my older male coworker is obsessed with my weight and baby plans

A reader writes:

I am a 30something newlywed woman and have been at my current job for just over a year and a half. Prior to accepting my job, my health took a devastating blow and I learned that I had a very rare genetic disorder and had two baseball size tumors in my digestive tract. I underwent two massive surgeries to remove those tumors (both having pre-cancerous cells present) and ended up losing a foot of my colon and my entire stomach. As a result of the gastrectomy, I lost a significant amount of weight over the course of my first few months at the new job.

Despite my being very transparent and open about my genetic disorder and chronic illnesses and their effects on my body, one of my much older male coworkers, “Gary,” began to obsess over my weight loss in terms of my upcoming wedding and encouraged me to try harder to lose even more weight. I thought maybe once our big day passed, this coworker would stop trying to be “helpful” or “motivational.”

My wedding day came and went, and upon my return from my honeymoon, Gary immediately began demanding to know when my husband and I would start trying for a family since I’m “older and don’t have time to waste.” Thinking I could cut off this behavior, I was very transparent that we were unsure if having a biological child is an option for us and that I would appreciate it if he did not inquire about that after the conversation.

Fast forward to the holidays and now quarantine, and I’ve slowly been able to gain a bit of weight and get back into a zone that my doctors are pleased with. Gary has been coming in a few days here and there to help with some special one-off projects. When he bumps into me (at least twice a month), he repeatedly comments on my weight gain and asks if I’m sure I’m not pregnant. Trying once more to head off the conversation, I tried to remind him of our previous conversations about our uncertainty surrounding the safety of pregnancy on my body. He said he was only asking because he was “certain” that my husband and I “had a quarantine whoopsie.” I said I did not feel comfortable continuing the conversation.

He has also recently commented on my lunches more than one time saying that my portion sizes are slipping and that I should “watch it.”

I am planning to talk to my manager about the situation, especially as my husband and I have elected for me to have a hysterectomy to help alleviate other chronic symptoms I’ve been having. We really wanted to have biological children of our own and are still struggling with the fact that they aren’t in the cards for us (we are looking to adopt/foster and are excited about those options). How do I frame the conversation as something like “I know he thinks he’s helping, but the comments are already unnecessary and unhelpful plus honestly, hurtful. And with this impending surgery I’m getting to the point where I want to hide from him when he’s in the office altogether because I don’t want to hear his thoughts/nagging on this big, extremely private decision.” I also want to make sure my manager understands that this coworker and I have never in a year and half of semi-regular contact had a conversation in which he did not mention my weight, body, or pregnancy.

I am frankly concerned that my manager will write off my complaint (as he has with previous feedback from my peers about this employee) and chalk it up to a “cultural difference” because he’s so many times my senior and he simply doesn’t know what’s appropriate for the modern workplace. Additionally, my manager has countered previous complaints against my coworker with the fact he’s is a good Christian Southern man, and that’s where he’s coming from and we should be more forgiving/lenient.

What the actual F, Gary? In what world is repeatedly commenting on a woman’s body, weight, and reproductive plans reasonable or acceptable?

Oh right, this one. But though people do often feel women’s bodies are up for public comment, Gary has gone way, way beyond even in the normal intrusions. He’s practically obsessing about your body and your uterus, and it’s gross and boundary-violating and not in any way okay.

Given what you said about your manager, I’m not sure he’s going to put a stop to this. If his response to other complaints about Gary has been that he’s a “good Christian Southern man” (?!) and you should be more forgiving (?!), I think you’d need to word this in exactly the right, supplicating way for your manager to take any action — and even then I’m not sure he would. It sounds likely that he’ll tell you Gary is just expressing concern about you and you should be more lenient (which is disgusting).

I think you’re more likely to get the result you want — which is for Gary to shut the hell up — by addressing it directly with him yourself, and then bringing in HR if that doesn’t work.

Up until now, it sounds like you’ve taken a pretty soft approach with Gary. While you’re in no way to blame for his rudeness, you’ve given him a lot more information than he’s entitled to — and it’s possible that’s been reinforcing for him that these are topics he gets to talk about with you. Starting today, give Gary absolutely no information about your health, your family planning, your concerns about pregnancy’s safety for you, or anything else you don’t want him thinking about or talking about. I think you’ve been sharing some details in an attempt to explain why you don’t want to have these conversations — but it’s giving him more openings to continue opining. So effective immediately, he gets zero information or context. (The same should go for anyone at work, really. No one is entitled to those explanations.)

The next time Gary makes a comment about your body, your reproductive plans, or your sex life (!), say this: “Maybe I haven’t been clear enough in the past, so I want to be very clear now: I do not want to discuss my body or my family planning with you, nor do I want to hear your opinions on those things. They are private and they are off-limits to any discussion at work. Please do not bring them up again.”

If he does it again after that, say this: “It’s really weird that you keep talking about my body after I’ve told you to stop. If this happens again, I won’t have any choice but to make a complaint with HR. I hope you won’t make that necessary.” (Make a point of using the words “talking about my body” — that language highlights how creepy he’s being, and he probably won’t like being portrayed that way.)

And then do take this to HR. What Gary is doing is getting into harassment territory, and you should frame it for HR that way. Tell them you’ve clearly told him to stop multiple times, and he’s continuing to harass you about your body and your sex life.

Also, you wrote that you wanted to frame the conversation as “I know he thinks he’s helping, but…” Please don’t try to do that. It doesn’t matter if he thinks he’s helping — what he’s doing is creepy and disgusting, and you shouldn’t soften that or downplay it or offer excuses for him. You’ve told him to stop, he’s not stopping, and you don’t need to parse out whether or not he means well. You just need him to stop, and that’s what your message should be.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 610 comments… read them below }

  1. Rusty Shackelford*

    What the actual F, indeed.

    You’ve been way too soft on this guy, and you’re going to have to be tough with him now. Like Alison said, don’t tell ANYONE – Gary or your boss or HR – that you “know he’s trying to be helpful.” Because a, he’s not. And b, it doesn’t matter. He’s being legitimately AWFUL.

    1. MissGirl*

      Once you ask him to stop, he’s probably going to act all blustery and say he was just trying to be helpful, friendly, or offer some other excuse. Simply reply, “It doesn’t matter why; it needs to stop.” Then end the conversation and walk away.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        “But it’s not helpful, or appropriate, and that’s why it needs to stop.” Not “please stop,” just “stop.”

        1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

          Rusty is right. You’re past the nice stage now, you’ve asked him nicely twice. From here on out you need to be ICE COLD with Gary. Direct is the way to go here, no pleasantries or softeners.

          1. many bells down*

            Tell him to stop once, and then just stare at him in silence while he blusters. I’ve found direct, silent eye contact is incredibly effective (it’s uncomfortable to DO but very effective). Bonus, he can’t claim you’re “getting hysterical about nothing” if you’re silent!

            1. SunnySideUp*

              Too true!

              It’s so hard to learn to be silent, but once I did …. I was able to manage things much more to my own advantage.

            2. Kristine*

              That accidentally worked for me when I was asked at work if I was “expecting,” and the issue is so far off my radar I waited for my coworker to finish her question! (Expecting what?) Then the slow dawn on my face told her everything she needed to know, and she wrote me an apology card.
              I’ve pulled it intentionally since, and this works great with “good Christian” natalists who soon labeled me as a Lost Cause (and I am) and stopped after asking once.

            3. Dasein9*

              Yeah, it’s uncomfortable, especially for those of us raised to ease others’ discomfort.

              What I find helpful is slowly tapping one big toe while retaining eye contact, and counting the taps. If you’re wearing close-toed shoes, nobody can see this and you will come across as a cool customer even if you don’t feel like one.

            4. Elm*

              Silent stares are freaking miracles! Especially if you’re like me and don’t make a ton of eye contact in general. Freaks people out.

              If they’re throwing a tantrum while you make eye contact and then demand to know what you have to say, “are you done?” is a fun answer. They either are not, in fact, done and are drawing attention to themselves by this point or walk away and sulk.

      2. em*

        The nice thing is that people who genuinely think they’re helping will be embarrassed to realize they weren’t, and will appreciate knowing they should stop. If he says he was being friendly/helpful/supportive, you can cheerfully say “great, thanks for listening to me!” as if OF COURSE he will understand that being helpful to you means doing as you ask

      3. AKchic*

        Exactly. They *always* say they are trying to be helpful. Why they think they are being “helpful” in any shape, way or form is beyond the collective they think they are helping. Not a single representative of the collective has actually been helped by the troll-concern and faux solicitousness of such unwanted “help”.

        The only person such “help” actually helps is the person doling out the “help”. It makes them feel in control, necessary, authoritative, with a modicum of power, and when the victim of their ministrations gives them information – someone with nuggets of knowledge that other people may not have.
        Gary does this for his own benefit(s), whatever they are. He gets to act like a paternal jackass (oh, I bet he tells people that he is like a father figure to you) and pseudo-mentor, all while doling out BS “advice” you never asked for and certainly don’t want or need.

        The fact that he’s been described as a “good Christian Southern man” kind of gives me an accurate description of him in general. Be very firm and set hard boundaries. He gets no information about you, your life, or anything. He gets less information than the creepy guy at the bar trying to hit on you. Gary’s aim is to push you out and ensure you are at home, raising children, where he thinks you belong. He thinks he’s being subtle. He’s trying to figure out how much longer he has to wait for your job duties/tasks, and if he can nudge you in the (his idea of) right direction.

        Please let HR know what has been happening already, so they will be aware that you are going to be more direct in shutting it down, because Gary will be the type to make noise when you *do* get more direct.
        Also, document every single conversation you can remember, and start documenting every conversation from here on out. If you want to be slightly malicious, send Gary notes of every conversation and highlight where he has mentioned your weight or plans for children. I.e., “Following up on conversation by the water cooler at 11:23 am on 8/5 this morning. We discussed the Perkins file and you mentioned that when I get pregnant, you’d like me to give you the file to work on. I told you again that this is an unwanted discussion about my body and reproductive plans.”

        1. MerciMe*

          Seconding “tell HR first so they can back you up” and hopefully also bring your manager into line to support you.

          Control your narrative. Don’t give dude the opportunity to complain first – make sure HR knows what you’re experiencing and be sure to mention that he has a pattern of complaints against him that are consistently being brushed off by your manager.

          1. MerciMe*

            Meant to say – the risk in letting him complain first is that he gets to set the boundaries of the conversation, putting you on the defensive, which means it will be much harder to bring up your own issues with him because it will look “retaliatory.” And in my experience, it can be really hard to get people to change their initial impressions in these situations, even if they think they’re being fair and listening to both sides.

          2. Radioactive Radish*

            On controlling your narrative, I often shut baby mania down by saying something like “Why are you so concerned about my reproductive organs? That’s incredibly creepy. I don’t hear you asking Wanda in accounts how her urinary tract is doing, or Wakeen in Teapots about his prostate. It needs to stop.”
            Framing it as organs and body parts rather than starting a family can be a good way to shock invasive jerks and ineffective managers into realizing this isn’t okay.

            1. CV*

              “Are you asking if I’m having unprotected sex recently?” <– said incredulously

              well, maybe not, but really. What do you expect, GARY.

              1. Lexi*

                And feel free to refer to him as a “work acquaintance” since he is NOT a friend or family member even though he is acting like he is.

                1. I can only speak Japanese*

                  My friends don’t ask questions like that, and while some of my family members do, they end up on my no contact list if they keep it up.

              2. DyneinWalking*

                Or turn it back:
                “Oh, let’s stop with just talking about me! How is YOUR sex life? How often are you having unprotected sex? Any issues with getting “it” up? When was you last visit to the urologist? I hope your prostate is in good shape overall!”

                1. fogharty*

                  Please don’t do this. You give Gary something to a) complain about to HR “LW is harrassing me!” or it shows that b) LW is peachy fine with inappropriate comments.

            2. Arts Akimbo*

              Yes, this is a moment in which loudly proclaiming “Why are you so obsessed with me?” is completely appropriate!

              1. I Need That Pen*

                And hopefully at a time when everyone is head’s down in the cubicles, not expecting it.
                Never has a, “I’ve asked you to stop this and you haven’t, so I’m afraid you’ve just bought yourself a sit down with HR,” been more appropriate.

                I remember early on when I was first married and working, some manager said something along the lines of, “Well it’s just a matter of time before the pregnancy and the kids come along.” With the underlying sigh of, “Great gonna have to start looking for candidates.” It never happened and for several years after I’d get the most surprised stare from him every time I showed up for work. He would often ask about my family plans and what not and never liked the answer I gave him. I waved from the window the day he was fired.

            3. Marzipan Shepherdess*

              This is perfect! And no, I’m sure he’s NOT asking his male colleagues about the condition or activities of their penises and prostates! (Probably because he knows he’d be picking himself up off the floor and nursing a black eye if he did ;).

              But seriously, the advice here is great: tell him in no uncertain terms that your body is off. the . table. as far as discussions go from now on and do NOT tell him that you understand that he was just trying to be helpful. That just gives him an opening to frame this as a “misunderstanding” (a weasel-word that’s wildly overused these days) and to turn this around to blame YOU for being ungrateful and ungracious. You’re neither, so don’t give him any excuse to say that you are.

              And yes, document this conversation and any subsequent inappropriate comments of his from now on; be as specific as you can (date, time, location and direct quotations) and do so as soon after the interaction as you can (contemporaneous records are more likely to be accurate.) If he won’t stop after you talk with him and your manager won’t address this, then go to HR. That’s when the very specific documentation will come in handy!

              Meanwhile, do NOT give him any more medical information, refuse to engage in any more discussions about your body and do NOT accept his being an old-school Southern Christian gentleman (WTH?!) as an excuse for inexcusable rudeness. Whatever his age, if he’s able to work he’s able to learn – and the sooner he learns that his behavior is unacceptable the better!

        2. Hills to Die on*

          In the defense of good, Christian Southern men: they are not Garys. I have friends who are good Christian Southern men and they would never (not would they want to, thank you) obsess on your body, your weight, your family planning, or anything else about you that is as invasive as what Gary is doing.
          (Note: I am so have friends who are Yankees, atheist, agnostic, etc. and they would not do this either. It’s an Insensitive Boor thing, not a regional, religious, or gendered thing).

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            The problem isn’t men who happen to be Christian, southern, good, or any combination of the above. It’s bosses (and other people) who believe that anybody who is classified as these things has rights over those who are *not* Christian, southern or male.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Right, and I think that’s what AKchic was getting at, Hill to Die On. It’s not that Gary is or isn’t a good, Christian Southern man or that all GCSMs are good/bad. I didn’t read their comment that way.

              It’s that the term is code for a specific sort of person (many of whom I grew up with). Any time I heard someone described that way, it was code for someone like Gary, a way to excuse bad behavior. The actual good, Christian Southern men in my life don’t typically need that official title/description to be seen as such. They just are. So if someone is described that way, in my head, I assume they are a Gary.

            1. Hills to Die on*

              Actually, no, I am doing it today because of this comment above:
              The fact that he’s been described as a “good Christian Southern man” kind of gives me an accurate description of him in general.
              So, we can stop making generalizations if you’d like though. Any questions, please ask.

              1. Legal Beagle*

                Gross. You can disagree with someone’s wording without doing “not all men” and “I have nice Christian Southern male friends.” These are classic derailing tactics that do nothing to help OP or address the problem.

                1. Hills to Die on*

                  Gross? Really? By calling out generalizations of people based on where they live and their gender? Okay, sure. I also didn’t say ‘not all men’ so go back and re-read it.
                  Maybe you and others choosing to make it an issue is more derailing.

                2. Legal Beagle*

                  Except you didn’t “call out” a generalization. You said “I have friends who are good Christian Southern men and they would never” do this. That’s…exactly what “not all men” is. You don’t have to use the exact words in order to be utilizing the rhetorical tactic.

                3. But There is a Me in Team*

                  Respectfully, LB, people get to say what their experience has been. It’s how we form our opinions and the advice we offer other readers. “Derailing” has turned into code for “I disagree so I don’t want to hear it.” I’m not saying that’s how you intended it, but you should be aware it’s veered from it’s inclusive origins and is now often being used to shut down moderate/centrist viewpoints.

              2. Perpal*

                There are men who are christian and live in the south / from the south, and then there is the Good Christian Southern Man. These are different things. I get that you are trying to say that being a Good Christian doesn’t actually mean doing these gross things to women. Hopefully everyone can just roll on and understand that we’re talking about a… certain flavor of bigotry; and yes of course not all people who share other demographics of the bigot share the bigotry.

              3. whingedrinking*

                Except it isn’t a generalization of men who are from the South and are Christian.
                There are certain phrases used in certain ways that tell you something about the person uttering them. Someone who says “the couple that just moved in down the street is gay” in hushed tones and raises their eyebrows at you? Is maybe a little on the homophobic side. Someone who calls another person a “Southern gentleman” or a “good Christian”, especially in combination and when defending someone from accusations of wrongdoing? Well, at the very least, they probably wouldn’t use the word “woke” in conversation unless they were actually talking about regaining consciousness.
                By extension, it says something about the kind of person being described. Like…this coworker is probably white. Men who aren’t white don’t tend to get the “Southern gentleman” label from people who use the label “Southern gentleman”.

          2. Hills to Die on*

            My point is this: this is inappropriate behavior, not to attributed to others in the name of ‘goodness‘. It IS directly pertinent to the discussion, and anyone who wants to turn it into a so-called derailing tactic is free to do so without my participation.
            Have a good day, folks.

            1. TRexx*

              Wow, yeah. I’m on the hill with you. The “accurate description” would be his behavior toward OP… not his religious or regional background.

              OP- definitely go to your HR, I would skip the manager based on their past record of handling other similar situations. I would even document in writing to him after telling him firmly to stop next time, by sending a brief email reiterating your request to stop his comments towards you. That they are unwelcome. You can take this email to HR next time he brings something up again.

              1. Artemesia*

                You worked in the south? I have and the fact that his behavior is being dismissed by his own boss as due to him being a Christian southern gentleman makes region and religion relevant. I have lived with this crap through. my whole career and a lot of misogyny is papered over in the south because of ‘culture’ and ‘religious values’ and ‘just the way he is/ Christian gentleman’ and so ‘he means well’ — uh huh

                1. TRexx*

                  Disagree, from experience yes. Generalizing à population because of religion etc is a slippery slope. Professional objective managers look at behavior of people, not their protected class to justify some preconceived notion. Terrible coworkers and managers exist in every religion and region. Obviously the OPs boss is not a great manager, which is why I had suggested they go to HR directly.

            2. Frenchie*

              I believe the inept manager described him as a Good Southern Christian. And, living in the South, I have met all types. Yes, some of the older ones are rude this way. They assume they have the right to comment on women’s bodies, their reproduction, etc etc

          3. Librarian1*

            Can we please, PLEASE stop using the phrase “good Christian?” It implies that people who aren’t Christian aren’t good and it’s so frickin’ offensive.

            1. Artemesia*

              that is the whole point of using it — used in this context it is an excuse for bad behavior — no one is suggesting the people described this way are good or that those who are not Christian are not good. This is how it is in the US south where these attitudes are baked in and commonly met even in people who seem to me to be far too young to be this hidebound.

              1. Librarian1*

                Yes, I get the context of it in this instance, but people use the phrase good Christian all the time as a way to show that someone has good morals or whatever. And those people actually do mean that being a Christian makes you better than someone who isn’t Christian.

                But, frankly, even when it’s used to excuse bad behavior it actually IS implying that non-Christians aren’t good (they wouldn’t let a non-Christian get away with this behavior) because the argument is that being a Christian makes someone good regardless of their behavior, which also means that people who have good behavior aren’t good, or aren’t equally good, because they aren’t Christian. It’s still implied in this situation.

                1. MangoIsNotForYou*

                  It’s a “Good Christian Southern Man” with an eyeroll. Any time I hear someone described as a “good Christian” by someone I’m relatively politically aligned with, I know that they’re describing someone who’s dreadful but hiding it behind a mask of assumed “goodness” by virtue of being a Christian.

        3. Artemesia*

          Absolutely. Never warn someone you will go to HR if X doesn’t stop; that gives them a heads up to poison the well. Go to HR now and explain the situation and you are going to have ANOTHER conversation to insist he stop, but if that doesn’t work you will be making a formal complaint. And ask their advice (which is the pretext for a preemptive visit on this). Don’t let him get there first with his Christian concern.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            This whole discussion is bringing memories of being a young woman in a fundamentalist area.
            What it comes down to is this: To people who think this way, “Good Christian Men” get away with anything, and anyone who tries to stand up to that gets shut down and often punished too.
            OP, you don’t say if you live in an area where your boss’ attitude towards the Gary type is common. Especially if it is, do whatever you can to forestall Gary’s defense. Go to HR now and tell them what’s going on with detailed examples and documentation, if you have it. Warn Gary once, and if he continues, file a complaint. If you do live in an area/culture that supports this discrimination, maybe consult a lawyer too.
            Good luck!

        4. selena*

          Gary sounds like ‘a good southern christian’ who takes out his frustrations over a stalled career by presenting himself as ‘the wise mentor of the team, the person who keeps everyone together, the person who knows all the gossip’.
          Probably sees any complaint OP makes about him as ‘rebellious sex-crazy daughter needs to be put in her place’. (Creeps always project their own obsession with sex on others)

        5. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Just the f**ing GALL of telling a woman that you know their body better than they do. I bet you anything he is going around the office telling anyone he can pin down that you’re pregnant and you haven’t realized it yet and then talking to them about what your body looks like. I… just… flames on the side of my face!!!!

          When you talk to him, don’t smile. Don’t try to soften it. It will be hard – I am non-confrontational and I get that, but just think hard about something that really makes you mad (politics, how game of thrones ended, people who put their feet on seats in the subway) and tell him with a dead, angry face. Drive it home.

      4. MsClaw*

        I think Allyson’s script is very good, except I would leave out the ‘please’. It’s not really a request. And document, document, document.

        I never had to deal with anything this invasive, but I once had an older male coworker who kept talking about a project we were working on together, and how I should be thinking about it ‘even while in [my] bath’. After like the third time of this incredibly weird comment, I said very firmly ‘this needs to be the last time you talk about me in the bath’. Some people thought I was overreacting or misinterpreting. But that’s creepy af, I don’t care what he ‘meant by’ it. I sure as hell didn’t hear him saying the same thing to male colleagues. That approach was not soft, but it worked.

