Why am I so hung up on this jerk?
February 17, 2014 7:26 PM   Subscribe

I've been nursing a crush on one of the bartenders at the restaurant where I work for a few months. I always knew that he had "a way with the ladies," so to speak, but didn't realize how much of a ridiculous womanizer he is until I had lunch with a friend today and she spilled the details to me and ugh I FEEL TERRIBLE AND STUPID. More after the jump.

He started paying extra attention to me - telling me that I looked pretty, asking about my other job, my dog etc. and just being a big flirt in general - a couple months ago. I was quite taken with him. Things cooled off about a month ago. I wasn't quite sure why, but I was a bit disappointed. We were both busy. Whatever. I was a bit disappointed, but I'm a big girl and I can handle a crush not working out. Probably best not shit where you eat, right?

But . . .

I had lunch today with a friend who I knew hooked up with him a while ago. What I didn't know was that he'd hooked up with, like, most of the female staff where I work. My friend also said that he said something about wanting to be her boyfriend recently, but she dismissed it as his usual "I will say anything to get laid" playbook. (I was, of course, unreasonably gutted by and jealous over this). I'm grappling with

-The sad realization that this guy is a total sleazebag
-Feeling unpretty and un-special because he's hooked up with everyone but me
-Feeling like this all plays into a big recurring theme in my romantic life: I am, apparently, an unattainable ice queen and it's not that guys don't want me, but they don't really try because . . . ?

So, other than "don't crush on cute bartenders," what can I draw from this experience? I want to be a sex-positive person and not judge someone for their number of sexual partners, but the way this guy goes about it just strikes me as kind of gross, for whatever reason. I just regret the amount of mental energy I spent on this guy and I feel like such a fucking fool, and weirdly enough, I feel left out. How do I act at work? How do I learn not to fall for these dorks? How do I close the door in my brain that keeps letting these thoughts in?
posted by takemetosocktown to Human Relations (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Everybody dates a douchebag now and again. Don't beat yourself up about it. It's better to be an open, trusting person (with a bit of wariness, to be sure) and wind up with the wrong person occasionally than to become bitter and jaded, in my opinion.

Again...EVERYBODY has dated a douchebag at some point. It's not something wrong with you.
posted by xingcat at 7:35 PM on February 17, 2014 [16 favorites]

Get under someone else. Be sex positive, but find a different guy to be sex positive with. Clearly you want some sex. Go for it, just not with him. If you're female and under 50, or even over 50, there's sex to be had.

It's best to have sex with someone who has a reasonable chance of a) having sex with you for a nice substantial period of weeks or months, at least (if you like it), and b) not leaving you in the dust while he womanizes. This guy is not that person.

The problem with this guy isn't necessarily that he's a womanizer, it's that you're not a man-izer in the same way, so it's going to be unbalanced. If you try to get your cup filled (ahem) by him, he's not going to be equally available. He's playing a different ballgame. He's not going to be as devoted as you like or call as much as you'd like. He'd probably leave you hurt. Not worth it.

I think you shouldn't focus on the negatives -- why are you not getting the attention you like here -- and instead focus on the positives -- where else can you get the attention you like? An outing with your girlfriends, a profile on Tinder or whatever, those are steps in the right direction. Take those positive steps.

Get this guy off your hook and so you have room on your hook for the other fish in the sea. Go fishing! Think of all the awesome sex there is to be had, with someone who is actually going to have non-dramatic non-sleazy sex with you. Who is on your same level in terms of habits and experience. Find that guy! Have sex with him. Once you're doing that, you will forget all about this guy.
posted by htid at 7:40 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm curious whether you have reasons to believe he has, as you put it, an "I'll say anything to get laid" playbook or whether you're just supposing he does because he's slept around a bit. Although not even the latter sounds like a good fit for you, given your discomfort.

If he really is scamming to get laid, then yes, obviously, don't give him another thought. If he's not using sleazeball tricks to work his way around various ladies' beds, he may be alright or he may have various other issues that make him a mess and not worth bothering with.

Full disclosure: I spent a stretch as a certified Bartender Who Sleeps With Everybody. I absolutely never led anybody on though (I didn't break any hearts, just made a bunch of friends with benefits), and really was looking for a girlfriend in my own clumsy, horny way. I was just going through some stuff and sowing some wild oats to see where I fit in. That said, I was still categorically Not Boyfriend Material For a Nice Girl at the time.

