About these ads

#305: “Quit helping so much! I’m not going to fall in love with you.”

The Phantom of the Opera behind Christine.

I JUST want to HELP you to reach your FULL POTENTIAL.

Dear Captain,

I am having a hard time finding my words, or finding words that will get through.  Here’s the situation:

I am a thirty-something female who has, after several years of struggle, come to terms with her complete lack of sexuality.  I have dated men, and I have dated a woman, and all in all the response that makes me happiest is “please keep your pants feelings to yourself, I want none of that nonsense”.  I am also in a position where even if I did have pants feelings, this is the Wrong Time to be looking for a Special Person.  Long story short, I’m currently considered disabled due to the sheer amount of terrible-horrible things going on inside my head and Team Me is all about therapy and learning to be able to take care of ordinary tasks like “paying the rent” and “not loathing myself”.

Team Me is great!  It includes wicked-awesome roommates, a handful of bio-familiy, some choice-family, and a helping of friends as well.  They’ve got the right blend of accepting that I have Serious Problems, helping out with things beyond me right now, and administering ass-kickings when I get into self-pity.

The word problem I am having is this One Guy.  This One Guy, in his words, “really, really likes” me.  He has pants feelings and he wants to date me.  I have told him no, I am not in a dating place and I am not in any way interested in sex; I have no pants feelings for anyone and actually find the whole sex thing to be painful, awkward, gross, and oh yes painful.

OG (now I’m hearing Phantom of the Opera) is a very very good friend of one of my roommates.  He is a very good friend of my other roommate.  He is also a Rescuer.  OG wants to save me, or at the very least once to be a rock upon which I am saved even if he is not the saver.  He is doing this with lots and lots of “You Are So Awesome” and all the buzzwords.  The problem is that he does not listen to the part where I have real, honest, crippling problems that are going to take lots of therapy to someday deal with and in the meantime I need other people to help me.

If I try to have an honest discussion like “I understand that you think I am awesome, however the truth is that I cannot right now be trusted with money and you have to talk to (roommate) about that because (roommate) handles the bills” what I get back is “No, you are super awesome and you can do it!”  It leaves me feeling frantic, like a little baby bird that’s battering it’s head against a window trying to get free.  I know that OG desperately wants to be on Team Me, but I can’t find the words to get through to him that his idea of what being on Team Me entails and my actual needs are on opposite ends of the bridge.

I want Team Me to give me lots and lots of space until I say “Here is a thing where I need help”, and he keeps trying to hold my hands until I get to something I legitimately can’t do and then give a push.  He is also trying to jump into the core of Team Me, when I do not know him well at all…I do not get close to people quickly.  It takes me lots of time to decide if I can trust someone due to some gloriously terrible judgement calls in the past.  OG keeps trying to zip through “acquaintance” into “member of Team Me” without giving me time to get to know him.

I feel like he wants me to be Fixed because if I am Fixed then I will maybe Date Him (because, I guess, asexuality doesn’t exist?) so lets get on with things Right Now.  He invites me to things alone (I am a shut-in and do not like leaving the house, am barely able to without my roommates), he messages me just to chat on IM (he found it through a game I run, I did not give it to him), and he blows sunshine up my ass like all I need is a smile on my face for everything to Be Okay.  

I need some scripts, Awkward Army!  I need ways to say “What you are trying to do is not what I need” that will hopefully not make OG get pissed (OG says he has a temper problem, although I haven’t seen it.  The possibility of making people angry makes me want to throw up) and make him take it out on me/my roommates/the cats.  I have minimized the amount of time that I spend around him as much as I can, and I do not go anywhere with him alone, but he has been pinging me online more often and it’s making me really, really tired and really, really nervous at the same time.

Planning On Saving Myself, For Myself

Dear Planning:

You seem to have acquired a Helpful Stalker! With a scary “temper problem.”

Uh, he *told* you he had a “temper problem?” Because that is chilling, my friend. People who warn you about their “temper problems” are making threats. “Do what I say and comply with my needs and you won’t ever have to meet the Hulk-version of me.

Listen to those feelings of tiredness and nervousness and FEAR where this guy is concerned, ok? His helpfulness is a form of loan-sharking. His idea, whether conscious or unconscious, is that he will “help” you, and then you will get “better”, and then you will reward him with gratitude and access to your sexyparts or at least give him a doomed love affair to distract him from the mundane realities of his life, or else there might be a temper problem.

It’s not your fault that you acquired him, but there is one way that you could handle expressing your lack of interest in sex and romance to him more clearly. It sounds like you tried to reject him using asexuality and disability and logic about why you can’t be with him but left out the part where you don’t want to. Which he heard as “there’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza….so fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry.”

I knew a guy like this back in the early days of living in Chicago. He was incredibly friendly and “helpful” and soooooooper lonely. If he said “Want to hang out this weekend?” and you said “Yeah, not this weekend, I need to do a lot of stuff around the house,” he’d show up at your house with his tools on Saturday morning and start handymanning up a storm. Then I’d end up sitting awkwardly in some lunch joint having lunch I didn’t want to be having because “having a lot of stuff to do around the house” was a code for “I’D RATHER BE READING, ALONE, THANK YOU.” But after all, he had done me a favor by installing my medicine cabinet or taking out the air conditioners for the winter and I didn’t want to appear ungrateful, right? It was in some ways so sweet and well-intended and in some ways so sad – he just wanted to be needed and prove that he had something to offer – but pushing too hard and forcing me into that “you should be grateful” position soured the friendship and made it impossible to stay close when there were the inevitable “Yeah, sorry, I didn’t think to invite you (because I invited only people I really wanted to see)”/”How can you say that after all I’ve done for you?” fights.

I wish to god I had said “Your offer is nice, but you’re overstepping by just showing up here, and I’d rather not. Also, there is no amount of Ikea bookshelf assembly that will make me touch your neener.” much sooner. YEARS sooner. But sometimes we don’t learn we have boundaries until they’re stepped on.

We’ve covered this here before but it always bears repeating:

“I don’t want to date (right now)/(because reason)” really means “I don’t want to date YOU.”

We think we’re letting people down gently when we use the “not now” or “there’s a good reason that has nothing to do with you” rejection, but people in the throes of a crush can have a high degree of wishful thinking going on, and they parse every statement you make looking for the hopeful bit. “She said…not right NOW, so…maybe soon?”  I’ve been guilty of this, many people have been guilty of this, and as reject-ees we will make our lives a lot easier and better if we learn to hear the soft rejection for what it is and be cool about it. As the rejectOR we need to get a little courage and say “That is so kind and flattering, but I’m not interested in you that way,” and weather the awkward moment or two that comes afterward.

So be armed. His pantsfeelings will come up again eventually, and you can say “I’m sorry, I thought I explained this before, but I’m not interested in a romantic or sexual relationship with you.”  And he will ask “whyyyyyyyyyyyy?” and you will say “That’s not something I can probably ever really explain to your satisfaction. I really need you to accept that as a final decision, and I will feel so much less awkward if we can change the subject now/give it a few days or weeks to become less awkward.”

I know “not actually remotely capable of having x” is a most excellent reason for your decision, but it’s not one he’s really hearing. Time to make it more O.G.-specific.

