The help desk: A case of unwanted flirty advances from a colleague


Q. I recently met a man at a work-training weekend, and we got on really well. We shared the same sense of humour – and the same quite cynical attitude to our line of work – and we had a great time. We exchanged numbers. I felt keen to keep in touch, but only as friends. He texted me the very next day, just with some fun stuff – but also asking when we were going to meet up again. Since then, he has kept on texting.

Mostly, it's just friendly, but sometimes a little more, saying he's been thinking about me all day, or pointing out that it was a month to the day since we met ("our monthaversary"). He also seems to know lots of things about me that I haven't told him. I don't know how long I can avoid his suggestions to meet, and to come and see the band he plays with. It's starting to creep me out, but I can't help feeling responsible. What can I do?

A. Don't you sometimes wish we could return to the days of proper courtship rituals? When everyone knew what was what, so when a man sought the private company of a woman, it could mean only one thing (though perhaps without the part where women had to wait around for men to ask them to dance, go on hunger strike to get the vote, etc).

Of course, unwanted advances are as old as the hills. What complicates it all is the vast landscape of options that now lies between being acquaintances and embracing monogamy together. On top of that, the technology that is in many ways so enabling to the course of true love also gives everything an urgency and intimacy that never existed when people had to pick up the phone to contact each other (trust me, I was there). No sooner has he had a thought than it pops up in your pocket – and you feel obliged to stop what you're doing and reply.

Honestly, though, which of us doesn't know things about people that they've never told us? What, even, is the point of speculation any more, when we have so many efficient research tools at our disposal? How many lovers spend their first date asking carefully worded questions to disguise the fact that each has already assembled a sizeable online dossier on the other? Technology somehow makes creepy stalkers of us all.

All of which means it's difficult for you to know whether you're dealing with a flirty friend, a practised lothario or a terrible weirdo. Your relationship seems to have hurtled through its early stages, and straight on to the "monthaversary" stage, without you doing anything at all. It's just sort of carrying on without you. It's high time you intervened.

Most likely, he misread your intentions. It's an easy mistake, so you have no reason to feel guilty. Tell him that you're interested in friendship and not romance, and you just want to check that's the same with him. You only need to hear alarm bells if he really won't take no for an answer. Otherwise, grab a friend and get along to his gig. You never know, this may be the start of a beautiful friendship.

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