        I would also generally encourage all people, regardless of age and gender to not ever discuss your childbearing plans or lack thereof at work. Unless you are actually going on family leave in 4-5 months, it’s no one’s business. I’d highly recommend a shrug, a casual ‘we’ll see’, or a cold ‘you’ll be the first to know’ regardless of whether your plan is to have zero babies or 8.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          “I would also generally encourage all people, regardless of age and gender…”

          Yes. As a man of a certain age myself, I’d kind of appreciate it if the word “older” were purged from this entire discussion. Gary’s behavior is creepy and WTF-level inappropriate whether he’s 81 or 18.

          There may be reasons why an older man may think he’s entitled to comment on a younger woman’s body but his age is entirely irrelevant to whether he should.

          1. Littorally*

            “Older” matters in this case since his age is being used as a (gross) excuse by his boss. It makes no difference to his level of creepiness but it’s something that’s being used to defend him.

            1. Cheshire Cat*

              As a woman off a certain age, I get so tired of a person’s age being used to dismiss bad behavior. Unless Gary is in his 80s or has been living in a cave, he should already know that discussing women’s bodies is off-limits.

        2. JSPA*

          “I need you to stop talking about X, Y and Z right now, and never bring it up again. Can you do that?”

          Yes, I get that this is manager language, and you’re using it to someone higher on the pecking order. But while you’re not the boss in the workplace, you are, and you always remain, the boss of “conversation about my body and my sex life, and whether it’s OK.”

          Use the boss language.

        3. Wandering Scot*

          ‘Kindly’ rather than ‘please’ is useful for deadly politeness.

          And ‘inappropriate’ is always a useful word.

      5. JSPA*

        “If that’s what you were trying, you were failing.”

        This is classic captain awkward. If he found out he was standing on your foot accidentally, would he get off your foot and apologize, or would he try to blame you for having your foot there, for not telling him sooner, for telling him at a bad moment, and more generally, for making him feel bad? Once you let him know that this isn’t banter, and it’s a violation to continue, if he does anything but accept it, go away, and maybe send a real apology (not a creepy non-apology about not realizing how sensitive you are!) you go to HR. And if that doesn’t work, you make it a harassment lawsuit.

      6. Ellen N.*

        “You’ve been way too soft on this guy, and you’re going to have to be tough with him now.”

        This comment is victim blaming. Gary isn’t a creep because the original poster hasn’t used the correct words and/or tone of voice to tell him to stop; he’s a creep because he’s a creep.

        The original poster doesn’t have any responsibility to tell Gary in a specific way, or at all, to stop sexually harassing her. Gary shouldn’t have commented on her body, her sex life and/or her pregnancy plans. Gary’s boss has the legal and moral responsibility to warn Gary the first time then fire him if it happened again. If I were the original poster I would be consulting a labor attorney.

        1. JSPA*

          I would also consult a labor attorney; but the first question that the attorney will ask, and that any tribunal will ask, is, “did you tell him, or did you tell someone with authority over him, in unmistakable language, that the comments were unwelcome, and had to stop?”.

          Asking questions about pregnancy and diet are rude, but they are not automatically considered harassment, nor discrimination, unless the person making them is let to know, in unmistakable terms, that they are “unwanted.”

          She either has to tell Gary or tell Gary’s boss precisely that, and make it clear that this is a violation to be dealt with summarily, not merely a social awkwardness to be negotiated.

          1. Ellen N.*

            It’s possible that offering opinions on coworkers’ diet and pregnancy plans aren’t considered harassment. I’m pretty sure that speculating on their sex life is.

            The original poster said that she unequivocally told Gary to stop asking about her pregnancy plans.

            “Thinking I could cut off this behavior, I was very transparent that we were unsure if having a biological child is an option for us and that I would appreciate it if he did not inquire about that after the conversation.”

            The point I was trying to make is that many commenters here are blaming the victim. They are saying that she didn’t use the exact right language or tone of voice to shut Gary down. This is not only gaslighting; it is a pernicious type of sexism.

      7. Another Professor*

        Yep. Was harassed by a colleague in my first year as an assistant professor of religion in my 20s. My colleague (in his 50s at the time) was obsessed with my “biological clock.” When I made an HR complaint after a whole litany of things I won’t recount here, his defense was that he was being “pastoral.” And I got to watch my university give him tenure the next year after placing me under a gag order at the risk of being seen as retaliatory. I finally am fully promoted (after getting tenured myself a few years ago), but it was traumatic. I hope OP’s HR is better than mine. It was made clear to me that my HR director both understood my situation but was mostly powerless to help me. If you think you know which university this might be—I promise you you don’t. This happens to women working at religious institutions all. the. time.

    2. BeeKeen*

      Agreed, Rusty! I also think OP should stop talking to him about anything medical or pregnancy related. This only seems to add fuel to his fire.

      1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

        Anything pregnancy related especially – shocked loud voice, “Gary, are you .. asking me about my sex life????”

        Loud voice because embarrassment is better when distributed! get EVERYONE staring at him, especially given that he’s apparently a concern-troll that wants to creep at everyone.

        “What is your obsession with my body? You’re creeping me out here!” Put it all on him with a righteous horror! (I know, easier said than done, but just imagine me jumping up and down with pompoms cheering you on when you do! Because holy GODS do we not need people doing this!)

        1. LivingWithTheNightmareofGary*

          Okay, I’m the LW, and I am DYING LAUGHING at the “are you asking about my sex life?” I definitely can do it somewhere public and very embarrassing.

          1. virago*

            You got this!

            Your excellent AAM pen name — and the fact that you’re prepared to call out Gary loudly and publicly — make me hopeful for the chances of your success in shutting this down, thus benefiting not only yourself but also other young women (and female-presenting people) in your workplace.

            You are all kinds of awesome!

          2. Chinook*

            I agree with this as being the only correct response to family planning questions. I know it works because, when my grandmother (who was not normally nosey) asked if I was ever planning on settling down and having kids, I pointed out that I lived in a military town and could probably get a child in under a year if it was that important. She never brought the topic up again, even after I married (to a soldier, ironically enough).

          3. Working Hypothesis*

            I am totally seconding the addition that MerciMe suggested, but maybe even more pointed. “GARY!! You’re PESTERING me about my SEX life AGAIN?!? After ALL the times I’ve asked you NOT to?!? WHAT will it take to make you STOP??” In a nice big, shocked-sounding voice that everyone in the office can hear. The idea is both to embarrass the living daylights out of him, but also to communicate in one short statement to the entire rest of the office how much of a creep this guy is being.

            Side effect: it might just embarrass your boss into changing his position because he looks terrible in front of the rest of the team if he doesn’t when your above statement is all they’ve heard about the matter. Or at least into keeping his head down and leaving you to handle this with HR. Either way, it’s an improvement over demanding that you let “good Christian men” have a voice in all your dietary and reproductive choices!

            I also agree with the folks who have suggested going to HR *before* you talk to Gary, though; if only as a heads up so that they get the story from you first, since if you smack him hard enough with your words he might complain to them himself, without them knowing the context. “I’m hoping to handle this myself, but wanted you to know that it was going on, and that I’ll come back and ask for help if I can’t make him stop harassing me,” makes you look like you’re doing everything the way HR department usually want you to (“Have you tried talking to him directly first?”) but it also gives them the picture before you go throw down a public gauntlet. Just in case.

        2. MerciMe*

          “Gary, are you asking me about my sex life AFTER I’VE REPEATEDLY ASKED YOU NOT TO?!”

          Note that this is slightly risky, because I’m not sure you want to be perceived as the emotional (implied “irrational”) one here.

        3. Is is tea time yet?*

          My Very Proper Southern Lady grandmother (we couldn’t wear jeans to dinner in the formal dining room) would approve of this.

          When I was first married, my boss decided to tell customers the reason I looked so happy was that I was a newlywed. Most of them congratulated me. Then a man asked when the baby was due (!!!). I smiled, made up a date about 9 months out, and then very slowly enunciated the year, which was a decade in the future. It took him a second, but he got really flustered. My boss never mentioned my marital status to customers again.

          And best of all, when I told my Grandmother, she laughed and said that was a great way to handle such rudeness.

    3. Mama Bear*

      Agreed. Be firm, consistent and direct. You don’t owe him any more politeness. He doesn’t give any to you. Any knowledge about where he’s coming from on his POV is just that – not excuses to allow him to persist. I would also keep any conversations to work and only about work since he has no sense of professional boundaries. I would put him on an information diet. You do not need to apologize for telling him to stop.

      I’d personally be really tempted to say I’d bring him my uterus after surgery because he seems obsessed with it, but I know that it would be over the line and not make the medical choices any easier.

      Good luck with this horrible coworker and best wishes for your future family plans, whatever form they take.

      1. many bells down*

        My surgeon gave my husband PICTURES. No, I have not looked at them. I’m just saying, though… there are options :D

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I’ve had an invasive medical test twice and both times they gave me pictures without being asked. I’m not sure what to do with them… :D

            1. Not Australian*

              Many bells down – destroy them formally and permanently, and celebrate with a drink/cupcake/massage or whatever is your preference!

        2. saf*

          I was the designated sober adult for a friend who was getting a hysterectomy. The surgeon showed me the pictures. She was very pleased with her work!

          1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

            Yeah, the surgeon showed me my brother’s thyroid in a little glass jar when he had it removed. I’m like… could you instead tell me how the human it was removed from is faring? He seemed weirdly miffed that I was more concerned about my brother. Surgeons, man.

      2. Jaid*

        My surgeon downloaded the pics right to my phone. I’m ready to show that anytime!

        Hell, I should upload to IMGUR so y’all could save it somewhere and claim it as yours…

    4. blackcat*

      Yeah, not that his intentions matter, but I’d bet good money that he is NOT trying to be helpful, but that he is, in fact, trying to be creepy/put you in your place/harass you. He knows he’s making you uncomfortable, and he’s making an active choice to harass you.

      Don’t assume good intentions. It’s vanishingly likely his intentions are good.

      1. Artemesia*

        I did my career in the South and ‘good Christian men’ who behave this way are all about putting women in their place. You just got married so it is your duty to start breeding to his requirements for women.

      2. Camille McKenzie*

        I had a professor in graduate school who essentially sexually harassed me for a year (the second of my 2 #MeToo stories) under the same guise of trying to “help”. He constantly interrogated me about my personal life and offered me unsolicited advice and opinions and chided me for being uncomfortable. It got so bad–at one point, he demanded to know if the reason I didn’t like black men (as he was) is because I had a bad relationship with my father–that I started avoiding him as much as possible. He retaliated by refusing to write me a recommendation letter.
        I always regretted not complaining about him, especially when I heard years later that he’d been fired and realized that he must have done it to some other poor girl.
        Gary is NOT “trying to help” (though I’m sure that’s what he tells himself, as my professor did). Gary knows exactly what he’s doing and he’s using the “help” excuse to justify it.

        1. Artemesia*

          Fall semester 62 and my freshman philosophy professor put the moves on me this way. I was saved by my incredible naivete. I just couldn’t believe he was for real and so shut it down kind of automatically without fully understanding how inappropriate it was. This was in the PNW not the South — spent my career in the south but men like this are of course everywhere. They just have that creepy” ‘good Christian’ thing so I am well intended” more in the south.

      3. Rose*

        Agree. This man is not trying to help. Let’s not sugar coat things. He’s not a doctor, he’s not YOUR doctor, you didn’t ask him for help , he’s ignoring the medical history you should not be giving him in the first place (because he should be minding his own business), so what would he possibly think he was helping to do? Get you pregnant?

        He’s being extremely entitled, rude, patronizing, and just overall disgusting. Saying he’s trying to help is a defense mechanism, a way to gaslight you should you call him out on his behavior. You don’t need to buy into it.

        1. Tom*

          “Saying he’s trying to help is a defense mechanism, a way to gaslight you should you call him out on his behavior.”

          Yes! Don´t fall into it, it´s just a trap!

      4. Beth*

        Agreed. There’s nothing helpful in all this! And I think he knows that!

        Gary is an adult. He’s been interacting with other adults, as an adult, for most of his life. If he’s coming off like this, it probably IS because he means it like this. He wants a say in your diet, your family planning, your body, your life; he thinks he deserves to get that say regardless of whether you are inviting him to give it, in fact even if you outright object to it; he’s willing to harass you in order to get that say. (He might object to the word ‘harassment’ being applied here, but I would bet he thinks he should be able to do the behaviors described by that word; he just thinks he shouldn’t have it named as such, because It Has Consequences and He’s Just Doing What Men Should Get To Do To Women and He Shouldn’t Suffer Consequences For That or some such nonsense).

        If he really hasn’t figured out by now that the best place to keep his unsolicited opinions on women’s bodies and lives is inside his own head, it’s prime time for him to learn. If he does know that (as I suspect he does) and is choosing to make them your problem anyways, it’s high time for him to learn that actually this can have very uncomfortable consequences for him (ranging from you making it uncomfortable by giving him a ‘wow that’s weird, why would you say that’ look or telling him “My sex life isn’t up for discussion, wow, did you forget we’re at work?”, to HR making it uncomfortable for him by opening a harassment investigation). Either way, don’t leave him the loophole of pretending he’s trying to help. That’s nonsense.

    5. Victoria*

      Another case where the woman softens the message to have the man save face FOR NO REASON. Ugh. And (not blaming her it’s conditioned) makes it worse.

    6. Them Boots*

      An observation: You asked him to stop. Sure, it was softly and gently done, but you asked him to stop. He no longer gets the benefit of being considered ‘trying to be helpful.’ Nope. You said stop, he kept on going, that’s not helpful, that’s disrespecting boundaries, being comfortable making someone else uncomfortable and that is — creeper behavior. What the actual F that he is so aware of YOUR body that he notices changes in it?! Ewwww!!! Creep Alert!

  2. DarthVelma*

    Gary is an asshole and we are not required to care about the feelings of people who are treating us like shit.

    Seriously, tell Gary in no uncertain terms to stop it. When he inevitably doesn’t, go to HR. And remember, if Gary gets disciplinary action over this, you didn’t cause it, HE DID.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Absolutely. I can’t even form a coherent thought right now because my brain just fell out on the floor from the sheer horror of this letter. Gary has also lost his natural mind.

        1. SunnySideUp*

          Yes. I can’t picture spending ONE work day with POS Gary.

          LivingWithTheNightmareofGary, you must incredible reserves of patience.

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          No, he’s like this because of a culture that has never held his early-childhood level mind accountable.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      “we are not required to care about the feelings of people who are treating us like shit”


        1. SeluciaMD*

          Agreed. I think it would make a beautiful companion needlepoint pillow to my “Field of No F*&ks Given” needlepoint pillow. I don’t actually needlepoint but surely someone on Etsy would make me these, right?

          1. KaciHall*

            I can’t do needlepoint, but I have access to an excellent embroidery machine and some wonderful proper cursive fonts for it.

            I wonder how much trouble of her in for embroidering a plaque for my office. If it’s a fancy enough font, you can’t tell there’s curse words….

            1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              I know someone who has a professional embroidery machine and an Etsy shop. I may point her at this.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Gary is not nice and is not being helpful. Gary is sexist, misogynist and is sexually harassing you at work. He is literally a creepy old man sexually harassing the younger female employee.

      Don’t let him gaslight you. Don’t let your manager gaslight you into thinking that these are normal or appropriate interactions.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Yes, these are not the actions of a good Christian Southern man. I’ve met a few and they were real gentlemen.

        1. SomehowIManage*

          Unfortunately, people’s definitions of “good Christian man” vary a lot. For some, being active in church is sufficient to merit that label. For others, living principles of compassion and respect, and good deeds are what’s needed. For others, it’s a combo. It may be something completely different from the options I presented.

          Gary may well meet the first definition. Unfortunately, that label is being used to shield him from the rightful consequences of his behavior. In this case, that protective shield is “good Christian man”, but there are other examples too where unrelated labels are applied to protect people who should be called out.

          1. Them Boots*

            This! And honestly, if one wants to get literal about a good Christian…if he was that, why has he not removed his eye that is tempting him to look at a woman not his SO?

          2. 'Tis Me*

            OP: Gary is commenting on my body, fertility and family planning. It’s making me feel really uncomfortable. I’ve asked him to stop and he hasn’t.
            OP’s manager: It’s OK – he’s a good Southern Christian gentleman.
            OP: Oh, good. I’m a bit confused as to why he is continuing his behaviour in that case when I have asked him to stop, but feel reassured that when you explain how uncomfortable he is making me feel that he will do immediately.
            OPM: Say what now?
            OP: Well, he’s a GSCG – of course he wouldn’t be intentionally making me feel uncomfortable and once you explain that to him he will stop.
            OPM: You want me to what?
            OP: Help somebody with apparently good intentions but poor social skills stop harassing your employee.

            The manager’s further response will determine whether the OP enquires why it’s OK for her to feel uncomfortable as a result of his behaviour, but not Gary, and possibly also point out that this constitutes a hostile environment not only for her but for anybody else hearing his repeated, gendered commentary; or whether the manager is saying Gary is not actually a good person if they believe he will not take well to being told to not do this… Option 3: manager trying to argue there actually isn’t anything wrong with Gary’s comments warrants a “Go straight to HR” approach.

      2. Botanist*

        Yes, and if you find yourself getting confused about whether he’s actually being that terrible (because gaslighting works, that’s why people use it!), come back here and we will give you all the reassurance you need that this is disgusting and so not okay!!

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yep, Gary sucks and is not even in the parking lot of the ballpark of acceptable work behavior. Deal with him appropriately and feel zero guilt about expecting him to behave like a professional adult who can control his own behavior to a degree that he’s not making his coworkers understandably uncomfortable. Gary should be focusing on his own work and not on harassing his coworkers about personal things that are none of his damn business.

    4. Mimi Me*

      I worked with a woman who used to police my food. Most times I’d tell her to stop, but in a softer way. She did it in a meeting with a lot of people, including my boss, grand boss, great-grand boss. I was embarrassed and finally got firm, announced that she needed to not comment on my food, it made me uncomfortable, etc. I said it in front of everyone. She got really angry and left the room. Later, she tried to get me in trouble for my “tone” and talked to my boss who basically flipped it on her. “Well, why were you saying something about her food? it’s none of your business.” and the woman got herself in some trouble. I felt bad but my husband, who had heard me complaining for months about this, said exactly this. It wasn’t anything I did, it was HER behaviour that got her in trouble.

      Gary is being the problem. Get firm and hopefully you’ll get a case of Gary be Gone! :)

    1. Herding Butterflies*

      Right?! I mean, COVID has my brain all befuddled, but I did check and it is 2020 not 1950.

      1. BookishMiss*

        I don’t think my eyebrows could become more knit or my jaw drop lower. This is 100000000000% NOT OKAY.

        Honestly, OP has had 2 conversations at least telling him to stop. She can jump straight to HR.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I’d be wanting to jump to “eff off” so HR would be the restrained option.

        2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          Agreed. Don’t put her through more trying to set boundaries or waiting with stress for the next time he brings it up. Just hand that off, she’s the victim here.

    2. AnonMinion*

      Same! I couldn’t even make it through the letter I am so angry. Had to come read the comments. My blood is boiling. I try not to wish illness on people so I will say Gary may your house be haunted with spooky ghosts and infested with pests! You suck.

  3. ZSD*

    Your manager sucks. I mean, Gary is disgusting, but what’s even worse is that your manager sucks.
    I’m so sorry you’re facing this. How gross.

    1. Paulina*

      Yep. Gary just doesn’t understand the modern workplace? What is he, Rip Van Winkle? He’s in the modern workplace, has been there for a while, and if he doesn’t understand it (or it’s not sufficiently like an appropriate modern workplace) it’s because he hasn’t been taught otherwise by people who can make him learn. Like the OP’s dreadful manager.

      I expect he doesn’t get paid like it’s 1970.

      1. Anonym*

        “I expect he doesn’t get paid like it’s 1970.”

        !!!!! Such. A. Good. Point.

        You get the benefits of the modern workplace, so follow the rules and expectations of the modern workplace.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I hate the “he just doesn’t understand professional norms” excuse. When a 10 year old fails their math quiz, the teacher doesn’t say “Bobby just doesn’t understand fractions” and go on with life never expecting Bobby to deal with fractions. They teach Bobby more about fractions so he can understand them and use them properly.

        Same goes with Gary. “He just doesn’t understand professional norms” does not mean he should never be expected to learn. It means Gary’s boss doesn’t want to do the work of teaching Gary a fundamental part of his job and holding him accountable for applying those skills.

        OP’s boss has completely failed here.

        1. London Calling*

          Gary does understand professional norms, he just decides to ignore them because he’s allowed to get away with it. He’s the type who when pulled up on his behaviour will be saying that you can’t say ANYTHING to a woman these days without her getting upset. He knows, he just doesn’t care.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            He may not know. He might be doing a better job of fooling himself than anyone else.
            The cure is to hold him accountable, of course.

      3. SeluciaMD*

        This is one of those comments that makes me wish AAM’s comments section had likes or points or trophies or something. Because I would give all of those things to you. Props.

      4. Perpal*

        what’s more, LW has already told gary once and gary continues to “not get it”. I’m sure gary has heard this elsewhere by the other coworkers who complained and “didn’t get it” then. How often does it have to be explained before the pretense of good intent is lost? (rhetorical question; real answer is once; someone with actual good intent will stop after the first time. Actual answer seems to be forever for those who enable this behavior)

      1. Legal Beagle*

        Yes!!! Gary is disgusting, and the manager is an active enabler. Shut it down, OP. No mercy!

  4. SQL Coder Cat*

    Also be sure you are documenting these conversations. Given what you’ve described about your manager’s past behavior, you may need it. I am so sorry you are dealing with this nonsense.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      THIS. Documenting should look like a file with:
      Date, time if you can, audience (Gary, anyone else who’s around). Conversation, as well as you can remember, quoting when you can.

      You can go back in time and document past instances. Especially the ones where you said, ‘please stop’. Date on the past ones can be ‘in March’ or ‘Around May 5th’, you don’t have to be exact. This also protects you if Gary ever mischaracterizes your conversations in some retaliatory way.

      Gary SUCKS. Your manager SUCKS. I’m so sorry you have to deal with their suckage on top of your personal health challenges. I hope you have a long, healthy and happy life, without Gary sucking around you anymore.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Yes, this is harassment — don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t — and you need to document. You might want to keep it in an online file, NOT stored locally at your office.

      You also need to be very explicit with Gary that his behavior is unwelcome. You don’t need to become loud and angry — although you have had ample provocation — but you need to be cold, clear, and very plain that his comments are unwelcome.