I guess the TL;DR is: if he's a man whore, don't feel bad... we all crush on the wrong people sometimes. If he's not, he's still in a place you don't sound comfortable with. Maybe shift your attention to someone whose activities don't freak you out?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:41 PM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

It sounds like he was flirting with you, things did not progress at the rate at which he found it appropriate and he gave up. I don't think it has anything to do with you being unpretty or an unattainable ice queen; you just didn't sleep with the dude on his schedule and he decided "eh, too much effort for what I'm looking for" (which is to get laid promptly.)

Him leading your friend on with the boyfriend talk is gross, but other than that it just sounds like you two were viewing your relationship (in the lowercase-r sense) in very different ways. You had a crush on him, he was looking for sex. Things didn't match up and so nothing happened.

There's no reason to feel bad about yourself or about the situation. You had no way of knowing what he was after. Honesty, this is about as good a resolution to this sort of situation as you'll see: no one slept with anyone else on false or omitted pretenses. Some guys will flirt with you because they just want to get laid, some will do it because they genuinely like you. Sounds like this was the former.

And if you want to spend less mental energy on guys that don't want what you want: take the initiative. After however much flirting, just ask the dude out on a date or whatever. Assholes will always slip past your radar if you're not careful (and sometimes even if you are) but that's no reason not to make what you're looking for clear.
posted by griphus at 7:41 PM on February 17, 2014 [22 favorites]

" he's hooked up with everyone but me"

Maybe you were smarter than the rest of them?
posted by HuronBob at 7:42 PM on February 17, 2014 [38 favorites]

I am currently working through the aftermath of a FWB "relationship" with a sleazebag, and have found Baggage Reclaim extremely helpful. Good luck to you.
posted by justonegirl at 7:44 PM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also if you are the sort of person who can't or doesn't want to have NSA sex, it is basically critical that you do not shit where you eat.
posted by griphus at 8:06 PM on February 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

Womanizers are successful at womanizing because they are able to charm and appeal to a critical mass of women they target. You were charmed by a guy who's a varsity-level charmer--you don't have to feel like a fool, and you weren't the first and won't be the last.
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:54 PM on February 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

I want to be a sex-positive person and not judge someone for their number of sexual partners,

I'm sorry, but you're not doing a very good job of that. Look over your post. How many different derogatory synonyms have you come up with for "he has a lot of sex partners"? Womanizer, sleazebag, etc. And the descriptions: he's "gross," "ridiculous" ... Why not just let him have his sex life? You've said you're over this crush that didn't go anywhere, so I believe you: the crush itself isn't the issue. Instead, the issue is that you're in competition with other women. It's no longer about this man who's so terrible because he has a lot of sex partners. It's about women — but do you really want what those women got? They got to have sex with someone who's very promiscuous and probably has low standards. And what each one got was probably very fleeting. That doesn't seem like something to be so envious of. He's probably very good at reading women, and maybe he picked up on the fact that you're the kind of person who'd be more assertive about wanting something more serious, not just sex. (This is pure speculation, of course, since I don't know anyone involved.)

what can I draw from this experience?

You don't need to worry about drawing anything from it. Focus on moving on. I doubt that anything I've said is going to be the key to doing that, and I don't know if anything in this thread will suddenly allow you to forget him. All I can say is: considering that the overall experience has been negative, it would be an improvement to get to zero, i.e. simply forgetting the whole thing, without extracting any deep meaning from it. This is not going to be on the test. (That is, no one other than you will ever know or care whether you went away from this with some great new insight, so don't worry about that.)
posted by John Cohen at 9:31 PM on February 17, 2014 [8 favorites]

How to avoid falling for bartenders? Don't work at bars.
You've described a stereotypical bar dating situation. They are incestuous workplaces.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 9:54 PM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I want to be a sex-positive person and not judge someone for their number of sexual partners, but the way this guy goes about it just strikes me as kind of gross, for whatever reason.

But it doesn't sound like you're bothered by his physical promiscuity, it sounds like you're bothered by his (fake) emotional promiscuity. That he acts like he finds you interesting and alluring and special - and then he just kind of loses interest and moves on to someone else. That really stings. Especially if you're a person who derives more self esteem from the person who you are rather than your outer appearance. It's easy to dismiss it if someone rejects you for your outer appearance. It's harder when it feels like someone had the chance to see and appreciate the person who you are, and just ends up finding you uninteresting and unspecial, and just kind of discards you. That can really be an ego hit.

I also think that because you knew before hand that your friend hooked up with him but you didn't become super jealous until you found out he asked to be her boyfriend (which I agree is a total crock). It's like, "she's good enough for the girlfriend title but I am not?" I just don't think you have any reason to be jealous because he sounds like a guy who brings people emotional pain when they get emotionally involved with him. Like we're all taught to recognize players, the guys who are just trying to get in our pants. Nobody really tells us about emotional players, guys who are trying to get in our feelings. Not because they really want a relationship with us but for their own gratification/validation. They want an emotionally intense thing and they want the woman to fall for them. And then they've got what they wanted from her and they move on to someone else. In my opinion, you are missing out on nothing by this guy not asking you to be gf/bf. A few years ago, there was this young woman, some kind of indie writer, who wrote a piece about her short-lived fling with Colin Farrell. He took a plane flight to see her and asked her to have a baby with him. She agreed and the next day, he dumped her. A few months later, she read that he was expecting a baby with someone else. Emotional players, even the ones who aren't after sex at all, I sometimes think cause more bewilderment and hurt feelings than the regular kind of player who only wants one thing.
posted by cairdeas at 11:02 PM on February 17, 2014 [23 favorites]

Dear takemetosocktown,

From the moment I saw your headline, I smiled. I opened your question and soon was chuckling. I have a strong suspicion that you’re kind of outrageously charming and funny, whether or not you realize it. You very much sound like the kind of chick I’d love to have as a friend. But I wouldn’t be like your friend who made you jealous; we’d make fun of douchebags together instead, cracking in-jokes all the merry day long.

You’re very much not a fucking fool; in fact, you’re probably by far the coolest and smartest cat in that place, and you’re definitely out of his league. You’re bored and lonely, of course, because you’re so awesome, even his womanizing charm is no match for your charm.

I would just run with it and be really fucking wise. Like channel-Maya-Angelou wise. Like fox wise. Not so much ice queen as smart and sassy.

Sometimes I find it helps to make up a little ritual to say goodbye to a douche. I recently wrote the most fucking classy, subtle goodbye-and-return-your-stuff letter anyone has ever written in the history of the world; I handled it with such incredible grace and aplomb that I actually was glad the dude flaked on me because I got to ooze “lady” so much it was almost worth it. I mean, I out graced Grace Kelly on that one. The movie of my life starring me is a lot of fun sometimes, the little douchebags make their cameos, and I handle that shit.

Yours in douche-freedom,
posted by quincunx at 12:06 AM on February 18, 2014 [12 favorites]

Oh man, those special people with the charisma. For some reason, it's so awesome to be noticed by them! To the rest of us, it really does seem like some kind of magic. We use words like 'bewitching' and 'enchanting' to describe their charm - even 'charm' has a magic meaning. Did you know 'glamour' used to mean enchantment, like in the sense of casting a spell? That trait, that magnetism - it's so dazzled people for ages, they could only compare it to witchcraft!

People who have it sometimes take it for granted - like we all do when something comes easy to us. It's a power they have over others. They're like captivating candle flames. Thing is, though... they tend to burn through a lot of moths.

Of course you feel a bit snubbed, he's hit everyone else in the circuit, what the hell? But reflect on this. A lot of people with that glamour talent... they've never really had to develop much depth, so a lot of them never bother to.

It's possible that in talking with you, asking after your life, you make him uncomfortable. Something about you maybe makes him aware of himself by comparison - makes him feel a bit flat, a little transparent, makes him notice that he's got a glossy surface but not much else. It doesn't make him feel good. Banging other people will definitely make him feel better! But being able to manipulate the affections of others so easily... it can make a person contemptuous. Especially if he's got low self esteem, a bit of impostor syndrome - "they like me, but that's just because they're idiots." You like him, but he maybe doesn't think you're an idiot. But if you're not an idiot... you're sure to see through his façade, and you'll realize all his diamonds are just glitter. So best not to engage with you.

It's all a big pile of conjecture, but see if it fits. Be sad that he's not awesome with an extra-awesome nougat center of emotionally mature depth and deliciousness inside. But be happy that you dodged, well, not so much a bullet as a few pellets of widely-scattered shot. It's very possible that you'd feel worse if you were just the next one in line, you know?
posted by Lou Stuells at 12:22 AM on February 18, 2014 [10 favorites]

(Oh... one thing I have found to be common among people with that trait: You are never as important to them as they are to you. They are never as excited to see you, as you are to see them. They will have times that they really really need you... but only as an audience. After the first one or two you encounter, you won't trust people like that with your heart anymore.)
posted by Lou Stuells at 12:42 AM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

My best guess is that your process of flirtation filters out people who don't want more than a one night stand. You find his approach gross, and you / he never managed to get something started -- that seems like a good thing.

If your process isn't resulting in you finding the relationships you do want then that's another question. But that other question shouldn't be answered by using this person as a case study. Are your supposed Ice Queen ways keeping away people seeking committed relationships? Well, this example doesn't help us answer that question, as (if your friend is right), the bartender may not qualify as someone seeking a committed relationship.
posted by salvia at 12:53 AM on February 18, 2014

You filtered out the guy who apparently wasn't on the same page as you. That's a good thing!

You're an open-hearted person, and you responded to kindness and flattery in a perfectly normal way. Don't beat yourself up. Just keep being you, and you'll find someone nice. : )
posted by inkypinky at 4:57 AM on February 18, 2014

He's obviously sexy and you want the sex with him but being a reasonable person you know that you're most likely to get hurt if you go in thinking you have a chance at a life with him, so unless it is just lust with no expectations then there's probably no point in pursuing it with him.

Vanity's first response would be what's wrong with me, but even vainer Vanity would reply, he doesn't want to hurt me because he knows he's a dick and I'm worth more than that and he knows it.

Go with the second Vanity.

Maybe have a rub whilst fantasizing about him and see if you get off. If you don't, he's not worth another thought. If you do, well then looky there, you've got something to get off to and a reason to smirk at him when you see him at work.
posted by h00py at 5:34 AM on February 18, 2014

You aren't an ice queen, you're too smart for the room.

If you were flirting with him, then the next step would be a date, then if that goes well, sex.

For whatever reason, your dating cadence didn't align with his. He may have thought: flirting = quickie in the back room. When it didn't, he moved onto the person who matched the equation. He's not willing to put the time into you, that you need. So no biggie, he moved on, and you saved yourself from a hook-up you might have regretted.

Don't bean-plate this. Do you want to be the one who had sex with him and is now crying in her beer because he's also having sex with everyone else?

You may have different standards than other people. You may be more exclusive, or selective or whatever. This is a feature, not a bug.

ANYONE can get laid, that's no trick. It takes longer and is harder if you're looking for a person to have a connection with.

Don't kid yourself. Sex positive doesn't mean that you have sex Indiscriminately with anyone who asks and it's all hunky-dory. Sex positive means that when you have sex, it's right for you and your partner and you're comfortable with the progression of the relationship.

Some people can have lots and lots of NSA sex and be perfectly fine humans. Good on them. But if that's not you, don't let the zeitgeist get in your head. So your friends at the bar are all shagging the bartender. Do they seem happy about it? I'm guessing no.

You're just a different duck sweetie, and that's okay! The only thing you're missing out on is the kind of sex you DON'T want to be having. If you like to be involved with your partners, then wait for that. You won't die.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:51 AM on February 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

You're not foolish. You didn't spill your guts publicly in a big emotional scene. You didn't get tricked into sex on terms unacceptable to you. You didn't even bare your soul to him overmuch, from the sounds of it.

Maybe you just weren't foolish enough for him ;-)

BTW I agree that it doesn't sound like you are offended by the number of sexual partners he's had, but by the number of people with whom he's faked an emotional connection.
posted by tel3path at 11:54 AM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

How do I act at work?
Coolly professional, maintaining a perpetual arm's-length distance. Like quincunx wisely suggests, you might want to do a little private ritual so it feels like you're making A Concrete and Observable Decision to rid yourself of this dude and whatever his deal is, once and for all.

Throughout the process, make sure that you don't talk ANY shit about him to any of your co-workers, even accidentally or in passing, and try very hard to resist the urge to let yourself eavesdrop on bartender-related gossip and drama. Stay so classy that you'll be congratulating and thanking yourself for it for months to come. Eventually, start dating someone whose wants and needs align much more closely with your own.

How do I learn not to fall for these dorks?
As someone who has been in a similar situation more than a few times, I never did learn how not to fall for outrageously charming Bartenders Who Sleep With Everybody (h/t DirtyOldTown). But I did learn how to take their company at face value, thus how to enjoy spending time with them for its own sake, on its own terms. Those folks can be very fine companions for a very short spell, if you're open/ready/willing/able to head down a "fun while it lasted" kind of road. If you're not, all you need to do is learn how to make sure you hit the brakes as soon as you recognize that's the kind of person you're dealing with -- it doesn't make them a bad person, it just makes them Not The Person For You. As soon as you get those tingly "way with the ladies" vibes, take a big step back to assess where you're headed and if that route is acceptable to you. You might lose a few would-be friendly acquaintances, but you'll protect yourself in the process.

How do I close the door in my brain that keeps letting these thoughts in?
Advice that some may find disagreeable: Don't? Rather, you might try sitting with the door open, observing your thoughts and their roots until you are ready to start letting it all go because you're so sure it's for your own good. Why do you feel bad that someone you think is a sleazebag doesn't want you to be his girlfriend? You wouldn't want to date someone like that anyway! &c. &c.

Don't let dudes like this embitter or wreck you; they're just not worth your time or tears. And don't even try to close yourself off to hope and possibility and weird, amazing new people you couldn't even imagine having the good luck to meet just because this dummy managed to bruise you with his brusqueness. You can develop and maintain strong, positive boundaries around your heart, mind, and body without closing yourself off to any of the transformative wisdom that only comes from scathing experiences and realizations like this.

Very important, though: Do not to talk about dudes you're crushing on with people who've hooked up with them. I know, it's so tempting to be so close to a Pandora's box of information about your would-be beloved! But I assure you, that way lies only the gnawing, churning misery of TMI, and that's a door you won't ever be able to close.

So mope around for a few days, eat some comfort food, watch some bad movies, go out with your girlfriends and sing some terrible karaoke, and give yourself some time to wash that man right outta your hair. We've all been there before, we'll all be there again, we are legion. Don't feel terrible or stupid! Feel grateful that you have a wide-open heart, and that you had the presence of mind to exit this situation with your head held high and your dignity gloriously intact.
posted by divined by radio at 12:13 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

So, other than "don't crush on cute bartenders," what can I draw from this experience?

You can learn that this script you keep telling yourself:

Feeling like this all plays into a big recurring theme in my romantic life: I am, apparently, an unattainable ice queen and it's not that guys don't want me, but they don't really try because . . . ?

is total bullshit and stop telling yourself this.

First off, it is a tired cliche of the waitstaff always sleeping with each other (The Onion spoofed that idea here). He's seduced everyone at the restaurant... sexy or not, that is so fucking gross. Personally I'm all good with dating at work but this is something else.

Second, the new life script is this:

Douchebags are automatically turned off by me, maybe they pick up on my self-respect or something because they just disappear. The only ones who seem to stick around are the ones who take a real interest in me and like to grow a relationship over time. Sometimes this means I go longer times between relationships but that's no big deal because I've got a huge social scene and lots of interests eating up my time.


How do I learn not to fall for these dorks?

In my experience the only card they know how to play is to shower someone with sexy warm fuzzies and attention; they send it out constantly until they find someone who is juuuust a little bit needy for attention and flattered by being 'chosen' by them. The douches hook you on the validation and then toy with you. Your weapon is... not needing their attention. When someone turns it on so heavily so soon, you think "geez he's really trying hard, I wonder what HE wants?" and in addition go out and fulfill those needs for attention yourself, by cultivating sincere relationships with men and women.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:15 PM on February 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

A little Shakespeare always makes me feel better.

"Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no moe
Of dumps so dull and heavy.
The fraud of men was ever so
Since summer first was leafy.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey, nonny, nonny."
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 11:28 AM on February 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

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