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#280: “How do I get rid of my Facebook stalker without being mean about it?”

Hulk looking mean and mad.

The “H” in Jesus H. Christ stands for Hulk. QUIT FUCKING STALKING PEOPLE WHO DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU.

Aw fuck, people. More stalking. Emergency kittens standing by thanks to Twitter friend and hilarious DVD-reviewer @jearl8000.

Dear Captain Awkward,

For a few months now, I have what would be defined as a “Facebook stalker” – he likes all of my pictures, all of my statuses, all of my photos, all of my comments on other people’s statuses… you get the idea, and it increases with each day.  Also, he mails me at least four times a week (usually after I’ve posted a status or something of the like, so he knows that I’m online) saying the same thing – “Hey”, “Hi :)” “Helloooooo”. I never respond, yet he doesn’t seem to be getting the message that I don’t want to talk to him.

Not only is it infuriating, it’s also creeping me out – it’s reached the point where he likes or comments on something within seconds of my posting it.

He’s not a particularly close friend, – in  fact, I don’t really know him that well at all – but he’s someone I’ve spent time with in group outings, and all in all, he’s kind of fun to be around – however, in the viral world, he’s not so much fun. Many of my friends have questioned me about it too, and I have been informed that he’s nigh on infatuated with me (which is weird, because I don’t talk to him that much and we’ve only really hung out a handful of times.) It’s safe to assume that I have no romantic interests for him in return.

 I want him to leave me alone, but I really don’t want to be horrid with him – however, I know that if I’m not assertive enough, he’ll continue to badger me, and more likely than not, increase his efforts due to what I’ve heard about him. While I don’t want to delete and block him (although that may be the best option), this is insane. A liking of my recent status is what triggered me to write to you.

Cap’n, what do I do? How do I tell him to back off – for good? 

xo 

Socially Confused Astronaut

Dear Socially Confused:

The guy is making you uncomfortable because he is badgering you and territorially pissing in all the corners of your life. Why do you have to be “nice” to him? Nice is completely useless. Anger is useful. Targeted, cleansing anger.

You are very smart to recognize that his passive-aggressive boundary pushing (like where he tells your friends about his infatuation so they’ll pass it on but doesn’t tell you and give you the chance to reject him overtly) is offensive. This is the kind of shit that starts small and eventually escalates to this if not checked. Read the comments for some truly hair-raising stories about “they talked a few times and then he broke into her house and stole her underwear and maybe sent her a video about that.”

The fact that you found him to be good company at a few social gatherings and know some people in common does not mean that you have signed some contract of eternal pleasantness & cordiality. It does not give him a free pass. About anything.

What he’s doing is creepy and weird. It has the veneer of being harmless and “not that bad” that lets him maintain plausible deniability. The way you don’t answer his emails? You are actually answering his emails with SWEET DELICIOUS AWESOME SILENCE. That IS an answer. It’s an answer that says, clearly and unambiguously, “I am not interested in being email buddies.”

Go ahead and hurt his fucking feelings, is what I’m saying. Dare to disturb the universe in defense of your own comfort and safety.

Step 1: Please, please block him on Facebook, email, and all social media without warning.* And girl, lock your shit down with every possible privacy setting to make it much harder for people you aren’t close to to see what you’re up to.

Step 2: If he contacts you directly, respond once. 

While I enjoyed chatting with you at (events) in the past, I was not enjoying our online interactions. To be blunt, the way you kept emailing me even when I didn’t respond and liking all of my posts made me uncomfortable. I certainly don’t want it to be awkward if we run into each other at (events) in the future – the best way to ensure that is for you to respect my decision and back off. Please don’t message or email me again.

Alternately, if he contacts you indirectly by making a stink with the people you know in common, tell the mutual acquaintances “I wasn’t enjoying interacting with him online so I decided to stop.” No need for gossip or further elaboration. Let the silence after the period of that sentence tell the story.

With closer friends – people you really want to have in your corner – you could say “Oh god, it’s so awkward. Dude was making me really uncomfortable by posting all over my Facebook wall and emailing me all the time, so I decided to put a stop to it. I’m sorry he dragged you into it. I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t pass on messages from him to me, or vice-versa. I think the best way is to cut off contact cold turkey and give him some time to cool down and get over things.

If he has the bad grace to badger them about it again, they’ll handle it for you. “Dude, she said you were making her uncomfortable by being all over her Facebook wall. Chill out and let it go – she’s not into you.

The “what about our mutual friends/social circle?” is your secret question here, I think. You don’t want to publicly humiliate the guy. You don’t want to drag friends into the middle of something. You don’t want to risk having them all side with him. The good news is that he will only be humiliated if he keeps acting like an entitled jackass. You tried to handle things directly and privately. He’ll be the one dragging them into it and badgering them. You’ll be the cool one. If any of the friends side with him and keep pleading his case, take it as good information that you don’t want to be friends with them either.

Step 3: Prepare for emotional shitstorm of WHYYYYYYYYY? or “You entitled bitch, how dare you see through my thin veneer of plausible deniability and actually call me on my stalking behavior?” Watch out for the “How can I apologize to you properly if you won’t even talk to me?” ploy. “Friendly” dudes like this can get really nasty really fast because an exaggerated sense of entitlement to your attention usually comes with a giant heaping side of misogyny.

By “prepare” I mean please, please please relieve yourself of any guilt for maybe causing this behavior by being “mean.” He will take it as you being “horrid,” no matter what you do. If you sent a hand-calligraphed note delivered by butterflies perched on the horn of a unicorn that said “Kind sir, you’re weirding me out a bit with the constant contact. Would you consider dialing it down a bit?”  and the note also contained a $20 bill, a packet of gourmet cocoa, and an iTunes gift card, he’d still have hurt feelings because what he wants (you) and what you want (NOT HIM) are fundamentally incompatible.

Let me say this another way: You’re not fucking it up by de-friending him and asking him to leave you alone. He fucked it up long ago with his behavior. If he scales up his badgering with a side of angry martyr? That’s just more proof that you want him out of your life. It’s not your fault that he learned maladaptive methods for expressing interest in women, and you don’t have to be his “how to act like a normal adult” tutor. Let COLD BEAUTIFUL DELICIOUS SILENCE be his teacher.

Which leads us to Step 4: Never respond to a communication from him again for any reason. Weather the storm. It will pass.

Step 5 (this is for everyone): You guys. You guys. We have to learn a) how to shut stuff like this down cleanly and without taking other people’s negative emotions on as our sole responsibility b) how to be a good ally when something like this happens to our friends. Be the person who can say “Hey, she said she didn’t want to talk to you. We need to change the subject right now, because you’re making an ass of yourself.” Risk the temper tantrum of the uncool guy. Review the Geek Social Fallacies – not everyone has to be friends with everyone or invited everywhere, and someone who stalks and harasses people is peeing in the pool of your friend group and getting his gross pee molecules on everyone. We can’t keep tolerating this bullshit…er, social pee… and then blaming the victims of stalking (and worse) for causing “drama.”

We also have to recognize the extent to which this stuff is gendered. Do women get fixated and need to be Told sometimes? Sure they do. But this fear of “being mean”, the fear that the social circle will abandon you or side with the stalker, the fear that your “no” won’t be respected, the extra layer of bullshit expectation that you have to be “nice,” the habit of putting other people’s comfort before your own comfort and fucking SAFETY is culturally conditioned and disproportionately carried by women.

If you’re on Team “Jeez, lighten up, he’s not that bad” then you’re part of the problem. If you’re on Team “I contacted her twice and she didn’t answer, so I guess I’d better be persistent and keep at it!“, you’re part of the problem.  No answer IS an answer. It means “I don’t want to answer.” People have the right to remain silent in many, many situations. There is no relationship without reciprocity, and it is not hard for people who want to talk to you to get in fucking touch.

*P.S. When someone de-friends you on Facebook, it’s not a confusing message. It means “I don’t enjoy interacting with you here.” There’s no need to seek further explanation. If they keep seeking you out in meatspace or by other communication channels, relax, you’re cool – it was a Facebook-specific thing that rubbed them the wrong way and it’s not really important. I like a lot of people okay who I don’t want as my constant, permanent e-friends.

If they don’t seek you out with an explanation or any positive signs of continuing the friendship or whatever, respect the decision they’ve obviously made to avoid your fucking ass for the rest of time. Was is something you did? Maybe. Was it a totally subjective decision that they are allowed to make for themselves? MOST DEFINITELY. You don’t have to understand it or like it to respect it.

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139 comments
  1. AshKW said:

    “If you’re on Team “Jeez, lighten up, he’s not that bad” then you’re part of the problem.”

    THIS. Need to plaster this in big bold letters and bright shiny colors someplace really, really visible.

  2. Rae said:

    So, this is a thing to know and be prepared for:

    There are people who will tell you that you are not being stalked or your stalker is not a real stalker because you have never been romantically involved or because his interest in you isn’t explicitly sexual.

    Those people are full of shit. You have every bit as much right to set boundaries feel safe outside of romantic relationships as you do in them.

    • JenniferP said:

      GREAT POINT.

      That’s how these guys operate. They express their intense pulsating veiny hairy boners indirectly…through “likes” on Facebook and badgeting mutual friends…so they maintain plausibile deniability that anything is going on and never have to risk overt rejection. So when the frustrated women finally Hulk out and shut things down, they can paint her as the irrational one who is overreacting.