I know he’s close to your roommates and I sense that you’re afraid that an outright rejection or conflict might sour the relationships (or have Temper Problem Consequences) with people who you enthusiastically need and want on Team You, but I think there are a few steps you can take right now to make this better for yourself.

1) Block him on IM. Don’t tell him you’re doing it. He won’t know. He’ll NOTICE, but he won’t know.

Just do it today. You can be totally free of IMs from him!

If he asks you what’s up, some scripts are:

I haven’t felt like chatting online lately. I’ll let you know if that changes.”

IM can be really distracting and intrusive when I’m trying to concentrate on other stuff, so I shut it down for a while.

“I was feeling overwhelmed so I decided to take a break from chatting online.”

“A while” or “a break” for him means FOREVER, but he doesn’t have to know that this second. Shut it down.

Now, if he is a weasel and a coward, he will not come to you about things, he will go to your roommates and to mutual people you know and “mention” that he hasn’t seen you online much and one of them will be like “really, she’s on right now?” and he’ll “confront you” about “your lies.” Oh goody.

Script:

I was feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable with how often you were IMing me so I decided to take a break.

My prediction is that he will claim that if you’d just asked him NICELY he would have backed off and this totally hurts his feelings, etc. etc. This is a lie. It would get weird/angry/awkward no matter what you did. Your answer:

Dude, your reaction right now is not making me more comfortable. I don’t have to IM you when I don’t feel like it just because I IM’d with you before. Let’s drop this subject permanently.”

2) Address this with the help of your roommates, and have a script ready for the roommates. “He was IMing me way more than I felt comfortable with, so I decided to take a break and be less available. His weird reaction is telling me I made the right decision. I know he’s your friend, but please back me up on this one.

Or: “Roommates, your friend O.G. has been trying really hard to ‘help’ and ‘spend time with’ me, and it’s making me uncomfortable. I don’t want to make things awkward for you, but I also don’t consider him a close friend or want a closer relationship with him, and I’ve been backing way off on contact in the hopes that he’ll get the message. Could you guys do me a favor and hang out with him Not Here for a month or so while it sinks in?

Or, more seriously:

Roommates, your friend O.G. has said and done some things that are really not cool, and he made me feel afraid and uncomfortable. I know he means to be ‘helpful’, but his kind of help is patronizing and really unwanted by me. I don’t want to tell you to stop being friends with him if you don’t want to, but I need you to have my back – He really crossed some lines with me. Please don’t invite him here, please don’t discuss me with him.

Remember the Geek Social Fallacies. You don’t have to like everyone your friends like.

3) Another immediate strategy you can take is “No, but thanks.” Become terse and perfunctory in your interactions with him. WHATEVER he offers. “No, but thanks!” You can say it breezily and calmly, you can say it emphatically, but say it.

Let me help you with that!” “No, but thanks.” “Can I come over later and hang out?” “No, but thanks.” “Want to play a game?” “No, but thanks.”

There is power in brevity and in acting like you 100% expect your “no” to be taken seriously without any justifying on your part. If he’s the friend to you that he wants to be and considers himself to be, he shouldn’t need an explanation from you, and you are within your rights to point that out. “I said ‘no thanks.’ Are you really going to make me explain and justify that? (LONG AWKWARD PAUSE) + (PHYSICALLY EXIT THE CONVERSATION).

We’ve also talked about this before:

There is a value and power in being direct and in acting as if the other person will respect your directness that accumulates over time.  And there is value and power in being able to receive dislike and unpleasant emotions from other people without internalizing them.  It’s naive to think that a woman’s “Hey, no thanks” will always we respected – we have tons of sad, terrible evidence that it won’t always be – but it can help you to set your own boundary and your own expectation for how you need to be treated to act as if it will be respected.

It’s not a magical talisman …but (guys/people), potential predators included, really need to be taught what a clear, direct “no” looks like and that the world will not end if a random woman doesn’t rain constant smiles and approval down on the parched and rocky soil of their hearts.

Because, whatever troubles you are going through right now, whatever genuine needs you have for help? Those do NOT mean you have to accept whatever is offered – from unwanted, intrusive help to tedious and exhausting cheerleading. He’s not your trainer or your sensei or your guru or your therapist. It’s not his job to help you find “normal” again or infect you with his particular strain of Can-Do-Itus. Good grief.

Okay, most of the strategies above assume that O.G. is going to be around on the peripheries of your life because of the relationship he has with your roommates, and they are designed to get you what you want while being as frictionless as possible. But I want to leave you with the idea that it’s okay to hate his fucking guts if you want to. If he touches you? Make a scene. If that temper comes out? Make a scene. If he won’t take no for an answer? Make a scene. I’m talking a dialing 911, screaming bloody murder, “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME, I SAID NO” kind of scene. Talk about this with your therapist. Rehearse it when you’re at therapy so that you’re less nervous and less likely to freeze.

Because you deserve not to have to live your life around making up strategies for dealing with this guy like he’s a missing stair. We should put that in the Red Flag Hall of Fame, in fact, because it applies to so many situations. “If dealing with a person involves a lot of pre-strategizing and post-analyzing and the whole prospect makes you feel tense and annoyed, maybe you don’t need them in your life?

I hope things get better for you really soon. It sounds like you’re great at assembling the team and resources that you need. It sounds like you were great at trying to have gentle, honest talks with this guy about what you need and how he’s overstepping. It sounds like you’re great at understanding your own boundaries. Gentle isn’t working, and it’s okay to be really annoyed and show it. “I said I didn’t need help. Back OFF.” You don’t need to be rescued, you just need time to heal at your own pace and a safe, supportive space to do it. Sounds like you’ve got 99% of that. Time to turn off that horrible Coldplay song* that this guy is boomboxing under your window and get some peace.

*THE WORST. Sexuals, be warned. If you listen to the song at that link, you will not be able to have sex for a week.

About these ads
79 comments
  1. Esti said:

    This is all really, really good advice. Just wanted to add: if this guy is not listening to you and/or telling him to go away is the kind of confrontation that makes you feel sick, maybe this is a place to enlist Team You? It sounds like this guy is close to your roommates, and your roommates are on Team You, so if you’re struggling to get this guy to leave you alone could always enlist them to say “Seriously dude, you know I love you, but LW told you to back off and you’re not listening.”

  2. My reaction, as I was reading the letter:
    “Hm, guy sounds like he doesn’t understand the LW, he could use a talking to.”
    “Hm, guy sounds like he’s annoying and pushy, he could use a stern talking to.”
    “‘Temper problem’ he might take out on roommates or cats? AUGH! ABORT ABORT ABORT!”

    That feels to me like the buried lede in this letter, and the thing you need to take your cues from. That changes it from a matter of “I don’t want this guy to help the way he does” to “I have reason to be afraid of this guy.”

    It makes me think that this friend-relationship isn’t fixable, and the best thing to do is strategize with your roommates on how this guy is no longer going to be any part of your life at all.

    • Alukonis said:

      Yeah I saw that and definitely was thinking “The Gift of Fear” and how Gavin would be all “NOPE GET OUT NOW” with that shit.

