There’s a guy, let’s call him Ted, who I’ve known for about 15 years and hasn’t been in a relationship during that time but sometimes pursues them, always with much younger women. His feelings are never reciprocated and that’s partly because Ted comes across as…well, a bit creepy and patronising towards women in general. Ted is in his mid fifties and his latest crush is Julie, who I’d guess is in her mid thirties.
Ted came to me really upset, asking for advice about Julie. He thought they were getting on well and had had lots of lovely chats but she suddenly ghosted him and stopped replying to his texts, unfriended him on Facebook and, in Ted’s words, “snubbed” him elsewhere. He continued trying to contact her because he didn’t know what he’d “done wrong” and really wanted to send Julie a message apologising for it. He also admitted he had posted FEELINGSPOETRY on his Facebook. Gentle questioning revealed that yes, this was indeed just before she unfriended him, gosh, what a coincidence. (Ted: “I don’t think she could have known it was about her. It was all abstract and metaphorical.” Me: “Oh Ted. She knew.”)
The advice I gave Ted was: don’t approach Julie, don’t contact her in any way unless she contacts you first and if she doesn’t, respect her need for space. Do not apologise if you don’t know what you did, because then she’ll feel obliged to accept an apology she doesn’t want because you probably didn’t do anything that needs an apology. Also, stay away from her social media and distract yourself with hobbies. Julie probably realised you had feelings for her that she didn’t reciprocate; here’s why that can be frightening when it’s a woman being pursued by a man, especially a significantly older man.
After our chat, Ted cheered up and said he would definitely take my advice. But days later he went on Julie’s Twitter and sent her a message saying how upset he was, that he felt awful about whatever he’d done to upset her and that he’d got advice from me about it. I was pretty angry he’d told Julie I’d given him advice while doing the exact opposite of what I advised him. I don’t really know her so don’t feel comfortable approaching her, but she and I have a lot of mutual friends and while I’m not bothered if she thinks I give terrible advice I don’t want her to think I’ve been encouraging men to harass her. We all spend a lot of time at the same very male-dominated events and I want Julie to feel safe and feel other women have her back. I haven’t spoken to Ted about this but if he’s going to use me as an excuse to do shitty things by pretending it’s because I advised him to, I really would like to nip that in the bud before it starts spilling over into our group of mutual friends and making things really awkward. Any advice for dealing with this?
Reluctant Advisor (she/her)
PS Just to add, in case it’s relevant: I was once one of the much-younger women he pursued, although that was a long time ago.
Hi there, Reluctant Advisor:
I understand the temptation to track Julie down and clear your name, but she’s had enough of Ted and thinking about Ted and worrying about Ted for right now, and your “I have your back, I swear!” apology message just pulls her back into Ted-drama, especially since you don’t have a direct friendship with her. Chances are that she doesn’t blame you for Ted’s bad behavior, but, if you are friends/”friends” with Ted on social media and within your shared hobby circle, she does know you generally as a friend of Ted and might give you a wide berth as a result, and that is fair on her part! So maybe wait, and if/when you run into her at an event, and if/when the topic of Ted comes up, you will have a chance to clear the record and the air – “That Ted guy, amirite?”
You’re not responsible for Ted. But if you feel like you want to do something, let me ask you this:
Why are you still friends with Ted? What do you get out of this? He creeped on you long ago, he has a pattern of creeping on younger women, he does this weird thing where he asks you for advice that he’s clearly going to ignore (which reads to me like an excuse to get attention from you ABOUT Julie and indulge his crush even more, and then drop your name to try to get access TO Julie). He’s not a clueless teenager, he’s in his mid-fifties, he’s been doing this crap for at least 15 years, why not assume at this point that he knows exactly what he’s doing and that he’s doing it on purpose? He uses female “friends” to give him cover for his creepy behavior toward other women. Yikes.
The block button is riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight there. So shiny. So useful.
If you organize social events or gatherings, you can take Ted right off your invite list.
Or, hey, you could have a conversation with him along the lines of “Hey, what you did with Julie is really gross, and I don’t appreciate you dropping my name into it. My advice was to leave her ALONE. Why can’t you just leave her ALONE?”…
…But is he worth the effort? You already know that Ted will ignore all advice and cues when he wants something (even without your advice, Julie’s “snubbing” actions were not exactly mysterious and his “confusion” is bullshit). Of course if you do unfriend/block/disinvite he will want an explanation, but “Eh, I’m just not feeling our friendship these days, best wishes” is a more than sufficient one (You’re not responsible for him learning from his mistakes). Any future conversations you have with Julie will ring much truer if she doesn’t have to risk more creepy behavior from him to be around you.
Update: Comments are closed as of Tuesday, 11/27.