      That’s why I suggest starting with the silent block. No overreaction, just “I don’t enjoy this interaction so I’m going to stop this interaction.” Let him act like the irrational one and show everyone how creepy he is.

      • Rachel said:

        It’s not just stalkers.

        I got asked point-blank, by friends, by a judge, by my fucking BOSS, whether I’d been sexually involved with my stalker. I was initially denied a protection order by a judge who felt that the fact that we didn’t have previous romantic entanglement and the harassment wasn’t sexual meant I was reading something into nothing–even though my case met every single one of my state’s criteria for a protection order, and my stalker was a no-show at court, which should have resulted in it being issued automatically if the judge hadn’t blocked it.

        By the time the decision was reversed, he’d disappeared. This poor, “confused” guy I was so obviously totally overreacting to then proceeded to stab a total stranger, in broad daylight, for no reason–and it was a RELIEF, because at least now I know where he is, and that he won’t show up at our home, and everyone said, “oh, sorry, I guess you weren’t just hysterical and paranoid.” There’s pyrrhic victory, and then there’s that.

        • FlyBy said:

          Damn. Stupid judge. And stupid everyone else who waved off your concerns. As if they’d know better than you do. I’m glad you’re okay.

      • Rachel said:

        Also: Save and track all messages and history from him. Screencap EVERYTHING.

        Also also: Tell him, explicitly, at least once, to fuck off. This is a prerequisite for law-enforcement intervention / court protection orders in most states.

      • Rachel said:

        (To clarify: I’m the same person as the Rae who commented above. For some reason, wordpress only let me enter a handle the first time, then used default after that.)

    • It’s a Catch-22, though. If you dated or slept with your stalker, people can tell you that you owe him closure or it’s your fault for getting involved with him in the first place.

      The only way to win the “perfect victim” game is not to play.

  3. I think the win-win situation on Facebook stalking is this:

    -If they really were just being friendly and casual, they’ll understand when you tell them to stop, and it won’t be a big deal.

    -If they freak out and get scary when you tell them to stop, then you know that this wasn’t “just friendly” and you were right to take action.

    There’s no “they freak out and get scary because you told a nice person to go away” possibility, because nice people–even nice people who are sad! or offended! or think they’re misunderstood!–don’t do that.

    • Diane said:

      YES. I had to tell a friend-of-friend to back off on Facebook, and while it was awkward, she was very respectful of the boundaries I set and we haven’t had a problem since.

    • JenniferP said:

      Nice people say “Oh man, I’m so sorry” and back off.

      • Rachel said:

        WORD.

      • Kaz said:

        Yes! Real life, not Facebook, but I once had to preemptively reject someone who was making his interest in me glaringly obvious and also freaking me out by following me around at uni. I wasn’t the most tactful about it as I had to follow up “I have this distinct impression you like me, however I like you but not that way” with “also please for the love of god back off because you are creeping me out” and was terrified he’d react badly. But he took the rejection very well, apologised sincerely for making me feel uncomfortable and gave me space. Things were awkward for a few weeks, but after that we became very good friends.

        Whenever I hear about another self-proclaimed “nice guy” blowing up at someone over being rejected or over being told to stop doing something because it makes the other person uncomfortable, this is what I think of – because this is how an actual nice guy handles things like that.

  4. solecism said:

    Thank you for stating it in the plainest possible terms, not just for victims and stalkers, but bystanders of various flavors. This will be a go-to resource for many, I am sure. I am so sorry that this is so common that you are addressing it simultaneously for 4 different people in this tiny, tiny corner of the internet. Thanks for doing this work.

  5. Esti said:

    Nothing to add except YES. Yes to all of this.

  6. “The way you don’t answer his emails? You are actually answering his emails with SWEET DELICIOUS AWESOME SILENCE. That IS an answer.”

    I said this on Twitter as well, but yeah–people really underestimate silence AS a way of having the last word. Yeah, it kind of burns that you didn’t get to Tell Him What or end the conversation with some rhetorical flourish, but… emphasis on “end” here. Nothing ends a conversation like not having it anymore. And it’s a conversation-ender that’s exactly as polite or impolite as it needs to be–it expands to fill whatever need or space is there. Even though the Facebook stalking is annoying the hell out of you, LW–and you’re right to want it to stop–I think it’s happening in part because you ARE giving him an answer (silence), and it’s not the answer he wants. Captain’s right, respond ONCE to confirm that “not what you want” is the only answer he’s ever going to get, and go back to your original, perfectly valid SILENCE. You don’t have to explain that silence or justify it or negotiate it. You are simply giving him the FACT of silence. He can feel anything about it that he wants as long as he stays out of your business.

    • liyyspoon said:

      This is a really great, clear way of framing silence. Thank you.

      And thank you Captain for the internet-specific stalking column – I once had a problem with a guy being very weird on my art-company’s fb page, but totally focused at me and instead of saying anything I just let it go….to silence….until he mentioned my vagina on a work-related post and then. Well. BLOCK.

  7. KC said:

    That note about unfriending is very true. I have a few friends who I used to follow on Twitter and Tumblr but don’t anymore because I disliked the content they posted, and I’ve had friends do the same to me. We’re still friends in real life because we still care about each other, not what we post on silly internet sites. If this guy freaks the fuck out when you unfriend him, it’s another sign that he is to be avoided.

    As a general note, Cap, thanks for taking on so many questions about internet stalking and helping people lay out boundaries today. Six years ago, when I was fourteen, a few former friends and I were internet-stalked on a forum. I didn’t hear anything about internet stalking back then. The only reason I didn’t get seriously hurt or stalked in real life was because I’d been told not to give my address to strangers, so I managed not to fall for him trying to trick me into giving him my address. Internet stalking is a very real thing that needs to be talked about more.

  8. TheJackdaw said:

    THIS-ing so hard right now.

    ‘People have the right to remain silent in many, many situations. There is no relationship without reciprocity, and it is not hard for people who want to talk to you to get in fucking touch.’

    I have not spoken to my family (mum, stepdad, brothers and sisters, assorted grandparents) for almost ten years. The specific reasons are unimportant but the upshot is my life is better without them in it. In this time, my mum (aided occasionally by a sister and a grandparent) has kept up a sort of war of attrition for my attention. FB messages, friend requests, emails, following me on Twitter. It’s been low-level but constant. I responded to some messages, deleted and ignored others, all the while avoiding actually blocking anybody because I felt bad, I didn’t want to hurt their feelings and it seemed like an extreme step to take when what they were doing was relatively harmless. Never mind that some of my responses had been ‘thanks but no thanks’ and they were expressly ignoring that and never mind that every time I read a name, my heart jumped and I had to talk myself back down from an anxiety attack! I didn’t want to be meeeeeeaaaaaannnnnnnn.

    Fuck that.

    The final straw came when my sister sent an FB message to my husband who she has never met or spoken to and who has only known me since I’ve been estranged. It contained information she had already sent me (unsolicited of course) and was all ‘I just wanted to let you know’. This felt so intrusive and rude I finally woke up to the fact that although the message may say ‘I just want to know you’re ok’, what it actually wants is ‘look at me look at me look at me’. The messages have NOTHING to do with my well being and EVERYTHING to do with making sure they have my attention.

    I blocked her and my mum from his account and mine – and this action was very swiftly followed by an email (and a Twitter following!) from my nan, yet again reinforcing that they don’t care that I don’t want to be contacted. So another round of blocking/filtering and hopefully I’m free for the time being.

    What the Captain and her crew have shown me and what I’m hoping they can show this LW and the three from the other stalking post is that people ignoring your wellbeing and using their own SADs and MADs to contact, control and manipulate you is the beginning and the end of all abuse. It doesn’t have to hurt, it doesn’t even have to be (on the surface) mean or angry, but if you don’t want it and you tell them that and they keep doing it, it is the king of all red flags and you have every right to stick a single finger in the air and walk away.

    Much luck and love to everyone who is going through anything like this.

  9. FlyBy said:

    ““Friendly” dudes like this can get really nasty really fast because an exaggerated sense of entitlement to your attention usually comes with a giant heaping side of misogyny.”

    This is true. I suspect it’s part of what makes us reluctant to shut down guys like this – sometimes putting up with his attentions is easier/less scary than what’s going to happen when you try to stop a guy who’s dancing across your boundaries. He’s already ignored your polite no, what’s going to happen when you give him an explicit one? It’s an implicit threat. We can smell it coming a mile away. (Lots of men have no idea this exists. See male privilege, definition of. When men tell someone to back off, they don’t usually get a backlash for it.)

    There’s an exception to be made for people with disabilities or just genuinely awkward people who don’t pick up on the polite no, but my experience is that they really don’t want to make people uncomfortable and will respect a more clearly stated no, even though it’s awkward. But there’s usually a totally different vibe to that scenario. The dude who tries to charm you while not respecting your physical and social personal space? He’s bad news. GTFO ASAP.

    • JenniferP said:

      I meant to reply to this earlier:

      “There’s an exception to be made for people with disabilities or just genuinely awkward people who don’t pick up on the polite no, but my experience is that they really don’t want to make people uncomfortable and will respect a more clearly stated no, even though it’s awkward.”

      Yes. The way that you handle that exception is to first say “Self, am I interested in talking more with this person?” because your own comfort and safety have priority.

      If the answer is “yes, but…” or “no, unless…” you say “(Behavior) is making me very uncomfortable. Can you please stop?” followed by “Okay, thank you, I appreciate it. If I should do something that makes you uncomfortable, please let me know as well.”

