#481: My parents acquired a friend for me (with a gross, moldy congealed side of stalking).

Mr. Collins & Lizzie Bennet from Joe Wright adaptation of Pride & Prejudice
At least they aren’t trying to get you to marry him…yet.

Dear Captain Awkward,

My problem boils down to this: can I say no, or do I have to be polite? 

I’m not a social person. I don’t have friends at the moment. The reasons for that are many –mostly boiling down to living at home again while I look for a job. At school, I had close friends I still talk to over the internet, but until I get a more permanent job with fixed hours I don’t have a pool of people I can talk to in a neutral space where I can happily make friends. I’m fine with that. But my parents believe friends = happiness.

My parents recently hired a 20-year-old decorator (I’m 23) and the three of them think that we should be friends. Apparently he saw my books and “knew” he could have an intelligent conversation with me, which he can’t get from his other friends. He also thought it would be nice for me to have someone who would ask how my day went. I said no.

From what I’ve seen and what my parents have said, he seems like a good guy. He’s intelligent, has had a pretty crap life so far, and what he’s made for himself despite that is impressive. He also has ADHD and a tendency to talk and talk and talk, which is exhausting. It seems like the biggest plus point in his favour with my parents is that they sympathise with him.

He calls me by my family nickname instead of my actual name, although I’ve asked him not to. He makes jokes about my quietness (usually the typical “you never shut up, do you?” and “can’t get a word in edgeways around her!”) that I can’t respond to with anything but silence. He phones once or twice a day; I refused to give him my number so he calls the house. He’s turned up on the doorstep unannounced twice. And I don’t know if this is normal behaviour or not. Very few of my friends ever came round to my house. But I feel unsafe when alone there. I’m constantly on alert in case he appears.

So I avoid him and then feel bad, because he’s just very enthusiastic and he can’t help his ADHD. Why should I judge him for that? I think I’m being paranoid, picky, or a sullen, uncommunicative, ungrateful cow towards a young man who just wants to be friends. I know I’m probably abnormal for not wanting to make friends right now, and I shouldn’t be so fussy, but I really, really don’t want to spend time with this man. 

So – what can I do?

Probably In The Wrong

Mr. Collins from the BBC adaptation of Pride & PrejudiceDear Probably:

I don’t think you are even a little bit in the wrong. There are situations when close friends “just drop by” each other’s houses (and in college when house = dorm room, that is much more likely) but it’s not normal for someone you just met, and calling twice/day is definitely way too often!

And do you want to know why it is way too often?

I mean, there is no objective standard for measuring these things.

I mean, some friends somewhere probably call/text/gchat each other more than once a day and everyone has a different idea of what “normal” is.

He is calling/dropping by way too often because it is too often for you. And the correct barometer for measuring whether this amount of contact is too much is your personal subjective feeling that it is too much. That is in fact the only correct way to measure this.

There is also only exactly one compelling argument or deciding factor in the whole “should this guy and I be friends?” question.

That factor is not whether your parents feel bad about you missing friends from school and trying to set you up.

That factor is not whether your parents went to some trouble and meant this whole thing kindly.

That factor is not how this guy felt when he saw your books, or the effort he has put into becoming friends, or how much he’d like to become friends.

That factor is not whether rejection would make him sad or hurt his feelings, or fuck up your parents decorating schemes.

That factor is: Do you like this guy and want to be friends with him? It sounds like you don’t. Then “No, I don’t” is the only acceptable answer, reason, argument that anyone should need to end this thing that is making you feel stressed and unsafe.

There are two conversations to be had here. I am not sure which order they should happen in.

Parent Conversation:

Hey, parents, I know you meant well when you tried to hook Decorator and me up as friends, but unfortunately I don’t actually like him. I don’t want to mess up your professional relationship, but I am going to ask him to stop calling or coming by to see me, and I’d appreciate a day’s notice if he’s going to be around so I can make it less awkward and arrange to be at the library or something.

The cool response here is: “Whoa, we’re sorry. That is very awkward, but of course we’ll do whatever we can to make it easier on you.

The coolEST response here is “Whoa, we’re sorry, that is very awkward, but of course we will do whatever we can to make it easier on you” + taking on the responsibility of letting him know.

Mr. Collins & Lizzie from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Well-meaning. Smart. Annoying as fuck.

