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#482: Sexy drunk texts vs. sober rejection: I don’t know what to believe!

Buffy flirting with Xander as a "joke."

Sport-flirting with a friend you *know* has feelings for you is bad, bad manners.

Hi Captain:

There is this totally awesome and beautiful girl in some of my graduate classes. I sat next to her and before I knew it we started texting a lot and it looked like it was leading to something more. I tried taking her out to dinner but once she had something come up and then we never got definitive plans after that. One night she started drunk texting me and she expressed that she wanted me. The next morning she appoligized for her texts. I total her don’t worry about. A couple days later the she started drunk texting me again. This time she expressed a stronger desire for me. The next morning she appoligized again.

Later that day she said how she was embarrassed that she wanted me when she was drunk. I told her I liked it because I like her. She then responded with “I thought we were just friends,” “I’m glad I know this now,” and “I hope this doesn’t make things awkward” I tried to get a clear answer about what this meant but was left under the impression that she just wanted to be friends.

Later that night, she started texting me again. This time it became full on sexting. During which she said how much she wanted me. Then the next morning she appoligized again. This time talking about how embarrassed she was and how she gets crazy when she’s drunk. I told her how confused this all made me, but that I like her and she responded “I like how we are now ya know?”

First What the HELL does this all mean?

Is there something I can do to piece this together and go out with her?
Should I wait this out and see what may happen?
Or should I just cut off communication and move on?

Thanks
Too confused to pursue

Dear Too Confused:

I think that you handled this beautifully when you asked the lady out. Straight up: “I like you. Let’s have dinner.” That was cool and confident. And when she said, “No thanks,” you backed off and respected that and tried to keep it strictly friendly & professional. Also cool.

When we really like someone, or we’re feeling lonely and unloved, any scrap of interest or attention from someone we like can feel really good. “Hey, they like me! They wouldn’t be texting ‘I’d love to _____ your _____ in my ______ and then _____ your _____” if they didn’t like me, right? Maybe I got a shot here!”

And maybe in moments when she’s alone and drunk, your classmate really does want to ____ your _____. It’s crossed her mind, shall we say. And maybe, with a little persistence on your part, you could get your _____  _____ed.

Do you want to be that guy?

Do you want to be the guy who gets sex and affection on those terms? From a someone who totally disavows you in the sober light of day?

I think you’re cooler than that guy. And I think the coolest, most honest answer to her next bout of drunk texting is:

Sorry, this is confusing and not really fun. Goodnight.”

And then don’t respond to any more texts from her that night. In class, treat her like nothing happened unless she brings it up.* If she does (because: embarrassed) you can say “Listen, I think you’re really gorgeous and would love to go out sometime. But I’m also happy to be friends.Since we are going to be in these classes for a long time together, and I value your company no matter how it works out, let’s lay off the drunken flirting and just be straight with each other, ok? Because that stuff isn’t fun for me if it isn’t sincere.”

A cool lady who is actually worth being your friend will apologize and drunk sext you no more. A cool lady who actually wants to go out with you will apologize and start making plans for your date. Either way, you’re gonna need to be watchful around alcohol when you spend time together. Not because every drunk text from someone is insincere, or every drunk hookup is automatically a bad idea, but because she specifically has shown you repeatedly that her drunk persona and sober self can be operating on two totally different wavelengths. I don’t want to see your wishful thinking meet her drunkful thinking in a way that really, really hurts you. I don’t think you guys are quite close enough friends for the “Do you have a drinking problem?” talk (right now it might come across as concern-trolling) but if this is frequent behavior and you do get closer, that one might be in your future.

I would keep your expectations very low, and do what you can to excise hope that this is going somewhere either sexy or romantic. You do not have to live on the scraps of someone else’s attention. You are not there to be used at her convenience for sexual distraction, or strung along. And you don’t have to open yourself up to repeated rejection. However it works out, I think there is value for you in making a statement about your own self-worth and what treatment you are willing to put up with. There is a fallacy that guys are always up for sex and will do it with anyone who expresses the slightest interest. There’s nothing wrong with her wanting to have sex with you and expressing it, and there’s nothing wrong with you being attracted to her and expressing it, but you don’t have to operate within that stereotype just because she thinks you do.

Whether she “secretly” wants you and can express it only when drunk (Because, maybe she’s worried about slut-shaming? Or has intimacy & trust issues? Or is using alcohol as a social lubricant or excuse to disavow the behavior later? Or has a major problem with alcohol and is texting you during a blackout? I keep trying to come up with the kindest explanation for what she’s about here. Readers?), or she actually doesn’t want you but likes to flirt and mess around with you when she’s drunk, she’s giving off some red flags here.

People who are really bad at boundaries and who can only be sexual or express emotions when drunk or high, people who reject you one day and then are all up in your business the next day, are, in my opinion, less than ideal sexual or romantic partners.They don’t know how to treat themselves well, so they don’t know how to treat their partners well. I don’t think she’s treating you especially well, and suggest that you handle with extreme care. Given her changeability on the subject of You: In Her Pants and the ubiquity of Her: In Your Graduate Program, I think only badness lies that way

You’re not the one making it weird, here. I think you are cooler than some drunk lady’s backup booty call. Keep awesomeing, and I predict that pretty soon someone that recognizes your value and communicates it like a grownup will come your way.

*Not necessarily for the letter writer, here, but important to say:

I don’t think “I was drunk, I didn’t mean it” is actually an excuse. People are still responsible for their behavior, and if you are the type of person who cheats on your S.O. (but only when drunk!), or says mean things when drunk, or sends sexy texts to the guy from your class that you keep telling you don’t want to go out with, then after the first time it “accidentally” happens it’s on you to avoid situations where that behavior is normal for you. “Sorry, I was drunk!” isn’t really an apology for jerky behavior, and you still did that thing that hurt someone else whether you meant to or not.

However, I *do* think that when someone is impaired and their inhibitions are clearly lowered, especially when sexuality is involved, it’s a good idea to be extra-responsible and conservative in how you deal with them. Would they want to do this if they were sober? No? Or, maybe, but you’re not sure? Then don’t do it when they’re drunk. It’s only really fun if everyone is sure.

A drunk woman at a party saying “Hey I want to have sex with you” might really mean she wants to have sex with you. A lot of us have walked in those drunk, horny shoes and had a fun, drunk, horny time. But I don’t think we would lose anything, were she talking to us, if we said “Awesome, maybe in the morning, after some breakfast! Let’s do it! But right now, howabout we make out a little, and everyone keeps their pants ON.” And/or “You take the bed and I’ll take the couch. First, let’s get some water into you.” In the morning when everyone is sober you can say, “Hey, you are so hot and if that was a serious offer last night I’d love to take you up on it, but I wanted everyone to be really sure.” And maybe you won’t end up having sex. Which is a loss of…not having sex with someone who didn’t enthusiastically want to have sex with you. Which if you are a decent person, is a bullet dodged, not an opportunity missed. If you want to be sure that your partner is really into it, there is a way to be absolutely sure: Wait until you’re both sure.

Letter writer, believe the sober rejection, until a sober seduction comes your way. You lose nothing by being a mensch in this regard.

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153 comments
  1. CharmedOmega said:

    Oh, LW, I just want to second that you are awesomeing and this woman you like is being kind of a jerk.

    Her jerkness might be coming from a place of a place of insecurity (I need everyone to like me! Having someone interested in me bolsters my self esteem when I am sad and don’t have the inhibitions to stop using other humans as emotional crutches), but that doesn’t make it your problem to handle.

    Good luck, LW.

  2. staranise said:

    I’m in grad school right now. I struggle to find things to talk about that aren’t a) my research, or b) the TV show I watch to avoid my research. I don’t meet new people except when I get new classmates. So right now if someone offered a sexy drunken hookup that would end badly, turning it down would be really hard, because something in the back of my brain (and the front, and the sides, and most of the middle) would scream, “IF YOU SAY NO, NO ONE WILL EVER OFFER AGAIN,”

    It’s kind of like looking at that tupperware of leftovers in your fridge when you’re hungry and thinking, “It looks pretty safe… and it doesn’t smell very bad… and then I wouldn’t have to spend any money…” when the truth is, baby, you put that in the fridge after it spent six hours on the counter last Tuesday. This is going to end in tears and food poisoning.

    Deciding that you deserve more than what’s being offered–that you’re going to turn down a pretty good certainty of a relationship that’s going to hurt you, for the hope of a future with something you’re really satisfied with–can be really scary. But it is really really wise, and (they tell me) really worth it.

    • JenniferP said:

      I wish grad school had contained more sexy drunken hookups (not with my fellow students, ew) but, like, zero “Today I want you. No, that was yesterday. Today I don’t want you. Maybe tomorrow I will want you, so stand by for more information!” relationships (of which there were several).

      That said, as a temporarily unemployed adjunct, I ate 8-day old spaghetti out of my fridge so I’m feeling the rest of your post pretty hard. :)

      • Lesley said:

        Totally off-topic, but do you have an MA in something specific? I’ve been working at UIC, but the big money I make is teaching online at reputable universities and working with private high schools that are stupid rich. Latin and Francis Parker pay pretty well. I hate to think of you eating 8 day spaghetti. Unless you like it.

        • JenniferP said:

          I have an MFA in film and video, thanks!

          The spaghetti was still delicious and did not kill me. My fridge is SRSLY cold.

    • Emma said:

      I totally feel you on this, it’s really hard to do grad school and anything else at the same time. It’s hard to make new friends in grad school and sometimes it’s hard to just put the time and effort into the friendships you already have. A lot of my friends are grad students and that can suck – sometimes I get frustrated and just want them to put down the fucking pipette and do something fun for two hours. But I do still have great friendships with them, and I can also report that many of them have begun new, happy romantic relationships while in grad school. I think it will happen for you too! Internet hugs!

  3. FlyBy said:

    The way I see it, she’s either truly out of control and out of character when she’s drunk (and she’s doing this frequently!), or she’s not that out of control and is manipulating you because she’s getting something out of it consciously or not. Either way, this is not someone who’s good relationship material right now! Personally, I’d probably go the route of cutting off any contact beyond a polite hello in class. I’m also someone who needs to set really firm lines if I’m going to have a chance of getting my own life back to normal, so YMMV.