  10. Boredlizzie said:

    This extremely good advice affirms a decision I made on my own to get de-friend an online “friend” who was spreading his creep from woman to woman in a nerdy fb group via private messages. Bookmarked to remind my brain where good boundaries lie. Especially since one of creeper’s friends has been sending me “But, Why? Consider His Feelings, He’s Just a Guy!” e-mails and I felt the need to explain myself. Time to re-engage silent mode and not reply any more.

    LW, when your creeper is gone from your fb page, you won’t miss him, or the tension he’s causing you. He can pack up his thumbs and frikken’ GO.

    • alphakitty said:

      Now blocking the friend, too, I hope?

  11. General Assortment said:

    Right after I started my current job (three years ago). I got an anonymous email from [companyname]coworker@gmail.com, registered to \’John Smith\’, in my personal inbox. Meaning this coworker saw my name on a company email, when home, Googled me, found my personal website, bothered to create an anonymous email, and then sent me a super creepy message with a single line.
    ’Is this the [General Assortment] who works at [companyname]?’

    I had no idea who it was, I didn’t want to be ’mean’ to this coworker, and I didn’t want to reply. I was weirded out, uncomfortable at my desk, uncomfortable walking to my car after work, uncomfortable sitting in the lunch room.
    And then I realized that my uncomfortableness is just as valid as his \’hurt feelings\’ were. So I sent him a very clear, somewhat rude email that he shouldn’t ever try to contact me like that again because it was scary, and weird, and if he did anything of the sort I would take it up with HR.
    My point being that your feelings, LW, are just as important as his. You shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable doing the things that you enjoy doing because of someone else’s actions. He is already ’hurting YOUR feelings’ by freaking you out every time you try to check your Facebook.
    You are absolutely allowed to tell him to back off.
    The level of weirdness in my case was significantly less persistent than this situation. And even though I may have overreacted and hurt my coworker’s feelings. I never heard from him again and I stopped freaking out every night I had to walk to my car alone.

    • Nicole said:

      I had an experience that was somewhat similar to this. After I had been working a company for about a year, I received an email from someone at that company that I didn’t know that talked about watching me every morning for a year and wanted to “get to know me better”. I was EXTREMELY creeped out and emailed him back to let him know I was not interested. I was very young at the time and was afraid of getting trouble at work, but what I should have done was contact HR immediately — because even though I never heard back from him after that I was always wondering if someone was watching me or following me at work.

  12. What the Captain and her crew have shown me and what I’m hoping they can show this LW and the three from the other stalking post is that people ignoring your wellbeing and using their own SADs and MADs to contact, control and manipulate you is the beginning and the end of all abuse. It doesn’t have to hurt, it doesn’t even have to be (on the surface) mean or angry, but if you don’t want it and you tell them that and they keep doing it, it is the king of all red flags and you have every right to stick a single finger in the air and walk away.

    Yeah, and I totally agree that the whole “I am just concerned about you” thing in this context is always a total lie. What people with respect to whom you are trying to establish a boundary mean by “I am just concerned about you” is “I demand you take down the boundary you have established”.

    • JenniferP said:

      Yeah, fuck “concern.” One possible response that this particular LW may face is the guy contacting her or mutual friends because he’s “worried that he hasn’t seen you online lately.” The friends will say “She seems fine to me!” and hopefully the clue will dawn on him. If he contacts her, she can say the piece about “I thought you were an ok guy when I met you, but your online behavior isn’t my cup of tea so I blocked you. No need to check up on me or contact me again, thanks.”

  13. staranise said:

    Being “horrid” to this guy means going out of your way to hurt him. Right now what he’s doing is infringing on YOUR space/time/feelings/friendships ith other people. Cutting him out of that is not horrid. “Horrid” would be if you started harrassing all his friends, sending him harrassing messages, or doing something that implied to him that you didn’t respect his boundaries or right to feel safe. Refusing to interact with him is pretty far in the “safe” zone so far as horridness goes.

    • JenniferP said:

      Right. Exactly right.

      How fucked up is it that saying “This is uncool with me, please stop it” is coded as possibly “horrid” if you’re a lady. Can’t fail to take care of men’s feelings even for a second, girls!

      I had a recent experience where a guy needed some help navigating the bus system, so I directed him to the stop (that I was also going to) and looked up a route for him with my bustracker phone app.

      We finished our bus business, he said thanks, and I retreated into my own head while we waited for the next bus. But then after a few minutes I felt weird, so I looked up. Sure enough, there it was: Open, blatant eye-fucking.

      He asked me “Can I pay you a compliment?” and I said “Is that compliment something like ‘you give really good directions’?” He said “No.” And I said “Then no thanks, we’re good.”

      And then the predictable next step happened, where he was SOOOOOOOO hurt that I didn’t know how to take a SIMPLE COMPLIMENT from a man and what was this world coming to that a man couldn’t compliment a lady and how could I be SO RUDE and UNFEELING.

      I was the rude one. For not caring whether some strange dude thinks I’m pretty.

      Recently my boyfriend said I could be abrasive (with this ear infection, it’s been a rough week and I am not my friendliest to people who want to chat with me or get me to sign their petition) and he’s right. I can be damn abrasive. I can live with that if I get to also live with sweet, sweet silence from people I don’t feel like talking to.

      • Christen said:

        Uh, the guy who BROKE INTO MY HOUSE last week muttered, while I was walking him to the front door, that I was been looking at him like he was “weird.” (I didn’t say much because I’m just getting over what was most likely whooping cough, so I get winded easily and am not talkative.) He was also claiming that the front door was unlocked (which I later established wasn’t true) and that he was looking for someone who used to live here (I told him I’ve lived in this house, with the same roommates, for four years). So, you know, just walking into an unlocked house in the middle of the day is TOTALLY NORMAL and screwing up your eyebrows at someone who does it is RUDE AND BITCHY. The (female) crime lab tech who came out to dust for fingerprints and I had a good chuckle over that.

        • JenniferP said:

          Hopefully your next home invasion won’t involve gaslighting? I have high hopes!

          • Christen said:

            Yeah, I think I was a peach to him. I bought his story and kept a cool head the entire time. If I had discovered that he’d actually broken in, or realized he’d helped himself to some of my roommate’s jewelry, while he was still home, he might have seen a completely different side of me.

      • JetGirl said:

        Yay for being abrasive. I have the invisible “please talk to me if you are creepy” tattoo on my forehead, so abrasiveness is my only weapon to fend them off. One time, some guy in a bathrobe accosted me on the corner across from the building where I work. He allegedly wanted to know the time, so I pointed to the very large clock right across from us, and said “I don’t know, but there’s a clock right there.”
        Then he got all hurt, and said “are you having a BAD day?”
        Yes, guy. My bad day is clearly the reason I didn’t feel like chatting to some random stranger in a terrycloth robe in the middle of downtown.

        • JenniferP said:

          I love The Big Lebowski fiercely, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t The Dude you ran into.

        • Liennae said:

          You too?! I want to know who is responsible for these damn tattoos!

          I’ve had my fair share of creepy guys. The latest went to the same school as me, and after I expressed my lack of interest, kept asking how my boyfriend was doing. Code for “I’m hoping you’ll tell me you and your boyfriend broke up so I can go back to openly hitting on you.” I usually just answered with “Great! Thanks for asking!”

          Though my personal best was being accosted by a guy on the train. It was an overnight train and he said I was pretty and that he wanted to talk to me. I politely told him that I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone and turned away. Apparently this was not clear enough, because he woke me up at 5:30 in the morning (HULK NO LIKE MORNING! HULK SMASH!) because it was his stop and he wanted to pass me a sweaty piece of paper with his e-mail on it.

          Though I’ve learned the best way to deal with (most) guys(girls?) like that is to visibly comport yourself as though you are capable of saying “No, go away you are bothering me.” A lot of would be creepers seem to sense a person’s vulnerableness and inability to tell them no and will move on to a more likely victim. (Not that this is good for the next innocent bystander, but it is good for you.)

          • JetGirl said:

            Agreed. Just don’t scowl, because then you’ll have some asswipe telling you to “smile, honey, it can’t be that bad.”

          • zweisatz said:

            Creepiest. shit. ever. to wake people up when they are asleep.

          • FlyBy said:

            This is one reason why I want to go goth. My brother the harmless computer nerd bought a black duster with a few modest details and got instant personal space. He says no-one sits next to him on the bus unless it’s completely full, ever. I plan to borrow it from him for a few days (if he’ll let me!) and see what happens.

        • UGH UGH UGH. I got a yelled out “Smile, it can’t be that bad” from a random dude sitting on a bench, just a few weeks after my mother died, and it basically destroyed me for days. Like, even if you WERE having a bad day, SO THE FUCK WHAT? You are a human being. GAHHHHHH

          • KL said:

            Sometimes when a random guy tells me to smile, I have this fantasy where I turn to him, unsmiling, opening my mouth in a big grin, then wider, then wider still, and then a swarm of locusts comes out of my mouth and strips him down to a skeleton.
            Imagining this usually makes me smile, but I wait until I’m out of sight to do so.

          • anonymouse said:

            I got one of these at work in the morning. I wasn’t even sad, just sipping my coffee and not yet running at full speed. Between that and a growing shock that HE JUST SAID THAT, I had no snappy reply. It really cemented where I stood with that guy (He was older, in a male dominated field, contractor in to oversee some specialized work. I’m a young woman, but also a Sr. JobTitle, a position which requires some work and expertise.)

          • Private Editor said:

            I am so, so sorry that happened to you.