That would look like this, incidentally: “Your interest in our daughter was very kind, and we had high hopes that you would become friends.Unfortunately she’s let us know that she doesn’t want a personal relationship with you, so we’d like to keep it strictly business from now on. She especially would prefer it if you not stop by the house and come only at prearranged times when we’ve scheduled work. I told her we could count on you to respect that.” + subject change to work.

You’re a grownup, obviously, an can handle your own difficult conversations, but as the people with a professional and ongoing relationship with this guy it’s not a terrible idea if they delivered the news.

Chances of the cool response based on what is in your letter?

Low. Very low.

So brace yourself for derailing responses.

  • “He’s not that bad.”
  • “Take pity on him.”
  • “But he has had a bad life and can’t help being annoying. Have a little compassion! Is that how we raised you?”
  • “He hasn’t done anything wrong, exactly, has he?”
  • “It’s not a crime to be nice and friendly, right?”
  • “This will make it weird for our wallpapering scheme.”
  • “Just give him a chaaaaaaaaance.”
  • “y u so picky?”
  • Etc., etc., etc.

I don’t know if it’s a gendered thing, or a busybody parent thing, or a thwarted matchmaker thing, but the subtext behind all of these derailing questions is the possibility that they’ve invited someone into your life who is creeping you out is harder to take than the prospect that you might just not be nice and accommodating enough and that’s somehow why this isn’t working.

I think “He drops by too much and it makes me feel scared and uncomfortable when I am alone here” is actually good information for your parents about what you need to feel safe in your own home. Those are your instincts trying to protect you! Maybe from an actual predator! Okay, more LIKELY from a really annoying dude who is going to talk at you for a long time, but a) people with really poor understanding of boundaries are not good people to have dropping by the house uninvited and b) you get to decide your own safety threshold. If you feel unsafe around him, if you’re always on edge worrying that he will drop by, he does not actually have to ax murder you to prove objectively that those feelings are important and worth listening to.

Lizzie Bennet saying "Mr. Collins won't shut up. Pawn him off on Mary."
Anyone else think that Mr. Collins/Mary Bennet was the great thwarted love story of the book? 

However, your feelings of unsafety might not convince your parents if they are in the middle of bringing a full derail at you and try to “logic” (or, let’s face it, bully and pressure) you into remaining friends with him so that they can save face. In my experience, people who don’t get this REALLY don’t get it and will keep looking for “facts” to try to pressure you into doing what they want.

So one recommended strategy is (once you’ve mentioned the safety concerns) to refrain from explaining it too much. “Sorry, I just don’t like him. I would prefer not to interact with him. I definitely don’t want him ever to come here when you are not here, or when it is not strictly about work, and I definitely want the option to be somewhere else or at least not socialize with him. I recognize that it’s your house and you get to invite who you want to. I don’t want to make it any more awkward then it has to be, but I feel very strongly about this.”

If they keep pushing you, some good scripts to have in your back pocket:

  • But I don’t actually like him.
  • But since I don’t like him, why are you so invested in our friendship?
  • Yes, it is bad news, and he will probably be very hurt. But if you try to force me to be friends with him, I will be very hurt.
  • I will do my best to be civil, but the best way to make sure that everything remains civil and polite is to minimize how much time I have to spend with him and get him out of my life as soon as possible.
  • It’s really weird that you are so invested in this.
  • Unfortunately, “pity” is not a good enough reason to be friends with someone you don’t like.

The guy sounds painfully socially awkward and a bit clueless and like he could really use a good friend. He’s really enthusiastic at the thought of being your friend, because maybe it’s been a long time since he’s connected with anyone, and probably doesn’t mean to overstep his bounds so much.

Ha, did it feel like I was guilting you for a second there?

What you need to keep in mind is:

  • Many socially awkward people are lovable and people that you want(!) to have in your life. Hello, look around at where we are. Hi, awesome folks!
  • That friend doesn’t have to be you. You don’t owe him anything – not making up for his sad life, not as a trophy of what he’s made of himself, not as a favor to your folks, not as your weekly Reaching Out To The Awkward Charity Good Times!

You don’t like him. You don’t have to. That’s enough of a reason to not be around him. No guilt necessary.

The next conversation is for the Unfortunate Decorator.

There are lots of ways to let him know that you don’t want to interact.  The simplest and most direct (and ultimately the kindest) way is this:

“Decorator, this is very awkward. I know you are putting a lot of effort into befriending me, and my parents meant well by introducing us, but unfortunately I am just not feeling it. I would prefer not to be friends, and I definitely need you to stop calling or dropping by the house to see me.

