it what it is.

    • JayFernz said:

      Loan-sharking too (giving her an unsolicited gift)

  32. Emmy Rae said:

    LW, I want to push back on the idea that y’all are friends. I’ve encountered older men in the workplace who want to bond over something (usually an area in which they are more experienced than me) and I thought we were friends. Then they started crossing that line (commentary on appearances, trying to get together one-on-one outside of work, etc) and trying to make me feel weird for not being into it. I think this guy wants plausible deniability – you’re “both” just into biking!

    In my experience, the friendship you thought you were enjoying evaporates (and maybe even turns nasty) once you make it clear that you are not going to cooperate with his romantic agenda. It was very personally hurtful to me to realize that colleagues I thought enjoyed my company were not interested in any interaction that had a 0% chance of turning sexy. That feeling sucks.

    So I just want to say I’m sorry if when you put a stop to this guy’s escalation, you find out there was never a friendship after all. That hurts. You might feel objectified and misled. This isn’t your fault for being friendly and fun. There are people in your workplace who will just be your work friend because you are cool! This guy isn’t them.

    Good luck out there.

    • Rhoda said:

      He seems to be one of “those” guys – the ones who think that any female who is friendly with them is coming onto them.

      • jennthemighty said:

        Ugh yes! Or at least that will be his fig leaf later on. “She was a basic amount of courteous to me, how was I to know she didn’t want to ride bikes. If she didn’t want to ride bikes all she had to do was say so (using the exact magical nonexistent combination of words I would hear and accept as “no”)!”

      • I just read a comment in a movie review for Wonder Woman, something about “she was wide-eyed flirting with everything” because she was interested in everything, and I am so skeeved out by that. It’s similar to what you said, and, like…. I’m friendly and interested in lots of things, because I’m interested in the subject, not necessarily the person speaking about it?

        Just the fact that some guys think that means I’m flirting with them… eugh, gross.

        • Rana said:

          Ew indeed. Especially since the thing that had her widest-eyed and excited was… a baby.

    • Saturnalia said:

      Like Emmy Rae, I’m reminded of personal experience. My older dude “friends” were, unfortunately, bandmates. Excellent plausible deniability for a bunch of established friends in their mid to late 30s to take turns creeping/consoling a 19 year old me. Ughhh I am now their age and it’s all so so gross and sad and really hard to play music anymore.

      Fuck all these dudes 😦

      • Leonine said:

        Right? I was just wondering what this guy has done to earn the title “friend,” and my guess was counsel/consolation. Here’s the thing: that’s inappropriate from an older person to a younger. He should not invite personal disclosures. If they’re offered, he should redirect them. I teach college, and students sometimes make personal disclosures. I listen sympathetically, validate their feelings, and redirect them to appropriate resources. I do not inveigle myself in their lives because I am not and will never be their friend. I’m not saying their can’t be intergenerational friendships, but the office is not the right place for them, and he should know better. LW, if he really were a friend, he would not be pressuring you. I suspect he’s been making and/or inviting inappropriate disclosures and using forced teaming to establish this relationship, but he’s a creep in friend’s clothing.

        Saturnalia, I am so, so sorry you’ve had this experience. It makes me so angry that they would use you like that and take your music from you. Idk if composition is your bag, but maybe you could write a song about it, or perform a song with anger in your heart. Fuck those guys. They don’t get your music.

        • It seems a bit extreme to say that older colleagues should never offer personal support to younger ones! There’s a differnce between a pupil-teacher relationship and a ‘work in the same place and happen to be different ages’ one. One of my dearest friends is a former boss more than a decade older than me, for instance. Sometimes people just get along.

          There are some professional relations where a line shouldn’t be crossed into friendship, but in this guy’s case that’s not the problem. The problem is that he’s pushing in a way that would be inappropriate no matter what the age, gender or status of the two parties.

    • K. said:

      I agree with you.

      He seems to be trying quite hard to convince himself that he and you can be “just” “friends” while he is obviously attracted, overinvested, and unable to move past it. That’s not actually friendship.

  33. DesertRose said:

    Yeah, this is in NO way a petty thing over which to be upset. Dude is boundary-stomping left right and center, and he needs to STOP. Like, YESTERDAY.

    I would be inclined to document as much of his creepy boundary-stomping as possible, loop in your manager, his manager (if you and he have different managers/direct supervisors), and/or HR (if your employer is large enough to have an HR or comparable department), and return the helmet to him with a very firm, “I don’t want to ride bikes, and I neither want nor need a bike helmet. Please stop.” With witnesses if need be (such as the aforementioned manager[s] and/or a representative from HR).

    I also agree with multiple other posters; doing the emotional labor to take care of the feelings of a pushy, boundary-ignoring creeper is SO Not Your Job, LW.

    I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this bullshit, because bullshit it indeed is.

  34. Mary said:

    >>> I am (maybe unreasonably) miffed about this


    • Emmy Rae said:


  35. Girl in the Stix said:

    Maybe you could return the helmet in person to his wife, saying that he keeps badgering you to ride bikes with him and gave you this helmet, and you just don’t want to ride bikes, but maybe she could use the helmet? Of course, my fantasy would be to silently put the helmet on his desk, while he’s sitting there, douse it with lighter fluid, and strike a match. Then say “Is this clear enough?” IRL, this would probably get someone a charge of arson, unfortunately.

    • No, don’t contact the wife. She will blame you and maybe retaliate against you for your husband’s interest in you.

      • JenniferP said:

        Also, don’t bring his wife into this bullshit. What did she ever do to anyone? Handle it directly with the dude himself and HR as needed.

        • Thank you! She already has enough with being married to creep!

      • Pina said:

        Just.Don’t.Bring.His.Wife.Into.The.Game. She most likely has to suffer enough by living with that jerk. And, you can be sure that he has already a story for her, in case things get hairy. Just don’t. History shows, that in most cases the wives ALWAYS cover their poor husbands’ back, because they don’t want to start at Zero again with this age and be alone, divorced… So they defend their poor, innocent husbands against men-stealing monsters like you (sarcasm OFF). This guy is a premium A.H. Deal with him, return the helmet with a note: NO, I’m not interested, STOP IT. And send an additional email, copy someone else on it, someone you trust in your office, just in case it escalates. I’m still in disbelieve that you haven’t told anybody else about it.
        Many times men go nuts when their wives all of a sudden lose sexual interest in them. And, of course, it’s never the man’s fault (: So they start foraging around for younger ‘distraction’. Start collecting evidence NOW, with returning the helmet and an email with clear words.

        • Christine said:

          She’s stated that she has told someone else at work. You’re assuming facts not in evidence.

    • Maybe “crash test” it with a sledgehammer, instead? And then put the pieces on his desk, with a “no, Thank you” note. In my fantasy, the “no Thank you” note includes the line, “I gave it one whack for each time I told you no. Do you still think this is funny?”

      • Amphelise said:

        “I gave it a try but it was completely unsuitable” on top of the shattered remains of the helmet, no explanation.

        Not actually useful to get the guy to stop, but awfully satisfying to imagine 😀

    • Lurker in the light said:

      If you’re going to bring anyone in on this it should be your boss or HR. For instance, if you have trouble getting him to accept the helmet back from you, by all means being it to your boss and ask her to return it to him.

    • LW (Who STILL doesn't want to ride bikes!) said:

      Yeah, no way, not doing that. I’ve met his wife, she is absolutely lovely. (that is not to say that I don’t love your arson fantasy, because I totally do!)

  36. Michelle said:

    Your coworker is a creeper who is trying to get you alone and he will not take no for an answer. This is a huge, blinking red flag. He wants more than a platonic relationship with you. He wants sex. Return the helmet to him (or take it to HR and explain because he certainly is not getting the message) and very clearly say “No. You are not listening to me. I DO NOT want to ride bikes, I DO NOT want to go on a bike ride alone with YOU. STOP asking me to go bike riding. By the way, does YOUR WIFE know you are buying presents and making bike riding plans with a married, female coworker?

    Also, this is not petty. This a creepy older man hitting on you and hoping you’ll bite. He does not want to go bike riding. He wants to get you alone and try to have sex with you. I’m sorry if that is unsettling to you, but this is what is happening. If you don’t feel comfortable using any of the suggestions here, tell him that your husband wants to come, too. His reaction will be telling.

    Good luck and do not under any circumstances go bike riding with this dude.

  37. winter_cherry said:

    What this reminded me of was somebody who spent a couple of years trying to convert me to her *church*. The weird intensity, the not taking no for an answer, the jovial insistence that “we’ll get you in the end”… eventually she did it in front of a mutual friend, the daughter of our old Religious Ed teacher, who gave her a serious (and well-informed!) dressing-down, and after that she backed off. It was very uncomfortable though, and that was without any of the sexual tension this guy is bringing to the mix.

    I think, LW, your friendship with this person may have run its course. Whatever was good about it doesn’t outweigh this kind of boundary-crossing and attempts at coercion. And I strongly second the advice to document this, and to speak to him in front of witnesses, in case he acts out at you and you need to invoke HR.

    (FTR, my friendship with the would-be evangelist recovered eventually, largely because a) we moved to different towns and she wasn’t in my face the whole time and b) her religious views changed in the light of experience. But if there had been an element of threatened flirtation I don’t think it would have)

  38. winter_cherry said:

    Also, three cheers for the former colleague who once answered an “if I was twenty years younger…”, from a customer, with “You’d still be twenty years too old. Next!”. I stored that one up but never had the nerve to use it

  39. PandaGrrl said:

    “his guy is a good friend, and I don’t want to make him feel bad,”

    Me reading: (I bet LW was socialized as a woman)

    “… I don’t know if this matters at all, but he is older and married, and I am a younger married female”


    LW, return awkward to sender! I would return the helmet to him with the “thanks but no thanks!” note/comment and then start reducing this guy down to “polite work conversation” and out of my life. Document the history and going forward. Chances are you are not the only person he is or has or will harassed. (Not that you are under any obligation to prevent him from harassing again (you can’t), but right now you are angry and annoyed, so channel it into documentation. Some day you might come across that paper in your personal files and read it and go UGH THIS GUY WHY DID I PUT UP WITH HIM (erm, not that I have any experience with this….) and be righteously angry that he made it weird and then glad you no longer talk to him,)

    • LW (Who STILL doesn't want to ride bikes!) said:

      Thank you for this.Yes, of course I was socialized as a woman, and grew up in an environment where I was expected to be the peacemaker/keeper. while simultaneously expected to keep any feeling besides happy to myself (because, OMG, what will people think!). I will be returning the helmet with a note (and documenting accordingly).

      • I’m so glad that you’ve got a plan.

  40. sometimeswhy said:

    I withstood batting away ten years of something very much like this from my former boss–except we shared the sport.

    I started off polite and honest and eventually evolved to BLUNT AS HELL.

    I appreciate the offer but it’s not really a social thing for me.
    Oh we have really different goals in [shared sport]; I prefer to stick to my own training regimen.
    Yeah. I have a [competition I’m training for]. Now about that [work thing]…
    No, I do not want you to coach me in shared sport. Now about that [work thing]…
    Why do you asking me that? Have I not been clear? Now about that [work thing]…
    Oh, weird, why would you be looking up my [shared sport competition result]? Have you had a chance to look at [work thing]?
    Ha ha. Yeah. It sounds like i just changed the subject because I did. [/deadpan]
    I heard you the first five/eight/ten years. I still don’t want you to coach me in [shared sport]. Please stop asking.
    I’m no longer going to dignify this with a response. Now about that [work thing]…
    Now about that [work thing]…

    He? Remained oblivious. His frequency of inviting me to participate in [shared sport] with him declined

    • sometimeswhy said:

      Which, after rereading, I feel I should clarify was an anecdote told to emphasize that: if he is anything like mine, chances are he will not “feel bad” even if you blow an air horn at him every time he mentions it. He might not even notice but might adjust his behavior anyway.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        This is great. And helpful to remember. Sometimes you can push back hard, have them never “get it” and still have it work out for you in the long run. I often reallly reallly want the person to UNDERSTAND why what they do is harmful but sometimes you just need a person to stop stepping on your toes.