    Her behavior is not cool. I’m sorry you’re getting hurt by it.

  4. Devin said:

    Another possible charitable explanation for her behavior: She totally wants him to ____ her, et cetera, but sober she doesn’t want a relationship with him. (Perhaps she’s a grad student and doesn’t feel she has time or energy, perhaps she knows they want different things, perhaps there’s just something that doesn’t work for her.) She’s not ready to negotiate that, sober. (Because “hey, study-buddy, want to ____? Only, no dating.” is actually kind of an awkward conversation with a strong potential for making him feel rejected.) Drunk, she thinks it’s okay to skip that conversation, ____ him, and deal with the consequences afterwards. Sober, she knows that “Good morning. Hey, we’re not dating, hope that’s cool.” is even more rejectional, so she figures they’re both better off not opening that book.

    This is, again, reasonable-but-flawed behavior once. It’s kind of shitty to keep repeating it.

    • staranise said:

      And what really pings me as off here isn’t that she might want a fuckbuddy. I’m all for fuckbuddies. I have had some fabulous ones. What strikes me as wrong is that she won’t say so.

      The people who I see who seem to manage casual sex really well without laying waste to their social lives do it because they think that the relationship they have with a person doesn’t indicate that person’s worth. It’s not like there’s a hierarchy, where a significant other is better than a fuckbuddy is better than a platonic friend, so their “friendzone” is just full of people they wouldn’t bother to fuck. No, instead, friendship means “You’re awesome and I wanna talk to you!” and fuckbuddy means “You’re awesome and I wanna have sex with you!” and significant other is “You’re awesome and I wanna go on dates with you!” It’s about what kind of relationship you want.

      So frankly, if someone views fuckbuddy-not-SO as a kind of rejection (which WOULD make the proposition awkward), I question how good of a fuckbuddy they’d make. Because even “just sleeping” with someone still works best if you do have a relationship where you’re respectful and kind and willing to do your part to make the arrangement work.

      • JenniferP said:

        I think a good Minimum Fuck Buddy clearance rule is “They have to be able to actually tell you what they want in words (while sober!) and also treat you in a straightforward and considerate manner.” Good Friends-With-Benefits seek to avoid and minimize confusion, and actually act like your friend.

        • Bunny said:

          Yes! So much this. Fuckbuddy arrangement are a LOT of fun, provided everyone involved is okay with the arrangement and knows where they stand, but everyone has to communicate, be honest and up-front. If someone can’t manage the bare minimum of honest, sober communication they absolutely won’t be able to maintain drama-free FWB relationships.

      • Badger Rose said:

        Yes so much to this. Fuckbuddy relationships depend on mature communication as much as romantic relationships. It may not be quite the same communication, but it’s still necessary.

      • Devin said:

        Oh, totally! You may well be right, that she’s just not up to being a good fuckbuddy (yet). Maybe her friends just aren’t cool enough to fuck, and she thinks LW just isn’t cool enough to date but might be cool enough to fuck. Or maybe her heart’s in the right place but she’s still confused and sorting out her feelings and can’t articulate them well. And in either case, yeah, prolly best to hold off on getting involved in that tangle.

        But also, LW wanted to date her. I’d be nervous myself about telling someone who had wanted to date me that we could be fuckbuddies. That IS, in fact, a kind of rejection. It’s not rejection in my heart, necessarily. I’m not telling you you’re not good enough to be in my life. But I am telling you I’m not up for what you wanted. (Actually, I already told you that when I turned down your dating application. But I’m reopening the wound.)

        I think as a culture we wind romance and sex up together in ways that we don’t wind friendship. So it’s easier to communicate “Hey, you’re my good buddy, much love, no dates, no sex” than it is to say “Hey, value your friendship, value your sexytimes, don’t want to be your life partner.” The former is seen as a clear and reasonable line, where it’s easier for the latter to get muddled. (I don’t think this is a true-about-human-feelings thing, I think this is a true-about-American-expectations thing.)

        Either way, her behavior is not cool. I was just following in the good Captain’s footsteps in coming up with a more-charitable explanation for her actions. Wanting a fuckbuddy and being muddled or nervous about how to negotiate it is reasonable. Drunk-texting and then denying it when sober is, eh, we make mistakes. Doing so repeatedly starts to get shitty and manipulative, though.

        (Personal note: I am totally projecting here. There is a friend. She is awful hot, but we’d make a terrible couple for various reasons. She was crushing on me pretty hard for a while, and I kinda ambiguously* rejected that without ever really talking about it. Some months later, we reopened the conversation rather more frankly. She did absolutely feel rejected by “we’d make a terrible couple but we do make great friends and might well make good fuckbuddies.” After some conversations about other relationships (in which it became clear to her that my thought processes on certain key relationship issues are crazy and incomprehensible), we’re adding some benefits. Fingers crossed that it don’t blow up.)

        *I am very, very bad at reading interest. I was kinda mostly sure that she was at least a little interested. Later discussion revealed that she thought she was the should-we-date equivalent of down on one knee holding a ring, and how did I not notice that?

    • FlyBy said:

      Yup. If she wants a friends-with-benefits relationship, it’s on her to clearly say so, and then she and the LW can negotiate and see if there’s an arrangement that will work for both of them. That conversation is embarrassing and difficult and will probably involve at least some rejection and hurt feelings, but dammit, that’s what adults do. Beating around the bush just ends up hurting worse in the long run.

  5. RodeoBob said:

    I keep trying to come up with the kindest explanation for what she’s about here. Readers?

    I think you already answered it:

    When… we’re feeling lonely and unloved, any scrap of interest or attention from someone we like can feel really good.

    Drunk-sexting-girl is probably feeling really lonely and insecure, and doesn’t want to acknowledge or address that when she’s sober. Drunk, she’s willing to own that she’s lonely and wants attention and affection and connection. When she sobers up, she’s embarrassed at wanting/needing, which drives her further up Insecure-And-In-Public-Denial-About-It Parkway.

    The script for the LW is spot-on. In a perfect world, when the LW says “I have boundaries and self-respect, I don’t want to be your ‘Mr. Right-Now’, so either drop it completely or lets give it a serious try” would lead to something positive for both parties. If I were a gambling man, I’d wager the more likely outcome is that the unhappy and lonely young lady distances herself from the LW completely. While that’s sad for her, it’s not the LW burden to pick up.

  6. JetGirl said:

    This drunken texting/apologizing later has happened multiple times? This woman may have a drinking problem. I have much sympathy for alcoholics and addicts, but that doesn’t mean I need to get sucked into their issues, particularly when I’m working on something that’s all-consuming, like a degree.
    LW, I know you like her, and you want to sleep with her, but that way lies madness. Don’t self-sabotage, step away.

  7. “I don’t want to see your wishful thinking meet her drunkful thinking in a way that really, really hurts you.” — I would be more worried about *her* getting hurt from this scenario.

    I think LW bears some responsibility here. He got a clear sober “no” from her, and that should have been the end of the story. Instead, he’s let his pantshopes get the better of him and willingly participated in two rounds of sexting while she’s drunk — sexting that is clearly a source of hurt and embarrassment for her. And he’s gotten himself all wrapped up in wondering “what does it all mean?!?!” She doesn’t owe him an analysis of her psyche. He already has the sum total of the information he needs about the situation, which is “she’s not actually into you.”

    • JenniferP said:

      I don’t think he’s the bad guy here – she said no, he said cool, no problem!, and then she initiated the sexy texts both times. He doesn’t know her THAT well, and didn’t initially know it was drunken, he thought maybe she changed her mind. Is he a jerk for asking? No, I don’t think so.

      Her saying “No, I don’t want to go out with you” and then switching to “I WANT YOU SO MUCH” isn’t something he could have predicted, and he’s asking for help in how to interpret it. The advice is to take the “No, I don’t want to go out with you” as the “real” answer, but I don’t blame him for being confused.

      • Johanna said:

        Maybe there isn’t a single bad guy here? She initiated the sexy texts, but it sounds like he enthusiastically participated, and he told her he liked it.

        Maybe she should have connected the dots and figured that since he’d expressed feelings for her, friends-by-day-sext-partners-by-night is not a relationship that he would be happy with. But maybe she figures that since she’s told him in no uncertain terms that his feelings aren’t reciprocated, he is the one who ought to be doing the dot-connecting.

        It sounds like both of them may be engaging in wishful thinking and selective hearing here.

        • JenniferP said:

          I don’t think anyone’s necessarily a bad guy, but he’s not a loser or a predator for having some wishful thinking and excited response in response to “I WANT YOU SO BAD” texted to his phone from the girl he likes. No one is that self-effacing! The discussion now, is, accept the sober answer. It’s safer and better all around. Also, it’s crappy to keep doing that to someone (drunk or not) if they’ve confessed feelings for you and you don’t actually want to hook up or date them.

          • Johanna said:

            And I think it’s equally crappy for him to continue to participate in this with her when he knows that she always feels bad about it the next day. (If this were actual sex rather than sexting, I don’t think there would be any question about that, would there?)

            I don’t think either of them is a loser or a predator, but they’re both engaging in crappy behavior that is making both of them feel crappy. Somebody needs to step up and use their words.

          • Sheelzebub said:

            Exactly. Also, she keeps sending him texts. I’m not sure how he’s participating by saying “Well, I like you” and “I like you, why do you keep doing this” and “I like you, but this is confusing” in response. He can’t very well stop her from texting him. I don’t feel at all bad about thinking she’s acting in a confusing and hurtful way.

          • TL said:

            I don’t think that two “I want you”s + oh, shit, I drunk texted you and it’s awkward but I’m not going to clearly define the relationship! – is really enough of a pattern to completely dampen a hopeful, positive reaction to sexytimes texts.

            And I think it’s fair that, for most people, there is a big enough difference between sexting and sex that you can differentiate between the two situations, especially if the other person initiates. One of the biggest is that in sexting, all you have to go by are their words, whereas with physical sexual situations you have tone of voice, body language, and words.
            (He may or may not have known she was drunk and he almost certainly didn’t have enough information to differentiate between “a couple of drinks but still okay” or “clearly not sober enough to make any decisions.)