You don’t need to give any reason beyond that, though phrases like “Sorry, I just don’t think we connect” and “I don’t want to get to know you better” and “I just don’t like you that much” are handy in your back pocket if he pushes you. If he’s un-self-aware enough to push you, he deserves a blunt, honest answer.

When you’ve been really raised and conditioned not to say no, learning how to say it is a process and it’s good to give yourself some practice. There are lots of ways that you can (and probably are) indicating “no” to this guy. For example:

  • If he is at the house to see your parents or do work and starts monologuing at you, excuse yourself and go to your room and shut your door. Or go for a walk. Make it clear that you’re not down to listen to his long speeches. “Sorry, I am not interested in hearing about this.” “Sorry, I don’t want to talk to you.” Be blunt, walk away.
  • If he’s calling the house phone for you, and you’ve never told him to stop calling, tell him now. “I don’t want to talk to you on the phone, please don’t call here asking for me.” Hang up. Don’t pick up the phone or come to the phone. Don’t ever answer a call from him.
  • If he stops by to see you, tell him once  (through a window or screen door, don’t let him in): “Why are you here?” He’ll either say it’s for parent/work/house stuff, in which case you say “Well, they aren’t here. Why don’t you call them tomorrow and arrange a time in advance? Stopping by is really not ok.” Or, he’ll say “I wanted to hang out/see you/lend you this book/show you my etchings.”  To which you can say, bluntly, “Yeah, I don’t like you stopping by like this, it makes me really uncomfortable.” Shut door or window, go back inside, wait for him to go away and your shoulders to come down from around your ears.
  • You don’t have to claim to be busy with something particular, act glad to see him, or be friendly or polite.
  • If he asks your parents about what’s up and tries to pressure them to pressure you, it’s a perfect opening for the big conversation with them.

An acceptable response on his part is some variation of “Wow, that is not good news and I feel very awkward now, but of course I understand and will respect your wishes. So sorry to have bothered you” and then peace-ing the fuck out of that room and conversation to lick his wounds later.

There are several uncool responses. One is an emotional outburst involving the words “But whyyyyyyyyyy” or “Give me a chaaaaaaaance?” or demanding a logical, objective reason for your feelings or a list of his supposed errors so that he might correct them or any flavor of pressure on you to reverse your decision. Let’s keep a bit of perspective here, he’s not someone who is or who has ever been close to you, so why would you owe him a long consult? You don’t need to deal with whatever embarrassment or hurt feelings he expresses, or apologize for any of it. I suggest you deliver your news, wait a beat, and then absent yourself from the situation and leave it for others to deal with.

Important safety note:

It is best if rejection conversations takes place when someone else is home. If he drops by when your parents are not home, do NOT let him into the house. Go outside to have it, if you want to, have it through a (locked) screen door, but under no circumstances let him into your space. Chances are that the threat he poses is more of a “Will sit on your couch crying and talking at you for hours” kind of thing, but isn’t that enough reason to make sure he stays outside? Respect your own feelings of distress and fear around him, and limit his physical access to you.

SUPER important safety note:

If you have these conversations with your parents and with him, and he keeps dropping by and trying to insinuate himself into your life, he is indicating that the threat level is raised from “annoying” to “really actually very unsafe.” If he shows up when your parents aren’t home and the visit was not pre-arranged or work-related, do not let him in. Document the conversation you had, document the visit (with a photo, maybe, or just write down the day and time), and consider calling the police to report trespassing. At this time your parents should terminate any contract they have with him and ask him, in writing, to refrain from visiting the premises. Recommended reading: The Gift of Fear.

A happy ending here is that you and your parents and the Unfortunate Decorator have a few awkward conversations. When he comes by to work on the house, you exchange a brief “hey, what’s up” and then have no further interaction with him. He does a good and speedy job with the decorating and definitely does not install any hidden cameras to watch you sleep.

A totally acceptable ending is that this guy feels uncomfortable and steps back from the decorating job and your parents have to find someone else to work with, hopefully having learned an important lesson that you can’t even make 5 year olds be friends with each other if they don’t actually like each other.

An unhappy ending is you having to grit your teeth and smile at someone who invades your space because your parents would feel weird about picking an unsuitable friend for their grown-ass daughter.



294 thoughts on “#481: My parents acquired a friend for me (with a gross, moldy congealed side of stalking).