      Definitely enlist your roomies to erect a meatspace boundary between you and O.G. This is not sounding like a person you should be trusting at all, honestly. It does not seem as though he has done anything to earn your trust, i.e. listening to you or respecting your boundaries.

      Also I would definitely 100% avoid being alone with this guy, ever. Don’t let him in to your apartment/house if you’re by yourself, even if he’s “meeting your roommates later” or something. Dude can wait outside.

  3. tinyorc said:

    Oh wow, I’ve had a Helpful Stalker, but I didn’t realise it until now! Not as severe as LW’s situation, but same basic mentality. Mine asked me out in the first week of a class we were taking together, and when I rejected him, he turned it into “It’s cool! We’re just buddies! Let’s hang out as buddies!” Because, you know, buddies regularly pressure each other to hang out one-on-one in date-like scenarios and make each other feel awkward with excessive and exaggerated compliments. He clung rabidly to the idea that we were Just Buds, even though he was clearly hoping every single interaction would somehow end in sexytimes. He was always trying to help me with my course work, in the form of “Let’s work on this exercise together” and “Let’s get coffee so I can catch you up on what you missed last week!” which really meant “Let me mansplain things you already know AT LENGTH.” In retrospect, he made that semester particularly awkward and stressful and it would have been much easier if I’d been harsh with him, but my friends in the class were all “What’s your problem? He’s just being super nice! We all like him! Just give him a chance!”

    Fortunately, LW, it sounds like your wonderful Team will not react in that way. Team You sounds like an awesome group of people who understand your problems and respect your need for boundaries. I second all the Captain’s advice, and would add that I think you should enlist Team Me (and particularly Team Roommate) sooner rather than later. Tell your roommates that you plan to block him on IM before you do, so if he asks them about it, they can be ready with a shrug and a “I don’t know and that’s LW’s business anyway.” You will feel so much more comfortable and confident being firm with OG if you know your roommates have your back, even if he is their friend. From everything you’ve said about your relationship with them, they won’t let you down on this one!

    Also “Planning On Saving Myself, for Myself” is one of the best handles ever.

    • I agree with the idea of telling your wonderful Team You about this, and making it clear that OG has skeeved you out and DOES NOT LISTEN. I hope they will step up in the ways you need them too.

    • Definitely let your roommates know you plan to block him. I once blocked a dude who wouldn’t stop messaging me and he got his bestie whom I was also friends with to message me and then he ambushed me asking why I wouldn’t go out with him again. If you can let your roommates know you’re blocking him, you can avoid all this “but I just want to ask WHYYYYYYYYY you’re not talking to me!” thing.

      Your roommates can be Team You by being neutral in this case and avoiding all discussion and/or contact with Helpful Stalker Dude. Which is also going to allow them to be Team Him, in their way, because they are also his friends and this will keep him from hearing unpleasant truths.

  4. Jake said:

    I want to leave you with the idea that it’s okay to hate his fucking guts if you want to

    THIS. So hard.

    And also? It’s okay if he hates you back. Seriously. I’ve told this story before, about how I made a few dudes in my social circle hate me by refusing to take their pushy sexual bullshit, and it’s totally worth it. Don’t be alone with him, because of his temper threats, but I think it’s pretty unlikely he’s going to turn violent in a group of friends, since he values their opinions and all, and I think you’re well within your rights to tell him to “back right off, right now, Christ dude, how many times do I have to say this before it sinks in?”

    Let your anger show.

    • Jake said:

      Ooh, I was reading fast and didn’t see the bit about taking stuff out on the roommates/cats, and how making people angry makes you nauseous. Maybe my advice isn’t the best then.

      LW, is the taking it out on the roomates / cats thing something he threatened or implied, or is it something that you’re worried about for reasons that aren’t him (your history/your anxiety/something like that)

      • JenniferP said:

        That’s a great question, Jake.

        LW, my advice rambles and involves some baby steps, but what I’m trying to get at is:

        1. Admit (to yourself, to your roommates) that you don’t like him. Even as a friend.
        2. Minimize contact.
        3. Get your roommates on board.
        4. Get him out of your life.

      • LW, is the taking it out on the roomates / cats thing something he threatened or implied, or is it something that you’re worried about for reasons that aren’t him (your history/your anxiety/something like that)

        Honestly, I wouldn’t even ask that. Not that you’re bad for asking it, but I don’t think it’s a good thing for LW to be asking herself.

        It’s dangerously easy to start telling yourself “you know what, this is just coming from my anxiety problems, I’m being rough on him, gotta stop projecting, he’s probably perfectly nice” when your first intuition–holy crap, this guy is so on edge, he might attack the cat–was spot on.

        • M'fly said:

          That’s a good point. While I think it’s generally a good idea to try to look at situations as rationally as possible, and admit when your own history/biases are possibly affecting your ability to assess a situation logically… but if you have any reason, rational or otherwise, to believe that you or anyone you care about could be unsafe, I think that’s the time to trust your instincts 100% and ignore any “logic” that may clash with them. And it sounds like the LW is in the latter situation here.

          Also, if he has actually said something about taking out his anger on you, your roommates, or your cats, now would be a great time to go to the police and file a report. Even if they can’t do anything about it right now, having a paper trail is excellent if things do (God forbid) escalate.

          • TR said:

            Well, even if it just came up in conversation, usually adult friends find a way to make it sound non-threatening – “Oh, I have a bad temper, so if you see me get silent and then leave the room, I’m generally taking a moment to cool down.” Or, “I have a really long fuse so I can tell when I’m getting really angry and I’ll go run a couple of miles.” Or even, “I have a bad temper problem, but I’m working really hard on controlling it.” Especially if they’re around someone who they know doesn’t deal well with others’ anger.

            So I think the fact that he’s trying to be Team Her! but isn’t aware/doesn’t care/is purposefully intimidating her is disturbing. Regardless of whether this was intent behind his statement or not, if he knows she’s in a delicate situation and wants to be one of her people, this is not appropriate, supportive, or encouraging behavior. In fact, it’s rather destructive. Team Her! is aware of her situation and is making sure that she can trust their words and behaviors and that sounds like it includes them not exposing her to bad temper problems.

        • rachel scotland said:

          Seconding Cliff’s “not a helpful question” because:

          1. ‘Perceived’ threats are as threatening – maybe more so – as ‘explicit’ threats. As Gavin de Becker says, one of the indicator signs of violence from stalkers is a LACK of explicit threat.

          2. Jake, your name suggests you are a dude and inthenicestpossibleway you probably do not know what it is like to be taught to constantly doubt yourself, to ‘just give him a chance’, to ‘not make a fuss’. Men don’t often get called hysterical. Heck, male toddlers throwing temper-tantrums don’t often get called hysterical, whereas full-grown women politely saying “please get your hand off my ass” on the subway DO.

          Because of this socialisation, women are taught to put themselves in danger rather than listen to their instincts.

          3. This is also arguably why people with mental health concerns (even and especially the ones in treatment) are at such a high risk of becoming victims of crime; because they are taught that they are ‘crazy’ and that they ‘over-react’ and so they ignore the red flags that they see (this is massively made worse by the social stigma and ostracization that comes with society’s perception of mental illness, which helps make vulnerable people more so).

