Once a month, a trade representative I'll call "Bob" visits our office and flirts with me. I try to keep him at a distance, but he always tries to move close to me and changes his voice to be soft and seductive. Last month he told me I "smelled good," although I wasn't wearing anything fragrant. I assured him it was the eucalyptus incense behind him.
Abby, Bob comes on so strong it scares me. I had my chair backed up all the way against my computer desk. I decided that the next time he came in I would make sure I had a co-worker close by. But when I did, he didn't act the same way. I have a feeling he won't act up again until we're alone.
I loathe the idea of being alone with him in a room. I hesitate to ask a male co-worker to step in because I don't want to appear weak. What should I do to get Bob to back off?
- Had it in Beaufort, S.C.
DEAR HAD IT: If you haven't already done so, document what has gone on each time Bob has come into your office. Frankly, he sounds more than a little bit creepy.
When he comes on to you again, tell him directly and clearly (and loudly) that he is making you uncomfortable, and if he doesn't stop immediately, you will report him to your boss. And if he tries anything again, follow through.
It is your boss's responsibility to provide you with a harassment-free work environment, and if that doesn't happen, your state labor board or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission should be notified.
DEAR ABBY: One of my longtime friends, "Lena," sends e- mail constantly telling me to "check out the baby Web page." She's a grandmother and I can't seem to engage her in any other topic of conversation anymore. There is rarely any news from her except baby news.
I no longer open her e-mails because I know they will be only one more mass generic urging to check the latest baby update on the Web site. Lena is now on grandchild No. 2, so this has been going on for three years.
I'm ready to drift away from our friendship because we no longer communicate and I feel she's stuck in "babyland." Any advice?
- Overloaded in Georgia
DEAR OVERLOADED: Level with Lena. Ask her to remove you from her mass e-mail list and to e-mail you only if she has a personal message to convey. When you talk with her, ask about common interests that have nothing to do with her grandchild, although you should expect to listen to some news about her major preoccupation.
If this is still more than you can tolerate, remember that friendships can have a life of their own and vary in intensity over time. You may become closer again a few years down the line when she's less preoccupied with the little ones. Because you have a circle of friends, concentrate more on them and less on Lena for now.
DEAR ABBY: For years I have seen you print letters at holiday time that offer gift suggestions for seniors.
Last year my daughter gave me the best gift I could have gotten. She and my granddaughters completely unpacked my boxes of Christmas decorations and decorated my whole house. They even cleaned up!
I am 76, and when I walked in, I felt like I was living in a fairy tale. All I had to do was sit down and enjoy it.
- Gene in New Cumberland, Pa.
DEAR GENE: Thank you for sharing the idea. I am often asked for gift ideas for the person who already has everything. By giving a "gift of self," as your daughter and granddaughters did, a person can never go wrong because it is always welcome. *