Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Auntie Seraphic & The Guilty Traveller

When I get a letter late at night, I usually just write something like "Read your email! Will sleep on it and email you back in the morning." However, this email was "time-sensitive" and scared the stuffing out of me, as you will see. Thus, there are TWO letters.

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I enjoyed reading your book and fantastic blog for the past several months. You’ve given so many girls wonderful and witty advice, and I’m hoping you can provide some insight on my predicament.

I went on vacation in Europe this summer. On the night before I left, I met an extremely charming, handsome British man – let’s call him “John.” We had a great conversation, during which he mentioned that he was planning a month-long cross-country trip to different parts of Canada and the United States. He said he was planning to stop in my city for a week or so. We met again the following morning for coffee, I went off to the airport, and then we emailed and talked often on the phone for the next month.

He arrived this week, and took me to a nice restaurant one evening. We had a great time – but two nights ago, we went to a bar and met up with his friend, who was drinking heavily. The friend – whom I had met very briefly the day before – made extremely vulgar and mortifying remarks at the top of his lungs, embarrassed our entire table, and finished off the evening by making a completely inappropriate pass at me.

Worse yet, during the course of the friend’s drunken ramblings, some unpleasant revelations about John came to light. I was shocked to discover that (1) John planned this trip specifically to see me, not months in advance as he alluded to in our earlier conversations. (2) After four days, he has spent almost his entire budget for a month long trip. He is unemployed, but [made a very expensive and trivial purchase] using his student loan money. (3) He’s spending the entire month here in a hostel and has no plans (or money) to go elsewhere.

Seraphic, I have no idea what to do. He is very nice and I do enjoy talking to him, but knowing that he made this trip specifically to see me, when he can’t afford it, makes me really uncomfortable. We haven’t even kissed yet! I’ve seen him one time since the debacle with his friend, and even though he apologized for his friend’s behavior, our conversation was still a little awkward. I’m no longer sure if I want to date him – and now that I’ve spent more time with him, I don’t think things would work out in the long run (though I do wonder if my sudden change of heart is just because I’ve never had a boyfriend before – I’m 23 – and I’m just feeling nervous).

In any case, he’s here for three more weeks! I feel incredibly guilty, and I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I think it would be best if we just remained friends for the time being. I’m also trying to balance a demanding full time job with a full load of graduate courses, so I don’t want to see him more than a couple of times a week – and in friendship mode at that. He wants to cook me dinner at my apartment tomorrow, and I worry that I’m leading him on.

The entire situation is stressing me out. I would be extremely appreciative of any advice you have to offer, because I have no idea how to get myself out of this situation.

The Guilty Traveller

Letter 1

Dear INNOCENT Traveller,

Usually when I read new letters this close to midnight, I say "It's late, my brain is fried, but I got your letter, and I'll email you in the morning."

I think I should say that again because this is a very tricky situation, and I need fresh brains. However, I will say tonight that YOU ARE NOT LEADING HIM ON.

NONE of this is your fault. First of all, it looks like Mr British lied to you. He said he had planned this trip, but actually he made it up on the spot. Second, he has a really lousy friend that he inflicted on you, too. Why is this awful guy the British guy's friend, I wonder, and what kind of guy makes a drunken pass at the girl his friend came from Britain to see? Third, this guy sound incredibly impractical and imprudent, considering his sending habits and financial predicament. He's a walking accident. He was before he met you, and he is now. For heaven's sake, DO NOT think you have any responsibility to rescue him. You don't. In fact, given your age and lack of experience, you must not.

I don't think it is a good idea for him to be in your apartment. Hurriedly arrange something with family or a female friend, and tell him you have to cancel dinner. (Then go out to your family or friend, or have them over to do whatever.) Meanwhile, if you have a good relationship with your dad or with an older brother, I want you to call him ASAP and tell him EVERYTHING you told me. You may need serious, old-fashioned back-up to get out of this situation.

But you never have to see "John" again if you don't want to. Honestly. And you certainly don't have to see him more than once or twice a week if you DO decide you want to keep the friendship going. (Why you would, since he is a totally irresponsible-sounding, unemployed British guy, is a question that springs to my mind.)

I'll write more in the morning. Bottom line: call father (if applicable), brother or best male friend and tell him about this guy. See what he says. If you lack any male relations or friends, call up your mother and tell her. Tell her how uncomfortable you feel. Honey, I really do think you need back-up. This is a weird situation, totally not of your own making, and you need to establish some serious boundaries, if not brick walls.