          TL;DR – not helpful. Perceived threat or otherwise, the LW feels threatened and that is enough reason to run like hell from the creeper.

          • Jake said:

            Rachel. It’s not at all clear from my name, but I’m a woman. And I have all kinds of experience with “just give him a chance” and “don’t make a fuss”.

          • Re: point 3, people who are survivors of abuse or violence (LW didn’t say whether she was, but just a general comment) can actually be better at sniffing out trouble than other people, because it’s been a survival necessity for them. If your personal safety has depended on knowing when someone was about to explode, you know way more about subtle signs of impending violence than the average person.

            But survivors are also more likely to hear, from others or their own jerkbrains, that they’re just “paranoid” because of their history, and suppress that intuition.

          • This, so much, especially the “suppressing intuition” part. For the longest time, I channeled all that intuition into fictional stuff — I could predict what people in movies, books, or TV shows were going to do with surprising accuracy, but wouldn’t allow myself to apply it to real people. Being regularly blindsided by reality + being my own walking self-spoiler for the media I consumed = not much fun.

        • tinyorc said:

          Honestly, even if LW’s instincts are not bang-on, which happens to all of us at some point or another, she still doesn’t owe this guy anything and her course of action should be exactly the same. Except in the case where he explicitly threatened her, her roommates, her cats or her property with “bad temper consequences”, in which case the course of action should include everyone banding together to shut this guy out of their collective lives and possibly contacting the police.

          Even if this situation is more to do with LW’s own problems than it is to do with OG, LW has no obligation to hang out with a guy who exacerbates her anxiety to the extent that she’s afraid he might hurt an animal! And if he can’t respect those boundaries (as he already has in a myriad of insidious Nice Guy™ ways), then he IS the problem and LW’s instincts were right all along.

        • JenniferP said:

          Good catch, thank you.

        • Jake said:

          Oh, I’m not asking because I’m suggesting that he might be nicer than she imagines. This dude’s clearly bad news. I’m only asking because I’m wondering if maybe letting her anger show and being super explicit with this dude might be more possible than it initially seems. I don’t want the LW doing anything that will put her or her loved ones in danger, but if she can tell this guy to go to hell without doing that, it would great.

          I think you’re totally right about trusting intuition also.

      • Saving Myself said:

        He has said that he has a temper problem. Being worried about him acting on it is all me from a childhood of “You upset me so your things will be broken”.

    • anewgirl said:

      I read the comment that you linked to, and it mentioned the rule you had, or have, how certain people are not allowed to touch you. Could you maybe explain how you went about establishing this rule? (It’s something I’m interested in establishing for myself.)

      • Jake said:

        It was pretty simple. I didn’t tell them about the rule, because I didn’t want to argue with them about it, it was just a rule I had in my head. The way it played out in interactions was that I would pull away or avoid if they tried to touch me; if they asked or reached out in an asking way I would shake my head or say “I’d rather not” or something similar. If they touched me once without asking / without warning I pulled away and said “please don’t do that.” Fortunately, none of them pushed it any farther with me, but if they had my planned next step was going to be to pull away and shout “I told you not to touch me!” loud enough to make a bit of a scene. Many of these guys, for all their pushiness, were members of poly/kinky communities and paid consent a lot of lip service, so I was counting on them not wanting to be seen to be overstepping, even though they were perfectly willing to overstep when they weren’t being called on it.

        I’ll be honest though, I think a lot of why this tactic worked was because I wasn’t already close with any of these guys. They weren’t old friends or lovers and we didn’t have an established pattern of physical contact that I was trying to change. If that had been the case I think it would have been a lot harder for me to have/enforce this rule.

        • anewgirl said:

          Thanks for sharing your tactic on that one!

  5. De-lurking, even though I have nothing constructive to add but to say that the Captain’s advice, as always, is pretty spot-on.

    & also to say that I’m listening to NPR’s Classical station, and halfway through reading the LW’s letter, “Suite from Phantom of the Opera” began to play. And now I’m a little creeped out.

  6. GrouchyABD said:

    LW, I don’t have a lot to add to the Captain’s advice, but I wanted to say something as a disabled person who does often deal with unwanted help. You’re dealing here not only with people’s expectations of women (to be nice), but also the narrative that anyone with a disability has to be super grateful for any help from the able-bodied or neurotypical, because the Nice Person has set themselves apart from the clueless crowd. A lot of people miss the step that the real way to set yourself apart from the crowd is to ask whether help is necessary, and if yes, what kind. To use a lame metaphor, I am often stuck with people who want to give me a knife over and over, when I actually want a spork. Maybe talking about the issue of the wrong kind of help would also be useful to bring up with Team You, since they are so great at caring about what would actually be best for you.

  7. manuscriptgeek said:

    Other people have given good advice on scripts and things. I’ll just say, on the subject of being pinged on IM, YOU DESERVE THE BLOCK BUTTON. You do not owe OG anything and you certainly do not need to follow OG’s chats. Block him without mercy. If he continues stalking by IMing from other accounts after you block him, change your account and notify only trusted friends. If you need to post the new ID to your game players, send it to them by locked post or email thread.

    I send sympathy and pots of your preferred hot beverage, from a comfortable distance.

    • And if you block him and he does anything of the things mentioned in manuscriptgeeks comment tell Team You. Because that would be totally fucked up and they should now that their “friend” is seriously overstepping boundaries and back you up.

    • Kathryn said:

      I maintain a standing policy of being a complete inconsistant flake on IM. My phone says I’m on all of the time. I walk away from my desk without telling the world I’m headed to live in meat space. I’m online at work where sometimes I can talk and sometimes I can’t and that distinction is only visible for work things.

      Part of it is that I have a lot of chat-like things in various states and I don’t manage them well.

      Part of it is so that when I don’t want to chat with someone I have zero guilt in simply ignoring them. My time and attention are my own and no one else gets to choose what I do with them. During work hours I am working and during life hours I am living and I may never actually be “available” for you, no matter what color the icon next to my name says.

      I have used the following answers for “Why didn’t you answer my chat?” and they have all been truthful:
      “I didn’t want to talk”
      “I didn’t want to talk to you”
      “I wasn’t actually online”
      “Your chats all went to my phone and I didn’t see them”
      “Your chats all went to my desktop and I didn’t see them”
      “I was playing a full screen game and didn’t get them”
      “I didn’t notice my chat application blinking”
      “I think you were chatting with the cat”

      At the end of the day, it is an IM. You don’t owe anyone a response to an IM. Block OG and enjoy the blessed silence.

  8. BadDaughter said:

    The Captain has already mentioned some great scripts, but I wanted to mention one more. I call this the “you think you’re being helpful but actually you’re not” script in my head, and it goes something like this:

    “Thank you for the suggestion.” (You can leave the “but it’s not actually helpful” implicit!) It sounds like OG is the sort of person to try to ask for explanations, in which case, “No,” is a good answer because you don’t owe explanations to him or anybody. (Anyway, explanations are so dangerous… or was that excuses? In case case, dear Disraeli had it right.)

