Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Updates: “Tired of Being Picked On” Responds

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 today. After the jump, we hear from “Tired of Being Picked On” whose guy friend from med school was constantly putting her down, criticizing her appearance and “diagnosing” her various “abnormalities.” I suggested the guy liked-liked her, assumed she didn’t feel the same way and was trying to make himself feel better about the situation. Keep reading to see whether they’re still hanging out and if he stopped with the insults.

Before I get into my update, I want to thank you for the advice on my situation. It was not only enlightening, but also the comments from the “Dear Wendy” community were just as insightful. To clarify some points: The only thing that happened between me and my friend from the time his behavior started changing to when I wrote the letter was that we became better friends. We began seeing each other every day, would share personal information about our lives (including relationships), and even considered being roommates for the following year. (Then he became mean, I scaled back on our interactions, and he dumped me as a potential roommate). Nonetheless, instead of everyday, we still hung out 4-5 times/week.

With that being said, I did make some changes to our friendship. At the advice of one of the other readers, I was direct about how his comments made me feel instead of my former approach of inquiring about his feelings. That was disastrous as he dismissed my feelings as sensitivity. These long and drawn-out discussions about his behavior/my feelings became a regular event in our friendship until one day I was angry enough to tell him my appearance wasn’t for him and he had no authority to make comments. He explained that his family shows affection by “picking” on each other and he feels close to me. I asked him if he wanted me to reciprocate this “closeness” and he was quick to decline. After a few more words, he retreated and his comments slowed. Every once in a while, he “couldn’t help himself” and an insult or two would sneak its way into our conversations, but it was quickly followed by an apology.

Our friendship survived, we moved on, and eventually the insults virtually stopped. Then about a month after writing the letter, he tried to take our friendship to the “next level.” In which case, I rejected him. He was kind enough to ask me if I were okay and I told him, “Of course, don’t worry about it. Nothing happened.” He wanted to talk about it and I repeated, “Nothing happened. Talk about what?” He insisted something happened and I denied that claim. I was COMPLETELY caught off guard and so embarrassed I just wanted to run away… Fast. A couple of days later, I felt bad about how I dealt with the situation and I asked if he wanted to talk about it. He ignored the question and our friendship hasn’t been the same since. We can barely look at each other. What a tragic ending after coming so far.

I’m sorry it ended that way. The really sucky thing is that you believed you were friends, but on his end, you were never a true friend but simply a potential girlfriend. Once he accepted that that potential was never going to be realized, he moved on. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but maybe it will save you hurt feelings in the future if you recognize similar behavior in someone you’re getting to know more closely and can move away from before investing too much time and energy. When people treat you with a sort of love-hate attitude, it’s generally because you are something they can’t have in the way they want or you represent something they can’t have in the way they want. Relationships like that will become toxic if you don’t keep those people at a safe distance.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

59 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Calle June 14, 2012, 2:25 pm

    I actually feel a bit sorry for the asshole who picked on the LW. It sounds like he grew up in a very screwy environment and that he needs help to realize that constantly criticizing people is not okay.

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  • avatar

    honeybeenicki June 14, 2012, 2:34 pm

    In our family, we often pick on each other but not to the point that we’re diagnosing abnormalities or actually criticizing someone’s appearance. And its definitely not very often like this guy seemed to be doing. Unfortunately, sometimes you’re better off without some people in your life. It sucks that it turned out like this for you LW, but in the end its likely for the better.

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  • avatar

    Kristen June 14, 2012, 2:42 pm

    I had a friend like this. We were best friends for a year, and he was pretty controlling (with little things, like not clinking your silverware when you eat, etc.). But it really got out of control when it became clear to him that I wasn’t interested in dating him. After that, he started telling me I was fat compared to so-and-so, or I wasn’t a good singer so I shouldn’t sing in the car, etc. He just kept picking until things exploded. He threw a lot of really personal things in my face as insults and then decided he didn’t want to ever speak to me again because I had “hurt him beyond repair.” It was awful.

    I think something similar was going on with the LW and her friend. He probably had intense feelings for her and the way he dealt with them not being reciprocated was to tear her down.

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    • landygirl

      landygirl June 14, 2012, 3:14 pm

      Did he actually approach you and tell you he wanted more or was he passive agressive?

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        Kristen June 14, 2012, 3:17 pm

        He told me that he was in love with me and wanted me to leave my boyfriend for him. When I said no, he accused me of leading him on and smashing his heart. His way of dealing with that was by insulting me in every way he knew how (which was very well, since we had been great friends). He basically said all the things he knew would hurt me the worst.