          • Kaesa said:

            This random dude once threatened to tickle me if I didn’t smile at him. I was in the middle of telling a funny/horrible story to a friend about my (funny/horrible) boss, but APPARENTLY, being a lady meant that I had to do so with a constant grin on my face.

            So I told him very firmly that if he touched me I would kick his ass, and I guess I was more convincing than I realized, because he apologized and fled. Not one of my finer moments, but DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME, RANDOM SMILE GUYS. I kind of hate Smile Guys.

      • staranise said:

        Dude, and he delivered you a straight line, too! Don’t ask a question (like “can I pay you a compliment”) unless you’re prepared to take ‘no’ for an answer.

        But it made it really, really clear just whose benefit that compliment was for–his.

        • JenniferP said:

          The fact that he was asking meant he knew it was probably out of line.

          • Lilly said:

            Yeah, hopefully he realized he was being creepy. I think there’s also a thing in pick-up culture that teaches men something like, women will play hard to get so you have to keep trying because when they say no to your flirting they really mean yes, and they like compliments, they will just pretend they don’t at first so people won’t think they are easy.

            There’s also the idea that women are being very rude if they don’t accept nice little gestures from men. Women are also told something like “it’s better to be looked over than overlooked” NO IT IS NOT.

            It’s so awesome that you stood your ground.

      • You’re my hero! I bet you do give really good directions – like “Fuck off!” when necessary, heehee

    • This is EXACTLY what I was going to say. The way you get rid of this guy without being mean is to refrain from calling him names, egging his house, or leaving flaming bags of dog poo on his doorstep as you delete, block, and filter him.

  14. alphakitty said:

    Though I understand the nice girls’ desire to throw the guy a bone, I am slightly concerned that saying that LW has enjoyed chatting in the past could be taken as encouragement by CS (Creepy Stalker) (especially since it is the nature of CSs to take any frickin’ thing as “he/she secretly likes me and if I just persist enough he/she will realize we are meant to be together”).

    Perhaps something to the effect that “Though you seemed like an ok guy when we met face to face, we don’t really know each other. And given that we don’t really have any kind of relationship, having you get in my face by e-mailing me over and over whether I answer or not and commenting on so many of my posts rubbed me totally the wrong way, to the point that I have no interest in getting to you know you any better than I currently do. All I want is for you to go live your life over there somewhere having nothing to do with me. This is not something you can fix. The best you can do is to keep things from being awkward when we run into each other in the future by respecting my request… [etc. etc. like Captain said].”

    • JenniferP said:

      I like it.

      And let me elaborate further on why I suggest blocking him without warning.

      He will take a warning/polite request as the beginning of a negotiation. “If I promise to be good can I still stick around pleeeeeeeease I didn’t mean it!” And then the LW will have to monitor his behavior and keep feeling icky when she tries to decide “is it really *that* bad?” Several months of 4x/week emails that she doesn’t reply to = already past that bad.

      If she blocks him first, it forces him to show how uncool he is and how incapable of taking a hint when it’s something he doesn’t want to hear. She can tune it out because I ALREADY BLOCKED YOU, SON. Fait accompli, no room to dither.

      • Esti said:

        Yes, exactly. You need to use the response that is targeted to your desired outcome. Telling the guy that he is creeping you out and you don’t want him commenting on everything you post is targeted to the outcome of him scaling back his behavior. Blocking him is targeted to the outcome of him never contacting you via Facebook or email again. You don’t want him to be a less aggressive friend, you want him to stop contacting you entirely. Block away.

      • alphakitty said:

        Yup. The idea is, “sorry, you blew it,” not “could you please stalk me a little less obsessively?”

        • lauren o said:

          Ha! This.

        • JenniferP said:

          She’s already been ignoring him, right? Not responding to FB stuff, not responding to emails. Blocking just means ignoring him in a way that actually benefits her.

          P.S. If you block someone’s email, they don’t know. They think the messages are going through. It just takes it out of your sightline.

          If people block you on Facebook, it’s like you never existed. You can’t see them at all. I know because my former Darth Vader bf blocked me when he read the initial post after some more weird tedious emails. I’m pretty sure he didn’t die or get erased by some kind of Dr. Who-like time paradox event.

          • M'fly said:

            “…or get erased by some kind of Dr. Who-like time paradox event.”

            But that would be great, wouldn’t it! I’m picturing my Darth Vader ex (who has a new victim now, arrrgh!) suddenly disappearing or falling into the time vortex, and it is a beautiful image.

          • anonymouse said:

            Oh that explains so much. In a moment of weakness, I had been wondering where my Darth Vader ex was and if he had rejected the Dark Side. I couldn’t find him on Facebook at all. Several months later, I type the wrong letter into search and he’s the first autocomplete. I still kind of wonder why, and hope he’s not trying to find me or anything. That’s the one thing I don’t like about the block everything method…I don’t know if he’s respecting my pls never email. On the other hand, no panic attacks.

  15. Christen said:

    OK, here is a situation all this stalking talk is making me think about: I get intermittent contact from someone I used to consider a close friend but who I had a falling out with a year and a half ago. Sometimes it is just drive-by snark (she sent a link to a review of the movie Bridesmaids, with the note “We could see this and not talk to each other” — it is possible she was trying to be cute, but I decided to take her literally and ignore it). The most recent — sent after seeing me at a party the night before — was actually a draft e-mail she’d written almost a year before, in response to something I’d written around that time. It’s really frustrating, because she abruptly cut off contact with me, but occasionally sends these messages that momentarily suck me back into the conflict (I did respond to the last one — just “OK, do you want to talk things out?”), and then I don’t hear from her again. Maybe it doesn’t count as stalking because it’s not at all persistent, but I get stressed out thinking about when the next message will come and what it will be like; this thread has inspired me to just mark her stuff as spam.

    • General Expression said:

      That sounds block/spam-worthy to me! Also, sometimes lack of persistency/consistency can be the most stressful. (Wasn’t there some experiment where rats were more stressed when they were only occasionally electrocuted than when they were invariably electrocuted? Not to bring the conversation to a grim place or anything.)

      • Christen said:

        Yes! The lack of consistency is exactly why it feels so creepy and manipulative. Persistent unwanted contact would be one thing and total radio silence would be another, and a sincere attempt at reconciliation I would also take seriously and engage. But the occasional poke out of nowhere is like, “Oh, you thought we were through and you could just move on? AHAHAHAHA THINK AGAIN!” I’d just as soon not even see this stuff.

        • General Expression said:

          A long time ago I also had to deal with an ex-friend who would very periodically try to get in touch, and the end of that story is that e-mail filters are beautiful and I never see stuff from him anymore. (I do shunt them to a folder just on the off-chance I would ever need to involve the police, though, as others have mentioned.) This was before the days of Facebook, so luckily that was not a factor!

    • Yan said:

      This I can, sadly, totally relate to. About 4 years ago, the person I considered my bestest friend in the whole wide world told me, at a restaurant I took her to to thank her for doing me a colossal favor during a stressful time in my life, that she didn’t really like me anymore and didn’t think we could talk. It felt out of the blue to me, and harsh, after 14 years of friendship, so I thought about it for a week or so, put what I’d heard her say to me, and what I felt, in a short letter, which ended “and if what I heard is what you said and intended, I won’t contact you again.”

      And I didn’t. She decided to comment on a very personal blog post of mine earlier this year, and then sent me a friend request on FB. I responded to the comment via e-mail and accepted the request. And then she proceeded to ignore me. That, more than anything, pissed me off, and I blocked her. I was willing to give things a second chance, but I’m not anymore.

      Not that that really compares to stalking, but it does relate to feeling insecure online and not doing your level best to fix that because you don’t want to be “mean.:

      • Christen said:

        The first part sounds really painful and the second part, yeah, I would be angry too. Without knowing anything about what your relationship was like before, I imagine it’s difficult to see someone who was a part of your life for so long acting like such a shitheel.

        I’m also at the point of, “You had ample opportunity to be cool and mature about this, and you know what? You blew it. Things are weird because you decided to make it weird.” I gave her the benefit of the doubt for a very long time, but I’ve decided I don’t owe her that anymore.

      • Andie said:

        Had an ex-friend do same ‘We’re too different’ talk. I have contacted her twice over a two-year period, both times ignored (Once to wish my former goddaughter happy birthday, and once to congratulate her on a weight loss after seeing her icon on an older facebook comment). After recieving no response to either of these, I took the hint and stopped contacting her. In return she has contacted me once, to troll a blog post I wrote about the last Canadian election. She called me narrow-minded for not being happy about Harper being elected, then proceeded to abuse other commenters for calling her out on posting anonymously (this is how I found out it was her..)

        • KL said:

          Harper is the actual worst, but I’m not sure I’d be too thrilled to get a “You’ve lost weight! Congratulations!” message from anyone, much less a former friend.

          • Andie said:

            In retrospect, you’re probably right. However we were still friends when she had first started on that particular journey and having gone through it myself I wanted to tell her that I was proud of her, because it’s hard. But yeah, I can see how that may not have been a great idea.

        • A Conservative voter! I’d argue that’s no loss.

          /snark.

        • Liennae said:

          *waves at all the other non-Conservative Canadian voters* Is his term up yet? Or does the damn country have to burn down first?

    • Sheelzebub said:

      Christen, I actually ended up blocking someone on FB who defriended me.

