I recently went on a date with a guy which was all very well and good. He seemed nice, we chatted comfortably but he didn’t really sweep me off my feet. Still, it was pleasant and we were texting a bit back and forth.
Then at work the next day, I find a present turn up on my desk from him. Not flowers, not chocolates, but a little plasticine effigy of me (or that’s what I’m guessing it was supposed to be – not just some random woman).
Before that I probably I would have seen him again. Now I’m not so sure.
Am I right in thinking this is a weird thing to do?
You are right. There is something very weird in what you describe – but it might not be exactly what you first think.
Yes, he made an effigy of you after a first date. I can see how this might seem weird at first glance but consider this. Of all the things he could have made an effigy of, does it not seem kind of natural – were he in an arts and crafts sort of mood – that he would make one of you? It’s only logical, right? So we’ll let him off that.
Yes, he appears to have had instantaneous access to a few different shades of plasticine – a material predominantly favoured by children and the mentally negligible. Still, unless he made a midnight raid on an arts supply shop in order to procure it, this isn’t really a massive cause for alarm either.
Yes, he seems to have a bit too much free time on his hands – particularly if he can make such a labour-intensive gift on a tight turnaround during the traditional working week – but perhaps he is independently wealthy and has an impulsive streak. No bad thing.
What makes the situation weird – in my eyes, at least – is that it was sent to you at work.
You see, had the date gone really, really well then a plasticine effigy could have been a sweet, if slightly unorthodox, gift. Had he been an art teacher, or a sculptor, or a voodoo practitioner then it could have even been somewhat apt. But to send that gift to work? That is not cool.
Unsurprisingly, I am speaking from experience. I have sent gifts to girls at work precisely two and half times in my life, and both and a half times were a disaster* – marking out the exact point where the relationship turned irreversibly sour.
Now, this could well be because I send sucky gifts to people whose skin I make crawl – a perfectly possible deduction – and you may feel that it is some sort of bitterness on my part that causes me to take this stance on the matter. All of which is entirely fair. But I have worked in a few offices, of different sizes and styles, and rare is the time that I have ever seen a romantic work gift do the trick.
Why? Mainly because it causes the recipient to feel uncomfortably self-conscious as they become the office’s focus of attention for the rest of the day (and the more unusual or ostentatious the gesture, the harder the attention is to shake off in the coming days and weeks). It also gives their colleagues a free pass to ask all sorts of intimate questions about their love life that they might not ordinarily want to share. Whatever immediate delight they may take from receiving a present quickly gets replaced by a weird vulnerability.
The only people who seem to take any true joy from the gesture are egoists and show-offs who like to parade these sorts of things around – and usually the senders are that type too (why else send a gift so conspicuously?). With regular people though, the tendency to feel a bit awkward about the whole thing is too great to truly enjoy it.
Defenders of the work gift will doubtless say “At least it’s better than sending it to their home address. How creepy would that be?”. Well, yes. In terms of invasion of privacy, a person is less likely to feel stalked if the gift turns up on their desk rather than their doorstep, but the truth is that they are both creepy. That the latter is more creepy than the former doesn’t excuse it. If you have a gift for someone, wait until your next date.
You don’t sound like a woman who is overly impressed by the gesture, so it seems reasonable to assume that you might not be seeing him again. If that is the case, it is totally understandable but what is crucial here is that you break things off appropriately.
If you fail to let him know that the office gift was a problem, then you are basically subjecting whoever comes after you to exactly the same treatment. In turn, this may encourage a poor, romantically-minded co-worker of his next victim to do something equally ill-advised to the apple of their eye in an office somewhere else – and so the problem continues to spread.
I realise that this situation has been foisted upon you against your will, but you now have a responsibility to do your part in ensuring that the work gift is stamped out of existence. He needs telling that such conduct, however sweetly intended, is inappropriate.
That said, if you do end up seeing him again, please do let me know. I’ve got loads of unsent gifts kicking about my room that I’ve bought for girls but have chickened out of ever giving them. I’ll do him a good rate on them.
* The half a time was relatively recently (about two years ago). I had thought it might be a nice idea to have a basket of cookies and flowers sent to a girl I’d seen a few times who was having a rough morning. I spent half a day trying to track down the address of her office (it was an unusually named company with a needlessly complicated spelling). Eventually I had to give up and call her to find out where to have them sent. Despite being perfectly polite in her choice of words, she couldn’t disguise the horror in her voice when she told me there was really no need to send her flowers. The call ended quickly and I was none the wiser as to where she worked when it did. I spoke to her answerphone a couple of times after that, but we never went out again. It might not have been the idea of me sending her gifts to the office that drove her away – I might have been repulsive enough on my own merit – but it certainly didn’t help my cause.
Still, at least I didn’t have to actually fork out for anything.