    And in any case, I wanted to agree with practically everyone else that someone with “temper issues” who make you fear for yourself/roommates/the pets is NOT someone you need feel any obligation to interact with at all. I would engage your roommates on your side — tell them what you’ve put in this letter, as much as you are comfortable with — and start strategizing how to keep him away, online and in physical space.

  9. rachel scotland said:

    I listened to the song all the way through without irony. Oops. (I know it’s theoretically terrible, but I can’t help myself.)

    LW, I’m so glad you have such an awesome Team You and that you are able to be honest with yourself about what you want and need right now, and that you’re working towards getting it. It’s so great to hear from someone who has so many of their ducks in a row.

    Like Cliff, what struck me here was the hiding of the “I cannot stand this dude and am afraid of him”, sort of shoved in at the end of the letter. I don’t know whether it’s socialisation or if it’s a case of the Terrible Horribles making your own experiences seem untrustworthy or a combination of both (when was the last time you heard a guy described as ‘hysterical’?), but honestly LW, your instincts are your best defence against a lot of scary things in life, and if this guy is giving you the skeeves then you probably have good reason to be skeeved out.

    Own your skeeved-ness. He is skeevy. You are skeeved.

    It’s a lot harder to ask Team You to help get way-too-helpful-guy to leave you alone than to ask them to help you avoid guy-who-skeeves-me-out. It oughtn’t be because they are one and the same, but I think it will be easier for you to ask for help from Team You if you reframe this.

    I wish you the best of luck with this LW and I hope that you can keep us updated.

    • FlyBy said:

      Hypothetically, in the worst-case (best-case?) scenario where he’s actually a perfectly fine and non-violent dude, but you feel skeeved and give him the skeevy-boot anyway? THAT’S TOTALLY OKAY. When we eject dangerous people and creepers from our personal space, there are going to be a few false positives. THAT’S NOT SUCH A BAD PROBLEM, REALLY, despite what the mansplainers will try to tell you. Turning down a potential friendship with one particular person is, um, well, there are lots and lots and lots of other people out there to form friendships with. For you and for the skeevster. It’s totally okay.

      And honestly, this does not sound like a false positive to me! Someone who’s using ‘but I’m just trying to be nice’ as a cover for pushy behavior is my personal definition of skeevy.

      • Jake said:

        Totally seconding this. You don’t owe your friendship to anyone.

      • General Assortment said:

        I 100% agree with this.
        Also I am going to borrow this definition of ‘skeevy’ because family/friends keep asking me what that word means and I’ve had a hard time describing the weird ‘aggressively friendly’ combo.

      • Vicki said:

        Agreed. A friend of mine has deliberately tuned her radar for certain kinds of craziness to high, because of past bad experiences. She knows she is risking false positives, but considers false negatives to be much worse.

        Knowing this, I have told her that if someone I am getting close to (romantically or otherwise) pings that radar, I want to know. I may or may not back away from them because of it, but I want that information.

      • Liennae said:

        Very good points here. Though is there really such a thing as a false positive on the friend/skeevster radar? It’s not necessary to be friends with all your friends’s friends, and I’m thinking that even if he isn’t that bad (which I doubt), there’s probably deeper incompatibility (as friends) issues going on.

        • FlyBy said:

          I know from experience that it’s possible to dislike and avoid someone, only to become friends later. So there are false positives in that sense of the word. And you can reject someone as a friend for a wealth of reasons other than skeevyness.

          But yes, whether or not someone is skeevy is very, very subjective and my hypothetical example of ‘someone who objectively isn’t skeevy and doesn’t deserve the skeevy-boot from anyone’ doesn’t actually work in the real world. The point is that even if such a person existed, giving them the boot unnecessarily is hardly an earth-shattering event.

        • RodeoBob said:

          Though is there really such a thing as a false positive on the friend/skeevster radar?

          There probably are false positives on the skeevster radar, it’s just that you don’t get to know for certain.

          If you say “hey, I’m skeeved out, go away”, the healthy response should be ‘Woah, I really was not communicating what I thought I was. I need to step back, and re-think how I’m treating this person. They need their space, and I need some time to re-consider my approach’. Of course, if they do that, then communication ends, and you never know, at least not unless later on, contact is re-established, and even then, it’s not always clear.

          OTOH, if the response is “why are you telling me to go away when I’m being so nice to you?”, then yeah, skeeivness confirmed.

        • Re: false positive

          I think it’s possible if the other person is really socially awkward , but they don’t have anything bad in mind. Maybe they watch you for prolonged periods of time across the room because they like your clothes, but they don’t get that you watch them watching you because it creeps you out. Point being: you do not have to stay around to find out if they really are just awkward or if they have other boundary issues, too. Not your job.
          And in the case of the LW: this guy has already confirmed that he is a positive positive (or how do you call that?)

          • A true positive. :)

          • Ah, like in logics, get it!

        • Liennae said:

          Before I get any more replies on this answering my question. It was rhetorical. And what was maybe not so clear was that while yes, it is actually possible to get a false positive in terms of skeeve, if someone is setting off your skeeve-dar but isn’t actually skeevy, they are probably not good to be friends with for other reasons at that point in time. People in general tend to down play any bad vibes they get off others unless it’s a repeated occurence, so I’m thinking that by the time anyone gets the skeeve-boot, they’ve probably done more than enough to merit it, even if they haven’t actually been “skeevy”.

          I’m pretty sure no one gets the skeeve-boot for a couple awkward stares or misworded statements. Maybe they’ll be avoided and thought of as weird, but not surgically removed from your personal realm of existance.

          And like Flyby said, if you’ve wrongly given someone the boot, it’s really not the end of the world.

      • foolsgame said:

        Yes! Even if he is not remotely skeevy or threatening, dealing with this guy is stressing the LW out. She doesn’t need an ironclad reason to not be friends with him. She doesn’t need any kind of reason. She can just not want to be friends with him, and that is sufficient.

  10. Revolver said:

    “he blows sunshine up my ass like all I need is a smile on my face for everything to Be Okay.”

    This is the worst. I have some health problems right now (physical and mental), and my significant other’s response is “All you need is snuggles” and “Well, let’s go to the gym then” (to combat the abnormal weight gain). NOT HELPFUL.

    No advice from me, just Jedi hugs because I can totally understand the frustration when people think you need to just Get Over It and Be Happy. Quit dismissing the real pain and frustration I’m dealing with.

    • letternext said:

      delurking to like this comment, i’ve both received & witnessed the “you just need a more positive attitude!” –> “no, these are real problems, i’m not causing them with my ‘attitude’ actually” –> “but i’m just trying to heeeeelp!” script.

      what it really does is place all the responsibility for the disability/oppression/problems in the person’s life on that person, & implies that your disability is almost CAUSED [or made worse] because you don’t have a perfect attitude, smile more or some other thing that may be impossible or you may just not want to do.

      i think people who use this script often do it unconsciously & maybe with good intentions, but it dismisses real problems & structural oppression people with disabilities face & says the other person is more invested in you living up to their ideal of a perfect disabled person with a positive attitude who makes other people feel good about themselves, than in who you really are & what is going on around you.

      i wish i had a script to deal with this, i don’t think it would be a good idea to explain any of this to that dude, as the captain & others advice about setting up strong boundaries & not feeling like you need to educate/explain things to him are the most important things. but when people in your life who you do wanna be close to do this it can help to just ask them to think about whether what they’re saying is really helpful or if it’s reducing your complex life to a cute slogan & maybe making you feel worse. sometimes there will be a hostile/defensive “but i’m only trying to help you help yourself!” response but sometimes people will respect you for saying it & being upfront about what does/nt help you.