This is not a cute, boy-girl, 1950s-style dating situation. This is an unemployed liar from a foreign country (one which is a lot different from the tourist brochures, believe me) on a holiday he can't afford, and he is clearly not rooted in reality. Be careful and canny.

Grace and peace,
Seraphic

Letter 2

Dear Innocent Traveller,

It's morning and my brain is both rested and buzzing with caffeine. I stick with what I said yesterday, and in fact I am even more adamant that you not let this young man into your apartment. Even if you just text or email him to say "Can't do dinner tonight. Won't be home", that is enough. This is a man with proven poor judgement, who is proven to be irresponsible. If I were your mother, I'd be on my way. I don't think you should be alone with him in your apartment.

There are so many alarm bells ringing from your email! "Charming" and "handsome" (and "British") mean absolutely nothing when the man in question lies to you, subjects you to the bad behaviour of a friend, HAS friends like that in the first place, behaves so irresponsibly with money, and makes you feel uncomfortable.

The problem with a guy--a near-stranger--coming to your place to make you dinner is that (A) now you are alone with him behind closed doors, (B) you could easily be made to feel "indebted" to him because he has done this "nice thing", (C) it is a typical seduction ploy.

You mentioned being 23, and the problem with being 23 is that a 23 year old has less confidence than a 33 year old in telling Mr Wrong to beat it. (Your feelings of nervousness are not immaturity but darned good sense.) This is why I have suggested you tell family and friends (especially male) about this situation. If you were 33, you would not feel guilty. You would feel outraged.

Please let me know what happens and how you are because I am actually worried. I bounced the story off my British husband for a "British guy's eye view," and he said, "He sounds crazy!"

And, once again, I repeat: This is not your fault. He told you a lie. He made the decision to come to your town. He chose to spend his money foolishly. He chooses to stay in a hostel. Hopefully when his money runs out, he will go straight back to Britain. This is the best case scenario, so for heaven's sake do not give him any money or other material support. Do not even see him if you do not want to see him.

I hope this is helpful.

Grace and peace,
Seraphic

Result: The Innocent Traveller cancelled dinner and then called up her aunt and a male friend, who reacted as I did. She felt a great weight of guilt fall from her shoulders. Thank heaven!

By the way, this girl really did not do anything wrong. She had some hopes for the relationship which were dashed: that's it. As soon as there was evidence this man was not who she was led to believe he was, she didn't ignore it. She worried about it and then asked for help. Thus, I am full of admiration. The truly guilty traveller is not rooted in reality, but my reader is. Good!

13 comments:

Lynn said...

Wow. That is some scary stuff. May i suggest that she, and perhaps others, would get a lot out of Gavin DeBecker's book The Gift of Fear? It's at amazon. His whole point is that we often allow social pressures to override our instincts and real gut fears, and then we get in Big Trouble. There is a great paragraph that I wish i could quote, of a hypothetical woman's response to a man who pushes himself on her and then calls her a bitch for rebuffing him.

It's so hard to remember sometimes that we don't owe these men anything. Not one darn thing.

theobromophile said...

If you were 33, you would not feel guilty. You would feel outraged.

As a thirty-year old who distinctly remembers being 23 and having men like that in her life... EXACTLY right.

As Dan Savage would say, DTMFA. (Sorry for the implied cussing.)

Seraphic had a great rant, and I'm going to add to it. One of the ways in which really slimy, manipulative men get into your life is by being charming, coming on strong, making you feel guilty for refusing them, and otherwise overriding your intuition that tells you that he needs to go, now.

He'll make it seem as if he is just so darn smitten with you that he can't resist you, can't resist seeing you 24/7, is so very hurt when you aren't around, etc., that you just can't refuse to let him worm his way into your life and take over.

Seraphic sees red flags; I'm hearing screaming fire alarms. Had you let this guy "cook you dinner", he would probably have tried to move into your apartment. I would bet that he would have showed up with his suitcases, complained about the hostel, and you would have been changing the locks to evict him weeks/months/years from now.

Does this guy even have a return ticket to the rock he crawled out from underneath, whoops, I mean, Europe? (No offence meant to the Continent, just to this particular member of the human race.)

I've dated manipulative/possessive/borderline abusive, and this guy sounds like one of them.

margaret said...

Thanks be to God! When I read this on your other link I prayed so hard she wouldn't be 'guilted' into having him in her house. I am glad she had the courage to call off.

Domestic Diva said...

When I was 23, I would have thought Seraphic was overreacting. Seraphic was NOT overreacting. Repeat - Seraphic was NOT! overreacting.
I can't tell you the relief I felt knowing she cancelled dinner. Thanks be to God!