      1. Nesprin*

        THISSSS. Treat Gary as the sexual harasser he is- document the behaviors (records somewhere where work cannot access), name them (that’s profoundly sexist every time he talks about your weight/fertility), and complain to the authorities (HR/Managment) using the correct terms- his excessive focus on your body and fertility is forming a pervasive hostile work environment.

        Speaking from the perspective of a person childless by both choice and biology, I’d highly suggest not discussing your health issues with this guy ever again.

    3. dustycrown*

      Yes. This. You should document everything. Because as much as I completely agree with the advice you’ve received about handling Gary, that may not be the end of it. He may stop talking ~to~ you, but he may not stop talking ~about~ you. If his feelings get hurt over this, he could turn from a creepy, overly concerned co-worker into someone who’s hellbent on making your life miserable for refusing what he believes are his good Southern, Christian-man intentions. You should think about how you’ll handle that, if it happens. And document it all.

    4. Glitsy Gus*

      Agreed. Especially because Gary is your superior and because you have already mentioned the suckitude of your direct manager. You need this documented in case there is some kind of retaliation or blow back from calling this out. I would really hate for you to end up in a bad spot because you end up being labeled as “difficult,” “prickly” or “not a team player” because you had the audacity to stand up for yourself.

  5. The Original K.*

    My primary thought was “Be meaner, OP.” You probably can’t use the phrase “Shut the hell up, Gary” at work, but you can use acceptable work language that lets him know these topics are off limits and he should not ask about them, point blank and period. Asking a question doesn’t entitle you to an answer – I really wish more people would realize that.

    1. Ana Gram*

      This exactly. A stony face and continuous repeating of the phrase “my body is not up for discussion” will make this much less satisfying for him. Right now, you’re giving him info and treating him like a nice, reasonable man. But he’s not nice or reasonable and he doesn’t deserve to be treated like someone who is.

      1. Alt*

        I cannot imagine being this nice to a Gary.

        I really hope OP can stand up and say, “It’s disgusting and creepy that you force me to listen to you talk about my body, my appearance, and my sex life. It is inappropriate at work, and I never want to hear you mention any of those things again. If you insist on continuing even once, I will report your obsession and harassment to HR.” I know Alison took a strong approach, but geez, it should be 2×4 strong. People like this should not be allowed in public, let alone permitted to reflect on others.

        And when OPs manager throws shade for being mean to Gary, I really want her to say, “How is it being Christian relevant? Religious beliefs do not allow someone to obsess on their co-worker’s looks or sex life. And I hope you’re not attempting to say Gary is exempt from following legal guidelines on harassment because he’s old. That’s disgusting and prejudicial to older employees, as well as insulting to employees who manage to change their behavior with the times.”

    2. Awkward Interviewee*

      Totally agree that being meaner, or at least firmer, can work. It worked for me once. At old job we had an admin assistant for awhile who kept trying to call me by my middle name. (Among other weird things. He had an inappropriate, unreciprocated crush on me. I think he thought he could make it our little in thing?) I tried to nicely ask him to stop, I tried ignoring it, nothing worked. Finally one day I walked into the office, he said hello middlename, and I just snapped. I said DON’T call me that. It’s NOT my name. I didn’t yell, but I was loud and firm. He was so taken aback that he never called me middlename again!

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Huh. Reminds me of an uncle (by marriage, and he didn’t come on the scene until I was in my 20’s). He liked to “pretend-karate-kick” toward people’s *faces*, including my grandmother, who was his future MIL. My aunt and grandmother used to say things like, “Oh Uncle, knock it off” but essentially treated it like a “joke” and allowed him to ignore them. I just waited. When it did it to me I looked right at him and said forcefully, “Do NOT do that to me. I do NOT like it.” Guess what? It worked, and they all noticed.

    3. Annony*

      Yep. There is no “I know you mean well” anymore. If the Op feels up for it, she can try being very blunt. “At this point I’m not sure whether you are socially inept or being deliberately cruel. Having you constantly comment on my weight and fertility is hurtful and downright creepy. I need you to stop or I will report you to HR.”

        1. Camille McKenzie*

          And they apologize for intruding and/or making you uncomfortable.
          If they persist knowing full well that you don’t like it, it’s bullying and harassment, much like my professor did to me.

    4. Sharrbe*

      Exactly, she’s patiently waiting for Gary to realize that maybe he’s being inappropriate and should leave you alone. That’s a wasted effort because he will never come to that conclusion. OP needs to find the professional equivalent of “F off, Gary, and don’t f-n talk to me again.” She’s putting up a straw wall when she needs brick and mortar.

    5. Aldabra*

      Oh, I would absolutely tell him to shut up. After using Alison’s wording, the very next time he even started to make an inappropriate comment I’d cut him off and say “Shut up, Gary. I told you not to talk about my body ever again. I don’t want to hear anything coming out of your mouth that’s not work-related, and you know that. I’m writing this down like I’ve documented every other time you’ve bothered me, and one more word about my body or my personal life, and I’m going to HR. Sexual harassment is illegal, you know.” To be clear this is not screaming or yelling, but ice cold.

    6. Lilyp*

      Yes! I think it would be strategically good to stay stony-calm for the initial conversation but afternoon you’ve put him on watch I say you should let any natural reactions of shock, anger, discomfort, dismay, etc show. He is saying some really shocking and upsetting things and you don’t have to pretend otherwise to spare his feelings.

    7. TeapotNinja*

      Additionally, OP should interrupt him before he finishes his “helpful” advice.

      The minute OP realizes Gary’s about go beyond boundaries again, do not let him finish. Interrupt him with one of the phrases from Alison or the people in the comments.

  6. EGA*

    This is so incredibly gross and uncomfortable. I am sorry OP. I hope you health continues to improve and that this guy gets what is coming to him…

  7. londonedit*

    What. The actual. F. Gary.

    I couldn’t give a monkey’s whether he’s ‘older’ or a ‘Christian Southern gentleman’ or if he’s just parachuted in from Mars, if Gary doesn’t already know that it’s not OK to frequently comment on his colleagues’ weight, eating habits, bodies and sex lives, then he needs to damn well LEARN that it’s not OK.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      If he’s genuinely too old to learn to not sexually harass his coworkers or harass them about their medical issues (and these things are what he is doing), he’s too damn old to work with other human beings.

      (Not that I think there’s any such thing as too old for that, unless maybe you have actual cognitive impairment/dementia. In which case you still shouldn’t be working with other people, because they don’t deserve to be subjected to this.)

    2. Elenna*


      “he simply doesn’t know what’s appropriate for the modern workplace”

      …then … maybe … someone should … tell him??? Specifically, his manager (and *not* the woman he’s harassing) should just… tell him that it’s not OK???

      For comparison, imagine if Gary was routinely turning in work with curse words on it. Surely then your manager would just say “whoa, Gary, this isn’t okay or appropriate”, instead of being like “well I guess he just doesn’t know that’s not appropriate, we should be more forgiving”. But suddenly when the inappropriate behaviour involves a woman’s body, the manager is incapable of using their words and telling him to cut it out…

      1. Naomi*

        I know, right? If Gary doesn’t understand how to operate in a modern workplace, that means he needs to learn, not just keep blundering along as he is. Frankly the manager who kind of admits this is a bad thing but won’t do anything about it sounds like the bigger problem.

        And I agree with cutting out the “I know he thinks he’s helping.” Gary may well respond to being called out by making all sorts of excuses about how he means well, but you don’t need to pre-make his excuses for him.

      2. A Poster Has No Name*

        That comment pissed me off so much. If the boss truly thinks it’s because he doesn’t know what’s appropriate, someone should fracking tell him, and if he doesn’t say “oh, crap, I’m sorry! I’ll never do it again!”** and mean it, then fire his ass.

        **Which he won’t, because he’s a grown-ass adult and knows damn well what he’s doing and doesn’t care, because LW is nice and her boss is coward (and likely a misogynist himself) so why should he change his behavior if nobody will call him to account?

      3. Ana Gram*

        This is always such a weird point of view. My parents work and are in their late 60’s, so probably the upper end of the workforce. That also means they came of age in the 60’s and 70’s- they saw the Civil Rights marches, women’s lib, all that stuff. They’re older but they’ve seen the world change drastically. They don’t think they’re living in an episode of Leave it to Beaver. Give older folks more credit!

        1. Paulina*

          Yes, it’s such a crappy and deliberately made excuse. There have been plenty of opportunities to learn better, if they didn’t know better before; they’re holding on to that excuse to enable them to continue being terrible, not because it’s a reasonable excuse at all.

          My father is in his mid-80s and I can’t recall a time when he would have considered the described behaviour to be appropriate, certainly not in a persistent way.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yes, this is like the opposite problem I had with a friend ten years older than me. We fell out over Brexit and suddenly she was all “you’re being ageist” any time anyone said anything she didn’t like. No Kathy, your opinions belong to the late 19th century and I disagree with them, but I was being perfectly polite with you until you said something about nobody losing their jobs over Brexit when in fact two of our mutual friends had *already* lost their jobs over Brexit. A short word beginning with f slipped into the convo at that point, for which I apologise, but ffs!

        2. JustaTech*

          I had a coworker who was both older-ish and from a different country. For years he used this combination of conditions to say some really outrageous things to me before I finally realized that he was using his age and immigrant status as an excuse to say outrageous things. When I finally called him on it he was both embarrassed and annoyed that he couldn’t get away with it anymore.

          Dollars to donuts Gary knows perfectly well that what he’s saying to the OP isn’t right, and enjoys getting away with it.

        3. Artemesia*

          I am older than your parents and came of age during the Civil Rights movement. No one under about age 85 or 90 could possibly use the ‘it was different in our day’ argument — and even people who are 90 were in their late 30s during this period — i.e. not already ancient and incapable of learning. Age is no longer any excuse at all.

        4. SunnySideUp*

          Um, yeah. Sixty-six and happily working in my chosen career like, say, a 30-year-old. Amazing! I still have all my cognitive skills!

    3. Khatul Madame*

      Since you introduced the term “gentleman” in the discussion – Gary is not behaving like one.

    4. SeluciaMD*

      Not ALL of his colleagues I’d wager – just the female ones. I’d be tempted to ask him if what kind of advice he gives Bob about his weight or if he’s talked to Jeff about family planning/quarantine “whoopsies” (which is just….I mean…seriously Gary?)

      But I agree with so many others that have suggested you go to HR first to lay the groundwork and make sure your framing is the first they hear. Because if whatever you say next doesn’t make him stop, dollars to donuts this guy is going to go to HR and complain about how you are hard to work with and treat him terribly when he’s “just trying to be nice.” Or, alternatively, some BS about how you are “too emotional” or “can’t control your emotions at work” and that it’s unprofessional.


  8. Lena Clare*

    Gross Gary is not a nice man – he’s a vile, misogynistic one. Please do what Alison suggested using that language, and see if that stops it.
    Sorry this is happening to you.

    1. Lena Clare*

      Also (I’m sorry, I’m raging about this man), he doesn’t want you to lose weight OR put it on by commenting on your portion sizes. You just can’t win, can you?
      I mean…if ever there was an example of how men police women’s bodies, here it is all wrapped up in one disgusting package.

        1. IndustriousLabRat*

          Username checks out, oh pointy coat of forest armor! :)

          There is so much wrong with Gary and Manager, that a porcupine could go fully BALD sticking them as much as they deserve!

      1. Elenna*

        My impression was that he was encouraging her weight loss (and therefore completely ignoring the ACTUAL MEDICAL ISSUES involved). Not that that makes the body policing any better…

        1. londonedit*

          He was encouraging her weight loss before her wedding (weight loss related to a health issue, let’s not forget) but now that she’s managed to put on a little weight and her doctors are happier with where she is (which suggests that her low weight was of medical concern), Gary is all ‘Hey, you’d better watch your portion sizes there, you don’t want to put any more weight on’. Gross any way you look at it.

          1. LivingWithTheNightmareofGary*

            Hi, LW here! yes, that’s it. He definitely refuses to take any of the underlying issues into account and is worried now that my medically advised weight gain is too much!

            1. SQL Coder Cat*

              He’s not worried. He’s upset that you aren’t sticking to whatever this creeper has decided you *ought* to look like. Because in his world, women exist to please men.

              This man ticks me off so much for you. He’s every creepy interaction I’ve ever had rolled into one ball of ick. He knows better, he just doesn’t care. I could rant more, but it doesn’t change the fact that Gary sucks and will continue to suck. You can’t get him to not suck- the best you can hope for is getting him to not display his suckiness around youi.

              1. Alt*


                He’s not a nice man. He thinks OP should look exactly as *pleases HIM*. He’s not a nice man. He thinks OP should have sex and a child to *please HIM*. He’s not a nice man. He thinks he has a right to control OPs body.

                He’s a vile, disgusting, misogynist, who doesn’t care about OP except as a prop in his fantasy world. Do not treat him like a nice man. Do not be fooled into think he’s showing concern of any sort. He’s gross and prejudiced against you.

              2. LivingWithTheNightmareofGary*

                Oops I meant the “worried” like less about ME and more about that something out of his control is bothersome.

            2. Observer*

              He’s not worried about anything.

              For your own sanity STOP responding to him with information and explanations.

            3. Legal Beagle*

              Gary should have ZERO information about your medical situation. It’s your body, and it’s absolutely none of his business. Neither is your marriage, fertility, or family planning choices. Gary needs to go on a permanent information embargo: if it’s not related to work, he doesn’t get to know.

              I think the framework people use for dealing with toxic relatives can be useful here: don’t JADE (justify, argue, defend, explain). Any details you share trying to deter him will be twisted in order to keep this harassment going under the guise of being concerned about you. Don’t feed the fire!

            4. K*

              I want to take your word for it that he is just ineptly trying to be helpful, but as a 3rd party hearing this story, it sounds a lot like Gary is just getting a kick out of embarrassing you. Stop assuming his comments have normal reasoning behind them or can be stopped via normal reasoning. Like, stop coming at it from a place of “Gary is wondering whether or not I will have a kid, surely he will stop asking about it if I can make him understand that I’m not planning on getting pregnant now.” Gary isn’t (I would bet a hundred bucks) interested in your plans about children. He’s just enjoying having these conversations with you.

              …But it sounds like you get this already, OP! Just wanted to add my voice to all the people cheering you on to tell him to eff off.

            5. Coffee Bean*

              Holy Good Grief. I so want to be employed by your company, work my way up through the ranks, and terminate Gary. I recommend following Alison’s advice without the “Please” to precede it, going to HR to report the issue, then holding a hand up, saying “Nope”, then walking away from Gary if he harasses you again. He is not trying to help you. He sucks.

            6. PollyQ*

              The only thing Gary’s worried about is that you might be an independent woman outside his control.

            7. Batgirl*

              Your health is not part of his agenda. His agenda is to let you know that he monitors your body, and that the visual and sexual uses of your body are all he considers important about you.

    2. Elliott*

      Yeah, I don’t think he can be said to “mean well” when his behavior seems rooted in how he views women and feels entitled to talk to them. Would he try to “help” a man like this? I’m also curious how he would act with a woman who’s his professional superior–it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s perfectly capable of controlling himself if he knows he can’t get away with this.

      1. LivingWithTheNightmareofGary*

        OP here – I was formerly his supervisor but he asked to be restructured for reasons that were not disclosed. In terms of office hierarchy, he is much, much below me.

        1. Tuppence Beresford*

          Wait, doesn’t this add another layer of weirdness, that Gary used to be the OP’s direct report (and then requested not to be)? And also, would it be appropriate in this situation for OP to talk to Gary’s boss about his behaviour as well?

        2. Wandering Scot*

          So if he’s doing it to you, who is so much his senior, what is he doing to women who are his peers or lower in the hierarchy?

          The Garys of this world seldom do it to only one woman.

        3. paxfelis*

          Was he doing this garbage while he was under you in the reporting structure? Or did he start once he was more insulated from direct consequences?

          If he didn’t start until he was under someone else’s (another male’s?) supervision, that speaks very strongly to it being a deliberate pattern of activity, and I think that should be pointed out to HR as well.

          I think you should also report your supervisor, but I’m feeling spiteful at the moment. I don’t know whether your supervisor is weak, negligent, or in silent agreement with Gary, but right now someone needs to be slapped with a salmon.

  9. emotionalmotionsickness*

    You seem like a truly kind and empathetic person, OP, but he does not think he is helping. When men (or anyone) exceed boundaries to such an extreme extent, they are cruel at worst and willfully ignorant at best. I just have a hard time assigning any good intentions to such awful and offensive behavior.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Once they’ve been told in no uncertain terms to STOP and that it’s genuinely hurtful, and they keep doing it, it’s no longer well intentioned.

      1. emotionalmotionsickness*

        Yeah, I guess my issue is more than good intentions are irrelevant to me when the behavior is so egregious.

    2. Coder von Frankenstein*


      There may be somewhere in Gary’s brain where he says to himself, “I’m helping.” But that is not “thinking he is helping.” Thinking implies that he started with the goal of “How can I help?” and somehow reasoned his way to… this.

      What actually happened is that he started with the goal of commenting on LW’s body. And then he needed a way to justify that behavior, so he came up with “I’m helping.” He may now use that excuse to himself in his own mind, but it remains a paper-thin excuse, a blind so that he can continue doing exactly what he wants to do regardless of how disgusting it is.

      People who actually think they are helping respond to “You’re not helping, please stop,” by… stopping.

  10. juliebulie*

    I think I’m more disgusted by OP’s manager’s lazy attitude about than I am by Gary. I want a boss who will stick up for me, not defend someone who is harassing me.

  11. HailRobonia*

    Here’s the fantasy resolution (inspired by Batman Returns):

    Gary: “Hey, are you sure you are not pregnant? You look a little rounder around the tummy.”
    OP: “Please do not comment about my body… after all, I’m not commenting on your broken nose.”
    Gary: “But I don’t have a..”
    OP: *PUNCH!*

    1. Elenna*


      (i mean this is probably a bad idea long-term and you probably shouldn’t do it)

      but also YES

    2. Annony*

      My fantasy response would be “I was about to ask you the same thing! When are you due?” I definitely wouldn’t do it, but I would really want to.

      1. What the what?*

        You: I think now is the perfect time to ask you about your erectile disfunction issues.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          This is strangely perfect. It’s equivalent! He’ll get all bent out of shape. He’ll probably never see the parallel, but he’ll probably stop talking to LW. (And if he talks badly about LW after that, she can just tell every single woman “He would NOT stop asking me if I was pregnant, even after I asked,” and they’ll all understand.)

          1. Artemesia*

            People like this never understand the point of subtle. I was in a program decades ago to help teachers understand race issues around schools and policing. The group was cops and teachers. At one point a little black urban theater group did a skit that was critical of teachers. The teachers got in a huff — I still remember this old white high school teacher saying ‘it isn’t fair that you blame all teachers because of some’ — I thought yowza, she gets it. She didn’t. She didn’t see that treating black people based on experience with an awful black person or even hearing about such things, was pretty much like people having a negative view of teachers based on limited experience.

            He will not SEE HIMSELF through experiencing something similar. He has to be told clearly that it is to stop and that it is sexual harassment.

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              I’m not thinking that he’ll see the parallel. I’m thinking that he’ll get bent out of shape and give LW the silent treatment, which is a positive outcome.

        2. SeluciaMD*

          This made me laugh out loud. Like irrationally loud. But man, what I would give to be a fly on the wall when she served up that response…..

    3. Tyche*

      My fantasy resolution would be OP armed with an urologist’s or proctologist’s business cards and various pamphlets about erectile dysfunctions, rectal cancer etc saying “Now Gary, let’s talk about you”

      1. Frenchie*

        Yes! I was thinking along those lines.
        You: “Gary, don’t concern yourself with my body or sex life. But, let’s talk about you. How is your prostate? Any ED issues? Or Peyronie’s disease, is the old baby carrot getting crooked?”
        Gary: “I was just trying to be helpful!”
        You: “Ditto ;) “

  12. A Poster Has No Name*

    See, and people think the scenarios in the sexual harassment training are over the top, and then along comes Gary.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      Right? I go to those trainings and I come out thinking “This is so easy – who needs to be told to treat other people with respect?”

      And then, yep…along comes Gary. And OP’s manager, who has apparently been enabling him all along. Fire them both into the centre of the sun.

    2. Heather*

      The trainer for my sexual harassment training when I was hired is now in federal prison. He was more offensive than the scenarios, but his conviction was unrelated.

      1. Artemesia*

        It is a sad reality of HR/training that this is often where problem employees are sent so they don’t continue to do damage where they are. I know of several trainers who were basically removed from the management hierarchy and send sideways to HR.

        1. Gumby*

          Which explains whatever trainer who ordered that classic Cake Wrecks sexual harassment cake.

  13. George*


    Given the boss, I would be tempted to say something brief next time it comes up and follow up with a stronger email (so as to have a record).

    “Gary, I’ve told you I don’t want to talk about this.” And walk away or change subject. Then an email like what AAM wrote above… But mentioning that this has come up, I’ve said in the past I don’t want to talk about it, I just said it again, and now I’m emailing because I want to make sure it is crystal clear that my body, sex life, diet, and reproductive plans aren’t subjects I want to talk about at work. I would probably include the language he used most recently, so it is also documented (“when you said ‘you put on weight and are obviously pregnant,'”). In short, I would document it via email.

  14. Joy*

    This is so textbook “woman feels she can’t set perfectly reasonable boundaries because it might hurt a HORRIBLY BEHAVING man’s feelings” I just can’t even.

    OP, stop being nice to this guy in your head. He’s not a good guy. He doesn’t mean well. He’s creepy and invasive and controlling and inappropriate. Whether or not your workplace allows you to lay down the law and tell him to GTFO (I wish it did but I understand that’s not always reasonable) please allow yourself to accept the truth that none of this is your fault and none of this is okay.

    1. Honor Harrington*

      I’m not sure if it’s about hurting his feelings, exactly. For years, women have had to put up with stuff like this, and much worse, because it wasn’t possible to push back. Eventually you could push back a bit, if you has to do it it very softly and carefully. You ran the risk of being considered abrasive, difficult, offensive, not a team player, etc – and there could be severe professional consequences to that. Women are still trying to figure how/if we can push back in an appropriate way, without negative consequences.

      When I hear the language that softens the message, I hear a woman who isn’t sure if she is allowed to push back on a boundary violation, or maybe even whether she’s allowed to have a boundary there. And I hear Alison saying yes there is a boundary, you should push back directly, and you should require your company to support the boundary.

      The stories we read on AAM everyday tell us that these boundaries don’t exist in every company. I have more sympathy and empathy for LW than anything.

      1. LivingWithTheNightmareofGary*

        Hi, LW here! Yes, so much this! I am very weary of how much I could push back without ending up in HR for being “too emotional.” I definitely feel trapped by a gender disparity here and will acknowledge that my company has had suits brought against them for sex-based discrimination in recent years.

        1. NotMyRealName*

          You would think that would make them less likely to tolerate behaviors that end in lawsuits.

        2. Pam Beesly*

          “my company has had suits brought against them for sex-based discrimination in recent years”

          Suits? Plural? This is… not good.

          1. Aquawoman*

            Well, when a company’s response to blatant sexual harassment is to tell the woman she’s being too emotional, that’s gonna happen.

        3. Picard*

          Well that pretty much explains it no? You would think they would be even more sensitive to harassment issues…. Are you in the US?

        4. Working Hypothesis*

          That’s awful, OP. You may need to imply that you’re willing to be another such lawsuit in order to get any backup. Hopefully, at least the HR department really doesn’t want to have to deal with any more of those, and will therefore attempt to make it stop in order to placate you if they’re afraid that you’ll sue… but this may not be a place where any woman can safely work yet. I’m sorry, but it might be worth considering pulling your resume out — try everything else that’s been recommended too (especially the shocked-sounding response designed to make him die of embarrassment, spoken at a volume to carry to everyone else in the office) but it’s sadly likely that the only way you’re going to get away from this behavior is to get away from the company that’s determined to enable it. I’m sorry.

        5. (insert name here)*

          Suits. plural.

          Your HR department will not help you.

          They already been sued more than once and decided the are happy with the outcome they have gotten from them. Otherwise there would not be more than one suit, and Garry wouldn’t work there. They know the risks of discrimination and have decided that the they accept the outcome of what they perceive as their worst case scenario. They are likely on the defensive and instead of trying to prevent discrimination are looking to vilify women.

          Your best bet is public humiliation for Gary.

        6. Observer*

          This is why you do NOT get into a discussion of how hurtful his behavior is – that’s emotional. That’s also why you keep your response to Gary very short and information free, and your report to HR short.

          Basically, don’t give the a chance to bring up being “emotional”. Just, to Gary, a simple statement that you refuse to discuss this. To HR a simple statement of only the relevant facts, it that he repeatedly makes comments and asks questions about your body, your food, your health, your reproduction and you sex life. And be clear here – it’s not just that he keeps asking you about pregnancy but he actually specifically commented about your intimacy level with your husband.

          I’d do it in email, and keep it very short. One line plus a bulleted list of the things he’s done.

          1. Synergy*

            It would of been more helpful to document the incidents as they happened. Better late than never…..

        7. Librarian of SHIELD*

          So, this may be a “your company sucks and isn’t going to change” issue. If more than one lawsuit being filed in a relatively short space of time wasn’t enough to make them take these kinds of issues seriously, they may just not be very interested in protecting the women who work for them from this kind of harassment.

          I’m still advising you to push back hard against Gary’s harassment and report his behavior to HR, but now I’m also going to advise a job search, because I don’t see this working out well in the long term in a company that’s proven they don’t value their employees who aren’t cis men. Defend yourself as best you can for as long as you work for this company, but also start thinking about ways to make “as long as you work for this company” a shorter amount of time.

        8. EPLawyer*

          With this news there is only one thing to say — RUN. Gary is not going to change, HR won’t tell him to change. This place is full of bees and you are being repeatedly stung. Get.Out.Now.

          Seriously, polish up the old resume and find a new job. They exist even now. If you think you won’t get a good reference, sticking it out with these jerks won’t change that.

        9. Vax is my disaster bicon*

          Given the fact that there have been multiple lawsuits brought against your company (indicating that HR is not doing a great job of resolving problems), would it make sense to consult with an employment lawyer? That way you could get a better picture of your options if you run into problems pushing back or reporting Gary.

        10. Arts Akimbo*

          How many of these suits were due to Gary, I wonder? I’m thinking he’s a walking lawsuit.

      2. Artemesia*

        Back in my day, we endured gross sexual harassment without even considering reporting it or doing much aggressive about it other than protecting ourselves. I jumped out of the car and ran when the big shot giving me a lift, pulled over and started ripping my blouse off. It never occurred to me to ‘report him’ because he was in a position to destroy my career and I was nobody. Most men who had power over me and made passes, took ‘no’ for an answer — but pretty much all of them made at least one pass or proposition requiring that ‘no.’ And the sexist comments were just part of the world we navigated. It is much better now and there are tools to deal with this.

        Women still run risks if they aren’t careful in how they handle this.

        1. schnauzerfan*

          Ah yes. The good old days. Me, I feigned obliviousness. Never noticed the most obvious passes. It worked. Most of the time.

        2. Pennalynn Lott*

          Back in the early 90’s, I just stood there and laughed and laughed when the two male owners of the small company I worked at would share the new “jokes” they were adding to the bulging, manilla folder where they kept such things. They were all sexual jokes. Some written, some visual. Some very graphic, though hand-drawn not actual pictures.

          They also had in-person visual jokes. Like, “We used to make any new woman we hired pass the ‘elbow test’. Put your hands over your ears; if your boobs didn’t stick out as far as your elbows, you weren’t hired. Good thing for you, Pennalynn, that we don’t still have that rule. Har-har-har.”

          1. Lizzie*

            I was an 18 year old trainee in the personnel department of a major department store when I first heard this ‘elbows’ method of choosing women employees. The head of personnel himself over-rode his colleague’s choice for the woman who didn’t wear glasses, on the grounds that the glasses wearer “had bigger tits”. This was in the early 1970s.
            The idea of sexual harassment being a problem was just becoming a “thing” in the workplace and so the head of personnel was given the task of being the person who dealt with complaints. No prizes for guessing who was the worst man there for leering, groping, and sexually threatening remarks!

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yeah, it’s time to shut this down. Trying to manage Gary’s feelings by being transparent will only encourage him to go further and further over the line. OP, use Alison’s script and please don’t feel guilty.

  15. EPLawyer*

    Yeah, this goes back to what we discussed in the 5 Answers to 5 Questions — just because someone asks does not mean they are entitled to a full complete answer. Even if they are trying to be “helpful.” You can and should stop sharing details in order to be transparent. You are NOT required to be 100% to coworkers about your personal life — especially your health.

    So first, be blunt and direct with Gary — My health is not up for discussion. That’s is all you say when he brings it up.
    Seond, get it out of your head that Gary is being nice or comes from a helpful place. He is not. He is trying to impose on you HIS ideal of a woman’s looks and place. Who THE HELL tells a woman who needed to have her stomach removed to save her life that she should LOSE MORE WEIGHT???? That is just sick, sick, sick.

    Third — this is HR territory not talk to manager territory. He has so far crossed the line as to what is acceptable that he cannot even see a faint glimmer of a reflection of it.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, I don’t understand the idea that OP needs to be “transparent” about her health issues. She owes her coworkers no details at all. All anybody at work needs to know is that she is out for medical reasons or has such and such accommodations.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        My guess is that OP is naturally the kind of person who doesn’t mind sharing things like this, and/or she’s being transparent in an effort to get people to STFU about her body. Which is a pretty good theory, and it works with most reasonable people. It’s just too bad that it has backfired so spectacularly this time. :/

        1. Paulina*

          Yes. If Gary really was well-meaning, then finding out that he was treading on a very sensitive topic would in many cases produce an about-face and embarrassed retreat on his part. Unfortunately he’s not well-meaning and is used to having his behaviour given a pass, and there’s really no way for the OP to know how he’ll respond to various tactics that would work on reasonable people.

        2. Blushingflower*

          Yeah, sometimes people pre-emptively share details in order to avoid having to answer the same question over and over or to get ahead of concern – if you tell everyone you have cancer and are doing chemo, you don’t have to deal with everyone coming up going “you don’t look well, are you okay??” because they know. Sometimes people also share as a way to try to demystify things or push back against the idea that certain things should be shameful, or sometimes as a way to be like “bro, asking that question can be really painful, the reason I haven’t had kids yet is because I’m infertile, maybe stop asking people that”. But this dude is a) not understanding that not all weight loss is good b) not understanding that it’s not okay to comment on colleagues’ bodies, c) thinking that because she has shared these details in the past he’s entitled to them d) not realizing that saying “oh, I’m sure you and your husband have had an oopsie” means “I’ve been thinking about your sex life”.

          1. Cygnata*

            Also, how would he KNOW they had an “oopsie,” did he try installing hidden cameras in the OP’s home or something? This isn’t just creepy. He comes off as a stalker.

    2. Paulina*

      I expect that sharing details or not sharing details won’t make any difference, so pushing back (documented) is more about being able to make a case to HR. There’s no indication in the letter that Gary has really listened to anything the OP has said, and considerable indications that he hasn’t. His creepy, intrusive body-policing is unchanged.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      > get it out of your head that Gary is being nice or comes from a helpful place

      So, this is interesting to me. I was going to comment on that “nice” aspect because lots of folks have been, but I re-read the letter, and LW does not use that word at all. She uses “I know he thinks he’s helping” but she never says that he’s nice, or even comments that he’s funny or speaks pleasantly or anything. And neither did Alison. It was us readers who used that word and are now reacting to it.

      LW, if nothing else, Gary is wasting a lot of your time. Regardless of topic, that’s something worth mentioning to your boss sometime, or maybe even his boss? What’s Gary’s boss like, anyway?

  16. Reluctant Manager*

    I’m surprised we’re not talking about sexual harrassment here. Asking about a quarantine whoopsie is making an uninvited comment about her sex life. This may not be a superior/subordinate situation, but after she asks him to stop once, it sounds to me like a man creating a work environment that is disproportionately unsafe for a woman because of her gender.

    1. A Poster Has No Name*

      Right? I mean, she’s avoiding him because he makes her so uncomfortable with consistent comments about her weight and pregnancy that certainly aren’t being directed at male coworkers.

    2. Scarlet2*

      Yeah, honestly, if I was LW, I would go down that road, esp. since the manager thinks he’s “a fine Christian man”. I would emphasize that it makes me very uncomfortable that a coworker comments on my body and my sex life, it’s private and personal, etc etc. Please, LW, do NOT say you think he has “good intentions”, not only does it not matter, but your manager already seems too willing to excuse this guy’s outrageous behaviour.

    3. high school teacher*

      Totally agree. This whole letter has me livid, but the “quarantine whoopsie” really put me over the edge. I can’t IMAGINE dealing with a man like this.

      1. BookishMiss*

        I have dealt with men (and women!) like this. I would jump right on the sexual harassment approach, skip talking to Gary again, not bother with Boss at all, and go right to HR. Plus tell Gary off. Professionally, of course.

  17. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Why do you have to be the forgiving/lenient party in this situation? Why can’t he be the polite/cordial co-worker who honors polite boundaries?

    I really want to know the answer.

    1. londonedit*

      Right? This goes way beyond the old ‘missing stair’, where people just work out ways around the difficult person rather than dealing with the hassle of addressing it directly. Gary needs to be told in no uncertain terms that he needs to behave like a reasonable human being. It’s not OP’s responsibility to forgive or excuse his behaviour.

      1. Lisa*

        “he simply doesn’t know what’s appropriate for the modern workplace“

        ^Except this it isn’t even appropriate to say these things to anyone anywhere, not just the workplace!

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Seriously. F*ck forgiveness. Gary and this manager (who’s basically his accomplice at this point) need to be fired, and I hope word gets around in their field and area what slime they are.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Forgiveness is about yourself – what malice you hold onto from having been done wrong by someone else. It’s spiritual. It has absolutely nothing to do with allowing that person to continue harming you or to not push back or stand up for yourself. Being a doormat is 1000% unrelated to the concept of forgiveness.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          I have a right to my malice from having been done wrong, then, and so does OP.

          I’ve never understood why forgiveness is considered an automatic good even when the offender hasn’t stopped their behavior and hasn’t apologized. It comes off to me as gross, invalidating emotion-policing.

    3. Ashley*

      This to me goes to the heart of women are told to be nice and how that causes us to put up with unreasonable behavior. Taylor Swift’s “If I were a Man” comes to mind. Imagine a woman asking a guy about his weight and reproductive plans?

      I have worked with the older ‘Southern’ conservative Christian. He routinely made me feel less then and routinely discounted what I had to say because of my age and gender. It was an extremely painful period of my life. The fact my male older boss couldn’t comprehend the gender dynamics I was suffering only made it worse.

      LW I would give Gary maybe one more chance of this topic is never to be discussed but I personally would probably have a draft email to HR composed so I can add their email address (that way you don’t accidentally hit send) and the most recent incident as soon as it happens.

    4. NW Mossy*

      I wish I was actually being sarcastic here, but because men are considered the default human and we don’t change defaults.

    5. Jennifer Juniper*

      @Snarkus Aurelius:

      1. Gary has male privilege.
      2. Gary has Christian privilege.
      3. Gary is “many, many times” OP’s senior.
      4. Rank hath its privileges.

      Therefore, the OP is expected to be the forgiving one or face the consequences.
      NOTE: I know that is morally wrong. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world.

      1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        Gary is actually far below OP in rank, although they report to the same boss: “I was formerly his supervisor but he asked to be restructured for reasons that were not disclosed. In terms of office hierarchy, he is much, much below me”.

        Which is kind of worse, in that he can obviously still get away with this behaviour, their boss is unlikely to help stop it, and HR doesn’t sound like they’d be too interested either given the multiple recent sexual harassment suits that have been filed.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          Thank you for the correction, Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock. I misread OP’s original letter. I thought that the sentence “because he’s so many times my senior” meant seniority in rank, not age.

          OP, I apologize for misreading your letter and assuming this creep outranked you in the hierarchy.

  18. Reed*

    Gary does not think he’s ‘helping’. Gary knows he is being gross and intrusive and nosy and sexist as hell, and not REMOTELY Christian (wow, that’s an insult to Christians, to suggest such behaviour is appropriate to them, and I say this as a Jewish person), and your pathetic manager is an enabling drivelator, letting Gary get his jollies harassing and creeping over other employees’ bodies and medical histories.

    I am so sorry you, OP, are faced with this ghastly nonsense. I wish you all the best.

    1. Observer*

      I was thinking about this, but I didn’t feel like I have standing to comment on what is “Christian” or not.

      1. Chinook*

        Ohh, ohh, ohh – I am a Catholic and can state blatantly that this man is neither nice nor Christian.
        1. It is not nice to poke at someone’s emotional soft spots to see if they are still soft. Major illnesses and possible infertility are not for dicsussin in “nice” company. And famil planning discussions are between spouses (and experts) only.
        2. I can only imagine Jesus’s response to any Gary who asked his mother Mary when she was planning on having another baby. We could go with teenage attitude stating the obvious or outright flipping tables. Both hve Chritian Bible precedent. Oh, and nobody asked Jesus to his face how his wounds were healing even when he gave permission to touch them.

      2. Crooked Bird*

        I think it’s importantly paired with “Southern” in the quote, but I also think it’s coming from a place of stereotyping–I don’t think the guy means “good” in an approving way, I hear the whole quote as a lazy-ass manager being like “well this type of person does this type of thing so whatcha gonna do?”
        I say this as a Christian who has lived in the South. Yes, you do get more diet talk (but between women, normally) and you do get more public assumptions that married women are interested in getting pregnant, but what you are NOT supposed to get is THIS. This is creepy, and he’s crossing a man-woman boundary that Southern Christian culture (sexist as it may sometimes be) has in place partly to compensate for the other stuff so you don’t get THIS. Because no-one likes THIS.

    2. Liz*

      Thank you for this. I know many Southern Christian Gentlemen who would be absolutely appalled by the way OP is being treated and saying that this is the sort of behavior to expect from a Southern Christian Gentlemen is an insult to them.
      A Christian response is more like, “I am so sorry you are going through this, please let me know how I can support you at work,” donating money to any office efforts to help coworkers, and praying for coworkers.

    3. Tabby Baltimore*

      I am now determined to find a way to insert “drivelator” into an email some time this month. I can’t decide whether I want to use it to characterize someone who manufactures, or who enables the manufacture of, drivel, but given the personnel landscape where I’m at, it shouldn’t take too long before a worthy candidate surfaces.

    4. Ann Perkins*

      Yeah, if your manager responds with “but he’s a good Christian man”, turn that around and say, “Then surely he’d want to know that commenting on my sex life and body is inappropriate. Is that something you can help him understand?”

    5. Dragon_Dreamer*

      I half expect Gary to try and make a move on the OP if she and her husband ever divored. Urgh.

  19. Coder von Frankenstein*

    There are people who offer well-meaning but misguided advice.

    And then there is this guy.

    And then there is your manager who thinks what this guy is doing is fine and has ignored multiple complaints about him from multiple people.

    Alison’s advice is dead-on. Neither Gary nor your manager is going to respond to reasonable discussion–if they were going to, they would have. I just hope HR at your company is not also engaged in cranial self-colonoscopy.

  20. Data Nerd*

    Alison’s advice is spot on as usual. My only quibble–i don’t think she needs to say please. This is not a request, this is an order and F’n Gary will obey it or face OP’s wrath. That said, I get that it’s better optics for a workplace where the manager allows this garbage because F’n Gary is a Southern Christian Gentleman (TM).

    1. many bells down*

      The manager at my daughter’s very first job said “oh I don’t think [Assistant Manager] would have sent your daughter a d*ck pic, he’s a CHRISTIAN” like that has eff-all to do with the facts

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Creeps like your daughter’s first manager (or Gary) create an image of themselves as a ~Good Christian~ to deflect suspicion so they can continue to be creeps. Then, if they get caught and people stop falling for their innocent act, they wail that Jesus has forgiven their sins so everyone else should too. (Religion should not be a get-out-of-jail-free card.)

    2. Sam.*

      I also think I’d go to greater lengths to stress how creepy he’s being. I would probably start with, “Gary, do you realize that we have never had a conversation in which you did not comment on my body or weight?” [that’s obviously rhetorical, I would go straight into Alison’s script without giving him a chance to respond.]

  21. CDenmark*

    OP – I am sympathetic to your journey and how you have been handling the situation. I agree with the other posters and Alison about nipping this in the bud and being prepared to take this directly to HR. I would also say like others to document when this has happened.

    I wish you success on your adoption/fostering journey. Its a great thing. But practicing ending these questions now for this situation will also help when all the questions about how the adoption/foster search is going come about. I had a lot of that a year ago and it gets to be A LOT and you just want to talk about WORK THINGS at WORK.

    1. Observer*

      Actually practicing shutting down these conversations and *escalating as needed* without worrying unduly about the feelings of someone who is egregiously misbehaving are also going to be really good practice for you. ESPECIALLY if you wind up fostering or adopting a child who is visibly different from you and your husband. The totally crazy things people say can be jaw dropping, and being able to deal with that is unfortunately going to be a necessary skill.

    1. Anonariffic*

      Either a dead fish or a brick, a brick would work too. And if they try to complain afterward, OP can explain that it’s a “returning to work whoopsie” as she’s having trouble readjusting to the office culture and that they should really be more lenient and forgiving.

  22. INTP99*

    I suspect Gary doesn’t give an eff if he thinks he is helping or not. Gary just likes to have Gary’s opinion known. Gary is not helping. Gary needs a kick in the nuts. (I know that’s gauche – and I’ve read many AAM archives and read about lots of doinks. Gary might be the first one toward which I’ve had a strong nut kicking motivation).

  23. Alex*

    OP, when you say that you want to frame it like “I know he’s think he’s helping but I need him to stop” you’re taking on the emotional burden of his bad behavior for him as well as padding his perspective that these things are OK. You are doing the work of jumping through our cultural hoops to figure out what the least awful possible explanation is, and then working the statement of your own needs to fit in complementary to that.

    Even just the slight revision of “I know he thinks he is helping” to “he is not helping” takes out all that baggage and just states the facts. It is not rude to state facts, and you don’t need to manage how he will feel about this–after all, he has shown no ability or desire to reciprocate by changing HIS language to accommodate or manage your feelings.

    Because you’ve been framing this as “I know he is think he is helping” you’ve been giving information to try to show him that he is not. He has not taken the hint, and simply needs to be told he is not helping.

    (Also, his behavior is super gross and inappropriate and no amount of Christianity or Southerness is an excuse! For this or anything else!)

    1. Observer*

      I don’t even think the OP needs to go as far as “he’s not helping.”

      The behavior is intrusive and unwanted it needs to stop. If (or when) Boss brings up “helping”, THEN you respond “well he’s not helping and IT NEEDS TO STOP.”

  24. Crivens!*

    Before someone tries to engage in apologetics on Gary’s behalf over this:

    There is NO EXCUSE for what Gary is doing. None. There’s no excuse for ANYONE to treat a coworker this way, and there’s especially no excuse for a male coworker to treat a female coworker this way. Gary is being awful, his intent and his reasons don’t matter, and he’s an awful person.

  25. many bells down*

    I read the title and said… well I’m not going to repeat what I said, but it was easily as bad as I thought. No, he’s not helping. He’s not trying to be helpful. He’s weird and creepy and he needs to stop YESTERDAY.

  26. WantonSeedStitch*

    Holy forking sheet, Gary! WT Actual F is wrong with you?

    This letter made me want to punch things, repeatedly. This is SO NOT OK. This guy is beyond rude, and a vile concern troll. I get the feeling that no one has ever told him before that his behavior is inappropriate, and he seems like the kind of person who would keep pushing at someone’s boundaries if they didn’t assert them. I think Alison is spot-on about the need to be absolutely firm with him. Don’t worry if it makes him uncomfortable or hurts his feelings: he’s the one who’s being inappropriate here, and managing his feelings is not your job. If you’re afraid it will seem like it’s coming out of nowhere, you could perhaps acknowledge the suddenness of your change in approach: “Gary, I’ve been putting up with these unbelievably inappropriate comments and questions for a long time now, but I am not going to do so anymore. It has ALWAYS made me uncomfortable and upset. It needs to stop immediately. Do not comment on on question my health, the state of my body, or my childbearing plans again AT ALL.”

    1. Tiara Wearing Princess*

      I think the time to be firm with him has passed. He doesn’t deserve another chance. Or another explanation. He actually deserves to be fired. What he is doing is far beyond inappropriate. It’s sexual harassment, pure and simple and those words need to be said to HR.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          The do-nothing manager is what I’m afraid might stand in the way of Gary getting fired. But seeing them both go would be the best thing, yes.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Presumably the do-nothing manager has a manager (maybe the company owner?) who can fire him.

      1. schnauzerfan*

        Yes. Go to HR. Now, with all the documentation you can muster. Had we a time machine I’d say go back to the first time he mentioned your weight, and — blink. That’s an odd thing to say. Second intrusive comment — blink, shocked. Why would you say that. It’s rude, I wouldn’t comment on your body, so don’t mention mine again and we’ll forget you were ever so inappropriate. Third comment — Gary Eugene Clodpole! I don’t want to discuss my weight, my health or my sex life with you. Stop so I don’t have to (tell hr, take steps whatever) Fourth comment. Yes, HR. I did turn him into a toad, but in fairness he really did ask for it.

    2. Paulina*

      I think it’s likely that Gary has been told before that such comments are inappropriate, probably by previous women that he’s been body-policing. He seems to do it so consistently, as if evaluating and commenting on their bodies is simply how he interacts with women. He hasn’t listened, just as he hasn’t listened to the OP telling him why her weight loss wasn’t good, and the manager doesn’t bother doing anything (or may have vaguely tried once and then given up). He hasn’t been told seriously by anyone who has the authority to make him suffer consequences. But I expect he’s been told in various ways by previous targets, possibly with mostly soft nos (which we know can be heard when from people the offender wants to listen to), and he’s ignored it all.

  27. Kimmybear*

    When I got to the “good Southern gentleman” piece, I wanted to scream “I don’t care if he’s the Pope, this is not OK.” Put your foot down. Don’t give him more personal information as he sees that as an opening. Use Alison’s language and tell him to stop. And any manager that doesn’t see the problem is an idiot.

    1. Chinook*

      Atleat if he was Pope she couldnpoint out that a previous pope and curent saint wrote a whole document on sex being between spouses nd, since Gary i nit her spouse, he can keep his nose out of her sex life.

      For reference, the document is “Theology of the Body” and Gary’s need for knowledge is not mentioned once.

  28. Call Me Dr. Dork*

    Reasons are for reasonable people, to quote Captain Awkward. And Gary (and your manager) are not reasonable people. It’s time to draw boundaries about what information they are allowed to have, with no justification given to them. You get to decide this! Gary does not have any rights to know about your body or to provide commentary.

  29. Emma*

    Seriously reading this blog makes me so grateful for the people I work with. Goodness gracious, enough is enough, creepy Gary. Yikes.

    1. many bells down*

      Yeah my workplace is pretty lax, and we know pretty personal stuff about each other but if I ever once said “this isn’t a topic I’m comfortable discussing” that conversation would be OVER.

    2. high school teacher*

      Right? I literally cannot fathom a coworker asking me these questions, let alone ever letting the words “quarantine whoopsie” come out of his mouth.

  30. alligator aviator autopilot antimatter*

    This guy is a world-class creep and OP, I’m so sorry that you were in a position where you felt pressured to divulge any of that information to anyone in your workplace, let alone this creepazoid.

  31. Littorally*

    There is no world in which anything you’ve described here is a good-faith attempt to be helpful. He is using helpfulness as an excuse to pester you about your health, sex life, and your intimacies with your husband.

    Also, your boss sucks, and you would be well served to be forceful with him. If he tries to tell you that Gary just doesn’t understand modern workplaces or that he’s a “good Christian man,” your response is that harassing people about their medical conditions or marital sex life has never been acceptable workplace — or for that matter, social — behavior. Use harassing, medical conditions, and sex life very deliberately — for anyone with half a brain, these are words that say HR without actually saying it. Gary is engaging in disability and sexual harassment toward you — “quarantine whoopsie,” really? — and he needs to stop.

    1. (insert name here)*

      “Use harassing, medical conditions, and sex life very deliberately”

      If someone suggests you might have a “whoopsie” baby of any sort (barf), I would respond with “I don’t discuss my sex life at work” while sustaining direct eye contact and not smiling. Keep the eye contact until he looks away or says something else. If he tries to lighten it, repeat “I don’t discuss my sex life at work.” No further explanation is necessary, but if can’t help but continue to explain you can also say “my reproductive choices are, by default, my sex life and I don’t discuss my sex life at work.”

      Keep saying it until he goes away. For most “good christian southern men”, you saying “sex life” should be enough that he won’t speak to you again.

  32. Heidi*

    Hi OP. So sorry you’ve had to put up with this for so long. I know that asking Gary to stop making these comments was not on the list of options you wrote about, but I think it might have the best chance of actually making the comments stop. It’s going to be unpleasant – Gary may get all defensive and claim that did nothing wrong. There may be passive-aggressive silent treatment type BS. Or there may be aggressive-aggressive gaslighting only-trying-to-help BS. But at the same time, putting up with his comments for the rest of your time working there doesn’t seem tenable either.

    As for being a “good Christian Southern man,” Gary definitely does not meet criteria for at least 2 of those 4 descriptors.

    Good luck!

    1. Observer*

      The OP needs to TELL – *not* “ask” Gary to stop. I don’t think it’s going to work, to be honest, because she’s already said more than enough. But she still needs to do it because that’s probably the only way that HR is going to take action.

  33. Now In the Job*

    He is literally spending his free time thinking about you and your husband having sex. How bizarre and inappropriate is that?! As someone who is not having children, I can’t help but *always* think about this when people ask this insanely inappropriate, personal, intrusive question.

    1. Batgirl*

      It’s definitely sexual. A guy who does nothing but talk about your body and whether you’ve pulled the goalie? I like giving benefits of the doubt but I can’t find any.

  34. Jaybeetee*

    Things you can say to Gary in the future:

    – I’ve been discussing this with my doctor/husband.
    – I’ve decided not to discuss my health at work.
    – I’m looking at my options.

    I understand your concern in that Gary is quite senior to you (and apparently your boss lets him get away with things), so you haven’t wanted to shoot him down sharply, so you’ve wound up drawn into these conversations with him. But no, you don’t need to talk about these things, he shouldn’t be talking to you about these things, and you absolutely don’t need to defend your body or decisions to him.

    If the “soft” shutdowns don’t work, go a bit blunter, per Alison. “I don’t want to discuss this, please stop asking me about it.” If he continues, or this leads to other problems, it’s time to loop in HR.

    I’ll also note that yes, in Gary’s head this is probably all helpful, fatherly concern. That’s likely what he tells himself, and whatever other motivations he might have, he might not get consciously aware of them. But none of that is your problem, and he’s still being incredibly inappropriate. You never asked for his “help and concern”, and you don’t need it.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      he might not get consciously aware of them
      he’s making small talk with a woman. What else is he supposed to talk about? sports? haha. Work? not likely, ha. He’s making a genuine to speak to a woman on her level.

      1. Altair*

        By bugging her about her weight and her sex life? Is that really the entirety of our ‘level’?

        The thing Gary and LW have in common is work, so why can’t he restrict himself to talking about work?

        1. Altair*

          Oh huh I realized, considering other comments, you’re being sarcastic here. Which is good, because, sheesh, Gary. He could stand to learn to talk to a woman like a fellow human being, couldn’t he?

          1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

            Oh wow. Yes! I was so offended by my theory about this guy that I didn’t make it clear. Honestly, Gary. You want to make small talk, seem like a “nice guy” who is interested in the staff? Then talk to them about work. It’s that simple.

    2. Observer*

      No, this is NOT “helpful fatherly concer.” That’s actually an incredibly sexist thing to say – he has more than enough information to know that he’s out of line and, in general, men are perfectly capable of understanding the repeated comments of the sort he is making are NOT “helpful” or “fatherly”. (How many men do you know who repeatedly ask their daughters about the possibility of an “oopsie”? And what would be your reaction to a man who DID do this to his daughter?)

      1. Jaybeetee*

        I’m not saying this *is* helpful, fatherly, or anything decent (or most) men would do. Just that that’s likely how Gary considers it, vis-a-vis “toxic people don’t recognize they’re toxic.”

        1. Observer*

          No, I don’t think even he thinks this is “fatherly” or “concern”. To the extent that he doesn’t recognize that he’s toxic, it’s because he thinks it is OK to poke his nose into every crany of a woman’s life.

        2. Legal Beagle*

          Even if he does consider it that way (which I think is giving him too much credit), it’s 1) still inappropriate and harassing, 2) a sexist mindset that he needs to change, since his role in the workplace is not as OP’s father figure, and 3) completely irrelevant to OP. It’s not OP’s job to try and divine what Gary’s motivation is; the only issue is that he’s being wildly inappropriate and it needs to stop.

    3. Amber Rose*

      I’ve never met a father or grandfather aged man in my life who acted this way towards their own family members unless they were already horrible.

      You’re indirectly insulting all the men who know how to behave and it’s not helpful.

    4. Scarlet2*

      I think I would get all pearl-clutchy on that guy: “Gary, are you really asking me about my sex life?/Are you commenting on my body?/You’re making me very uncomfortable, please stop asking about my private life, etc.”

      1. Batgirl*

        I would too. At the very least I’d do blank speechlessness followed by “that’s not appropriate”. The trick is to pre-plan the look of stunned surprise.

    5. Batgirl*

      Orrr ….. “Why the fuck would I want to discuss THAT with you Gary?”
      Or possibly: “We’ve talked about this and I’ve asked you not to pry into my sex life or look closely enough at my body that you could journal my body weight”.

  35. Amber Rose*

    He doesn’t think he’s helping.


    Please, for the love of mercy, stop framing this disgusting harassment as any kind of good intentions, because it’s not now, never was, and never will be. He’s not trying to be helpful, he simply feels entitled to your body and personal information. If he really thought he was helping, he would have backed off after being told half the things you’ve told him.

    Once you realize that he’s not being helpful, I think you’re going to find it a lot easier to push back on this. He’s not a nice guy that you are being mean to. He’s a gross creep and he’s going to get exactly the treatment that he deserves.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      The things is too, he is not a medical professional in any way. So any advice he gives should be instantly discarded.

    2. INTP99*

      Agreed. Saying it anyway and not giving a $%@#$% but just saying it coz he wants to say it is Gary’s raison d’etre.

    3. Jean (just Jean)*

      Applause for all of the above responses.
      Sign me, The Choir to Which Y’all Are Preaching.

    4. Batgirl*

      Yeah you don’t need a conscience to be a misogynist. All you need is to believe that OP is a woman, which isn’t really a person. Then you don’t feel bad and you don’t worry about helping her.

  36. Observer*

    Please take Alison’s advice. Do NOT try to frame it as “He thinks he is helping.” And you really, really do NOT have to explain why you don’t want to discuss this. In fact, I think that at this point it’s counterproductive.

    I do want to push back on something – and it’s something you should bring up with HR, if (or when) Gary refuses to act like a decent human being.

    Even if this were about “cultural differences” and his age, it would not be an excuse because if Gary is a competent adult he is old enough to have been instructed that policing other people’s food, repeated comments on people’s weight and questions about people’s reproductive and intimate plans are not acceptable for the workplace. All your manager needed to do was to actually TELL him this.

    The reason why your manager has never done so is at least in part because it’s actually baloney. I’m closer in age to Gary than to you. I cannot ever imagine a time when *A* conversation like this would have been ok at work. Multiple, repeated conversation? Never!

    Please go to HR. And please let us know what happens. I hope we get a boring and happy update from you.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I worked with a Gary once, he frequently claimed he was ‘only trying to help’ and ‘having babies, losing weight will make you so much happier’. That’s how he justified it for years, as ‘helping’. I wanted to ‘help’ him practise unassisted flight off the top floor…

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, it’s like the ‘But how can you be truly happy if you never experience the wonder of motherhood? I just want you to be happy! Just have a baby, I promise you’ll love it once it’s here!’ people.

        1. Ashley*

          My male boss has told me some version of this multiple times. It is weird and gross when anyone outside of my husband or very best friend ever offer advice on my reproductive choices or plans.

          1. On a pale mouse*

            Pretty sure my response to this would be, Okay, if it turns out I’m not happier and don’t love being a parent, are you going to adopt it? No? Then don’t tell me what to do about it.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Worst bit was when I had doctors advising me to have a baby in order to ‘treat’ a medical condition (severe endometriosis). Getting the hassle from work, doctors and family at the same time just broke me completely.

  37. Llellayena*

    Gary has already crossed the line into harassment territory, both disability and gender. You HAVE told him to stop, he’s continued. I wouldn’t even bother with asking him again, go straight to HR, do not pass go, do not collect $200 (unless it’s part of a settlement with Gary…). Do NOT bring up his possible motives, just bald facts. He has commented regularly on your health, weight (which in your case is health/disability related), and reproductive status (gender harassment) and will not stop when you ask him to. The large hammer of HR/Legal needs to hit him over the head yesterday.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, OP has told him to stop multiple times and walked away from a conversation. Alison suggests two more “warnings” but I would give him one at most, skipping immediately to the “I’ve already told you multiple times to stop. If you don’t, I’m going to HR” piece. I also think OP is justified in going to HR the next time Gary says anything, since she’s already said multiple times that she’s not going to talk about this again with him. I don’t understand why Gary needs to get additional chances here, when he’s already been told multiple times to stop. He’s already harassing her about it!!

  38. Ominous Adversary*

    Tell Gary and your boss that he is intruding on private family matters and trying to have discussions with you that your husband would prefer to keep within the home. It sounds like you work for the type of awful men who only respect a woman’s boundaries when they think they’re intruding on another man’s territory.

    Also your workplace is horrible.

    1. Snark no more!*

      Umm, I understand that you’re trying to be helpful. I do not understand, however, why you suggest that this old-fashioned attitude be promoted as a reason to drop the highly invasive comments? I mean, Gary is supposedly going to do a 180 because “the good little wife” is obeying her husband’s wishes?

      Total garbage.

      1. Moocowcat*

        Yeah, I think that Gary is that type of awful man who only respect a woman’s boundaries when they think they’re intruding on another man’s territory. Or when HR steps in.

        Thankfully the OP has the option of connecting with HR.

    2. Batgirl*

      I understand the impulse to do this; I’ve even done it. But it backfires and it only props up an unworkable system. I’d lawyer up if this were the only option.

  39. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    “How do I frame the conversation…”
    Best advice I ever got, “you don’t have to accept an invitation to an argument.”
    Same advice here.
    You don’t have to frame a conversation because you don’t have to have a conversation.
    You tell him you are not going to discuss it. And then you don’t.
    Worst case scenario? He tells your boss that you are standoffish (or his good, family man word choice uppity bitch). What is your boss going to to do? He will tell you to be more open to Gary. and then you ask him what you are supposed to say when Gary tells you to eat less and get pregnant.
    Then stop talking and let boss wriggle around with that one.

    1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

      seriously, use the term “talking about my sex life.”

      “are you telling me I have to be more open with Gary about my sex life?”

      and if they say that’s not what it is .. “are you … aware of where babies come from?”

  40. IndustriousLabRat*

    Oh my goodness. OP, you have been so extremely patient with this disgusting campaign of what is essentially gender-based harassment! After the very first time that you asked him to stop or told him it made you uncomfortable, he no longer had the excuse of naivety and ‘a different generational view’. No means no and you are more than entitled to escalate this as far as you need to, to get relief from not only Gary’s disturbing comments, but the spineless response of your manager! Don’t feel like you have to sugar coat it to avoid hurting his feelings; simply be professional- it’s more courtesy than he has given you and you remain the more respectful/respectable person in the situation! Personally I would have escalated this riiiight on up the chain after the first coupe times of telling him to please stop. You’ve certainly made an effort already and one last, more stern, request (whether it is to Gary or your manager) is really a kindness to them, to fix it before someone above them gets involved. Because any decent upper manager or HR rep would be as appalled by this as Alison is!
    I’m so sorry. What a couple of toads.

  41. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    Holy hanukah balls! Getting into harassment territory?? I think he’s already there.

    This is disgusting and disturbing. And HR doesn’t need to know about the hysterectomy. You are being sexually harassed. Full stop.
    You’ve been crystal clear that this subject is not open to discussion. I don’t think he deserves another warning. Go to HR now, tell them It’s sexual discrimination and you want a stop to it. I don’t care if he is the reincarnation of Billy Graham. He’s Beyond gross.

    1. emmelemm*

      Yeah, I was pretty floored by “getting into” harassment territory. It’s already there by a long shot.

      OP says above that her company has had multiple sexual harassment lawsuits filed against them. This whole thing is insane.

  42. LifeBeforeCorona*

    Gary is not a good Christian Southern man. He is the direct opposite. What if he were an atheist? Would your boss come down harder on him? He needs to take his nose out of your reproductive business.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, it’s pretty gross to give him a pass for being a Christian (or any other specific religion or non-religion).

  43. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

    If it were me, I’d give Gary the biggest cactus I could find along with an invitation to put it where the sun doesn’t shine. WTH is wrong with Gary????

    On a completely different note, I wanted to give a massive, virtual high-five to the OP for considering adoption. As a “chosen (adopted) child” myself, I am always so super excited to hear of couples considering adoption. I’m really sorry you can’t have children of your own, but I truly hope you go with adoption and the opportunity to make a huge difference in a child’s life.

  44. VermiciousKnid*

    OP, Gary doesn’t think he’s “helping.” He’s being an asshole and he’s acting like it’s coming from a place of concern to cover his own butt. Instead of a swift kick to the nuts, which is absolutely what this creep deserves, you need to shut it down every time it happens. Alison gave you a way to do it nicely, but I’d turn up the ice factor by about a million. Summon every ounce of distain you have and practice in the mirror: “Don’t comment on my body.” “Don’t comment on my lunch.” “Don’t comment on my reproductive plans.”

    If that doesn’t work, I’m going to give you a page from my own playbook. Years and years ago, my husband and I worked at the same place. We were working together one shift, and my manager referred to him as my “partner in zone and fornication.” I gave him a withering, “EXCUSE ME?” and he skittered off. Then I told the chattiest manager what he said and that I had logged it for my planned harassment lawsuit. The inappropriate manager avoided me like the plague the rest of the time he worked there (before he was sh*t canned for something unrelated).

    Also, sorry for all you’ve been through! I’m glad your health issues are under control and hope that you’re able to start your family, however way works best, soon.

    1. Aldabra*

      Yes, this is perfect! Bonus points for if other coworkers are around in the lunchroom or whatever. I’d say instead “I already told you not to [comment on my lunch],” and then that shows the coworkers that you’re not just “being mean” (because that’s what it is when a woman is being firm) out of nowhere, that it’s an ongoing problem and someone is finally disallowing Gary to continue with his dickness. And maybe they stand up to him too, because I doubt you’re the only one he’s doing this to.

    2. wendelenn*

      Sheesh. Not to mention that, if he’s your husband, it’s by definition not fornication!

    3. Batgirl*

      Yeah an icy “EXCUSE ME?” is a good feminine tool; worth practicing in the mirror even if you only ever use it once. A good eyebrow raise can work too. Your nearest fearless old lady will demonstrate.

  45. LivingWithTheNightmareofGary*

    Hi everyone, LW here! I am so grateful for all the kind wishes about my health and for all of your advice. I do have one quick update for you: it was announced in a staff meeting that Gary is going part-time soon and his schedule will be opposite of mine. This may mean that we only see each other at the Company Christmas party which would be amazing.
    I am an enneagram 2 so setting boundaries is something I don’t do well, like at all. But seeing it laid out as you and Alison have in your responses, I really think being direct and firm is what’s needed. HR will definitely be looped in and I’ll let you all know how it goes.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Yay, freedom! I have all my fingers and toes crossed for you that HR takes you seriously.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I sincerely hope that you never have to see that waste of DNA ever again. I’m hoping he doesn’t harass via email or other methods that he’d possibly be able to continue with?

      Also, keeping fingers crossed for him being thoroughly reprimanded by HR.

    3. Observer*

      It’s good that you will probably not have to deal with this creep again. But you would be doing all of the women in the company a big favor if you sent a quick FYI email to HR explaining that Gary had been making these comments on an ongoing basis, and the your manager has consistently refused to do anything about your complaints or the complaints of others about this.

      Of course, if you don’t have confidence in HR, don’t do it. But if they are good, then they are going to be very unhappy with Gary and your manager. And although they may not do anything at the moment they WILL use t if anything further comes up.

            1. Dragon_Dreamer*

              I wonder if this new schedule is your boss’s way of “appeasing” you and it will last for exactly as long as he and Gary think it will take for this to “blow over.”

    4. Altair*

      Hooray! May you not have to deal with his invasive twitdom ever again! And if you ever feel like you were ‘overreacting’, save this post and all our comments and remember that we’re all in your corner!

    5. Drew*

      Good luck and please DO post an update. Gary is awful, you are nice, and I really hope that HR is able to get Gary to leave you the hell alone.

    6. ADHSquirrelWhat*

      Thank goodness on him being AWAY from you!

      But as a woman that also has reproductive issues – I can say that, in all honesty, there will ALWAYS be people that feel they have a right to comment on your family size/ number of children/ childbearing attempts/ anything else along those lines. It might be hard to make boundaries, but there is NO amount of information that is “enough” for a concern troll. Giving more does not help. ONLY refusing to engage helps. You could tell them that you’re a space alien with a planetful of podlings and they’d ask about your human baby plans. Practice looking shocked in the mirror and refuse to answer inappropriate questions.

      Best of luck to you in however your plans work out, and however your family works out!

      1. high school teacher*

        Sometimes I wonder if this norm will start to change. I’m in my late 20s and I have several family members and friends who have struggled with infertility. As a result, I have sort of come of age knowing that questions about family planning can be fraught, so I tend not to ask about that and instead let my friends bring it up themselves. I’m wondering if a few generations ago asking about having kids was fine, but now with more knowledge about infertility and miscarriages, people will stop seeing it as a a safe conversational topic. At least I hope so.

        1. Observer*

          Actually, it was only recently that people started thinking that it was ok to ask these questions. I think, Because once upon a time, people knew that this stuff can be fraught. Once birth control became commonplace, people seemed to forget that preventing pregnancy was only part of the story.

          I grew up knowing VERY clearly that you don’t ask about this stuff and that you don’t make any assumptions.

    7. Anonymous1*

      Please let Gary know, every year at the Christmas party, that he is looking a bit rounder in the tummy, and encourage him to lose some weight. Let him know every time thereafter that you’re rooting for his weight loss but he doesn’t seem to be progressing well. Also inquire about his family planning. As a man, he can reproduce quite late in life, so you are allowed at every turn to ask when the next Gary Jr. is coming along.

