Dear English Gentleman,
Lately a former coworker of mine has been calling me to ask me out to dinner. We used to share lots of lunches and even dinner or drinks after work when we worked at the same company, but I’ve changed jobs so this is a way we keep each other updated about old company gossip and each other’s goings on in life.
Yesterday, he called me on the phone to ask me out yet again. I’ve noticed he’s now inviting me to dinner about once a week, and the last time he called I noticed the telltale nervousness in his voice that denotes that this coworker may have more than a purely platonic interest in mind.
The problem is, I do not like my coworker in “that way”. He’s cool to have drinks with and gossip, but frankly I don’t want to see him as often as once a week and I also don’t want to lead him on, either. But on the other hand, if I were to tell him I am not interested, that would probably mean he’d be too shy to meet up with me every once in a while to gossip ever again.
English Gentleman, what’s the proper etiquette for these sorts of situations? Obviously I’d like to try to avoid anything awkward, and would hate to lose the friendship. What do you suggest?
Oh dear. Sounds like a bit of a delicate situation, doesn’t it? Ordinarily, I’d suggest you do something similar to the advice I gave Bartender Boy not long ago, which, as you recall, involved doing nothing special, if the situation doesn’t bother you, or discreetly hint at the presence of a significant other in your life.
However, given that you’re a woman, and due to the tendency of many young gentlemen of today to be persistent in their pursuits of their love interest, you may have to be a little bit more direct with your communication. Short of accepting one of your coworker’s dinner invitations with: “I’d love to, but my boyfriend is in town, would you mind if I bring him along too? He’d love to meet you…” , which may not always be sufficient a deterrent to a very goal-oriented man, and depending on your level of confidence, you might consider catching your coworker casually at lunchtime or a similar time-limited occasion, and then having a quick, but frank conversation stating that, if he would excuse your possible mistaken assumptions, you were worried that he was showing a non-platonic interest in you which you’re afraid that you unfortunately do not wholly share. If you put this diplomatically enough, taking care not to hurt his feelings, this is the best way to be clear and open with him. As you know clear communication is also a prerequisite for friendship, and if he’s interested in a friendship with you, a tactful heart-to-heart explaining the concerns you wrote to me about will not put him off.
You’re right it is possible that your coworker may initially be flustered by your discovery of his secret non-platonic intentions. However, you say you’re interested in him as a friend. Wouldn’t a friend be frank and clear with things like this in order to avoid misunderstandings and possible distress? Were you not to speak out, would you be giving him false hope, and is that what a true friend would do? Consider clearing the air not just for your sake, but also for his.
Good luck Mimi, and remember that if he is a deserving gentleman, who sees you as a unique person of intrinsic worth, like all women are, regardless of any romantic potential to him, your offer for platonic friendship will not be refused.
The English Gentleman.