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Posted on Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 5 a.m.

Married co-worker won't take no for an answer

By Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn!

A married co-worker recently told me he likes me. I like him as well, but I have specified that I don't want anything to happen. It still doesn't stop him from trying to approach me, all verbal.

I was cheated on at one point in my life, and I feel guilty that I could even attract this. I keep picturing his wife to be beautiful, smart, confident and a whole lot more talented and successful than I am. I compare myself to this idea of her I've conjured up, and the guilt is eating me alive. Otherwise, I am very happy with myself and my life. I don't know what the deeper-seated issue is ... do I need a therapist?

-- Feelings I don't like

Or a new job. Either way, a spine is called for, since you clearly wish there were some moral loophole here. So, here are the five words this co-worker needs to hear you say: "No, that's final, back off." Start job-hunting, too, in case the undertow gets stronger.

Oh, and as for the scenarios about who the wife is, what you did to attract this attention, etc.? Forget it all. She just represents his daily life, with its bills and chores, and you represent fantasy -- no bills, no chores. Don't romanticize, just, disappear.

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Dear Carolyn:

When I was growing up, I was told that good girls didn't have sex until they were married. I became a little more liberal, but I still believed an engagement, or at the very least love, was required. But from what I see in movies and on TV, I'm wondering if sex has become just a fun activity with no need to justify it. Is there no longer such a thing as a slut?

-- No more sluts?

Presumably you grew up without a code for what "good boys" did, and so any pejorative terms that arose from that enduring phase of social injustice need to die a well-deserved death. Slut, R.I.P.

Should people of all kinds be mindful of their own sexuality, and pilot it in a way that reflects their values? Absolutely -- and with all the variety that definition allows. Just don't mistake entertainment for an education in values.

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Re: Good girls:

When I was growing up, I was told a lot of things that weren't true. I also knew TV and movies weren't real; we never had a maid even though I grew up in suburbia, and my father never came home from work and sat in an armchair expecting to be handed a martini.

-- Anonymous

Wait, stop, I can't handle having so many facets of my reality stomped on at once.

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Re: Good girls:

Out-of-wedlock sex is NOT a new thing, much as various hand-wringing interest groups may want to portray it so. For example, in late-18th-century New England, nearly half of brides were already expecting. That's not the only historical example. So, long live sluts, male and female, as they have been throughout history and into the future. Geez.

-- Viva "sluts"

It never ceases to amaze me how people are regarded as better or worse, smarter or dumber, etc., at stages in history. People are the same; labels change. Next.

Email Carolyn at tellme(at), follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

(c) 2011, Washington Post Writers Group