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