          • aebhel said:

            The thing is, her feeling bad about acting like a jackass when she’s drunk is not actually his fault.

          • JenniferP said:

            Oh, absolutely right.

    • Badger Rose said:

      I don’t think she owes him an analysis of her psyche. But once he’s said “I like you” while sober, and she said “I just want to be friends” while sober, and he said “okay” while sober, then I think she 100% owes it to him to stop yanking him around, drunk or sober. I think that is straight-up poor behavior, and “I was drunk” is not an excuse.

      And he has the right to ask “what the hell is going on?” when he’s receiving repeated, contradictory, confusing behavior from someone. Yes, of course he should take the “no” as the answer, but it’s still confusing as fuck to be on the receiving end of that.

      • JenniferP said:

        Agreed!

      • twomoogles said:

        I agree, too. This happened to a friend of mine (genders reversed, she asked a guy out, he said no in a way that seemed like a polite brush-off, then started sending her flirty/sexy drunk texts) and it was really hard to handle the confusing messages. I think the best thing for him to do is to say next time she does it, ‘I like you, and since you’ve indicated you aren’t into me, this is just confusing and not fun’. But I don’t blame him for not having done that yet.

        She doesn’t owe him an analysis of her psyche, absolutely. But, I think wondering ‘what does it all mean’ is pretty normal and reasonable in these circumstances.

    • Zillah said:

      I would agree that the LW would have most/all of the responsibility for the situation *if* the LW was the one initiating these texts, but he’s not. She is. It seems to me like her sober “no” to any romantic/sexual relationship would have been the end of the question if she was not repeatedly initiating overt sexual interactions… but she is. I don’t blame him for getting confused when she says “I’m not into you” and then initiates a series of sexual texts on multiple occasions. I would be.

      Is the sexting a source of embarrassment for her? It certainly seems to be. However, while she doesn’t owe him an analysis of her psyche, it isn’t on him to shoulder responsibility for her actions, either. She is initiating these texts. At this point, she knows that this is something that happens while she is drunk. It’s her responsibility to stop sending them if she finds them so embarrassing. Whether that means handing her phone off to a friend or something else, it’s on her to do that if she is distressed by things she repeatedly does when drunk.

      I agree that he should stop responding, but because these texts are a source of uncertainty and frustration for him, not for her. At the end of the day, it’s not his responsibility to coddle her because she’s making poor choices and jerking him around.

      • stentord said:

        I don’t think anyone is saying LW has *most* or *all* of the responsibility. But the way I read his letter (and I see he’s replying downthread, so maybe he can clarify if I’m misreading) he has actively participated in the sexting once she initiates. She’s starting it, but he’s egging her on. If that’s the case, then he’s taking advantage of her impaired state to get something he knows she doesn’t want to give him, and that’s not cool, and means that he has *some* of the responsibility.

        • Zillah said:

          I just don’t see it that way. I read it as him actively participating once she initiates, too, at least in the most recent incident, but again, the key for me is that she initiated it and is continuing to initiate it. I think that putting the responsibility of her poor actions on him is implicitly infantilizing her and taking away her autonomy, which doesn’t really sit well with me, you know?

          Ultimately, IMO, when you know that you have a pattern of behavior that you know you don’t like, find embarrassing, or is hurtful to others, it’s your responsibility to control it, especially when it’s hurting someone else. The LW seems to have been very good at using his words throughout this entire thing – he made his interest known, and he accepted the rejection.

          For her to follow up an ambiguous rejection with sexting a few hours after the conversation is definitely not cool, and I kind of feel like she’s taking advantage of his feelings for her to get an ego boost that she then doesn’t have to do anything about. The “I’m so embarrassed that I want you when I’m drunk” also kind of rubs me the wrong way – being embarrassed for her behavior is one thing, but it sounds like she’s expressing embarrassment about him being the target, which is pretty insulting.

          If he continues to get drawn into her texts, then I might put some of the culpability on him, but not right now.

        • JM said:

          I totally agree that I bear some of the responsibility. I’ve never been in this situation, and certainly have not handled everything as best as I could have. Honestly having her affection and attention was nice and made it hard to stop once she initiated.
          Since I sent this post she started saying, while sober, we should hang out, but the majority of the time she would change her mind or cancel on me.
          Then I expressed my desire to talk to her in person because of my (and her) frustration, and her response was “I don’t think we have anything to talk about.”
          That didn’t help anything, and I haven’t really talked to her since then.

          This whole situation has shown that I need someone there who can use their words and she is not that person.

          -LW

          • Emmers said:

            The whole situation sucks, but I’m glad you finally got a clear message (a clear, shitty message) at last. Here’s to you finding someone who isn’t a jerk to you.

  8. The Rat Lady said:

    My single greatest pet peeve with my female peers in college was the overwhelming tendency to get drunk so you could hook up with a guy and, if you didn’t like it, you could blame it on the alcohol. It’s that kind of manipulation that wreaks havoc with meaningful discussions about consent.

    Reading this post, I suspect the ladyfriend is cut from the same cloth. I’d even be wholly suspect that she’s even as drunk as she says she is when she’s texting. Maybe that’s cynical of me. But the truth is, either she has a serious personality discrepancy between drunk-self and sober-self and needs to get that worked out, or she’s really just being kind of manipulative for her own amusement. Either way, I’d stay clear.

    • the witching hour said:

      I don’t know these women you went to school with, but it seems like another way to describe that phenomenon is “the overwhelming tendency to get drunk so you could hook up with a guy and, if you didn’t like it, you could blame the alcohol, since that’s one of the only rejections you have reason to believe men will accept.”

      Which, okay, does make it harder to have straightforward discussions about consent, but is also a survival mechanism for being attractive and sexual our scary anti-consent world and maybe those women don’t deserve to be our scapegoats.

      • The Rat Lady said:

        No goat-scaping intended! And perhaps my classmates were most definitely not in the norm. I just recall far too many conversations that went along the line of, “I’m going to get wasted tonight so I can try hooking up with X, and that way if it’s weird in the morning I can pretend I didn’t remember how it happened.” That was the level of premeditation involved. Sometimes whole parties would be held for the express purpose of ensuring you and your crush were both sufficiently drunk to initiate sex.

        Not saying they were bad people for succumbing to this line of thinking (hell, I dabbled with it myself), just that they weren’t doing themselves or anybody else any favors.

        • temporarily anon said:

          On the other side of that coin, when I DID accidentally black out and not remember and was like, “Friends, I’m not embarrassed or trying to hide it but I really actually don’t think I consented to that because I am not attracted to and often sketched out by that person,” they were all like, “Oh, you’re just doing that thing girls do where they use alcohol as an excuse so that they can say they don’t remember and deny all responsibility.”

          And I was like, “I think I was sexually assaulted,” and they were like, “It’s okay that you slept with him, you don’t have to be weird about it.”

          So, yeah. I think it’s a stereotype of “things women do” that might be more common than you realize–which is not to say that your friends didn’t do it. I bring it up because I often get squicked out, to put it lightly, by the way people talk about that trope since its perpetuation has consequences that cut both ways.

          Maybe I’m not explaining this well because it is is hard for me to talk about, but I didn’t want to leave it unaddressed.

          • I think you explained it perfectly. It’s an important point!

            And I’m really, really sorry you were assaulted and that your friends gaslighted you about it because they didn’t want to deal with your having been raped.

          • Ystir said:

            Ugh, I’m so sorry that happened, and that your friends treated you that way.

            The crappy thing is, I think both things happen (women getting drunk so they can “get away” with things or whatever AND women getting drunk, being assaulted, and being blamed because “lol, everyone knows women just say that because they regret doing something”) and I think they both come from a society where women aren’t allowed much sexual agency. If wanting sex makes you a slut (so some women get drunk so they can get laid without feeling bad, or whatever is going on with them), and being assaulted means you’re lying (and therefore wanted it and are therefore a slut…)

          • The Rat Lady said:

            I’m sorry that happened to you, and doubly sorry that your friends reacted the way they did.

            I found myself in a similar situation, once, involving a female friend’s sexual curiosity, an “ambush” in the form of a party that only I managed to attend, and a substance combination that left me in wavering consciousness for a long portion of the night. It was incredibly challenging afterward to 1.) convince people, “No, I’m not ashamed of drunken lesbian experimentation, I’m upset because I think I got raped while I was passed out and 2.) no, really, I’m pretty sure another girl just raped me.

            So when I say I’m frustrated with my classmates for the “lolz, let’s get drunk so we can make a move!” it’s on behalf of every girl who now has to suffer under the stereotype. I’m quite sure that the *majority* of women do not do that thing, but once you’ve seen a couple make those premeditated plans — on multiple occasions — it gets a lot easier to believe the stereotype. Which is why I say that they’re not doing anybody any favors.

          • griffykate said:

            I am so sorry that happened to you, Temporarily Anon, and also to you, Rat Lady. That is some bullshit right there and I hope that your friends managed to wise up from their intital reaction, or that you have better friends now.

    • Zillah said:

      For what it’s worth, I’ve experienced this, too. I’ve never really been one to engage in it, at least not in a sexual context, but I definitely knew people, especially in college, who would specifically do things (including sex, but not limited to it) when they were drunk so they could avoid taking responsibility later and laugh it off as “Oh, I was just so wasted.” That was clearly the perspective and the motivation behind getting drunk (and often acting drunker than they really were).

      As you said, it’s very unfortunate, because it makes discussions about consent even more difficult than they usually are, especially since victims of sexual assault are often afraid to name it for what it really is because they don’t think they’ll be taken seriously.

    • wonderbink said:

      I wonder what would happen to that particular dynamic if men simply refused to have sex with women who were too drunk to consent. As, you know, they really should be doing in the first place.

      • twomoogles said:

        Yes, and this makes me think of what I always want to say when people bring up mixed signals and people who say no when they mean yes (not just to sex). If people stopped attempting to convince someone who said no, and just took the first ‘no’ as complete gospel, people would stop doing that ‘convince me’ thing because it wouldn’t work. I have a friend who is really insecure about whether or not people like him, so when he gets invited out, his first response tends to be ‘no, I’m not up for it’, then other people go ‘aww, come on, it’ll be fun’, he feels like people truly do want him there, and he goes. But, I didn’t pick up on that at all, just said ‘ok, see you next time’. It led to awkwardness!