      • Maybe it would also help to ask them if they would like this kind of advice when they had [fill in: illness xy where everyone gets that you feel like shit]?
        Though I’m not sure this would help. It could damage your own attitude – ’cause you already have real problems and getting a confirmation that they are obviously not as “real” as other illnesses could be very upsetting.

        I hope your SO will get it soon, Revolver :/

    • Kathryn said:

      I’ve found “I think I’ll follow my doctor’s advice instead” to be a reasonable script for people who care, but are helpless to help. (Hi Mom!)

      On good days, I do my level best to understand that the advice is well meaning from people who love me and then ask (or remind) them to keep their non-Medical Team Me opinion away from my treatment. On less good days, I forgive myself for not being able to be charitable.

      • Yep, have had to use tha tone on my mother, too.

    • Eks said:

      Studies have shown that physical activity can help with the mental problems (and quite a few health problems, though less in a fat is unhealthy way and more in a not moving your body is unhealthy way).
      That, in a lot of ways, is neither here nor there. And being told that going to the gym (or any physical activity) can help with anxiety and depression can, at times, just add to the burden of my anxiety and depression because it is just one more thing I am not doing. But other times, remembering to go can be a really positive affirmation of taking care of myself in the way the I can handle right then by being nice to my body even when it is doing things I would rather it not be doing (like gaining weight). And going to the gym isn’t going to magically make you not gain weight from medications, so going for that reason is profoundly unhelpful.
      But for me, when I was ready, it was and is a really affirming part of taking care of myself and my body even when I was still really really pissed that my body couldn’t just work properly. But it really wasn’t helpful when it was something I was using to punish my body for doing something I didn’t like.

  11. LW, it’s awesome that you have a rockin’ Team You, and I second all the suggestions of opening up to them about the fact that you’re skeeved by OG’s behavior and enlisting their help. If you’re concerned that they won’t be receptive to your skeeved-ness (because they’re his friends/he’s really SUCH A GOOD GUY/etc.), maybe you could try documenting (for a week, or two) each instance of him doing something that made you uncomfortable? I know when I try to talk to people about a problem with someone’s behaviors, my brain often freezes up and I can’t remember specific occurrences, and that might help.

    A possible script for rejecting his help if he jumps in to hold your hand on something could be, “Thanks for the offer, but [I've got it covered]/[I can handle it].” (Optional: “If I need help, I won’t hesitate to ask.”…someone other than him, of course.) Reframing it from his “I am helping!” to an offer of help gives you the option to decline it without being rude. If he’s pushing you into things you’re having trouble with and can’t do on your own, you might say something like “I appreciate the encouragement, but this is something I need to do at my own pace.” If you’re concerned he might become violent and not comfortable using either of those lines, though, trust your gut!

    Last note: If his “temper problem” does come out and he goes all destructor on things? It is ABSOLUTELY NOT YOUR FAULT and there is no reason to blame yourself for it, no matter what you’ve said or not said to him. Yes, you can do your best to avoid situations that will result in that outcome, but ultimately it is 100% his decision.

    • tinyorc said:

      This is a really excellent point about the “temper problem.” I suffered from severe anger management problems in my teens, and one of the key things I learned through counselling is that getting angry is a decision you make and even if you feel like it’s out of your control, it’s not. I used to use “seeing red” as an excuse for some really appalling behaviour and I’m glad those days are behind me. The point is, it (ironically) still makes me angry when people talk about their “temper” as though it really is some Hulk-like creature that can overwhelm their ability to make decisions. “I can’t be held responsible for my actions if you trigger my temper!” is total bullshit and should not be tolerated for a second. Having a temper is a legitimate problem but it is not an excuse for shitty behaviour. Huge red flag that OG felt the need to warn you about it, LW. It kind of implies that he intends on losing it at some point, and one thing I know from my own experience is that no one with a really REALLY Bad Temper That Is A Legitimate Problem ever intends on losing it, because the consequences never ever worth it.

      • Starling said:

        To go on a tangent here, yes. I have a god-awful temper problem that I manage by *actually treating it like a problem.* As in, if I feel myself getting Angry, that becomes my number one issue to deal with/problem to solve, and I stop everything and fix it. I go somewhere else, I drink some caffeinated beverage, I climb a tree or hit a punching bag, or I go read something until I calm down. What I do not do is actually lose my temper at some other human being, because that is not okay.

        Consequently, I have a couple of siblings, a pair of parents, and one old friend who have seen me Angry. My husband knows I have a caffeine problem, a book addiction, and a tendency to wait to talk about issues until I’m calm, but he has never seen me Angry. (As opposed to little-a angry, pissed, which I do get while reading political news.) And I haven’t lost my temper at another human being since I was seventeen.

        • tinyorc said:

          Properly tangenting now, but thanks for sharing this, Starling! I’ve never really met anyone else who shares my problem, and it sounds like you deal with it in exactly the same way, i.e. as soon as I feel myself getting angry, my number one priority is get out of that situation and away from people as quickly as possible! I wish I could say I haven’t lost my temper at another human being since I was seventeen. For a long time, I thought I’d left it in my teens for good, but recently (in my mid-twenties) I got Angry at my mother. There was a lot of horrible shit going on in my family at the time and she was pulling some guilt trip that was also Not Okay. But if I’ve learned anything it’s that it doesn’t matter how Not Okay my situation is and it doesn’t matter how out-of-line the other person is, because t my temper is the most Not Okay thing I’m dealing with right now and there is never an excuse for losing it!

          • Starling said:

            Yes, exactly! Angry is the primary problem, and everything else goes on the back burner. And Angry is such a whole-body issue. I’m actually so jacked up on adrenaline/etc that I am nauseated. A solid few minutes with a punching bag will make it go away altogether. Without handling the physical side of the problem, though, I’m jumpy, easily startled, nauseated and a little snappish for 5-6 hours.

            I figure that if I ever need to invade a foreign country, sack a city, or fight off wild dogs, I’m set. But it’s pretty counterproductive otherwise.

  12. General Assortment said:

    With obnoxious men who would not take “I don’t want to date you.” as an answer, I have found the silent treatment to be amazingly affective. (Online & Offline)
    ‘Do you want to go out?’
    No thank you.
    ‘I don’t understand? Why not?’
    *Silence*
    ‘Just give me another chance!’
    *Silence*
    ‘I just really like you a lot.’
    *Silence*

    It helps to have a book, or a computer nearby that you can engross yourself in.
    One ‘No, thanks.’ should be enough for most reasonable people, and not responding might be a way to shut him down without the type of confrontation that makes the LW uncomfortable. Ignoring someone is one of those behaviors generally understood to mean ‘I don’t want to talk to you’

    But, none of the pushy men who invaded my space were ever been violent, or threatened violence, and you should definitely do whatever keeps you safe.
    Which is why I also really love the Captain’s Advice to ‘practice’ screaming so that you are used to it. I will totally be doing that, it sounds fun and also probably useful.