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      • landygirl

        landygirl June 14, 2012, 3:20 pm

        I can’t believe you didn’t drop everything in your life to be with this gem!!!! It sounds like he has some major issues.

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        Kristen June 14, 2012, 3:28 pm

        Yeah… he emailed me out of the blue about six months ago just to tell me that he’s “forgiven me” and that he thought I’d want to know. You know, just in case I’ve been killing myself in guilt for the last four years.

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      • avatar

        Rachel June 14, 2012, 3:39 pm

        *phew* That must be a relief!

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      • landygirl

        landygirl June 14, 2012, 10:06 pm

        I’m sure you’re wracked with guilt. Who wouldn’t be to lose such a great guy.

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      • dandywarhol

        dandywarhol June 14, 2012, 6:02 pm

        Wow. You led him on my being his friend? What a b!tch you are!

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    • avatar

      Eve Harrison June 15, 2012, 8:38 am

      I don’t know about “intense feelings”, since that implies his reaction was some what justified. I think it was a case of immaturity. If he can’t handle rejection he shouldn’t hit on other women. Rejection is as much a part of dating as success. I have a feeling he has a whole ‘lot of growing up to do.

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  • avatar

    bethany June 14, 2012, 2:44 pm

    I also come from a “kid becasue you love” kind of family, but he was certainly taking it past kidding. Consider yourself lucky that at least now you’ve seen his true colors.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar June 14, 2012, 2:50 pm

    We tease in our house all the time – that is not the same as being picked on – and if he was so used to it from his family – he would have been cool with you reciprocating. Wendy is right – the love/hate thing is reserved for those who want what they cannot have. Of course, I thought boys outgrew this behaviour by the third grade but clearly I was wrong. Poor thing. He is going to need better social skills than that if he wants a shot with a decent girl.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle June 14, 2012, 2:52 pm

    Yeah, no. My family zings each other, but it’s usually done in an amusing manner & nobody keeps it up until somebody’s feelings are getting hurt. This guy still sounds like an ass. Lucky for you that you didn’t want to date him, or else he might still be in your life.

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    • Fabelle

      Fabelle June 14, 2012, 2:54 pm

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to be so harsh– it’s just these descriptions of the dude are so unflattering.

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      • dandywarhol

        dandywarhol June 14, 2012, 6:03 pm

        I agree though, when she said she turned him down, I cheered a little bit for her 🙂

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  • Lili

    Lili June 14, 2012, 3:01 pm

    I guess I’m the odd one out here because I don’t quite understand the lovingly teasing kind of jokes. Can I get some examples? Maybe I’m just thinking of only sarcastic and snarky comments that end up really cutting one to the core as being teasing…

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    • avatar

      Kristen June 14, 2012, 3:12 pm

      It really only works with people you’re close with, who know you aren’t trying to be mean. For instance, if my close friend makes a comment about someone’s shorts looking ridiculous, I might say something like, “This coming from the girl who has rhinestone-studded shorts.”

      Or, there’s a running joke in my family about how I’m constantly making my food spicier with cayenne pepper. So if we’re at a restaurant, my dad might say, “What? You didn’t bring your own personal container of cayenne pepper? How will you live?”

      It’s just another way of connecting with people and having fun. WAAAAAY different than what the guy in this letter was doing.

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      • avatar

        bethany June 14, 2012, 3:36 pm

        Those are both good examples of the kinds of things we say in my family (and the way I act with my friends)

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    • theattack

      theattack June 14, 2012, 3:14 pm

      My grandfather and I have an extremely teasing relationship since my grandmother died.

      We make fun of each other for eating “rabbit food” whenever the other one eats salad. When I paint my toenails green in the Spring or maroon in the Winter, he goes around telling everyone that I’m so nasty my feet have turned rotten, or I don’t wash them. He says he’s going to get a haircut, and I ask him what exactly they’re supposed to cut (since he’s mostly bald). We blow straw paper at each other in restaurants. I threaten to call the police on him for making moonshine (he doesn’t) when he puts his special recipe hummingbird food in jars and gives it away. If one of us drops crumbs during dinner, we make fun of each other for being slobs. He’ll jokingly tell my fiance that he needs to rethink his life choices because he’s hanging out with the wrong kind of people (me). When he first met my fiance a few years ago, he asked him why he’d want to date someone so ugly (but then he went back and said he was just kidding and that I was pretty).

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      • theattack

        theattack June 14, 2012, 3:15 pm

        I once gave him a bar of soap as part of a Christmas present because I used to tease him that he was stinky.

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      • avatar

        Kristen June 14, 2012, 3:18 pm

        I love this, haha. Way better examples than mine.