    8. Atalanta0jess*

      This is a great update. I am so sorry that you’re in an environment that isn’t validating how completely wrong his behavior is, but it is honestly egregious. Keep on reading AAM, she’s so good at teaching us to set boundaries….it’s really been helpful for me. Boundaries will set you free! And you can learn to set them…they don’t come easily for so many of us, but they really can be a learned skill. It just takes practice. And the uncomfortable feeling that comes along with setting them will get less and less over time as you move into fully being comfortable caring for yourself in that way. You deserve it!!

    9. Koala dreams*

      Thanks for the update!

      Good luck with HR, I hope they are better people than your manager.

    10. Hei Hei the Chicken from Moana*

      Woot!! Wishing you all the continued best with your health and marriage! :)

    11. Pocket Mouse*

      I’m so glad you get a reprieve. Gary’s behavior is truly atrocious.

      Something to consider: provide far less info about your health/body at work! It sounds like you value transparency, and that’s admirable, but it’s possible to be transparent without giving detail: instead of “I’m getting a hysterectomy and will have to figure out what that means for our options to form the family we want”, try “I’m having a follow-up surgery related to the same set of health issues as before and while it’s for the best, it’s taking a lot of mental energy”.

      While Gary is extreme, he may not be the only person who will take information you provide and run with it in a direction you don’t like. My personal preference is to keep the possibility somewhat at a distance, rather than risk having to set a boundary in the moment. Scripts provided by Alison and others are good for the latter if needed.

      1. LivingWithTheNightmareofGary*

        Unfortunately, there’s not much room not to address the elephant in the room pretty fully. I have highly visible indicators that something is atypical and they can be very distracting and scary if you don’t know what’s going on. I do know that he won’t be the last person to abuse the knowledge, but I also don’t want others in the office to worry.
        I made a general announcement to the whole office when I first started to clear the air and set expectations. He’s the only one who ever brought it up again. Any ideas on how to balance clear medical needs and not oversharing?

        1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

          I’d go with something like “hey, I know sometimes I look sick, I’m receiving medical treatment but sometimes it takes a lot out of me. It’s not contagious and I really prefer work to be an escape from dealing with it all the time.”

          that says that yes, you know, you’re getting help, and no one else needs to go “omg what if I catch it”.

        2. Pocket Mouse*

          Just focus on what people at work need to know for work-related and workplace purposes. Individual (internal!) body parts and your plans for bringing children into your life are *not* an elephant in the room. Sooo far from it.

          “As you know, I’m experiencing some health issues, and will take [amount of time] off for a surgery to address it. I’m discussing with my team how to arrange coverage in the meantime, and we’re developing a plan for any time off for lingering healthcare needs afterward. The thought of it is weighing on my mind, so thank you in advance for your understanding if I appear distracted. Also, as a heads up, there are some visible effects of this health issue- if X happens, it looks scary, but please trust that it’s not worrisome and I’ll be fine! If you see Y happen, it’s also not worrisome but I may need to step away from work for a bit to deal with it. Z is rare, but if it happens, I’ll need to see a doctor quickly and may need assistance making calls to arrange doing so- but again, I don’t expect Z to happen.”

          A parallel example: I have a colleague who came into work with their arm in a sling. I don’t work with them directly, so it’s none of my business beyond maybe expressing I hope they’re okay and, since they shared it was a result of a surgery, I hope the recovery is speedy. Their supervisor needs to know about time off and impact on work (since some functions of the job require use of the hands). There is no reason for them to offer to me, or to their supervisor, that it was their fourth surgery and all were needed due to a degenerative condition that shortens their life expectancy by 20 years and may affect their ability to perform activities of daily life before then (or whatever the case may be). That’s information to share with close friends, not with colleagues.

          And, because I neglected to say so before- I hope the care you receive is top-notch and everything goes smoothly!

          1. Taniwha Girl*

            Seconding this. Your body is not an elephant in the room. Someone could walk in with jaundice, leg in a cast, black eye, severe weight gain/loss, shaved head, missing arm, trembling, whatever visible medical condition you imagine.

            All they have to say is, “It’s a medical issue that is under control, not to worry!”

            You don’t need to give anyone any more information about that. They are not entitled to anything (except as Pocket Mouse said, your supervisor should know your work availability). But you don’t need to repeat what your doctor told you and what you and your husband decided to relitigate your decisions with your coworkers. Everything can be tied back to the Decision That Has Already Been Made.

            When people ask how you’re doing/gently press for details:
            “I’m doing fine/just a little tired today/nothing to report/same old same old, thanks! How are you/other topic change?”
            When people ask more directly for details or give suggestions about your health:
            “Thanks for your concern but my doctor and I have it handled!/I’m already on a plan with my doctor, thanks!/I appreciate the concern but I’ve already decided how to handle it.”
            When people give unwanted and rude comments:
            “Excuse me?! How dare you!/ I’ll thank you not to comment on my health/body like that./ My health is between me and my doctor, so it’s none of your concern./ You’re not my doctor and I don’t recall asking your opinion.”

            Again, I think it will be easier to improvise a response on the spot if you frame the issue in your mind as “I am on a plan with my doctor, and my decisions are already made. My coworkers don’t need to know those decisions and they can’t affect what is already decided.”

    12. GoAwayGary*

      This was helpful to me, perhaps it will be useful to you, too.
      Boundaries are a courtesy & aid to both parties. Implementing them is a kindness to others. They help all parties stay where they should. Boundaries can be adjusted as appropriate over time – eg if a real friendship develops at work the boundaries adjust to reflect that.
      We’re often taught socially that boundaries are not nice, mean we are secretive, etc but that’s a misunderstanding of what boundaries are & how they function. Learning this has made my life so much easier.
      Best to you in all of this.

  46. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Worked with a guy like this. He also, on top of comments about my weight and how he was 100% certain I’d get ‘accidentally pregnant’ (nope, never, no way) he tried to mansplain how it was impossible for a woman to be bisexual to me regularly.

    I wasn’t as professional as Alison. Not back then. I wish her advice had been around then so much.

    After several years of me telling him to stop and being ignored I just cracked. I swore in the office, called him a variety of names, told him if he ever gave his opinion about my body or what I do with it again he would not like the results. Don’t do this. It not only didn’t stop his harassment, it added on a ‘women are all hysterical’ layer and got me in a lot of trouble with the boss.

    To sum up, I know this agony. Follow Alison’s advice. Don’t shout or swear. Even though anyone acting like him deserves it.

    1. Fuzzy Pickles*


      (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

      That’s all I got. Sorry Keymaster. Sorry LW.

  47. Mockingjay*

    I’d be even more blunt than Alison. Use short sentences and a firm voice.

    “Gary, stop. My weight and family plans are not up for discussion, ever.” Walk away.
    “Gary, I told you to stop. These things are not up for discussion.” Walk away.
    “Why are you asking me this? I told you I am not discussing these things, ever.” Walk away.

    Keep walking away. By leaving, you shut down the conversation before he can defend/deflect/argue/mansplain his words. The goal is not to engage Gary; that’s what he wants. Don’t satisfy him.

    I am sorry you have to deal with this jerk. Remember, he’s the one causing the problem, not you.

    1. mf*

      These are good scripts. I would add, “This has crossed the line into sexual harassment, Gary. I need you to stop.” That’ll freak him the f@$! out.

  48. Free Meerkats*

    And then do take this to HR. What Gary is doing is getting into harassment territory, and you should frame it for HR that way.

    The initial notification to HR should be via email, with a blind copy sent to your personal email. And the subject line in the first email should be “Official Complaint of Sexual Harassment.” You should then document all future discussions with HR by summarizing them in an email to the person you talked with, again BCCing your personal email.

    1. Sara without an H*

      +1000. Document everything, and save all copies in your personal email or online document account, NOT at the office. I can’t emphasize that strongly enough.

  49. AnotherAlison*

    At first, it’s hard to believe this. And then I remember 20 years of conversations I have had with some particularly socially inept men at work, and it’s easy to believe. Sorry, OP, I hope you can get Gary to shut up and get the support you deserve from your management.

  50. Laurie*

    I would also document in writing each of your conversations, moving forward. Include dates, General description of the conversation, that you told him to stop, his reaction, etc). Use this when you go to HR.

  51. yala*

    I wonder if this “good Christian man” would stop if you loudly asked him “Why are you asking about my sex life?” with a look of horror and confusion.

    probably not.

    UGH, this is so gross. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this.

    No, Gary does not mean well. He just doesn’t. He’s a creep. He might think he’s being nice, but he’s ignoring social boundaries and being a gaddang creep.

  52. Ginger*

    OP – time to let the rage take over. Talking to your boss should not be a “he’s being nice but…”, it should be “THIS F*CKING GUY WONT STOP HARASSING ME”.

    Document everything, go to HR, do not pass go.

    and quite frankly, if your boss doesn’t jump immediately with anything less than 110% support, consider talking to a lawyer just to get advice (not saying you need to go there yet, but know your options and what you would need if you do).

  53. Dust Bunny*

    You are being way, way, too nice to Gary.

    Gary is so far over he’s approaching the next county and he needs to be told point-blank and with no blow-softening that your body and your family plans are none of his business and he is going to stop mentioning them right now.

    Also, he’s not a good Christian Southern man–I’m from Texas, by the way–he’s an intrusive jerk, and “cultural differences” is a BS defense. If he can learn job skills he can learn to keep his trap shut about stuff like this.

  54. All the Cats*

    This guy is just unbelievably gross. And he is the one who has created this awkwardness — you have every right to call him out on the grossness, and if he doesn’t like that, too bad! He could have avoided it by shutting his disgusting mouth. The fact that he feels he is ENTITLED to talk to you this way, that he feels comfortable enough that you should/will permit it — is just amazing (in the worst way). Screw that.

    “Did… you just ask me again about my sex life?”
    “WHY are you talking about my body again? Are you even capable of NOT talking about my body? Because you bring it up literally every time you see me.”
    “I’ve told you several times I’m not going to discuss this at work. Frankly I’m surprised that you feel entitled to keep bringing it up anyway.”

    Call that crap RIGHT out. Better still if there are witnesses within earshot. And document the absolute hell out of every instance; if HR feels the same way your boss does, that this is all hunky dory because he’s a nice Christian man, a lawyer could use that documentation. Times, dates, quotes.

    Ugh. So gross. OP, I hope you will be able to put a stop to this one way or another so you can heal and move along with the things going on in your life without having to listen to this idiot. I hope you will come back and update us!

  55. I don’t post often*

    !!!!!!! I’m tired of dealing with the feelings and thoughts of older men and being told I have to make exceptions because “things were different in their time.” No. No I don’t. No, you do not get to comment on my career, the fact that I’m working, the fact that I only have one child, that I “don’t like chocolate so that’s why you are skinny”, or “you like salads so it’s easy for you”. No. It’s not ok. And also(!) you do not owe him an explanation on any of it. We are waiting to adopt. I only talk about that at work with very specific co-workers because while on a daily basis I think about the children I’ve lost (or the ones I can’t have. Or frankly why I spoil the heck out of living child) i don’t want to constantly explain why we are adopting.

    Why do people continue to think it’s ok to comment on what other people eat/ weigh? It’s not. It’s not ok or remotely appropriate.

    Tell him straight up “that’s not your business and it’s weird you keep asking about it.”

    Clearly this hit a nerve with me.

    1. Epiphyta*

      To paraphrase John Scalzi, if you’re still on this side of the dirt, great news! Today is also “your time”! Learn better.

    2. mf*

      PREACH. Just because old dudes have been around longer does NOT give them the right to make your life miserable with their sexist, narrow-minded thoughts and feelings.

  56. Precious Wentletrap*

    A “good Christian Southern man” knows when to mind his own and let the Lord take over, and would find it uncouth to discuss anyone’s health concerns beyond “well/unwell” in a workplace. ESPECIALLY NOT A LADY’S. We’re done here, Gary.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      A “good Christian Southern man” would ask if there’s anything she would like him to pray about and occasionally follow up on those specific prayer requests to see how she’s doing in those areas. Gary might very well go to church, but he’s not acting like a Christian.

  57. A Pinch of Salt*

    I know you can’t actually do this in a work setting, but I have a friend that diverts baby comments with things like “we’ve been trying, but tend to get distracted by the back door…if you know what I mean.” (Wink)

    But is there a work-appropriate overshare that this ‘good Southern Christian’ might not appreciate hearing?

    1. Sharrbe*

      Oh my……. that would definitiely make most people shut up and never mention it again lol!!!!!

  58. Jack Dedham*

    And if you get flak from your coworkers (again, “good Southern Christian man”), act like it’s obvious that he has crossed a line-“I don’t know why Gary is obsessing over my body or the status of my uterus but it’s harassment, so of course I had to involve HR.” Be matter of fact, don’t apologize or downplay it. Gary is gross and he needs to be called out. If you have a male coworker (or your boss, who is male too, right?) who doesn’t see the harm, turn it on them “Does Gary ask about your weight or inquire about your semen or testicles? No? Then he shouldn’t be asking me about my reproductive organs.”

  59. Hiring Mgr*

    Gary is terrible but IMO the manager is just as bad.. basically giving Gary free reign to say what he wants. If Gary were an atheist would that be enough to get him to keep quiet?

    Agree w/AAM’s advice overall – have a serious “come to jesus” talk w/him and if that doesn’t stop escalate if you can..

  60. LGC*

    If you need any more reinforcement, LW: It’s 2020 (with all the attendant baggage that entails), but also…it’s 2020. I don’t know if Gary thinks he’s helping (you be the best you that you can be) as much as it is that he thinks he’s “helping” (you live up to his retrograde ideals of femininity). And yeah, that’s kind of uncharitable, but – he’s literally telling you to diet and asking about the occupancy levels of your uterus! I’m sorry that you’re not simultaneously thin enough and fertile enough for his purposes, but that is totally not your job!

    (And yes, I’m being intentionally kind of gross, because Gary is being gross.)

    Also, while your problem is Gary-shaped, you really have a boss problem. For whatever reason, he’s more invested in protecting Gary from consequences – who seems to have a history of causing strife in your department – than in…like, getting Gary to stop causing issues.

  61. Rectilinear Propagation*

    LW, I don’t think Gary is trying to help.

    You’ve already given him enough information to know a pregnancy may be dangerous and not even possible. You’ve flat out told him you don’t want to talk about it. You told him the weight loss was due to illness.

    It is unfortunately considered “acceptable“ for people to comment on others’ weight but in no universe is it helpful. It’s just bullying. Telling someone to lose weight or get pregnant (or asking if they are) doesn’t help them do that, even when they want to do those things. He doesn’t think he’s actually helping you do anything, he just wants you to know what he thinks you should be doing.

    That’s why sharing your medical information doesn’t stop him. This isn’t coming from a place of concern for your well being or happiness. This is, “I think a woman should be X,Y,Z so you owe me a progress report every time I see you”.

    And this would be unacceptable even if you were in perfect health. The fact that your health issues haven’t stopped him just makes it that much more gross.

    Please follow Alison’s advice, especially regarding not softening this when reporting to HR. Don’t give them a reason to think this isn’t as bad as it is, especially since you have a manager regularly making excuses for inexcusable behavior.

    1. iglwif*


      Gary is a sexist patriarchal asshat with no boundaries, and his “helpful” commentary is not workplace-appropriate in any circumstances–like, even if you were perfectly healthy, 25 years old, and planning to get pregnant ASAP, it still would not be his business in any way shape or form.

      Him being Christian doesn’t make this OK, and being Christian is also not why he’s doing it. People like this exist in every culture, and wherever they are they find some cultural or ideological hook to hang their gross behavior on so it can be “not their fault”.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*


      I was going to leave a sarcastic comment about how it’s not acceptable to comment on someone’s weight, reproductive plans, health, etc. in this world either (society is just wrong to think otherwise), but I realized it was taking so much explaining that it was an inappropriate comment.

      Self-monitoring is possible, who knew?

    3. Paulina*

      “He doesn’t think he’s actually helping you do anything, he just wants you to know what he thinks you should be doing.”


  62. A New CV*

    If Gary is able to perform his job functions in a modern workplace, he is able to interact appropriately with his coworkers in that same workplace. This is not a “cultural difference” that he gets to ignore, any more than he can ignore any other work task. He knows to wear clothes and not cuss out customers, he can learn other “modern” workplace skills. He’s not a feral dog, he’s an grown adult with a job.
    It’s 2020. Grow up Gary!

    1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      So very true! If my father & grandparents can learn how to use a computer, cell phones and other modern tech then Gary can learn to keep his trap shut. At this point it probably is too late to teach an old dog the new trick of “we don’t discuss a women’s body or reproductive plans in the workplace” but even an old dog can be taught not to bark.

  63. Kiki*

    *Cue Cell Block Tango*

    Obviously not suggesting murder, but LW should ABSOLUTELY not feel bad if Gary gets in trouble when LW reports his behavior. Gary is harassing the letter writer and making her feel terribly uncomfortable at work. HE HAD IT COMING, HE ONLY HAD HIMSELF TO BLAME (for his HR write-up and sensitivity training or whatever happens).

  64. infrequent commenter*

    OP, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. This is so obnoxious I had to take a break from reading it so I could calm down. This is absolutely none of his business and I hope you feel comfortable telling him that. Yes, it’s uncomfortable for you to have to feel like you’re being rude to be so matter of fact in telling him but, he’s the one who is being rude by continuing to comment about these things. Repeat that to yourself as necessary…”he is the one being rude.”

  65. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Why is Gary spending so much time thinking about you having sex? Because that’s basically what the pregnancy talk is.
    Sounds a lot different when you frame it like that, but it might be helpful for you to do so in your head. You’ve been open about your medical stuff and he still pretends the weight loss was desired and keeps bugging you about babies. He’s not trying to be helpful, he’s a creepy ass masquerading as one.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      For real. I’d be so tempted to say something really rude like “why are you so interested in how many times I f*ck my husband, Gary?”

  66. Talley*

    If you do get the, “cultural difference, be more forgiving” response from your boss or HR, do the email confirmation thing: “Just want to make sure I understood your direction correctly. In response to Gary doing these things I should be forgiving, right?” Then you’ll have it in writing.

  67. bassclefchick*

    Where’s Julia Sugarbaker when we need her?! She’s a proper Southern Lady and would put this “gentleman in his place. And throw in a “bless your heart”. If anyone needed a true Southern Lady’s “bless your heart”, it’s this guy.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      I don’t know Julia Sugarbaker from Scarlett O’Hara but yes, if he is as Southern as you say he is, a “Bless your heart, you are so concerned about my children” will get the point across to him loud and clear.

  68. Body Check*

    Cut to the chase: the WTAF response is “it’s none of your business and if you continue to harass me, I will go to HR.” Then walk away and write a memo to the boss about it so there is a written record.

    Memo should stick to the facts about what he said and what she said, and on what dates this occurred. No other narrative needs to be included except to say she is making the boss aware of what’s transpired to date.

    This is harassment and if the boss is smart, he’ll call in Gary and nip it in the bud.

  69. Colorado*

    I would have told Gary to f*ck off a long time ago but you sound like a much nicer person than me. He has no good intentions, not one. You need to firmly shut him down and let him but, but, but his way out of your personal life. You own no further explanation.

  70. ZK*

    I’m sorry OP. I lost weight partially due to an undiagnosed condition, and then had a heart attack and now I have had to change my entire diet and lifestyle, so I am losing more weight as a side effect. Everyone feels the need to comment on it and tell me how good I look. My answer of, “Thanks, I had a heart attack!” usually shocks them and shuts them down, but it’s very frustrating that weight is considered an okay topic by anyone. And the implicit fat shaming when people comment is gross.

    Your manager needs to shut this down. What Gary is doing is not okay.

    1. Observer*

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

      In your case, at least it’s really possible that people have genuinely good intentions. But, even so it’s hard to deal with.

      1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

        as someone else that lost weight due to medical issues – I think it’s worse when it’s good intentions. “oh, you look so GOOD now that you’re thin” actually sounds like “now that you’re dying you’re attractive!” Which .. thanks, always wanted to make a cute corpse. NO WAIT.

        ZK, you have my utmost sympathy for the situation and I hope your health improves!

    2. Workerbee*

      I am sorry you are going through this when you have enough to manage as it is. I am also vicariously gleeful at your response to those people. They can’t keep outsourcing thinking forever.

    3. Dragon_Dreamer*

      When I was a teenager, I was chronically *underweight,* through no fault of my own. I finally hit 100lbs for the first time on the day of my Senior Prom. (And was back down to 86lbs a year later after a VERY stressful year at my first college.) I have also been… very well endowed in the chest area since I was a teenager.

      When I was 16, I was walking down the sidewalk in my small, very touristy hometown. Some middle-aged to older lady I didn’t even know marched straight up to me, and started reading me the riot act about how, “girls your age shouldn’t have breast implants,” and “why would you mess up your body with surgery,” and “your parents should be ashamed, you’re probably a hooker with a body like that.” I was much more introverted back then, and kept shrinking back, going into meltdown mode (I’m autistic.) I finally looked up at her and the crowd she was attracting, and whimpered, “but they’re real…”

      She went beat red, screamed, “Then eat a sandwich, you anorexic whore!” and stomped off. A couple folks in the crowd kindly helped me get home. They’d all thought the woman was a relative, but nope, I’d never seen her before, and haven’t since.

      Years later, I was working at the local office supply store, and by then weighed a more reasonable 130-140lbs. The number of folks who thought my weight gain plus slightly baggy shirts (I couldn’t wear the female style, only the men’s, due to my body shape) meant that I *had* to be pregnant was *astounding.* From male customers who told me I shouldn’t pick up heavy items “in your condition,” to the female customer who practically launched herself over the service desk counter in an attempt to touch my stomach, it was humiliating. (I flat out told my manager that the latter woman nearly came back with a bloody stump, and I didn’t care if I got fired for doing so.)

      I had a pretty flat stomach, with just the slightest bit of fat, but this is a VERY rich, white area, so all we could figure is they were assuming that all skinny women had bodies like celebrities and that any tummy fat was a “baby bump?” Hasn’t happened to me in a while, but still mortifying, and upsetting. (I want kids very much, but the SO is 4 hours away, we can’t afford to get married yet, and I’m nearly 40 so the clock is ticking.)

  71. Not A Manager*

    “If Gary doesn’t know what’s appropriate in the modern workplace, then someone needs to tell him, because I’m afraid that we’re going to get sued for sexual harassment if he doesn’t stop doing this.”