      He friended me on FB, and against my better judgement, I accepted it. It went downhill quickly. It didn’t matter what I posted–the most neutral comment got defensive and angry reactions, backing away and apologizing for causing offense got me a metric fuckton of feelingsmails, and the final straw was posting a comment in general to another person’s post. This somehow was an attack on feelingsmaildude, who went off on me about what a horrid and patronizing bitch I was, and he proceeded to defriend me. Which was fine with me, but given that we had mutual FB friends, I blocked him. I didn’t want him to read a comment I left in response to a friend’s post and have him start yet more dramz, which is his special talent, it seems. Any sort of interaction with this guy is fucking exhausting, and I just wanted to block any opportunity he had to shitstir. Also, I’d had enough feelingsmails to last me until I was 80 years old.

  16. Sarah G. said:

    Thanks for all of this.

    I was “besties” with two other women, and one day I found, online, a five page long awful rant one of them wrote about me to all of our friends. (She forgot to filter me out.) I broke contact with her and asked her to refrain from emailing me again. I specified that she could come see me in person, but not to email me because of something she’d written in her rant. She continued to email me, but I’d filtered her into my trash can. I told Other Friend about this and she told me it was entirely unfair of me to draw any boundaries about how I wanted to be contacted and that I was being totally unfair and needed to hear Ranty Friend out and accept her apology *in email.* Ranty friend never did come over to my house to apologize to my face. So I stopped talking to Other Friend, too. And you know what? My life got better.

    Shutting people off the internet: not just for stalkers.

    • Sarah G. said:

      PS The cat cam is totally awesome. Thanks! :)

  17. LianaVD said:

    “Jeez, lighten up, he’s not that bad”

    Was something I got from friends a lot after my break up. And said friends were people that knew that my ex Darth boyfriend abused me and threatened to kill me or/and kill my new partner, friends that knew that he appered one morning with out warning and with out permission inside my house and kiddnap our baby dog, and friends that knew he tried to attack other girl one month later.

    It took me some time to figured out I didn’t need that kind of “friends” in my life and to cut contact with them.

    In my experience they were afraid to admit they been friends with that kind of person, because they would be bad persons for that (osmosis?) so it was easier to ignore it.

    • alphakitty said:

      Good grief! Can you say “denial”??? No, that is not the best you can do, friends-wise.

      • LianaVD said:

        I know, it was a very dark place with not so good company. So my advice is if your friend can respect that you want to have some healty distance of your ex, darth or stalker you maybe need healty distance from them as well.

  18. Elizabeth said:

    What they said. You do not owe anyone your time or attention. Anyone. For any reason. You are allowed to set boundaries whenever and wherever you want; this is your right as a human being. Being “nice” to this guy is only going to show him you are more concerned about social capital than about your own safety — which I totally do not blame you for, women are trained to value social capital over everything including their own lives; it’s the “why didn’t you fight him off? well, why didn’t you fight harder?” “because I had spent the previous X decades being trained never to scream or show distress in any way, that’s why!” thing — and you do not owe him one single goddamn thing.

    Cut him off. Do it once, do it completely, and stick to it. Document the fuck out of everything.

    And man, I am so sorry this is happening to you.

  19. madcap said:

    So… at the risk of usurping this thread, how do you then deal with this person in person? I’m dealing with my own internet acquaintance who’s recently started turning up at my favorite social watering hole, which is a venue that prides itself on its acceptance and also pretty much guarantees social interaction with everyone. I’d blocked him from my internet life almost a year ago, but it’s much harder to block someone in real life. (Why has no one invented a real-life block button? It would make my life SO MUCH easier.)

    • JenniferP said:

      Not usurping at all!

      There’s no GOOD way. Some tactics:

      Tell a few friends there what’s going on. They can get you out/have your back/form a buffer if need be.

      Don’t initiate contact with him and stay as far from him as possible within the physical space. If he comes close to you, move, or leave. If he tries to strike up a conversation, answer as briefly and perfunctorily as possible (or don’t answer at all) and excuse yourself. Let awkward silences really build and settle in.

      Say that it’s something like ballroom dancing, where you have to switch partners every so often and it’s really obvious if you don’t. When it’s your turn to dance with him, that’s the time that you must go to the bathroom or take a phone call. Excuse yourself politely, go do your thing, come back when the song is over, grab the next partner.

      He will notice. Hopefully he will take the hint. If he doesn’t, say “If it’s not clear, I don’t want to dance with you. I’ve been trying to be circumspect about it and not embarrass both of us, but if you insist I will insist back and I won’t keep my voice down when I do..”

      If he asks why? Say “I don’t want to go into it. But I definitely don’t want to dance with (talk to, play trivia, etc.) with you, so please respect that so I don’t have to make a scene.

      If you have to make a scene, make a scene. Creepy people assume that you will have shame and fear about that, and the threat that THEY will make a scene is what keeps you docile and compliant. Rip that away from them.

      Thoughts, readers?

      • Lilly said:

        If you have to make a scene, make a scene. Creepy people assume that you will have shame and fear about that, and the threat that THEY will make a scene is what keeps you docile and compliant.

        Right!

        Women are socialized not to make a scene, to be compliant and polite and put men’s feelings first.

        So creepy stalky dudes assume you will HAVE TO listen to him, HAVE TO interact with him, HAVE TO dance with him.

        Making a scene when lines are crossed works, even when others in the group are not expecting it.

        Here’s a case study: I did a summer class last year, a month long thing at the local college. It was a class of about 40 students. After a week, another student turned up – an ex-combat soldier, a very large, aggressive dude (let’s call him LAD). So I wound up sitting next to LAD and noticed he had personal space and boundary issues – trying to talk to me throughout the class, touching my arm, picking up my cellphone and playing with it, SNIFFING MY HEAD. He was large, and twitchy. I made a mental note never to sit next to LAD again, but at the end of the class he asked could he come back to my apartment (what?) and ‘study together’.

        Yeah, there’s no way I would let a large, twitchy strange head-sniffing guy with boundary issues come into my home, so I said no.

        But whhhyyyy? LAD asked. What’s your probbblleeeemmm?

        Bear in mind that he was LARGE and blocking my personal space.

        Anyway, I felt like I should give an excuse (yeah, I know) so told him I had to work and just left. But he managed to get my cellphone number from a classmate and called me. Repeatedly. At first I answered, and he said he was coming over. I told him again, NO and asked him not to call again. He called again. I installed a call blocking app.

        The next day in class – LAD FREAKED OUT. Like, he came up to me and yelled – did I mention he was large?. What, he screamed, was my Goddamned problem?

        At this point, I looked down and OH MY FUCKING GOD he had a FUCKING GUN, yes that’s right, he worked as a security guard and the university allowed him to walk around with a gun in a holster thing around his waist because he has a license (in my country, this is OK).

        Man, I was scared.

        I told him – and my voice was shaking and honestly, I thought I would cry – “I told you to leave me alone, never call or talk to me again, you are aggressive and scary”.

        I was in a room full of people and not one of them joined in to help, they just acted like it wasn’t happening. (That really pissed me off.)

        But you know what? It worked. Sure, he acted intimidating, but he didn’t call me again and he ignored me in class.

        Jesus, there are some creepy guys out there.

        • Holy fucking SHIT. Seriously, you get all the awards. This is incredibly scary and you stood your ground like a genius. (Shaky voice? Whatever, you did it!)

        • Holy crap. You are a super hero of using words.

          • Lilly said:

            Seriously, I didn’t feel like any kind of hero, I was scared as hell and felt like, what if people think I’m over-reacting. For personal reasons I have a fear of loud, aggressive men. It still gives me the shivers.

            Actually, I complained to the professor about this guy – he was visibly nuts and creeped on another woman, not just me. But nothing was done.

            Made me realize the sheer extent to which women are socialized to BE NICE and COMPLAINING IS OVERREACTING IT’S NOT LIKE HE HARMED YOU HE JUST WANTS TO TALK even when we are scared.

            Fuck that.

      • Commandant Cray Cray said:

        MAKE A SCENE. Making a scene is just confrontation in public. And you know what? If I’m going to have to confront boundary pushing skeezeballs I’d much rather do that with witnesses in the bar than alone outside the bar… I think making a scene is a prime weapon in your self defense arsenal, and not one with a glass case that says “only for really bad shit”. No, keep “making a scene” as a comfortable cudgel close at hand. Making a scene = more difficult target.

        And however you do it, with shouting or crying or pushing or cutting comments, GOOD ON YOU. It’s hard to assert your boundaries when you don’t get any cultural training or backup.

        My favorite making a scene technique: loud and cold. Basically Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey. First strike the person gets the same as if they’d made a racist comment: icy cold “excuse me?” + the CA suggested you just took a dump on the table? look of incredulity. The volume control is up but only so three or four people around can hear. This is the warning. If they continue (or if the first offense was more than an off color comment or I’m just not in the mood to be trifled with) I GET LOUD AND ICY AND OUTRAGED. I repeat his comment out loud. I say embarrassing things (“I’ve told you repeatedly not to contact me. Your persistance despite my stated wishes makes you untrustworthy and disrepectful. Leave now.”) I use the threat of social embarrassment on him the same way he was trying to use it on me: they just don’t think you’ll actually call their bluff. And I get LOUDER and LOUDER the more they continue to talk until it’s clear they’re being aggressive and pathetic.