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      • Lili

        Lili June 14, 2012, 3:23 pm

        Oh see, I’m SUPER sensitive, so the comments about what I’m eating and my appearance are No nos for EVERYONE, but especially people I’m close too. As a matter of fact, now that I think about my close friends, we only joke negatively about ourselves, and then the other girls rush in to contradict our comments. Like when someone orders the pasta and then passes a comment about sign me up for fat camp, everyone will rush in an go OMG you’re SO skinny, you NEED to eat that PLUS dessert kinda compliments. Or I’ll often go ugh I look like a bag lady, people are so gonna start handing me change all my friends will chime in about how stylish I look. I don’t think we’ve EVER passed a snarky comment to each other about the others actions/behaviors/looks…

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        Kristen June 14, 2012, 3:26 pm

        Aw, you’re missing out, Lili! There’s something special about knowing you’re close enough with someone that you can tease each other without worrying that the other person will get mad. It’s nice!

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      • Lili

        Lili June 14, 2012, 3:36 pm

        …But isn’t it minimizing and disrespectful to critique another person, especially if its something they could be sensitive about?

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      • avatar

        Rachel June 14, 2012, 3:41 pm

        I think it’s about knowing the person well enough to know whether they WOULD be sensitive about it. It’s definitely a fine line…and clearly the guy in this letter stepped WAY over it.

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      • Lili

        Lili June 14, 2012, 3:47 pm

        Oh ok. Plus, while I get that family can be this way I still think its not nice. Because what our family says often hurts us the most. BUT I have to add that I see a pattern between my upbringing and my closest girl friends’. We all had very critical mothers who still pass comments in a judging manner about our lives, so any kind of teasing is too close to those comments. s o we refrain. And only say uplifting things.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar June 14, 2012, 4:26 pm

        I guess no one in my life really makes the self-deprecating comments that everyone has to contradict or has your history of unfair judgement. My husband has teased me since I was 14 years old about my height, being fair, my hair colour, being feisty, having attitude – he has had countless names for me over the years and just yesterday sent me an email telling me my mother was cooking the Guyana shrimp – so he wanted to check on me to make sure I was okay. Since I’m Guyanese – it was his way of calling me short. When I called him to give him attitude all I can hear in the background is peals of laughter from my mother. One of my favourite sounds in the world is the two of them giggling and conspiring against me.

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      • avatar

        Kristen June 14, 2012, 4:29 pm

        Love it!

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      • avatar

        ktfran June 14, 2012, 5:01 pm

        Kind of reminds me of Mean Girls when they’re all standing in front of a mirror and have to say something they dislike about themselves. Or when Regina says she’s fat and gives the other girls a dirty look when they don’t immediately respond with “no your not.”

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      • avatar

        ktfran June 14, 2012, 5:01 pm

        Not you, FireStar, but the self-depracating comments comment reminds me of it.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar June 14, 2012, 5:14 pm

        No worries ktfran – I knew what you were talking about. I actually think I would be confused to hear the types of comments Lili and her friends make – they are so far removed from how I interact with my friends normally. I’m not sure I would automatically rush to say the opposite because I wouldn’t know that that was required. I’m all but certain if I said anything like that all I would get from my friends would be a “what the hell is wrong with you?”

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      • FireStar

        FireStar June 14, 2012, 6:07 pm

        My friends clearly aren’t as sweet as Lili’s….

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      • dandywarhol

        dandywarhol June 14, 2012, 8:43 pm

        Hahaha awesome. Sounds like my boyfriend and I.

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      • dandywarhol

        dandywarhol June 14, 2012, 6:07 pm

        Yeah there is a very fine line… I joke with most of my family but when my dad jokes about me, I know he means it. (As in, if he “jokes” about how dumb I am, he actually means I am dumb)

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      • avatar

        Kristen June 14, 2012, 3:42 pm

        If it’s a subject you know they’re sensitive about, then of course! But like in theattack’s case, she and her grandfather both know they don’t smell — it’s just a running joke that makes their relationship special. It really only works if the person you’re teasing also thinks it’s funny and knows you’re not actually picking on them. To me, it would be harder to have relationships where people criticized themselves hoping for someone to tell them they’re not fat, etc. I love when people have self-deprecating senses of humor, but only when they’re not using it as a cover for genuine insecurity. I don’t mind when my family teases me about making all my food spicy because I *am* ridiculous about it. My brother to this day still reminds me about the time when I put cayenne pepper in water and drank it for weeks on end. And it doesn’t bother me because it’s just a running joke between us. But if it was something that he knew hurt my feelings, he wouldn’t say it. That’s the difference 🙂 I hope that makes sense!

