After our first date, at the end of the last week in January, I remember having a casual conversation with a former co-worker who had become a good friend. I had met him in 2017 while in Southwest Asia, and coincidentally, he was also working for the same company in Germany. Although he was on a different contract and had been working for only a few months, he contracted COVID just before his scheduled departure. I reached out to him through messages to check on his well-being, and since I knew that he worked in the same department as CC, I mentioned to him that I had gone on a date with CC. I was pleased to share this news because I had not gone on a date in a few years, and I assumed that Mr. F would be happy to hear about it especially since he knew the person.
During our conversation, Mr. F asked me to clarify whether I was referring to the kid from the UK with red hair, glasses, and who drove an older car of a particular color and make. His detailed description indicated that he wanted to be certain that we were talking about the same person. I confirmed that I was indeed referring to CC, and it was then that Mr. F bluntly advised me to stay away from him. I was taken aback by his warning, and my nerves were on edge as I awaited his explanation. Without my prompting, he proceeded to list several reasons why he believed that it was not in my best interest to publicly associate with CC. I was angry that he was telling me this, but oddly, his words were slowly making me feel physically ill. It’s hard to put into words, but it felt like the sudden shift from being happy to sad was almost like finding a friend’s lifeless decomposing body on a sunny day when you were expecting to be greeted with a smile.
The feeling of fear, extreme grief, and anger was palpable, leaving me confused not only in thought but also with bizarre physical symptoms such as difficulty digesting food, extreme nervousness, and random thoughts that cycled through denial, anger, and ultimately shame.
I was afraid to tell Mr. F that I had already slept with CC because I didn’t want to disappoint him. After our conversation, I realized that if anyone at work knew about our connection and was aware of CC’s behavior outside of work, it would only fuel workplace gossip, and I would become another topic of discussion.
Despite having this conversation over the phone in message format, the way he expressed his warning seemed so intense and vivid that it felt like he was standing right behind me, shouting each word at me. He began by emphasizing my reputation and then used my professional titles to emphasize the stark contrast between me and CC. He emphasized the sense of responsibility I have always shown and urged me to take heed of his words. He warned me that aligning myself with certain groups or individuals could have negative consequences on my professional and personal life, which could have financial repercussions. Although I had known Mr. F for years and he had never treated me poorly; I felt like a child again, being told who to associate with. It reminded me of similar instances in which I was scolded for dressing a certain way or associating with certain people because it reflected poorly on my family. Despite feeling somber, I listened carefully as Mr. F told me that CC had slept with most of the girls at the Thai bar they frequented. He warned me that CC had a major ego and was only interested in pleasure and himself. Mr. F urged me never to trust him, claiming that CC was a big talker who rarely followed through with any action. He was also extremely careless with money, often spending over 500Euro in one night at bars and social places on the weekends. Not to mention the alcoholism and drug use that Mr. F claimed that everyone who worked at my work place was guilty of.
I could tell in the way Mr. F spoke and demanded me to call him to verbally drive home this message that he felt as if he was giving lifesaving advise. At some point I couldn’t help, but wished I had actually spoken to Mr. F before I went on the date. By the end of the conversation I was angry with myself, but even more upset that I was unable to balance the feelings of wanting to believe every word that was told to me.
Initially, I felt lost and unsure how to approach the situation. After Mr. F finished speaking, I attempted to redirect the conversation towards something more positive. Though Mr. F’s hurtful comments about CC left a lasting impact on me, it was my pride that took the hardest blow. The thought of addressing the issue left me shaken and overwhelmed. I even considered not saying anything to him at all, especially since his communication had decreased. I hoped that by avoiding him, things would settle down and he would eventually move on. In doing this I could lick my wounds and try to get over the madness I invited to my door.
What to do Next?
After learning what I did from Mr. F, I kept it to myself for a few days. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something inherently wrong about knowing it. I began to feel guilty and uncertain, even though it wasn’t my problem. It was as if someone was talking about me in the same way. Despite trying to remain unbiased, I knew that some of what I had heard would be difficult to dismiss. This made me reflect on how people gossip and tear others apart, and how I wanted to show compassion towards those who are under scrutiny. The most unpleasant part of the situation was the information that Mr. F shared, claimed came from the girl(s) CC was talking to and sleeping with. While I had a feeling it was true, I also considered that CC may have hurt someone, causing them to say these things. Through this strange association with CC, I came to realize that men gossip and talk about each other like women do, but with even worse belittlement and venom.
At first, I fully trusted everything Mr. F had said about CC. However, I began to question whether anyone could truly be trusted. Mr. F and the other guys were often around CC directly or indirectly, whether at work or during social outings. They would interact with each other, taking the time to form opinions while still behaving cordially with CC and others. It seemed as though they secretly had their own thoughts about him that were important enough for them to feel the need to share it.
After the incident, I began to notice similar situations happening repeatedly. The same guys who would go into bars and restaurants’ bathrooms to do cocaine off countertops or hook up with girls that other guys had been with were the ones who would then turn around and gossip about other people’s behavior. It was a disgusting culture that had become normalized. Looking back at my journal entries, I saw that in June 2022, I told CC that no one could be trusted and that nobody was truly a friend. Even though he would later say that we should not be bothered about what people think or say about us, allegations such as this especially when easily proven can leave lasting impressions. Despite being common for men to behave in the way CC does. If a person pisses off the wrong group of men/man while doing this. The pettiness of the silly industry we temporarily found ourselves in will unfold and I’ve seen it used as a tool to ensure a person never progresses in the invented game of job progression. These “fucking men” will covertly look for reasons to dismiss or not to promote a person even when their work ethics says otherwise. I understood that in the short time I was working for the company in that location the walls were always talking and despite seeming to be unbiased they were always ready to use these subconscious biases to disadvantage a person.
