It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today, we hear from “Scumbag?” who wrote in way back in February 2011 wondering if he was a scumbag for kissing a co-worker he was attracted to even though he’d been dating someone else for a couple of months. He decided that he’d break up with the woman he’d been seeing and see where things might go with the co-worker. Keep reading to see how that worked out for him.
The answer to “Am I a scumbag?” is an unequivocal “yes,” sadly, as I had defined an exclusive relationship with J (which, as your commenters noted was probably my biggest error to begin with). I broke up with J shortly after my letter, and started a relationship with C. About three weeks later, in a move compounding how much of a bozo I’d been to this point, C and I became official on Facebook. J immediately emailed C saying there must have been overlap, creating a new round of drama. Overall, for about a two-month period, starting just before I first mailed you, I was a real jerk.
Outside of my macro-level jerk qualities, though, C and I developed a pretty good relationship, up until a few months later. We went across the country to celebrate the graduation of one of my best friends from law school, which turned into a debacle at dinner. This might be an interesting question for you and your readers. I invited C, since the party was going to be held in a great destination and I wanted her to meet my friends and get to enjoy a knockout dinner at my favorite restaurant in the world. I believe I split her costs with her either 50/50, or paid two-thirds, since it was my event. At dinner, I swapped seats with friends at the other end of the twenty-person table, leaving C in her original seat, so that I could say hello to the friends on that side, and so that other friends could meet C — due to timing, the dinner was going to be most everybody’s only opportunity to see either of us on this trip, and, due to geography, I only get to see these friends every other year or so. C told me quietly she was upset about it after the first swap, but I felt like it was an argument we should wait to have after the event. Then, after the second swap, just before dessert, she started arguing with me about it fairly loudly, which continued through dessert and outside the restaurant. This culminated in a rather large shouting meltdown — with several of my closest friends still present. She hopped in a cab for her flight, and I thought that would be the last I would see of her.
I ended up accepting her apology the next day (she assigned a lot of blame to the wine at dinner) and we carried on, leading us to another aspect your readers keyed in on quite well: the issue of us being co-workers. While our relationship wasn’t the only reason in my being passed over for promotion, it certainly didn’t help. But I found a new job at the level I would’ve been promoted to with a different company, although in a new city, and, to be honest, it’s been a much better situation for my career than trying to get promoted at Cutthroat Consulting Co. anyway. The job change came about five months after the dinner debacle.
C and I made long distance work for almost a year, but we broke up about four months ago. We ended up with an immense muddle of intense and polarized feelings for each other, and eventually the negative ones outweighed the positives and culminated once again in a huge blowup at the end of a night of drinking. I wasn’t willing to accept an apology based on booze again this time (there had been other, smaller instances where I pretty much just put her to bed, suffered through her hangover the next day, and let it go), so that was pretty much that.
On the upside, I feel like I’ve learned quite a lot since I wrote you two years ago. If nothing else, I know the solution to the original question I posed — don’t be exclusive before you’re ready to be faithful. I regret screwing that up with J, but other than that, I’m happy I went out with C even though things ended poorly.
In any event, thanks to you and your readers for your advice. – Original Scumbag
Wow, I guess a lot can happen in two years. Thanks for the thorough update. As for the whole seat-swapping dinner debacle, you were a jerk. You don’t bring a guest to a dinner where she knows no one and then ditch her — twice!! — to fend for herself while you mingle with other people. And knowing she was upset after the first swap, it was your even-bigger mistake to swap again. Next time, when a woman — or anyone, really — starts making a scene in public about something you’ve done, stop doing it if you don’t want the scene to escalate.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at email@example.com.