        The cold part I’ve found successful in that it short circuits the hysterical female dismissal by them and bystanders (which is fucked up btw – its fucking emotional to be threatened). It’s harder for them to use the crazy bitch card, and it makes it clear to bystanders that this is not a couple fight (again fucked up, it doesn’t actually matter the relationship). It’s also really satisfying because you don’t ever have to get off your high horse. They’re the asshole peons, and it’s quite clear once you coldly turn your shoulder to them that you have dismissed their ass and won’t be thinking about their poor showing of manners ever again, thank you.

        The main barrier? The nice training and the desire to be seen as a good girl. Fuck that. Prioritize your safety. You might even inspire other ladies and help create a culture where telling dudes loudly NO is a regular and okay event. That’s partly how I learned to make a scene for my safety and I gotta say using my voice feels GREAT.

      • There is a FABULOUS west wing clip that I can’t find now, where Leo tells CJ they are hiring the Republican Ainsley Hayes, and he specifically says “I am talking to you while walking so you won’t make a scene.” And he drops the bomb, and CJ whips around and YELLS “AND WHAT MAKES YOU THINK I WON’T MAKE A SCENE?”

        That clip gives me strength.

    • General Expression said:

      This sucks, I’m so sorry. In my own life, I have just decided to avoid those places that I knew my own creepers were likely to be. But that has only meant not attending certain reunions, and not getting involved with certain hobby-related groups; avoiding your favorite social watering-hole is a whole different thing. Do you have a Team You that you can rally around you and help you avoid him for a while when you go?

      Definitely don’t talk to him at all; I advocate turning on your heel and walking away if he does try to initiate conversation. WWCAD! (What Would Captain Awkward Do?) But I think reliable backup might be necessary in this situation, at least until you establish a new status quo where he and everyone else understand that you don’t interact.

      (Oh gosh. I hope that’s possible. This isn’t a gaming group or something where that would be impossible, I hope.)

    • staranise said:

      In social situations I think building a localized Team You is a good idea. A lot of people are afraid to call out creepers because other people will say, “Why are you being so mean?!” so it’s good to nip one in the bud. You want to give people context of you-not-liking-creepster, so if you do have to go nuclear, it’s not coming out of the blue.

      This is not the same as starting a whisper campaign about how awful Creepster is. This is about letting people know ahead of time that you are made uncomfortable by Creepster. “It was hard for me to have a good time with Creepster hanging around me. I felt smothered and uncomfortable, because we’re not really friends.” “I love the people here! Especially the ones who [do something Creepster does not do].” Because, Geek Social Fallacies aside, you are allowed to just dislike people.

      You may want to get friends on watch to bail you out when Creepster comes around–if they find he’s cornered you for conversation, one of them comes and says, “Hey, could I steal you for a minute?” and bundles you off (being a lady, this one can be extra-effective for me because we go to the girls’ room together and male creepsters generally can’t follow). Or, the more daring or creep-retardant among them may strike up a conversation with Creepster you don’t need to be there for, so you can slip away while his attention is occupied.

      I have one classmate who pretty brazenly invites herself along to outings with me and my friends. “Oh, are you going for lunch? I’ll come too!” And, you know, I don’t dislike her, but i get nothing out of being around her and her presence ruins the kind of conversations and good times I want to have with my friends and classmates. I put up with her with large group outings, but she’d do it if it was just me and my close friend going out to lunch together too. Sometimes I could make vague noises about having a limited reservation or not enough room in the car It took a bit of steeling myself to be able to say, “You know what, Classmate, Bob and Jane and I were hoping for some time to ourselves, since we want to catch up.” After about four rounds of this, she will still invite herself along with any outing I am not part of–but if I’m there she doesn’t because she knows I’ll say no.

      I had to get over a mild freakout of aaah, aaah, now I am a Mean Girl because here I was, excluding her and everything! And I was bullied and excluded when I was a kid! But then I got over it, because Captain Awkward and many other people have taught me that there is a difference between being mean and rude, and simply not letting someone impose upon your goodwill. I learned i don’t actually have to be nice to everyone. (Anyway, if I had to be around this annoying classmate too long, I would have descended into passive-aggressive rudeness anyway, so it’s better all round.)

      • Seconding the value of recruiting some backup beforehand. I’ve used this to good effect in multiple settings — if there are a few people who know that X seems to want to talk to me a lot more than I want to talk to him, and they can run interference for me, it makes things easier.

        There’s also something to be said for the judicious use of a Reverse Invisibility Cloak (rather than making you invisible, it renders you unable to see one specific person). I’ve mostly used this in social dance settings — the kind where you’re not really supposed to say no when someone asks you to dance, unless you already have a partner or aren’t planning on dancing the next dance. Pointedly not making eye contact with, or looking in the direction of, somebody I damn well don’t want to dance with tends to prevent them from asking. I don’t know what kind of social situation you’re dealing with, but if you “don’t notice” him, and “don’t hear” his first few attempts to talk to you (and are as vague and brief as possible when you can’t avoid interacting with him), that might help.

        • staranise said:

          …As we come up with these strategies, I feel a faint (BRIEF, AND QUICKLY OVER) pang of sympathy for socially-awkward guys who can’t muster up nerve to ask out the girls they like, end up doing this kind of creepy stuff, and then get Teflon’d off without even knowing “why”. Because they are ~just trying to be nice~.

          On the other hand, my right to feel safe is not trumped by the other guy’s right to blissfully dream about an impossible future where an ideal woman who vaguely looks like me, and make actual-me feel uncertain, unsafe, and like a terrible person for feeling that way. The answer for these guys is to be more forthright and take no for an answer, instead of trying to blend into the shadows and scan a girl with x-ray vision for any possible chance she might like him. (This feels really gendered to me in a way I can’t, as a woman, reverse very easily; I haven’t heard any man I know, who has been the subject of a girl/woman with an inept crush, ever voice the fear that he will be raped or assaulted by that girl/woman. Even ones who have been stalked. Maybe some of them felt it but wouldn’t express it, but i can’t know what they don’t tell me.)

          I once got royally screamed at by a guy when I tried to turn him down softly; he ranted that he knew he was kind of intimidating, and he’d understand if I turned him down flat, but this whole kid-glove uncertain thing was rude and awful. I… doubt he realized that it was reading the possibility for just that kind of rant in his behaviour that made me try to let him down softly, and that he’d just killed dead his ability to ever go out with me–or anyone in the area who knew us both long enough to get the story from me.

          • FlyBy said:

            I’ve been wanting to use this line since forever: “I gave you a polite no, but if you continue I’ll be happy to give you a rude one.”

            Sorry you had to deal with that jerkass. You’re right, if guys are truly ‘nice guys’ they can and will learn how to be non-creepy. I don’t care if it’s ‘hard for them’ or ‘they’re just like that’ or ‘they’re harmless’, those excuses don’t fly for other kinds of jerk behavior, so why should we put up with it “because he likes you”? I know a lot of genuinely kind young men – and many of them are card carrying-nerds – who know better. It’s not that hard.

          • Ho jeez, you too?! I once had to mediate a dispute between two students in one of my discussion groups – a dude, who had been pretty passive-aggressive and just plain aggressive in discussion, and a lady, to whom said dude had sent a weird and creepy email. During the course of the mediation he got angry and defensive and repeatedly stated that we were “prematurely judging” him because he’s large and intimidating, or something, and that if the lady had just given him a fair chance instead of treating him like a rapist he could have shown her that he was totally not creepy, or someshit. It was really, really weird and uncomfortable, and she wound up dropping out of the discussion group because we had no recourse to ask him to leave (my supervisor also thought she just needed to buck up and ignore him or something equally gross).

            I don’t get how people can have that total lack of self-awareness, or, if they are actually aware of how gross and creepy they’re being, how they can knowingly play it off like they aren’t – so, so much wrongness.

      • secretrebel said:

        It can be really difficult to get even good friends on Team You with social stalkers who never do anything “all that bad” ™. I have been bothered for years by a guy who shows up at parties of mutual friends and stands behind my shoulder until I notice him. He also makes weird comments about things in my life that he had found about about through the internet.
        You would not believe the number of people who have told me that I’m over-reacting, that he doesn’t mean it, that he’s married (some years after the behaviour started, it didn’t stop him), that he’s just awkward socially, that he doesn’t like me that way and is just being friendly.
        Eventually I just voted with my feet and when CreepyStaring!Dude walks in, I walk out.

        • staranise said:

          I’m sorry that people are so inconsiderate! I’ve definitely learned to appreciate that for all its pitfalls, in grad school you’re allowed to straight-up dislike somebody for any stupid reason. In geeky groups I was part of before, like the SCA or a local science fiction con, there was definitely the geek social fallacy that you had to like everyone and never exclude. It was a lot harder on the geeky circles to get that kind of Team Me.

      • M'fly said:

        I like the way you used your words with the annoying classmate who invites herself along! I never did manage to deal with that properly when I was in that situation, though luckily it solved itself when she moved away.

        I have an off-topic for the thread though related to your anecdote question (for anyone!) though, if that’s ok. Is there ever a polite way to invite yourself along? Obviously saying, “oh, you’re doing such-and-such? I’ll come too!” is generally not cool, but what about, “oh I heard you guys were doing such-and-such, do you mind if I tag along or is it more of a one-on-one thing?” Is that enough of an out for the original event planner(s), or does it set them up to be the bad guy too much?

        To paraphrase ICP, “fuckin’ humans, how do they work?”

        • staranise said:

          I invite myself in the future. “Oh, you’re doing such-and-such? I love such-and-such. Some time I’d love to come with you guys.” Someone neutral-to-negative about the idea can accept, defer, or turn down the future-idea without slamming the door right in my face, while someone positive about the idea will say, “Is there a reason you can’t come with us right now? We’d love to have you!”