Rereading my journal, I knew I wouldn’t have been as critical about this issue if Mr. F didn’t enlighten me. Perhaps I would have found this out the hard way if he didn’t say anything. As later I realized Mr. F wasn’t the only one talking. I didn’t know if CC thought he could trust anyone but for him I knew that he possible should not trust the girl(s) he talks to or sleep with, the boys he surrounded himself with at bars, on trips, nor the people at work. I ended this journal entry by quoting Simone de Beauvoir and realizing more and more that our free will, desire, pursuit of the sensual world is our own to master.
Simone de Beauvoir
No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself.
The ambiguity and conflicts our desires produce are both internal and external, but yet we are free to find meaning in our lives. A meaning that shouldn’t hurt others, but should simultaneously be good for the pursuer. While all the actions of CC had nothing to do with me, his desire for pleasure bonded me to the realization that I was female. Mr. F and CC could carelessly do these things then say no one should ever worry about what others think. Lucky them, living with no consequences!
Sometimes I want to slap myself for inviting this madness at my door for instead of closing it, I chose to try to see the good in people. I felt like someone had stabbed me in my gut. It felt like somoene was talking about me and not CC. It felt like it was happening to me as if I walked in on someone talking shit about me. I couldn’t sleep or eat after this. I didn’t know what to do about it. I didn’t want to talk to CC about it, and if I did, I didn’t want to be visible upset.
Tuesday, 25th January 2022
On that day, I had a conversation with CC.
He kindly cooked me curry and rice, and to my surprise, it tasted great.
After accepted the food, I asked him to drive to another location. I don’t think he knew what I was going to tell him as he assumed perhaps it was for us to be alone. When he parked, I carefully told him about the situation and showed him some of the messages. I didn’t want to reveal the range of emotions I experienced upon learning this information, but I made it clear that I hated being told who to associate with and what to do. Although I didn’t know CC as well as I knew Mr. F, I still saw it as a violation of the invisible bonds of friendship to tell CC who revealed the information to me. CC didn’t directly confirm or deny anything and seemed more interested in finding out who told me.
I wanted to let him know that hearing people talk about him made me feel bad, but I also recognized that it was my own issues that added to my emotional state. I kept this situation to myself and felt a lot of shame about it because I knew what he was capable of doing. However, most of the shame was on me because I worried about being judged by others because of my association with him. I don’t know if he felt the same way because in the world of men, actions like his are often seen as something to be proud of and shared with others.
On that day, he hugged and kissed me, attempting to comfort me instead of explaining himself. It seemed like he wanted to distract me from the situation, but I had many questions that I chose not to ask. I didn’t think he could take responsibility for what Mr. F said and he really didn’t have to explain anything to me. Although he wasn’t breaking any laws, he was violating unspoken social norms, which made me feel uneasy. It is here I understood and accepted that we would never truly be intimate or open with each other. He would only reveal as much as he needed to get what he wanted, and I would always be left tryin to pretend not to be bothered.
In moments like these, it’s funny what we remember. I recall the biting cold and how I pressed myself against the warmth of the vehicle, as well as the intensely grey sky on that day. Looking back on what was to come, I regret not having the courage to confide in someone else. I refrained from doing so because I didn’t want to spread gossip. I guess in a way I am now revealing this gossip and adding to the noise, but its only after a year of living with it and realizing that it’s just another human experience. But, I didn’t realize how deeply I was wounded and how it took me back to the feelings of being an insecure child who just wanted to feel safe. From that point on, I sensed perhaps he didn’t like being made to answer to somethig like this. I agree that no one wants to be forced to deal with past issues.
Saturday, 29 January 2022
Another Sleep Over
Journal Entry Extract
“I noticed a change in CC since I told him what Mr. F said. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps he was happy with how I handled it or that I didn’t dive deeper into the matter. His behavior is so different and has reverted back to day one, its almost suspicious, but I do not know him well. So I should not judge his actions, I just want him to be himself…no need to feign interest…if he only wants to kill time, I am okay with that until I find my person and people.”Friday, 28 January 2022
I regretted assuming that there was something suspicious about his behavior, and I feeling negatively towards myself for doing so. I recognized that it was not entirely Mr. F or CC’s fault, but also my nature and how I was conditioned.
On January 29th, 2022, we planned another sleepover, and I was surprised that he agreed to come again, especially on a weekend when he could be out socializing.
Although he had to work on Saturday, we planned to make lasagna together after he finished work no. However, making the lasagna did not go as planned since he ended up leaving work later than expected. As a result, we ordered pizza instead.
Journal Entry Extract
“When he slid under the sheets he exclaimed how much he loved heavy cold bedding. I don’t know why I love that moment so much…it was cutie, but he actually was paying attention to the smaller details of comfort.” The next morning we watching Euphoria, made tea, eat leftovers, and talked.31 January 2022
I thought to myself as we moved around that morning, I don’t know if he really wanted to be here or why he was here, but if I could have this once month without the commitment of a relationship for the time being I would take it. Good sex, decent company, food, movies, lush bed, hot tea, warm arms, a listening ear, and a temporary shoulder to lean on.
“I watched him as he went through the draws in the kitchen to get a spoon and a tea cup. It was cutie, I noticed him examining the kitchen in his own little way. For me he is such a handsome man, I am sure he knows that. I guess all the girls at the Thai bar see it too lol. I loved how he noticed the smell of the candles, he liked the plants, and room spray. He actually likes them! …but he seems so unsure.” – Monday, 31 January 2022
End of January 2022