    • Wow.
      Your former boss is the poster child for wilfully obtuse.

  41. schuylersister said:

    Oh, LW! I think I see his thought process here, and it’s not pretty:

    MAN: [has marital troubles; perhaps wife has very different interests that do not include biking] Oh, how my life would be better if only had a partner with the same interests (who is coincidentally younger and hotter than my wife).

    MAN: [fixates on younger female coworker who he has a friendship with] She is the solution to all my woes! So fresh! So bright! So charming! Now, if only she liked cycling..[tries to mold younger coworker into dream woman by weirdly coercing her into going on bike rides]

    UGH. GET FAR AWAY. You take that Nopetopus right out of town and away from his ridiculous and creepy fantasy.

    • Aveline said:

      Alternate take: he has zero marital troubles other than his own ego.

      As a divorce lawyer, I want to push back on the notion he has an unhappy marriage or he and his wife don’t share interests.

      Often times, men (and sometimes women, but mostly men), just want their kibbles.

      I’ve seen far to many cases where I’ve heard “the marriage wasn’t working” or “the wife was boring” or “[insert trope of your choice.” Sometimes, it really is just one person is a selfish, entitled jerk. And middle-aged men (especially white, affluent ones) can be very entitled.

      I wonder if wife even thinks there’s anything wrong with the marriage. Often times, they have no idea.

      In the end though, the state of his marriage is entirely irrelevant. Even if it is in shambles and his wife is a shrew.

      Quick question: would this still be creepy if he were single? Yes, yes it would.

      Quick question 2: would this still be creepy if he were the same age? Yes, yes it would.

      His being married AND older adds to the ick factor, but it’s the boundary violation that makes it icky.

      • Yep exactly. I’ve had my wishes disrespected and received unwanted favors and gifts from single people who were not older. Those behaviors are the issue, which is why any attempt to involve the wife in the scenario is a red herring.

      • neverjaunty said:

        THIS. And so often, the reason he is “in an unhappy marriage” is that he’s a complete asshole to his wife. So, surprise, she’s unhappy! So ungrateful!

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        Yes! There is this forced attempt at false-intimacy that old dudes like to lay down on me and my sister and likely many other “nice” younger women. The opening line of that deeper “connection” is them saying my wife doesn’t understand me/our marraige is rough/on the rocks/we’re just staying together for the kids at this point.

        It’s all bullshit….this person may also tell wife, “this young woman at work is soo needy, always asking me questions but she’s going through some stuff so I’m trying to be there for her but I don’t even like her…” if the topic even comes up.

        • “My wife doesn’t understand me” is a red flag for me too. Back when I was in a situation where I was dealing with similar behavior from peers, I used to joke about having a button made which said, “If your wife doesn’t understand you, then she and I have something in common.”

      • schuylersister said:

        I mean…we don’t disagree on anything here! I 100% am not putting anything on the wife and she probably doesn’t know anything about it. I was thinking about some stuff I’ve seen when writing the comment (I don’t want to get specific because of Reasons), and I definitely did not want to take away from the already-creepiness, just put forward a theory in a funny-ish way.

  42. LW, there may be room for some relationships for this type of behavior – it’s the kind of thing I’d do with my partner of ten years, because I know he both needs more time to adapt to big changes and because he’s really, really good at talking himself out of things he wants (key difference: he has to want it in the first place!) – but this one ain’t it. Between the coworker dynamic, the age dynamic, and the gendered dynamic, this just has all kinds of red flags of inappropriateness, especially the unsolicited gift that social politesse decrees you meet with some degree of reciprocity once accepted. No need to accept it! Return to sender with extreme prejudice! And best of luck to you that this all blows over smoothly for you.

  43. ninja o said:

    LW, I would also like to borrow from the Captain’s say-no-to-dating scripts because it’s totally possible if he’s really determined, he’ll drop the biking and take up something else. (“Well since you don’t like biking I thought we could go knit beer coozies together!”)

    You might want to set a boundary using the WITH YOU line. “Coworker, I don’t want to spend time outside of work WITH YOU.”

    He will probably be “hurt” and “betrayed” but if he goes so far as to switch his “get you alone” tactics, that’s probably for the best.

    • JMegan said:

      I was thinking the same. The biking is almost irrelevant in this situation – he’s trying to get LW alone and on his terms, and is ignoring her very clear words about not wanting to. If it wasn’t biking, it would be something else. So LW, you might want to make sure your “never in a million years” script is broad enough to include biking, knitted beer cozies, that new indie band that’s playing at the club down the street, cat videos on the internet, and everything else. Make sure he gets the message that your “no” is not about the biking, and it has nothing to do with which of you is or is not married, it’s about YOU not wanting to spend time with HIM, under any circumstances.

      Yes also to looping in your manager and HR, because they will almost certainly want to know about it. And echoing all the others who are saying you’re not overreacting. Good luck to you.

  44. Aveline said:

    The age and marital status are context, but, in the end, don’t matter.

    If he were single, your age, and hot, the behavior would still raise enough red flags to cover China.

    He has shown you his true self:

    (1) Probes until he finds a common interest
    (2) Tries to get you to partake in common interest as a way to become more intimate with you
    (3) Ignores your “no”
    (4) Buys you a present to force you into (2)
    (5) Tells you that you will do it because of (4)

    I don’t care if this is biking alone in the woods with an older, married man or eating ice cream with a hot one your age. You have made clear you “do not want.” And he persists.

    This video is used often with respect to rape culture, but it applies equally in situations like this one:

    • It’s not even a common interest.

      • songofstorms said:

        Yeah, he didn’t even bother with that step. Instead he’s trying to force a common interest by pushing the OP to participate in HIS favorite hobby. (And hey, funny how there’s no indication that he has expressed any desire to learn more about one of OP’s interests… it’s all about him getting his way.)

    • I’ll never see Mrs. Doyle in the same light again.

      • The Mrs. Doyle video is in response to the tea/consent video, should the nesting have confused things, btw.

  45. SLB said:

    This is a bike helmet full of bees. My vote is having HR return it to him after you’ve told them all about his Creepy McCreeperson ways.

  46. Cora said:

    Creeper: “Won’t you go bike riding with meeeee?”
    OP: “No. Hey, when is your wife’s birthday?”
    Creeper: “Uh. {month-and-day}.”
    OP:” Thanks!”

    Mail the bike helmet to her in a gift bag.

  47. Ainsley said:

    I have a strategy here!

    I would allow this to become an established routine between you. You say you’re stressed because “you don’t appreciate being strong armed into doing something you don’t want to do.” So I recommend you first promise yourself that you will absolutely never go bike riding with him, and expend zero time on bike-riding things (for example, trying the bike helmet on to see how it fits).

    You: I love how part of our relationship is you constantly asking me to go bike riding with you even though that literally never will happen.

    This establishes it is a routine, that can continue as long as he wants it to. You just greet it with a smile.

    Him: We’re picking a day to go bike riding!
    You: Great! It sounds like you’re going to go bike riding by yourself.
    Him: Haha (pretends not to understand). I’ll swing by your cubical Thursday!
    You: Okay! I can say goodbye to you as you go on your bike ride.

    Him: But I got you a helmet!
    You: I know, and I gave it to goodwill. Isn’t that CRAZY?
    Him: …really? Well bring it back, then, my daughter could use it.
    You: No, I shockingly, actually gave it to goodwill.
    Him: Well come on, you at LEAST owe me a bike ride now, since you gave my gift away.
    You: Maybe I do! I must be super, super mean.

    He will just get tired.

    • Saturnalia said:

      I don’t want to sound unkind, but I have taken this approach a lot at a former workplace, and while at the time it felt necessary, it did *not* feel good. It felt like giving in. It felt like he still won. I was still uncomfortable and worried he’d escalate, and I was still having conversations about the things I didn’t want to talk about.

      There are a lot of suggestions, and there’s a good variety of scripts, and LW: I hope you find what you need to say what it takes.

    • *He* will get tired?! Oh man, it makes *me* exhausted just reading this (from the You perspective, I mean). I would lose all patience for indulging this schema right around the stanza break.

    • Annalee said:

      Unfortunately, the ‘routine’ is the problem here, because the routine is harassment, and the LW doesn’t love how part of their relationship is him constantly pressuring her. She specifically hates that it’s part of their relationship, and she wants him to stop. She’s already told him no a million times, and he has yet to get tired.

      She shouldn’t have to greet it with a smile when he tramples her boundaries. She shouldn’t have to play along, or make it comfortable for him, when he pressures her. He’s the one behaving inappropriately, and she shouldn’t have to pay the emotional toll of smoothing that over so he doesn’t feel bad. He does not have her consent to keep badgering her, so however fun it is for him and however sad it would be for him to have to stop, those are his feelings to process, not hers to manage.

    • In all seriousness, why? What would the LW gain from constant banter?

      • She has a lot to lose, because it normalizes the interaction for onlookers, and he’s going to take it as encouragement–he needs to “try harder”.

        • Yes! Nothing to gain.

    • LW (Who STILL doesn't want to ride bikes!) said:

      Honestly. this is essentially the approach I’ve used up until this point. And I’ve now crossed over from slightly amused by the whole situation, to just tired, annoyed, and uncomfortable. The bike helmet being presented after I specifically told him I wasn’t interested in riding escalated things for me.

      • sistercoyote said:

        It is an escalation, because there is an assumption about “accepted” gifts in Western society. It’s very telling that he left it at your desk while you weren’t there to refuse because he knew you would refuse.

        Please please please return it to him the same way, with the post-it note as suggested, and follow up with an email to him. Take a picture with your phone, and store it somewhere off-site that you’ll have it but won’t have to look at it every day. Do the same with all email and text messages (that are not work related) going forward.

        I understand feeling like you can’t go to HR (I’ve been there, though for a different reason), but please start documenting. And take care of yourself.

  48. Jerry Larry Terry Gary said:

    Agree with everyone about this guy’s motivation. I would skip right to expressing your anger/frustration;
    “Dude, I am tired of your badgering. I am never going to ride bikes with you. I am not interested. You need to shut it down.” Hand him the helmet and walk away.
    It sounds like you’ve taken on the playful aggrieved role and he is “playfully” wearing you down. Change the dynamic. And just walk away/say you need to go back to work/ignore the question if he brings it up again- even saying no seems to be feeding whatever he’s getting out of this.

  49. Amber Rose said:

    I love your footnote Captain.

    LW, this guy is not your good friend. He’s a creep and he has no respect for boundaries. He also, more importantly, does not see you as a good friend, or he would not treat you this way.

    You do not need to hang onto this relationship. He’s a creep and a jerk. Move on.

  50. LW,

    One other point: you’ve done nothing wrong in being his friend and in socializing outside of work.

    It really stinks that this lousy man has ruined any chance of friendship. I say this because I think you should consider stepping back from one-on-one interactions with him in the future. He’ll only look for other ways to come on to you.

    • neverjaunty said:

      Yes. It is an unfortunately truth that creepasaurs deliberately select good, decent, well-meaning people to harass – because being a creep means using decent people’s natural good tendencies against them.

      It doesn’t make you stupid, naive or bad in any way, LW. It means you are a decent person and a good friend. It’s a lot harder for creeps to creep on anyone who understands their creep way of thinking.

      • Exactly.

        Creepy Coworker wasn’t ever a friend, and that’s rough for the LW.

        LW, it’s reasonable to mourn the friendship you thought you had.

