A reader responded to yesterday’s post with this story:
…I was sitting around at 3am reading blogs when some guy knocked on my window, since mine was the only light on in the street–he’d locked his keys in his car, and wanted to borrow my phone. Then when he couldn’t reach the person he called, he wanted money for a cab ride to his mother’s. It was creepy, but he had puppy dog eyes and a plausible story, and I ended up walking to a nearby ATM and giving him the money. (Before I left, I gave a friend his full description and orders to raise hell if I didn’t come back in a timely fashion.) Then he asked if I wanted to get together for drinks when he returned the money. I made an awkward comment that I didn’t drink… but I’m going to come up with something stronger if he comes back, because my desire to spend time with a guy with boundary issues is pretty low. (Oh, and now I’m worried because he lives next door, and what if I have Angry Guy living next door and knowing where I live and seeing my car every day…)
While it’s not technically a question, I’d like to offer some suggestions for how to come up with something stronger to say if (when) he comes back, and how to deal with the possibility of Angry Guy Living Next Door.
First, I’m very glad you are safe, and I don’t want to make you feel bad about doing a kind thing for someone, and you are the best judge of your own boundaries and safety. However, since you use the words “creepy” and “boundary issues,” I am going to be honest about several things that are red flags to me about this guy’s behavior:
- Knocking on a strange woman’s window at 3 am = sketchy.
- Story about keys locked in car, no phone, person not picking up, needing money and a ride to mom’s = sketchy.
- ASKING YOU OUT when you got back from the ATM = sketchy.
I’m not saying he’s a predator, but I am comfortable saying that a person with a decent understanding of boundaries does not knock on a strange woman’s window in the middle of the night with bizarre requests. A person who understands boundaries would be very conscious that he is making a bizarre request and that you would have legitimate reasons (being sketched out, your own safety) for not helping him. He would understand that he is putting you out and that you are taking serious risks to help him and do everything to minimize that feeling and respect your safety.
I have magical freak attracting powers. I think people can sense that I will not be mean to them and will listen to at least part of their crazy stories. I blame my Grandmother and the Catholic Church for teaching me as a child that Jesus would come back someday and he might test us by appearing in a very unappealing form. What if we couldn’t see through the surfaces of people to the Jesus beneath? We might be damned for all time for our failure to be kind to Scary Yelling Making Us Uncomfortable Close Talking Jesus.
That’s a lot for a six year old to carry, and part of that teaching has stayed with me till this day. So like you, commenter, I will give sketchy people a little more leeway than I should and then I find myself caught up in their strange alternate realities and having to shake myself free. I want to believe that people are good and that I will be rewarded for respecting their inner Jesus. This quality would probably assist me in making documentary film, since I present as friendly, nonjudgmental, and nonthreatening. Sadly, I make fiction films. And sadly, sometimes people with sad stories play on our kindness and sympathies in order to take something from us.
I am glad you are safe. That could have gone a different way. You can’t go back and undo it, so let’s talk about the future. I just want you to do that in the full realization that there is something sketchy about this guy – even if he didn’t harm you, even if there was a legit emergency or need to get to his mom’s house. I would not trust him or open my door to him one inch.
If you’re lucky, you will never see this guy ever again. Just consider that money gone and forget all about it.
If you’re unlucky, last night was the beginning of a relationship that this guy thinks he has with you. After all, he has to pay you back your money, right? Don’t mind him if he’s paying attention to your comings and goings or feeling like he can knock on your window any old time. You’re buddies now!
I really can’t recommend The Gift of Fear enough to you. Gavin De Becker, the author, doesn’t want you to feel afraid or be suspicious of everyone. What he does want is for you to trust your instincts – this is creepy, this is sketchy, I don’t want to do this or talk to this person – when you do feel afraid, and he gives you a framework for identifying sketchy behavior and refusing to be manipulated. Some of the predatory behaviors he identifies may apply to last night’s unwanted guest:
- Forced Teaming. This is when a person tries to pretend that he has something in common with a person and that they are in the same predicament when that isn’t really true.
- Charm and Niceness. This is being polite and friendly to a person in order to manipulate him or her.
- Too many details. If a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible.
- Typecasting. An insult to get a person who would otherwise ignore one to talk to one. (“I bet you’re too stuck up to ever talk to a guy like me.“This is a classic move of Pick-Up Artists)
- Loan Sharking. Giving unsolicited help and expecting favors in return.
- The Unsolicited Promise. A promise to do (or not do) something when no such promise is asked for; this usually means that such a promise will be broken. For example: an unsolicited, “I promise I’ll leave you alone after this,” usually means you will not be left alone. Similarly, an unsolicited “I promise I won’t hurt you” usually means the person intends to hurt you.
- Discounting the Word “No”. Refusing to accept rejection.
