Ex­tro­vert stresses he is not a stalker

The Niagara Falls Review - - LIFE - AMY DICKINSON

ASK AMY

I’m an out­go­ing 67-year-old man.

I reg­u­larly speak to strangers I meet on the street, in stores, el­e­va­tors, etc. I fre­quently walk my dog in the neigh­bour­hood.

On a re­cent jaunt, I ran into a fe­male neigh­bour 40 years my ju­nior, whom I know only ca­su­ally. Hav­ing seen her jog­ging in the past, I no­ticed that she had lost weight.

On this oc­ca­sion, I ques­tioned whether she had in­deed lost weight and when she said she had, I com­pli­mented her on how well she looked. I con­grat­u­lated her. I joked: “Not to worry, I’m not a ‘stalker’ .... ”

She did not ap­pear to be of­fended by our in­ter­ac­tion.

Af­ter re­turn­ing home, I won­dered if I had been in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

I re­cently had the same ex­pe­ri­ence with a male neigh­bour, with no sec­ond thoughts.

Was I bet­ter off keep­ing my com­pli­ments to my­self? Does the age dif­fer­ence make this more in­ap­pro­pri­ate?

— OUT OF LINE?

A gen­eral guide­line is that if you feel com­pelled to fol­low an in­ter­ac­tion with, “Don’t worry, I’m not a stalker,” then you’ve over­stepped.

Women are forced to move through the world dif­fer­ently than men. Women are more vul­ner­a­ble to un­wanted at­ten­tion, in­clud­ing com­ments about how fine (or ter­ri­ble) they look, sugges­tions that they should smile or wear their hair dif­fer­ently, as well as the spec­tre of ver­bal joust­ing or phys­i­cal con­tact if they re­spond with in­dif­fer­ence or hos­til­ity.

You should freely greet any­one you en­counter. But you should also be cir­cum­spect about mak­ing com­ments about peo­ple’s bod­ies — even if your com­ments are com­pli­men­tary. Just be­cause the woman you en­coun­tered tol­er­ated your com­ment po­litely doesn’t mean that she liked it.

On the other hand, she might have liked it very much. You can’t re­ally know, be­cause you don’t know her, which is why you should not have made a deeply per­sonal ob­ser­va­tion about her.

I was in a fan­tas­tic re­la­tion­ship with a man who treated me re­ally well. He showed me how much he cared for me and was re­ally great at com­mu­ni­ca­tion. He was my best friend.

How­ever, we started go­ing through hard times in­di­vid­u­ally. I was sex­u­ally as­saulted, which caused great trauma. I dropped out of col­lege.

He had a se­ri­ous surgery fol­lowed by se­vere de­pres­sion. We tried to be there for each other.

About a month ago, he ended things abruptly, say­ing that he wants to take stock of his life, get through his de­pres­sive episode alone and re­gain his con­fi­dence and con­trol.

He would like me to be in his life, but he doesn’t have the emo­tional en­ergy for a re­la­tion­ship.

I’m heart­bro­ken. I’ve hit rock bot­tom. This re­la­tion­ship was a con­stant source of sup­port. I have great re­la­tion­ships with my friends, but they don’t un­der­stand how I’m feel­ing. They think it’s a break, not a breakup. I feel an­gry and hope­less.

I don’t want to wait for him be­cause I don’t think that’s healthy, but I’m strug­gling to move on from some­one who still treats me like a princess — even af­ter the breakup.

He made a con­stant ef­fort to make me happy.

I’d like ad­vice on how to pro­ceed healthily. Is it OK to feel let down by my ex? — MISS­ING HIM

Feel­ing let down af­ter a breakup isn’t just OK — it’s pro­por­tional and to­tally ap­pro­pri­ate.

How­ever, the feel­ing to watch out for is that feel­ing of need or re­liance on some­one else who made a “con­stant ef­fort” to make you happy.

As the sur­vivor of a sex­ual as­sault, you can ex­pect some resid­ual fears and feel­ings to sur­face. Now that your source of friend­ship, com­pan­ion­ship and love has be­come less con­stant, you may find your­self deal­ing with fall­out from your as­sault. This is a pe­riod of emo­tional de­ple­tion for you, and so I hope you will do ev­ery­thing in your power to be kind, gen­tle and good to your­self. Fall into your sup­port­ive friend­ships and func­tion­ing re­la­tion­ships. Let peo­ple who love you take good care of you. Com­mit (or recom­mit) to pro­fes­sional coun­sel­ing and group sup­port.

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