Q: The girl of my dreams works at a restaurant I eat at almost every day. When she started six months ago, I began sitting in her section. I’ve never had feelings this strong. I can’t even look at her without freezing up. Two months ago, I asked her out, and she turned me down, saying it was a bad idea because I’m a customer and she’s too busy to date. She couldn’t even look me in the eye. I was bummed, but I kept sitting in her section. My feelings got stronger every day, and last week, I couldn’t resist bringing her a couple of roses in a vase and a love letter expressing my feelings. She wouldn’t accept the flowers and reluctantly took the letter. The next day, she said I make her uncomfortable, and I should sit in someone else’s section. I was crushed. My world ended. I’ll give her space for a few months and eat elsewhere, but I don’t want to move on. I’m a businessman, and whatever I want, I always work hard to achieve. Life’s too short to not go after what you want.
A: In business, not taking no for an answer can be an effective strategy. Of course, the widget account doesn’t have to wait tables to pay the rent, and it isn’t picturing you following it home and standing in the rose bushes trying to peer into its bedroom.
In the wake of a rejection, a persistent man might ask a woman out a second time, but you went straight to persistently creepy: bringing roses (in a vase!) and a love letter — a level of romantic effort that’s appropriate when you’ve been dating for six months and have developed deep feelings for each other. Note the words “each other,” and the fact that the only interest this woman has shown is in having you sit in another waitress’ section (ideally, one in the northern Yukon).
Okay, your feelings for her are growing stronger every day — including the feeling that what she wants is beyond irrelevant. Think about how unhappy you’re making this waitress. You’re robbing her of her peace of mind, and if you start going back, maybe even her ability to pay her bills. I get that you have the hots for her, but you don’t even know this woman. What could you possibly have said in that letter you wrote, “I love the way you look when you bring me extra salad dressing”?
Now, maybe you’re afraid of the risks involved in having a real relationship; maybe you lack the experience and social intelligence to understand what one is. Instead of dealing with what’s missing in you, you avoid it by turning this poor waitress into an obsessive hobby. This isn’t love; it’s stalking with a bottomless cup of coffee.
You are overdue for a relationship — with a cognitive behavioral therapist, the kind that helps you understand and correct deep irrationalities in thinking and behavior. You’re also way overdue for a breakup with your imaginary girlfriend. No need to say any goodbyes! Just give her the wordless gift of no more you. Permanently. Because, as you note, life’s too short…to spend a chunk of it in jail, after you not only ignore her feelings but those of the judge that you need to stay 500 yards away from her at all times.
Q: Hi there. It’s “Beside Myself” with one more question about the waitress I’ve fallen for that I corresponded with you about the other day. Can a 40-year-old man have a relationship with a 20- to 25-year-old young lady? Is that too much of a gap? Does age really matter?
—Still Beside Myself
A: No, the fact that she probably wants you in jail really matters. The gap that counts is the one between delusion and reality: You aren’t her one and only; you’re the pervy guy at Table 4. Sure, in romantic comedies, the “harass your way to happily ever after” model always works for Ben Affleck or Adam Sandler. But, this is real life, in a diner, so they don’t need dramatic conflict to keep people in the seats, just reasonably edible eggs and bacon.
As I’ve already e-mailed you repeatedly: STAY AWAY FROM THIS WOMAN. Act like you care about her by being kind enough to accept that she doesn’t want you, and by respecting that she (not you) gets to decide who’s in her life. Go get the therapy you desperately need, and when your therapist deems you emotionally healthy enough to date, pursue women who talk to you because they like you and think you’re cute, not because it’s their job to tell you they’re out of meatloaf.
© 2010 Amy Alkon, all rights reserved.