Asshole to Engish Translation

This is a repost blog.

Original posts by Letter Writer #657 at Captain Awkward. Only the original questions/updates are reproduced here - to read Captain Awkward’s advice, click through to the original links.

5 Feb 2015: #657: Asshole-to-English Translator: You just like leading guys on” = I am a creepy asshole who doesn’t think you are allowed to say ‘no.’”

Hello Captain!

Something has been bothering me for a long time — I have been accused of leading guys on.” When this happened in college and grad school, I shrugged it off because the guys who would accuse me of this were always ones that took any female attention as romantic interest in them or they had a crush on me, but I had told them, usually several times, that I was not interested in them romantically, only as friends.

I am a friendly, smiley person who is easy to talk to/confide in (which is good since I am a healthcare provider now), so I am guessing that helps lend to their idea that I am romantically interested in them. But if they paid attention, they would see that I am like that with everyone! However, I do make a point of not flirting at all, not touching them in any way, and only meeting with them in groups to avoid any accidental messages going through to guys that I suspect have interest in me.

But I feel like it keeps happening! And it is really starting to make me angry because I am trying to make professional connections (and hopefully friends!) and I am so tired of guys coming onto me out of nowhere or when it is clearly inappropriate.

For example, I went to a business lunch with two professionals. The second person never showed up, so we had some drinks and chatted. We talked about our relationships a bit (me = my boyfriend is awesome, him = having a child completely changed his life and marriage). We went back to his office to talk more (business, I thought), when he said, if I was younger, I would have thought that you coming back to my office meant you wanted to sleep with me.” I was shocked. I wrapped up the conversation and ran.

Something similar happened with another healthcare provider. We were exchanging treatments, and because he was so easy to talk to, I ended up confiding much more in him than I usually would with someone. He ended up confiding his marriage problems to me and a few sessions later, he stated that he could not be alone with me” because he was afraid something he would regret would happen.” I assured him that I would never cheat on my boyfriend, so he had nothing to worry about from me, but I respected his wish to stop our exchanges. I was upset about this for a few weeks because I thought I had finally found a new friend to talk about our practices and daydreamed about double dates with him and his wife.

There is a third guy with the same basic thing of us hanging out, him coming onto me when I thought we were just friends, me having to leave ASAP, and then never talking to him again AND actively avoiding seeing him (which means I have to skip professional events I would like to attend but not enough to risk seeing him).

Both times, these guys were married AND we had talked about my wonderful boyfriend. I know they are unhappy with their marriages, but I am clearly happy with my relationship, and even if I wasn’t, I would never cheat and I really resent the implied accusation that I would do so. With the unmarried third guy, the same still stands because he knew about my boyfriend.

My boyfriend only knows about what happened with the third guy because I was so distraught over it (it was actually the first event). He said that I am too nice and naive. I know I can be pretty oblivious when reading signals that are related to me (it’s so much easier to observe what’s happening with other people!), but I am actively doing everything I can think of to avoid sending misleading signals and avoiding compromising” situations.

What am I doing wrong? I can’t possibly be leading every guy on, can I?

Thank you for reading (and thank you for all of your previous posts!), Not Leading Them On (On Purpose Anyway)

5 Jan 2017: UPDATE

I ended up dumping my ex-boyfriend (finally) in June 2016. What the Captain wrote about how his response to me was unacceptable really hit home for me, even though it took a while to break up. Thank you so much — getting him out of my life was the best decision I made in 2016.

I ended up seeing the professional once at a networking meeting where I only gave him a brief hi” and avoided him. I have seen the healthcare provider actually stopped by my office in the summer. He wanted to grab coffee sometime, and since I felt like I was in a good place, I said ok” and recommended somewhere very public during the day. He ended up emailing me saying it wasn’t a good idea” and canceled, so I let it die. I have seen him a few times in passing the past few months since then, but have maintained very limited interaction. I never heard from the friend who came onto me again (thank goodness!).

In the fall of 2016, I lost two friends, a married couple, because the wife accused me of trying to steal her husband. Apparently she was cheated on in the past by her ex-husband so she has trust issues. I told her I would never do that and never intended to hurt her feelings, but she did not believe me so I let the friendships go. I was very upset about this situation, but also realized with the help of my therapist that it was the wife’s insecurity that was the problem and she was projecting it onto me.

I have realized (with the help of my therapist and two close friends) that I am an intimidating woman to some people. I am beautiful, strong, smart, determined, successful, and sexy — and some people are intimidated by that or find me threatening. It also makes me an easy and convenient target for blame.

I am also naturally friendly and touchy-feely, which some people misinterpret as flirting. So I have become more aware of my presence and the effect it can have on people, so I try to be more careful about what I say, how I say it, and whether or not being touchy is appropriate. When in doubt, I tone it down.

However, what I have also realized is that some people will choose to misinterpret my words and actions no matter what I do, so I do not overly control myself. Some people will like you, some people will not, and the rest are neutral and that’s ok.

And for those who were concerned about my appearance in the thread, I am a 5’3 petite blonde woman who is conventionally beautiful with a thin body that makes it hard to hide my DDs and butt. I dress very, VERY conservatively and professionally at work and try to minimize my curves to avoid unwanted sexual advances from my male patients (but as we all know, some people will sexually assault you no matter how you are dressed). I wear black work sneakers because my job is hands-on and physical so no, I cannot wear heels to work. When not at work, I dress pretty much the same but in jeans instead of slacks.

I used to wear giant sweatshirts and baggy jeans to hide my body because I was ashamed and scared of the attention I got, but not even that worked so I dress how I want in a way that I think looks nice but professional, and I will not be shamed by anyone for that. I was disappointed in the commenters who tried to blame how I dressed for how these men acted.

But thank you to all of those who poured out support, and Captain Awkward for taking the time to reply to me (and to everyone else!). You are the best!


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September 22, 2023