DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Recently I’ve enjoyed some major changes in my life. I was promoted at my job after 3 years of hard work and have found myself at a good place in life. During this time I met a girl; let’s call her K. We seemed to hit it off immediately and the fact that I was bilingual was something that she somehow found attractive. I found out she was seeing someone and she later on told me that relationship was nearing the end and she was just afraid of hurting the guy. She broke up with him a few days after and things started to speed up from there and we became friends with benefits.
Given that I was her superior, I decided to keep our relationship on the DL at the workplace. One day out of nowhere she got upset because I went out to a bar for some drinks alone and because she also found out I decided to hang out with another girl from work. Obviously this kind of behavior was a bit of a red flag and I talked to her about it to which she seemed understanding. Later on I came to find out that she wasn’t being discreet at work about what was going on between us.
I decided to talk with her and I realized we weren’t on the same page. She told me she didn’t care who found out about us because in the end they would find out regardless of who said what. She wanted a more formal boyfriend/girlfriend relationship and I did not. I had just gone through a two year long distance relationship and felt that I needed to focus on my personal goals and that it wasn’t right for me to string her along and she deserved someone who could give her what she was looking for.
We still work together but things are awkward to say the least. We barely say a word to one another and a friend of mine has told me that she has informed a few people about how I decided to end things with her.
Another mutual friend went on to tell me that K got really drunk one night and confessed to still having feelings for me and that she was open to talking with me if I have something to say. Sometimes I do miss what we had beyond the physical connection but I still feel like we aren’t on the same page about what we want and in the long run that might affect whatever might come.
What should I do?
Not Jim, Not Pam
DEAR NOT JIM, NOT PAM: Honestly my dude, what you should do is hop into your nearest DeLorean, travel back in time and stop yourself from dating her in the first place. While I realize workplace romances are a thing — they’re somewhat inevitable, really — the fact that you were her superior and presumably in a place where you can directly affect her job makes it seriously not cool. You may have had the purest of intentions, but there’s a power-imbalance inherent to the setup that makes the whole thing sketchy under the best of circumstances. Doubly so if you now find yourself in the position to have to discipline her, fire her or promote someone else for a position she may also have applied for. Even if you are so good at compartmentalizing that it would never have occured to you to consider your relationship with her as a factor, it’s almost impossible to avoid the appearance of influence.
But for the sake of a thought exercise, let’s imagine that you weren’t her superior and that there were no issues that’d get you dragged before HR. Speaking strictly for the relationship you had… well, you did the right thing by ending things with her. You wanted different and mutually incompatible relationships, and that was going to create a relationship-ending impasse. In situations like these, it’s better to end things sooner rather than later; it’s kinder to them and frees them up to find a relationship with someone who is on the same page. Much like ripping off a bandage, it’s the sort of thing that if t’were to be done, best to be done quickly.
So as far as that goes, you made the right call.
Otherwise… there’s nothing else to be done here. She still wants a long-term committed relationship and you don’t and you’re still her superior at work; all that getting back together will do for you is give you the 12″ extended dance remix of your first breakup except possibly with a guest appearance by Human Resources on the hook. All there’s left to do is power through the awkward. Be professional, polite and friendly… but keep it strictly about work from now on.
And stop dating people who’re below you on the org chart at work.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Long time reader (first found you via google). My question isn’t dating-related but it’s on something you’ve talked about every now and then.
Long story short–I can’t find a friend group or anything remotely similar. I’ve tried to connect with other people who share my interests (gaming and at one point card games) but every time I’ve tried it’s either been games I don’t play (i.e., Smash or until recently COD/Halo, though I don’t mind watching any of those, TBH) or I’ve come out of the meet up bawling like a baby (something my parents can attest to) or worse, both. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I walked into gaming meetup where they were playing Smash or something, figured “eh, I can at least watch,” within ten minutes some assh
e screams a certain “r” word (or worse) and I go home shaken. Hell, a few years back I would routinely hear “f*g” thrown around in a CHILDREN’S CARD GAME circle and the first time I tried online gaming (something I DEEPLY regret…) I got called the n-word (yes, really) along with being cyber stalked and sexually harassed in the game’s PMs (I’m a dude, but the douchebag on the other end kept calling me “lady” and well…you know the rest).
I guess it doesn’t help that I’m not on social media at all. Nothing against it personally it’s just…well. I was the kid who, when myspace (remember that dinosaur?) first showed up, was utterly perplexed why anyone would want to be on it and still feel that way about Twitter and the like (apart from business reasons). It doesn’t help that I can’t stand fandom culture either (too much of a nostagia-bating circlejerk yappin’ about how awesome the 80s/90s/whatever was half the time).
Rambling aside, I just wanted to ask. Is there any surefire way to avoid the toxic bulls
t? Or does EVERY “male-centric” (I use that term loosely) nerd community act like a f
king frat house full of allegedly grown-up manbabies?
The Lone Gamer
DEAR THE LONE GAMER: You can’t completely insulate yourself against encountering assh
es, TLG. Assh
es gonna ass, and a lot of people have decided that trash talk and s
tty behavior is just a core component of competition in general and gamer culture in particular. I mean, look at how hard it seems to be for Twitch streamers to not have a “heated gamer moment”.
But that doesn’t mean every group is going to be the same cadre of smack talk and casual racism, trans- and homophobia. You may want to start by checking out gaming stores in your area, especially tabletop gaming stores and seeing whether they have regular game nights. However, you’ll want to be picky about which gaming stores you go to. You can almost always judge a store’s clientele by the store itself and its employees. If the folks working at the store are the same sort of folks who think s
t talking is cool, then the odds are higher that you’re going to find the same toxic behavior you’re looking to avoid. On the other hand, if the store is well-lit, well-organized with friendly and diverse staff who act professionally, they’re FAR less likely to put up with folks acting like 12 year old edgelords.
You might also want to spend some time on local boards and forums for your city in general. If there’s a subreddit for your town, that may be a good place to not just meet local folks and vet them, but to also find gaming groups that aren’t as crappy.
And at worst? Don’t be afraid to start your own group. Set up your own MeetUp for whatever game you’re interested in playing, make good sportsmanship part of the rules for attending and be the change you want to see in gaming.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org