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Mystery Man

By Mink Stole | Posted 7/11/2001

Is there any way to tell for sure if a man is married? I've recently begun seeing a man who's a lot of fun but sort of secretive. He's never offered me his home number because he says it's easier to reach him at the office. We've been to my place several times, but he's never taken me to his. We've started sleeping together, but he won't spend the night. He says it's because he can't sleep in any bed but his own. I was suspicious, but when I asked him if he was married he told me not to be silly. I'm still not sure, but I'm afraid if I keep asking I'll sound all paranoid and possibly wreck what might be a good relationship. But I don't want to be involved with a married man either.

Adverse to Adultery

Dear Adverse:

One of these days I'm going to make a fortune with a foolproof "Marital Status Detector Device." Sold mainly through salons and cosmetic counters, it'll make me rich in weeks. Then I'll invent the "Marital Status Detector Deflector," sell it in bars, and take over the world.

Of course you're suspicious. Refusal to give out a home telephone number is Clue No. 1 in the am-I-dating-a-married-guy/gal? handbook. Clue No. 2 is never being taken to his home. (Clue No. 3 is that untanned ring mark on his third finger, left hand, but you didn't mention that one.) Now, it could be that it isn't a wife he's hiding. Maybe he's decorated his house with dirt. Maybe he's got a crazy aunt in the attic or a freezer full of human body parts. Or maybe (it could happen) he's a mega-multibazillionaire who fears that when you see his 87-room mansion and his fabulous art and jewelry collection, you'll only love him for his money. Or maybe he's with the CIA, and if he takes you home he'll have to kill you.

Whatever it is, he's hiding something. If it's not something he's worried you'll find out about, it's someone he's afraid he will find out about you. Privacy is a wonderful thing, but secrecy is trouble. Even if he is totally innocent of all but a fierce self-protectiveness, his refusal to give you access to his home indicates a problem. Tell him if he can't trust you with his home phone number, you can't trust him in your bed. Don't worry about seeming paranoid, or about ruining a "good" relationship. Unless he starts being honest with you, you aren't going to have one.

I landed a job that I wanted for a long time a couple of months ago, and I'm really happy with it. The only problem is that I went out to dinner with a guy from work last week, and now he's acting like we're a major item. I hadn't even realized he thought it was a "date"--we only talked about work! But now he's bringing me flowers and sending me "hello, sweetheart" e-mails. Worse, everyone in the office is smiling and winking at me like they're in on my big romance. We're in different departments, fortunately, so I don't work with him directly, but I still don't want to date him. How do I keep him at a distance without making a big, public deal of it?

Overwhelmed at the Office

Dear Overwhelmed:

Either you're shooting off stronger pheromones than you're aware of, or this guy is a total loony tune. While most of us have felt the thrill of that immediate

and irresistible attraction to someone at some point in our lives, most of us also have the sense not to start planning the wedding--at least in public--until we've established that the feeling is mutual.

Take the guy aside and tell him that he's mistaken. If you have to, tell him that you've always had a rule about not dating co-workers and you're sticking to it. Avoid the usual let-him-down-nicely phrases, because if he can interpret a casual meal as a deeply romantic encounter, he's perfectly capable of translating "you're a nice guy and I don't want to hurt you" into "I will love you forever." Tell him you don't want to embarrass him, but that if he doesn't back off you won't hesitate to tell anyone who'll listen what a jerk he is.

If that doesn't get results, before you start bad-mouthing him around the office, talk to your supervisor. Ask if the guy has a history of "falling in love with the new girl," and/or if the supervisor has any suggestions about how to deal with him. It could be everyone is smiling and winking because they recognize you as his latest victim. If so, maybe he'll lose interest after you've been there a little longer and you refuse to pay any attention to him. In the meantime, you'll have alerted someone in authority that you are attempting to deal with the problem. It's always better to at least try to handle things on our own, especially with a really great job, but keep copies of his e-mails and a diary of any other unwelcome encounters. Filing a formal complaint should be a very, very last resort, but if it comes to that you'll be glad to have all that evidence to support your case.

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