Dudefile #78 – What Is My Coworker’s Deal?

Dear Dude Whisperer,

Here is my question:

There is this guy at work and I have no idea where I stand with him. With other female co-workers he is professionally friendly and has no problem striking a conversation with them. With me, it’s as though he avoids me like the plague. But in a group setting, he has no problem talking to me.

Every so often we attend group happy hours together. Sometimes he will bring his friends.  Once, I chatted it up with one of his friends and we exchanged contact info. When I told my co-worker in passing that I was planning on meeting one of his friends for a drink, my co-worker cocked blocked his friend. And told me that his friend was a recovering alcoholic. It turns out, my co-worker had stretched the truth a bit.

My co-worker and I have never had a negative interaction whatsoever.  In fact, when we do hang with a group, we always end up having an okay time. What is my co-worker’s deal?

Extremely Perplexed

Hi EP,

Do you have that friend who says, “Who’s that?” every time a character makes a first appearance in a movie? The DW sure does. Let’s call him Dinosaur Neil.

Opening credits- Rachel McAdams quickly walks the dark, rainy streets of New York, using her purse as a makeshift umbrella. She rings a doorbell. No answer. She looks over her shoulder. Cut to the inside of a running car. A man wearing black gloves takes several photographs-

Dinosaur Neil: “Who’s that?”

DW: “Bob Hope.”

Dinosaur Neil: “Come on.”

DW: “Conan.”

Dinosaur Neil: “Seriously.”

DW: “Diddy.”

And it will go on like that as long as Neil wants to ask about the dude in the car, because there is no way to know. There’s not enough information. It’s like asking who’s going to win The Bachelor in 2013. And more than that, not knowing is supposed to be interesting, not frustrating. Finding out who that dude is could easily be the plot of the whole movie. All possibilities are on the table. Assassin? Protector? Stalker? Spy? Alien? Evil Twin? Assassin twin spy alien stalker from the future?

Similarly, it’s waaaaay too early for you to have any idea what the deal is with your coworker. In fact, he doesn’t even know what his deal is. He doesn’t know enough about you to have a deal. If he had questions at all they might be, “What’s her deal? Is she interested in me? We get along, but what about that time she chatted up my friend? Why the friend and not me?” But more likely, he hasn’t even gotten to the point of thinking of you two as being very much on each other’s radar.

Because when you strip this down to the facts, there are a hundred people you get along with in group situations, but have very few direct communications with. Tons of people you see in bars and never have a negative interaction with. It may be true that he talks more easily with other women around the office, but it could also be that you see it that way because you wish he singled you out more, or it could be that he is more nervous around you and comes off as rude instead of wanting to bone the bejeezus out of you. Like the dude following Rachel McAdams, could be anything. So what actually makes this dude stand apart from being just another acquaintance?

The only real unique information you have to go on is the cockblock episode, and even then you’re assuming a lot of intent that it was a cockblock in the first place. Honestly, the only thing that night tells the DW for sure is that your coworker dude showed some seriously questionable discretion by mentioning a friend’s substance abuse problem and then even worse judgment by either being too lazy to have the facts straight about the problem or too immoral to care about exaggerating them.

Anyway, look. The DW isn’t trying to give you a hard time. It’s the most natural thing in the world to see things in things in things in things when you’re smitten with someone. The DW’s just suggesting you don’t sweat anything just yet. If you like this guy, keep making excuses to hang out with him. In groups for sure, but try to catch him alone, too. The more time you spend, the more you learn, the more it gets easier for him to see you’d like to go out with him, if that is your goal. But as of right now, dude’s just entered the picture. Finding out if he’s a spy or an alien or an evil twin from the future is supposed to be the interesting part.

Here’s to avoiding evil twins.


the DW

[DW UPDATE: Okay, so Dinosaur Neil was actually a stand-in for The Wifey. Didn’t get a chance to ask her before posting if she’d mind being outed as a serial movie questioner, but turns out she’s fine with it. Which got the DW thinking- has he ever had a dude friend who asks, “Who’s that?” waaay too early in a movie? Answer-no. It’s only been women. So, here are the DW’s questions for you, sexy readers. Are your friends that do this mostly women, too? And if so, what’s the psychology behind wanting to ruin the DW’s movie experience with these questions, er, I mean behind being so insatiably curious about movie characters and plot lines.]

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5 Responses to Dudefile #78 – What Is My Coworker’s Deal?

  1. Ross says:

    Yes, there is a Dinosaur Neil in my life, and yes, that person is my wife. But her questions-that-cannot-be-answered are not limited to movie characters; they know no bounds. And for variety, she also adds another twist: she’ll ask a question that perhaps can be answered, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why she’d ask it. Example: If I tell her that my friend broke his leg riding a unicycle down Nob Hill in his underwear, she’ll ask which leg he broke. I find myself asking for lots of extraneous details when I hear a story so that I’ll be prepared when retelling it to my wife.