        One of the nastiest effects of this kind of creep is how he leads you to mistrust your own desire for connection at work.

        He really stinks.

  51. solecism said:

    My first fire job (with NPS), I was on an engine with 3 others in my age brackets (early to mid-20s). One of them had relocated with his wife, and they were living in the park in an RV together, and his wife was volunteering. The RV next to them was occupied by a nice retired couple who spent their summers living in the park and volunteering too.

    This older couple, particularly the husband, were very friendly to the young wife who didn’t know anyone yet. The young couple didn’t think anything of it but very much appreciated the neighborliness. Until the day the husband came into work completely horrified. The “nice” older married man in his 60s had hit on his wife in her 20s, and neither of the young people had seen it coming. Me and the other woman on the fire crew were completely unsurprised. Me, because I’d met him once or twice (also living in the Park, but in the bunkhouse), and there was just a certain look in his eyes. Maybe entitled obnoxious jerk? Dunno. Just got that vibe.

    This guy is not your friend, even though it’s felt like it to you all this time (because you took him at face value and reasonably assumed good intentions). That closeness you felt was him grooming you. He has demonstrated that he does not have good intentions toward you. He has demonstrated that he is not a safe person. It does not get better from here.

    Do not worry about his feelings. He’s the one in the wrong, and any bad feelings as a result are the natural consequences of his bad behavior.

  52. In my experience, creeps back off when they hear something like, “I’m sorry, but my husband does not let me associate with other men outside the office.” Yes, this is gross and sexist at every level. However, in this patriarchal world, the claims of a real (or imaginary) man on a woman carry more weight than the woman’s agency or bodily autonomy.

    The LW has marriage on her side. She can use it to get the creep to back off. Even if her spouse is not a man, she can claim she has a husband.

    If the creep further encroaches on her, she now has evidence for HR and her supervisor that she is being harassed by someone who knows perfectly well she is married.

    • I’m glad you’ve found a tactic that works for you. I’ve observed it backfiring though. The boundary crossing men try to convince the women that their husbands are controlling scum.

    • oregonbird said:

      There are any number of ways for the OP to protect herself before building an alter to the Patriarchy. “He didn’t back off when I waved my husband at him,” is not going to be a way forward in her workplace.

      • Ah. Thank you, oregonbird, Mir, and Mrs Morley for pointing out the limitations to that concept. I am privileged in that I have never been sexually harassed at work. I’ve only had to deal with the occasional creep on the street, who backed off when I waved the husband at him. You, the Captain, and all the lovely commenters have brought up much, much better ways to deal with this than my outdated idea.

        • tabbykat said:

          I hate that it works…but sometimes I do the same thing when I’m street harassed, or just hit on in public.

          • tabbykat said:

            Also I don’t really have a husband.

          • I always wear rings, and I can have one onto my wedding finger backward in no time flat. Is it annoying that that’s what it takes? Yeah. Do I do it anyway? FUCK, yeah.

          • Yeah. I hate wearing my wedding ring when running or hiking by myself….but I always wear my wedding ring when running or hiking by myself. Because the frequency of unwanted attention goes WAY up when I take it off.

        • Thanks for bringing the tactic up though. Because yeah it does sometimes work in one off situations. And isn’t that a painful thought too?

    • Mir said:

      I know you mean well, but I think this is a terrible idea. Aside from the gross gender element, it also is a type of “sorry I can’t because of X reason.” People who are clueless and don’t respect boundaries tend to hear any “sorry I can’t because of X reason” excuse as an invitation to solve the impediment. Do you really want Johnny Work Harasser to imagine himself as the white knight trying to save you from your controlling husband?

      Plus lying potentially creates new headaches – like then what happens when they see you hanging out with other men, or making out with your girlfriend? There’s no reason to create a situation where you’re free from advances but constantly afraid they’ll find out that your excuse was made up.

      In my experience it’s a lot better to stick with a simple “I don’t want to” phrased in whatever way is appropriate for the circumstance. And here there’s plenty of workplace authority to fall back on, so there’s no need to fall back on ridiculous medieval “the dude who owns me says I can’t” reasons.

    • Also, if she pulls the husband card, he’s going to play the plausibly deniability wife card. “But we’re just FRIENDS.” He’s not explicitly hitting on her, he’s hiding behind the shield of “good friends” so he’s going to deny there’s anything untoward and pretend to be *shocked* that she would think so.

      • Leonine said:

        Ugh. I once had a guy tell me that since we were both married, it would be okay for me to kiss him because the two marriages cancel each other out. You know. Like in math.

        • Oh, wow, that’s a new one to me. 😛

        • AllanV said:

          I…guess that kind of makes sense if the reason you object to cheating on your spouse is that you’re afraid your affair partner will tattle on you? Like, this way you both have an incentive to keep it secret, so their fear of your tattling cancels out your fear of their tattling?

          ‘Course, it still takes a lot of chutzpah for anyone to assume that’s your only objection.

  53. spookycatlady said:

    My Ex (who is my ex for different reasons) was a creepasaurus rex like this. With me, with his friends, his family. If he was interested in something, we all should be. Oh my word it was exhausting.

    How would I have felt if one of his potential converts called me up, or tried to give me back a present he gave *them*?

    I would be horrified, embarrassed, and pissed. But my loyalty was always unwavering to my Ex, even though he was an emotionally abusive road pellet. My horror, shame, and anger would then be misdirected at the potential convert and of course myself. He once spent a day at a our local pub flirting (harassing) inexpertly at the waitresses. When we came in for a pint a few weeks later, they told me all about it.

    I was too scared/browbeaten to turn on him, so my evening got ruined and he all of a sudden decided that we couldn’t go out with to pubs anymore because I didn’t belong in that world with him. He still went,

    So I say this from my own experience, I recommend you leave poor Wife Judy out of this. He’s your co-worker so you can go to HR. He’s your “friend” so you can shut him down directly. But looping in someone who’s by default unlikely to be on Team You? All sorts of backfiring.

    • just responding to say sorry you went through that. And yes, any strategy involving the Poor Wife Judy who we know nothing about is adding a raft of unnecessary complications to a relatively simple boundary issue.

  54. nnn said:

    Sometimes I find it useful to work the word “consent” into the script when declining “offers” from people who don’t like to take no for an answer. For example, “I do not consent to go bike riding.”

    LW will know better than we do whether that would be a useful script in her case.

  55. hummingbear said:

    (Not a serious suggestion but) I would love to see the LW garishly redecorate the helmet as an Unwanted Advances Deflection Shield and start wearing it at work. Every time the coworker says anything over the line, point cheerfully to the helmet. “Sorry, can’t hear a thing you’re saying! Boy, this anti-harassment helmet you got me is working so well!”

    • I love that. And I want one! In fact, I see a small business opportunity here.

  56. Pajpaj said:

    If the LW counts the person in question as a close and confident friend, I’d like to advise that one can still be pissed at a friend, let the friend have it with righteous fury, and still maintain the friendship. Don’t worry about hurting his feelings; Demonstrate how much his behavior has hurt yours. either his pride will distance him from you or he’ll back down and be more respectful. I also really like the HR idea.

    Ive seen this type behavior in a lot of different demographics, especially hobby evangelists.

    • Convallaria majalis said:

      I also thought about this. To me it seems like there are two things here: being a friend in some way and the male colleague’s harrassing behaviour. In my own experience even friends have blind spots and in some things they clearly cross lines. Even though the feminist part in me would revel in the thought of putting this guy to his place there are other things to consider here (and no, the feelings of this guy is not one of them): the social dynamics of the workplace/the circle of work related friends, for example.

      I wonder if the other colleagues/work buddies know about this behaviour? As someone suggested earlier, I would probably also talk about this with other work friends; tell about the helmet and ask if they have had or know of someone who has had similar problems with this same guy. Finding support at the workplace would probably help.

      I wonder if the LW knows this man’s wife? If so (even a little), could she chat a bit with her? It would probably not help to tell about the “jokes” and such; perhaps the LW could say that to her the man seems to be lonely with his burning interest in biking. Also becoming closer to the wife would also be a clear signal to the guy and probably get him to back off.

      I think that the best thing would be to maintain one’s borders with strong and simple “no” answers and to involve the HR and colleagues – but sometimes there are situations when indirect methods need to be used. Maintaining good working relationships to colleagues might be one reason; so much depends on the work place.

      I do not know what the whole picture of this situation is like. I believe the LW, being a smart lady, knows why she thinks of this older guy as a friend. His behaviour is clearly unacceptable and causes anxiety in LW so this behaviour has to stop – but also it would be best for the LW to keep other parts of her life as intact as possible, including the circle of friends at work (somehow I got the picture that this guy is not the only friend the LW has at the workplace).

      If I were in LW’s shoes I would allow myself to use any (lawful) means necessary to get out of this situation: if it would take gossiping and involving this guy’s wife, other work friends… So be it. Everybody should accept a “no” but this guy clearly does not function this way. The LW’s well being is most important here.

      So, dear LW: involve HR, tell about the situation to your friends and colleagues and spouse (if you have not already done so), involve this guy’s wife. Find support; you have found it here, you will also find it in a non-virtual form.

      Situations like this always bring to my mind my own situation eight years ago. I was working in a small family business and apparently the CEO (male) had become accustomed to women giving him special attention. Well, I did not find him attractive in the least and slowly it began to make him furious. One day he came to me and point blank asked: “Why are you not attracted to me?” That was the last day I worked there. I fleed home and told everything to my spouse back then. He believed me and he talked to the CEO and put everything in order. My mental health wa ruined for months. Still this day I am happy that he helped me. I was not a strong feminist woman but I believe that in that situation I did the best I could.

      • IrishEm said:

        I am so sorry that happened to you. You did nothing wrong, and you did the best you could to protect yourself in an awful situation. As long as you got out of there without harm coming to you, I don’t think you need to worry about being “a good feminist”. Just a good person. Which you are.

        *Jedi hugs (if you want them)*

      • Allya said:

        You definitely don’t have to worry about being a “good feminist”, I agree, but I also don’t think that you’re not one. It makes me really sad that “feminism” has come to be associated with, I don’t know, handling harassment from men in a ~strong and independent~ way and not needing help and never backing down or whatever. Sometimes “winning” is just getting out of a terrible situation in the best way you can.

        Asking for help is not anti-feminist. Asking for help is actually EXTREMELY feminist, because the patriarchy is upheld by networks of people and we need our own networks of people to fight against it. The idea that strength requires independence is a dangerous red herring; we can be independently strong but we are even stronger as a community. The fact that the incident damaged your mental health does not suggest you are weak, either. You are strong because despite that, you kept going. I don’t know your situation now but I know you’re no longer working for that creep and I know you recognise the mental health difficulties you went through, which suggests you learned some pretty great self-care and that’s kickass! Asking for help and taking care of yourself are totally strong, feminist things to do!

        And now you’re here passing on wisdom and support based on your own experiences. That’s super feminist too. You accepted help to get into a better place in your life and now you can give back and help others. Strength doesn’t have to be aggression, it can be the compassion and understanding you show here too, and that’s just as important.

        • Serin said:

          Asking for help is actually EXTREMELY feminist, because the patriarchy is upheld by networks of people and we need our own networks of people to fight against it. The idea that strength requires independence is a dangerous red herring; we can be independently strong but we are even stronger as a community.


          The patriarchy is also upheld by the assumption that every woman’s problem is hers and hers alone, a one-off, an oddity. No pattern here, no ma’am, nothing systemic. It must be a personal weakness.

          • “The patriarchy is also upheld by the assumption that every woman’s problem is hers and hers alone, a one-off, an oddity. No pattern here, no ma’am, nothing systemic. It must be a personal weakness.”

            THIS. Oh, so very much this.