  72. Vox Experientia*

    ugh posts like this infuriate me. I want to ask the poster for the guys phone number so I can call and go off on him. and her manager. lord knows she shouldn’t have to do it, but unfortunately she’s going to have to stop playing nice and just lose it on the guy every single time he crosses a boundary. it is completely unacceptable for him to do this. it wouldn’t be acceptable if he was a family member, much less a coworker. I apologize on behalf of all us clueless older men. I would suggest a very direct, very firm talk with HR immediately, followed by a huge and direct reaction for every time in the future he crosses the line. document everything he does or says, or has done and said, and document every conversation with HR. do not tolerate this. you shouldn’t have to.

  73. iglwif*


    Gary sucks. Your manager sucks. And frankly I am astonished that you haven’t snapped and yelled at him about this before now. (I also had medical crap in my early 20s that led to infertility and a whole bunch of stuff that is not the business of people at work unless I say it is, so I am 100% serious here: I’d have snapped LONG AGO if I worked with Gary.)

  74. Sharrbe*

    Dream answer. “Gary, I’ll fill you in on everything if you answer this one simple question. How do you deal with both a small brain and an undersized man part at the same time? You really didn’t win the lottery in either department did you?”

  75. WFH with CAT*

    Dear OP, I am so sorry you’re going thru all of this.

    Please know that Gary and your mgr are a couple of misogynistic asshats, and you don’t owe them — or anyone else — any explanation whatsoever as to your health, weight, medical conditions, reproductive plans, etc.

    I understand that you are a nice person and want to think of them as being good people, but they are *not* good people. They are sexist, controlling creeps — and claiming a faith-based reason for said behavior makes the whole thing even worse. Please know that you are not, not, not in the wrong if you draw a line in the sand and refuse to discuss any aspect of your personal life with either of them ever again. Certainly, you can be professional and polite about it, but you can also be hard-nosed and determined at the same time.

  76. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    “Gary, it’s super weird that you bring up my body or my reproductive plans in every single conversation we have. It needs to stop. Now. I am not asking you, I am telling you. Do not bring up this topic again.” Direct is not the same thing as rude. What he’s doing is rude, what you’re going to do is be direct.
    Document the time & date of this conversation, hell if you live in a one-party consent state for recording just record the conversation and any other ones you have with this jacka**. Bring the irrefutable proof to HR, ask other women in your office if he does the same to them and ask them to back you up with HR. Last but not least, the advice I give to every single woman in my life (including myself) on a regular basis:

  77. Workerbee*

    —Doubling down on the documentation advice. I’d also bet once you start going back in time, you’ll uncover even more instances. Putting each instance in a long, bullet-pointed list will get it in front of everyone’s eyes.
    —If Gary is commenting to you within earshot of at least one other person, draw on your heretofore squashed indignation and get loud. Repeat his statements back at him. Ask why he persists when you’ve told him all these times (unfurl list) not to. This is so much easier said than done but there’s often a corollary between this type of bullying behavior masquerading as kindly inquiries and the expectation that the person being harassed is too nice, too quiet, too self-effacing, too afraid to return awkward to sender.
    —And because we live in a society where we need the people in power to help us make changes for the people not in power, I do find myself wondering if having your husband come in to work with you, or meet up with Gary/call him, at least one time. I hate that it can be a necessity! But when you’re forced to play by these inane playground rules and someone’s punching down, you get to call in reinforcements.

    Good luck!

    1. Workerbee*

      I did not finish my perhaps obvious thought—having your husband talk to Gary at least once might have the desired effect of getting him to leave you alone. In addition to my points above, I know there is a lot packed into that option, including how you may be viewed professionally. However, I also think that since Gary persists in being unprofessional and has dug himself far into your personal life, it’s fair game.

      1. Observer*

        The problem is not GARY’S opinion, but that of other people – especially people who don’t have the context.

    2. DinoGirl*

      Disagree about husband getting involved. If anything that might set OP up to be the “woman with the crazy husband” in some of the narrative, rather than, rightly, the woman being harassed by Gary.

  78. LadyByTheLake*

    It’s straight to HR time. The idea that your manager dismissed this because Gross Gary is “older” “Christian” and “male” sets off many HR alarm bells. Disgusting, sexist, ageist and ableist statements (which these comments about your body are) do not become okay because of the age, religion or gender of the speaker!

  79. Veryanon*

    I had a lot of reactions reading through this letter. Probably my main reaction is anger that women still have to manage their responses to completely inappropriate crap like this and that the burden is still on women to work through these things rather than on men to act appropriately. It just makes me SO TIRED.
    And that manager, saying Gary is “a good Christian Southern man.” Ugh ugh ugh. I don’t pretend to know what Jesus was or wasn’t thinking at any given time, but I’m pretty sure many of the things people do in his name would not be compatible with his actual personal philosophy. At all.
    Gary needs a good swift kick in the location of OP’s choice. Failing that, she needs to tell him, once and very directly, to knock it the f*** off. Then she goes to HR. I wouldn’t even bother with Gary’s manager.

  80. ksub2000*

    Hey OP, Gary sucks, your manager sucks, and I’m sorry you have to deal with this awful situation. I hope HR is able to have your back in this situation. Your boss’ excuse for Gary is at best a bad excuse, and is actually not an excuse at all. Good luck, and I really really admire your restraint in not cursing at Gary.

  81. Anon for this #544*

    Future hyster-sister, I hope your possible hysterectomy helps you as much as mine helped me. (That’s a real group, btw, reach out for support if you need it!)

    Separately, Gary is disgusting in so many ways. “Quarantine whoopsie.” Vile commentary has spewed from my mouth involuntarily.

    I wish you luck in all things!

  82. Happy Pineapple*

    Oh nooooo. This is so disgusting and NOT OKAY on so many levels. OP, I am so sorry you’re going through such a difficult time. Clearly you are a much better person than I am, because the second time Gary said this to me after asking him to stop, he would’ve needed a body bag to leave the office.

  83. GiantPanda*

    OP, as to the claim that Gary is a “good Christian Southern man”:
    The answer is “Gary is not behaving like one. He is behaving like a sexually harassing misogynistic creep and needs to stop.”

  84. CatPerson*


    “Gary, I am telling you in no uncertain terms to never address me about my weight, eating habits, reproductive plans, or sexual life. If you ever say anything to me again on any of these topics, I am going to HR. In fact, I might go to HR anyway. In fact, I am going to HR. Bye. Don’t use me for a reference because anyone who calls me will know that you are a pervert.”

  85. generic_username*

    Yeah, tell Gary to eff right off. I can’t believe you’ve been this kind so far. He’s harassing you, plain and simple, and should get reprimanded for it.

  86. Ashley*

    If Gary catches you at a tome where you don’t have the energy to deal with him, just look at him silently for an awkward amount of time and then go back to doing what you were doing or change the topic to something work related.

  87. pcake*

    OP, you have no idea if Gary means well – he might have noticed how uncomfortable he’s making you and likes it. The fact of his physical contact with you when saying this horrible, intrusive stuff makes me guess his “meaning well” is actually cloaking good old fashioned sadism.

  88. Koala dreams*

    Wow. It’s quite reasonable to avoid a co-worker that has been harassing you about your health problems, your body and your sex life for the last year and a half. If you do get stuck in another conversation with him, prepare a short answer. Maybe just “Wow” or “What a rude thing to say”. (I doubt your boss’ suggestion of forgiveness will work, even though it would be funny in a fictional tv show if the heroine answered “I forgive you” to harassment.) I doubt he is unaware that he’s being mean, you have already told him that you don’t appreciate his comments and it doesn’t sound like you are the first co-worker to do so.

    In addition to complaining to your boss and HR, maybe you could put out feelers to other co-workers and see if you can help each other. Sometimes it’s easier to speak up against harassment when you are a group, or when you are a bystander and not the target.

  89. irene adler*

    Gotta wonder what Gary’s wife would think about his interest/obsession with the OP’s body and personal life.

    Not suggesting she be alerted to this. But amusing to speculate.

  90. DinoGirl*

    This is really a perfect example of how we try to justify/excuse inappropriate conduct. We tell ourselves “he doesn’t mean to creepy,” “he’s just trying to be friendly/helpful…” I’m so glad that is changing. I wish I had been much more like this with several men in my early career, and I hope my daughter doesn’t have to go through all this crud when she is in a workplace someday.

  91. bookartist*

    This “good Christian Southern woman/man” equals “not a sinner”” has to stop. Christians sin every day. Just like non-Christians, every day some Christians somewhere lie, cheat, steal, are mean of spirit, are cruel and spiteful, etc. I thought that’s what they needed the church for/.

  92. Mandie*

    You know, I read this and was instantly horrified at what an obtuse jerk Gary is. But in reality, if Gary was in my office subjecting me to the same type of commentary, I’d be the one going too soft on him and writing Alison to ask for advice. I’m mad at myself that I’ve put up with this kind of BS over and over in my career. Why are some of us always hesitant to shut these types down, when they’re the ones who are wildly out of line?

    1. yllis*

      Because when there is a behavior like this openly displayed, the question “what the hell kind of person….” goes through our heads. So we go to placating and de-escalating nicely because if he’s this irrational, rude, etc then shutting them down in any other way is a risk. He might respond with anger or violence or retaliation. And that’s a potential danger.

      Sort of the same reason we dont say “WTH! Don’t cat call me, you a hole” to the guy on the street.

    2. Paulina*

      Because the same managers who make lame “he’s just like that” apologetics for doing nothing about Garys are the type to consider us the troublemakers if we don’t put up with this crap. And we’re at work to work, not to have to calculate how to deal with this crap without it causing more problems for us.

  93. WFH with CAT*

    Dear OP, so sorry you are going thru all of this. Best of luck to you going forward.

    Gary and your mgr are a couple of misogynistic asshats. You do not owe them — or anyone — any explanation as to your health, medical conditions, weight, reproductive plans, etc.

    I understand that you are a nice person and want to credit them for being good people, but they are *not* good people, and their claiming a faith-based reason for interfering in your life just makes the whole thing that much worse. Please know that you are not, not, not in the wrong if you draw a line in the sand and refuse to discuss any aspect of your personal life with either of them. Certainly you can be professional and polite about it, but you can also be hard-nosed and determined.

    (Posted again after first comment went *pfft!* into the ether.)

  94. Bostonian*

    Me, reading this letter: “I really hope Alison’s first line of reply is ‘what the hell, Gary?'”
    Alison: “Hold my beer!”

    1. Bostonian*

      On a more helpful note, at this point I’m not sure how much traction you would get trying to address it with Gary again (or your boss). I would go directly to HR (do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

  95. Third or Nothing!*

    This is the latest incidence in a long string of fatphobic nonsense I’ve encountered in the past week and the level of rage I feel on your behalf dwarfs all the rage of the past incidences combined. Your body is not up for discussion. I don’t care if it’s inside the office or out, your body is not up for discussion. No excuses. No concern trolling. You’re the only one who has to inhabit your body so you’re the one who gets to have the opinions.

    You would not be out of line to shut this crap down. Don’t let Gary or your boss gaslight you. You’re not the one who needs to change here.

    Also I truly hope that hysterectomy improves your quality of life. It’s so so hard to experience the death of a dream (been there – PCOS, doctor said I’d never have children). Good luck in your pursuit of foster care/adoption.

  96. yllis*

    He’s not being nice in a misguided way. He’s getting off on the ability to make your day miserable. He _likes_ it when you are uncomfortable. He _likes_ it when he can control how your day goes.

  97. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

    Gary is not a “good southern Christian man.” Good southern Christian men would say things like:
    -Good morning
    -How are you today? (I’m southern and yes, I ask this to everyone I see. For it, it’s part of my greeting and saying “I recognize you, fellow human.” I also work with students and it’s also a good way for them to start a conversation with me if something’s wrong.)
    -Things related to a project that you both are working on, like “How’s llama grooming going?” or “I’ll have the teapot molds to you by 10 am tomorrow.”
    -Hope you have a nice evening.

    Nowhere in there is questions/statements about your body, sex life, etc. Gary’s become a missing stair and your supervisor is useless and enabling his behavior. I’m sorry you’re having to go through this, OP. Definitely bring it up with HR and mention sexual harassment and lawsuit. It’s time to pull the nuclear option.

  98. Fulano*

    Having spent seven miserable years in the Deep South (therapy was required), I can tell you that “Gary’s” behavior was the norm while I lived there. From his point of view, he’s showing care and interest. Indeed they frame it as “good christian behavior” and sincerely believe it. The only way to stop it is using very direct language, as Alison suggested. Be ready, however, for him to be disgusted by your “rude” and “selfish” response and keep an eye out for your boss does next. If your boss thinks like he does, then retaliation is the norm, in the form of being labeled difficult or not a team player.

    I’ve lived this one and eventually had to get the hell away from these people. I’m sorry the OP has an even more stressful situation behind it.

    1. it's me*

      As a Southerner, I think Gary does think he’s being nice and friendly. The problem is that for him “nice and friendly” equates to considering your family life and body his business to give advice on.

      1. Fulano*

        You’re right. There’s an, again, sincere attitude that showing interest in intimate details demonstrates that he cares and sees you as worthy of being part of his family. He really does mean well (as did the car dealer who refused to turn over the keys to my car after service until I discussed what I was doing to make sure my soul ends up in heaven). So when they’re told to stop, in the way Alison and others suggested, they can’t understand why you’d be so rude and so blind to their caring attitude.

        1. Student*

          Why does his perception/habit of “nice and friendly” get to overrule an actual person telling him that she does not consider his behavior nice nor friendly?

          That tired old excuse went out the door the moment the OP asked him to stop. Multiple times, no less!

          “Culture” is supposed to help you make educated guesses about what other people in the culture like. It’s a starting point, not an ending point. Once you actually engage with a real person, you have to adapt to their actual, lived preferences to share a social experience.

          If you fail to make the jump from “educated guess” to “actual lived experience” by trying to tell the actual person that their actual social preference are somehow wrong because they don’t match up to your educated guess, then you are being ANTISOCIAL, not SOCIAL. In that situation, you (GARY) are trying to change the person to meet your own needs with no commensurate regard for the other person’s needs, instead of adapting to an actual relationship with a living human.

          In order to have a real social relationship, in order to actually be nice, there has to be proportionate consideration for the other person, instead of pure self-centered behavior.

          This is why it’s broadly considered acceptable to bring wine to a new friend’s house in the US as an host-gift friendly overture. Culturally, it’s a good guess and not socially signalling a universal insult, even if it might miss the mark with specific people. Once the host tells you something like “I don’t drink, but I love fruit baskets or new desserts” – you adapt to reality, stop bringing wine over, and instead bring something you both enjoy. THEN it becomes rude to keep bringing wine over. Same deal here.

        2. Observer*

          Can we stop this nonsense of finding some good motivation of utterly disgusting behavior.

          No, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to believe that he actually has positive intentions here. He has been asked too many times to back off, he’s been given too much information, and he’s displayed enough of a pattern to make it clear that he does NOT care about her as a human being (or even as a woman).

          It’s clear that what he is doing is NOT the norm in his area, as others have complained about him.

          1. Exodia*

            Speak from experience? Sounds like you’ve had REALLY BAD experiences in life? Sorry to hear

      2. irene adler*

        But does that “nice and friendly” thing work both ways?
        As in, can the OP ask Gary equally intimate questions about his personal life and make comments regarding his body?

      3. Alli525*

        I mean, male ownership of human bodies WAS a thing in the South not too very long ago. I don’t think he thinks he’s being nice, I think he’s entitled and doesn’t think at all about how other people might feel about his behavior. I spent 15 years in the South and I left because I couldn’t take it anymore, and I still have to hear my best friend tell me about the way her boss treats her (which is not dissimilar to Gary, and in some ways is even worse than Gary). It’s 2020 and I refuse to make space for this regressive way of viewing other human beings.

  99. it's me*

    Unfortunately, he’s interpreted your transparency and the details you’ve supplied not as an attempt to head him off but as permission to consider you his business.

  100. nep*

    LW, I’m so sorry you’ve got to deal with this.
    Gary needs to Shut. Up.
    Deep breaths…
    I wish you the best of health and relief from this huge burden.

    1. nep*

      (I don’t mean to suggest ‘deep breaths’…That just came out, aimed at myself because I’m seething in your place and don’t want to rant here…it’s all been said.)

  101. Niktike*

    Having worked a lot of time in the service industry, I’ve dealt with a lot of “good Christian men old enough to be my father” asking inappropriate questions. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of pretending he was making a joke and responding with a chuckle/snort and a raised eyebrow and a “dude, I’m not gonna talk about [my sex life/my digestion/my weight] with you.” You set the boundary, imply that of course he’d never actually expect you to talk about that, but give him enough leeway that he can pretend he was just joking. If he keeps going (rare), then just shake your head and walk away like you’re super busy.

    It shouldn’t be necessary to use this sort of soft language with creepy men, but it does make fewer waves.

  102. Butterfly Counter*

    I have to say, when someone describes another person as “a good Christian Southern man,” it has the exact opposite effect of what they intend. I imagine someone so privileged, biased, and sexist that I will avoid them at all costs. Once, a coworker, upon me telling him where I lived, told me I should have Dr. X as my PCP, “because he’s a good-ole Southern boy with Christian values, *wink*.” I said he sounded like a nightmare for any woman to want to go to for health decisions. No.

  103. Former Young Lady*

    “That is not appropriate.”
    “Why would you say something so perverted in the workplace?”
    “That is unacceptable. Don’t speak to me that way ever again.”
    “That is none of your business. Stop embarrassing yourself.”
    “A gentleman would never ask that sort of question.”
    “What an unprofessional thing to say. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

    In my experience, you can say these things as coolheadedly as you want. The man will progress from smirking to indignation to persecution-complex to narcissistic rage, and all the way up that mountain he’ll tell YOU to “calm down.”

    Best-case scenario, his inevitable temper tantrum will escalate to crying like a baby on the floor, and you’ll have witnesses.

    But if you live in a region like the one I live in, there’s still a chance everyone else will feel sorry for him.

    Good luck, OP. No matter what happens, you’re not the inept a-hole here, and you don’t deserve one bit of this.

  104. LogicalOne*

    Gary is being rather annoying, intrusive, and over-stepping boundaries and worse, in a professional atmosphere. I wonder if he’s one of those that become too comfortable after working at a place for many years and their acknowledgement of boundaries has been breaking down for some time. I agree with Allison in that you’ve pretty much let him in on these certain aspects of your life and now he feels like it’s a safe zone to talk to you about. I mean, I get that he may be concerned about your health and well-being but at the same time, he’s treating you like a child and giving you advice when you didn’t specifically ask for it. He’s almost trying to run this part of your life. Maybe his parenting instincts are getting in the way of trying to keep it on a professional level. If he’s a good Christian man, he should understand how private you want to keep this and that you no longer wish to talk about this. In fact, I would just cut him out completely and not talk about anything about your personal life with him and maybe even not talk to anyone at work about it because if word gets out (and trust me, some people like to gossip) that you’ve been talking to others about your personal life, he may want to join in those conversations and talk about you when you’re not around so he feels like he still has ‘control’ or influence or knows what’s best for you. We’re adults here and we gotta let everyone live their life how they see fit even if we are tempted to intervene in issues that shouldn’t concern us. Good luck to you and Gary.

    1. Observer*

      You are giving Gary too much credit and consideration here.

      Firstly, this is NOT in any way, shape or form about his “parenting instincts”. Actual *parenting* instincts don’t go along this path. Now, CONTROLLING instincts dressed up as “parenting” might show up this way, but even that’s not a given. To be clear hers: GARY IS NOT A “NICE” GUY BEING LEAD ASTRAY BY OVERACTIVE BUT ACCEPTABLE INSTINCTS. HE IS A JERK.

      As for the idea that the OP needs to change how she interacts with others to placate or convince Gary, that’s justs gross. I’m a big believer in taking a pragmatic approach that gets problematic behavior to stop. But this is ridiculous. You are not talking about the OP doing something a bit inconvenient for a major payoff. You are suggesting that she essentially cut herself off from normal social interaction at work in order to manage this one person’s (miss)behavior.

  105. I wouldn't but...*

    I know this wouldn’t be very professional but I would love for you to go home and practice a hurt stricken face (bonus points if you can actually get fake tears), then the next time he brings it up when there are other people nearby, pull out the face and say in a loud (plaintive, not angry) voice “I’ve asked you repeatedly not to bring up this topic!” and make a bee-line for the bathroom and stay there for 5 minutes to “compose yourself”. My guess is he will never bring up that topic again fearing another emotional and embarrassing moment. If anyone asks about the incident just say a persons body is by definition personal and shouldn’t be discussed at work.

    1. DarthMom*

      I’m sorry, ‘I wouldn’t but…’ but your suggestion would give Gary a reason to play the victim here… ‘All I did was ask a question/offer a suggestion/etc., and she got all emotional and ridiculous’. She has no reason to give him anything – except, perhaps a punch to the throat.

  106. blackcat*

    OP, one of my grandfathers was really and truly the epitome of a “good Christian Southern man.”

    Let me tell you about some of the things he did:
    – Advocated for the advancement of women and people of color within his workplaces, including helping to create policies for documenting racial and sexual harassment. He did this in the 50s-70s, mostly, so like… a really long time ago.
    – Spent a lot of time volunteering with food banks, because feeding the hungry is very high on the list of Good Christian things to do.
    – Chastising my grandmother for judging those of us grandkids who co-habitated before marriage.
    – Reminding judgemental people in general that Jesus spent his life among “sinners,” the poor, refugees, and the downtrodden.
    – Never once commenting on the bodies of his many grand daughters.
    – Restricting his commentary on the marital status of his grandchildren to emphasizing that he wanted us to partner with good people who made us happy and cared for us.

    Gary is very, very much not “good Christian Southern man.” My grandfather, who was born in *1923*, was, and he had more progressive views on women than Gary.

    Gary is a creep who uses his religion to get away with abusing others.

      1. blackcat*

        He passed 5 years ago. I miss him dearly, but I am grateful I had him for so long, including well into my adulthood.

        My husband can best be described as “anti-theist” and was basically convinced organized religion could do no good in the world. My grandfather changed his mind–he’s still an atheist (as am I), but he finally was convinced that people who genuinely live by Christian values exist. My grandfather was so fundamentally *good,* and his faith was really a core part of that. Even the most skeptic of skeptics could see that.

  107. Miss Muffet*

    And read The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker — will help with language for situations like this, and learning how to spot this kind of behavior in the first place.

  108. Nwrcy*

    Stop being nice. This is the time to take a cue from the guys— tell him he’s being a bore and he needs to get a grip. Don’t get flustered or back down. Steely resolve.