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      • Lili

        Lili June 14, 2012, 3:53 pm

        It makes sense, thanks Kristen! I STILL think I’d be upset if someone teased me about what I was eating (eating disorders are too common in my circle so food is just one area we don’t talk about the other person’s actions/preferences. at all) but you’re hot sauce example makes perfect sense! I’m the same way and LOVE my spicy food. I guess someone could make fun of it, but Idk, why draw attention to my preferences if they don’t pertain to you.

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      • avatar

        Kristen June 14, 2012, 3:54 pm

        I understand! 🙂 Your friends sound like really sweet people.

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      • theattack

        theattack June 14, 2012, 4:13 pm

        I definitely agree with Rachel. There are things you joke about and things you don’t, and those can change over time. My grandfather used to joke about how fat I was as a teenager when I was so skinny you could see my ribs. Now that I’ve gotten older and gained some weight, that’s a no-no. Likewise, I used to be able to joke with him about being lazy and not doing anything although he’s always been a very active, hard-working man. Now that his health is deteriorating and he’s depressed and less active, I can’t bring that up. It’s only okay to joke about stuff that’s non-consequential or that’s obviously not true. Like where I bought my grandfather the soap because he stinks? He’s the best-smelling, classiest older gentleman in our five county area, so it’s OBVIOUSLY not true.

        It also depends on how you say it. We say this stuff in very exaggerated voices with huge smiles on our faces, so it conveys a clear intention of teasing instead of seriousness.

        If someone has a fragile self-esteem or is sensitive about criticism (like you said you were all raised by critical mothers), then it’s obviously a different situation. My family members all have really thick skin and pretty much don’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks because we know we’re awesome anyway, so our personalities definitely play into it. Or maybe we’re thick-skinned as a result of back and forth banter like this.

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      • theattack

        theattack June 14, 2012, 4:16 pm

        Just to clarify about how I would call him lazy, because I realize that sounds disrespectful: I would say that at times like where I would walk in and see him sitting on the recliner watching tv and eating ice cream, but he would be in his overalls, sweaty and dirty because he’s obviously been working in the garden. So it’s clearly a joke. (My family is kind of redneck if you can’t tell).

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      • Lili

        Lili June 14, 2012, 4:23 pm

        Thanks for those great examples! I’m totally seeing how its done now with the obvs not true comments and the exaggerated statements. That makes sense, and sounds funny 🙂 I think its a fine line, and since I’ve always been a sensitive person and had sensitive friends, Its just easier for me to be complimentary at all times when interacting with people. I firmly believe in the old adage: if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all!

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle June 14, 2012, 4:52 pm

        Yeah, this is pretty similiar to how my family jokes with each other. It’s a back-and-forth & we know when to stop/not bring anything up at all (but most things are fair game…) I actually WANT to be made fun a little at times– it’s funny to me– so it’s interesting to see other perspectives.

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      • avatar

        ktfran June 14, 2012, 4:59 pm

        Ditto. In fact, if I don’t ever give someone a hard time – jokingly of course – then it probably means I don’t like you. It’s how I show affection.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow June 14, 2012, 5:17 pm

        Me too!!

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    • Lili

      Lili June 14, 2012, 5:30 pm

      Thanks for the insight everyone! Interesting to see how differently we all interact with our circles. For me with my OWN family I hope to have minimal teasing of this nature personally. I don’t know about all the bullying and teasing young kids are exposed to, and I guess I just want to end up teaching my kids that making such comments about other people, no matter what the relationship is not right. Because it takes a lot of maturity and closeness to understand another’s insecurities, and kids are cruel regardless, so why teach them in my family unit that its ok to be teasing. Of course, this all could change when I meet the right guy and we have a loving an teasing relationship–which i DID not have with my ex. he teased me a few times, but they always felt like personal criticisms to me. So luckily he stopped for the most part early on. But who knows what my next relationship will be like. I just know that I’m glad that my friends don’t mock me. Instead we mock contestants on the Bachelor, or the crazy antics of reality tv peeps 🙂

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      • avatar

        Nadine June 14, 2012, 9:16 pm

        ITs interesting you bring up the family thing. My family are more on the tease side, but we tease each other about things that happened when we were children, rather than what choices we make as adults. So I’d laugh about my brother eating his dinner slowly and remind him how he kept his Easter Eggs under his bed for weeks untill the cat ate them and threw up. But I wouldn’t tease him about his house, or his girlfriend, or his job, or anything “real” like that.
        I also know that while growing up my parents had zero tolerance for actual name-calling. To this day I cant even call my brother a loser, let alone anything harder than that! So I like that we have “rules”, while still keeping the easiness we have.