  57. Mir said:

    I have a couple friends who are more outgoing than me and used to try to “save” me from my “boring” life where several nights a week I (gasp!) stay at home and read, or draw, or whatever. The most persistent one actually showed up at my house a couple times unannounced, laughingly insisting that she was there to “kidnap” me and “force me to come out and have some fun whether I liked it or not.”

    I’m sure you can imagine how I felt about that. I didn’t go, of course. She was offended, I was annoyed.

    A phrase that I have adopted for such situations:

    “Look, I know you mean well, but you’re totally misreading the situation. I told you I don’t want to do this. Stop making it weird.”

    In fact I have found “Don’t make this weird” to be a really useful middle ground in any situation when someone has failed to respond to normal polite refusals but you’re not quite ready to escalate to actual anger.

    • Buni said:

      I like “You’re totally misreading [this] situation” and will be saving that for future use. Is it possible for a tone/voice to be both flat and pointed at the same time? Because that’s the tone I’m imagining.

      • Mir said:

        I try to be kind about it, because generally this is a thing I use with actual friends who are just very different from me, or with strangers whose intentions I judge to be harmless, if off base. So yeah I aim to sound matter-of-fact, unemotional, patient, and firm. I find that it helps to make sure there’s no hint of joviality, because a lot of times people are all, “Hahaha I’m going to MAKE YOU!” and you have to wrench them out of that and show them that it’s not a joke to you.

        • briefly anon said:

          I have literally broken up with someone over that.

          Them: Let’s go swimming!
          Me: I don’t swim.
          Them: I’ll make you! Sink or swim is the best way to learn!
          Me: *makes sure we are never near any body of water*

          We were broken up within the week.

          • Yikes! Sounds like that other person was trying to drown you!

          • Wow. No. Sink or swim is *not* the best way to learn. As I discovered when some “friends” tried to “make” me swim, it’s actually the best way to almost kill someone and bestow on them a (probably) lifelong phobia of swimming pools. That ordeal is actually the main reason why I still can’t really swim.

            I’m so glad you broke up quickly with someone who had such obvious disregard for your comfort, safety and wishes.

          • That’s like saying, “You’ll never learn to be a good boxer if you keep refusing to be punched in the face!” Yikes.

    • Anisoptera said:

      This is brilliant and I’m filing it away for later use. I find a lot of advice in these situations is kind of like a fantasy about what a total badass would do that’s fun to think about but I’m very unlikely to implement in the normal world where I have to show up to work every day *after* I’ve done the thing. This however is clear, polite, professional and unambiguous. I hope the LW reads this far down, because she could say this while handing the helmet back word for word.

      It’s also exactly the kind of thing HR will want to hear that she’s done if he continues to make it weird and she has to involve them.

    • PintsizeBro said:

      Wow, this is a great all-purpose script for someone who won’t take “no” for an answer but you need to be able to show up and deal with them the next day. I’m totally taking this. Thanks for posting it!

  58. Yolanda B. Cool said:

    LW, I would invoke a little Jane Austen with this:

    “As a married woman, I cannot accept such a gift.”

    Said with ice, as you return the stupid helmet to him, will implicitly remind him that as a married man, he is way the hell out of line.

    And then? Keep treating this guy like a flea-infested cat who keeps dropping dead birds on your desk, forever.

    He’s not your friend, LW. He was never your friend.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      He’d be way the hell out of line as a single man.

      But I do like the idea of LW’s saying “I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to go biking with”

      • Yolanda B. Cool said:

        “Reader, I reported him to Human Resources.”

        • BigDogLittleCat said:


  59. Hello, avid cyclist person here. I would like to reiterate how off this behavior is from a cyclist standpoint. When you are advanced enough to go on bike trips you typically have a nice, fast bike and biking with a newbie just isn’t that fun. They’re slow or get tired quickly or swerve or any number of things that can be a bit annoying if you are very experienced. I can’t imagine that he is inviting OP because he thinks she would somehow increase his bike riding enjoyment. Also, advanced cyclists tend to buy very nice helmets that are not cheap – they start around $50 and go up from there. That is far too much to be spending on “gifts” for your platonic coworkers.
    OP, I don’t think (hope) that he has intentions to get you alone and take advantage of you like some commentors are suggesting but his insistence on getting you on a bike reeks of some kind of ulterior motive.
    If I was in your position, next time he asked I would say, “I have repeatedly told you that I do not have an interest in riding bikes and yet you keep asking me. Why is that?” SIT AND LET HIM STEW. He’ll prob say something like “oh, i just think you would really like it…” or “it’s just fun” or some other stupid reason. Then you can take that reason and shut it down right then and there. “Nope, I know I would not like it all so I’m glad we got that out of the way and you can stop asking me. Now I’ve really got to finish this email so I’ll talk to you later!” BIG SMILE, TURN AWAY.

    • Anisoptera said:

      Actually some of us don’t mind riding or hiking or whatever with newbies. It’s just a different kind of thing where instead of smashing something out at your top performance you have a fun social day. I would hate for people to read that and think all people experienced at a hobby hate doing it with newbies because that’s just not true. I kind of love helping people enter hobbies I’m in actually, and have done it with bike riding specifically – coming back from a month long self supported bike tour to loan beginner cyclists a spare bike and go on little 15km jaunts. It’s the part where he isn’t hearing no that’s the problem.

      • Rhoda said:

        Yes, I don’t mind going out with newbies either – but there is no way I’d pressure someone into it the way this guy is. It would have to be the newbie’s idea in the first place.

      • Katherine Wiersema said:

        Good point, I should clarify. I go biking with family and friends that aren’t cyclists often and I enjoy it as I enjoy their company and they have asked for support getting into a new hobby so I’m happy to oblige for those that I love. I don’t mean to deter anyone from trying new things, I just meant that Mr. Creep is definitely not in it for a cycling partner.

    • AndTheRest said:

      I’ve participated in a couple of hobbies that women very rarely participate in (fyi, I am female), and what I’ve seen is that many men love playing the mentor/teacher/knowledgeable expert. Sometimes it isn’t specifically gendered or sexual — they truly love showing off their skill/knowledge/whatever with their hobby to newcomers with no thoughts of literally showing off their genitalia as well. Even so, when a woman, especially a young and/or conventionally pretty woman, partcipates in such a hobbie, it’s like moths to a flame; even if they aren’t consciously pursuing sex, they want that attention and presumably admiration from that woman. Often though, a situation with the hobby that could lead to sex is something these men would never refuse, assuming they aren’t actively trying to arrange that. One man even once admitted to me that teaching a potential romantic interest about his hobby was a fantasy of his. (Side note: when men like this find out that the woman is quite skilled or competent in the hobby, their interest in the woman often wanes.)

      I agree with everyone else that Creepy Old Biking Dude is trying to get into the LW’s pants, but I think teaching her all about biking is a big part of his fantasy. So LW, if at some point in the future this guy wants to teach you all about some other hobby or activity that you may actually want to try, just say no. I could see this guy trying the same tactic with another hobby or activity in the future.

      • So much this. I have been playing and running tabletop games for twenty-five years, and I’m still encountering the occasional male gamer who has taken it upon himself to be a twentieth level Paladin of Passivus-Aggressivus, God Of Gatekeepers, and who is carrying out his sacred duty by following up on a perfectly reasonable ‘so, how did you get into this hobby?’ question by conducting an impromptu pub quiz about my knowledge of the Rolemaster encumbrance rules or mega damage in RIFTS, or whatever.

        • I met a friend of a friend who seemed pleased when I said I played World of Darkness, but over the fucking moon when I mentioned I was playing an Anarch Tzimisce – because he got to tell me condescendingly that Tzimisce are always Sabbat.

          • Somniorum said:

            As a WoD storyteller and previous player, that is such bullshit. I can totally imagine a well-played Anarch Tzimisce. There’s a difference between typicality and ALWAYS

          • whingedrinking said:

            Yeah, I gave him a look and said, “Dude, even the player’s guide will tell you, the system is in service to the story, not the other way around. I don’t roll with rules lawyers.” He looked like I’d kicked his puppy.

        • Carrie said:

          I’ve had a couple of guys claim I can’t be a ‘real’ comics fan because I can’t, like, name all of Bruce Wayne’s canonical girlfriends in chronological order. I’m like, one, DC is not my jam, and two, if I need to know that I can LOOK IT UP. The value of one’s fandom is not in one’s mastery of minutiae and trivia. Sure, being able to quote how Holy Smite works on demand can make things run more smoothly at the table, but the book’s right there…

          When the Fake Geek Girl thing was going around it took everything I had to NOT write the dissertation on my credentials, but I managed it because I don’t have to prove myself.

      • MoSaurus said:

        While the biking may not be sexual, I suspect the rest of it isn’t, either: it’s about power and control. He gets to be an expert and she is the newbie: he likes the feeling of having all the power. So creepy.

        • AndTheRest said:

          I hadn’t thought about it like that before, but yes, I think you’re absolutely right! Power and control.

      • Marna Nightingale said:

        Sometimes it isn’t specifically gendered or sexual — they truly love showing off their skill/knowledge/whatever with their hobby to newcomers with no thoughts of literally showing off their genitalia as well.

        Well, true, but. The better type of those people nearly always say things that are genuinely helpful, and when you ask them to dial it back a notch because you’re doing okay on your own they’re proud of you, not pissed.

  60. BigDogLittleCat said:

    This seems a perfect situation in which to use “What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?”

  61. erika said:

    So, here’s a male perspective…

    I was sharing this letter with my husband, “Can you believe this guy?!?!”, and I said something like “He totally wants to get her out somewhere private where he can make his move on her, but still have plausible deniability in case the spouses find out–he can gaslight the spouses with something like “We’re just going for a bike ride, what is wrong with you that you would be suspicious of something like that? and if the LW turns him down he can gaslight her with the same excuse!”

    My husband looked at me like I had three heads. “Of COURSE that’s what he was doing. Did anyone actually doubt that? It’s so obvious that I’m surprised you even brought it up. What I’d worry about is that he would respect her NO for sex exactly as much as he’s respected her NO for a bike ride.”

    So there you go, LW. Even a dude thinks this guy just wants to get you alone and that the demand of a bike ride is just the first of many demands that this guy wants to make of you.

    • neverjaunty said:

      “Did anyone actually doubt that?” Yes, rather a lot of people who have responded to a woman on the receiving end of this situation, probably also with a helping dose of staring at her like she’s got three heads and telling her how stupid she was for believing he was just a friend who wanted to go biking (and therefore the situation was entirely her own fault).

      That’s how this shit works.

      • Rape culture in a nutshell: if you’re a woman or AFAB and you don’t trust every man you meet implicitly, you’re a nasty suspicious b-word. God, he’s just being NICE, can’t you take a compliment?! #notallmen!
        The instant you’ve been harmed by a man? Well, if you didn’t want that to happen, why did you agree to have sex/be alone with him/go on a date/let him buy you a drink/smile vaguely in his direction? You should have known how men are!

  62. thebearpelt said:

    Captain commented that it’s considered wasteful to just throw the helmet away, but I also like to think of gifts as something you can do whatever you want with once you have them.

  63. Looc64 said:

    I think you should throw away/donate the helmet. I wouldn’t return it to him, because I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s going to show up with a bike for you.

    • Bunny Purler said:

      Yup. I was wondering what bike he’s proposing she ride on this little 30 minute ride. I would bet that if she doesn’t shut this down quickly there’ll be a gift wrapped bike left for her too. He will then say that she ‘owes’ him because he has spent So! Much! Money!! on her…

  64. Dia said:

    I agree with the people saying this is not the actions of a friend, regardless of any past friendliness he may have shown or friendliness the LW may have felt. If this were me, and I didn’t take it to HR.. or even if I did and he still wanted to talk to me, I would try my best to do the “scorch the earth” approach. “You have indicated to me that you are more interested in your own agenda than my firmly stated boundaries. As such we are not friends, I do not want to talk to you. Do not talk to me. Do not give me gifts. Do not interact with me beyond what is necessary for our jobs. This is final.” Whether or not I could bring myself to say that.. I don’t know, but I would want to, I think.