  1. Sensible advice. I recently discovered this site and this is my first post – I find this very useful to read because I currently don’t have a huge number of friends and I want to make sure I never end up being Space-Invading Decorator Guy. There’s people I really like and would love to befriend, but I know it’s very easy to overstep the mark, and it’s good to mull over how I might prevent that from happening.

    Thanks LW for your thoughtful letter and thanks Captain for your reply – there’s a lot to reflect upon there.

    1. Hi Lee! Welcome to the site.

      It’s hard to know when you’re just getting to know someone what the “right” amount of contact is. Everyone is different, so you have to pay attention to individual responses and reactions.

      The good news is that people who like you will act like they like you. They’ll be easy to schedule time with, and if they can’t come to something they will give you a reason and make an effort to reschedule. It won’t feel like anyone is chasing anyone.

      The guy in this letter had the LW refuse to give him her phone number, NEVER initiates contact or even answers his many calls. Those are signs she does not like him that he is refusing to pick up.

      If you aren’t sure if someone is reciprocating your desire to be friends, a good idea is to ask them to hang out twice (at a decent interval, not twice in two hours or two days). If they don’t respond favorably, either by making plans or saying “I can’t this week, but DEFINITELY check in 2 weeks if I don’t get bac to you,” let it go – it doesn’t mean they hate you, go ahead and be friendly when you run into them, but it means they aren’t feeling the same intensity as you and it’s ok to leave it to them to make some move.

      1. Thanks for your pointers, Captain. You’re right – I spent a long time testing the water before hanging out with a work colleague at lunchtime, but after a couple of fun lunches she seems way less enthusiastic about doing it again, so I need to back off and be careful not to tread on her toes.

        1. I think it’s important to not take it as all or nothing, WOE YOU HAVE REJECTED ME, either. Just, chill out, back off, remain open, and see what happens. Give her a chance to initiate lunch!

          1. This is, of course, the really important part. It’s easy, in our very boring and repetitive jobs, to allow even tiny things to assume HUGE IMPORTANCE and this goes hand-in-hand with my tendency to MASSIVELY OVER-THINK things. Trust takes time to build and it’s worth playing the long game when building good friendships, so I’m just going to see how it pans out.

          2. Yes to this. I have spent the past couple of years with a (recently diagnosed and treatable, thank heavens!) condition that made interacting with even the best, most fun people utterly exhausting. (It made watching Netflix exhausting. The trouble with fighting chronic disease is it takes away your will to fight it, sometimes.) So I’m slowly coming out of my cave and discovering that a lot of people thought I hated them, because I avoided hanging out or would pull away after a few enthusiastic hours. I am deeply grateful to the people who didn’t take it personally, or, even better, those friends who respected, “I’m beat. Another time?”

      2. Ahaha. You just summarised pretty much exactly a conversation I had with my best friend a few years ago, in which I tried to explain why ‘doing all that stuff makes me think they didn’t want to talk to me’ and were basically classic signals for Not Actually Friends, so should I stop trying to talk to you? (and they went… oh, I guess that makes sense. But I DO want to talk to you). I spent years chasing after them and trying not the be Annoying Decorator Guy. It’s a lot healthier now, but… yeah, there were issues. Probably at both ends 😀 (socially awkward teenagers…)

        99% of the time, that post is exactly right. 1% of the time, it’s because of some other factor interfering with their otherwise genuine desire to be in your company (and said factors making a reliable commitment for next time on their part difficult). But if you don’t have previous knowledge of them, and a solid basis for knowing you are probably friends, it’s very difficult to a) make this call and b) talk to them about it, without risking getting it wrong and making things uncomfortable and difficult for someone trying to quietly deflect you.

  2. OMG yes about Mary/Mr. Collins!

    …and about your advice to Op too, of course. *g*

    1. I do feel kind of bad for any child who grows up surrounded by Mary, Mr. Collins, and Lady Catherine, though. At least with Charlotte you know there’s one person on hand who’s got a more normal normal emotional read on things for the kid to go to.

      1. Possibly relevant to your interests: Miss De Bourgh In Bath, a fanfic novella in which Miss De Bourgh makes some real friends who aren’t constant ‘splainers. Sorry about your plans for the rest of the day. 🙂

        1. I cursed the day you brought that novella (and its as-yet-unfinished sequel) into my life. As if my unholy obsession with All Things Austen weren’t enough… 🙂

          1. I did not know about the sequel, so consider me hoisted by my own petard.

        2. Oooooooh, or there’s “Darcy and Anne,” which started out as a fan fiction and got published later! It follows Ann de Burgh after the events of P&P, and is a charming little book.