        I think much of the time, with the dynamic described above,, the guys are drunk too. That doesn’t cover all such experiences, but in my personal history when we were having drunken parties, there was a *lot* of drunken hooking up at parties, including people planning on drinking in order to hook up. This tended to be for courage to go for it, and because the environment was a lot more friendly towards casual making out as soon as alcohol was involved.

  9. ona555 said:

    When it comes to matters of pants, driving, or heart, it is safest for everyone to go with sober.

    LW, for both your sakes I would take her at her word when she is standing right in front of you stone sober making eye contact and telling you with out loud words what she wants, and not when she is texting you from behind a phone in middle of the night with drunken passes. I think she’s doing a fairly good job with communicating, actually, and that what she is communicating is that she potentially has some personal issues regarding alcohol, intimacy, and/or boundaries that she needs to work on, so she’s maybe not such a healthy choice for dating right now, regardless of what else the confusing mixed messages mean.

    One late night drunken whoops-sext is awkward but totally forgivable. Two is confusing and awkward but also forgivable. Three is a pattern, and more than three is a pattern with red flags all over it which read back away, back away now, here be dragons and to continue down this path probably ends badly for everyone.

  10. I am a Drunken Sexting Girl. I’m not the LW’s Drunken Sexting Girl (at least, I bloody hope not), but I am definitely *a* Drunken Sexting Girl. When life is nice, I can go months (well, weeks) without drinking at all. When I am stressed, I find life easier to cope with when I have a gin and tonic at the end of the day.

    This wouldn’t particularly be a problem if I weren’t also the chattiest drunk you have ever met. I mean, I’m *pretty* talkative when sober, and when I’m drunk I am impossible to stop. When I’m drunk (and stressed and lonely, because I am also in grad school) the easiest way to get some human interaction is (awkward, painful, misspelled, incredibly regrettable) flirty texts. Or sexts. Or (even worse) booty calls.

    A lot of this behaviour I’ve kind of outgrown now, but I’ve definitely been guilty of Causing Awkwardness by Inappropriate Texts. My advice, LW, is to be gentle with her, if you can; grad school is shitty for a lot of people. But be careful with yourself.

    • JenniferP said:

      It’s totally fun until it’s not fun for someone. So, if someone never answered your sexy texts, or answered them with, “Whoa, you know I love you, but I don’t think you really want to _____ in your _____ with my _____. Goodnight!” you’d stop, right? Of course you would.

  11. Sheelzebub said:

    I almost don’t care why she’s doing it, it’s really shitty to do that to someone.

    First What the HELL does this all mean?

    Who gives a fuck? Is it worth the energy you’re expending on it? I think not.

    Is there something I can do to piece this together and go out with her?

    Why on Earth would you want to go through all of this and try to make a relationship happen with someone who’s ambiguous at best? (And honestly, I’d feel like a guy who pulled this with me was trying a mind-fuck.)

    Should I wait this out and see what may happen?

    Or should I just cut off communication and move on?

    Yes. Well, I admit that I would be beyond irritated with this and just be all, “Nope, sorry, too busy to talk, nope, sorry, too busy to hang, kthanxbai” and then send a terse reply to any flirty texts or sexts that would basically say “Cut the shit already.” Seriously. If a guy did that to me I’d be livid. I wouldn’t care if he was insecure or if he did stupid things when he was drunk or he was too afraid to admit he liked me if he was sober. Those are HIS problems. It is not my job to solve them. It is not your job either, LW.

    Focus your energy on a woman who is into you unambiguously, and sober.

    • JenniferP said:

      The best response to an unsolicited & unwanted sexy text, in my experience, is “gross”

      Usually the reply is either “sorry” or sweet, sweet silence.

      • ninjamom said:

        Probably should have sent that back to the unknown guy who sent me a picture of his dick. Pretty sure it was a mistake, but I just blocked him.

        • Lym said:

          “Were you looking for an identification? According to my field guide, it looks like a human penis, only smaller.”

          • Caorann said:

            That is the best answer to an unsolicited dick pic I’ve ever heard!

          • Ystir said:

            Is body snark okay, here? It doesn’t seem like it would be.

          • Ystir said:

            (I get that it’s probably more reasonable as a response to a dude who’s being gross and sending you pics. But I have a pretty low tolerance for body snark. If I sent a “sexy” pic unsolicited to some dude, it would be fair for him to say “what the fuck do you think you’re doing, I don’t want to see you naked!” It would be, IMO, a bit harsh for him to add “you’re fat and disgusting!” to the end. It would be really harsh for him to then internet about it, particularly where other, non-boundary-crossing fatties might see.)

          • Sheelzebub said:

            I will have this cast in bronze!

          • staranise said:

            Ystir, thanks for pointing out that sauce for the gander isn’t really fair. I mean, it’s definitely effective and it can feel kind of liberating to respond to sexual boundary-crossing by mocking the person, but it’s not, how do I say–the height of feminist ideal.

      • Ystir said:

        I was once engaging in mild twitter flirtation with a boy. He was in a different time zone and was, I guess, drinking. Anyway, he DMd me “give me your pussy”. I think I came out with a brilliant riposte like “what??” Got another, very apologetic DM the next morning (his time). I was mostly trying to work out how I was expected to detach it and hand it over…

  12. indywind said:

    “I keep trying to come up with the kindest explanation for what she’s about here. Readers?”

    I don’t think one needs an explanation WHY someone does a behavior pattern to know whether one wants to participate in it.
    A sampling of reasons why a random person might behave as described has been already offered; no more attention need be given to diagnosing Drunk-Sexting-Woman or speculating about her thoughts, feelings, issues, or personal experience.

    Then we can usefully focus on helping LW figure out what do do in the situation as it presents –for which the rest of CA’s advice seems sound.

  13. Badger Rose said:

    Oh, LW, I’m sorry. I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of thing (I want you! no, I only said that because I was drunk/lonely/stoned! no, but I totally want you! no, but I was just drunk/lonely/desperate! no, but….!) Even if nobody is being malicious about it, it is really hard to not get all spun up and entangled in the hopes and fears and wishes and confusion. (Maybe *especially* if nobody is being malicious about it, because if someone’s malicious it’s somewhat easier to write them off, whereas if they’re just confused/drunk/hurting… well, it’s easier to make excuses for them, which makes it harder to disengage.)

    But I think, sadly, painfully, it boils down to something along the spectrum from “she is not currently capable of controlling her own behavior for X reason” to “she could control her behavior but is choosing not to for Y reason.” (And it is a spectrum–it’s not necessarily either ‘yes, she’s totally incapable’ or ‘no, she totally could’–which, sadly, makes it all the more confusing.)

    If it’s closer to the first pole, then it doesn’t matter all that much what X is. It might be a diagnosable disorder like anxiety or alcoholism. It might not be. I don’t know, and it’s not really my place to speculate. But I think we can all say that starting a relationship with someone who is in a relationship with you because they can’t control themselves is Not A Good Thing.

    If it’s closer to the second pole, it could *also* be any number of things, from deliberate manipulation, to subconscious manipulation (like “I don’t mean to yank anyone around, but it feels so good when I get the positive attention, so I keep ‘accidentally’ doing it”), to just bad decisions like “I know I should lock text messages on my phone before the third beer and/or give the phone to the designated driver, but I never bother.” Again, it doesn’t matter much: just like it’s Not A Good Thing to start a relationship with someone who is having major self-control issues, it’s also A Poor Idea to start a relationship with someone who could stop yanking you around but, for whatever reason, won’t, even when it’s clear that that’s what’s happening.

    (The third pole, the “I didn’t realize you were taking it seriously and it was hurting you!”, was neatly taken care of by you actually having a sober conversation. Now that you’ve said “I like you” and she said “I thought we were just friends,” the fig leaf of pretending that it was all a joke is removed; if she continues anyway, she’s doing so with the knowledge that it is not, for you, a joke. Good for you for having that discussion, because even though it didn’t come out how you wanted, it clarifies things a great deal wrt how to move forward.)

    These things don’t mean that she’s a horrible bloodsucking demon. She could be a lovely person with really bad impulse control. Or a lovely person who gets insecure and does stupid things. Or a lovely person who has a hard time with boundaries when she’s been drinking. Or a lovely person who has an alcohol problem. Or I don’t know.

    But in all cases above, she’s not a lovely person *for you, right now,* because she’s hurting you and yanking your chain–deliberately or accidentally, willfully or ignorantly, doesn’t much matter.

    I think the advice to send a message saying something like, “This isn’t fun for me, please stop” when she starts hitting on you via drunk-text–or, frankly, if that’s too hard, blocking her outright, whether permanently or after the first drunk-text of the night–is an excellent one. Someone else confusedly trying to figure out what they want and what they mean doesn’t mean that you have to keep putting your heart into the fire every time. It’s your heart, and it’s your right to protect it.

  14. UnsuckableButtercup said:

    I live in Illinois. If your partner is legally drunk here, it’s automatically rape. I’m not saying this to discuss the law or the implications thereof, but to there are all sorts of good reasons to err on the side of caution when it comes to swapping fluids.

  15. Pterinochilus murinus said:

    “Later that day she said how she was embarrassed that she wanted me when she was drunk.”

    Oh no. That’s so mean. LW, you will be better off with someone who isn’t embarrassed for wanting you.

    “I like how we are now ya know?”

    What, with you confused and off-balance? She likes that?

    “First What the HELL does this all mean?”

    I agree with your “what the HELL”, LW. And I am glad that cutting off contact is already an option you’re considering.

    I don’t know whether this woman is mean and manipulative or scared and lonely or drunk and out of control, but I do have the strong sense that a relationship with her right now would not be fun times.

    • manybellsdown said:

      I know we’re trying to be nice to the woman in question here, but I think what she likes is having a chain to yank with LW at the end of it. I think she’s being a jerky jerkface.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        You and me both.

