using staff-wide email to track down a potential date

A reader writes:

Not a formal advice question, just a workplace “event” I was witness to years ago that i thought you would find interesting, and would like your hypothetical take were you the manager/COO of an workplace involving this exact scenario (What Would Alison Do?).

There are articles about it here and here, but essentially this guy met a girl at a party and was pretty taken with her but didn’t get a chance to get more information. Knowing her housemate worked at the same federal government department as he did, he sent an email to all staff, asking the housemate to forward her details to him so he could get in touch with her: “Life is too short for regret.”

Of course, within an hour that email had gone viral through Canberra, and journos went wild. People for the most part loved him and started campaigning for him to not lose his job over it.

The public response was particularly interesting, so I would be interested in your take! I know it’s a government department so things are a bit different work culture wise, but say this happened in a nonprofit and got this public response/support?

I wouldn’t fire the guy over it, but I’d tell him not to use all-staff email that way again, and probably watch him a little more closely for a while to see if there was other evidence of judgment problems.

I do want to note that people tend to assume in these situations that the woman in question would be delighted to have the guy try to reach out to her, and it’s weird that people don’t always think about the fact that the opposite might be true. (And indeed, according to the follow-up article, this woman apparently asked to be left alone.) I mean, if I’d spent the evening avoiding someone who’d been creeping on me at a party — or even if he’d been perfectly nice but I just wasn’t interested — I wouldn’t be thrilled to find that not only was he going to unusual lengths to track down my contact info, but had now rallied the news-reading public to his side.

Whether something is romantic or unwanted attention (in all its forms, from mild nuisance to overt creepiness) depends so much on how the other person feels about it. And I definitely wouldn’t want a staff email list used for the latter.

{ 365 comments… read them below }

  1. KT

    I had a friend who had this happen to her, and it was insanely creepy and scary for her. She had well-meaning people giving some strange guy she had spoken with for 30 seconds her personal information, address, links to her Facebook page…she felt really scared and vulnerable. She ended up closing all her social media accounts and moved apartments because of how crazy it got, and she still is afraid to get on LinkedIn or anything else because of this.

    1. KT

      Meant to add–this can be considered a pretty gross invasion of privacy and misuse of company property–maybe not grounds for firing, but certainly for discipline.

    2. Elizabeth West

      It happened to me too, only it was the old-fashioned way. A coworker gave some dude whom I had never seen or met my phone number (small town–she knew I was living at my dad’s and his number was in the book) and he called me out of the blue to ask me out. But first he engaged me in this very ridiculous conversation, in which all his laddish bro-boy tendencies stuck out a country mile.

      I said it didn’t sound like we had much in common and that I wished him well. To his credit, he took that nicely and never called me back. But when I got to work the next day, I told Coworker in no uncertain terms that she was never ever on pain of death to ever give out my personal information ever again. She was a nice lady and meant well, so I tried not to yell, but SHEESH. >_<

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I never understand why people don’t say, “I can’t give her information out without her permission, but I’ll pass your contact info along to her so she can get in touch if she wants to.”

        1. Rebecca

          Right?! I would never give out a friend or family’s contact info unless they specifically said they were ok with it.

        2. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor

          I don’t understand this either. It’s really not that hard to ask for permission. This was actually how I met my husband. I had just broken up with someone and was venting to my boss about how awful he was (Yes, we had that sort of relationship, and I loved it. Plus she still managed to be a great and straightforward manager.). My boss asked if she could give her son my number because she thought we would hit it off… and we did. We’re now seven years in and two kids deep. :)

          1. CAsey

            Awww, me too but I was the boss. We’re now 5 years in and three fur babies deep. Yay for meddling colleagues! :)

          2. Elizabeth West

            I met a guy through a boss too! (Same job that I had with the Phone Number Lady.) She had gone out with him herself and thought he was nice but there were no sparks. So she sent him into the cafeteria during lunch to meet me and he asked me to a movie. We were together for nearly five years and almost got married.

        3. EarlGrey

          This was a thing that was very much emphasized in front-line jobs I’ve had, where I had access to a staff directory or personal phone numbers *and* interacted with customers/visitors. (and, yes, there were definitely a few memorably persistent folks who NEEDED a direct line to X’s desk, or to be let past the secure door to just drop by for a visit…) But not so much in other jobs/situations – maybe it’s assumed to be common knowledge or something that won’t come up often?

        4. INTP

          I think it’s like you mentioned, people assume by default that the girl is interested, or at least that the guy is just making an earnest romantic gesture. It doesn’t occur to them that maybe he’ll abuse that contact info or the girl didn’t give him enough info because she doesn’t want him to be able to reach her. (Though my first thought reading it was that she would not have left without giving him some way to get in touch with her is she were interested. She obviously disappeared before he could get her number and I doubt it was accidental.)

        5. Elizabeth West

          I don’t either–but this lady was older, and I guess she thought she was matchmaking or something. It was a really small town. It probably never occurred to her that this could be a problem!

        6. The Bimmer Guy

          That’s what I normally do. One of my best friends has a lot of suitors, who come up to me and ask for her phone number. She appreciates the fact that I don’t give them that information.

        7. A Bug!

          Because as far as some people are concerned, if you insist on a precautionary measure, it means you don’t trust their intentions, and that’s basically slander.

          It’s a fundamental lack of understanding of not only what makes such precautionary measures effective, but also why they’re necessary.

          I was on the phone the other day with a utility company, and I wasn’t an authorized user on the account yet but the service rep was able to answer some general procedural questions for me. A couple of times I accidentally asked questions that were specific to the account I was calling about, and she apologized to me so profusely that she couldn’t answer my question both times that I couldn’t help but wonder how many times she’s been yelled at for maintaining customer confidentiality.

        8. SevenSixOne

          That’s how I’ve handled this situation– I gave the other person as much of the asker’s info as I had; whether they used it to get in touch with the asker or block them is none of my business.

      2. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)

        Around 2000, I got a call out of the blue one evening from someone who said an acquaintance of his from a local business had given him my phone number and that she was a friend of mine, and thought we’d hit it off, and he was calling to ask me out on a date. (Like an actual date, not a prostitution date.)

        I had a devil of a time convincing him I didn’t know this woman, I wasn’t interested in dating him, and I had no clue how she’d gotten my number. He then wanted me to call her boss the next day and get her in trouble for playing tricks on him. I laughed at him and hung up.

        It took a few more weird phone calls and incidents of the next year or so before I figured out what was up: I have a slightly unusual name, but there was another woman in my small suburb who had the same name and spelling. She was not in the phone book. I was, and I got calls from the store where she left her sunglasses, a doctor’s office, various people trying to reach her. It was odd, odd, odd.

      3. Anony-turtle in a half shell!

        My mother-in-law gives our out information to anyone who asks about it, which really irks me. I had a relationship that ended very poorly and an ex who kept tracking me down different places before I married, and I’m always concerned about his deciding to take up the stalkerish tendencies again. My last name is still the same, so I am very cautious about social media, but I know my MIL has already given my information (and my husband’s) to people “who seem to know you guys” before. We laid out in no uncertain terms that she is not to give our information to people. We’ve even told her to get their information and to pass it along to us, and we’ll decide if we wish to contact whomever is trying to reach us, but that hasn’t always worked either.

    3. AmyNYC

      I hate Facebook for this reason. It used to be so easy to give a fake number to people you just met (just to get them to leave you alone) but now everyone whips out their iPhone and finds you on Facebook in front of you or calls “to make sure it works” UGH.

      1. Xay

        That is the beauty of Google Voice – they can call you once and then you can block their number.

        1. Koko

          Sadly you can’t block texts with Google Voice and my generation only makes actual voice calls when they’re literally on fire, making GV’s blocking features more or less useless for me.

          1. Bekx

            You could delete the number and unpair it from your phone.

            I have a google voice number that is one digit off from my old home phone, so I can basically rattle it off super easily. No one I’ve given it to yet has been annoying, but I like that if necessary I can just delete the number, unpair it from my account, and be done.

            Of course, that doesn’t help if my friends give out my REAL number.

            1. Koko

              I’m not sure what you mean. Sure, I can take someone out of my contacts, but they can still reach me whether or not they’re in my contacts. Or are you suggesting burning an entire phone number and getting a wholly new one because of one person who has the old one that I don’t want?

      2. Cath in Canada

        Yeah, like that recent episode of Louie where the old high-school acquaintance literally takes the cell phone from his hand and calls himself from it, so he definitely has the right number. Funny on TV, but not in real life!

      3. Graciosa

        I’m not a fan of Facebook either – but I am a fan of saying what you mean.

        Unless you were using a 555 prefix, that “fake” number you gave probably belonged to somebody who didn’t appreciate getting those calls.

        For some reason, I have a phone number that comes to mind for lots of people filling out forms on line who don’t want to give theirs out – and I go through periods when I will suddenly get a spate of calls for “Doug” from car dealers or “Judy” from insurance agents. I don’t appreciate this.

        If Facebook or iPhones are inhibiting this type of behavior, that would be a surprising point in their favor.

        1. Lady H

          I appreciate how annoying that can be to get those calls, but I do have to point out that men can go from pleasant to unpleasant to downright scary if you politely turn down their advances. I’ve had a few occasions when I’ve declined to give out my number to men and been called some nasty names and at a certain point I decided that faking nice is usually my safest option. I’m not, by any means, saying that all men are like this, but I don’t know how someone is going to respond if they’re otherwise a stranger to me and I’d prefer not to find out.

          1. Graciosa

            If you really feel you won’t be safe telling the truth, then at least have a known number to give that goes to a business equipped to handle those types of calls. Don’t assume that No Elaine / No Lady H is a good choice without testing it first.

            I’ve never thought I was at any real risk turning someone down, but I don’t go anywhere alone with strange men I’ve just met and am perfectly willing to enlist the aid of bouncers, bartenders, bystanders or police officers as appropriate to deal with someone who has really gotten out of line. Admittedly, I’m not generally fazed by name-calling or *****s who are making fools of themselves so perhaps I’ve been unusually fortunate.

            However I will try not to second guess other people’s instincts about their safety in that moment. So if you really think yours is at risk unless you provide a fake phone number, so be it – but at least don’t pass your problem along to an innocent bystander by taking the chance your fake phone number belongs to an individual.

            1. Lady H

              Oh, for pete’s sake. I didn’t say I was giving my phone number out to dozens of men so this is silly. I don’t think it’s that big of a problem to give out a fake number on the rare occasion it happens but sure, I guess let’s all have a fake number in mind that doesn’t terrorize a little old lays. And really, those people you’d enlist to make a fellow leave you alone out in public when you decline to give your number but get hassled are “innocent bystanders”, too. Let’s give up the pity party about the person who doesn’t screen their calls and has to tell someone they have the wrong number.

              1. Whoa

                Graciosa has some reasonable points and she made them in a respectful manner. I don’t think she was attacking you. No need to blow up at her. And, I personally wouldn’t want an unpleasant or downright scary man calling my phone number, possibly not believing me that I’m not the woman he met, harassing me and causing problems in my life. That’s what she meant by innocent bystander. The bartender, bouncer, police officer are all doing a job, which does not equal being an innocent bystander.

                1. Lady H

                  I agree that there was a reasonable point in there, but it was cloaked in some weird slut shaming type implication (not going alone with with strange men in particular made me roll my eyes. And calling on strangers actually hasn’t worked for me in the past. I live in a very passive place and people do not want to get involved.) Yes, inflicting a potentially dangerous guy on a stranger isn’t great but, in the moment, choosing physical safety over the chance I give a number out to someone who doesn’t know how to block a number seemed preferable. Everyone I know screens their calls and doesn’t think twice about blocking a number. I think the consequences of this is not nearly as terrible it’s being made out to be. I will totally be memorizing one of those numbers with a prerecorded number someone mentioned though, so problem solved :)

              2. RobM

                ‘Let’s give up the pity party about the person who doesn’t screen their calls and has to tell someone they have the wrong number.’

                Yes lets. Because if they’re too creepy to be trusted with my number or your number then they’re too creepy to inflict on someone else. If someone can get nasty and dangerous and stalkeriffic when they’re turned down (and some totally can, I know) then gifting a nasty dangerous stalkerriffic person to someone else isn’t the right thing to do.

                1. Lady H

                  For the record, I don’t disagree that it’s not a great solution and I mentioned it because, in the past, it’s been an *imperfect solution* I made in that split section decision about whether to give a guy my number or not when I didn’t want to find out if he would turn nasty if I declined. These kind of decisions are exhausting when you’re a woman who makes them a lot and I don’t appreciate when people imply that if I just wouldn’t let strange men get me alone I wouldn’t have this problem.

                  This hypothetical guy is probably NOT going to end up being a stalker psycho who harasses someone else because he refuses to believe they have the wrong number. But it COULD happen, yes. I think we’re giving this hypothetical person who answers on the other end way too much thought, though, and making a mountain out of a molehill.

                2. Pennalynn Lott

                  You guys do realize that any man who is going to be stalkerriffic can just, ya know, dial random numbers until a woman answers, right? And there’s also the very real possibility that any of the numbers Lady H has given out belong to men, not women.

            2. A Person

              I turned someone down at my grandfather’s funeral who then got really nasty. My grandfather’s funeral. Seriously this doesn’t only happen at skeevy bars. (In fact I’ve never had a problem at my local dive bar.)

        2. Talvi

          Unless you were using a 555 prefix, that “fake” number you gave probably belonged to somebody who didn’t appreciate getting those calls.

          There actually exist “fake” phone numbers specifically for this purpose. The creepy-guy-who-won’t-leave-you-alone later calls the number thinking it’s yours and instead gets an automated rejection or a feminist message, that sort of thing. And in these days of moving-but-keeping-your-old-number, having a non-local area code is probably less of a problem than it once was.

          Doesn’t necessarily help you if he calls it right away “to make sure it works”, though.

          1. AdminAnon

            One of the local morning radio shows in my area has a number specifically for that purpose. Of course, the creepier messages end up being played live on the “Loser Line” segment every Monday. But the argument could be made that if you leave a creepy message on someone’s voicemail, you probably deserve to be called out for it. Also, they edit out the names and other identifying information. Though I have wondered how it would work if you gave out the number and someone already had that number in their phone under a different name…

            1. EvilQueenRegina

              There was a radio station in the UK that had something called Flirt Divert that was similar to that!

      4. Liane

        “It used to be so easy to give a fake number to people you just met (just to get them to leave you alone)”
        If there’s still places where people ask for phone numbers, or give them out –

        Please, please, please –
        DO NOT give a fake number!! Give them anything else!!
        That fake number is probably someone else’s real number. Someone who is no more interested in talking to Mr. or Ms. Wrong than you are.

        Right after I got married–in the days when cell phones were rarer than corded landlines are today–I answered the phone & it was some jerk calling for Cersei. Mr. Malfoy insisted in vulgar language that I WAS “Cersei Who Gave Me This Number Last Night And Now You’re Playing Hard To Get!!!!!!” Mr. Malfoy is lucky that I decided to just hang up, rather than give better than I got–and before my husband could grab the handset & give him some man-to-man lessons on phone etiquette.

        1. Sarah

          Oh, I got a few of those when I got my old number. Some guy who kept calling at 3am insisting that I had to be Cersei (really, dude, I’m not). Finally I got really annoyed and said, “I’m not Cersei, but she says the test was positive, you should get yourself to a clinic.” No more calls after that.
          Another girl gave my number out to some guy she met, and he called a few times. He wouldn’t believe I wasn’t this girl, and a day or two later his MOM called to try to ream me out for giving her preicous snookums my number and then pretending to be somebody else. She…did not appreciate being spoken to the way she spoke to me.

    4. HB

      At my old gym, the front desk gave out my cell number to a trainer. Why on earth they thought that was appropriate is beyond me. He was very nice, it just made everything all awkward.

  2. Rayner

    I don’t think this is cute at all, and definitely agree with AAM. What this guy did is creepy and weird, and it puts the person he wanted to track down in an awful position. Do they agree to date this person because now the media and/or your entire department is interested in this, or do they reject him and instead of making it calm and private, they have to do it with everybody ‘watching’ you. Not to mention, what happens if your boss didn’t approve or thought it was your judgement that was off?

    Gross.

    It’s part of why I wonder seriously about big showy proposals with flash dances and musical accompaniment. It’s great if your partner says yes but what happens if they don’t want to or feel put under pressure to say yes in public without thinking things through.

    1. Observer

      It’s part of why I wonder seriously about big showy proposals with flash dances and musical accompaniment. It’s great if your partner says yes but what happens if they don’t want to or feel put under pressure to say yes in public without thinking things through.

      I’ve seen this expressed more than once. In fact, I’ve seen some people say that they believe that the public nature is intended to pressure a woman into saying yes. I think that that’s only true some times, but I believe that it DOES happen.

      1. CAsey

        I’ll be totally honest that if my proposal was that public (it wasn’t), I would have said yes and then bowed out in private. It would show just how much my SO didn’t really understand me and my wants/needs.

        1. INTP

          Same here. If you put me in that awkward situation you can’t expect me not to get myself out of it comfortably. (And anyone who knows me at all knows I wouldn’t be into that so I’d almost perceive it as a passive aggressive thing from the guy.)

        2. AllisonAllisonAllisonetc

          I’d like to think I’d look appropriately horrified/disgusted, tell the person no, then immediately leave the scene, and likely the relationship. I’d also like to think that anyone who seriously wanted to marry me would know me well enough to not ever try that with me.

          1. Jessica (tc)

            I told my husband that if he proposed to me in public or in any super conspicuous manner that I’d turn him down. (I also told him if he got me an engagement ring I would turn him down as well.) He had all of these people telling me that I was just saying I didn’t want a Grand Romantic Gesture ™ or a ring, because all women say those things. I finally flat-out said that if he did what he knew was against my character and expected me to like it, then I couldn’t marry him, because he would be showing how much he didn’t know me. I don’t think he was seriously considering it, but he kept having people give him these ridiculous lines about how all women want X, and no woman admits that she wants X, and we lie about it so we can appear surprised. No, actually, I’m a woman who says what I mean and I don’t lie about my wants or needs.

        3. RobM

          These things always horrify me. The idea of doing that to someone makes me cringe and the idea of having it happen to me (ok I’m a guy, but so what) would mortify me. Someone who thinks I’d be ok with doing it or experiencing it clearly doesn’t know me well enough to proceed to that stage in a relationship anyway.

        4. Soharaz

          Before I got married I told my SO that if he did something like that I would say no. I would mean yes, but I would embarass the shit out of him. I ended up proposing to him drunk in a pub and we’ve been together 5 years (2 married) so it’s worked.

      2. Blurgle

        Or it happens so the proposer can get attention and/or sympathy.

        Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for future abusers to do this too.

        1. yep

          I know one person who was proposed to in this manner. He turned out to be very controlling and emotionally abusive, to the point where she was afraid to leave him for what he threatened to do.

    2. BadPlanning

      I’m always hopeful that the showy proposals are based on a relationship where the couple is quite ready to get married and the proposal is a formality instead of a complete surprise. I know that’s not very romantic, more of a the marriage idea has moved from “if” to “when.”

      And hopefully the person in question wants a showy proposal or at least isn’t opposed. I would run and hide.

      Having been on the wrong end of being tracked down, I wouldn’t be happy with the office wide email.

      1. jmkenrick

        I agree, and I quibble with the notion that “romance” has to be spontaneous and surprising. I realize that a large part of this is cultural, but at least in my experience I think that formal proposals should only come after both parties have talked about possibilities and pretty much agreed on a plan going forward. I tend to give couples the benefit of the doubt and assume that the men giving showy public proposals are doing so because their partner has expressed that is how she’d like be proposed to.

        Frankly, I don’t think that takes away from the romance of it all. If anything, the fact that a couple was honest and patient with the relationship, then based their proposal on desires of their partners rather than wanting to look like the protagonist of a rom-com is MORE romantic.

        1. HeyNonnyNonny

          Exactly– I was ZERO surprised that my husband proposed to me…we had both agreed that it was time, and I sent him pictures of rings I liked. But when actually proposed (alone, in our home), it was still an amazing surprise. Thank god he’s not showy.

          1. Elizabeth West

            I think I would be surprised too, because the guy I met through the boss and I talked about it quite a bit, but he never actually asked me. I now expect NOBODY to ask unless they actually do–talking about doing something isn’t the same as actually doing it. You can talk forever and still be waffling.

            I got no time for waffles unless they’re covered in syrup!

            1. Connie-Lynne

              My husband was a waffler, too.

              We had agreed to explore the idea of marriage “for about a year” and it was 13 months and he had made no moves toward us actually getting married, nor brought it up in a really long time. So I was making dinner one night and was all “so if you think marriage is no big deal, and you supposedly want me to be happy, why are you so opposed to us getting married?” He was all, “I’m not! I’m just waiting for the anniversary of our first date to ask you!”

              That was in *May*; our first date had been in *October* three years previous! My husband, he is not so good with the idea of “you snooze, you lose,” but when I told him that I was assuming from his foot-dragging that it was time for me to move on, he jumped-to and we got married the next March.

              Fourteen years married, now! In my case, definitely just having a sensible “SO WHAT IS THE DEAL THEN” discussion was the right way to go!

        2. Koko

          Yep, I can’t think of any married couple I know where the wife was surprised to be proposed to. She didn’t know the exact timing or means it was going to come by, but they had already had an adult relationship conversation about getting married. There was no surprise for the woman and no what-will-she-say for the man – but some of them did quite romantic proposals nonetheless, the same way that a bouquet of flowers on your anniversary will nearly always be well-received no matter how trite or unsurprising it is.

          1. AnonEMoose

            I was surprised when my now-husband proposed. I was pretty sure he was going to ask eventually, but we hadn’t talked about it, exactly. And we’d been dating less than a year at the time. So I guess it was more that “eventually” was sooner than I’d expected.

            He did ask in private, though. And we’re still married more than 15 years later, so we must be doing something right!

            1. Cath in Canada

              Same here! Neither of us is religious (or traditional in other ways), and we were already living together and talking about buying a house. I knew it was for keeps, but we’d never explicitly talked about marriage, and I would honestly have been fine with it if he’d wanted to stay as common-law. So when he proposed (privately), it was a surprise – not a massive out-of-left-field shocker, but a surprise nonetheless!

          2. Anonymusketeer

            I was surprised when my husband proposed because he had been “waging a propaganda campaign” (his words) to make me think he wouldn’t be proposing any time soon. In fact, I was seriously considering breaking things off around the time he actually did propose.

            1. Sarah

              How did you feel about that? Genuine question – I’ve seen more than one guy do that and I always wonder what it would be like for their now-wives to have gone from “I better end this” to “He wants to marry me!”

          3. LD

            I know one where the now wife was surprised…because of the way her now husband proposed. He was so awkward talking about how they’d come to a place where they had to make a decision about their relationship and he was so uncomfortable as he was expressing himself that she told me “I thought ‘Oh no! He’s breaking up with me!’ until he brought out a small ring box and proposed!” They’ve been happily married for 20+ years.

        3. Kelly O

          Mr. O and I got engaged via text message.

          He was out of town with his daughter and we’d been talking about what we wanted to do over Christmas break. “Wanna get married?” “Okay.”

          Super-romantic. And we are just as married.

          1. Artemesia

            My husband and I have been married for over 40 years and we cannot remember how that came to be. We remember our first date, our first roll in the hay, things we did together while dating and then living together — but the ‘let’s get married’ part escapes us entirely. We eloped and I remember how we picked the date, but not actually deciding to do it.

            1. Anonymous Librarian

              We can’t remember the moment either, though we remember many other milestones. Weird. I do remember trying on my wedding band after he picked them up from the jewelers. No one was home and I stood there with it on and looked and looked at my hand like a blushing virgin. I never wore rings, and for the first months it bothered me.

        4. the gold digger

          My sister was dating a great guy, but not the guy for her. He was the fire captain and showed up at her fifth-floor apt balcony on the fire truck ladder, holding a dozen red roses and a ring. With all of his crew watching.

          They had not discussed marriage. I guess he thought she would say yes.

          She did not.

          Poor guy – but really? You don’t ask unless you know the answer will be yes.

          1. Windchime

            Ouch! That’s a super cool proposal, but it’s definitely the kind of thing where you want to be pretty sure what her answer is going to be.

            1. Reporter

              Several years ago, a person in our community enlisted me (a newspaper reporter) to do a front-page proposal to his girlfriend. Thankfully she said yes, but I was sweating all afternoon!

        5. simonthegrey

          I was surprised by the day he chose (I was expecting him to wait till Christmas, he did it a month earlier on our three year anniversary) but nothing else. We had already discussed how to handle kids, discipline, money, religious differences, career trajectories, what marriage meant to both of us, fidelity, distribution of chores…. I had not seen the ring but I knew his taste and mine were similar and what he gave me was something I would have picked out for myself.

    3. Stephanie

      Or even if you do want to say yes, there’s pressure to have a very conspicuous crying and speechless reaction. I don’t think I would react with happy tears, gasps, and high-pitched noises in that situation (it’s just not my personality), which would look weird to onlookers.

    4. ACA

      I flat-out told my husband when we were dating that if he proposed in public – at a baseball game or restaurant or anywhere with other people – that I would say no and dump him with extreme prejudice. Thankfully, he listened.

      1. Kelly O

        Mr. O knows that I hold the right to file for divorce at ANY time if he gets waiters to come sing to me at restaurants. I do not like public displays for myself.

        1. BenAdminGeek

          My father hates the birthday singers at restaurants. So of course, the last time we went out to eat for his birthday, my brother called the restaurant to let them know and order a special birthday desert and song. I got a great video of the look of bemusement/hatred on my poor father’s face.

          Then again, my wife would be mortified and also divorce me if I did that to her. You have to know your audience.

      2. Not So NewReader

        This is me, too. I made it clear very early on, that I do not like public surprises. Fortunately, my husband was the same way so it was just an even trade- something we agreed to for each other.

    5. The IT Manager

      I also think all of those service member surprises their family member with their return in public videos are terrible. Why would anyone want the family reunion to be center stage where everyone stares at you or applauds for you? Welcome the service member home sure, but a private reunion should be private not public. Kid crying in front of their classmates preserved on video that goes viral. Or in the center of a football field. I now actually feel for any family member who might legitimately be called center stage and honored with a special privilege because their family member is deployed (if this ever happens) because now it is expected that its just a ruse for a public family reunion.

          1. Collarbone High

            To cheer you up, look for the one with cats reuniting with their people. Spoiler alert: they act like cats. It’s not heartwarming, but it is pretty funny.

            1. TheVet

              My cat runs to me and meows profusely for rubbing when I get in. I think it’s because she saw the dog getting attention when he’d run up when I got in and she can’t be left out of anything because she’s a jealous one…or maybe she’s mocking us. She’s probably mocking us.

              1. Cath in Canada

                Our cats come running to us, meowing their fuzzy little heads off and demanding to be picked up and cuddled, when we get back from work a few hours later than usual…

                If we’ve been away for longer, even though we have our tenant come in every day to look after them, it’s like being greeted as a liberating army when we get home. It’s pretty cute – until one of them starts crying outside our bedroom door at 3 am because she’s scared we’ve left again.

                1. MegEB

                  I wish my cat acted like that. If we go away for more than a couple days, he gets FURIOUS. One time we went away for a week and a half, and when we came back he promptly hissed at us, then went back upstairs to go back to sleep.

              2. Pennalynn Lott

                When my boyfriend comes home, “his” cat, Stella, will run to the back door as soon as she hears his truck and start meowing her fool head off. Then she’ll try to climb his pants leg so he can hold her like a baby.

        1. the_scientist

          I enjoy that this is an entire subgenre of Youtube videos, but I am a blubbering mess every single time I watch one. Public proposals make me cringe, but dogs reuniting with their people = instant bawling.

          1. The IT Manager

            +1. I have no qualms about public/video pet reunions. Absolutely adorable.

          1. Not So NewReader

            The story of Christian the lion is quite the story. I flipped through the various videos a while ago and had a good cry. What for those men to have had.

        2. LD

          Wonder if this could be his every day greeting! (I was tearing up before it even started…)

        3. Victoria, Please

          Did you ever read “Rilla of Ingleside”? Remember Dog Friday waiting at the train station for *years* for Jem to come home? Sniffle, gulp, sniffle.

          1. Hattie McDoogal

            I don’t know this book, but I can barely even *think* about Seymour waiting for Fry at the end of the Futurama episode “Jurassic Bark” without tearing up.

          2. saf

            I remember that.

            That book was out of print for years, as publishers thought that it did not fit well with the rest of the series, because it was about the war years.

            I loved that book.

      1. the gold digger

        Yeah, there is one from a few years ago of a 5th grade girl whose father comes home from Iraq and surprises her and she just sobs. It’s such an intimate moment – it should be for just them, not the entire world.

        (Saying this as someone who remembers when her dad came home from Vietnam. Thank goodness I was only six and we didn’t have a TV or the internet, so I didn’t know to be terrified. My mom, though – I can’t even imagine what it would be like.)

      2. Millenial Banker

        I’m so glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. I always felt like such a Grinch scowling while everyone else was drowning in happy tears. Having parent or spouse return from war is a big change in your day-to-day life, and I’d want time to prepare.

      3. Batman's A Scientist

        Totally agree. I once asked my mom, whose dad was a career naval officer, and one of many reasons she gave for disliking public reunions is that it’s hard for the kids whose parents DON’T come home to watch this.

      4. AnonAnalyst

        Late to this, but totally agree. I usually feel uncomfortable or even voyeuristic watching these. There have been a few that have made the national news over the last year or so where there are young kids who just start bawling when the parent shows up, and it just makes me feel icky watching it, like I should leave my living room or something to give them some privacy.

    6. Nina

      IA. Movies and TV shows have really inflated the importance of a public proposal. It puts so much pressure on a person, and it’s a big deal to propose/be proposed to like that, even if you’re in a good place in your relationship.

      I was fake-proposed to once. A friend of mine thought it would be hilarious to propose to me at work and surprised me one day at my desk. Had the ring and got down on one knee and everything. A million red flags went off in my head and I was like “What the hell are you doing?!?” He just cracked up and told me it was a joke. The receptionist told me later on she was just as stunned since she didn’t know that we had been dating. Which we weren’t.

      I was so out of sorts I didn’t get anything else done the rest of the day.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Holy crap! That would make me have to go home and cry over the fact that the only proposal I got was a joke.

        I wish people would think before they did stuff. Someone who knows I’m turning *KOFF50KOFF* tomorrow sent me three joke mugs with over-the-hill jokes on them. I threw the entire thing–box and all–in the garbage. >:(

        1. Victoria, Please

          Jeebus H. Crust, wtf is wrong with people? So sorry, Nina and Elizabeth, so rude! So sorry you had to put up with crap like that.

        2. Elizabeth West

          Thanks! I guess, LOL.

          It gets worse–someone sneaked in here last night and “over-the-hilled” my cubicle. >_< So much for keeping it on the downlow at work.

          Whatever. I'm the hottest AARP-er in the whole place so suck it, 50! XD

      2. Artemesia

        If you had squealed with delight and said ‘yes’, the humiliation would have been total. On what planet is that a joke?

    7. brightstar

      I believe there’s a documentary about something like this happening. The subject made it himself, he proposed to his girlfriend at a game and she said no and they broke up. It’s called “Hung” or something like that and is available on Netflix, though I haven’t watched it, obviously from the dearth of details.

      1. Retail Lifer

        I just Googled it. It’s called “Unhung Hero” and apparently the girl rejected him because his penis was too small.

        1. tango

          Ok, Ok. Let me see if I can get this straight. She can date him even if he has a too small penis, but can’t marry him? Talk about the guy feeling used for his money or whatever or just because she feels any boyfriend is better than none. Or did they only go out on a handful of dates and then he proposed? I can’t imagine telling a man I can’t marry him because of his little penis but feeling it’d be perfectly fine to long term date him. Seems so wrong.

          1. dawbs

            see, I can imagine the “but you can’t do it NOW” hell that gets you into dating him.

            Have a few dates, goes OK.
            Size is an issue, but not sure if it can be overcome
            Mention this to the guy, he says to try it a little more..
            And you get vilified if you dump the guy in December. or February. And maybe not in June, when you’re his date to his sister’s wedding.
            Then his cat dies, so it’s FINALLY getting to ‘safe to dump’ time in August and he proposes before you get the chance to do it.

            Not saying it’s a good idea, just saying that the immense pressure to ‘be nice’ and handle it well w/ rejecting someone takes people down the primrose path of leading people on inadvertently a lot.

            1. TeacherRecruiter

              I saw the documentary (we were really bored…). Besides being a terrible documentary, I actually never bought into the idea that his gf actually rejected his public proposal. The guy was already into media (he had had a few acting and writing stints), so I actually think he got someone (gf or not) to be part of this to get the publicity to launch the documentary. I hate to be cynical, but anymore marketing departments for sports teams are staging these fake proposal rejections, which is what I think this was.

          2. Koko

            Breaking up with someone you like but ultimately don’t see yourself with – for any reason, which, I think a bad sex life can be a reason not to want to marry someone – is like a kind of mercy killing. It’s ultimately kinder not to lead them on, to at least let them know marriage isn’t in the cards and give them the choice if they want to date you knowing that…but few people have the fortitude and steady hands to go through with it, at least not without a lot of stalling and procrastinating and wishful thinking that there’s another option.

            1. AdminAnon

              Agreed. I just did that over the weekend, actually. I’ve been putting it off for a while, but it was the right thing to do (even if neither of us is particularly happy about it at the moment).

      2. I'm a Little Teapot

        That’s a really creepy and shitty thing for him to do to his ex. I hope he guarded her anonymity.

        1. Audiophile

          The documentary guy? I’ve seen most of it, I’d say it’s a fake docu, though not necessarily a mockumentary. He’s an actor-comic, and most of it seemed pretty staged.

    8. INTP

      I know some women who would love a public proposal (assuming they wanted to say yes of course). I think it depends on the person whether it’s okay – a guy who proposed to me publicly clearly wouldn’t know me at all, and I’ve said before that if I ever get a proposal with an audience I’ll say yes to avoid an uncomfortable situation for myself and take it back later. But I think they’re fine if the couple has discussed marriage and the proposing partner knows from the other’s own words that they definitely want to get married and like he idea of a public proposal.

      1. manybellsdown

        I had a friend who planned her own public proposal, told her boyfriend how she wanted him to do it, and then they went and did it. I thought that was kind of weird, but they were both happy with it.

    9. Karyn

      Along the same lines, my ex fiancee was apparently planning to propose to me on the first night of Hanukkah, even though I SPECIFICALLY told him I didn’t want a proposal overlapping other special occasions. He was going to go through with it anyway until my best friend disabused him of that notion.

  3. Kara

    Seriously creepy.

    Also I question the judgement of people who revealed her information on to a complete stranger. Maybe things are different in Oz than in the US, but my very first thought on receiving an email like that would be “stalker” and “dangerous” and “forward to the police/security ASAP”.

  4. Dom

    My general feelings on this aside, at MINIMUM I feel the guy should have asked his personal contact info to be forwarded to her, not the other way around. Basically it’s the same as any connection I make between two people (personal or colleagues) – I send the requester’s info to the requested, to follow up as they so choose.

    1. QAT Contractor

      In the email he said to either send his info to her or her info to him. So he put the option out there, but the friend instead just sent her info to him.

      I don’t agree with the tactic he used though. I don’t know whether he should have been fired or not though. If his company had a rule about personal use of company property then it might have made sense for him to be fired. If not, sending a blast email like that should have earned him a very stern lecture about appropriate use of company email.

      Just because he was love drunk doesn’t mean he didn’t have a little common sense, because he clearly stated his understanding that it was the wrong way to use the email and that he debated about sending it in the first place.

      1. OhNo

        Yeah, I think the fact that he offered to have his contact info sent to her was about the only redeeming thing he did with this email. I mean, sending it in the first place is still pretty creepy, but the fact that he offered that option makes it ever-so-slightly less weird.

        Still pretty creepy, though.

        1. Ellie H.

          I don’t think it’s so creepy. Poor judgment and ill-advised but less so creepy. I think we’ve all had the experience of being so briefly infatuated by someone we’d go to crazy lengths to meet again. I see how it could be “creepy” in the sense of lacking an appropriate sense of boundaries for not actually GOING to such lengths, but not character-dooming.

  5. Nethwen

    No! This is only romantic when entertainment (book or movie). If it happened to me, I would run and then feel guilty because I wasn’t giving romance a try. But I would feel so vulnerable, every man after him would be treated with suspicion, fair or not.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        Alison posted a link to it in the comments yesterday. It’s a really good article.

    1. Elizabeth West

      I wouldn’t feel the least bit guilty. Nope.

      When I was at music school, someone I barely knew tracked me down and stapled a rose to a note and taped it to my door. My reaction wasn’t “Oh, that’s romantic;” it was NO NO NO NO NO OMG NO.

      1. Stephen King's Constant Reader

        I’m totally feeling your pain but at the same time I’m laughing because I can envision this exact reaction in my mind’s eye. xD

          1. Stephen King's Constant Reader

            BAHAHHAHA so now I’m literally crying in the office, this made my day

    2. Connie-Lynne

      It’s not even romantic in a movie IMO because it’s become so clear that this is inappropriate real-world behavior.

      1. Artemesia

        The persistent suitor meme had a different affect in early times. The fact that Richard Nixon badgered Pat endlessly before she agreed to date him, announcing the first time he met her ‘I’m going to marry you’ was considered endearing. Lots of films have a theme like that.

        Now it feels like it probably always was; pushy entitled man and subservient woman who must do what a man wants.

        1. TheLazyB

          David Beckham has always freaked me out. Announcing he was gonna marry Victoria when he saw her on tv? To his friends, sure, but ick. Makes me shudder.

          1. Elizabeth West

            A close relative’s husband was a friend of her roommate’s. She and her BFF were standing at the window in her apartment, and he came walking up to the building to visit his buddy and they saw him. BFF said out of the blue, “That’s the man you’re going to marry.” They’ve been married for fifteen years or so (two furbabies). Her husband is awesome and we love the crap out of him.

            #whycantthatshithappentomegoddammit

        2. AllisonAllisonAllisonetc

          Not to that extreme, but I have had a couple guys tell me something along the lines of “as soon as I saw you I knew I had to date you”. Now I take that as the huge red flag it is, I am not an object to be won.

        3. simonthegrey

          To turn it the other direction, when my grandma met my grandpa she told her friends, ‘that’s the man I’m going to marry.’ They were married fifty years before he died suddenly of a stroke a decade ago. Is it less creepy when its the woman saying it?

          1. TheLazyB

            “That’s the man I’m going to marry” reads differently to me, and i think it would if genders were swuitched too. “I’m going to marry you” to someone you’ve just met sounds like a threat to me.

            1. Higher Ed Admin

              Many moons ago a guy told me something similar, but much more crude (translate “I intend to have consensual sexual relations with you this evening” into early 2000s entitled jerk-speak). I decided immediately that he was incorrect about that, for just that reason: announcing that was equivalent to a threat on my emotional space that could easily translate to threats on my physical space. When he ran across campus because he had to meet me: bold and romantic. When he announced that we’d be having intimate contact before we even had casual contact: presumptuous and scary.

        4. Aunt Vixen

          I am constantly totally conflicted in my feelings for Lord Peter Wimsey, because on the one hand, we love him!, but on the other hand, he doesn’t take no for an answer, does he? /o\

          Also Patrick Swayze in “Ghost,” all singing I’m-Henry-the-Eighth-I-am until Demi Moore agrees to go out with him. Also the mother in the Doctor Who Christmas special a couplefew years ago (“The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe”), where she says he followed her home for $timeperiod until she went out with him, and then further pestered her until she married him. I keep yelling at the screen, “No! That is not awesome!”

          1. TootsNYC

            There’s a really great moment in the Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane romance in which one of Harriet’s friends points out that she absolutely could have gotten rid of him if she’d really wanted to. But she just answers the proposal, and continues to accept dinner invitations, etc.

            And then there’s the time, in Gaudy Night, in which he says, essentially, “I’ve been a boor about this, being so pushy. I’m sorry. I’m going to ask one more time, with feeling, and I’ll take a ‘no’ answer as final and vanish completely from your life.”

            He’s really not as creepy as it could seem.

            (Also, he maintains a very respectful *friendship* with her all along, just punctuated by the occasional proposal.)

            1. Aunt Vixen

              That’s true. He’s not doing a Nice Guy (TM) at her. But if I recall correctly – it’s been a long while since I’ve read it – the time he says he’s only going to ask her once more and then disappear forever isn’t the time she accepts his proposal. Meaning the announced Last Time Ever is not in fact anything of the kind.

              I don’t know. I love Peter and Harriet both, but they both disappoint me sometimes. (This happens with other characters as well, of course. I usually love Cyrano, but I also want to wring his neck practically every time I see that play. Roxane’s too. I just feel bad for Christian. Grar.)

        5. OriginalEmma

          So have folks seen the proposal from a Nigerian gentleman for Malia Obama’s hand? He said he’s been faithful to her and has been interested in her for 7 years…you know, when she was NINE YEARS OLD.

        6. OriginalEmma

          The persistent suitor meme reminds me of the song “Rude” by Magic! It has always creeped me out.

      2. Cactus

        Does anyone here remember that NSync movie On the Line? In which Lance Bass bonds with a random girl for about 5 minutes on the L over Al Green and the fact that they can both name all the US presidents chronologically? And then they spend the rest of the movie having NOTHING to do with each other, both existing in their own separate enclaves, while he’s obsessing over her and eventually starting a citywide campaign to find her? It came out when I was 13, and even then it was clear to me that it was pretty boring and terrible for the rom-com realm. But that’s what this story reminds me of, and wow is it creepy.

  6. Observer

    I suppose this isn’t a firing offense, but it brings his judgement into major question.

    I think that a lot of women would be very creeped out, especially ones with a bi more experience and confidence. Highly public proposals tend to put a lot of pressure on the woman to respond in a certain way – and most guys know this. Also, it is perfectly normal and reasonable not to want your romantic life to be played out in the papers (or even in the gossip column of a large organization.) And there is just something stalkerish about asking hundreds of random strangers to track someone down.

    Now, it’s possible that he was neither a stalker, nor a creep, but just somewhat immature and not thinking clearly. But, yes, as a boss I would be watching this one very, very closely.

  7. Connie-Lynne

    Oh my gosh no.

    Even if she does welcome the attentions of this guy, which is a huge if, he’s also setting *her* up for potential professional blowback. Now her private life has become the business of _all her coworkers_ and a number of people are going to have Opinions. Then there’s going to be the small percentage of people who, entirely unfairly, make judgements about her based just on this guy’s behavior.

    She just gained a whole bunch of likely-unwanted notoriety thanks to this guy’s inappropriateness. Bleh!

    1. SherryD

      Well, the object of his affection doesn’t work at the company… her housemate does. But still, yeah, who wants that notoriety? If I’m going to get my 15 minutes of fame, I wouldn’t want it to be for rejecting someone!

    2. INTP

      Yep. And I don’t even know if it’s a minority that would perceive her negatively – I bet many, many would see her as a big stuck up jerk for not giving this poor, romantic guy a chance.

      To respond to the comment below, the email wasn’t in her workplace but since it became viral, her coworkers are bound to find out.

      1. anon in the uk

        I had a very embarrassing situation when a co-worker developed a crush on me and was egged on by others to ask me out. They were older (sixties as opposed to our late twenties) and I think they genuinely thought they were helping along a budding romance. They were horrified when I told them that I did not appreciate their meddling in my private life and that I was quite prepared to report them AND co-worker to HR if he did not get the message and leave me alone

  8. SherryD

    I hope the housemate when home and said, “I got this really weird all-staff email at work today. I think it might be about you, weirdly enough! What do you want me to do?”

  9. Jill

    I work in public education and there’s all kinds of “feel good” news stories about outrageous prom-posals this time of year, in addition to the trend of over the top marriage proposals, and very public “creative” pregnancy announcements. We’ve created this culture where romance and weddings and babies are supposed to be broadcast to the whole world – added bonus if your cute story goes “viral”. Maybe this guy thought what he was doing was normal and acceptable.

    But I, for one, do not conduct my personal life at the office. If I had some guy contacting every single person in my building for my info, I’d be livid. It would be embarrassing. Good for you, Olivia, for not rewarding this kind of behavior.

    1. Jeanne

      I gave my niece a VERY hard time for saying she wanted a prom-posal from the guy she had been dating for 3 years. They had gone to his prom the year before now this was her prom. I told her how ridiculous she was being. Prom should be a simple conversation. Luckily, he kept it to flowers with a card asking her to prom.

      I agree it is getting too insane. Everything has to be over the top.

      1. fposte

        It’s bad enough that prom is such a big expensive deal already now; adding a huge prom-posal expectation is just nuts. You’ve got a generation walking into a really bad money scene after high school–let’s not get them started earlier on that.

  10. madge

    Wait…he knew the housemate but instead of directly emailing just that person, he sent it to all staff? I don’t find it creepy/terrifying as much as immature and drama-mongering. Definitely a black mark on his professional judgment.

    1. Nina

      My thoughts exactly. He could have just kept the email limited to one person, not broadcast his intentions to the whole company.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think he knew the housemate worked for his agency but didn’t know his full name or how to contact him — hence the org-wide email.

    1. jamlady

      I was seriously scrolling just to see if someone posted this haha I just watched this episode 2 days ago! I’m that person who sees everything as a Dahmer. It’s a wonder I’m married lol

  11. The IT Manager

    I disagree. I think that is a firing offense. Incredibly poor judgment because he knew that is was using the email system inappropriately, but decided that getting the girl’s contact details was more important than following the rules.

    Also he’s being creepy. How did events prevent him from getting more her contact info himself at the party? Probably she was avoiding him because he’s a creep.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny

      Agreed. He admits it’s inappropriate, and then does it anyway! Not only is he a huge creeper, but terrible judgment.

    2. Hlyssande

      Yes, this this this!

      This is so creepy it sent my hackles up instantly. DO NOT WANT

  12. Elizabeth the Ginger

    A thing that stuck out at me from the original all-staff email was this line:

    Disclaimer: I understand this is not the most appropriate channel. It is not my intent to misuse this email address.

    That left me just shaking my head. Guy knew that it wasn’t appropriate, but seemed to feel that saying “I know this isn’t appropriate” made it appropriate after all. Sorry, you can’t just say “It’s not my intent to X” while doing X and magically make it not-X.

    1. Stephen King's Constant Reader

      I, too, had this same thought. The way the email is worded, you can totally sense the shame but at the same time he’s like “Nope! I’m gonna forge ahead with this terrible idea anyway!”

    2. HeyNonnyNonny

      Argh, yes! Like when people say, “I don’t want to be offensive, but…” or “Not so sound harsh, but…” You just KNOW that what follows will be offensive or harsh. Adding a disclaimer beforehand does not change it!

        1. OriginalEmma

          Ah, the I’m Not Racist Butt! My favorite butt (this was from a Cyanide and Happiness comic).

    3. JMegan

      Exactly. The last line should really read It is not my intent to misuse this email address, but I’m going to do it anyway.”

      FTFY, Creepy Weirdo Dude.

      Which makes me agree with The IT Manager above, that I actually would consider this a fire-able offence, because he clearly knew (and said so!) that what he was doing was inappropriate. But somehow he felt like the probability of getting a date out of it was worth the risk of losing his job. Or he felt entitled to do something he knew was inappropriate, because hey, ROMANCE!

      1. EarlGrey

        ugh, yes, this! It’s amazing how ROMANCE! is such a great justifier/generator of sympathy for this guy, especially when there wasn’t any romance to begin with. This guy’s “I can’t live with my regret if I don’t…” is most reasonable people’s “Oh, that was fun, too bad I didn’t get her info.”

        And I can’t help but wonder if a woman doing the same thing would come off as crazy or clingy rather than taking a brave/romantic risk!

    4. Retail Lifer

      Disclaimer: I understand this is not the most appropriate channel. It is not my intent to misuse this email address. However, I’ve watched way too many chick flicks for this not to result in marriage. So it’s totally gonna be worth it!

    5. fposte

      This is a big internet thing, though. I see it a lot for copyright–“I do not intend any breach of copyright with this posting” kind of thing. Then maybe don’t breach copyright.

  13. Kai

    This happened to a colleague of mine! We were doing a promotion at a fair and someone who’d attended it emailed our company email. He named my colleague by name, said he was interested in going out with her, and finished up with something along the lines of “My apologies to her boyfriend if she has one.”

    I just…ugh.

    1. jmkenrick

      I’m really shocked to hear that this is so normal. I would not be pleased if someone e-mailed my whole office with this sort of request. Honestly, even if I was interested, this would cause me to question their social judgement to the point of declining.

      Also, the concept of apologizing to someone’s SO for expressing interest is a general pet peeve, but especially in this context. After forcing your personal interests into someone’s work, you owe them an apology.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny

        Just what I was going to say! I’d be tempted to snark back: Don’t apologize to our employee’s boyfriend. Direct your apologies to our employee, for creeping on her.

        1. manybellsdown

          I have really curly hair, and I get a lot of comments on it. A cashier in a store once made a comment about liking my hair, and then immediately looked at my husband and apologized for saying it.

          Dude. The comment was innocuous. Apologizing to my husband for it was gross.

      2. Lizzy

        Yup. It is frustrating that so many people still struggle to view women as independent entities with their own free agency.

        1. Zillah

          That was my first thought, too!

          Though I think sexism and heteronormativity often go hand-in-hand.

    2. ace

      Gross. Because apparently she doesn’t merit an apology, but the theoretical boyfriend does?

  14. Stephanie

    Oof. In addition to what others said, I’d be worried about how’d this look on me. I’ve struggled in the past to be taken seriously at work before, being the youngish female employee (my Muppet avatar isn’t that far off from my actual appearance :) ) in heavily male, older environments. Something like this would hair underscore my inexperience.

  15. Holly Olly Oxen Free

    Something similar happened to my sister. There was a security guard at her office that took a liking to her. He made it a point to say hello to her in the morning and being polite she said hello back. She started feeling uncomfortable because she found him creepily watching her at different times throughout the day, like in the cafeteria at lunch time. Then one day she got an email from a name she didn’t recognize (they had never introduced themselves by name to each other). It just said “Hello Amelia” and nothing else. She didn’t write back, but a few days later another “Hi Amelia”. She wrote back and asked who it was and he responded “You look nice today.”

    Totally creeped her out. She reported him to HR and found out he’d done this to other women and because it happened again he got fired. He had actually used her badge information that he could see in the computer when she swiped in through security in the morning to find her email and contact her. He had her cube number, email, phone numbers and home address. Totally out of line.

    1. Cath in Canada

      Ugh, so creepy!

      I used to be a member of a weekly kayak club run by a local rental/lessons place, and one of their employees used the work computer system to find my number. When he called and asked me out on a date I was so stunned, I just didn’t know what to say at all. It felt like such a violation of privacy. Why couldn’t he have just asked me out in person, at the end of one of our weekly group paddles?! (I wouldn’t have said yes, but I wouldn’t have been creeped out, either).

      When he showed up working for a local bike repair place a couple of years later, I started going to a different bike shop…

      Ugh, I wish I’d done something about that at the time. I was pretty young and just laughed it off. Ugh.

      1. jmkenrick

        > I wouldn’t have said yes, but I wouldn’t have been creeped out, either.

        Exactly this! Assuming two adults (in relatively equal positions of influence, etc., insert appropriate disclaimer) it’s perfectly fine to express interest in someone else. It’s when people go these weird, over-the-top routes that include obtaining personal information without asking that it becomes so creepy.

    2. Why does love got to be so sad?

      It’s not just an issue for women, either.

      You know that story about the professor who gives his class a test and has extra credit questions like “what is the janitor’s name?” and so forth, and he explains the importance of getting to know the ‘everyday’ people that you interact with, etc.

      And that is probably largely true. But in the past I’ve attempted to do just that, and [details elided] janitor and the other drove a shuttle-bus, and in the end they both wanted me to go off and do pervy stuff with them. Ick.

      I’m pretty sure that not everyone is like this, but all it takes is a couple of bad apples to ruin all apples for me, forever.

      And – I’m just a random guy. I’m not particularly cute or good-looking. But I’ve been perved on enough that it just completely blows my mind to consider what it must be like for women in our society.

    3. Lynne

      Yup – this happened to me a few years ago as well. I needed a new cell phone so went to the cell phone store and bought one, renewed my contract, regular stuff. Later that night I got a call from an unknown number (normally I don’t answer but…new phone, this was before contacts automatically moved over, etc) and it was the cell phone salesman. He asked me out, saying he thought we’d had such a nice time together. I immediately said no, wasn’t interested, etc. A few days later I got flowers and a card *at my house* from him, again asking me out. I called his boss to complain, and not only was he not fired, but he was later put into their commercials. I was SO creeped out, especially given that he was probably 25 years my senior, obviously protected by his company, and showed a lot of willingness to use my personal contact information for his own use. Thankfully it died down after that but I was very anxious about it for a long time.

    4. Kiwi

      Her work should have paid for her moving costs … seeing how he’d done the same thing before and they continued to permit him access to full employee details.

  16. Katie the Fed

    Of course he should be fired! He used government resources to track down a woman for a freaking date! He likely embarrassed the crap out of her, potentially freaked her out, and misused resources.

    MAYBE if it was private sector. But it’s not. The standards are supposed to be high for us government employees.

    1. Not So NewReader

      In some ways, private sector is stricter than governmental work places. I could see him getting fired at some of the companies I worked for.

    2. Elizabeth West

      They might have their process set up as warning first, then written up, then termination. So even if they wanted to fire him, someone could be sticking to protocol. If he has a clean record, they’d probably just warn him.

      I’m not HR nor do I play one on TV; I’m just going by the many jobs I’ve had where this process was in place.

    3. Gillie

      My understanding is that it’s actually pretty difficult to fire people from the Australian Public Service, and the second article had a mention from the department that it’s not sackable on its own. Having said that, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if his email wasn’t tracked rather more closely after that

    4. Collarbone High

      In my early 20s, I got to talking to the guy behind me in line at the grocery store, and we walked out to the parking lot together. I quickly found him off-putting, said goodbye and left. Four days later I got off the bus and he was standing in front of my apartment building, and his first words were, “Don’t ask how I know where you live.”

      I demanded to know, and he told me he’d copied down my license plate number and asked his friend who worked at the DMV to look up my address. I freaked out and told him to leave, which thankfully he did, and that was the end of it. Except that I later realized that my street address was the building that housed the mailboxes for the complex, not my actual building, and for him to know that I would be coming up the front sidewalk, rather than from the resident parking lot behind the building, he must have been staking out my building all week.

      At the time I was pretty thrown, yet caught in that cultural expectation that Alison mentioned (“Should I be flattered?”) so I didn’t pursue it, but now I regret not filing a complaint with the DMV. Their employee gave my address to a stalker! But 20 years ago, I don’t think it would have been taken as seriously as (I hope) it would now.

    5. OP

      OP here.

      From what I read here, it’s not that much harder to fire someone in the Australian public service for cause (layoffs due to budget cuts or redundant programs pretty much never happen however- at least in my experience. People tend to be shuffled elsewhere or there’s a call out for voluntary redundancies)

      But in order to fire someone- there’s a definite process you have to go through (performance improvement plans etc), just like Elizabeth details below.

      I’ve never had to do it personally so I could be wrong but it doesn’t look that hard to fire someone if they deserve it- I’ve had bosses say it’s too hard to fire someone and that’s why Jane gets paid $100,000 a year to refill the stationery cupboard (and even that she did badly- it’s filled with liquid paper and has no pens or notepads). But I’ve also watched 3 bosses on 3 separate occasions go through the process to manage under performers, and eventually fire them when it was clear it wasn’t working out. The process seemed pretty reasonable and straightforward- you just have to be willing to be a decent manager.

    6. OP

      And I agree with you Katie – being in public service is incredibly important to me and I feel like what we do is crucial so I’m always aghast at people intentionally wasting government resources.

  17. kristinyc

    When I worked at Warby Parker, we had a funny incident about a customer who had a crush on one of our CX team members. The customer had a nice phone call with her (about his purchase), and then he tweeted that he had a crush on her.

    Our social media team had a cool thing they did where they’d occasionally record short videos for Youtube to reply with longer answers to tweets (called “Warbyvision”). The team figured out who the customer service person was, then had her make a video just thanking him for his purchase and saying that she hoped he’d have a nice day. It went viral.

    And crazy enough – it turned out she went to the same college as him! She had a boyfriend and wasn’t going to date him, but it was a really fun story and we all enjoyed watching it play out on Twitter.

    1. Hlyssande

      I hope they gave her a choice on whether or not she wanted to make that video. If not, that’s super creepy.

      1. kristinyc

        Of course! We saw it as a way to be playful/funny as a brand(and so did she). She didn’t reference the crush he mentioned at all during the video. It was pretty common for them to do random thank you videos to customers, this one just happened to have her in it.

        1. Hlyssande

          Okay, that’s pretty awesome!

          My hackles were already up from this particular post, so my creep-o-meter was definitely off.

          1. kristinyc

            Oh, for sure! If I were the woman referenced in the post, and some random guy I met at the party tried to find me that way, I’d find it weird and creepy. (Well, probably. IF I was single and really interested, I’d be okay with it. The problem is, he has no way of knowing that, so for anyone reading this – always err on the side of NOT being creepy in your romantic endeavors.)

        2. Ellie H.

          I think this is a great example of a low low-key and normal iteration of this – that we don’t have to completely lose it and freak out if somebody expresses romantic interest in us. I feel like this is an idea that really gets lost these days, it’s not the end of the world if somebody is attracted to you and you don’t reciprocate it. Attraction and romantic interest, including occasionally being the subject of romantic overtures you are free to accept, deflect, overtly decline or ignore, is a normal part of adult life and human interaction.

  18. Ed

    You never hear about the many times these things don’t work out. I had a buddy who threw caution once and sent flowers to a female friend’s workplace on Valentine’s Day. They had never dated and were just friends up until then but he had a huge crush on her. He was a good guy in general but was also an alcoholic (though back then he was in the early stages when he was just the “life of the party”). She saw him at the neighborhood bar that night, said “I got flowers at work today” without making eye contact, walked away and avoided him from that point on. Those are the more common outcomes that don’t get retold hundreds of times throughout the years.

    1. Oryx

      Similar thing happened at my job — he sent her flowers at work and everyone knew they were from him and she was so embarrassed. They seem to be friends again now, but it was awkward for all involved for about six months.

      1. Cactus

        Argh, my ex sent me a GIANT vase of flowers once, via the student union office of my college campus where I was living at the time, when we were going through a pretty rocky patch. (Well, we were in the beginning of a gradual downward slide into breaking up for good, really.) They were one of many random gifts around that period, but while everything else arrived in relatively anonymous boxes, these were huge and ostentatious. And they were absolutely not a patch for what was wrong in our relationship. (In fact, nearly every gift highlighted one of our issues: the fact that I was expected to go along with what he wanted to do, but he never did the same for me; the fact that he didn’t listen to the answers I gave him to questions; that he didn’t pay attention to certain things; and that I’m really not a big ostentatious public show-offy person.) Since then, I have always been ultra-wary of a. flowers; b. random gifts from people for no reason.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Ugh, ugh.

          A woman I know met a guy and they married after several weeks of dating. Yes, weeks. He sent her large bouquets at work. This, while she was telling us money was tight. I squirm even thinking about this whole thing. They split up after a bit.

          1. Cactus

            Yeah, money was tight in my/our situation, too: my ex lived with his parents and talked a lot about saving up to move to his own place…but then spent a bunch of money on unnecessary, unwanted frivolities. That just added to my discomfort (and frankly, guilt, since I knew in the back of my head that things probably wouldn’t last forever and he shouldn’t be wasting money on me).

        2. Koko

          I often kind of wondered/marveled at flowers being such a common apology device. In a sense, when a guy has given me apology-flowers, it just sort of reminds me of the thing he did that made me mad every time I look at them.

          1. jmkenrick

            Once, an ex-boyfriend invited me to a family wedding. Then he got cold feet about me meeting his family and un-invited me.

            He showed up after the wedding with flowers. He’d taken a leftover bouquet from one of the tables.

  19. mskyle

    Once, at an event hosted by my father’s work, I met one of his (my father’s) clients and we had a pleasant enough chat. I was entirely content to leave it at that, but then a week or two later he tried to contact me through my dad. My dad, being a cool dude, asked me if I wanted the guy’s info and I was like, “NOPE.” I felt like it showed really weird judgement, trying to contact me through his work contact/my dad. I think it creeped my dad out too – he’s always wining and dining his clients and giving them tickets to baseball games and stuff, but that stops well short of offering up his firstborn child!

    1. Cath in Canada

      Your DAD?! That’s extra icky!

      One of my husband’s friends made a comment to my brother-in-law at our wedding about who the beautiful young woman over there was, and was she single? BIL replied “that’s my daughter”; the friend was absolutely mortified!

      1. mskyle

        Seriously, if I had wanted his number, I would have asked for it, and if he wanted my number, the time for that was BEFORE HE HAD TO ASK MY DAD. (Also, has he not heard of facebook? I really wouldn’t have been that difficult to track down, and I honestly would have found it less weird.) The outcome would always have been the same (really wasn’t interested) but the asking me out through my dad thing confirmed that it was probably for the best.

        1. TootsNYC

          Well, given that he was your dad’s client, he may have felt that it would be bad form to ask you out without making any reference to the business relationship.
          Sort of like asking a father’s permission to court a daughter back when daughters didn’t have the societal freedom they have now.

          He might have wanted your dad to know and sign off on any overtures.

          1. CdnAcct

            Or he could have thought that being your dad’s client would add extra pressure on you to say yes.
            I’m cynical, but that’s what occurred to me first.

      2. fposte

        That’s kind of interesting and weird, now that I think about it. I think it’s fine to ask out somebody’s daughter, given that every woman is somebody’s daughter. In fact, I think a tone and terminology that would be acceptable if you *were* talking to her dad is probably a good default; “Do you know that very nice blonde?” is probably always going to serve you better than “Is the blonde DTF?”

    2. Elizabeth West

      Another relative: met his wife through her dad. They hung out at this pub and would talk, and he said, “I have a daughter you might like.” Again, married for twenty+ years, two kids.

      I am batting zero here with this family. >_<

  20. Hlyssande

    This sort of apparently well-meaning, grand romantic gesture is how violent exes and stalkers (and others) get let into buildings they shouldn’t have access to.

    People get warm fuzzy feelings at the thought of helping someone out with their grand romantic gestures in public or private without thinking about how the target of that gesture (real or fake) would feel about it.

    Frankly, I’m disgusted that this guy didn’t get an immediate smackdown from his superiors. And whoever leaked it to the press, too.

  21. Why does love got to be so sad?

    It must be tough to be in the dating demographic these days.

    I sometimes wonder if there is a lot of “observer error” in many of the discussions that float around re meeting some creepy guy. Depending on who you want to believe, something like 10-30% of married couples met via work. So there must be people out there who are doing it right. It seems like the Internet and the media tend to focus on “horror stories” and “giving out bad advice” (ie, “You just need to be persistent. And play Peter Gabriel on a boombox outside of her house”).

    1. fposte

      I don’t think it’s that hard, though. Meeting at work usually doesn’t involve a company-wide email. It means you talked at the water cooler, or had dinner at a conference, or worked on a project.

    2. Student

      Your whole premise is flawed and, frankly, insulting. If anyone, woman or man, doesn’t want to date someone else who is interested in dating her/him, then that is entirely within her/his prerogative. We aren’t obligated to give anyone who asks a chance to date us. We can reject people as potential dates for any reason or no specific reason at all. the “observer” gets to make this call – there is by definition no “observer bias”.

      Lots (most!) of those rejected people go on to find someone who reciprocates their interest. I suspect that in many cases, the creepy guy (or gal) modifies their approach to future potential dates after having one or two people flee from them or tell them off. And if the exact same approach to dating creeps one person out but another finds it endearing – that is completely legitimate and up to the people involved.

  22. What about if genders were reversed???

    Same reaction from the public if genders were reversed in this story?

    1. NoNameHere

      If she was physically attractive, he’d be “flattered”. If she was physically unattractive, he’d be screaming “sexual harassment”

      1. Beth

        If she was physically attractive, she’d be seen as desperate and unhinged, and speculation would be rife on what was wrong with her. If she was physically unattractive, she’d be seen as desperate and disgusting.

    2. MegEB

      The woman would be disregarded as a crazy stalker, or simply pathetic (depending on her level of attractiveness). Trust me, no woman is going to get a pass on this type of behavior either.

    3. Lizzy

      She get branded as desperate or too pushy, on top of speculation as to why she had to try so hard to land a man.

    4. Elizabeth West

      Yeah, I’d pretty much think the same thing. How many male actors get creeped on at conventions or panels where they’re answering questions about a film or something and someone says, “Can I do X to you!?” Eww eww eww. Or just read some of the random weird replies Ed Sheeran gets when he tweets something. Disclaimer: I follow him because I like his music, not because I want him to lick me or anything (yes that was one of them!)

      The coworker thing maybe not as blatant as these people, but the creep factor is still there, male or female. Seriously, do you want that to be the impression you leave in the few seconds you have to talk to someone, famous or not?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Ugh, yes. This is something that really pisses me off about Jezebel — their blatant objectification of male soccer players, for instance (with photos of their thighs and lascivious comments about them). From a site that ostensibly fights against objectification of women, it’s pretty disgusting. (And I get that it’s not precisely the same thing due to gender power dynamics, but it’s still gross and creepy.)

        1. OriginalEmma

          I recall a couple of years ago (it may be still ongoing?) where websites like that were blatantly objectifying Jon Hamm. I’m not sure whether it was to make him the poster boy of “how do you like being objectified, menfolk?” and whether it even worked (probably not) but he was seriously creeped and asked publically for it to stop.

          1. AW

            I’m not sure whether it was to make him the poster boy of “how do you like being objectified, menfolk?”

            That was the impression I got.

            The problem with the whole “do the gross thing that happens to women to men instead” is that it requires doing the gross thing. Which is gross. And is no less gross just because the target is male.

            A much better implementation of flipping the gender script was when Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo did interviews for the latest Avengers movie and he took the questions that would normally asked of her and she got his questions. The difference with this and what happened with Jon Hamm is Mark was down for doing this. (IIRC, this was suggested by someone on Tumblr and he was all, “I’m in!”)

        2. AW

          Yeah, Jezebel’s a feminist site until someone calls them out on doing something decidedly un-feminist, then it’s, “We never said this is a feminist site!”

        3. Elizabeth West

          Buzzfeed does the same thing. I’d complain, but well…. *confession* sometimes I enjoy looking at the pictures. :}

          I think if you’re a model or actor and you pose for underwear pictures, you have to actually expect them to show up in articles of that sort. But when you’re making a professional appearance and talking seriously about your work or whatever topic, to get interrupted with that stuff is as irritating to a man as it is to a woman.

  23. NickelandDime

    Mmm. This kind of stuff can be very creepy on the receiving end. The guy probably isn’t creepy, but he likes Attention and will do anything and involve anyone to get it. And no one wants to date someone that makes every darn thing All About Them.

  24. EarlGrey

    I wonder what DID happen to him – the articles just give us a couple lines from a spokesperson (I’m cringe-laughing at the mental image of that spokesperson learning that they’ll have to address this situation). I hope he got the appropriate talking-to/discipline and it was just kept discreet and away from the media…as much as it would be a great lesson in “don’t do this to women you just met, here’s why” to see in the news, a little privacy and not fanning the flames is probably for the best.

    1. OP

      Hey EarlGrey- I understand there were some pretty big ramifications for him so he didn’t get away scot free.

      I too always felt for the spokesperson – and it’s one thing to be managing staff within the privacy of your organisation, but when suddenly you’ve got every man and his dog putting their two cents in (both “why haven’t you fired him!” and “save Steve!”), ugh.

  25. Voluptuousfire

    I wonder…has anyone ever heard a woman going through such methods to find the name/contact info of a guy they found interesting? I’ve mainly heard this as a hetero guy narrative.

      1. SystemsLady

        I’ve heard of women doing this, but unless the woman was super attractive and the man reciprocated…yeah, that.

      2. NoNameHere

        If she was physically attractive, he’d be “flattered”. If she was physically unattractive, he’d be screaming “sexual harassment”

          1. NoNameHere

            Ya well “…being ‘stalked’ by an attractive woman” may not be “…every man’s fantasy”, but is ALMOST every man’s fantasy. While being “stalked” by a physically unattractive woman is definitely NO man’s fantasy

              1. Cactus

                Sorry. That was supposed to say:
                Yes, but whether they have that fantasy or not, that doesn’t mean they’d necessarily be happy if it came true. I used to think (when I was a shy, awkward teenage girl) that it would be thrilling to have multiple people interested in me at the same time. In reality, it was sad, slightly creepy, and tiring, and I did what I could to discourage crushes from people I didn’t actually want to date. I also thought having a boyfriend who showered me with random gifts would be great; see above for how well THAT turned out.

            1. nona

              No, no it isn’t.

              I’m guessing you haven’t been on the receiving end of harassment by a woman?

      3. some1

        And Lord help her if he’s taken and she didn’t realize — than she’d be a b*tch trying to steal someone’s man

    1. HB

      I wonder if that’s the case in part because that’s how the romantic comedies play out. Big Romantic Gesture = SUCCESS in most cases in the movies.

    2. Jennifer

      I might have looked up the dude back in the day (these days I almost never search for people online, though see below), but then I wouldn’t have actually taken action to ask him out. If our lives don’t naturally overlap, it’s probably not going to work out anyway, in my experience.

      Anyway, I had an experience recently where I found someone’s lost credit card in a parking lot. I tend to find a lot of people’s lost credit cards for some reason and if they have a connection to my work, it’s pretty easy to find their e-mail and write to them saying I’ve got it and you can pick it up at my office. However, this person apparently had NO connection to my work, and they had a really generic name like Jane No Middle Initial Smith, so I was forced to do a Google search. And I couldn’t find that specific Jane Smith for crap. There are apparently several of them living in the area, I could find NO contact info for any of them, except one random phone number that nobody answered. One of them looked like the most promising (or at least, due to the nature of her job she might have actually been at mine) and her work had no way to contact her either…I had to give up on trying to save the poor woman worry. So apparently it’s not as easy to find everyone as we think any more. At least if you’re Jane Smith.

      1. CdnAcct

        You can drop found credit/debit cards off at the related bank and they’ll get in touch with the client. Or call their toll-free number if there are no branches nearby.

        1. TychaBrahe

          It’s easiest to call the number. The card needs to be cancelled and a new one reissued, even if you turn it in. You might as well save yourself the time and just notify the bank and then destroy the card.

    1. buddleia

      Also, the sad thing is, he got TONS of support, if you look at the comments. (People sympathize with the “hard life” and being bullied aspect?) No, he shouldn’t be reamed out or abused in the comments, but just given a firm talking to about what’s ok and not.

    2. Cactus

      Yep. Certain facts of one’s life can certainly explain specific behaviors, but that doesn’t mean that they’re excused or acceptable.

    3. I'm a Little Teapot

      This paragraph is particularly creepy:

      “This revolves around me living my life as honestly as I can. People are too unsure of themselves today; especially men. I’ve had enough of peer pressure and the media stereotypes brainwashing males into submission. I’m as loathing of it as you are.”

      He’s an MRA shitbag. Of course.

      He cares zero about her feelings and was mostly using her as a therapy doll and a means to get validation and positive attention from the world even if he scared, humiliated, or endangered her in the process. Dude: you can have respect and dignity without endangering someone else’s.

      Also:

      “Society you always have ripped my dignity away as soon as I attain it. I’ve had enough. If you’re threatening to totally cut off my balls, I’m fighting you tooth and nail for what’s left. I dare you. F—ing bring it on.”

      That is a really creepy way to look at asking someone out. Seeing her as an adversary, as part of a generic hostile “society” that has beaten up on you your whole life and never realized how speeecial you are, seeing rejection as violent emasculation. I’m reminded of the Isla Vista shooter.

      (On a personal note, I was creeped on by a woman with cerebral palsy who had a host of really inappropriate social behaviors and a similar attitude: nothing I ever do is wrong, I don’t have any friends because everyone is meeean and prejudiced against me because of my disability, woe is me. Fortunately, she was entirely lacking the undercurrent of rage and the really stalker-like behavior. I think her problem was that she was viciously bullied at school but pampered and never contradicted about anything at home, so she developed this weird dualistic idea of Good People like her parents who gave her everything she wanted and catered to her every whim and Bad People like the horrible kids at school who beat her up and called her names, and assigned anyone who told her no to the second category.)

      1. I'm a Little Teapot

        There’s a great comment on this self-serving blather at the bottom from Thea: Don’t want to unduly diss Steve, but his letter is incredibly self-serving and feels a lot like spin. He had already made a good enough case for what happened, and I’m not sure what reading his life story and personal philosophies in this kind of detail is meant to add to the discussion.

        Trying to turn his lovestruck error of judgment into a disability rights issue seems to cheapen this story.

        The columnist’s reply (“You could chill a case of VB on that heart, Thea”) is disgusting.

        Access to a particular woman regardless of her feelings and safety is not, as Thea rightly pointed out, a disability rights issue. This loser’s disability does not mean he is entitled to date, have sex with, or publicly humiliate anyone he feels like.

        1. OP

          Yeah, that whole blog and readers are always gross so the VB comment doesn’t surprise me. Also didn’t surprise me Steve was a fan of the blog.

    4. Katie the Fed

      The narcissism is strong in this one. Never once does he stop to think about how this might affect HER. It’s all about him and his truth and his past and his issues.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Additionally, relationships that are based on “us against the world” can sour fast as it turns into “me against you”. Anger is not good glue for a relationship.

        1. So Very Anonymous

          Yes, so much this. Learned the hard way to stay. away. from “us against the world.”

    5. Zillah

      Have you ever noticed how “But disability!” gets used all the time to give men a pass for inappropriate behavior toward women, but rarely gets applied to women who are being inappropriate toward men? And it virtually never gets used to create some empathy for disabled women who struggle with men behaving inappropriately to them.

      ugh.

      1. Jennifer

        I’m tired of hearing that autism and its variants are an excuse to be creepy and that makes it cool. I’m pretty sure my friend with autistic kids would laugh in their faces about that one.

        1. Windchime

          This. There is a guy at work who gives me the heebie jeebies. He has decided that he is determined to be my friend; at one point, he even remarked to a friend that he was thinking of bringing a bottle of wine to me at work with a note that said, “I just want to be your friend.”

          Well, that just upped the creep factor by 1000%. I don’t care whether or not he is “on the spectrum”; I work in an IT department of over 100 people and surely at least a few of them are also “on the spectrum”. None of the others creep me out, so yeah–he’s just a creep.

    6. Elizabeth West

      That made me sick reading it. He needs to go back to counselling. “Respect and dignity” were NOT his motives and he made this shit all about him.

      No. Just no, Steve.

    7. Pennalynn Lott

      Here’s the line that really, really, really creeps me out and pisses me off:

      “Her friends were still there so I thought she would come back. She did not. The level of disgust you likely felt at my not seizing [the] moment pales in comparison to what I felt on that night.’

      Why on earth would anyone feel *disgust* at themselves or anyone else for “not seizing the moment”, when the “moment” is hitting on a woman??? DISGUST?? Really? And he expects that the journalist will be disgusted with him? Ew. Ick. Gross.

  26. SystemsLady

    I don’t know why (American?) culture fixates so much on going after somebody you found attractive but don’t know at all with dogged and frankly creepy levels of effort and determination. It’s to the point that people think they’re entitled to be able to have a conversation with every single cute person they pass by, regardless of context. Then throw on top of that thinking saying things like “I know right now I want to marry you” right at this point is a good idea and a sign that you’re a ~true romantic~. Ugh.

    I’ve mentioned before why I don’t like it and I’m glad it seems everybody here agrees.

    In most cases, if they wanted to still talk to you after the encounter, the person would’ve given you a way to contact them. And if your conversation somehow got cut off…get over it! It happens, and it’s life. It’s not a call to stalk that person down.

    I could think of a hypothetical “missed encounters” post that might be OK to make (only the “encountered” could identify themselves, nothing creepy, don’t post it more than once, etc.)…but a quick scan through the local one tells me that hypothetical post likely doesn’t exist.

    1. Cactus

      In certain realms of the Internet, there are a LOT of dudes who freak out if you say that they probably shouldn’t pester random women on buses and trains, because “BUT WHAT IF SHE’S THE ONE IF I DON’T TALK TO HER THEN I WILL BE FOREVERALONE!”
      I just want to say to them “if you really believe in the concept of ‘the one,’ then wouldn’t it stand to reason that the two of you would find a more appropriate venue in which to connect in the future? If you never do, she’s not ‘the one’ anyway, so stop worrying.” But those types aren’t usually fans of logic.

      1. SystemsLady

        Those are the exact type of comments I was talking about. They’re not even only justifying terrible behavior – they’re just plain wrong!

        I’ve read posts written by people who’ve tried asking the person bothering them if talking to a random person on public transmit has ever once worked for them. In every instance, the answer was no.

        1. Why does love got to be so sad?

          I’ve dated women that I’ve met in ‘random’ places like on public transport. It can work – but it requires a certain level of people skills and empathy such that one can tell – in an objective, non-self delusional way – that there’s some interest being expressed by the other person. It’s not exactly rocket-science, but also I can see how many people would have trouble with it.

      2. Kelly L.

        +1

        I just do not get these dudes’ POV! None of the long-term relationships in my life began with a stranger “meet cute” like that. There was always some reason we were in the same place. Hobby group, mutual friends, that kind of thing, has always been how I met people. And I’ve had a full romantic life with several long, serious relationships and am not particularly beautiful.

        1. Blurgle

          I honestly believe that they’re not doing it to meet cute. They’re doing it to bully and intimidate.

    2. Lizzy

      This idea goes back generations. I noticed the older men in my family (my grandfather’s generation) use to wax poetic about how they met their significant others. It was always, “I saw this cute girl on a bus and I knew the moment I laid eyes on her that she was the ‘one’ or going to be the mother of my children. I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t say anything to her.” It might seem cute when your grandfather is telling the story, but I think romanticizing it creates a lot of false hope for people. And nowadays, in the era of the Internet and mobile technology, it creates some really creepy scenarios.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Times were different then, too. Additionally because it’s a grandparent speaking we know how it played out. It does make a good story when the feeling is reciprocal.

        1. Kelly L.

          I also have this mental image of an elderly couple pretending they met on a bus when they actually met in a bar but didn’t want to admit it. ;) But I have no idea if this ever happened.

          Anyway, yeah, there’s a ton of survivorship bias there. I’m sure it works once in a while, and those are the couples who are still telling the story 60 years later, but who knows how many times it didn’t work?

          I don’t think there’s one “the one” out there for everybody; I think we all meet numerous people we could theoretically have a good relationship with. If one The One passes me in a crowd, another The One will come along later in a situation more conducive to talking.

          1. simonthegrey

            My grandmother raised me on the motto that there is no “The One” for everyone. You might meet the person you think is The One, but they’re only The One For Now, or they’re not the One yet because you need to mature. And if you miss out on the one you think’s The One, another The One will come along at a different point in your life. Basically, we are not slaves to our chemistry and our wishes.

            1. Marcela

              Ugh. My mother is a serious believer in THE ONE. She used to say my grandmother accepted her marriage to my father, because my grandma could see he was THE ONE, although they hated each other guts. It was so much with the famous ONE, and the fact that I needed to keep myself pure, because one day he would come for me, ask for my hand and marry me in a big church with a meringue dress, that I told her in the event the ONE asked for my hand, that was the only thing he was going to get. She was so grossed, hahahaha, she never talked about it again.

          2. Cactus

            That’s my view as well. I’ve dated a few guys in the past who I had great connections with but something wasn’t right in the timing or whatever–in parallel universes I’m probably married to each of them instead of my now-husband. And there are probably several other potential “ones” out there, too. I think investing so much energy into a relationship that doesn’t even exist yet is where a lot of these dudes are shooting themselves in the foot (and ladies do it too; I invested too much in random OKCupid matches back in the day).

            1. Why does love got to be so sad?

              You mention “timing”, and I think that has a lot to do with it. I probably should not generalize based on my less-than-vast experience with such things, but it seems like – in Real Life, not movies and television – there is a ‘sweet spot’ of time where, if you’re a guy who is going to ask someone out on a date, you need to ask during that time period. I think this time period begins approximately when you and the other person become aware of each other, and lasts for (maybe) three hours of accumulated time spent together.

              Which explains the classic “guy who has crush on girl who rides the same train every morning”: He sees her, is smitten, she possibly appreciates the attention … but if the guy doesn’t act on it quickly and ask her out – it just becomes an uncomfortable ‘thing’. And if the guy takes a month to finally get the nerve up to try to chat with her and ask her out, he’s probably all awkward and the girl is well past the time when she might have been open to his advances.

              1. Kelly L.

                See, and I don’t really agree with that–maybe it’s because most of my SOs have been drawn from the pool of my friends. In most cases I knew them for some time before romantic interest was expressed. Usually it turns out there was some degree of spark from the beginning, but that the timing wasn’t right (the other person or I was already coupled, or single but concentrating on other things, etc.). But we had certainly spent more than a few hours in each other’s company before asking one another out.

              2. Cactus

                I don’t know…I was speaking of “timing” more in the sense of situations like:
                1. “We’ve been friends for years and we’re super-attracted to each other but one of us just got out of a super-damaging intense 3-year relationship and the other will probably be moving across the country in less than a year, so while an STR will work, and LTR will not”
                2. “We’re both into each other, but one of us is super-busy with school stuff and only wants short term flings while the other really wants a relationship”
                3. “There’s definite attraction, but the age difference is too big for the present moment, even if it wouldn’t be in a few years, so acting on things would be wrong, and also we live too far away most of the time.”

                Basically unavoidable things that in a different universe might have worked differently somehow. I don’t really ascribe to any idea about strict timelines regarding how long I’ve known a person before asking them out/dating them becomes awkward (see #1).

    3. OP

      I think the How I Met Your Mother reference that’s on this page somewhere sums it up really well. I have actually had 3 relationships that were probably technically “meet cutes”, so I get the feeling of ‘wow… Gotta pursue that’ when it happens but second thought is ALWAYS ‘how do I signal I’m interested without being creepy’- ie recognition that this could be totally one sided. Maybe I do that automatically because I know I’m no stunner (not ugly, I like how I look but Im not extraordinary in any way) and a pretty bossy woman who identifies as a strong feminist, and apparently give off the vibes to not even think of trying anything creepy, so I don’t really get hit on and don’t expect attraction.
      But the meet cutes, ah they were good times…
      One guy I locked eyes with as we were boarding the same plane from Argentina to Australia. Didn’t sit anywhere near but I spent the Buenos Aires NZ leg thinking about him and our future babies and which country we would live in most. During the NZ stopover I ‘happened’ to head to the same shop he started looking at but would have left it at that if no dice. Luckily we got talking and spent the rest of the stopover wandering together. We dated for 9 pretty awesome months.

      Second one I kept locking eyes with in a salsa bar in Australia, same feeling. He asked me to dance later in the night, then we stuck around together. He then walked me all the way home at 2am (I live in a pretty safe area and it was only a 30min walk). We didn’t date long, better off as friends but 7 years later still close friends and dance partners.

      Third was my then-housemate’s boyfriends house party. I walked in to the party and saw this guy across the room. Apparently he said to his friends he’d just seen his future wife. We got talking later in the night and found ourselves still talking when the sun came up. Rest is history.

  27. I'm a Little Teapot

    Wow. I’m reminded of that e-mail from a while back about the student worker who was getting women’s contact info under false pretenses by claiming he needed it for some work-related reason and then sending them creepy texts at 7 AM.

    I feel bad for her, because now she’s going to get hostility from total strangers for turning him down. (“But he was soooo interested in you! Why didn’t you give him a chaaaance? You’re so cold-hearted to reject him.”) Because obviously a single woman is morally obligated to date any guy who’s interested in her regardless of her own feelings, amirite?

    (I actually used to feel that I had a moral obligation to date anyone interested in me and that I was mean to turn someone down, when I was a teenager. I didn’t express that attitude with regard to other people, but it sure messed up my social life.)

    1. Not So NewReader

      My friends were taught that if a guy asks to you dance you never say no. They were horrified when I said NO. (I did the guy a favor, trust me, dancing is not something I do well at all.) It never occurred to me that I couldn’t say no, and it never occurred to my friends they could say no. My friends and I stared at each in silence for a few minutes while we digested this.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot

        I’m wondering why the hell someone would teach a teenage girl that. What bad thing was supposed to happen if they said no?

        1. Blurgle

          They wouldn’t be nice and a boy might dislike them, which would make them the female equivalent of Stalin.

        2. Tinker

          I have gotten and still get that sort of thing from my mother. Best as I can tell, it’s a cultural thing that she seems to revert to when threatened by anxiety, that comes from growing up in a place with the following characteristics:

          — An expectation of non-exclusive casual dating up until the point of getting engaged (i.e. planning to shortly be married). In that environment, accepting an offer isn’t necessarily setting up a relationship that later has to be disentangled.
          — Offers coming entirely or mostly entirely from the male party, who is consequently taking all the overt social risk in initiating contact.
          — Substantial social and logistical (related to supporting oneself and performing many essential household functions) problems with young women remaining without a male partner very long after graduation from high school.
          — A relatively closed social environment where everyone in general knew everyone else, had done most or all of their lives, and could expect to continue to for at least the short and medium-term future.

          In that context, “too hastily” refusing an offer is something that will persist in social memory (because the now-desirable captain of the football team is the same person who was turned down as unattractive in middle school; cautionary tales abound on this point), is discouraging a person who took a social risk to deliver to you something that is a lifestyle-impacting need, and has to be balanced against the risk of not receiving future offers. (A bit like the one kinda shitty job offer after months of unemployment situation, in a sense.) Also, since accepting an offer doesn’t establish a relationship between the two parties, there isn’t seen to be a need to draw a line at that point — so you’re doing these things for no compelling reason.

          It’s a pattern of thinking, I think, that makes more sense in a different (IMHO kinda terrible) environment from the one most of us live in today.

          1. Kelly L.

            That’s a really good summary of a 50’s-ish style of dating that I haven’t seen explained as well elsewhere, thanks!

            1. TootsNYC

              Tinker makes several good points about the origin of the idea that you didn’t refuse to dance w/ someone who’d asked you.
              For one thing, dancing wasn’t necessarily sexual. A bit, but not that much, not like it is today! (When was the last time you saw a woman dance w/ a man she wasn’t mated to?) And it wasn’t considered binding in anyway.
              Also, you -could- refuse a dance with someone if you were tired and going to sit that one out. But you couldn’t then accept a dance w/ someone else for that same time period, because it was hurtful to have so casually rejected the offer.

              And that social more, of accepting a request to dance, is *way* older than the 1950s. Try 1500s, 1600s, 1800s.

              1. Kelly L.

                A little confused by this comment. Yes, I know Tinker made good points; that’s why I thanked Tinker for the great post. You sound like you’re disagreeing with me on that somehow.

                The 50s comment is about the whole of Tinker’s post and the “dating around vs. going steady” debate that was popular then, not about dancing specifically.

          2. So Very Anonymous

            That’s a really, really great summary. I think we drastically underestimate the significance of the shift away from the “non-exclusive dating up until engagement” thing. That’s one of the things you see in the anti-going-steady literature from that time period: parents worried about “going steady” not just because OH NO KIDS ARE HAVING SEX but also because they perceived that their kids wouldn’t be sufficiently aware of all the other kinds of fish in the sea when it came time to choose a spouse.

            1. Lindsay J

              I kind of wish we would go back to that style of dating/courtship. It seems like now there is so much pressure to be committed/serious so quick.

              My guy-friend (I use this in lieu of boyfriend as we have never had that talk) have been dating for a little over a year now. And it seems like after a couple weeks to a month everyone wanted to know if we were exclusive, if we were serious, if we’re committed, etc.

              And now after a year people look at me like I have three heads when I say that we go on a date every week or so and that we’re romantically involved but not “serious” (whatever that means).

              I don’t have time for a relationship that involves more than that at the moment (and neither does he!) We both work a lot, and have outside interests to pursue that take up some of our time. And, honestly, I was in long-term relationships from the age of 17-28 pretty much straight (and I know being 29 would likely mean I was either married off or considered a spinster back in the day) I need some time to be an adult woman by myself without being partnered up. And having been in LTRs that were serious after a year, I prefer this. We’re comfortable with each other, but we still go on dates – we dress nicely, we find things to do together, we talk to each other, we mostly put our phones away while we’re around each other. And we’re still learning about each other and finding out things – it feels like there’s still a lot more area for our relationship to progress even before progressing to moving in, engagement, marriage, all that.

              And honestly, I don’t think I would have stayed in former relationships for so long if casual dating was more of a thing. I think a lot of the time I went with the first person who would have me, regardless of how they treated me, because I was just so worried about having anyone at all. And once you’re in a “relationship” it seems like you follow the prescribed track unless something happens to block the path. Breaking up with someone after the first month because, “Well, I want to see how things go with this guy,” is frowned upon.

              When I went into dating again after my breakup I decided I wasn’t going to pursue anything “serious” for at least a year, and entered the dating pool with the intention of just that, dating. And seeing how things go from there. But it seems like there’s not a lot of people who are into that anymore. There are people who are into hooking up or friends with benefits, which is all the casualness with none of the romanticness, or looking for relationships where the expectation is pretty much you’ll go on 3-6 dates at most and be in a relationship and exclusive (if the expectation isn’t that you’ll be in a relationship and exclusive after the first date or even as soon as you start talking).

          3. Collarbone High

            This post is profound and eloquent, Tinker. Thank you! It helps me to understand my mom a bit better. She definitely raised me with the “never say no to a boy” mentality, and I resent it, but looking through this lens you’ve provided, I’m guessing a huge part of that was the “risk of not receiving future offers” (my mom was shy and awkward, did not go on a date until she was 22, and married that man) coupled with the logistical difficulties of being a single adult woman. She grew up in a world where a woman couldn’t get a bank loan, and she still seems a bit surprised when I do something like buy a car that would have been impossible without a husband a few decades ago.

            1. Jean

              “She grew up in a world where a woman couldn’t get a bank loan, and she still seems a bit surprised when I do something like buy a car that would have been impossible without a husband a few decades ago.”

              Only forty years ago (well within my own lifetime, and I’m not yet 55)! When I was 18 I volunteered for my state Equal Rights Amendment coalition. The many arguments in favor of the ERA included the sorry examples of states in which a man could sell the house out from under his wife without her consent. (Yes, I said “man and wife” not “husband and wife” deliberately. That was part of the mindset of the times.)

              One of the slogans of that era was the saying “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”

              Funny how so many places and subcultures still haven’t read this memo.

      2. Three Thousand

        And if he asks you to have sex with him, you never say yes. That’s how he’ll know you’re “worth it.”

  28. MegEB

    As a single woman who has, on occasion, been asked out on a date, I can absolutely assure you that if I wanted some guy at a party to have my contact info, he would have it. I don’t need my roommate’s coworkers passing out my phone number to any eligible bachelor who asks for it.

    I’m willing to cut the guy a break because well, some people are hopeless romantics and maybe he watched a few too many 90’s rom-coms and doesn’t understand that badgering women until they give in out of sheer exasperation is not the same thing as ~*~romance~*~. I’m not so willing to cut that same slack to the numerous people who gave out this poor woman’s information.

    1. some1

      “As a single woman who has, on occasion, been asked out on a date, I can absolutely assure you that if I wanted some guy at a party to have my contact info, he would have it.”

      Cosigned.

      Or…if he left or I had to leave before I could get his contact info, I’d do some recon by asking friends from the party about him or sending him a FB friend request.

  29. TheLazyB

    So did anyone else skim the title and think it was a meeting date? Just me?

    … I’ll get me coat.

  30. Erin

    My first thought was – how romantic!

    In the book He’s Just Not That Into You author Greg Behrendt talks about a girl he met who he liked, and asked for her number. She said something like, guys ask for my number all the time and don’t call, if you really want it, you can find it. This being before cell phones, he looked up her name in the phone book, saw there was 13 or something people with her name. He called every single one until he got the right girl.

    This story initially made me think of that, but then I clicked on one of the articles that says he sent it to *7,000 people*.

    Whoa. Just, no.

      1. Hotstreak

        No, stalking would be calling the same person over and over. This woman wanted him to prove his interest, in a unique way. By not giving her number she wqs protecting herself from the rejection of not being called.

        1. Lindsay J

          I don’t think it’s stalking. But I don’t think it’s romantic at all. I think it’s stupid game-playing. If you like a guy, give him your number. If you don’t, don’t give it to him. Don’t make him prove his worth by sending him on a quest to search the phone book for your contact info.

          Make him prove his interest (and prove that he’s interesting to you) if you’re interested by spending time with him and seeing how he talks to you and treats you.

          If you can’t stand the rejection of giving your number and not being called, then I don’t know what the solution is. Probably not dating until you build up your self-esteem.

          (All of the ‘yous’ refer to the person in the situation, not you specifically Hotstreak. I kind of wound up ranting about this here, but it’s not directed at you specifically.)

  31. voyager1

    Boy, must be Wednesday… For all the umm man hating and stereotyping I have seen on the blog today… The flip side to creepy guy asking you out is pyscho-ex girlfriend/wife. Just saying :)

    Meeting women is pretty easy really. Don’t do or say anything stupid. And if she says no to you, take it like a gentleman and leave her alone. That is the advices father gave me a long time ago… Don’t understand how hard that is, maybe society is filled with boys instead of men.

      1. voyager1

        The blog post about going to a company retreat in a shared house. I really had to sit my hands on that one.

        1. Marcela

          It’s not man hating. Ask your mother, wife or daughter when was the last time they went alone, outside, after dark, without worries. When they parked the car in a unknown place at night without making mental notes about the lights, cameras, guards or the fastest way to get from the door to the car. Or when in a deserted parking lot, they didn’t carefully look around to be aware of any other person.

          It’s never far away from our minds that we have to be careful. If you do not experience it, good for you: it’s not something I enjoy. It’s not that we are thinking “every man is a rapist”, no, so there is no man hating. But I only need one attacker in the same place as me to have my life destroyed. It’s very possible I’ll recover my life, but the attack is never the end of the nightmare. We are judged, asked why we thought “that” was something safe to do, why we dressed like that, many times our past is scrutinized. We are told it’s our fault. Won’t you pay attention to the smallest details and behave with the most caution if you were told that if you are attacked, you could have prevented it, just behaving in a different way?

          1. Catherine in Canada

            This. In a sexual assault only one person gets a life sentence. And it ain’t the perpetrator.

          2. MegEB

            +1 This. A lone woman feeling nervous about sharing a house with several other men for an entire weekend is not “man-hating”, that’s called feeling vulnerable. Good lord.

        2. Panda Bandit

          That wasn’t man-hating. That was a bunch of people explaining why they would feel comfortable or uncomfortable in the OP’s situation. There was also one person complaining about a yucky boss.

          I don’t know how long you’ve been reading this blog, but it’s been very clear to me that Alison is fair and impartial. She does read every comment and she definitely doesn’t favor any gender over another.

    1. Kiwi

      Psycho ex girlfriend. Just saying :). Like a gentleman. Boys instead of men.

      Ladies, we have all the info we need here.

  32. FiveByFive

    The email is wildly inappropriate and it should not have been sent.

    However, it can happen that chance encounters can become missed opportunities.

    One afternoon I introduced myself to a girl. We could only talk for a few minutes, but she was really nice and I felt like we really connected. She wrote down her phone number for me. I was really excited over this. Later when I called her, I was told I dialed a wrong number. It really hurt. I admit I tried the number again a few times over the next few days, but with the same result. I was really confused as to how I was so wrong that I felt a connection, and that this sweet girl felt she needed to give me a fake number.

    By chance I happened to meet her again a couple months later (at the same place). I (very cautiously and politely, mind you) approached her, and the first words were hers – asking (politely) why I never called her.

    It turned out one of the digits she wrote down – a 4, looked like a 9.

    We ended up dating for quite a while. And while we eventually went our own ways, I really liked her, and I am very happy that our relationship was able to end on its own terms, rather than always wondering why I was wrong about that connection with that wonderful girl. Thank goodness we happened to meet again.

    1. Lindsay J

      I felt bad. I chatted with a guy off of Craigslist (yeah, I know, lol) for awhile via email. I then suggested he add me on Facebook.

      I never got the friend request or a message, so I figured he saw my picture and decided he wasn’t interested or something.

      Several months later I saw my “other” inbox on Facebook. And I had a message from him. Two messages, actually. The first was saying that he tried to add me, but my privacy settings made it so he couldn’t (I had forgotten that I had set it so only friends of friends or something like that could send me requests) and telling me to add him instead.

      The second was a week later, apologizing if he had inadvertently offended me in some way since I seemed to have gone cold on him with no explanation.

      I messaged him back apologizing and explaining what had happened, but as it was months later I had moved etc.

  33. A Thousand Times No

    No, no, a thousand times no!

    Having ex try to chase you before you got to the dorm security door
    Threatening, angry ex-boyfriend showing up at dorm and having guard buzz room for hours on end.
    Hiding on another floor but away from the windows the entire night.
    Having ex show up to your house.
    Having ex show up at your job.

    Having a different guy with no connection to the first one check the actual phone book (pre-internet) to get the phone number for your dorm just to talk to you.
    Having other guy show up at your place of business making a scene

    Having been threatened, sexually violated, and having co-workers ask what happened to the ex who seemed so nice.
    Not having Facebook or a website or any kind of online presence for years for fear of being stalked.

    I believe that if it wasn’t for people with specific training not to give out such information, I would not be alive today. Don’t share information without asking first. It isn’t cute. It isn’t funny. You could literally be sending someone to their death.

  34. Gillie

    The weird thing for me is that Canberra is a pretty small town. He could have run into her again at another party or something and struck a conversation like a normal person. So on top of being creepy, presumptuous and all the things that every one else has pointed out, it wasn’t even necessary!

    1. AW

      Excellent point. That they met at a party implies that either have friends or interests in common. Even if finding the co-worker who was her roommate was necessary, he could have just asked around about who else went to the party instead of sending an email blast to 1000s of people.

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