          Though, I’ve become convinced that Mary and Mr. Collins would make a terrible match. Mary, IIRC, thinks more highly of him than her sisters, but still feels that he needs improvement. He would never take her advice, so they’d be stuck in a loop of her always nagging and him always condescending.

          1. Aargh! *shakes fist* Curse you all! My time, my precious time, where have you gone?!

        3. There is Pride and Prejudice fanfic. THERE IS PRIDE AND PREJUDICE FANFIC. I’m so excited it’s almost embarrassing.

          For the record, your site holds primary responsibility for completely changing my reading of the book (which is a good thing, btw).

    2. YES ME TOO

      I remember watching both versions of that and wanting to jump into the tv, turn into Dr. Phil, sit them down on a fancy Regency-era settee, and be like, “Now, Mary, Mr. Collins, y’all aren’t banging. What’s up with that?”

      And there is like no Mary/Mr. Collins fan fiction out there that I can find and they are totally OTP. ::sulk::

    3. I wonder if the evident compatibility of Mary and Mr Collins was Austen subtly re-emphasising what a complete douche he is. He waffles on about choosing a suitable wife for a clergyman, but ignores the girl reading the book of sermons and goes for the prettiest one. When it’s made clear she’s taken, he settles for the next prettiest one instead.

      1. I think it’s also relevant that they were asked in age order too according to the social conventions of the times which perhaps is a little less damning an interpretation of Collins. Good job for both me and my younger sister that things have moved on since then! 😉

  3. As a guy with ADHD I diagnose his tendancy to talk nothing to do with the ADHD and being nervous around a girl he FEELS for and can’t talk properly to… YMMV

    I am one hundred percent with CA. I feel the is like a doctor who cyberman episode and parents are saying “you will be upgraded” to have a friendship and CA as the Doctor is saying RUN! (please note I don’t actually think tour parents are Cybermen (unless they push down the bad path I hope they don’t.) Its your choice who you like and who you feel safe with not anyone elses. Hope things work out.

    1. Yeah, I have ADHD too, and it’s more like being distracted and not being able to pay attention, rather than being annoying. If he had ADHD he would more likely FORGET to call than call every single day. At least in my experience.
      Also, I liked your refrencing Doctor Who.
      CA’s right, nobody can MAKE anybody else be friends.
      Or else the Doctor would have a serious problem with a Dalek/Cybermen alliance.

  4. I have nothing to add to the advice, but may I just compliment the excellent choice of graphics in this post? Because this guy totally sounds like Mr. Collins (or his scarier counterpart, but hopefully just Mr. Collins).

      1. …ious. Thanks phone, for hitting post when I wasn’t ready and making it seem like I am trying to start some kind of new slang.

        1. Actually, it’s what all the cool kids are saying. It’s totes hilar. I shit you not.

          1. Ha! Well now that I think about it, it does sound like something Lydia from the Lizzie Bennet Diaries would say. So, thematically appropriate!

  5. You can always sa no. You always have that right.

    He’s not being very polite to you, so don’t worry too much about his feelings. You don’t have to have a list of reasons not to want to get to know him better. We don’t click with everyone we meet. I think CA is kind of a psychic wonder right now, the list of responses is probably what’ll happen. I think that your parents really want you to be happy and it’s such a common thing, the ”treat others like you’d want to be treated” that they might not get it at first. But once they do, I think and hope that all they want really want you to be is happy. And that’s means not spending time with someone you don’t really like and don’t feel safe around. You’re the important one. Your safety is so much more important than any hurt feelings someone else might have.

  6. Wowowowow, alllllll of my creep bells were going off as I read this.

    I think it feels really similar to a situation I experienced as a young teenager, except that the offending parties were much older friends of my parents. My parents LOVED these people and DESPERATELY wanted me to LOVE them as well. I never really had a close or involved set of grandparents growing up, and I think my parents had this idea of “surrogate” grandparents or some such. Long story short, these people made me INTENSELY uncomfortable to be around, and even from a young age I knew that their worldview was hugely, problematically different from mine in a way that made even casual conversations a minefield. I think there was always an element of religious obligation as well? Sort of “if you are a good [insert religious label] you will love/accept/encourage/ALWAYS BE NICE TO these people, no matter how gross and squicky they make you feel!!!”