  16. Jenna said:

    It’s probably better to learn from all these other people’s experiences rather than dive into this and the pain that will almost certainly result. This is DRAMA waiting to happen. All capital letters, and red underlining, and neon signs pointing to pain down the line.
    I recommend not playing this game as there is no winning. Cut off the texting. Find someone else to date. Someone who is giving signals this mixed is a horrible bet. Let her grow up for about a decade. If by then she has learned to communicate in a straightforward manner her actual needs and desires and laid off the alcohol as an excuse to lower inhibitions, she may be a safer person to hang around.

  17. H.Regalis said:

    LW, sidestepping the being drunk stuff, I’d say go with the Dan Savage thing of “when someone is giving you mixed signals, believe the negative ones.” Whatever this lady’s deal is, she clearly has something going on that’s giving an end result of her jerking your chain.

    It’s not going to be easy since you presumably haven’t had all your feelings surgically replaced with aluminum siding or whatever, but ignore the drunk the texts, and block her on your phone (if possible) if she keeps doing it. You’re cooler than being someone’s shitfaced b-team hookup.

    • Dangerous Beans said:

      Oh my goodness, is that what happened to Wolverine – he tried to replace his feelings with adamantium?

      • H.Regalis said:

        Had it worked, that certainly would’ve cut down on the amount of manpain he seems to experience.

  18. MisMis said:

    For a variation of that theme: What do you do if the person in question is actually touch-flirting and clearly getting aroused sitting next to you on a regular basis (both sober!) while already being in a non-poly relationship with somebody else (and me not showing any reaction whatsoever)?
    I asked for clarification (as in “was that a flirt or my imagination?”) via e-mail because I didn’t dare a one on one conversation and the reply was “no, I did not intend to flirt”. So I take that at face value… but it’s massively awkward for me and a pretty nasty situation given I quite fancy the person. :-(

    • Badger Rose said:

      It is SUPER SUPER uncomfortable and there’s no way around that. But I think that you can say, “Hey, when you stroke my arm/lean on me/climb in my lap/rub your leg against mine and moan/whatever is going on, it makes me really uncomfortable. Please stop.”

      They might say, “Oh, but I’m only touching you/heavy breathing/whatever because we’re *friends*,” in which case you can just repeat, “It makes me uncomfortable, so please stop.” You don’t have to spell out the why of makes you uncomfortable if you don’t want to.

      You don’t have to get into the “I fancy you so it’d be okay if you were doing it because you fancied me back [and were poly or single]” thing, since if they’re in a mono relationship and are claiming not to be flirting, that’s unlikely to be relevant.

      • MisMis said:

        I know… and I have started to distance myself for that reason. But having been emotionally neglected for basically my whole life I am practically starving for affectionate touch like hugs & cuddling. My brain desperately wants more of that dopamine… and can’t have it.

        • Badger Rose said:

          Ah, yeah, I’ve been there. I was affection-deprived for many years myself. That’s hard.

          The best metaphor I’ve come up with for that situation is… it’s like filling your hummingbird feeder with Sweet’N’Low. Which is a terrible thing to do for a lot of reasons (not least of which is, wtf, why would you do that?), but the big one is that the sweetness draws the hummingbirds and they’ll drink from the feeder to get that sweet taste. But hummingbirds crave sweet nectar not because they like sweet taste because they need the energy in sugar to power their superfast wings and their oversized-for-their-bodies hearts.

          Sweet’N’Low *tastes* so much like what they need that they’ll gravitate to the feeder and drink it dry. But it doesn’t actually have any sugar in it, so they starve. They glut on sweetness and still starve.

          The person who offers you the actions of affection without the content of affection, the form of love without the meaningful substance of love, the shape of care without actual caringness? The people who play the I care, no wait I don’t, no yes I do, but no, but maybe yes, games? They’re filling their bird feeder with Sweet’N’Low. You can’t live off it. You may like the way it feels. You *will* like the way it feels because it’s engineered to be sweet. But it’s just going to starve you in the end.

          You need to find the people who will fill your hummingbird feeder with food, whether they’re romantic partners or good friends. It’s easy to think of the Sweet’N’Low birdfeeder as a stopgap on the way to real emotional nourishment, but it’s not. It’s a distraction that’s too attractive for its own good.

          (Yes, before someone says something–I know the thing about people putting Sweet’N’Low in their hummingbird feeders is probably an urban legend. It makes a good metaphor, though, and one that’s useful to me in an emotional sense, regardless of whether it ever literally happened.)

          • JenniferP said:

            This is so beautifully stated, thank you! Comment of the day.

          • Bunny said:

            I think I need to work a quote or two from this into samplers!

          • MisMis said:

            Thank you so much for your reply!
            As for the motivations of people… maybe they simply like hummingbirds fluttering all around them I guess? *sigh*

          • Badger Rose said:

            @MisMis:

            I think some of them like the attention, yeah. Definitely sometimes that’s the case. (Sometimes it’s even subconscious.)

            And some of them just plain don’t know they’re doing it–some personalities or cultures are just more physically affectionate than others, where a hug or a kiss means less than it does for people from more physically reserved personalities or cultures.

            Here’s where my metaphor breaks down, because you can’t fill a bird feeder with Sweet’N’Low by accident, but I think a person can be flirty and touch-friendly without realizing that they’re hurting people, or because their other friends really like it (and know perfectly well what they are and are not offering) and they don’t recognize that some people are starving for what they seem to be offering (but are not). And they aren’t wrong, if that’s what’s going on. Sometimes it’s a total accident, and one person who is just very physically affectionate even with casual friends accidentally sends the wrong signal to someone who isn’t/can’t be physically affectionate in a casual way, and nobody did anything wrong.

            I had a MASSIVE crush on a guy who was just really hug-y and friendly and cuddly with everyone. For a long time I wondered, who’s wrong? Is it me for hanging too much importance on it when he gave me a hug, and then dying inside when he hugged two other girls and three guys that way, and turned me down for a date a week later? Or was it him for giving me these warm, affectionate hugs when he didn’t want to be more than friends?

            And in the end, it wasn’t anybody’s fault. But I needed him to stop hugging me that way anyway, because it hurt too much. I needed to stop going back to that hummingbird feeder–even though he’d put it out with nothing but the best of intentions. Maybe what he’d put in it was nourishing for someone else, but it wasn’t for me.

          • redgirl said:

            What a great metaphor! I’m sure I’ll be repeating it someday–thanks for sharing!

          • griffykate said:

            This needs to be A Thing now, like missing stairs and the house full of velociraptors. Five bloody stars to this comment.

        • UnsuckableButtercup said:

          I used to spend a lot of time in a college culture that was very touch-oriented. When outsiders came to visit, we’d have to brief them on what was and wasn’t flirting. And shifting gears from the constant embraces of semi-rural Louisiana to the more reserved “touching that does not lead to sex is icky” of the northern suburbs of Chicago was kind of jarring, for my teenaged self. I apologize for the years I spent as an indiscriminate hugger/ hair-braider/ giver of backrubs to those who thought I was offering fluid exchange when all I was offering was a crown braid.

          • manybellsdown said:

            Drama student? Because I have many memories of backrub-chains and cuddlepiles and all sorts of butt-grabbing. I saw many a naked man years and years before I had sex with one.

          • Bunny said:

            This was also the atmosphere for my sixth form goths/nerds/LGBTQ/outcast crossover/various werido’s group! Not an official group so much as we all just fell in together. And man, did we ever dispense freely with the affection. Nothing quite so cute as the sight of a spiked, tattoo’d, bearded metalhead giggling with glee while a pair of geology students tickle the sides of his mohawk’d head.

            It was a lovely time, but man was it ever awkward and uncomfortable readjusting to peer groups where it was NOT normal for eight people to share a single sofa.

          • I wish society was more touch oriented. I love hair braiding/back rubs/hugs!

        • I have heard many people recommend getting a massage (just the regular kind!) as a solution for being touch-starved, if that is financially an option for you. In the meantime, here is a Jedi Hug.

      • Laughing Giraffe said:

        Here’s to that. I’m a big fan of sticking to concrete nouns and strong verbs as much as possible when it comes to asking people to change their behavior. Much harder to argue with “I don’t want you to touch my leg” than “I want you to not be sexual around me”. With the latter, some people will take whatever wiggle room they can get to protest that they’re not being sexual, they’re just being friendly! – whereas it’s much harder to say “No, see, that’s not *actually* my hand on your knee.” (Which isn’t to say that you don’t still get people who try to argue “don’t touch me” with “no, it’s okay, because…” Bah on those people.)

        • Badger Rose said:

          Yeah, exactly!

          And it can also be helpful if you have hit a cultural or language gap. “Please don’t get cuddly with me, it makes me uncomfortable” is kind of vague (does it mean hello hugs? sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the couch? sitting almost but not quite touching so that you accidentally brush arms a lot? HELP), but “hey, can you not lean on me when we’re watching a movie, it makes me uncomfortable” is clear regardless of your definition of, e.g., “cuddly.”

          (This is on my mind in part because I help plan events for my workplace that involve people from many cultures/continents, and sometimes I have to do the thing where I go “Whoah why is this guy hitting on me at work… oh wait, no, he’s being perfectly respectful, he’s just standing way closer than I’m comfortable with because he’s from X culture and I’m not used to their personal space bubbles.” It’s a lot easier to reframe the experience appropriate to their culture if I think of it as the concrete “standing really close” rather than the abstract “being creepy.”)

