DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am friendly with a neighbor in my building. I have helped him on a couple of occasions, giving him referrals to get help with legal matters, and he has helped me twice with moving heavy furniture.
I’m not interested in this man, other than to be neighborly. I am not quite sure about his intentions, and I’m trying my best to take him at his word that he’s interested only in being a friend.
However, lately, when he texts me, he says things like “Hello Beautiful,” “Hi, pretty one,” etc., which makes me extremely uncomfortable.
During the first part of the pandemic, he called me with a legal question, and somehow the conversation diverted to religion, since he expressed interest in the church I attend. He has also suggested that we go out for dinner once the quarantine is over (or “over” to the extent that we can do so safely), to which I managed to reply, “Maybe one day.”
That’s my way of saying “no,” hoping he doesn’t ask again.
What is the polite way to respond to these “niceties”? I feel disrespected when he calls me “My beautiful,” which he only seems to do when texting -- fortunately, I’ve only run into him once lately, when taking the garbage out. But I don’t know how to respond.
GENTLE READER: Men in love, or moving in that direction -- and you are right to be concerned that this is what is happening here -- do not hear “no” when told “maybe.”
It would be facile, not to mention unfair, to say they always hear “yes.” They may just hear what you actually said, which obscures the certainty in your heart.
Miss Manners hears that you do not like to say no. Few people do. But characterizing his awkward attempts at flirtation as disrespectful is not going to criminalize his actions or absolve you from clarifying your position.
Whether this is done in plain English or vague phrases is up to you. Miss Manners suggests something along the lines of, “Thank you, but I’m afraid that will not be possible; I have other commitments.”
Whether such commitments are to another gentleman or simply to your own preferences need not be stated. Should he be so crude as to ask what they are, the answer should be a firm, “They are personal commitments.”