Juventutem London said...

Woooooooow..........

Auntie Seraphic saves the day, again. Crikey!

Meredith said...

Read this yesterday and was (silently) shouting "Nooooooooo!" Glad to hear the creep got beaten off.

Lost Noldo said...

Eesh... sounds like a scary situation honestly. Glad Innocent Traveller wrote Auntie Seraphic about it... There are creepy/bad people out there who will try to take advantage of people they perceive to be vulnerable, and as much as some of us might not like to admit it, lonely single women (self included) can be pretty vulnerable at times. That's why we have Aunties and friends and relatives we can sound things off of.
This kind of reminds me of a creep my mom told me about- at the time she was about Innocent Traveller's age she met a guy on her way to Ireland for work and he was nice enough and they just chatted. But he got enough info from her about her relations in Ireland in another town that he was able to bum off of them for lodging and food for a few weeks by saying that he was engaged to my mom when they'd done nothing more than talk on the plane! Scary, sociopathic liar!
And hang in there, Innocent Traveller! When things like this happen it's easy to think that you're naive or don't have a good sense for people, but your alarm bells DID go off and you've done the right thing!

Seraphic Spouse said...

For those who don't know to what post others are referring, go here: http://www.catholicregister.org/columns/item/12939-advice-to-young-single-women-safety-beats-being-nice

mary said...

Good save, ladies - this guy sounds like bad news! I'm glad the traveller listened to her gut, and Seraphic's advice was spot-on.

theobromophile said...

"Being sensible and safe beats being “nice.”"

It cannot be said enough to young women. Also, being sensible and being safe beats the approval (or lack of disapproval) of total strangers.

One of the things that I often tell young women, is that they also have a duty to their family and friends and people who love and care about them. How "nice" are you being to your family if you let a strange man from a foreign country, whom you barely know but who followed you across the Atlantic, be alone in your apartment with you? Don't think that your friends and mom are going to get ulcers worrying about you? Don't they deserve better?

I say this as a woman whose friends have cleaned up far, far too many of her tears (I attracted/dated every creep around). It finally hit me that, heavens, my friends deserved better than to watch me go through all that garbage. I stopped being "nice" to men or dating them because if I didn't, I was frigid/mean/not giving good guys a chance.

Frankly, if I were to carry Mace or a gun, and had no qualms about turning them upon crazy men, my family would be happier. Good people who care about me would sleep better at night, not in spite of the fact that I would be "mean" to creeps and freaks, but because it would be a "not nice" thing to do to people who would use nice to exploit me. And I'm here to tell you, if it's between the well-being of some weird stranger or my family, the stranger is going under the bus.

Final thought (ha!): no good man, nor any decent man, shames a woman into giving up her security. And if a man tries that? "I don't think that anyone who has my best interests at heart would pressure me to be alone with a stranger" works fine. Decent, albeit misguided, men will recant. Creeps show themselves to be creeps.

thelicensedfool said...

I'd just like to add that I spent a number of years working for the police and reading this post set off all the alarm bells you might expect.

The advice was spot on and I was so relieved when I saw that it had been taken.

To quote Theobromophile
"I've dated manipulative/possessive/borderline abusive, and this guy sounds like one of them." - Yep, absolutely right.

I agreed with the assessment in Seraphic's second letter especially about this being a typical seduction ploy and a dangerous situation to be in alone.

Lynn sums it up
"It's so hard to remember sometimes that we don't owe these men anything. Not one darn thing."

Much better not to be put in a situation where that pressure could be applied in the first place.

Walk away - if he was genuine (yeah I know thats a big if) then he needs to consider quite urgently how he approaches things. If, as the situation suggests, he wasn't entierly genuine then you have lost nothing by cutting it dead.

Either way - best off out of it. Never be afraid to take decisive action early on.

LF

Papal Letters said...

Hi,

As a "male friend" sometimes called upon to help out the women I know, I wanted to also emphasize reading a book mentioned by the first poster, Lynn, when she recommended people read "Gavin DeBecker's book The Gift of Fear? It's at amazon".

It is an excellent book. And maybe if you have time, dear Seraphic, you might be inclined to write a book review on it. The stories inside provide many real-life and practical pieces of advice to women (and men) looking to trust themselves and their gut to avoid harm from men who may hurt them, if allowed.

Pax Christi. +++

Lynne said...

I third the recommendation of Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear. This story, along with Auntie's excellent advice, also reminded me of it.