I recently met up with a cute friend I hadn't seen in a while. Like any red-blooded American male (sadly), I considered the hookup chances. Alas, she was in town to see her latest love interest (Paul); the two met at a conference and continued communicating afterward. There were limitations at the outset: she's in Baltimore, he's in NYC. She's 22, he's 37. My friend would ultimately prove to be too forgiving of Paul.
Over drinks, my friend divulged the details of her previous day with Paul, and it was full of red flags:
Only Wants Sex Red Flag/Hiding Something Red Flag: Because Paul's roommate "unexpectedly stayed in town," Paul got a hotel room. Hotels carry a "sex" stigma, especially when they are in the person's hometown. And who is this "roommate"? My friend has never met Paul's roommate, or talked to him...or her (I'm thinking this "roommate" could be a wife or girlfriend).
Fashion Red Flag: Scariest of all, my friend told me that Paul insisted on wearing crocs around town.
Jerk Red Flag: The day after the hotel, Paul released my friend back into NYC. Why didn't he make more plans with her? She rationalized it by saying that he didn't know how long she was staying in NYC. Couldn't he have asked?
I told her that if a girl came to NYC to see me, I would have every day planned out. It would include dinner, brunch, lunch, she'd be out with me and my friends, and we'd do NYC things: go to museums, take walks, check out shows...and, of course, no hotel room (not that I could afford one).
My friend ended up at my apartment, but she was distressed about Paul. She was still trying to convince herself he wasn't that bad, he was just "a little shady," holding on to any strand of hope by reminding me of the "nice" things like meeting his soccer team and "long conversations" with him. But the fact was she was in NYC and not with him on this night. By this time, I had forgotten about hookup prospects, and my "predator" instinct turned into "protector" instinct. I had to restore her faith in the male gender by behaving myself and being there for her as a friend as we fell asleep.
At 4AM, stressed, she jumped out of my bed (after our long night of drinking) and decided to drive back to Baltimore, against my objections. I spent a sleepless morning waiting until I got her "I'm in Maryland" text around 7 AM. It was strange that she stayed in a hotel with a guy who hurt her, but opted for the NJ Turnpike over my apartment when I was helping her. I also found it alarming that women are now opting for the New Jersey Turnpike instead of my bed.
In the aftermath I provided more council for my friend. She caved in and texted Paul, but he didn't text back or call. So, I'm confident that my analysis of him was spot on: he's a jerk. My friend finally agreed in a text to me later:
"He's an old, lying, croc-wearing jerk."
I was glad that she called out limitations and red flags in her text. Maybe when she's a little older, she'll learn to take red flags at face value and refrain from giving a guy the benefit of the doubt by downplaying those red flags. Had she realized that Paul's wearing crocs (unless he was a cook or gardener) was a major red flag none of this would have happened. Oh yeah, he did use her and lie to her, but those red flags are minor compared to the crocs.
Seriously, though, there must be a middle ground between trusting everyone, and trusting no one. In dating, you have to protect yourself, but you can't close off so much that you are always suspicious, or expect the worst. At the same time, you can't perceive the "good" things people do as meaning more than they actually do, and you can't minimize the bad things people do. Judge people more on their actions, not their words, and be vigilant when identifying red flags.
What's your opinion of Paul's behavior? Do you agree with the red flags I found? Was I too hard on this guy in calling him a jerk? Why do people downplay red flags? Does Paul sound married- why the hotel? Would you have thought twice about the hotel if you were in her shoes? At what point can you no longer give a guy the benefit of the doubt?