Dear Dude Whisperer,
I'm on a board. There is a new (dude) member who joined in the last few months, married, exactly my age, etc. He is extremely physical with me – hugs, lingering conversational touching/eye contact…when he's wanting to whisper something he finds a way to pull my whole head towards him (hand on neck, hair fondling, etc). He is friendly with everyone, extremely well-regarded in the community…and, in my opinion, kind of crossing a line. I can't deny being intrigued…but really *do *not want to *go *there (i.e. Married-Man-Land). Thankfully, he has not attempted to contact me in any way outside of meetings/fundraisers/gatherings…even when there's been ostensible board "business" to follow through upon. On the other hand, he's suddenly appeared on a committee I'm on, a committee which has *nothing to do with his expertise and everything to do with mine.
The Wrinkle/Extra Weirdness/Hilarity Ensues Personal Info (that might change your answer completely):
I met this very dude more than 20 years ago when we were both living far away. There has been almost no face-to-face contact in those 20 years. Let's say we were…camp counselors (we weren't, but that gives you an idea). This fellow board member is the first boy I ever kissed…all the way up to (and stopping just short of) actual boning. It is perfectly clear to me that if we were in this situation *before he was a husband and father…we would clearly have finished our unfinished business.
My question, disingenuous as it sounds, is can I assume my virtue and reputation will not be besmirched further by some one else's flirty horndog hubby? I don't want to be unfriendly (but I'm okay with standoffish) and since he'd likely deny it, I don't think confronting him is the way to play it cool. I'm fine with harmless flirting, but if it escalates….I honestly don't know what I'll do. I'm hoping the lack-of-follow-through is my sign that I'm safe.
Activate the dude-whispering powers for me, please, SuperDudeWhisperer.
Well, well, Flusterfluff,
Ain’t this a pickle.
You know, every dude has a woman or two in his past he wishes he could meet again for some, er, unfinished camp counseling. Sometimes it’s a woman he never even got to smooch, sometimes it’s the only woman who did stuff to his wiener that would make Nina Hartley blush. Whatever the case, the myth of that unfinished business woman grows and grows in his head until she becomes weirdly idealized and fetishized like in some old Reagan speech where he gives himself a boner talking about a return to some perfect America Nirvana that never was.
Thing is, most of us never get the chance to see The Sweet Sweet Lovin’ That Got Away, or, if we do, the current real and normal and slightly paunchier situations and appearances of both parties pop the bubble and the whole fantasy just kinda wanders off aimlessly like the last dude kicked out of a sad neighborhood bar.
Ah, but here you are, Flusterfluff, the unfinished sentence, still all hot and flusterfluffy and desirable after lo these many years. Whoops.
But here’s the thing. Even if you want to give this dude a little Sentimental Woody benefit of the doubt, he’s still getting too far into your space for the DW’s liking. The hand on the neck? Pulling you toward him? Inappropriate. No matter what the circumstance, the DW really has a visceral distaste for that kind of possessive horsecrap. And anyway, it’s not like you two of you are 15 and your parents forced you to break up 16 months ago. You’re adults who dropped trough and fondled 20 years ago. 1988 is a long time ago. Back then it was the Soviet Union fighting in Afghanistan. Back then Kathleen Turner was hot.
So what do you do? Well, the DW thinks you’re certainly right about not wanting to take the train to Married Man Land. That is not exactly a place where the bluebirds sing Zippity-Doo-Dah and the trees are made out of magical gumdrops.
Also, the DW agrees with the idea that it’s probably not worth confronting as an opening strategy. In most situations, as you may have noticed, the DW has a distinct preference for direct action, but in this case a couple things point to a shot at indirectness to begin with.
One is that, although this dude is being inappropriate, he doesn’t sound dangerous or creepy or something like that, and would probably, as you suggest, deny deny deny because that is often a dude’s reaction when he is flat-out busted on something like this. And on the off chance it somehow became a public moment of confrontation somehow or a rumor got around the wrong way about who was actually hitting on who, it would be really unfair if your name was the one that became somehow, as you say, besmirched.
The other is that even though, in general, The DW believes dudes are worse than terrible with hints, this situation should be a rare exception. It’s only the real cruisin' the club thinkin' they're god's gift to women type sh^theads that can’t get the hint of physical brush-offs. Especially if they’re married.
So, if you really are willing to be stand-offish, dust off those skills you’ve honed over the years from dealing with creeps in bars or offices and county fairs and buses and draw some firm lines. If he puts that hand back on your neck (did the DW express how much he hated that f*cking move?), remove it. Hand on knee? Same thing. Back out of hugs, don’t laugh at his jokes that are R or X rated. Etc. These don’t require a scene (again, unfairly, a scene would reflect on you to a lot of folks) and may actually carry more power if done quietly because the message to the dude is that your intent is not just for him to back off for the sake of decorum, but to back off, period.
Of course, if the above doesn’t work you may have to be public with a hand removal or you may just have to revert to what a previous reader called Parrot Mode and spell out NO for him slowly and directly. The DW bets it doesn’t come to that, though.
One last thing that might be most important of all if you really do have a serious level of temptation. When alcoholics are trying to get sober, they often think that the best way to proceed is to take the disease balls-out head-on. So, they make it a point to keep going to bars, hanging out with old drinking buddies, accepting invites to St. Patrick’s day keggers, that sort of thing. The idea is to challenge themselves. Fight. Overcome. Any substance counselor will tell you that, while noble and brave and well-intentioned, this is the single stupidest thing the alcoholic can do. Strengthening your will against temptation is one thing, but if temptation can be avoided altogether, doesn’t that make your chances of beating it a hell of a lot better?
In other words, the best way for you and for the dude not to succumb to sexy camp-style half-clothed desperate Soviet Era buttclutching monkeyhumping is to avoid situations where any such thing would be remotely possible. Don’t take calls from the dude, don’t meet him for dinner or coffee or church without inviting his wife and his kid(s), don’t let the committee meeting run late until it’s just you and him and a suddenly oddly inviting conference table on which you can clearly envision the imprint of your bare as%.
You get the idea. If you control the situations and keep the situations safe all that’s left is the winking and laughing too much and checking each other out that you can both leave at the Board, go on home, rub one out, and call it a day.
Here’s to camp-style lovin’ with a single dude in your near future,