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 DON’T WANT TO RIDE BIKES!
I DON’T WANT A BIKE HELMET!
I TOLD HIM I DON’T WANT TO RIDE BIKES!
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.
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.*
GO RIDE BIKES WITH YOUR WIFE, DUDE.
OR GO TO A BIKE-RIDING MEETUP AND MAKE BIKE-RIDING FRIENDS.
RIDING BIKES ALONE IS ALSO GOOD.
MAYBE ONE OF YOUR MALE COWORKERS RIDES BIKES?
STOP TRYING TO HARASS YOUR COWORKER INTO IT, WE CAN SEE YOU COMING FOR MILES.
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.