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  • caitie_didnt

    caitie_didnt June 14, 2012, 3:09 pm

    Frankly this guy sounds totally icky all around and LW is probably well rid of him. LW, I know it sucks now, but good riddance to bad rubbish, right? Nobody needs to make room in their life for someone who offers nothing positive.

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  • avatar

    tbrucemom June 14, 2012, 3:21 pm

    I suspected when I read the original letter that he wanted to be more than friends. It reminded me of when kids are in elementary school and a boy picks on a girl and her mother tells her it’s because he “likes” you. He got shot down and disappeared, which is how a lot of men operate. It’s really hard for a straight man and woman to be just friends. One or the other usually ends up wanting more. Of course, there are exceptions, but When Harry Met Sally was more true than false!

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  • sobriquet

    sobriquet June 14, 2012, 4:28 pm

    Eek, LW needs to recognize negging when it stares her directly in the face.

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    • Fabelle

      Fabelle June 14, 2012, 4:46 pm

      YES, exactly. I think I mentioned this in the original post– the guy was totally doing this. So stupid, and it reallyy doesn’t work.

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  • avatar

    Alex June 14, 2012, 4:51 pm

    I’d disagree with Wendy that he never saw the LW as a friend but only as a potential GF. Guys don’t divide women into friends/potential GF. If she’s a friend, then she’s automatically a potential GF. I guarantee you ladies that a straight male friend has considered what it would be like to date you. They may have decided that it wouldn’t work out, but they’ve considered it.

    Guys, the best thing to do is be honest upfront. “I’m interested in being more than friends. If that’s not going to happen then let me know now so there’s no awkwardness.” It saves you a lot of time and pain later. And if she’s not interested, you can move on and possibly save the friendship.

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    • avatar

      Nadine June 14, 2012, 9:19 pm

      “I guarantee you ladies that a straight male friend has considered what it would be like to date you. They may have decided that it wouldn’t work out, but they’ve considered it.”

      I would also say that, even for a split second before disregarding, straight women consider all their male friends. Its the disregarding that is so important, so platonic friendships can (and do!) exist.

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  • dandywarhol

    dandywarhol June 14, 2012, 6:10 pm

    Yeah good thing he’s out of your life. You may not see it now, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of friend you want around. Teasing from a loved one should not make you feel bad. If it does, and they don’t stop, well there’s your clue.

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  • avatar

    temperance June 14, 2012, 7:44 pm

    Is it wrong that I still was kind of hoping that she made a crack about his teeny penis?

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark June 14, 2012, 8:38 pm

    I had a tough time following this letter. The entire tone of the last paragraph made no sense to me whatsoever. It was like she was speaking in code..

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  • avatar

    AndreaMarie June 15, 2012, 11:06 am

    Its better that he’s out of your life. I agree with Wendy, he has “like-liked you” the entire time you guys were friends. Probably he was insecure and thought you were too good for him and/might reject him so all of his teasing could have been a way of “knocking you down a peg”, know what I mean? Like in his mind you were hot and amazing and awesome and felt he might not have been on your level so by putting you down maybe it was in attempt to make you believe that maybe you werent as hot, amazing, etc as you thought and then when he finally had enough guts to make the move that you wouldn’t reject him. Sorry if that was hard to follow lol.

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  • Tracey

    Tracey June 15, 2012, 12:26 pm

    My family kids, teases, and jokes around, but not to the point where it hurts the recipient. It’s all about boundaries, and it sounds like this guy didn’t have any. So glad you got through this, LW, and so sorry it had to end with some hurt. Stay strong and be well.

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  • avatar

    Natasiarose June 16, 2012, 8:48 am

    Maybe he watched “the pickup artist” on VH1 too many times and took “negging” too far! 😉 either way it’s good the LW got rid of him. Maybe he will learn not to do that in the future.

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  • avatar

    Emma June 16, 2012, 5:41 pm

    Wendy is dead on, talking about the love-hate aspect of friendships (or rather, would-be relationships).

    I’ve had a friend for around four years now that has similar behavior; everything is either an inappropriate compliment or an insult. He actually asked me out (stood on top of a car and shouted at me, more like it), and we had a brief sexual encounter awhile ago. We’re still friends because we have a close knit group, and he’s best friends with my fiance (complicated, right?) but he still acts like this… even in front of his girlfriend (another friend of mine).

    Whew. I just realized how complicated/awkward/bizarre that whole situation is. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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