          • MisMis said:

            I think I would not be so confused if it were not for the sexual component of this flirting. Maybe I should provide some backstory:

            I did not have any romantic/sexual relationships till now. Partly because of not being able to trust most people to open myself up to them, partly because of skipping my teenage years completely due to bullying. I can count my close friends on one hand and I have a really hard time making new friends. (If you know MBTI… I would be an INFJ — though I’m not sure I really like the theory behind the MBTI, the type description fits me to a tee…)
            So I was really happy that over the course of last year at university I got to know a few people, mostly women, that I could relate to and who were nice and unpretentious (which is a rarity in my field). For all of my life I had more connection with women than with men (I am DMAB and identify as agender but I am not really “out” and get read as feminine, androgynous-looking young man). I seem to have traits and interests that confuse people such as really showing passion for things like cats, cooking, art, music and dancing and I get called “overly polite and caring” on a regular basis — so most people who know me a little but not very good don’t really know what to make of me and in absence of any better idea seem to think a am not quite but possibly “gay”. It maybe does not help that I never show up with any girlfriend or have relationship stories to tell or flirt with anybody.
            So over the past year I ran into situations with my friends that one could see as flirting… ok, I am used to that — I went to clubs in the past, dancing, getting flirted at by women, by men, I know that. I generally don’t flirt back if I do not really know that person very well.
            I told myself “see, they are trying to get a reaction from you because they can’t put you into one of their neat boxes labeled “man, hetero”, grinned, and did nothing.
            But then it escalated to three women (all in serious, longstanding! relationships) flirting in a way I never would have expected in public settings. All three clearly getting aroused (genuine, I think?) and two of them making gestures that leave no room for speculation.
            I was confused, flattered, excited, angry (“are they trying to het-test me?wtf!”) and sad at the same time and so I asked the two I really care for for clarification by mail. With the result that I now know that they really speculated about my orientation and “no, no intentions to flirt”.
            So… still sad, doubting my own thoughts and observations and having lost trust in those I thought to be real friends.

    • staranise said:

      What you definitely to is try not to feed the obsession with that person. Like Badger Rose said, the bird feeder is full of Sweet’N’Low. Right now, your brain is going, “Thing we want! Right there! Next to us! Go for it!” and that can turn into all that you think about. But the actual nectar and human relationships and everything else come from concentrating on all your relationships with other people. Because the problem is, even if this person physically likes touching you, they have definitely stated that it is never going to go anywhere. Anything else on your part is wishful thinking. So if getting something that makes your brain light up from this person is making you ignore the work of building relationships and social networks with everyone else, ie. the stuff that will ultimately fulfill you, it’s not helping.

    • Rosa said:

      I pretend it’s not happening and then either continue to pretend it never happened, or stay away from that person, depending on if they continue to do that or not. Using words (“Please don’t flirt with me, it makes it hard to be your friend”) would probably be clearer, kinder, and faster.

      Everyone has minor slipups, and “flirting in a serious manner but not going farther than that” when in a monogamous relationship is a pretty minor one. But “continually flirting in a serious manner with someone I know likes me back, when in a monogamous relationship” is cruel, both to the person’s partner and the person (you!) who likes them and is being used for the flirter’s personal satisfaction with no return.

  19. “I like how we are now ya know?”

    See, I take that as she wants the attention but not the responsibility that comes with the flirting. It’s fun to flirt, but less fun to deal with actual emotions. Especially someone elses. I also think she’s trying to use a soft no.

  20. When I was in college there was this guy. Texting wasn’t really a thing yet. Anyway this guy lived in my dorm and would stop by my room in the dorm, and sometimes at work to visit me a lot. I would stop by his room too. He was generally a socially awkward dude, but that was pretty much par at my university, and I liked him so I kept hanging out.

    The thing was that he would flirt with me, a lot. There was hand holding, there was whispering me compliments in Spanish, taking me for ice cream, dancing in his room. At one point he was sleeping with one of my stuffed animals. This shit was GROSS you guys. I didn’t even realize how bad it was until one of my friends pointed it out.

    But the whole time he was being all sweet he would say horrible things to me like “There is just no one at this school that I could EVER date. No one here is my type. ”

    Thank FSM he transferred after freshman year, or I probably would have spent 4 years getting my heart broken over and over again by a guy who clearly liked me but whose type I was not. (HS football star does not want to date the fat girl, I get the message.)

    This is my formerly broken heart telling you NOT to listen to this girls texts.
    If she cannot make up her mind about whether or not she wants to date you, you don’t want to date her. She may be conflicted because of REASONS, but that is not a thing you want to help her work through. You deserve someone who would be psyched to have dinner with you and then follow up more concretely on some sexy texts.

    (This guy is married now and still IMs me sometimes. About 4 years after college he found out I was living with someone and was all upset he’d missed his chance. FOR REALZ? Ugh. I dodged a bullet.)

    • Ystir said:

      Ugh, what an arse.

      • Totally.

    • UnsuckableButtercup said:

      I’ve been mother confessor of more football-captain types than seems probable. So many of them really *want* the girl that they’re afraid their peers won’t accept, I think that there’s some sort of hard-wiring there. But screw it; if you can’t buck the opinions of your friends (who usually turn out to be fine with it) to be with someone, you not only don’t deserve the curvy girl, you aren’t mature enough to have *any* girl (or boy). And you might want to start shopping around for better friends.

  21. GaG said:

    I’ve had a kind of similar situation, LW, though different in some ways because it was with a good friend. My friend told me repeatedly while sober that she was not interested in me romantically or sexually. But while drunk she would become very handsy and one night she kissed and groped me. I was very confused and mentioned what she always said while sober, and she backed off but didn’t respond verbally and from then on we both ignored that incident and previous incidents so I never found out what actually instigated her behavior. In any case I think the captain’s advice is spot-on. And though the drunk sexting may be somewhat enjoyable because you like this person, in the long run it’s probably better to cut that off too if this person is going to continue jerking you around with their sober vs. drunk behavior. (Also, I noticed that your letter didn’t mention your gender but a lot of the responses assumed you were male, and so I just wanted to mention that I’m also not male with my somewhat similar related situation.)

    • Ystir said:

      Good point on the genders, I hadn’t considered that. Stupid internalised heterosexism (given I’m bi and all, you’d think I’d be better at this.)

  22. LW, thank you for being a top bloke!
    My brain is screaming “Don’t do it, it’s a trap!” When I hear about this sort of thing.

    If she rejects you sober, it means she has reasons and inhibitions about it. It might have nothing to do with you, it might be she has hang-ups about dating, she might have her eyes on another guy but still sorta want you in her pants so her drunken psyche is trying to double dip. She might have all sorts of issues that you don’t want to get involved with.

    You’ve gotta wonder, why is she doing this repeatedly? Does she seriously have no self control when drunk (likely) or are there other, more sinister reasons. It could be that she isn’t drunk and is playing you for a fool. She could just be a sexting junkie and be up for a virtual shag but not want one in real life (leave it alone, read the hummingbird metaphor that badger rose wrote). You don’t know if she does this to someone else or even multiple other people.

    It’s okay to be mad/sad/majorly frustrated! What she is doing is totally UNFAIR and uncool.
    I fully agree with the captain on this and I hope you can maintain friendship and find a meaningful relationship with someone else who deserves your awesomeness.

  23. SF said:

    I’ve been This Girl… long ago. 10+ years later (and a whole lot of growing up and perspective), I can safely admit that the reason I strung this one particular guy along (very very long story though) was because I loved the attention he gave me. I loved knowing that, no matter what happened, he’d put up with my crap because he was madly in love with me.

    Thankfully, he and I are still friends to this day–after taking several years off of the friendship and reconnecting via Facebook and email–but I feel like crap sometimes for the way I treated him. But I learned a lot about myself and how to treat people by going through this. So while I regret my behavior, I am glad I had the experience. I feel like it set me up to be a much better/kinder person these days.

    That being said, LW, I think Cap’n’s advice is spot on. IMHO, you should be this girl’s friend… there is a reason you’re attracted to her! But stay away from the overly emotional/sexual stuff unless you get a super-clear signal that she has changed and will respect you and want you when she is sober.

  24. JM said:

    Thanks for all your comments!
    I should have just stopped talking to her awhile ago but as Badger Rose put it she became my Sweet’N’low .Things have not changed and after talking to my friends and reading these comments I will not be talking to her, so I can respect myself, and find someone who will treat me better.

    -LW

    • JenniferP said:

      Aw, don’t be too hard on yourself. We’ve been there.

    • Jolly said:

      I feel like these are the moments when you can actually see yourself growing up, so honestly? Big congratulations are in order for managing it without spending Years in the grips of growing pains from trying to deal with this kind of bullshit. BAD RELATIONSHIP DYNAMIC information has been added to your Pokedex. Now you know to run every time you see it in the future.

      • griffykate said:

        You encountered a wild Drunken Sext!
        Drunken Sext used ‘yanking your chain’.
        You used ‘flee’.
        Your Pikachu evolved into Raichu!

        Congrats on levelling up, LW. :)

        • Annie said:

          Oh, please don’t be hard on yourself! You have way more self awareness than I at least did when this happened to me in college. And honestly, knowing that you want to respect yourself is much much better than blaming yourself about why doesn’t he/she like me really and mooning about for MONTHS listening to Joni Mitchell records over your unrequited/kind of requited lust. (Months.)

          Ain’t no one got time for that kind of nonsense.

        • No lying, I have used Pokemon references to drunkenly hit on people. This is why my sexting is the best sexting.

    • Zillah said:

      You definitely do. Good luck, and good on you for being able to recognize it. :)

    • Sheelzebub said:

      I’m so glad to hear this! And please don’t beat yourself up. We’ve all been there, and you reacted the way most other people would. One of the reasons why I get so surly in my replies to letters like this is that emotionally I’m all OH MY GOD DON’T DO IT, IT’S A TRAP I KNOW I HAD FALLEN INTO THAT ONE LIKE A HUNDRED TIMES IN MY TWENTIES. RUN RUN LIKE THE WIND! Also, people like this woman get on my last nerve with a jackhammer.

      You deserve someone who wants you and says so sober.

    • Pterinochilus murinus said:

      Good job, LW. You deserve that self-respect: you were already handling this well up to now, and I think you made a good decision.

    • Badger said:

      LW,

      You’re doing the right thing, and there are other girls out there who will be straight up and honest with you instead of playing these stupid little games. I mean, once is maybe half-wittedly understandable, but multiple occurrences make my Badger-Sense tingle…

      Be well and treat yourself well. :)

      Badger

  25. Katamari said:

    I can’t stand when people use the “but I was drunk!” excuse. As if sober them and drunk them are two completely different entities with nothing in common, and not actually the same person! Alcohol doesn’t make you a different person, it just makes you more expressive about what’s already there in the first place.The fact that this girl doesn’t get that, and thinks that “but I was drunk!” is a get-out-of-jail-free card is a major worry. What’s to stop you two starting a relationship, and then her cheating on you and saying “but I was drunk”? Her attitude about this shows a whole lot of immaturity. I completely agree with CA and the other commenters, it definitely seems like she’s not able to express her feelings and act on them when sober, like a normal human grown-up, but instead needs to get absolutely blasted to tell you how she feels. Not mature, not normal. IMO, you do not want to get involved with this girl until she acknowledges her behavior and starts acting like an adult.