  65. Tennia said:

    LW, I am being very literal here when I say this is 100% some serial killer shit. It is not normal or common at all *even for creepy old men* to be pressuring you this hard into going with him into an isolated, lonely area where you don’t have a viable escape route. It is not normal at all, and you are right to be angry and creeped out.

    If the Captain’s suggestions don’t work, my own recommendation would be to go nuclear and make a scene. Whether it’s by writing an email and ‘accidentally’ cc-ing your boss and coworkers (who should be clued in beforehand) about how utterly inappropriate this behaviour is and how you have said no time and time again (and how he’s said he wants to marry you), or by confronting him in the office, or by going to HR (I would be very wary of that–HR serves the company, not you) with documentation of this behaviour, I would very much escalate before this gets worse.



      A bit off-topic but I wanted to share this. My parents married right out of high school and had kids immediately; their oldest kid had a baby at age 18, making them grandparents at age 36. Some time later, after my parents divorced, my dad started going to clubs and bars. He didn’t look like a guy in his 50s, and sometimes young women would ask him to dance or hang around and talk with him.

      His response? “The only thing wrong with pretty young women like you is that I have a granddaughter the same age.”

      I always appreciated that he didn’t rob the cradle.

    • msmess said:

      I don’t think I’d recommend CC’ing everyone on an email to him. Maybe LW’s boss, or Creep’s boss, or HR rep, or all three, after a conversation with whoever will be copied on the email. Not that this guy deserves privacy, but LW does, and unless she has a really specific office dynamic, this could be uncomfortable and even harmful later on. LW should of course feel free to tell whomever, but copying coworkers on a “stop this” email to the creep might come across poorly and have unintended negative consequences for LW.

      • Tennia said:

        That’s a good point. I was mostly thinking of my current office, where all my coworkers are very close-knit and we have a very small staff, and therefore important things like this would need to be given to everyone.

  66. karinacinerina said:

    Donate the helmet to a shelter or orphanage or foster youth program and if he asks where it went, tell him! Even Goodwill would be better. ICK I am so sorry, LW!

  67. Melinda said:

    One thing I have found helpful in situations like this is to be very plain spoken, but lady like. By lady like, I mean not cussing, not joking, especially NOT LAUGHING AT ALL in response to whatever thing he says. “I don’t like it when you say things like [that], or ask me [that], or tell me [that]. I’m not interested in that, and I DON’T WISH TO HEAR IT FROM YOU AGAIN.” Said without anger, ire, disgust, or much emotion at all. I’ve been lucky that my experience has been that if I speak that way to somebody at work who has been inappropriate with me (words or hands), they have backed off and left me alone. Calm, quiet and dead serious has done more for me than any amount of emotion in my responses to asshole, handsy men in the workplace.

  68. h said:

    OP, there’s lots of great advice here, but there’s two points I don’t think anyone’s made yet. (Maybe they have, I tried to read all the comments but I was so angry at Creepy Dude that it was hard to focus through them all.)

    1. Giving you a helmet AT WORK may very well be intended to create plausible deniability about your interest in him. Even if you refuse the helmet, some co-workers may thing you have interest in him, because otherwise it’s just so sooo weird for him to give you such an expensive and utterly useless gift. This isn’t a prank or a gag, it cost significant $$. IMO he’s laying the groundwork so no matter how weird he gets, some people will think it’s a messy breakup, not a case of stalking.

    2. There’s a middle ground between filing a formal HR complaint and doing nothing. You can fill in your supervisor and/or HR with the explanation that you don’t need any action–yet. This is a preemptive move to head off retaliation and name-smearing on his part.


    Dear Boss,

    I just wanted to give you a heads-up about an awkward situation. I think I have it handled and don’t need any intervention yet, but I wanted to keep you in the loop.

    Creepy Co-worker has been pressuring me to socialize with him outside of work for some time now. In specific, he has been asking me take up biking and then go on bike rides with him. I have always declined in a very straightforward way.

    Recently I found a bike helmet left on my chair. Shortly after giving me the helmet, he came into my office and told me that he was taking me for a ride after work sometime soon. (Note–this was definitely a case where he TOLD me, not ASKED me.) I again refused, but he responded by laughing and repeating himself.

    As of yet, I don’t need any intervention. My plan is to continue to refuse social overtures. I have no desire to socialize with him outside of work. However, I’m worried that he won’t let up or that as I continue to refuse him, he’ll retaliate by smearing my name.

    Sincerely, Name

    You could also have the initial conversation face-to-face and then follow up with an email summary. HR could get a similar letter, with added text that as of yet you’re not filing a formal complaint. The reason for this is it puts you in a much stronger position if he starts smearing your name. Instead of your boss believing whatever BS he says (which you might not even hear about), your boss will know why it’s happening from the start.


    this guy is not your friend any more. I know it sucks, because he may have been once. I’d like to suggest a change in script for your responses to him. Instead of “I don’t want to go biking,” try “I’m just not interested in socializing outside of the workplace with you.”

    Best wishes!

    • Convallaria majalis said:

      I second this option. Only the LW knows whether they think that HR stepping in would help in this situation or not – but in my opinion, if the situation escalates, it would help if the HR knew about the situation even without doing anything at this point.

      I normally hate to bring in the boyfriend/husband/male friend card but in this case using it could possibly make things to more smoothly socially speaking. What do I mean? Could it be possible to bring in someone male in the workplace, someone actually interested in biking? The next time the sleezy older guy asks LW to bike and LW makes clear she does not like biking, she could give the older guy a replacement, someone (male) willing to go biking. It would probably be best if this person would know a bit about the situation.

      I wonder if the LW knows the older guy’s wife? Does the LW’s spouse know about this behaviour? If I were in this situation I would probably need all the support and help I get; I admire the LW’s bravery in speaking her mind.

      At this point I would probably also never be alone with this older guy ever again, not even at work. All this emotional work sounds so hard to bear. I wish you lots of strength, dear LW. You are wonderful.

      • Inky said:

        I would say, “Sure, that sounds great! See you after work!” and then after work he’ll find you long gone and your husband come in wearing the bike helmet he gave you saying, “LW can’t make it, but it sure is great to have a biking buddy!”

        I’ve actually done this with “lunches” to poor “just a friends” with my BF/DH they would forget about!

        Solves the problem!

  69. Peggy Kirchgassner said:

    My husband thinks I should tell your wife hos many time I have told you No. Have your husband to your office for lunch the next day.

    • Megsammor said:

      I respectfully disagree. I don’t think a shield in the form of a husband needs to be brought in. I think he needs to understand HER decision on HER terms or he’ll just wait until the next time shield(s) are down.

  70. “My husband thinks I should tell your wife how many time I have told you No”. Have your husband to your office for lunch the next day.

  71. Q-chan said:

    My first thought upon reading the initial paragraphs? “Ugh, what a shitty and annoying thing, what kind of awful friend would do that?”

    My thoughts after reading the bit where he’s older and married and “has put a toe over the line a few times with regard to references to my looks, and comments about marrying me if he were younger”??


    LW, this man is bad news. Boundary stomping dudes who also make noises about how attractive they find you are bad news. Feel no guilt in being completely emotionally Done with him, forever.

  72. neverjaunty said:

    Dear LW, it seems as though you think that your friend has to ACCEPT your ‘no’, otherwise it doesn’t count and you have to do what he wants.

    Not so!

    As you say at the end of your letter: No means no. It does not mean “but only if you agree that I am allowed to say no”. A no is a one-way ticket out of doing things you have said no to.

    Enjoy your not-biking forever! Maybe this dude can get a refund on the unused helmet.

  73. In my experience, a man who “puts a toe over the line a few times” re: sexual interest in you, is testing the waters and would probably jump right over the line as soon as he thought he had an excuse to. (On the other hand, someone who is attracted to you, but has a strong sense of the relevant boundaries and is not considering crossing that line, will generally keep it to themselves and not stick that toe out.)

    No matter how small the boundary-pushing, even if it’s not harmful in itself, it tells you something about the person’s mindset and intentions that they would do it at all. LW is not at all wrong to see the past sexual comments as relevant, and to see the bike ride thing as a continuation of that toe-putting.

  74. Flora said:

    As a huge sap I feel sorry for this guy, the way he’s making a fool of himself with his obvious crush. Time to put him out of his misery. My move would be to leave the bike helmet on his desk with the “No thank you” note, and the next time he says something about biking smile brightly (like, steadily verging on scarily) and say, “No. Don’t ask me again,” with a little nod like, I mean it.

    I don’t know what else this friendship consists of but it’s time to put a stop to the bike harassment for the benefit of all involved.

    • sistercoyote said:

      This is not a “crush.” This is boundary-testing, borderline stalking behavior from a man for whom only his desires matter.

  75. duaecat said:

    One thing I have had some success with in the past if you’re still wanting to keep a friendly relationship with him (Which you are entirely within your rights not to want to) is some variation on “I know you’re too good/nice/awesome/kind to do this.”
    “Come biking with me, I won’t take no for an answer.”
    “I said I’m not going, and I know you’re too good a person to keep pushing me about this, so.. *subject change*”

    “I bought you a bike, you have to ride with me now.”
    “You’re going to have to return it, I know you’re too nice to keep trying to shove it at someone who doesn’t want it, and I don’t want it.”

    Expect some pushback of “But but but doing The Thing you don’t want me to do is not incompatible with being good/nice/awesome! I AM good!” And you can just keep going “I know you’re good, that’s why I just know you’ll stop doing the thing.” “But but but” “CreepyDude, I know you’re better than this.” Or “I thought you’d appreciate the heads up that you’re coming across as really pushy, and I know you’re not a rude person who’d want to be see that way.”

    Other people’s mileage may vary, but I’ve found that many boundary pushers are very caught up in the idea of themselves as Good People, so telling them “stop doing creepything” gets denial that they can’t be doing something creepy, they’re Good! But agreeing with them that they’re good people and so that’s why they’re going to stop doing it sometimes gets around that defensiveness. They can’t defend how great they are if you’re agreeing that they’re great. Feel free to substitute whatever positive term/phrase you’re most comfortable with. “You’re too great a friend to keep hounding me about this.” Etc.

    Note, I do not think this guy is either great or nice or being a good friend in the slightest, but what matters is what he thinks. And he is probably very invested in at least the illusion that he’s just being a fantastic friend and great guy.

    • Emma9 said:

      This is just about the script I’d go with – IF and ONLY IF this guy was a friend I really wanted to keep in my life, which LW, I’d honestly have a good think about before you go this route. Even if so, I’d make it the last time:

      “Hey, Pedalhead. So, this has been going on so long that I assumed you were just joking, but especially now that you’ve taken a step like this [brandish helmet], it’s really starting to make me uncomfortable, so I wanted to make it really clear to you – I don’t want to ride bikes. Now or ever. Each time you invite me it makes me stressed and unhappy. If you’re a good friend who doesn’t want me to feel this way, this is the last time I’m going to be hearing from you about bikes.”

      (Possibly in an email if you think he won’t shut up long enough to let you get all that out, also an email would be handy to point at for HR reasons.)

      If he takes that to heart, and thus MAYBE can be taught, you try to shut down future “Sighhhhh, it sucks that you’re too young for me”s (which, for the record, count me as another one who’s heard this in the past, and – spoiler! it was indeed a prelude to instigate a relationship not long after!) with “Hey, I know you’ve joked about this stuff before, but it really doesn’t feel appropriate between co-workers, please stop.”

