Wedding Woes

It's weird behavior, but you've got to let it go.

Dear Prudence,

I (38/F) was close friends with Gabriel (39/M) in college. We had classes together, shared mutual friends—he even was my date to the Chancellor’s Ball! He was engaging and sincere and gregarious. (If it matters, both of us felt very platonically about one another.) After college, we ran into each other periodically, always greeting each other enthusiastically. While we didn’t hang out, (I thought) we were always happy to see each other and catch up on our lives. I recently changed jobs and now work with Gabriel. His entire demeanor has shifted to a person of over-enthusiasm and sugary-sweet fake positivity. If someone asked him if they may borrow his stapler, he might loudly and cheerfully respond, “Why, yes I indeed DO have a stapler! What’s more, I would absolutely LOVE to loan it to you!”

Even more confusing, Gabriel has kept me at arm’s length. He only addresses me by “Ms. [Last Name]” and with a forced and abrupt friendliness. He is very outgoing with our colleagues but never seems to talk to me at meetings. He has never referenced our history and no one (including his wife) seems to know we were ever friends. It’s not like I expect him to reminisce about our college days, but I would think that “Oh, she and I are old friends” would come up occasionally at casual get-togethers. It seems too uncomfortable to address this. I’m sure he would be quick to reassure me, but in an odd and formal way. It appears our former friendship has run its course, so how do I navigate a professional one with him? Should I refrain from referencing our previous friendship? Is there any way to salvage a normal relationship? I was excited to work with him, but now I just feel awkward.

—Spurned and Concerned

Re: It's weird behavior, but you've got to let it go.

  • I wonder if this is a case of work Gabriel is VERY different than college Gabriel and he only wants people at the office (or in his life now) to know about work/present Gabriel. It’s weird, and you can bring it up, but even if he acknowledges it, what is likely to change? 

    Be cordial and professional and make other work place associates. 
  • I’m wondering if the relationship wasn’t as platonic on Gabriel’s end as LW thinks. 


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  • The refusing to acknowledge LW as a past acquaintance is weird.  But the over the top positivity - I know someone like that at my work.  He is a delight (it comes across as genuine positivity).  I don't know, maybe that is just my experience but that part isn't weird to me.  Then again, I've been in a lot of customer service roles, you get good faking being happy to help someone.

  • levioosa said:
    I’m wondering if the relationship wasn’t as platonic on Gabriel’s end as LW thinks. 
    This is what I think too. His behavior would make a lot of sense if he was embarrassed or uncomfortable with the feelings he had way back then. 

    Anyway, LW just needs to treat him like any other colleague. It's pretty clear that he's not interested in rekindling the old college buddy relationship. 
  • If it were me, the only thing I would bring up to Gabriel is his addressing me as Ms. (Last Name) if he doesn't do that with other people.

    I have worked in a LOT of places and industries.  Every place I've worked, coworkers address each other by their first name.  It's a big world and I'm sure there must be exceptions to that, the military is one of them, but it's unusual.
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