    • As if sober them and drunk them are two completely different entities with nothing in common, and not actually the same person!

      That drives me up a wall too! Even if alcohol did have magical personality changing properties, sober-you would still be the one who made the decision to drink enough for drunk-you to take over.

    • cicatricella said:

      *this* – I have spent my time being somewhat abusive of the C2H5OH. I have *never* accepted the ‘I was drunk’ as an acceptable excuse. Especially when it was me perpetrating the offense.

  26. Perhaps I am missing something here, but where on earth did the LW say that they’re a man? Is it just that they’re attracted to a woman?

    I have had equally confusing encounters with women who will flirt when drunk but insist that they are straight when sober. It’s frustrating, hurtful, and ultimately never ever ever a good idea to get involved.

    • JenniferP said:

      We could be wrong about gender, always, but remember that I often have real names/email addresses to go by. LW, deepest apologies if I misgendered you.

      • JM said:

        I’m male, so no worriers.

        - LW

    • MamaCheshire said:

      I had this exact thought.

      I also remember back in my undergrad days some of the guys who were confused about their sexual orientation or who were gay-and-closeted acting somewhat this way towards women. One of them was Cute Gay Housemate, who was someone that I had enough of a crush on for years that “have a crush” is woefully inadequate to describe it, and who engaged in a handful of drunken makeouts with me, including one in which he repeatedly told me that he knew I was The One and that he would always love me…yeah.

      And then we moved in together after graduation, and I think having each other as relationship partners in-every-way-but-sexual actually made it more difficult to rid ourselves of our respective Darth Vaders, because we were getting everything that belongs to a relationship but the sex and the title of “significant other” from each other. (And this was NOT helped by his family and my family and most of our mutual friends asking when we’d cut the crap and just marry each other already. Which at one point I even offered to have him marry me for the health insurance my job had…)

      Spouse is a younger, slightly shorter and less skinny, less shy, Kinsey 3 version of Cute Gay Housemate. So I can’t entirely regret my attachment to Cute Gay Housemate, since I think he taught me what to look for in a partner. But oh, the horrific awkward that so often ensued.

      • That In A Hat said:

        I share a house with my best friend (and now his girlfriend too), and honestly, it’s been the sort of thing that worried me for awhile. Still does sometimes. I get most of the emotional succor and support I need from them. Sometimes it feels like being more of a poly relationship. Just, without sex on my part. And yeah, my family shipped me and him for a long while (we attempted to date once and it did not work).

        All that said, being up close and personal with him helped me figure out not just what I want in a relationship, but also what I DO NOT WANT.

        But I do wonder if I’d’ve had more drive to date and add people to my life I hadn’t had close friends to come home to. Which is a nice thing to come home to, but man, I’d like to plan something a little more permanent.

        • MamaCheshire said:

          Yeah, I know that feeling.

          It was difficult because Cute Gay Housemate was everything that 19-year-old me wanted in a partner – except he was not interested in women that way. Except occasionally a little bit when influenced by recreational chemicals. And because everyone up to and including BOTH sets of parents and the people each of us were dating at the time thought Cute Gay Housemate and I were Destined Soulmates, to the point that his then-boyfriend asked me if it was OK if they “had a fling, just for a little while, because I know deep down he’s really yours, sweetheart” and at least one person I dated in the intervening time ended up getting dumped because he just would not believe that I was not cheating on him with Cute Gay Housemate. (If you know the Tales of the City canon, books or miniseries, we essentially were Mouse and Mona.)

          And then about a year later, soon after my second attempt at dating my ex-GF-turned-BFF, I took up with my own personal Darth Vader, who did his best to persuade me that he, not Cute Gay Housemate, not ex-turned-BFF, was my Destined Soulmate. One of the more irritating features of Darth in the day-to-day was that he was an exceptionally picky eater and incredibly rude about it. So…Darth could go have his pizza or his cheeseburgers and Cute Gay Housemate and I could create interesting fusion cuisine out of whatever was on sale in the very nice grocery store where Cute Gay Housemate worked in OUR kitchen when Darth wasn’t around. And snuggle the cats we adopted together, while Darth (who was allergic to cats) looked on glaring. And discuss theater, which Darth had no interest in because he “couldn’t suspend disbelief” well enough to enjoy it. And it’s because I had Cute Gay Housemate to do all these things with that I was able to put to the side just how Darth-like Darth was. All I needed from Darth was the sex and the title of “fiance”…and quite frankly, that’s about all I got, with a side of gaslighting and emotional abuse that escalated to threats of physical abuse. Darth and I had NOTHING in common except for the two hobbies we met through, and we had very different approaches to those hobbies and very different reasons for being into those hobbies. But since I had Cute Gay Housemate for everything else, it…mattered less? *shrug*

          tl;dr – Cute Gay Housemate didn’t keep me from getting INTO relationships or finding them, but may have indirectly kept me from getting OUT of one proactively.

          • Jenn said:

            If you don’t mind me asking what caused you to end things with Cute Gay Housemate?

  27. I feel like there should be an app where you can designate certain contacts in your address book that you cannot call, text, or e-mail without taking a breathalyzer test first. It would save a whole lot of people a lot of pain.

    • staranise said:

      There are already apps that require you to solve a skill-testing question between certain hours (along with a myriad of other “drunk text analyzers” and drinking diaries), and honest-to-god iOS compatible breathalyzers should hit the market later in the year. ^_^

      • Wait, seriously?! That’s awesome! Man, the things people come up with :)

        • Aezy said:

          There is definitely an iphone app called Dignity which allows you to select contacts to block and the length of time you want to block them for. Then you just wipe them out of your call history and message history and you are totally unable to contact them off of that phone until the time has elapsed, with no way to unblock (although if they contact you you will have their number). I’ve yet to find one on Android so my solution is a “drunk phone” which contains the contacts of people I will need while I’m out (i.e. the friends I’m off out with) and nothing else. It’s the best solution I’ve found since I am a certified Attention Seeking Drunk Texty Person.

          • Haha, I have no idea what kind of drunk I am yet (drinking is not high on my priority list), but I will definitely bear that app in mind.

          • That is a clever, clever app. I like it. I don’t need it these days, but I did once have to go through and rename everything associated with a particular ex’s name to “Dead”, as in dead-to-me. I still have files on my hard drive labelled Dead.

    • DameB said:

      I feel like a useful app might be a time-variable block. I can receive texts and calls from member of my grad school cohort during regular hours, but anything betwee 9 pm and 6 am are blocked, because she’s a drunk texter. I’m flashing back to high school, when that would have been awesome. (Not that there were texts back then. But the ability to block my ex at night, when he called drunk, would have been awesome.)

      • Emmers said:

        Jesus, your parents put up with that bullshit when you were in high school? I would have had a pretty stern lecture, then when they found out I *wasn’t* suggesting the phone calls occur in the middle of the night, dude’s parents would have been called.

        Caveat: I had (and have) a pretty good relationship with my parents, and they were always willing to stand up for me if I was having trouble myself. (Dunno what to call that…functional-immediate-family privilege? Close enough, anyway.)

  28. Evenstar said:

    Captain Awkward has pretty much nailed this one, when instead of framing it as whether LW can sleep with the girl, she frames it as whether he should.

    It’s amazing how much our sexuality is expressed through desperation. For the less sexually reserved it may be “I’m drunk and s/he’s drunk. I probably won’t get another opportunity to sleep with him/her” and for the more reserved like me, it’s been “I must force this relationship to work with this one person because all of my sexual energy must be singularly directed, even though this person clearly doesn’t want a relationship with me.” It’s a shame really, how easy it is to attach ourselves to someone, or everyone, and look for scraps of attention from people who are no good for us instead of just being awesome and letting other awesome sexy people enter our lives.

    This woman may seem like the world to LW right now, but really she is bad news and has problems (with communication, or alcohol, or her desires, or whatever) that she needs to fix herself and that the LW really shouldn’t get involved in, especially after the way she’s treating him. This is when the LW should be saying “red flags! run! abort mission! find better woman!”

    • staranise said:

      A lot of the heart of this site’s advice seems to be moving from a scarcity mentality re: people and relationships to an abundance mentality. Rather than assuming that there is a limited number of people out there for you and that every connection you cut is one fewer person in your life, it moves towards assuming that in a world full of people, you will actually end up meeting more people than you need, so you can afford to prioritize.

      • Kerry said:

        I love this way of framing it.

      • AndyEricson said:

        This is an important theory! It is a hard development to make, sometimes, especially in places like graduate school where there is a small (apparent) universe of people.

      • gmg said:

        I love it too, but it’s scary because the scarcity mentality is so ingrained. I’ve totally convinced myself over the years that it explains why I’m perpetually single — “there just aren’t enough PEOPLE out there that I have a real connection with.” But I know that instead, I have to continue working to move myself toward the understanding that it’s at least in part my own state of mind that has been keeping me separated from possible relationship connections, and how to address that issue if I want lots more chances of togetherness in my life …

  29. atma said:

    Oh yes. And also away from the paradigm that living happily ever after is both actually possible and especially desirable. There is such a strong conditioning that pairing up is the main thing in life. It really isn’t. Being happy and fulfilled is important. There is no causal connection between being in a heterosexual relationship and happiness. The sooner we understand this, the better

    • Hugh said:

      Or a homosexual relationship.

    • Vicki said:

      And the related cultural idea that any relationship that ends other than by death is a failure. Several good years are several good years even if several is less than a lifetime.