      But honestly, this seems like a *lot* of emotional heavy lifting for you to go through for someone who really doesn’t come across as that awesome a guy.

    • hbc said:

      I was thinking similarly, that the “soft” way along these lines would be: “You know I like you, but I like you a little less every time you mention biking to me. So stop mentioning it.”

  76. Cyberwulf said:

    LW, does your husband know about what’s going on?

    I take the point made above by commenters about how “my husband forbids me to accept gifts/be alone with other men” can backfire, but could Husband maybe visibly pick you up from work someday? If Bike Fiend doesn’t care that he has a wife at home, a timely reminder that you are Off The Market *might* get him to back off.

    • LW (Who STILL doesn't want to ride bikes!) said:

      Oh Cyberwulf, my letter could have been so much longer…. my husband actually WORKS at the same company (different building and department, and we literally never see each other at work). So bike man is well aware of who my husband is, and I make absolutely no bones about how much I adore him. But maybe some lunch dates are in order to reinforce the point!

      • You don’t need to reinforce the point. CreepHat knows you’re married and that you love your husband. He simply doesn’t care.

        • Cyberwulf said:

          Quite possible. However, LW doesn’t want to involve HR just yet (and I can understand that), and having her husband come by the office a couple of times *might* make BikeFiend remember that her husband isn’t just some abstract concept. It’s just one option to go along with giving back the helmet and saying “this is inappropriate and makes me feel uncomfortable”.

      • Convallaria majalis said:

        Oh, LW, I know a bit what that is like – and it sucks! Does this Pedalhead look at you with sad eyes when you enthusiastically greet your husband? That kind of people do not seem to accept that women are able to choose spouses they actually love being with.

        Best of luck to you!

  77. I have destroyed
    the bike helmet
    that was on
    my chair

    and which
    you were probably
    would obligate me

    Forgive me
    you are repulsive
    so obvious
    and so old

    • storyranger said:

      This comment wins the internet.

    • K. said:

      This is cracking me up.

    • Kitty said:

      You are the greatest. XD

    • JenniferP said:

      ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

    • Ha! You are fantastic and your poem is fantastic!

    • Clean Blue Yonder said:

      I do not ride a bike, you see,
      I do not ride it, let me be!

      I do not ride it here nor there,
      I do not ride it anywhere!

      I do not ride it in the lane,
      I do not ride it in the rain.

      I do not ride it after dark,
      I do not ride it in the park.

      I do not ride around the town,
      I do not worship Sheldon Brown.

      I do not ride across the bridge,
      I do not ride up to the ridge.

      I do not ride around the burbs,
      I do not bunny hop the curbs.

      I do not ride it on the path,
      I do not ride, you do the math!!!

      • Traffic_Spiral said:

        *golf clap*

      • You guys are the best.

      • SarahTheEntwife said:


    • Modern Culture said:

      So perfect!

    • MoragLachlanMaclachlan said:

      *APPLAUSE* *Bouquet*. 😀

    • Private Editor said:

      This is fabulous and you are fabulous and should feel fabulous.

    • Leonine said:

      …I can’t possibly love this more than I do….
      ❤ ❤ ❤

  78. johann7 said:

    Well, hell, I’ve been using riding bikes as my go-to consent example because I’ve never, ever seen someone get weirdly aggressive about it (as compared to the more common example of food, since in my experience, people are as bad or worse about trying to coerce others around food than sex), but apparently there is literally nothing that creepy, entitled men won’t make weird and coercive. So sorry you’re dealing with this, LW.

    I’m going to add to the responses suggesting you re-frame the way you view this relationship away from “friendship”. People who refuse to listen to you or take oft-repeated boundaries seriously are demonstrating that they do not care about you – they don’t see you as a friend, perhaps not even as an agentic being. This guy may or may not intend to be hitting on you, though odds are good that he knows exactly how his creepy “faux” marraige proposals come across, but either way, the behavior needs to stop.

    I’m with the Captain on bluntness. Naming the problematic behavior specifically when you shut him down sounds like a good idea to me because it strips away the veneer of plausible deniability he’s trying to maintain – he can’t genuinely claim a misunderstanding when you’re clear about why his behavior is a problem. Again, I’m so sorry you have to deal with this bullshit, and I wish you all the best in dealing with it.

    • This is making me laugh a little because my experience with avid (male) cyclists is that they are INCREDIBLY aggressive about it. I didn’t get on a bike for like ten years because of my late husband making me bike with him including bike camping trips the length of a US state in the summer. I do bike now but not for “fun”.

    • SarahTheEntwife said:

      I’ve had the good luck to mostly avoid this specific excuse-for-creepiness dynamic, but cycling is actually one of *my* go-to examples for people being so enthusiastic about something that they ignore the other person’s needs and wants. (“You just haven’t tried the right bike! Come biking with me! Your butt will stop hurting after a while, I promise! You just have to be assertive when biking around cars and will totally not die!” etc.)

  79. Pina said:

    You could take the helmet to his desk and say to him firmly: “I want to make it clear AGAIN that I am not interested in biking with you. You might want to make an announcement to other office staff, maybe there is somebody interested in biking with you. There MUST be someone….. And, since any misunderstanding is off the table, please do not offer me ANYTHING anymore and we should move on. No private contact anymore. Thanks for understanding”, then leave.
    Don’t get into an argument. Just leave, stick with small-talk in the future and try to ignore him. Inform maybe also your super/boss briefly about it and move on. If ‘the jerk’ keeps bugging you, go full frontal with HR.

  80. Proffie Galore said:

    “Cringing away and waiting for the earth to mercifully swallow me” away from Geezer McPatronizing. Sigh. Are you me?

    But in my most recent encounter with Mr. McP., I had a glorious moment of saying exactly what came to mind. He asked whether, when I got married, people asked my (considerably older but not G. McP.) husband about robbing the cradle. I said, “No, they asked me about robbing the grave.”

    It’s fun to be getting older.

  81. Indie said:

    I’d suggest the following in an email as documentation:

    “Dear coworker,

    I’ve left the bike helmet in your desk drawer. I really hope it fits your wife, because as I’ve mentioned a few times now – I don’t bike and don’t want to go on any bike trips, so I thought you’d appreciate it back. Hope Wife has fun discovering biking with you. Please don’t ask me yet again because I’m 100 pc certain it’s a no. ”

    Even if wife doesn’t ride (nor do you!). Especially if he’s complained about wife to you (this dude always does).

    If HR is friendly, you could have a preliminary chat with them about what to do if things escalate. It’s nerve wracking to give a hard no to someone who’s wormed into your friend group before trying it on. Having an ally say ‘no that’s not OK’, even informally, helps.

    • NotPiffany said:

      I’d go with “I will not go on any bike trips” rather than “don’t want to go on any bike trips,” but other than that minor quibble, this.

  82. Is the biker’s name Mr. Collins?
    *blather blather, ignore the lady*
    “I know that ladies tend to say no, and your refusal is merely a natural delicacy. Besides, although you are quite pretty, it is by no means certain that anyone else will ever /hit on/ propose to you.”

    Dear LW, I really DO hope that you have the fortunate experience of never getting hit on again.

    • Indie said:

      Lol @ Mr Collins: “But I have status! You are a lowly slip of a girl! Therefore your refusal can’t possibly be real.”

  83. LW, do you have a wall where you are allowed to hang up pictures in your office? (cubicles, I hates them, my precious)
    Because one wonderful use of your shiny new helmet is to be hung on the wall and titles, “The Helmet Barnabas Collins Bought Me After I Turned Him Down 73 Times”.

    I bet he’d never ask you again. For anything.

    • Christine said:

      Don’t even mention that awful music box he keeps putting on my desk!

  84. wolf said:

    as the captain said documenting these incidents asap might really help. If you can track down old messeges/emails and even copy the written note it might be better that way HR can’t say “if it’s such a problem why didn’t you inform us before” or “this is only new behaviour” at least this way you can show the progression from odd to creepy. If mentioning it might cause you problems jobwise maybe try to get a co-worker on team you to bring it up at meeting (if you have those). It gives you wiggle room to say that meeting was thought provoking I really think we should take separating work from social stuff seriously. At least you will have breathing room at work…

    When in doubtvask yourself if you were the same age or gender as him would this be acceptable?

  85. zaracat said:

    I get the whole cycling evangelism thing (we’ve got a whole load of them at work), but the other behaviour takes this to a new level of creepiness that isn’t just about the cycling. Not only is it a way to get LW alone, but an opportunity to ogle the LW in scantier clothing, and potentially for unwanted physical contact under various pretexts: ‘adjusting the helmet strap’, ‘massaging those tense shoulders’ etc etc.

    Plus, him working his way up to an affair is not the only worry. Speaking as someone who got manipulated as a young adult into going to an isolated location with a married man whom I trusted 100%, who used his 3 year old daughter to make the invitation seem okay, and then sexually assaulted me as I slept (and I was too naive to even understand that what he did was sexual assault at the time), the worst CAN happen. Stay safe and run a mile from this creep.

    • winter said:

      What a creep! I’m sorry to hear you experienced that.

  86. Ally Waters said:

    *Wonderful* that this chap is wilfully redefining reality at you. Just charming. Here’s one more script for you if you’d like it for the pile: “I have decided…”

    “I have decided that I don’t want to ride bikes. I have also realised that your enthusiam about bikes is rather putting me off them, so you should reconsider the way you advocate for cycling. The helmet was an unnecessarily generous gift, and I hope you can return it. It’s been exhausting having you steamroll over me and insist that I’m going cycling with you even though I’ve told you I’m not interested. I’d like us to remain civil so please stick to work topics from now on.”

    Which, for what it’s worth is the kind of thing I’ve said to people and had them ALSO wilfully ignore, but it does tend to stick if, every time they bring it up again you can stick to work (“I can’t believe you won’t drop this – you’re being wildly unprofessional, can we get back to talking about the quarterly report?) and if they don’t stop, leave.

    Is he someone you need to interact with at all? If it impacts your ability to do your job, then you’re gonna have to talk to your boss :

    “Just a heads up Meredith, I’m struggling to get the figures for the quarterly reports from Bob. He is unwilling to have a professional conversation with me and instead just keeps inviting me out to do activities with him, even though I’ve made it plain that isn’t something I’m interested in. I’d appreciate it if you could explain to him he needs to keep things professional at work.”

    Your only option after /that/ is HR. So yeah, do document all this.

    You probably feel sorry for him. Don’t. He knows exactly what he’a doing – he thinks his right to your attention trumps your comfort and your right to basic decency. I’m sure he doesn’t /think/ he’s being a jerk, but you already know that he’s delusional. He likely fancies himself the star of his own little movie and hasn’t put any work into treating other people like they are real, or like their feelings are relevant if they contradict his desires. Or maybe he just feels that way about you!

    Either way, he’s failing spectacularly at holding up his end of the social contract and you shouldn’t feel obligated for one second to shore up his delusions. You should remain civil when you talk to someone at work, but beyond that don’t feel you have to be friendly to someone who so obviously isn’t your friend.

    Sorry this is so exhausting.

    I’m at the point now with an ex-friend and a really shitty colleague who I still work with where they will turn around and walk the other way if they see me coming around a corridor now. To which, frankly, good. I put up with that shit for literally years longer than I could have and the only good thing that came out of it was that my patience for these sorts of antics wore right down to zero.

    From past experience, the sense of relief once you are able to drop someone like this is immense.

  87. I won’t go into detail, but it shames me to admit I’ve been the Creepy Older Guy, and it all kind of escalated slowly without me even realising it was happening. To cut a long story short, a former work colleague I used to have a good laugh with clearly considered I’d overstepped the mark in the level and nature of my contact, and stopped replying to me shortly after I left the job. When we ran into each other recently after we’d both started working in new places, it was awkward as hell. I won’t defend anything I did, although a lot of it happened in the aftermath of a horrible period in my life (bereavement and a lot of stress), and by the time I realised what I’d done it was far too late to make amends, and it’s a source of eternal shame and regret to me that I made someone I cared about so uncomfortable.

