Dear Bitter Single Guy: I spent New Year’s Eve with my family in a time zone 2 hours ahead of where I live. So when my phone rang at 1:45am, while I was sleeping in the same room as mother, I answered it in a great deal of confusion. A male voice asked whether he was talking to me, and I said “yes?” The voice on the other end of the phone then proceeded to say: “I have always loved you.” I was stunned, groggy, didn’t know what else to say, didn’t want to wake my mother, and had no idea to whom I was speaking — other than that it wasn’t my current flame, who has a decided accent. So I wrote it off as either a practical joke or a little bit of kindness floating around in the world.
Fast forward to late March, and I received a voicemail from an old family friend — someone I’ve always viewed as a rather messed-up older brother — saying that he thinks he owes me an apology “from about three and a half months ago” and “if you don’t call back, I guess I’ll understand.”
So here’s the quandry: what do I do? I have NO romantic interest in Old Family Friend, and what I want is to completely ignore the situation and hope that when I see Old Family Friend sometime this spring (which is likely), we can be cordial with each other. However, I know that he’s at a low point in his life right now (I suspect mid-life crisis, depression, substance abuse, the works). I don’t want to be unfair to someone who might need my support. ~Might Have a Stalker~
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Dear MHS: The Bitter Single Guy thinks it’s hella noble of you to spend as much time considering Old Family Friend’s feelings and life situation while you ponder how to respond. But the BSG doesn’t think that’s the right approach here. Whether mid-life crisis or depression or something worse, Old Family Friend lives by the same social rules that you and the BSG live with. Calling someone (the BSG hopes it was Drunk Dialing, because if he called you out of the blue while totally sober, well that’s just creepy) on New Year’s Eve to pronounce your love with no warning is just tacky. The BSG assumes, given the mid-life crisis possibility, that Old Family Friend isn’t 15, which would make this behavior just as tacky, but understandable.
MHS, don’t ignore this. If you actually care a whit for Old Family Friend you’ll expect him to deal with you appropriately which includes honest communication. He has a right to express his attraction to you in a socially acceptable fashion, by inviting you to coffee or some such innocent activity. You, of course, also have the right to demur in equally socially acceptable ways. Since he’s chosen to go the 15 year old route, the BSG hopes you still decide to be the adult.
The BSG doesn’t usually recommend email, but in this case he would allow it because the impersonal nature of an email would emphasize your point. “Dear Old Family Friend: I got your voicemail and appreciate you clearing up the mystery of who woke me from a sound sleep on New Year’s Eve. I accept your apology and appreciate you letting me know that it was you. While I appreciate our family friendship, that’s the extent of my interest in our relationship. I understand how these misunderstanding can happen however, and am sure we’ll laugh about it when we see each other this spring.”
The BSG thinks this approach can both preserve the cordiality of your relationship while making it clear that his confession wasn’t welcome. The likely result is that Old Family Friend will be hugely embarrassed, which will be appropriate. It’s likely that he’s entertaining a tiny little fantasy that you’ll be similarly smitten, otherwise he wouldn’t have left you the voicemail. Your job now is to crush that tiny little fantasy. The BSG has toal faith in you here, MHS.