It’s not just violent people who use these behaviors – these are all classic maniuplation tools, we’ve all probably used them and had them used on us in benign situations. Think about meetings you have with your boss when she says “We need to do x, y, and z” when really that means YOU will need to do x, y, and z. Forced teaming at work.
Anyway, say this guy comes back. He wants another favor. He wants to use your cell phone. He wants more money. He wants to come into your house. He wants you to hang out with him in exchange for him returning your money.
If you don’t let him in or interact with him, it is very possible that he will get angry and offended. By helping him the other night, you taught him that you are not a person who says “no” easily. You’ve shown him that you’re willing to be manipulated – out of your house, into giving him money – even when he’s a stranger knocking on your window at night. In the hands of a predator, that’s powerful stuff.
Predators (I’ll lump rapists, stalkers, dates who can’t be broken up with and other unsavories under this term) carefully select and test their victims to look for ones who have a hard time saying no. People who can’t let go choose people who can’t say no.
Imagine you’re at a party. A guy offers you a drink. You say no. He says “Come on, one drink!” You say “no thanks.” Later, he brings you a soda. “I know you said you didn’t want a drink, but I was getting one for myself and you looked thirsty.” For you to refuse at this point makes you the asshole. He’s just being nice, right? Predators use the social contract and our own good hearts and fear of being rude against us. If you drink the drink, you’re teaching him that it just takes a little persistence on his part to overcome your “no.” If you say “Really, I appreciate it, but no thanks” and put the drink down and walk away from it, you’re the one who looks rude in that moment. But the fact is, you didn’t ask for the drink and you don’t want the drink and you don’t have to drink it just to make some guy feel validated.
If you’ve ever been in an uncomfortable situation with someone who smothers you and has a hard time letting go, think back to when you first met. Chances are there were behaviors like this – offering things you don’t want and then getting mad when you turn down the “favor,” and not hearing you when you say “no.”
So yes, Angry Guy might get angry at you if you refuse to let him in or interact with him. And he might be quite manipulative in putting it all on you – What’s wrong with you? He didn’t hurt you the other night, did he? What kind of guy do you think he is? He’s just trying to give you your money back/get to know you a little/return the favor.
It will sting.
It will put you in a position of apologizing to him. “No, I didn’t mean that, I’m sorry, I don’t think that about you.”
He will make it hard for you to refuse him.
What you have to remember: It’s all smoke. Remind yourself of the facts. The fact is, he showed up uninvited offering something you don’t want, so you said no. No is a complete sentence, and once you’ve said it, the other person just needs to back the fuck off and go about his life.
This is right out of Gift of Fear: “If you say ‘no,’ and the other person keeps talking, ask yourself ‘Why is this person trying to manipulate me?’”
There are lots of “something stronger” things you can do or say:
- Say nothing at all. If he knocks on the window, just shake your head no and go on with what you’re doing. Go into a different room, if necessary. Do not respond or interact. (This one is hard to pull off, easier if you have a friend there).
- “Please don’t drop by in the middle of the night. It makes me very uncomfortable.“
- “No, you can’t come in.”
- “I’m glad everything worked out. That was a one-time favor for a stranger. Please don’t ask me again.”
- “I don’t want to have drinks with you.“ This is a big one – an excuse like “I don’t drink” is meant to let him down easy and save his feelings, but that leaves him room to find out what you DO eat or drink and propose that. Manipulators look for any crack they can find – if he pushes this route you’ll know it, he’ll be all “But I thought we were going to have drinks” (acting like you agreed to it already). Be direct and honest. “Thanks, but I don’t want to. You can slide an envelope under the door, or better yet, keep it and help out someone else who is in a jam someday.”
If he pushes you – manipulates, whines, tells sob stories, calls you a bitch, intimidates – hold the line. Don’t get drawn into a discussion with him. Every minute you spend interacting with him is one more minute than you want to be interacting with him.
- “You are making me feel afraid and uncomfortable. Please leave immediately.”
- “You are making me regret ever helping you in the first place. Please leave.“
- “I’ve said ‘leave’ and ‘no’ several times now, so the fact that you are still here is very scary and threatening behavior.”
- “This conversation is over. Please leave.“
You do not have to worry about the feelings of creepy people. I do understand not wanting to escalate a situation that might get violent – you need to use your own judgment about that, and keeping a calm, firm, polite tone will serve you well – but you do not have to have an ongoing relationship with this dude. Even if he’s your neighbor. Even if he’s angry.
Keep your cell phone on you and charged at all times. Think about staying with a friend or having a friend stay with you on and off for a few days. Stay safe!