        • Britt said:

          I think as long as you 1) heard about whatever the activity was in a reasonably legitimate, non-creepy fashion (i.e. not through eaves dropping or the fourteen-steps removed grape vine) and 2) you give someone an HONEST and LEGITIMATE out if they’d rather not invite you, not one of those “well I guuuuuuueessss if you don’t think I’m good enough company you can not invite me” passive-aggressive things. (Not that I think you’d do that, I’m just noting that because I’ve had people do it to me and it’s so frustrating.) Staranise’s script below I think is a very good one. The key is just to be kind of low-key about it and try and read the other person for any hesitation or hemming and hawing and take that as a cue to excuse yourself.

  20. DWM said:

    This is some of the best fucking advice I have ever read.

  21. Lucy said:

    This is great advice. I don’t think it’s glib at all to make the parallel between this kind of behavior and stalking. It isn’t someone who genuinely wants to engage with you on what you’re sharing. Like the Captain said, it’s territorial pissing in your virtual space. It’s someone who has such an inflated sense of their own importance, that what you say is less important than their acknowledgment of what you say. I also have had this experience on Facebook, with more than one person (of both genders, actually, but male more often than not) obsessively liking and commenting on everything I did within seconds of my posting it, and every time they were people that were not close friends. At best it was a little annoying but at worst it was really unsettling. One guy in particular would even go out of his way if I mentioned a book he hadn’t read or a movie he hadn’t seen or really any situation in which he was not involved (which was most of them) to comment with “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Every time. One time I replied with, “And yet, you just had to make your voice heard, huh?” and he liked that comment too. Oy. And didn’t stop.

    The great thing about Facebook is that it is a little filterable microcosm of your world, and you can modify it so that you don’t have see or expose yourself to people that make you this uncomfortable. I block and de-friend the shit out of people all the time. I wish it were that easy in real life. And the other thing too is that for people with the same circle of friends, it’s pretty transparent- if he’s doing it to you, he’s probably doing it to other women too, and it’s probably not going unnoticed. I’ve found it helpful and validating, especially with the offenders I don’t know as well, to casually mention it to people who know them better, and I’ve often discovered that I’m not alone. (Not like in an accusatory or upset way, just like, “Yeah, I only just met So-and-so, but I guess he likes me- at least he likes everything I post.”) Knowing that it isn’t just me or that other people can see it too also takes some of the edge off my worry about being “mean.” If I’ve made clear that “I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt but ultimately I’m quite uncomfortable,” no one else will be surprised when I finally just block or de-friend the person, or even say, “I want you to stop interacting with me here.” Furthermore, they often say, “God, we were WAITING for someone to say something like that to him.” (YMMV, of course.)

    • Jinian said:

      Sinfest has gotten so amazing. It was made entirely of pimp jokes (sometimes racialized for bonus ugh!) for years — and then in the last couple years the author started to get really involved with the characters and understand feminism. I’m not sure it would make anyone cry who didn’t read it back in the day, but it does me.

    • FlyBy said:

      That is awesome, thanks for the link!

  22. Socially Confused Astronaut said:

    Chick who sent this in speaking here – thank you so much not only to Captain Awkward but to all the readers for your advice. I’ve been studiously reading what CA has said and all of the comments as they appear, and you’ve all seriously opened my eyes to this guy’s behaviour. You’ll be glad to know he was de-friended and blocked immediately!
    I am without a shadow of a doubt bearing all of your advice in mind – my safety comes before potentially offending someone who continually makes me feel uncomfortable.
    Again, thank you all so much – you’re all brilliant and I’m extremely grateful.
    xo

    • JenniferP said:

      Keep us updated! We’ve got your back.

    • staranise said:

      \o/ Good luck!

  23. MorkaisChosen said:

    Hadn’t realised that the ‘argh must not offend’ thing I’d thought of as a personal trait I have is part of the stuff women get socially conditioned is.

    • MorkaisChosen said:

      *with

      My point being ‘That’s really shitty, that is.’

    • Let me just remind you of something that you may have seen as a kid – it’s something of a cliche: Boy pushes girl over on playground. Boy chases girl. Boy makes girl cry. Girl says no. Girl says stop. Boy keeps going.

      If girl complains, adults will tell her “He just likes you!” They say, The little boy just wants attention! He wants to be your boyfriend! Awwww, isn’t that cute? I remember when I was seven, and the little boy who liked me would chase me and tackle me for hours. The boy might be scolded, but the general vague idea is that boy-initiated chasing is just harmless play-acting to train for the eventual chase-catch-capture behavior needed to actually secure mates, or something. And anyway, he’s only doing it because he likes you.

      Also note: little girls are adorable, aren’t they? With round cheeks and chubby sides! Aren’t they fun for an adult to playfully chase, catch and tickle? Isn’t it cute how they giggle and shriek “No! Stop!” in hilarious voices through their laughter and convulsions, which are occasionally so strong that they cry or pee like cute little puppies? It doesn’t matter that they’re begging “No, stop” with every little breath they can force out – for one thing, they’re just little girls!! and for another thing, it’s ONLY tickling. And anyway, they’re laughing, so it’s not like they mean it! And it’s just sooo fun to watch their helpless struggles to protect their stomachs and get away, you can hardly stop yourself, it’s so fun for you!

      We don’t really socialize girls to say No. We don’t really respect their No, either. So it’s somehow okay to make a child lose all bodily control and laugh through its pleas to stop, and if boys throw rocks at little girls they’re supposed to be even nicer to them because the little boys like them that much!!

      • (and just to clarify – it’s not that little boys aren’t socialized to respond in stupid ways either; a little boy experiencing physical bullying will be told to “ignore” the fact that he is being shoved to the ground, or perhaps be advised to put the bully in his place with the time-honored practice of biting him on the back of the neck until he widdles in submission. He also has the option of informing an adult, who probably won’t care about childhood scuffles, and with generally good reason. However, little girls are shown early and often that male aggression is due to the prettiness and vulnerability of little girls, so physical bullying => he really really likes you => be extra nice to him and don’t expect any help => TRY not to provoke him any more than you already are, dear, and perhaps try killing him with kindness, it’s really the best way to change behavior. Get this message often enough and in twenty years you’ll be thinking about how to turn down your very own adult stalker in the nicest possible way.) I’m not saying either that little boys who push little girls on the playground develop into aggressive adults – it’s not my field of study, so I wouldn’t know. But we live here, now, and this video exists.

        • Lilly said:

          Get this message often enough and in twenty years you’ll be thinking about how to turn down your very own adult stalker in the nicest possible way.

          This.

          Not just even stalkers, though. It’s the everyday things. It’s about smiling and putting up with your boss leering at you, the guy on the bus who presses his leg against yours, the “can I pay you a compliment” dude, the man who sat on my bench at the park when I was trying to read my book and told me my eyes were “beautiful” – all because we don’t want to offend because then we’re ‘over reacting’ or maybe it could get violent.

          I don’t get it. What do guys think about this?

          • sasha said:

            What do guys think about this?

            If you want to see a cross-section of what guys think about women’s fears of being approached by strange women in public, and our socialization to be “nice”, check out the epic (1,200+ comment) Schrodinger’s Rapist comment thread at Shapely Prose. I’ll warn you, there’s a lot of male privilege being displayed in there. While many men “get it”, all too many men don’t, and think their right to approach a woman any time, any where supercedes a woman’s right to feel safe.

            See also: Elevatorgate

          • Writing that piece somehow gave me permanent permission, in my own life, to tell men to fuck off when they were inappropriate. It has been wonderful. Someday, I hope to teach my own children how to tell people to fuck off when they are being inappropriate.

          • JenniferP said:

            You are a scholar and a gentlelady, Phaedra. Wild applause.

          • sasha said:

            Ooh, good to see you here Starling! I read that post and the comments at the time, and it really changed how I think about and respond to men acting inappropriately to me and my female friends. Thanks for writing such an awesome post!

            Oh, and that’s supposed to be “strange *men” in my earlier post. Oops!

          • Starling! Hi!

            I had the dubious pleasure of moderating a huge chunk of the Schrodinger’s Rapist thread, and you do not even want to know the volume of comments that did NOT get approved. Jesus.

          • Captain Awkward, I read religiously but comment seldom. And, oh gods, SM, I still feel bad about the moderation. I was foolish enough to check out the (unmoderated) Metafilter discussion and I still feel skeeved out.

            Sasha, thanks! That makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

        • Liennae said:

          Seriously, when/if I have kids, I am going to teach them that if someone is touching/harassing them and won’t stop when politely asked, it is OKAY to use violence to get them to stop. (Hopefully I won’t turn them into some sort of bully or bar brawler…but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.)

          • Liennae said:

            Violence being the last resort, but I’d rather they learn it’s ok to use any means necessary to get someone to stop. As opposed to “They were only tickling me, it could’ve been worse.”

      • Jenna said:

        My older brother was tickled mercilessly by my maternal grandmother.
        One day he hit her back.
        She complained to Mom, who replied, “what did you DO to him!?”
        Apparently that was the end of that? But it was too long ago to be memories of mine. This is family lore. That grandmother passed away while I was still a babe in arms….and somehow I don’t think I missed out on much there…..

        Children are taught that adults have the right to touch them or control them. Women continue to be taught that others can touch or control them even outside childhood.

