Dear 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 neighborhood.
On a recent jaunt, I ran into a female neighbor 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’....”
After returning home, I wondered if I had been inappropriate.
Was I better off keeping my compliments to myself?
Out of Line?
Dear 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 specter 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.
Dear Amy: 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?
Dear Missing: 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.
Dear Amy: I was so disappointed by your rude response to “Not Water Logged,” the concerned citizen who was worried about wasting water through long showers at the local aquatic center. You should celebrate her concern, not put her down for it.
Dear Upset: Many readers said I was snarky to this writer. But I responded to the irony and self-righteous attitude of someone using an aquatic center who wanted to police other people’s water usage.
Email Amy at email@example.com.