  2. TheHumanScone says:

    Question, shmestion. Answer, shmanser. I just like it when you call me “sexy reader.”

  3. San Diego says:

    I think we (women) like to be prepared to guard ourselves against any potential threats to our safety. A significant part of dating is about men “hunting” and demonstrating their ability to provide for our needs, while women are the “prey” – we get the lovely task of choosing which mate we want out of the hunters who fight over each other for us. With a prey mentality, we would want to know: who is a suitor? who is a danger to our safety? are they going to pinch my butt, steal my wallet, break my heart, slip something in my drink? What does their strange behavior mean? friendship? love? marriage? sex? or are they just holding in farts?

    I think that’s why a lot of women want to know now what they are dealing with, before it is possible to even know what we are dealing with, because we want to feel safe. What’s worked for me is I pay attention to how I feel when I’m around the person. If I feel happy and relaxed, I assume the person is a friend until they hit me over the head with “Hey I want to date you!” If I feel uneasy in any way, and especially if I start sweating profusely and breaking out on my face at the very thought of them, I keep my distance and ask a lot of questions, “So, how’d you get that scar? That’s a sick tattoo, how long have you had it? etc..” Like the Dude Whisperer said, given enough time, we learn more, and are able to better assess what role the person is playing in our life.

    As far as the movie watching, it’s the same principle applied in microcosm. I find the women that ask the most questions during movies are 1. firstborns and 2. lean more towards paranoia than apathy. Perhaps they are feeling out of control because they don’t know who is safe/unsafe, so they ask a lot of questions. I don’t know how to combat this other than maybe holding their hand and telling them everything will be okay? (right now, this solution strikes me as kind of silly but it’s the only thing I could think of right now..)

  4. Dear Dude Whisperer,

    I have to say that the only person I have known to fit this classification would be a MAN. Yup… a rather dude-ly dude, nice, smart, well-read, funny… but just the pits to watch a movie with. I have a best gal-friend who will fall asleep to any sort of film (but she has excuses as the mother of two little kids operating on 4 hours of sleep) but I’ll take a snoozing friend over the incessant “Wait! Who is that? Can you back it up to that last scene? I’m confused? Why is character x doing abc? I don’t get that ending?” Aaaaarrgghhh!

    You are a patient and honorable man, DW. Which is probably why you are happily married and I am the Lovelorn Poet. 🙂

  5. Cat says:

    I would agree with Ms. San Diego that (SOME) women’s penchant for asking irritating questions throughout movies stems from the need to feel secure– especially if this habit kicks in mainly during high-suspense films. What’s with the need for “security” when sitting in one’s own homes, beside a trusted, strong protector, viewing a fictional story?

    (Excuse the generalizations here; not all women nor all men are as described below, but for the sake of explanation, the gross majority rule is applied.) I read about this in Louann Brizendine’s marvelous book, THE FEMALE BRAIN. Here’s what I understand: biologically, women are primed to be expert communicators for the survival and furtherance of the human race– shit has to be communicated, or things fall apart. That’s a difficult task when the male half of the human race is wired for conquest of massive obstacles, resulting in a relative deficit of communication skill. Luckily, women’s powers of communication extend beyond aural intake and verbal utterances to subconscious empathic resonance fed by body language cues. Women are continuously receiving emotional feedback from people with whom they come into contact, and in turn, mirroring, or “feeling” what those body language signals are broadcasting. This happens with men, too, but apparently (based on studies noted in Ms. Brizendine’s book) women have a deeper capacity for this. This emotional resonance in which the woman feels what someone else is showing isn’t confined to subtle body language; it’s also a key factor in verbal communication. The reasoning for the purpose of this ESP is that not only does it give the woman a “heads-up” of sorts on any potential threat (non-verbal communication), it also enables her to feel the communicator’s motivation, literally to empathize, and to be better able to communicate back from a point of understanding (verbal communication). Watch for it the next time you see a woman communicating: does she adopt a similar stance, energy level, and emotional tone as the person she’s communicating with? Back to the movie scenario: the Wifey (and many women) may physically, emotionally feel what she’s viewing the actor feel– apprehension– thus, the need to return to a state of security.

    But how does asking all those questions imbue a sense of security? From my own experience and varied readings, knowledge is power. If Wifey knows WHO the photo-taking mysteryperson is, she can either a) allay her fears with the knowledge that X is a friend, not foe, or b) mitigate her agitation with the knowledge that X is, indeed, a foe, but she will not be caught unawares: a threat has been identified. Being able to know not only all the facts, but also all the DETAILS, is paramount in most women’s views of maintaining stability. This, in turn, leads to mention of the illusion of control of one’s surroundings, an illusion that most women are especially vulnerable to, given their need for security… Resisting that illusion an ongoing battle.

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