  13. Sunshine said:

    I don’t have advice to add, but I do want to say how grateful I am that the LW wrote this now, and the Captain and Team Awkward have responded as you all have. I’ve been having trouble with a roommate with whom I also work, and while the context is different, this roommate’s behaviors are very similar to O.G. I am struggling to figure out how we can maintain our working relationship, especially because we will be working and living together for the foreseeable future, barring major upheavals with our organization. Reading here has already helped me to put some of my frustrations into words (in the form of the LW’s and the Captain’s words). I think I’m going to show this page to several of my friends and co-workers, in the hopes that we can all come to some reconciliation… Thanks.

  14. sometimeswhy said:

    Lots of awesome advice and boy-howdy I wish I’d grokked all this sooner. I don’t have advice to add so much as a “don’t be surprised if.” Don’t be surprised if you go to Team You and express your concerns and it sparks a round of “OH THANK GOODNESS. IT’S NOT JUST ME.” Seriously, I’ve watched this happen a few times recently in which one person spoke up about the discomfort with another, very, “it’s okay if you continue to interact with this person but I’m D-O-N-E done,” and others were finally able to put their finger on what made them uncomfortable about that person or expressed that they had only continued to interact with the person in question because of someone else, often the initial speaker. Huge tsunamis of relief everywhere.

    • Don’t be surprised if you go to Team You and express your concerns and it sparks a round of “OH THANK GOODNESS. IT’S NOT JUST ME.”

      Yes! That exact thing has happened to me. People are just funny sometimes, we assume that because other people are willing to tolerate mr skeevasaurus rex, we must just be imagining the skeevyness. Then someone finally speaks up and it turns out nobody was actually comfortable with that person, we were all just trying to be nice and give him a chance.

      • OMG, hear, hear. I’ll add a third for this — I felt like someone in an online community was acting sketchy, but tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, since nobody else was saying anything. When I mentioned the perceived-skeevyness privately to someone else in the comm, though, they were like “OMG I HAVE BEEN FEELING THIS WAY ABOUT THEM ALL ALONG”. I checked in with a bunch of other folks and got exactly the same reaction. Thanks to all this and the Captain’s assertiveness training here, I was able to actually do something and confront the person about their behaviour instead of continuing to suffer it in silence.

  15. CL said:

    Really great advice overall — and amazing comments so far.

    If it were me, I would jump straight to this part of Captain’s script after blocking him on IM:

    “I was feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable with how often you were IMing me so I decided to take a break.“

    Making the first explanation “I haven’t felt like chatting online lately.” or “IM can be distracting” seems like a version of “I’m just not in a place to date right now” when what LW really means is “I don’t want to chat with YOU.”

    If I were the LW, I would actually be hoping he asked why I wasn’t online so that I could be direct. It sounds like she has a hard time initiating direct conversations, but she’s been wanting to find some way to communicate to this guy that she’s not interested. This is a win/win opportunity — he’ll either back off without saying anything (okay, great) or he’ll ask, giving LW an opportunity to communicate that she doesn’t want to talk to him (also great) which helps her to assert what she’s been wanting to say to this guy.

    • The one problem with “and so I decided to take a break” is that it leaves him room to ask “when will you be done with your break?” or give him leave to IM the LW “just to see if your break is done yet.”

      Personally, I find it best to just block them, say that you were IMing too much and you decided to cut back, and then leave them no opening.

      • CL said:

        Even better! “I was feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable with how often you were IMing me, so I decided I don’t want to talk to you online.”

  16. Bunny said:

    Oh LW! I’m so glad you’ve got a decent Team You, but this guy sounds intensely skeevy.

    My best advice is to definitely, definitely get Team You involved. If you don’t want to impact on their friendship with Skeevy Dude or are worried about how it could come across, you can describe how he is bad for you PERSONALLY without making it about saying he’s a bad person himself.

    (Not that I think you should have to worry about his feelings, since he does sound like a pretty dodgy bloke, but I got from your letter that this is a concern for you and I know from experience how hard it can be to protect yourself when you’re trying to be nice about it!)

    “Guys, Skeevy Dude has kind of a really obvious crush on me. I’ve made it clear that I’m asexual, in addition to being totally NOT in a position to want that sort of companionship even if I was interested, but it hasn’t worked, and he’s dealing with the issue by getting kind of intense about being friends with me. I know he’s doing it because he cares (about his boner) but I’m feeling kind of overwhelmed by him and need to take a break. Could you have my back when I block him on IM/take steps to avoid him in social gatherings/try to keep him out of Team You?”

    • JenniferP said:

      Love your script. LOVE IT.

  17. Olivia said:

    Hey, LW. I’m so sorry you’re going through this shit. Having had three Helpful Stalkers of my own over the course of my early 20s, I can relate. With one of them, it was a somewhat similar situation – he was the good friend of one of my housemates. I had been sleeping with said housemate, and he thought he would swoop in and “rescue” me from his friend.

    I agree with the Captain that framing your rejection by talking about your disability or about your asexuality will get you nowhere with OG. Yes, it’s the truth, but he is not interested in the truth. He is interested in the fantasy he’s created in his head: that you are a broken flower, and he can heal you with the power of his love, and then seal you up in an airless box and keep you for his very own, forever. When you talk, all he hears is “blah blah blah she is talking to me, yay!”

    This is why it’s imperative that you circle the wagons with your roomies. Tell them that you feel like he’s pressuring you, pushing himself on you, and making you uncomfortable in your own home. Ask them to spend time with him outside of your place from now on. Tell them that you have asked him several times to leave you alone, that you’ve told him repeatedly that you’re not interested in him, that he is refusing to take “no” for an answer and that he’s still bothering you. Tell them that you don’t like him, that he creeps you out.

    Now that you’ve told your roommate how you feel about him – and why – you do NOT owe him anything else — and that includes common courtesy — if he continues to bother you. Block him on IM. If he calls, do not pick up the phone. If he stops by to “visit” one of your roommates, you don’t have to talk to him. If you open the door because someone knocked while you were vacuuming your living room and it’s him, it’s OK to vacuum at him while shouting, “What? What? I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” and then lock the door once you back him into the hallway. What I’m saying is, it’s OK to be breathtakingly rude.

    In my situation, my OG finally got the picture after several times where he’d show up under the pretext of wanting to talk to my housemate. I’d see him at the door, and I would go straight to my room, lock the door, and not come out again until after he’d left. I would not say hello or goodbye or how are you. When he brought me a bottle of my favorite whiskey as a gift, I did not say thank you. I left it on the counter and let my housemates drink it. And yes, I did the vacuum thing once. Sure it’s rude, but so is showing up at someone’s house and bothering her after she told you to leave her alone!

    The thing that really helped me was having my housemates say to him: “Dude, why are you here? She said she didn’t want to talk to you. Leave her alone.” That was literally the only way that the message got through – when he heard it from other people.

    Good luck!