I want to add one more note for people who are in a can’t-let-go situation with a dating partner. Sometimes you have to be direct and explicit in rejecting someone, no matter how awkward. You say “I’m not ready for a relationship right now.” They wonder “When will you be ready? Because I’ll be there on that day!” They read any hesitation or ambiguity as favorable to themselves. They try to draw you into explaining yourself, and then you flail around, and they can tell you’re flailing, and then they pounce – and you find yourself dating them for another 6 months. You have to sack up and say:
“Whatever we’ve discussed or assumed before now, I’m not interested in having a relationship with you. I’m sorry if that’s bad news, I wish you well.”
Then get out of there. Don’t discuss it. As Gavin De Becker says, why would you discuss your romantic hopes and feelings with someone you don’t want to be in a relationship with? Don’t return phone calls or emails. Just be done. They will eventually detach and find someone else to latch onto.
I think it’s criminal that we don’t socialize women to be direct about expressing refusal, and I know what women risk when we do express ourselves directly. I’m sorry that it makes dating and interacting with men so fraught and confusing – if we could just say “not interested, thanks” and be respected and believed and not constantly worried about personal safety and violent blowback it would be a better world. I’m including an old chat transcript from an online dating site to show you how much certain men (violent woman-hating assholes) do not like hearing the word “no” from a woman.
(12:01:32 am)NAME REDACTED :evening hottie (I closed the chat window, it popped up again)
(12:01:56 am):NAME REDACTED ah she looks (I closed the chat window, it popped up again)
(12:02:00 am) NAME REDACTED :busy evening ? (I closed the chat window, it popped up again)
(12:02:17 am) NAME REDACTED: wow wont even say hi (I closed the chat window, it popped up again)
(12:02:20 am)CaptainAwkward: I don’t want to chat with you.
(12:02:35 am)CaptainAwkward: See how I keep closing the chat window?
(12:02:35 am)CaptainAwkward: Goodnight.
(12:02:40 am) NAME REDACTED :bitch
(12:02:49 am) NAME REDACTED :suck my balls
(12:02:58 am) Captain Awkward:Take the hint dude
(12:03:15 am) NAME REDACTED: i’m going to fuck you in your ass and then your eye cunt
(12:03:29 am) NAME REDACTED:captain cuntface
(12:03:58 am)CaptainAwkward:While that does sound amazing, I said I didn’t want to talk to you, then you called me a bitch.
(12:04:04 am)CaptainAwkward:That tells me you hate women and are undateable.
(12:04:08 am)CaptainAwkward:Go away and stop harrassing me.
(12:04:21 am) NAME REDACTED: i meant cunt and I only hate your type
(12:04:27 am)CaptainAwkward:What’s my type?
(12:04:32 am)CaptainAwkward:People who don’t want to chat with you on the internet?
(12:05:08 am) NAME REDACTED :so blow me then
(12:05:13 am)CaptainAwkward: If you’re wondering why no one will touch your shriveled dick, this conversation is why.
(12:05:28 am) NAME REDACTED :how intellectual you Arent
(12:05:44 am) NAME REDACTED: pardon i assumed you had a brain
(12:05:47 am)CaptainAwkward: Go masturbate into a lonely sock.
(12:06:14 am)CaptainAwkward: You get one second of rejection and it becomes all about how much you hate women.
(12:06:25 am)CaptainAwkward: I don’t have to talk to you or like you.
(12:06:33 am) NAME REDACTED:bitch Ive talked to normal hetero women al night
(12:06:46 am)CaptainAwkward:Whatever, I personally do not like you or find you interesting.
(12:07:08 am) NAME REDACTED: youre just a serial dater.. noone likes you ,, u just eat for free and shake your hips and go home in the am cry when you get raped
(12:07:16 am)NAME REDACTED :BLOW ME LOSER
(12:07:52 am)CaptainAwkward: If I were a serial dater I’d be interested in getting some of that sweet money out of you, right?
(12:07:57 am)CaptainAwkward:But I said I wasn’t interested immediately.
(12:08:03 am) NAME REDACTED: i know a cunt when i come across one
(12:08:12 am) NAME REDACTED :your daddy didnt play woth you enuff
(12:08:13 am)CaptainAwkward:And I know a stalker rapist asshole when I see one.
(12:08:21 am) NAME REDACTED: uh huh your daddy
(12:08:30 am) NAME REDACTED: he says nice things about you
(12:08:37 am) NAME REDACTED: and your throat
And then I pressed the block button and reported him to the site administrator. The end! Except it didn’t work right away.
4 days later:
So yeah, that conversation didn’t make enough of an impression for him to even remember calling me a cunt and threatening to rape me, whereas I remember it YEARS later. Funny how things stick with you!
Looking at his profile just now (he’s still looking for that “confident sexy lady”), I found this:
The first things people usually notice about methe gun in my pocket,
Stop… Im just glad to see ya! LOL