      • solecism said:

        Yep. My abusive ex cried about 7 years wasted when we broke up. It went on too long for sure, but it was valuable experience. I learned a lot about myself and boundaries and defending them and all sorts of good things. I learned a lot about addiction and privilege and all sorts of bad things. And there were certainly some good times in there or it wouldn’t have dragged on so long. Plus we both came out financially much better off. So it wasn’t a waste at all. Though it was a failure in many ways, but that had much less to do with the relationship ending and more to do with what kind of person I was in that relationship. I won’t try to speak for the ex, who is probably still angry and calling me foul names.

        My initial reaction to the original letter was to remember the Peanuts cartoons featuring Lucy holding the football. That’s all I can really think of about this situation. No really, this time I won’t pull it away…best to stop playing her game, it only leads to being laid out on the ground in pain.

      • Yeah, that really gets to me, too. By that logic, all romantic relationships are defined as failures, except for possibly one. It kind of follows that having romantic relationships at all is just a means to an end (marriage/lifelong partnership). I think that relationships with people have worth because they are relationships with people. The possibility that a relationship will one day end doesn’t necessarily make it a waste of time.

  30. Linden said:

    The same thing that happened to LW happened to me in those dark days before texting. Drunk guy would phone me multiple times when drunk (sometimes referring to me by some other girl’s name), or even stand outside my dorm and holler up at my window. Finally I told him if he couldn’t ask me out when he was sober, I didn’t want to hear from him at all. And that put an end to it, because I’m not sure he ever was sober. One quick, curt conversation ought to clear the air on this problem.

  31. DoubleXXCross said:

    Stage an intervention for her alcohol problem. Friends get to do that kind of stuff, and you value her as a friend, right?

    • I think it would be awfully presumptuous for a friendly acquaintance/classmate she’s drunk-texted a few times to stage an intervention for her “alcohol problem” based on the amount of information this LW has. a) He doesn’t really know she has an ongoing “alcohol problem,” as opposed to just having exercised a bit of poor judgment a few times, as many of us have at one or more points/phases of our lives; there is not enough here to establish she has actual addiction, and b) an intervention should only be initiated by someone’s closest circle, people who genuinely love him/her, are part of his/her life and have tried lower-key conversations to no avail over a period of time. It has to come from a place of love and deep, legitimate concern.

      • Ystir said:

        Yes, this. Good grief, I know Britain and the US have different standards around drinking, but blimey, I’m pretty sure staging an intervention (not even “having a quiet word with your friend who you’re kind of worried about”, an INTERVENTION) is a bit extreme in this case, even in the US? (Assuming US, anyway.)

    • staranise said:

      An intervention is something you “get to do”? Like it’s some kind of special privilege of friendship?

      I’m having a hard time parsing your advice as anything other than, “use the thin veneer of social connection to force your way further into her life and harrass her about her drinking habits, because then you will have an excuse to spend time around this person you have pantsfeelings for! Which is the important part!”

      And if so: Gross.

      • I think DoubleXXCross was “only” saying that one of the privileges and responsibilities of friendship is haranguing your friends when they’re messing up (according to you), for their own good. Which is icky enough.

        • That’s icky? Huh. I have a family member who does this all the time and he frames it as his right/responsibility as a [family member]. And he’s kind of harsh about it sometimes. That’s… not normal? Or is it normal for family but not for friends?

          • It is not normal. It’s common, but not normal.

            Here’s a different model: You get to choose who has a say in how you live your life. You may choose to place a high value on those connected by blood or by years, or you may not; not everyone thinks that family is the be-all, end-all. You decide who matters.

            You can choose to include your asshole family member. Or you can choose to include only the people who actually love you. Blood doesn’t mean love, family doesn’t mean love. Caring about you, on your own terms, that’s a whole lot more like love. This guy does not sound like he cares at all about what you want or what you care about. He just wants to boss you around.

            So…. yes. Very icky. Common, in that just about everybody has some relative who thinks that a blood relation means they get to tell you what to do with your life, but still icky and not at all okay.

          • Wow, that’s… no fun to hear. The thing is, I actually feel really close to this particular family member. He’s done a lot of nice things for me and he’s been there for me when I needed it. I know he does care about me, but he has some very bad ideas about how to show it/how our relationship should go. That by itself might be enough to require some distance between us, I don’t know. I’ll have to do a lot of thinking.

          • …but thanks for the response. it was… informative.

          • staranise said:

            There are a lot of value systems that say it’s really important. They tend to be ones I disagree with. *shrug* Like carbonatedwit says, it’s common. I won’t equate “normal” with “healthy”, but…

            It isn’t useful. Or beneficial. Because really, when this family member goes off about whatever he thinks needs “correcting” in someone else, does that actually improve the situation? I mean, people frequently know that they’re behaving sub-optimally before anyone tells them, but they keep doing it anyway. The things that keep people making choices that are bad for them are usually feelings like guilt, fear, lack of confidence, or thinking they have few alternatives. Does his haranguing actually help people feel less guilty, less fearful, or more confident? Because I very strongly suspect that in telling people what they’re doing wrong, he’s actually doing the opposite of helping them change for the better. At best, in families that really value authoritarian dictating, people like that manage to get their family members to repress or hide the parts of themselves that they deem undesirable.

          • atma said:

            It is quite possible, if not necessarily easy, to keep the parts of a relationship you like and work on removing the parts you don’t. This site is full of advise and scripts for that. Just because someone loves us doesn’t mean we have to accept everything they throw at us.

          • The thing is, when you’re little it really is older family members’ job to teach you how to behave, in terms of being a decent human being, and there’s a fair amount of verbal correcting/instructing involved. No, you can’t whack your sibling because he/she is being annoying! No, you don’t just snatch toys out of other kids’ hands! No, whining is not an ok way to get what you want! No, nobody wants to see what’s inside your mouth at the dinner table! Use Your Words!

            Hopefully, the process does not stop as you go from child to teen to young adult, but continues in an age-appropriate manner — adding in stuff about respecting boundaries, and no meaning no, respecting confidences and not using emotional blackmail to manipulate people, etc., etc. However, at all ages it should still be done in a way that is respectful to the younger person — not haranguing or berating and making them feel awful about themselves (or stupid for being young), but making sure they understand why it is important to treat others (or NOT treat others) in such-and-such a way.

            But there’s a huge difference between calling someone on their bad behavior when they’re treating others badly, and haranguing them for choices that are really none of the haranguer’s damned business. Like who to love, how to dress/present themselves, what to study/do for a living, how to spend their money, what to do for fun… ESPECIALLY once you’re out of childhood. (It should be a steady process of releasing control over the child’s life to the child).

            I think a lot of older relatives fail to make that distinction and to appreciate that their younger relative is growing/has grown up; it’s like they get in the advising-and-correcting habit and fail to realize that the younger person has mastered manners and consideration thank you very much, and now the advice is veering into subject areas where there’s a lot more latitude for different opinions — where the younger person has an absolute right to make decisions for himself/herself that are different from the ones their older relative would make for them — even if the older person really is speaking from love, not just a controlling or disapproving nature.

            I don’t know what your family member is haranguing about, or where they’re coming from in doing it (a desire to be helpful? a belief that everybody should do things they way they would do them?). But you do!

            If it is coming from a place of love, and he just hasn’t seen that you’ve grown up, it may be useful to point out that in terms of basic character, you kind of know who you are now, thanks. And you’ve got down the basic manners and consideration for others stuff, so you don’t really need perpetual coaching in that area anymore.

            And that when it comes to some of the other stuff, while a lot of the advice he’s giving would be great if you were just a younger version of him, you actually have some different priorities and interests and values, as you have a right to do. Because you are not him, and this is not his life, it’s yours. And that while you are interested in hearing his perspective, the haranguing has got to stop, because it is not respectful and is driving a wedge into your relationship. And from then on, when he speaks in a respectful manner, listen in a respectful manner. But when he harangues, tell him “you’re haranguing, again!” And if he does not stop, hang up the phone/get up and walk away.

      • DoubleXXCross said:

        Gah, I’ve messed up the phrasing and I’m sorry for that.

        I meant more along the lines of ‘stay the fuck away from ‘moving in on her’ because she clearly does not want that right now, put her health and feelings above your desire to bone her and try to sort out some way to help her with her problem instead of asking if there’s an opening for you’, buuuuuut I picked the wrong way to phrase that and it’s come out the exact opposite.

        • staranise said:

          Aha, I see.

          I still don’t think it’s the role of acquaintances (which is what these two are) to try to “help” on this scale. Other than the possibility of just saying, once, in two sentences or less, that he is concerned for the LW and wants her to know that there are resources to help her manage her relationship with alcohol, there’s nothing that’s really appropriate for the LW to do. Even then, that sentence or two runs the risk of being offensive and insulting. Any more help than that would be inviting himself into this woman’s life far more than he already is, and it’s up to her to decide if she wants to have more contact with him than sitting together in class and texting sometimes. And right now, all signs right now point to: she actually doesn’t.

    • aebhel said:

      Ok, full disclosure: I have a drinking problem. It’s something I’m working on. I’ve had a handful of people who are very close to me, and who love me, bring it up, and those were still awful, awkward conversations. If someone I barely knew attempted to stage an actual intervention, I would remove them from my life. That is NOT a ‘right’ of friendship, and it’s not something you do on the basis of a handful of drunken texts. An intervention is a last-ditch attempt to keep someone from destroying their own life–you do it after all other avenues have been exhausted.

    • gmg said:

      As others have noted, they’re just not close enough friends for that. But if he IS close with a mutual friend, it might be worth a mention to that person to see if the concern is shared. Even then, though, the danger is that it comes off as concern-trolling, especially if the mutual friend knows about LW and girl’s confused interactions.

  32. sometimeswhy said:

    Holy crap. Thank you Captain. I have a similar-enough situation that I’m trying to sort* and the specific “This is not fun for me if it is not sincere.” phrasing clicked so hard for me that it nearly dislodged a filling. I intend to toss it out the next time my confusing person twinkles eyes at me, then drop the metaphorical mic and make my exit.

    *Shortest version: I’ve gotten lots of very direct I Like You And Want To Put Our Parts Together (Again) And Think About Capital-F Future Things Because Holy Crap You Are Awesome! signals accompanied by a fair amount of very vague and not clear at all I Like You But I Don’t Want To Put Our Parts Together (Again) Or Anything Else Because… Reasons signals.

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