  109. Katieinthemountains*

    He’s not trying to help. He tried to give you an eating disorder for your wedding. The minute the wedding was over, he moved on to reproductive coercion. When you talk to HR, make sure you mention the part where you have NEVER had a conversation with him that doesn’t involve your body or reproduction. Don’t soften it; make every uncomfortable part clear.

    I would sit down right now and write down everything you can remember – paraphrasing where necessary, any direct quotes you can recall, if there were any witnesses, approximate dates as often as you can. If he messaged or emailed any of this to you, print it out. If you texted your spouse or journaled about it, that’s a contemporaneous account, and I’d print and add that too.

    And yes, Gary needs to be 100% cut off from any information about your body, your health, your medical needs/appointments/procedures, your family planning, your sex life. Reasons are for reasonable people.

  110. Janet*

    Gary sounds like someone who will try to twist anything you say. He also sounds like someone who enjoys seeing younger women become flustered. He pushes the boundaries because he knows his manager will back him up. SO, stop the pattern. Don’t talk to him except to say, “It’s none of your business,” or “This conversation is inappropriate.” Don’t give him an opening. Then go to your manager AND HR. Please update us.

    1. LivingWithTheNightmareofGary*

      OP here: yes! I think you really hit the nail on the head with the assertion that he likes to see women flustered!

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        He’s like an adult version of the gangs of boys who tormented me as a child, often with gross sexual implications.

  111. Jack Russell Terrier*

    ‘Additionally, my manager has countered previous complaints against my coworker with the fact he’s is a good Christian Southern man, and that’s where he’s coming from and we should be more forgiving/lenient.’

    Your manager and co-worker should have a mandatory screening of AOC’s addess before Congress on Rep. Yoho.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          ^THIS THIS THIS

          In addition to all the sexism, this is religious bigotry. Giving Gary a pass because he’s Christian is privileging one religion – the dominant one at that – over all others.

  112. M2*

    Go to o HR what he is doing is harassment. When you go to HR I would also reiterate you don’t want the company to get in trouble since your manager did nothing (and explain what they said) when you brought the harassment up with them.

    They should fire Gary. This is so gross

  113. GrossedOut*

    Ugh. Been in a similar situation. I was lucky that my manager saw the reality of the problem and put a quick end to it. The creepy old guy had multiple complaints because of his lack of professionalism. He stuck around for another year or so, and then got himself fired for a different but repetitive offense.
    He was in his 60’s, ultra religious, know-it-all, talked way too much to anyone and everyone. It was like dealing with a clueless toddler with no boundaries.
    Looking back, I wish I had right away said “Clueless Joe, I am not comfortable discussing my weight. Please do not ever comment ever again.” Instead, I tried being polite for a while, when I finally was direct, he still didn’t listen.

  114. Nita*

    OP, if we worked in the same office, I’d gladly punch Gary for you. Failing that, I hope he gets a flat tire on the way home, and when he gets out to check on it, he’s attacked by a skunk. I’m sorry you have to deal with this ass on top of an already traumatic situation. I hope you can go to HR. And/or tell Gary very directly just how he’s making you feel, and that you do not want to hear anything not related to work from him ever again.

  115. NotJennifer*

    Do not sugarcoat it. He is not trying to be helpful or caring. He is being an asshole. Mayyyyyyyyybe the first time he said something, it could be argued that he didn’t realize how inappropriate he was being, and mayyyyyybe his comments came from a place of caring. But not at this point. Not with the continued comments after correction after correction. Do. Not. Feel. Bad. for going to your manager or higher. Do not feel bad about any negative consequences for Gary. That is all on him, and not on you. I know it’s hard to set aside those emotions, and the feeling that we have to be nice all the time. But please don’t let those feelings hold you back here. Take care of yourself, not of Gary.

    We are all here supporting you.

  116. Sinister Serina*

    I know others have said this, but what the actual fuck. None of this is his business and he needs to told to get face out your business (food/lunches/weight/children!) and shut the fuck up. That said, if he brings it up ever again (and I’m betting he will) I would start crying really hard and make him feel as badly about it as possible. If that is possible with someone as insensitive and awful as this guy.

  117. Annie Porter*

    The fact that we’ve had #metoo, #timesup, and so much cultural awakening surrounding the treatment of women generally but specifically in the workplace AND THIS SHIT STILL HAPPENS REGULARLY makes me homicidal. When will these disgusting men learn that they are NOT F&*KING ENTITLED to any part of us that we don’t want to share? WHEN?

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      “Homicidal” is just how I’ve felt about this for years. Those badass vigilante women in India who wear hot pink saris and beat up abusive men are my goddamn HEROES.

  118. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    Don’t *actually* do this because it’s terrible advice, but I’m tempted to be like, “Thanks for asking about my uterus, Gary! How are your balls? Do your little guys still swim, ha ha! Planning to get the wife knocked up? You get your prostate checked, right? What did the doctor say, last time? I mean, at your age, you’ve gotta take care of that, amirite?”

    1. MicroManagered*

      DON’T do that, OP, but this gave me a good chuckle!!

      “Do you need Viagra, Gary? You know you can order it online now.”


    2. Perpal*

      See, that might be what Gary wants “yes let me tell you allllll about my own sex trials and tribulations, and maybe even work on a few things together???”

  119. blink14*

    I would’ve told Gary off within the first 3 times he brought this up to me. You absolutely do not have to entertain his questions about your body and your personal life. Tell him you do not appreciate the insistent, continual comments and you will no longer speak to him about anything other than work. If he gets mad, he gets mad. Once you take a stand, I think you’ll feel more power over the situation and be able to redirect his conversations with you to more appropriate topics.

    I would also report this to HR, particularly if your manager isn’t going to do anything about it.

  120. MicroManagered*

    Gary is perving on you, OP. My mom taught me that when older men make these kinds of indirect references to sex around women, it’s to let you know sex is on their mind. Verbally exposing himself to you, so to speak. He does not mean well.

    1. mf*

      Yes, this is *exactly* what’s happening. Sometimes older men act this when they have the hots for a younger woman and they know it would be inappropriate to directly hit on her. So instead, they try to be “friendly” and “helpful” in a very paternal manner.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Don’t ever be alone with Gary, OP. He could act like he’s having an affair with you and use that to get you fired.

  121. Observer*

    OP, is there any reason you are not looking for a new job? This place sounds horrible. It was bad enough reading the original letter. But the additional details you’ve shared have really pushed me over the edge. This company sounds like a horror show.

    1. LivingWithTheNightmareofGary*

      OP here, looking to relocate in about 2 years. Trying to hold on until then :)

  122. DarthMom*

    Gary is a tool. And this good, northern, Christian woman defines this whole situation as harassment, and the manager is enabling it. I’m not (usually) a violent woman, but both Gary and the manager could each use a good throat punch.

    On a side note, I’m so sorry for your loss, OP. I’m sure the decision to have a hysterectomy was not easy and I’m so sorry that bio kiddos will not be in the cards for you. But I’m excited for you both that you are considering fostering/adoption. I hope that you get paired with the perfect kiddo(s) and you and your husband feel more encouraged, hopeful, and fulfilled than you ever thought possible. Best of luck to you.

  123. Adereterial*

    This isn’t ‘getting into harassment territory’, it’s harassment, pure and simple.

  124. Books and cats*

    First time commenting, please forgive me if I get it wrong.
    I read this to my husband, a seminary trained Southern Baptist minister from Appalachia, who is probably in Gary’s age range. His response, “Gary, it’s none of your d*** business!” Of course, he knows you can’t say that at work, but that should be your mindset.
    The “good southern man” is your manager ‘s excuse for doing nothing when Gary oversteps. It gives him an out, because now you “understand” and can give Gary a pass. See, problem solved! (I had a manager like that. Let me explain the reason that person is behaving like that, then you’ll just overlook the bad behavior.)
    I’m always in favor of giving HR a heads up and acting shocked at inappropriate behavior in the moment, but I have a feeling Gary wouldn’t notice.
    All business all the time.

    1. Books and cats*

      Forgot to add…3 adopted kids here. No one needs to know why you make your choices, just that you made them.

  125. mf*

    OP, next time your boss tells you that you should go easy on Gary because he’s a Good Christian Southern Man, look your boss dead in the eyes and say, “Are you saying he should be allowed to sexually harass me because of his gender and religion?”

  126. Lies, damn lies and...*

    I’m sorry OP. Gary big time sucks. Your manager sucks. I hope your HR doesn’t suck. (If there’s any documentation about what your manager has said re previous complaints about Gary’s behavior maybe grab that for them too.)

    I would also suggest that you PRACTICE your response to Gary so that you can 1-2 punch it the next time he says something inappropriate to you.

  127. Nellie*

    “Helping” with what? Why is it his responsibility or concern what your family or body look like? I’m so sorry, OP, and wish you the best in dealing with this.

  128. Choggy*

    As I’m sure MANY others have posted, you have to stop being so nice to Gary Gross! Do not share any details about your medical condition or family plans, just stop it dead in its tracks by saying, and repeating, “Stop making comments about X, I am not discussing it with you”.

  129. Mad mad me*

    Is he married? Because if so, threaten to tell his wife how obsessed he seems to be with your personal health situation. If you get any pushback from HR, act all innocent and say you said nothing of the sort. You have to play hardball with these jackasses. It’s an outrage that you have to be putting up with this, especially during a pandemic!

  130. Jess*

    I just wanted to add to the chorus of voices saying that Gary is WAY out of line, you do not owe him ANY more patience or the benefit of the doubt, and I’m so sorry you have been dealing with this! My jaw dropped reading about his rude, invasive comments. Definitely shut him down every time he tries it again, and raise it with HR.

  131. The Happy Graduate*

    When I tell you my jaw LITERALLY fell open reading this……

    OP I am so sorry this is so disgusting it shocks me there are still people who have managed to live their lives in this manner for so long.

  132. Cake Sniffer*

    Every woman knows what it’s like to feel like it’s their responsibility to smooth over relations with creepy, instrusive men. Every woman can relate to this story.

  133. Frustrated Fitness Professional*

    If he’s such a “nice” man, then why didn’t he stop when you politely made it clear that it’s unwelcome?

    I’d have trouble doing it with a straight face, but I would be very very tempted to ask my manager that question. “Nice” people don’t continue a behavior when they know it’s upsetting someone, RIGHT?

    Of course Gary isn’t a nice man and neither is your manager, but still.

  134. My 2 cents*

    Yeah, this is when you just GET to be rude!!! Of course you are just a good modern working human, Gary’s just gonna have to make allowances. It’s just how you are!

  135. Katt*

    I’m going to paraphrase The Rock here: it doesn’t matter what Gary thinks is helpful. These comments of his would be ghoulish if he was making them at the local bar. In the workplace they are exceedingly so. I hope OP finds a new job– yesterday, if not sooner.

  136. Karia*

    Which bit of the Bible involves policing your coworkers’ portion sizes? Which bit involves cruelty over their fertility? Why and how is Christianity relevant to this discussion in any way except in terms of patriarchy and domination? Go over your manager’s head if he’s too weak, cruel and misogynistic to shut this down.

  137. anonanna*

    Can we stop pretending Christianity has anything to do with this? I doubt commenters would pile on any other religion like they do with Christianity. There’s nothing in the Bible that says “thou shalt comment on your coworker’s weight gain and lunch plans.” Imagine the backlash on here if someone disparaged Islam or Judaism in their letter and then the commenters all jumped on as well and then use that as a reason to treat religions respectfully.

    1. Metadata minion*

      The LW’s supervisor is the one who brought up Christianity. And while I agree that it goes against the tenants of the faith, many Christians do use their religion as an excuse to be cruel to people. It’s by no means exclusive to Christians — every religion has assholes — but pretending that in a Christian-dominated society, Christians don’t use their religion to oppress people is pretty disingenuous.

    2. Altair*

      I think the person you need to point this out to is the LW’s boss, who cited Christianity to defend Gary’s actions.

      Besides, in Christianity-dominated societies like the US, Christianity is the elephant to other religions’ mice. A mouse takes a lot more damage when stepped on by an elephant than an elephant takes from being stepped on by a mouse.

      1. anonanna*

        Honestly I don’t want to start a rabbit trail here but that’s way off base. People of many religions use their religions (or lack thereof) to be rude to people. Just because Christianity is dominate in the US doesn’t mean the majority of Christians overseas are persecuted and oppressed. It’s not fair to single out one religion or excuse bashing it “because it’s dominant” (which it’s not in many, many parts of the world!!!) Christianity may be the elephant in the US but arguing that abuse towards it is okay because of that is highly US-centric and, quite honestly, uninformed. That’d be like arguing antisemitism in Israel is okay because Judaism is the elephant. Again, I don’t want to derail the conversation but I know too many people who’ve paid dearly for practicing Christianity to let that slide.

          1. anonanna*

            Nope, not true and again US-centric (And highly disturbing). If I said something like that about Islam I’d be kicked off this site forever.

          2. Vax is my disaster bicon*

            +1 American Christianity is intimately connected to this country’s ongoing history of white supremacy.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              And denial of women’s rights.

              Frankly, I’m not seeing any Christian bashing going on here anyway…

  138. Luna*

    “Gary. I have asked you before to please not comment about my weight or my family planning. I am telling you again to stop asking. It is none of your business what I may or may not be doing with my genitalia or reproductive organs. Neither is it your business how I manage my weight or any other part of my health. This is the last warning I am giving you about this, okay?”

    Be blunt and direct. And since your manager is clearly not doing anything, go higher up and give a mention to HR. Not a full complaint, but mention to them that this situation exists, and that you have asked/told Gary to stop. Give them a heads up about it, so that if it does come to the point that you have to officially complain to HR about Gary’s comments, it’s not out of the blue, and they know that you have attempted to salvage the situation on your own level, before summoning the higher ups.

  139. Ellie May*

    OP, why do you think Gary thinks he’s helping? He seems over-vested in your reproductive planning, which is creepy and inappropriate, period. And yes, Gary has been given much too much information, which implies that this is an acceptable conversation since you’ve conversed with him on the topic – shut it down (“I’ve decided that this isn’t a conversation for work so please stop bringing it up.”) and see if he shuts down before going to HR.

  140. Erin*

    Wtf? I would have already gone to HR. The Garys of the world do not learn from anything but authoritative instructions that will negatively affect them. Even then, they will continue to hide behind the mask of being “helpful and concerned” which is total BS.

    Gary is completely out of line, and you not have to put up with him.

  141. Helen J*

    I call BS on this “the fact he’s is a good Christian Southern man”. There are millions of “good Christian Southern men that do not do this. There is nothing good or Christian about Gary asking OP these questions and I’m so, so tired of people using “Christian” and “Southern” as excuses for bad behavior. There millions of “good Christian Southern” people, men and women, who do not pry into people’s private, personal decisions and act creepy and pervy. The part about “cultural differences” because he’s many times your senior? That is also BS. Older men such as my dad and grandfather (both who has passed away) would NEVER comment on a coworker/ woman’s body, her reproductive plans and her sex life. They knew it was none of their business.

    Why the hell is he so invested in OP’s personal life to the point he’s thinking about OP and her husband having “a quarantine whoopsie”??Gary is just creepy, pervy, nosey person who needs to get shut down hard.

    As for the manager who knows he’s doing this type of things because other employees have reported this behavior and he excuses it? You are a big, huge FAILURE as a manager. This is a classic case of where HR should step in and shut Gary down.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the manager wanted to get rid of OP because she is female and wants to promote Gary into her position because he is such a “good Christian Southern man.” Triply sure if OP is of color and Gary is white.

  142. Agent Diane*

    Anyone else feel like ‘Gary’ will always be this letter and Alison will have to retire is from the list of fake names?

  143. Hannah*

    Wow. I don’t use the word hate very often but I hate this guy. I’m amazed OP has tolerated this level for so long — this would have broken me.

  144. CommanderBanana*

    Screaming. SCREAMING. Oh my god, this f—ing guy.

    Honestly? If I was a crier, I’d recommend bursting loudly into tears and having a full-on meltdown in front of him. What an ASS.

  145. Meredith*

    I’m sorry, as someone who has dealt with 6 years of infertility, spent all my extra income on IVF, and had 4 miscarriages after embryo transfer, this would END me.

    “So while I’d love nothing more than to have biological children, Gary, unfortunately I don’t have a working reproductive system, so I won’t be having children. I do think about this disappointment every day, but I had someone how managed to avoid dwelling on it so far today. So thanks for reminding me how broken I am and what a failure I am as a woman. If you excuse me, I’m going to go cry in the bathroom now.”

    Who knows if that would even register with him. Of course, not all women without children feel that way. And Gary SHOULD learn that some women don’t want kids and that’s PERFECTLY FINE. But… baby steps, maybe.

    Also, “I’d appreciate if you not comment on my weight, Gary, as that seems to be pretty inappropriate work conversation.”

  146. WishIWereAnElephant*

    Just wanted to send some support for the whole “Dealing with a rare genetic disorder” on top of everything else. Disclosing medical issues is always weird, especially when it has long-lasting consequences (like regular screenings and additional procedures).

  147. It's mce w*

    Please talk to your HR and manager about this. Gary is harassing you. And don’t be afraid to call him out on it.

  148. Delphine*

    Gary is a POS. Sorry. How many warnings and polite requests does one grown man need before he gets the message?

  149. cwhf*

    Literally thought my eyes were going to fall out of my had. WTF indeed. He is not “being helpful” at all—if he were, when told this was unwelcome he would have dropped it (and honestly still utterly inappropriate and unhelpful the very first time). He is evil and let’s not insult true “Good Christians” by calling him one. Also assuming he works in a modern office he should get modern work norms. The manager is even worse enabling Gary’s abuse of her (and other coworkers it sounds like).

    Honestly, in this scenario when it has arisen, I honestly don’t say anything. I just stare at them (I have a death glare that I inherited from my mother that is extremely potent). I say nothing. I just stare until they get so uncomfortable they leave me alone. Don’t engage at all. Be a boring gray rock—they’ll always find someone else to bug/torture.

    I am hoping for a good update eventually on this one. Hang in there, OP and go to HR right now.

  150. Southern belle*

    A good Christian southern gentleman knows you NEVER mention a woman’s weight, age, or pregnancy status. Three strikes Gary. Three strikes.

  151. Cam*

    Even just reading the title I was like WTF? Gary’s behaviour is beyond inappropiate and definitley an HR issue. My dad lost a lot of weight last winter and because he often worked remotely when he saw co-workers who a few months a go had seen him looking a bit overweight and how he was now stick-thin some commented on his weight loss. His response was always “I went on a great diet called mouth cancer!” That usually stopped any further comments. He is a man in his 50s which is quite a different situation, but he was very annoyed by people commenting on his weight, I can only imagine what OP must be feeling with all those comments. P.S. My dad is now cancer-free and putting on weight and muscle in a healthy way.

  152. Jan*

    This letter reminds me of a guy who temped at my work five years ago. I’d thought he was OK at first until one day he commented in front of everyone “You’ve got such lovely big breasts!”. (I was an early developer, they’re naturally large and I don’t dress in a way that flaunts them but they’re just kind of there and I can’t help that.) I told him firmly “That’s not appropriate” and he looked offended and replied “But it’s a compliment! ISN’T IT?” (The last two words said in a slightly more aggressive tone as if daring me to disagree). I defiantly told him that no, actually for me, it wasn’t; that I was asexual and didn’t want any crush-talk, and even if I wasn’t, I was sick of random comments like that as I’d been hearing that crap from strangers since I first began sprouting curves at age 10, and I didn’t need it from work colleagues. He got all huffy and said “Well, most women would love to have your figure and the praise that comes with it!”

    At that point, our office manager walked in and must have heard every word because she politely asked him if she could have a word in private. Five minutes later, they came out and we saw him handing her back his security pass, so it didn’t take a fly on the wall to work out she must have let him go. He glared at me as he left the office, making a point of loudly exclaiming “I feel sick!” I couldn’t resist replying “What a shame”.

    It was quite a cliquey workplace and a lot of the other women on the team blamed me for him being let go. One of them told me I “hadn’t needed to make such a fuss; couldn’t you have just accepted the compliment with a thank you, because if you had, the boss wouldn’t have overheard and now you’ve cost him a job!” Bloody hell – so I cost a man I didn’t know that well a job because I didn’t find it flattering that he thought my most important achievement in this world is having 34DDs?

    And if the boss hadn’t walked in at that point, I would have made a complaint because I’d asked him to stop what he was doing and he wouldn’t. If you genuinely mean well, and someone tells you something you’re doing is upsetting them, you listen to their reasons for being upset and acknowledge “Yes, of course, sorry. I see what you mean and won’t do it again.” You don’t lecture the person on what they *should* feel and tell them they’re wrong in what they *actually* feel. And funnily enough, the women defending this bloke were generally quite scathing about most men but liked this one because they deemed him “harmless”. They weren’t too pleased when I said I’d do the same thing again. I wasn’t sorry to see the back of that place, I can tell you.

  153. Anonymo*

    I can see an alternate timeline of this. Where you tell Gary (and your boss, fuck him too) to shut the hell up. He doesn’t of course, b/c he’s a “good Southern white Christian man” and so you then tell him if he doesn’t stop (as you have asked him repeatedly to) you will cut him. Said very calmly of course. He doesn’t stop of course, and then you cut him. A nice slash across his hands or arm. And then he stops.

    Hypothetical of course!

  154. Random IT person on the internet*

    Okay – social things are not my strong point – but even I know this is too much.
    OP asked (friendlier than she should have) for gary to stop. He did not / does not.
    Manager excuses this by (a variation of) boys will be boys.

    This is not OK. Any of it. (if this were the infamous reddit part – gary and manager would be the AH)

    At this point – you can give him one more – stern warning (and immediately make the promise to involve HR) as he is harassing you (an older man continuously commenting on a woman’s body??) and you feel increasingly creeped out and are worried he might escalate since he doesn`t stop after being asked.
    Then also: Document Document Document.
    Date, time, location and comment(s). Recording might not be an option (varies per city/state/country apparently) but if it is, use that too.

    This process is a) gathering ammo.. sorry, evidence in case manager brushes it off again, and b) covering yourself in case the abuser (for that is what he is) tries to make you the bad person here (not uncommon).

    Good luck – and if you can, do update on what happens.

  155. charo*

    I’d reply when they bring up “good Christian” by saying it’s not “good” for him to be obsessing over your sex organs or what you do with them.

    It’s sexual harassment, which is illegal, and also, by their own standards, a “good Christian man” would not do it.

Comments are closed.