    Suffice to say it’ll never happen again. I learned a lot from that experience, in particular that no-one owes you anything, and you can’t force friendship, with bike helmets or anything else. I’m now much more careful in my efforts to make friends and if I get the remotest hint that my attention isn’t welcome I’ll back the hell off. I’ve also learned from this experience that I personally don’t owe anyone anything, and have removed some fairly toxic “friends” from my life.

    This guy *may* not even realise what he’s doing. This guy *may* simply regard cycling as The One True Way. This guy *may* have good intentions but not express them very well. But he *may* be a rapist, an adulterer or a serial killer, and regardless of his intentions, he’s creeped the LW out and she has every right to say enough is enough and take whatever action is necessary to get him to back off. I agree, HR is there if needed to have a word with this guy. Thankfully it never got there with what I did, but I can’t help but feel that’s more due to the complete incompetence of our managers rather than anything else and it’s a miracle I didn’t get into massive trouble. But then I didn’t make creepy comments about marrying her etc.

    It needs to be made very clear to him where and how he’s overstepped the mark. If he’s any kind of decent human being, he’ll think very long and hard before pulling a stunt like that again, just as I’ve been forced to reflect on my actions.

    • Major(ly) Awkward, ret said:

      I’m sorry to see your comment has gotten any replies. I think it took courage to admit that here, given the tone of the comments. It reminds me of a time I was almost – and could have been – that guy. So many things in your story sound familiar

      In a new job about ten years ago, I became friends with a coworker. We had a lot of common interests that we enjoyed talking about and having a good friend in the office made a miserable work situation much better. Within a few months I had a huge crush on her, even though we were both married.

      I was very conscious of my feelings and tried hard to keep them to myself. I didn’t want to ever make her uncomfortable and didn’t want to cause problems in either of our work or personal lives. I was careful to never cross any lines but I’ve never been good at hiding my feelings, so I’m sure she knew. I never asked her to go out to lunch except when we were going with a group or suggest anything else that would have us spending time together outside the office. I was afraid that would make the plausibly deniable situation too obvious.

      We were still friends when I left but I decided it was for the best not to try to keep in touch afterward. Since then I’ve drawn a much firmer line between Coworkers and Friends. I’ve made a point in particular of keeping my distance from anyone I find attractive. I probably come across as even more standoffish and socially awkward than I used to but that’s better that ever being that stupid again.

    • Jessica said:

      No. The LW has no obligation to make anything clear to him. She has used her words, she’s said she doesn’t want to ride bikes in no uncertain terms. It isn’t her responsibility to make sure a grown man, who is older than she, is given an opportunity to learn and grow.

      When you tell someone they don’t listen very well *AND THEY LAUGH*, you’re done communicating.

      What I hear in your response is that you wished you were given an opportunity to fix something in your past because you feel you would have fixed whatever the problem was. Being able to mend relationships is a worthwhile endeavor, if both people agree to it (it sounds like LW’s coworker is only interested in having this relationship on his terms). LW, and your former coworker, doesn’t have a responsibility to provide that opportunity.

    • Convallaria majalis said:

      Oh, primitiveimages, that was a great comment in many ways. In my opinion the more people are ready to publicly admit to regretting their past behaviour the better: with comments like this we create an atmosphere where renowning one’s past behaviour and changing becomes easier and more common, and we certainly need that.

      I am female and some of my best friends at this day used to be real jerks a couple of decades ago. They were young, inexperienced, unsure – and most of all, had accepted a toxic image of what masculinity should be. Luckily, they really grew out of that and changed their behaviour, just like you – and both of them apologized very thoroughly.

      In my country we have an organization dedicated to helping and advicing men with beahvioural patterns like this. I wonder if similar organizations exist elsewhere?

  88. Pennilynn Lott said:

    I rarely comment here, but I’m going to throw out one vote for the “polite yet firm ‘no'” camp. I agree that it’s incredibly annoying to have someone, even a friend, try to repeatedly rope you into their hobby that they’re JUST SURE YOU’LL LOVE. I’m just not seeing the creepy, affair-starting, go-directly-to-HR vibes here. The letter writer said the biking thing has already been brought up…while she and BikeMan we’re out together. They’re already hanging out outside of work. What I’m seeing (and of course I could be wrong) is that the LW tried some soft ‘no’ strategies, and BikeMan thinks he is being helpful. Not that that excuses pushiness, but if LW said something like, oh, I haven’t biked in years, I don’t even have the gear for it, then buying a helmet would have been an attempt at a nice gesture. If (like I often have) LW said something like, oh, I haven’t biked in years, I would fall over and die the minute I reached a hill, then the “let’s pick a day and just do it for 30 minutes” sounds an awful lot like a well meaning person trying to help someone achieve a fitness goal. To be clear, all of this is still very awkward and misguided and paternalistic, and LW should have NO bad feelings about making her ‘no’ clear and asking that all of this stop. But going from “close friends who hang out after work regularly” to “going to HR because of a bike helmet” doesn’t feel like it will end well professionally for LW.

    • CB said:

      Yeah, I think many commenters are really undervaluing her descriptions – he is a “fairly close friend”; this has been going on for “YEARS”. This isn’t Brad from the copier room or Alan the marketing manager creeping on her, it’s someone she regularly and voluntarily sees socially, which makes it less evidently an HR meeting. I’d agree with the group that she may actually want to rethink the friendship, because this dynamic isn’t fun for her and he has poor judgment around boundaries, but i think the cold scripts like “You are misreading this situation” might be effective. (That said, it also isn’t stated that she has made any of the excuses you cite: she says she has told him it “really isn’t her thing”, not that she lacks equipment or feels out of shape.)

      • Pennilynn Lott said:

        Oh for sure, we don’t know exactly what she said or how her excuses/rejections were phrased. He could be a creep, and if she’s said any variation of “no, I hate biking and have zero interest ever no matter what” then he’s absolutely being a creep. Likewise, if he’s “putting his toe over the line”, it very well may be time to reign in this friendship and reset more professional boundaries. I just have had similar things happen, and actually specifically with biking, and looking back I was not being as clear as I thought I was. I mean, the whole thing with this blog is “I thought I was being perfectly clear why aren’t they listening” and Captain suggesting ways to be super duper extra clear because we (especially women) are often bad at judging how direct we are actually being. I’m honestly just shocked to see so many people jumping to what is in reality the nuclear option (HR). Also, somewhere up thread someone referred to this as a “hostile work environment”, and this is absolutely not what that phrase means.

      • LW (Who STILL doesn't want to ride bikes!) said:

        This, exactly. Thank you! I have been rethinking the friendship, and I’m sad that I need to drastically scale things back, because this is someone that I have really valued in my life over the years. But I can’t continue to ignore the red flags, and it’s so weird that something as simple as a bike helmet has finally made me wake up about the situation.

        • I’m speaking from the other side of having had to end friendships with dudes who were not taking “no” for an answer (in no small part because they wanted to be something other than friends with me -_- ). It blows chunks – I still have fond memories of a couple of these guys, and one in particular I wish I could still talk to because he’d have some colorfully worded opinions about the current American government, among other things! But I can’t, because he couldn’t respect my boundaries, and I know I’m better off overall keeping as friends only those I know won’t try and fit me into a mold that’s the wrong and shape and size.

          Be sad. Grieve the friendship as long as you need to. But know that you will have greater peace of mind without having to constantly check your desk for “gifts” you don’t want and being accosted at the water cooler to make plans you aren’t interested in.

        • LW I just wanted to say I’m sorry you had to find out someone you thought was a friend really isn’t like this. That sucks and it’s totally normal for it to hurt and for you to miss the good times and the person you thought he was. It in no way makes his behaviour okay or means you’re overreacting if you’re ever sad or miss him.

    • LW (Who STILL doesn't want to ride bikes!) said:

      Thank you so much for this! Yes, we already spend time outside of work occasionally (time that I am always 100% transparent about with my husband), and I have tried the soft “no” approach, but NEVER have used lack of equipment as an excuse, because I KNEW that he would get me anything I needed if I really wanted to ride. But I’ve made comments like “yeah, you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for me to ride” and “biking really isn’t my thing” and for a long while he stopped asking, but for whatever reason he came back about the riding with a vengeance this spring! I think his persistence is a combination of being well meaning, while also having less than platonic feelings for me (if it’s actually possible for those two things to exist together). So I agree, going from our current friendship status to reporting him to HR seems like the unnecessarily nuclear response right now.

      • doctormead said:

        *shrug* You’re the best judge of your own situation, but I think that so many people are jumping to “At least give HR a heads up” because a lot of commenters have been badly burned by situations like this.

      • Pina said:

        Congrats, LW. Hopefully you’ll have peace now. I know for sure, ‘he will be sad’ and ‘his feelings will be hurt’, there IS definitely now an odd situation between the two of you. But, since you have been friends with him for years, he might wake up NOW and sincerely apologize to you
        – if he really wants to be ‘just friends’, which I personally doubt. He might treat you now like the famous ‘666’ and walk the other way when he runs into you. I speak from experience. Then you know that your decision was the right one. Time will show. You did nothing wrong, you just wanted to be polite and nice. But for sure you are going to feel so much better now and are able to breathe again at work.

      • robotneedslove said:

        Hi! How awkward for you – you’re clearly in the right place. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this.

        I think I read that he’s a lawyer – I am a youngish female lawyer who works with a lot of older male lawyers, so I feel like I maybe have some insight?

        Here’s what I would probably do, which may or may not work for you (personalities of people involved, corporate and more broad culture, etc): start saying very very clear things like “no, absolutely no” and “never in a million years” with a laugh and a smile and an “oh you” attitude. Not a laugh and a smile that implies you’re joking, but a laugh and a smile that implies that the idea is ridiculous and that maybe HE is joking. Like the idea of biking at all, and biking with him, is all one huge joke – hopefully one that he is in one. And leave him the helmet with somewhat joking but absolutely unequivocal note on it, like a post-it with one of those smiley faces with two x’s for eyes or something.

        I think the reason I would do it this way is so that he can save face. Not because I care that much about his face, but so that you both can transition somewhat gracefully from this situation. If HE has the opportunity to pretend that he was also making something of a joke, then it might be a lot easier for him to back off. Some people (and many men) cannot help but double down once they have started on a path, and backing down is very difficult. Treating it like a joke

        And I would 100% have a closed-door chat with HR about it. I would frame it as “asking for guidance on how to deal with this” at this juncture. Like, “I’m having a problem with X – I don’t want to make a complaint (yet), but I’m hoping you may have some tips for me in how to manage this issue. I’m also concerned that, if we can’t sort this out, we may have a bigger picture”. Any HR person worth their salt will see the writing on the wall, and make some notes.

        I would 100% not offer to donate the helmet. I wouldn’t even throw it away. I would GIVE IT BACK. I’m reminded of the Buddhist story that ends with “when someone comes to your house with a gift you don’t want, you say “no thank you””. Driving one second out of your way to donate that helmet is letting control you in a little way.

    • adios pantalones said:

      “I’ve been fairly straightforward in telling him that it really isn’t my thing.”

      Can we please give LW the benefit of the doubt that she did, in fact, give him a Polite But Firm No? Please? Because she says she did. LW is also in the comments agreeing with the Captain’s take on the letter, so…

    • Vicki said:

      Let’s take the LW at her word:


      She didn’t tell him “I haven’t biked in years, I would fall over and die the minute I reached a hill.” She told him she didn’t want to ride. It doesn’t matter if that’s because she never did, or because she’s out of practice, or because she biked only long enough to figure out that she hates it. She told him she didn’t want to, and his response was to pick a day and announce they’d be doing it.

      A friend does not impose a “fitness goal” on someone who has said she doesn’t want to do the thing in question, and hasn’t asked for any sort of advice and help in getting fit. (A man trying to impose a “fitness” goal on a woman is skeevy in other directions.) A friend, or even a friendly acquaintance who was capable of listening when a woman said what he didn’t want to hear, might have said “OK, biking isn’t your thing. Is there some other kind of exercise you’re into?” or “That’s cool. Let me know if there’s some other outdoor activity you’d like company for.”

      If this guy is as well-intentioned as you want to give him credit for, he’ll back off when told to. Which was some time in the past, as described in the letter. A well-intentioned friend wouldn’t respond to discovering that no, his coworker doesn’t want to ride bikes, and doesn’t want him to set fitness goals for her, by retaliating professionally. And he wouldn’t take advantage of friendly closeness by announcing that she was going to do, with him, something she had made clear that she doesn’t want to do at all.

      It may be, companies and rape culture being what they are, that one more firm public “NO, I already told you I’m never going biking with you. I need you to stop asking” would be useful before going to her boss or HR.

    • “I’m just not seeing the creepy, affair-starting, go-directly-to-HR vibes here”

      Are you seeing the parts of LW’s letter where she mentions that the guy has “put over a toe over the line a few times” regarding her looks, and has made comments (plural) about how he’d marry her if he were younger?

      And going to HR is not “the nuclear option”. Let’s please stop acting as if it’s a terrible declaration of war for women to expect to be treated appropriately at work.

    • Lily said:

      This was my impression too. I would wager he has a whole different story in his head about how LW deep down wants to try biking but is just intimidated, her refusals are joking or wistful, and she just needs enough persuasion. With the glasses of wishful thinking, I could see it.

      For sure, dude is still being weird! He could and should have listened to the soft “No”s, and now it’s time to scale back the friendship. But I’m guessing there will be an embarrassing point when he realizes LW was serious about those refusals all along, and the playful “thing” (proto-emotional affair?) he thought they had around biking was one-sided.

      Just my 2 cents. LW, it sounds like you’re super on top of this!

      • “her refusals are joking or wistful, and she just needs enough persuasion”

        OMG I thought I was joking about Mr. Collins back upthread. NO NO NO we are not living in Jane Austen’s society anymore.
        What if we start to call all jerks who think a woman can’t possibly disagree with him Mr. Collins. They might, maybe, possibly, catch on. If not, others in the vicinity will ask what’s up and the humorous reference turns this from a one-on-one situation between a nice guy and a Lady Who Can’t Deal into a rerun of a situation that’s been around since before Dame Austen.

  89. Jenny said:

    Even if we assume benevolent intent, and he just wants someone fun to ride bikes with, he’s making it awkward and uncomfortable for LW. I was given great marriage advice once, and I would love to tell this to the coworker…if you bully/force/coerce your partner into going somewhere or doing something with you, you are both going to have a horrible time. Go on your own, or find someone else to go who would enjoy the experience.

    That being said, dude sounds skeevy. Do not feel bad about telling him to stop. You’ve been polite, you’ve done all you can to preserve the good feelings/working relationship between you, but you’re not a bad person for getting firm with him and being blunt. If he reacts poorly, that’s on him.

    • Pennilynn Lott said:

      LW, I will just clarify that this is definitely not your fault! You had what sounds like a nice friendship, and it’s always devastating when someone you thought you could trust starts to push against your boundaries. Don’t feel the least bit bad about pulling back and being very direct.

  90. Carrie said:

    Here’s an idea, I don’t know how effective it’ll be.

    “Hey Coworker, can we talk for a second?”
    (He says sure, thinking *Oh boy, we’re gonna plan that bike ride!*)
    “So we seem to have gotten into a pattern where this thing about bikes is a little in-joke, and seeing that you actually spent money on the joke makes me feel bad. I mean, we both know I’m not going to go biking with you, because I don’t like biking, so I think maybe we should drop it. I’m sure you can still get your money back for this helmet, unless you’d rather I take it to [Local Bike Org] so they can give it to someone who needs one.”
    (But you’d like it if you tried it!)
    “No, I really think we should just let the joke go. It’s sort of worn out at this point anyway, don’t you think?”
    And continue to repeat variations on “It was funny for a while but it’s starting to bore me” until he goes away. This type *hates* to think they’re not Entertaining The Charming Young Lady.

  91. Clao said:

    Kind of related, kind of not related.

    I finally found the guts to call out my coworker who was trying to coerce me into treating him better/invite him to things. He kept telling me that certain things I did (such as saying no to a bunch of his friendship attempts) were mean, and that I was mean to him and only him, and I was this, that, but mostly mean.

    So as we were working, I said: Why are you so adamant on calling me that? Don’t you realize that women have been pressured to be pleasant and smiley and nice all the time? If you have met me, ever.. you would realize I am everything but ladylike.. You are trying to conform me into to this ladylike mold I just don’t belong to, have no desire to fit in, and have no problem in calling you out for doing it. You are going to get whatever amount of friendship I can give you, and you are going to accept that or not.. but I will not accept being called names because it doesn’t fit your expectations. He pretty much said he didn’t know and he would stop with the name calling. Let’s hope it works.

    So going back to letter writer problem: stand your ground, don’t let him force you to do what you don’t want to do. And spare his feelings if needed. He is going with the premise that his needs/wants are more important than yours and as a woman/lady you should cater to him. Well, surprise surprise. He can rethink what a “lady” acts like after you call him out on his BS and are pretty unapologetic about it.


    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      Yeah! Some people just don’t know. Here’s hoping coworker learns some things. If he ever starts it up again you can come back with “What do I owe you? Basic professional courtesy nothing more…now about that work thing” Coworkers are never owed friendship or any kind of interaction outside work.

  92. Hey, I recently (as in the past three years) took up knitting and whereas I am excited about it and have no cool knitty friends locally to hang with, I am pretty sure I don’t harass other people about my hobby because I have been knitting during my lunch hour for two years and a coworker commented on something I had knit and revealed she had no idea I played with expensive string and sticks for fun.

    I empathize with Pushy Bike Guy wanting someone to hang with as a hobby friend, BUT that is not what this sounds like. This sounds like Pushy Bike Guy is using “let’s bike!” as a pretext to get LW alone outside of the workplace. This feels doubleplus ungood squicky.

    I mean, there are Meet-Ups for bike people, bike people hang out at bike shops getting bike stuff, there’s Hashhouse Harriers or whatever that group is called, if you have a biggish park in your town then bikers will be riding around it, etc., etc., etc. Bike enthusiasm is like dog owning enthusiasm in that it is one of THE easiest hobbies to ID and bond over with other people who are into that hobby. Getting outside is a requirement, and you’re going to run into bike people and dog people.

    It is not LW’s job to manage Bike Guy’s inability to accept a clear no, to find people interested in biking that Are Not LW, etc.

    But mostly this feels like a variation of the Couch of Plausible Deniability, but it is the Unwanted Bike Helmet of Plausible Deniability: “I am not sexually harassing my married co-worker, I am just innocently talking about my hobby–behold, a bike helmet!”

    LW, you aren’t misreading things. Time to shut bike chat down, and HR may be your ally in this, if you feel comfortable discussing it with them. My guess is that–even if only to avoid any possibility of a law suit or a worker they spent time and money to train quitting in disgust due to a hostile work environment–they do not want an older married man co-worker bothering younger married women coworkers on any pretext.

  93. Pina said:

    catpainawkward.com is for sure the very best website/blog of its kind and of all times, with extremely smart and well behaved contributors. Let’s call them ‘mature people’. Love it here, and I will be spending hours and hours here to read all these interesting posts and responses, and maybe contribute a bit of my own little wisdom once in a while.

    • Private Editor said:

      One of my favorite things about this site is that we are all interested in upping our adulting game by being better humans to ourselves and one another. It’s like a microcosm of The World I Want To Live In Nao Plz.

  94. H said:

    One thing I haven’t seen suggested yet (though I might have missed it in the torrent of comments) is a possibly useful way to respond to the creepy “I’d marry you if…” comments. It’s only really available to the happily partnered, but a laugh (like he’s making a joke not testing a boundary) followed by “nope it’s hubby mchubbins for me in this & every other universe” both brings your husbands name immediately into a sentence conversation about marriage, tells creep face – not in any universe- & keeps the same joking tone creep face started with so you can’t be accused of lacking humour.
    Might be worth trying if you want to retain a happy surface? Good luck.

  95. Thanksforallthefish said:

    LW somewhere in the thread you mentioned he is a Lawyer and I started screaming in my head. Lawyers are trained in nuance of law, they know everything they can do before it can be proven in the court of law. And he knows how to retaliate in the most devastating way should he decide he’s upset.
    I don’t want to freak you out but this just sounds like a recipe for not goodness should his desires be denied.

    True story: I had a creepy married dude send me books about world travel along with a 14 page handwritten letter (containing nothing suggestive or gross) and some other stuff I don’t remember. 2 years after I told him to leave me alone to my NEW PLACE OF WORK that he should have known nothing about!

    A friend suggested I notify the police just so they would know about it in case anything escalated later. I tried that. The cop asked if he sent me any nudes or any threats had he threatened me in person or in written form had he sent me any explicit texts? The answer to all of that was no.

    The cops were totally nonplussed and did not write anything down or make a record of the incident.

    The helmet of plausible deniability is totally a thing.

    • Exactly what devastating retaliation do you think he can take for returning an unwanted gift and politely insisting that he stop inviting her on bike rides? There is no possible way either of those actions could be construed as either tortious or criminal.

      Lawyers are bound by the law like everybody else; his training will have included the information that if the law is obviously against you, you will lose your case, and that there can be heavy penalties for vexatious litigation.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        My suggestion is more: disengage now vs the worst case is going to happen.

        If this continues, if she agrees to something and ends up somewhere she didn’t want to be and tries to say something in her defense because things went pear-shaped he will likely be able to slip any accusation or complaint from her because he knows the loopholes and the law.

        There’s a horrid sort of gaslighty retaliation that people can take when they can make your life crappy because their willful pursuit of a fantasy in their head didn’t match up with your real-life desires while doing everything “right” so no one outside the situation could find any one thing to take action against. It’s a scary possible future.

        Again, it sounds like she’s not there yet and at this point deciding to establish a clear break in the form of “please don’t continue trying to pressure me” is a great plan.

        IMHO Doesn’t like to hear “no” + lawyer training + older man in same place of work – person inclined to play along = potential badness.

  96. placeinthisworld247 said:

    LW, that guy really does seem like a creep! I’m so sorry you have had to deal with all this. I think Captain’s advice was spot on! If he forces you to ride bikes again, I would tell him in front of everyone in the office, “PLEASE do NOT ask me again to ride bikes with you. I already said multiple times that I am not interested in doing that! You CANNOT force me to do things that I do NOT enjoy doing and make me enjoy it with you. I would appreciate it if you respected this. Thank you.” LW, I am from the bluntly honest camp, and some people (like him) in my opinion need an honest wake-up call! If he does not listen THIS time, I agree with Cap; report him to HR!

  97. Hexiva said:

    If I were in this situation, I think that, rather than coming out and using my words, I’d try to leverage social expectations against him. In my experience, there’s a certain type of person who is less willing to listen to “This behavior makes me uncomfortable” and more willing to listen to “this behavior is a weird thing that only weird people would do.” I’d say something like “Hahaha, no, I already told you I’m not into that, you’re kind of making this weird now.” Or “That was cool the first time you asked me that, but now it’s just getting awkward, stop asking.”

    That might work better in a social situation than in a work situation, though? I don’t know. That’s what _I’d_ do, but I don’t know if it would necessarily be a BETTER approach.

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