Dear Ellie: How could I have known that the man flirting with me at a neighbour’s backyard gathering was married to the hostess’ cousin?
I’d been surprised to be invited, since I’d only met my new neighbour at a community park a few months ago. She said I was full of spirit and should meet more people in the area.
The man was attractive and charming … full of himself, and alcohol too, making me laugh at his urgings that we “split this dull piece of suburbia” and go downtown for drinks.
That’s when I was caught doubled over with laughter at his getting down on a knee to urge me away, just as an unknown woman moved in between us. Yes, his wife.
Now, my neighbour just looks away if she sees me in the neighbourhood. Like I stole the guy from his partner. I tried to apologize to the neighbour in a joint email, but she still avoids me. She only replied that her cousin hasn’t visited her since.
That’s so unfair. I moved here to be in a friendly, easy-going environment, not a playground for bored, cheating husbands. What else can I do to redeem myself in others’ eyes?
A Player’s Mean Game
The man likely plays wherever there’s alcohol and a female target. This was surely not the first incident of its kind for him, nor for his wife to witness publicly.
As a newcomer, your apology was the right move. Otherwise, the gossip would’ve gathered legs and other neighbours might misjudge you.
The takeaway: A person overtly playing the clown at a gathering laced with stimulants of one kind or another is usually looking for more than laughs. Maybe even creating a scene to punish someone else, or assert false independence.
In this scenario, you’re not the bad guy. Just a novice at being used.
“I read your column regularly, enjoy it very much. I also agree with you 99% of the time. This is a rare time when I’m unsure (May 26):
“A man had written to you about his girlfriend. (Ellie: No, it was a letter from a woman. The two friends had enjoyed shared interests and outings.)
“Now, that friend ‘can’t stop talking about her past relationship.’
“So, the letter-writer’s frustrated by her formerly interesting companion’s constant “analyzing every little thing her past boyfriend ever said to her.”
“Your unusually harsh, one-sided response was to admonish the dumped girlfriend for being self-serving: “True friendship is a two-way gift, not a one-way route to only satisfying your own self-interest.”
“So, who’s actually at fault? To continue unloading these unresolved feelings on her friend after several months, does seem unfair.
“The listener’s been supportive but has had enough. Perhaps she could have gently suggested professional counselling to help her friend move on.
“You’re normally a voice of such logic, reason and fairness that I find your advice here to be inconsistent with those qualities.”
Confused Reader with Good Wishes
Good wishes are a kind way of saying we can agree to disagree.
It’s my fault that you didn’t realize that the letter-writer is a female annoyed at the constant complaining of her otherwise companionable girlfriend. (There’s no new male involved).
In order to maintain the anonymity I promise letter-writers, I wasn’t clear enough on some distinctions — e.g. there were two women friends, one ongoing sob story, and many unresolved, frustrating feelings.
Let’s hope that the two women can focus again on good times together and shared interests.
Reader’s Commentary regarding a friend’s teasing (June 3):
“Someone who ‘often makes fun’ of the writer, isn’t teasing, nor “a friend.”
“This woman’s toxic. The writer shouldn’t tolerate it. She also shouldn’t ‘try to laugh’ at mean comments, nor should the other two women. Their advice is to develop a stronger one-on-one relationship with this woman. That’s wrong.
“If they think bullying’s OK, the letter-writer should dump all three, and not accept mean comments or people making fun of them.
“Friendly teasing, sporadically, is one thing. This woman often makes fun of her ‘friends.’
“’Good riddance to bad rubbish,’ I would’ve said.”
Ellie: The letter-writer’s a high-school student who cares about “love languages.” She’d never use your stated words. Not till she’s older, perhaps, or more jaded (too bad).
She still seeks her father’s advice, mine too. I honour that. A gentler response suits her true nature and values.
Ellie’s tip of the day
When caught in a stranger’s public flirting display, know that it’s about their bad behaviour, not yours.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.