DEAR ABBY: I met an attractive woman at a consumer products show. She works for a company that supplies items to the store where I work. She wasn't wearing a ring, and she seemed interested in me, so I decided to ask her to lunch.
I had always heard that women welcome flowers, and prefer them to direct invitations because it allows them to reply with a warm thank-you or refuse without putting anyone on the spot. So I ordered a mixed bouquet with a card that carried a friendly -- not romantic -- message. She never acknowledged it, but I received a brief fax from her boss saying that I was off-base and the flowers were inappropriate. He signed off with a directive that I make no further contact.
Abby, I was mortified! Was it necessary to embarrass me with a fax that everyone in the store could have read? I don't know if he took it upon himself to do this, or she asked him to do it for her. I'm not even sure whether she received the flowers or if he intercepted them. All that fax did was ensure an awkward situation the next time she and I cross paths at a show or during business transactions.
How should I handle our next meeting? Should I pretend it never happened? Should I cross them off our supplier list to avoid further contact? Should I let her know so that I can possibly get another shot at it, or did I blow it so terribly wrong? I'm a caring, sensitive person and don't understand why this innocent gesture generated such a reply. -- EMBARRASSED IN IOWA
DEAR EMBARRASSED: I don't know who told you that women prefer flowers to a direct invitation, but the information was incorrect. Frankly, the approach was a bit over the top and may have made the woman uncomfortable. If she indicated that to her employer, he had a legal obligation to step in on her behalf. However, his technique was heavy-handed. It would have been better had he talked to your employer or human resources for your company and asked that person to speak to you privately about it.
If I were you, I'd forget about trying to cultivate a personal relationship with the lady. It's not necessary to "cross them off your list"; just keep any further contact with her strictly related to business.