        In my family, though, touching was only permitted if the person, child, woman, or anyone, permitted that touch. I really appreciate growing up in a family that understood.

        • staranise said:

          I have a friend who, as a child, was tickled by her uncle despite her protestations. Finally she got into a position where she could kick him in the head. He went to her mother and said, “She kicked me in the head!” And her mother, after hearing her side of the story, serenely, said, “She told you to stop. You had it coming to you.”

    • Chay said:

      I’m right with you there. Add to that the aforementioned father-who-tickles-his-girlchild-until-she-cries with a predominantly female-primed career in customer service (i.e. treat-me-as-shit-as-you-like-and-i’ll-take-it), and I’m STILL working this shit out in therapy a year later.

      This shit is like the matrix. Once you see the code that is making up the world you’re in, you can’t UN-see it in everything you look at. IT’S EVERYWHERE.

  24. Alberthe said:

    ‘Dare to disturb the universe in defense of your own comfort and safety.’

    I love you, CA. *Sighs contentedly*

    Before I started reading this blog, I was the one who never wanted to take up space or make people uncomfortable (local newspaper had a competition where you could win a poetry tattoo, and I seriously considered Prufrock *blush*). Now, on the other hand, I see anger and straight-talking as valid responses (how fucked up is it that anger was something I felt I was never supposed to express). I haven’t really had the opportunity to create awkward silences and let them build up yet, but I’m looking forward to it (beware the next person who tries to manipulate me):D

    Thank you:)

    • General Expression said:

      WOW. That was something else. Part of me thinks it must be fake. (I mean, “drank tea with her mother for 10 hours?”) I find it hard to believe anyone in RL would be that completely lacking in common sense…but then, there are a lot of Captain Awkward archives with stories that say otherwise…

    • Lola B said:

      That can’t be real … can it?

      Duuuuuuuuuuude.

    • staranise said:

      Oh wow, that’s TERRIFYING. And terrifyingly plausible, since this is the kind of stuff that happens in real cases.

  25. Admiral Backward said:

    Much awesome here. Thanks, Cap’n.

  26. Lindsay said:

    Thank you so much for this post. This is perfect timing for me, as I just managed to shut down my own creeper problem. Loooooooong story short, I casually dated a guy I’ve been close friends with for over a year (and by casually I mean two dates) after I found out he had a crush on me (and I expressed some interest in him too), then after the second date told him that it just wasn’t working for me, my feelings weren’t developing any further for him, etc. That was two weeks ago. After that he went on passive-agressive Twitter rants about me and called me names on Facebook without specifically NAMING me, then got frustrated because I refused to respond to his bullshit. Then he sent me a horrible message accusing me of being a coldhearted emotionless bitch for not being upset that our whatever-we-had was over and I responded by unfriending and unfollowing/blocking him. He then responded to THAT by sending me the longest message I have ever received on FB detailing EXACTLY how long he’s been pining over me, every little thing I’ve supposedly done over that time that meant I really liked him (for instance, giving him what he calls “the look”). Also, the fact that I kissed him goodbye after the second date. He’s insisted several times that “a kiss seals the deal,” but he’ll deign to forgive me of that because he’s the first guy I’ve ever dated (I’m 19, he’s 18), so I can’t be expected to know how these things work. I forgot that a two-second kiss erases my right to give consent for a relationship. My bad.

    So I was already angry, and feeling violated because apparently not responding to his first message and unfriending him wasn’t enough of a signal that I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO HIM. But then he admitted that he found a link to my Tumblr about three months ago and found a few posts I had written in which I mentioned him, and he had bookmarked my archive and read it DAILY ever since, combing it for mentions of himself. He even noticed when I deleted the old posts about him, which means he was going back through it pretty regularly too. Not even gonna lie, that freaked me the fuck out.

    The entire message was all about HIM and HIS feelings, and basically amounted to emotional blackmail, because he made sure to mention that he cried after I told him it wasn’t going anywhere for me, and how devastated he was that I was cutting him out of my life, and that he was begging me to reconsider so we could be friends again, that he LOVES me like a sister (???), but he never apologized for being an asshole, and in fact stood by what he said in the first message. I blocked him and haven’t heard from him since. I’ve been trying to convince myself ever since that I’m not overreacting and that I have the right to set my own boundaries. And honestly? I’m feeling pretty good about it at this point. Cutting him out of my life wasn’t done out of anger. I did it for me, and *I* feel a lot better now. I’m done caring about his feelings. I don’t want to be friends with him anymore, and I honestly feel like I dodged a bullet by not entering a relationship with him.

    • Alberthe said:

      Oh, the look. Yes, of course you have to be with him forever when you gave him the look. Because imaginary (or non-imaginary) physical signals always trumps your stated preference of not having anything to do with him. And you are of course not allowed to change your mind (had you given him ‘the look’ in the first place). Interestingly, I find that what some men interpret as a look of interest/encouragement actually is a look of ‘wtf is this person, please go and be yourself somewhere where I’m not’… Well done you for being rid, and you did not overreact at all. If you want to know what ‘overreacting’ looks like, just look at his behavior;)

      • Lindsay said:

        Thanks for the support (that goes for everyone who replied). :) The reason it took me so long to block him was because I felt that since *I* had broken *his* heart, he deserved some space/venting room/whatever and I felt like the worst person in the world blocking him at first, but thanks to my best friends’ support, I realize that I didn’t do anything wrong and he’s not entitled to keep making me feel like shit just because I didn’t have feelings for him.

    • Chay said:

      “A kiss seals the deal”

      WOW. Hello Schrodinger’s rapist.

      • Lindsay said:

        RIGHT?! That might have been what pissed me off MOST about this whole situation, and the fact that he kept harping and harping on it.

        NO. NO IT DOESN’T. You know what DOES? ME SAYING I WANT TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP.

    • Kate said:

      Good lordy, and women gets made fun of (though usually for good reasons) for over-thinking and over-analyzing non verbal cues, but this guy got all of us beat! You did awesome by following your instinct and being direct with the guy and not stringing him along, he’s the one stringing himself along.

      If there’s anything I learned from real life and Criminal Mind’s stalker episodes, all it takes is ‘the look’ and the common courtesy of being civil and nice. There was a guy “H” in our laboratory that everybody hated, which should have been my first clue but I was a nice girl from Indiana. When I wouldn’t tell H my address he countered that he already knows it when he searched me in the database and that I should have given my address to him in the first place as sign of trust between friends (!?) Telling myself that he’s a clueless foreigner (H is German) I explained that would be considered stalking and not a good thing in America. Things went downhill pretty fast though I was “lucky” that everybody already hated him and were on my side, even if by default. The last straw was when I pass him in the hall way without saying hello. I honestly didn’t see him but he believed I deliberately ignored him and showed up to my office when I was alone and lectured-yelled me on what best friends are supposed to do and not do (!?). When I defended myself his rant degenerated into how rude “nazi-Americans” are and how much more civil and advanced Germans/Europeans are. That awakened the right-wing nut in me and I got very ANGRY and hulked out big time; nobody diss my country and fellow Americans! That wasn’t enough for him to completely leave me alone but his harassment were limited to emails which I kept for documentation.

      My wonderful (read: sane) foster parents are German and I love my foster brother like, well, a brother; they were the first to tell me not to give foreigners/guests a pass on bad behavior and I should have SHOULD HAVE listened to them.

      • No dear, I can promise you that searching for someones address in a database you have access to is also considered absolutely inappropriate in Germany. At least by decent people? Your foster parents are totally right. The guy did know better (or at least can’t blame it on his nationality – which is sooo fucked up).

    • Jane said:

      Just want to throw this out there — one of my friends deleted his Tumblr for personal reasons (didn’t want someone reading the entries) and privately messaged all of the people he cared about the new address. Another couple friends password protected theirs after they started getting online harassment and, again, privately messaged people they cared about the password.

      I’m sure you had thought of that stuff, but just in case it’s useful to someone. . .

    • General Expression said:

      Aw, Boggle the Owl is fantastic! Thanks so much!

    • M'fly said:

      I love Boggle! Boggle is like the cuddly, short-form version of Captain Awkward.

  27. hmaure said:

    I know this: ““Friendly” dudes like this can get really nasty really fast because an exaggerated sense of entitlement to your attention usually comes with a giant heaping side of misogyny.”

    It’s always astonishing to me how often a self-proclaimed champion of women is just wearing a champion-of-women suit which slips off the moment you say you do not want to sleep with him.

  28. miscue said:

    Hey, first-timer, so apologies if this isn’t helpful/comes out wrong.

    Just wanted to say that SHE will be the one who ends up as the jackass, and it will be especially obvious to the people who will be important in *your* future. Really.

    Proof? Okay: In a weird, admittedly-the-worst-caseI’ve-ever-heard-of scenario, my husband’s ex-fiancee wrote and mailed a postal letter to each and every one of their mutual friends after the breakup. I haven’t seen (nor do I ever want to) that letter, but I understand it contained insinuations of rape, blatant cries for sympathy, accusations that he was a terrible father (yep, there’s a kid, imagine how fun that co-parenting relationship is!), etc… It was blindingly obvious to the mutual friends that she was lying, and trying to cut him off from said friend group. In doing so, she ended up cutting herself off. Not a SINGLE ONE of those people now consider her a friend, nor do they voluntarily interact with or seek her out.

    There is just no way to hide asshole. And I think it’s really important to note that people who can’t see asshole are people you do not want to hang around. Spend your energy on yourself and Team You. Your social circle will be the better for it.

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