  18. “If dealing with a person involves a lot of pre-strategizing and post-analyzing and the whole prospect makes you feel tense and annoyed, maybe you don’t need them in your life?“

    LOVE THIS! Scripts are awesome tools for dealing with people you can’t just relax and be yourself with. If you are always relying on scripts with certain people (as I am with my birth family), it’s a big sign that those people are not a beneficial influence on your life.

    And Captain, posting that Youtube was beyond cruel!

  19. MHM said:

    How useful would it be to get together with friends and just role-play and practice saying “no thanks!” or “get your hand off of me!” or “thanks anyway, but I’m not interested” or whatever? In the situation, it’s just so hard to remember what to say or do. I always end up giving long, kinda defensive, overly nice responses, when these are undeserved. But if there were a way to practice beforehand, we’d be all primed for action.

    I’m thinking I want to do this, just in preparation for random boundary-less interactions.

    The Captain’s comment about rehearsing with a therapist got me thinking. Like, you spend an afternoon taking turns playing Helpful Stalker and Assertive Responder. I may just have to organize a get together like this.

    Wouldn’t it be really awesome if they would teach this stuff in school? Boundaries 101.

    • This sounds like a fairly awesome idea

    • General Expression said:

      I did this with a friend, and it was super-helpful and super-enlightening. (As in, “Wow, I know this is just my friend, and she is saying the most blatantly ridiculous things she can think of, and I still feel uncomfortable setting up a boundary!”)

  20. Shaenon said:

    Apologies in advance for taking this off-topic, but the Captain’s blog just helped me get through a skeeve encounter.

    So I’m at the San Diego Comic-Con, because I’m a cartoonist and a big nerd, volunteering and selling books at an off-site event. I’m standing around talking to a woman I know when a guy comes up to us, standing so close to the other woman (like, right up against her) that I assume they’re friends. Therefore, when he suddenly goes toward me for a hug, I go along with it. The hug goes on for way too long and involves subtle but noticeable frottage, and he grabs me so tightly I can only get away by squirming out. He then introduces himself and we shake hands. Same thing: he grabs my hand in an iron grip and won’t let go until I yank it away.

    When I pull out of his grip he says, “Wow, you’re fucking rigid,” then, probably seeing my jaw drop, adds, “but I like it.”

    I turn to the woman I was talking to and say, “Do you know this guy?”

    “No,” she says. Emphatically.

    “Oh,” I say. “I thought you were friends.”

    He says, “We’re friends now, aren’t we?”

    “No,” I say. “I don’t think we are.” And I excuse myself to go to the restroom, because nothing kills creepy romance like announcing your need to take a crap.

    Later, at the same event, I accidentally sit down next to him at a crowded bar, and as soon as I see who it is I get up and move. He says, “What’s wrong with me?” I tell him, “You hugged me too long and it made me uncomfortable.” He laughs it off.

    Afterwards, the other woman told me that he’d been doing this all afternoon, and people were trying to get the management to escort him out because he was making people uncomfortable. I know I didn’t do much to discourage him, but I felt great for standing up to him and articulating the problem instead of pretending it was acceptable so as not to make waves.

    Anyway, I’d like to thank Captain Awkward for that. I’d also like to thank the legions of assholes who anonymously pile on women on the Internet for demonstrating that creepers know exactly what they’re doing.

    • Grooooossss.

      But also high five for handling it with much dignity and assertiveness!

    • Katie said:

      Ugh – so sorry you had to deal with that creep, and I’m in awe of your response!

      • Shaenon said:

        I couldn’t have done it without this blog.

        The thing is… I’m an awesome person, and if you’re into comics (which I assume this guy was, being at Comic-Con), I’m a good person to befriend. I know everyone and I’ve worked in every area of the industry. Literally five minutes before this encounter, I was talking to a Pixar animator about stopping by the studio once we were back in the Bay Area. All weekend, I hung out with major creators. I did signings. I turned down tickets to the Joss Whedon panel that people were killing their grandmas to attend because I had cooler plans.

        So this guy could have talked to me like a human being and made friends with an alpha geek and had unknown amounts of amazing times. Instead, he chose to rub against me for ten seconds. Maybe he considers that a bargain.

        (Also? I was wearing my wedding ring. Which I did not bring up in conversation, because his behavior would have been inappropriate whether or not my vagina was claimed by a rival male. But. Dude. Not gonna happen.)

    • Wow that kinda made me throw up in my mouth a little bit – sorry you had to deal with that!

      And major, major kudos to you for handling it extremely well and directly. Seriously. That response is textbook awesome.

    • JenniferP said:

      Whoa, that’s soooooo skeevy and sooooo deliberate on his part. Glad security got him out of there. And good for you for telling him to back off!

  21. Lieutenant Right said:

    I have been a bit of a Helpful Stalker — though not so boundary pushing or THREATENING, which, jeez. So, more of a Helpful Bossypants, so I was pretty annoying.

    But LW, I think what’s happening here is this guy is prioritizing his feelings over yours, hiding it under “niceness.” Don’t fall for that manipulative doublethink crap — in fact, you haven’t! That’s really hard to do, especially when one is vulnerable. My advice, which is the same as Captain Awkward’s, is: Do what makes you happy. Not just what makes you feel safe, or a good person, or patient — HAPPY. You don’t deserve or need this guy in your space, and FUCK HIM for putting himself there. Follow what makes you happy in a situation with him — be it yelling at him to step off, or not letting him into the apartment (as someone above noted) when you’re home alone and you don’t want to be around him.

    So what if he cries like a jerkass? You are not being selfish, you are making your goodwill the priority, which is what he is pretending to do.

    Don’t worry about being nice. Being kind — caring about people deeply and faithfully, the way Team You is doing to you — is much more your style.

  22. Shaenon said:

    LW, it sounds like you’re going through some serious emotional crap right now, and you’re very smart to demand the time and space to work through it.

    But that makes the Phantom’s behavior even more inappropriate. Here’s a guy who sees someone in a mental state where they have trouble with basic things like leaving the house and paying bills, someone who is up-front about being in the midst of major personal turmoil, and his response is to passive-aggressively try to hit that? NO.

    I don’t want to get alarmist. But if he targets people in emotionally vulnerable states for his romantic attention, won’t take no for an answer, and talks about having a “temper problem”…I’d get the hell away from this guy.

    • Bunny said:

      OMG THIS!

      After going through a few cycles of being vulnerable/being invulnerable I’ve noticed a massive upswing in uncomfortable, skeevy types turning up whenever I’m vulnerable, all of whom disappear the moment I get strong enough to assert myself. I swear it’s like they live in the woodwork and slither out whenever they sense fear.

      LW, you’re at a time when you’re particularly vulnerable and where you need support. At times like that, people who actually care about you and aren’t trying to take advantage will take your boundaries more seriously, because vulnerable people shouldn’t have to waste valuable energy reinforcing their own boundaries over and over again. The sort of person who’ll see a vulnerable person and start incrementally sliding up against those boundaries? That person is behaving like a predator.

  23. I hate to say it, but if the roommates OG is friends with is on Team LW (she wasn’t clear if it’s all of them or just some) perhaps said roommates ought to be relieved of their duties in that regard, if that’s practical. Conflict of interest.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,071 other followers

%d bloggers like this: