April 5, 2017

It Started as a Crush, But Now It's Creepy

Hey, Bonita…

Dear Bonita,

I'm a married woman. There's an international student in my program who obviously has a crush on me. He asked me out for lunch, I declined while flashing my wedding bling, and he seemed fine with my refusal. But now whenever I see him in class, he asks me about my husband, how is he, what does he do for work, etc., and he's started telling me I'm beautiful.

Should I worry about this guy, or am I just being a racist/xenophobe because he's not American? He speaks VERY good English, but is my seriousness getting lost in translation? I really don't like him asking about my home life or calling me beautiful. It's creepy and makes me wanna watch my back. Help!


No Gracias

Querida No Gracias,

Your feelings are perfectly valid. If you feel like looking over your shoulder for this guy, do it. I definitely think you need to speak to him privately about his behavior and let him know exactly what concerns you. Let him know he's being disrespectful, and that pursuing women who've already said no is not the way we work around here. I'd advise against arranging a time for this conversation, because he might take that as you “making a date” with him, so just grab him after class and walk him down a quiet (but not empty) hallway.

If you're worried that his otherness is triggering this response in you, ask yourself how you've responded to guys like this in the past. I'm sure you've been hit on inappropriately before. Did those situations trigger a fear response that made you feel protective of personal information? Either way, you're still allowed to feel creeped out and to tell an unwelcome suitor to back off.

You see this guy plenty at school, I assume, and you don't want this kind of behavior to go unchecked. You wanna focus on learning, not protecting your neck from some guy, so talk to him soon, and be very clear with your words. You said his English was great, right? He'll get the message.


In response to the inquiry from Rick's Coworker [Mar. 22] and your response:

SPOT ON. Thank you for your sound and thoughtful advice. As a woman who dealt with a very similar situation last year at my place of employment, reading your response reinforced that I did the right thing by going to HR when I did.

In situations like this, I generally frame it as, "Would this person do or say these things to our boss/supervisor?" In this case, would Rick tell his boss that he thinks he or she is cute? Would Rick ruffle his boss' hair? If the answer is “no,” then he or she should not be doing it to another person at work either.

If the co-worker does end up going to HR, I would advise him to have a running list of the instances that Rick has engaged in unwanted or inappropriate contact. The more documentation you have, the more likely they'll be able to enforce some type of deterrent, rather than just turning into a "he said/he said" or slap-on-the-wrist situation.

Lastly, I really enjoy your responses and this column. Thank you for being here.


Been There

Been There,

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I've been harassed in the workplace, too, and let's just say that I had to learn how to properly handle it the hard way. I ended up getting fired when I finally spoke up—the only time I've ever been fired in my life—and I don't want anyone else to ever go through that.

And thank you so much for reading and enjoying! I have no witty response for you. I just appreciate your kind words very much.

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