    It took me several years to be able to stand up for myself firmly enough to say “Mom, Dad, I love you so much, but we do not always share the same taste in friends or acquaintances, and these people make me want to tear my hair out and run a mile. I won’t be able to stick around when they come to visit anymore.” Thankfully, they have been fairly understanding since then, and are willing to make excuses for my absence at gatherings where these friends are present. I wish everyone was so lucky.

    1. “Wowowowow, alllllll of my creep bells were going off as I read this.”

      Exactly how I felt. Decorator Guy and Well Meaning But Oblivious Parents made my skin crawl.

      1. Yyyyyyup.

        My thought was that if the LW does end up telling him no, the Cap’n might be right–this guy could be the sort who does nothing more than whine, sob, and FEELINGSDUMP. But…he could also be dangerous in the actual, criminally violent way. And you won’t know which it is until it’s too late to stop him.

        1. That’s what gets me. This is potential physical danger territory as I’m reading it.

    2. Oh thank goodness that you were able to keep your instincts. That kind of parental training is why a lot of kids lose their ability to judge “bad situation,” vs “uncomfortable but safe,” vs “OMG run right now.” Because they’re not permitted to choose to not interact with someone because “the adults know better.” Now, I’m not saying the kid gets to be rude, but: do not touch me, no I don’t want to talk to you, Ma I am going to my room, etc. should be an ABSOLUTE right for a kid.

      1. I totally agree. I think sometimes as adults, our deeper instincts get dulled by societal pressures to be “appropriate”. I feel weird comparing children to animals in any way, but I feel it’s a bit like dogs sometimes instinctively knowing when someone is bad news. Sometimes kids can pick up on a creep vibe that we aren’t able to discern, and I think it’s worth listening to.

        1. Particularly when it involves their own personal space and body and property. Every child should be told that NO they do not have to let ucky Aunt kiss them or that annoying friend of their parents hug them. And while it’s nice to share if you’re playing in a group NO you do not have to give your crayons to your cousin who is going to break them all, unless we’re willing to buy you a set just for you to keep separately. You do not have to let them in your room either. Children are taught that they have no personal rights. People can touch them and they HAVE to let them, touch their stuff, go in their rooms without knocking (with no reasonable safety or disciplinary reason to violate their privacy.)

          This needs to STOP. Especially girl children who are basically taught to ignore every signal that The Gift of Fear says is important. And then people wonder why they don’t know what to do when someone crosses boundaries. They were taught they aren’t allowed to HAVE them.

          1. Tickling. People who tickle kids, especially little girls, even when they’re screaming “no, stop” and trying to get away. (Some kids say no even though they’re enjoying it, but you can find out by stopping and asking.) And doing that ALL THE TIME.

          2. Re: tickling

            My abuser did that. Now I cannot be in the same room with someone doing this to children; I want to do physical violence to the adults. I know it’s not reasonable but there it is.

            In this instance, it drives me a little crazy that parents are doing the social part of this to a grown child. I mean, it’s socially okay to do this to little kids (ALTHOUGH WE SHOULDN’T) but adults should be allowed to express boundaries, right? Right?

  7. I like this post. It manages to handle a lot of eventualities and “what if this turns out unsafe” while still keeping its feet planted in Awkwardtown.

    The best take-away I’ve got from this site is, “So X is a very nice person who deserves good things. You do not need to be the one to provide them. They will make a very nice friend/significant other. For somebody else.”

    1. “The best take-away I’ve got from this site is, ‘So X is a very nice person who deserves good things. You do not need to be the one to provide them. They will make a very nice friend/significant other. For somebody else.'”

      Very much this. Way back before the hiatus, I’d meant to write in to Captain Awkward about an almost-relationship that I just never got around to making into a real one for…Reasons. Always good reasons, like we lived in different cities and he seemed like he wanted to move much faster than I did even though he would respect my saying no and such like. But they seemed like such weak reasons, especially because almost-boyfriend was a legitimately nice guy who was cute and funny with a stable job and a generally positive outlook on life and was the only guy to be romantically interested in me in years and a bunch of other good things.

      And after awhile of going through Captain Awkward’s archives, I finally realized that it was great that he was such a good person. He’ll make a fantastic boyfriend. But *I* don’t want him for my boyfriend, and that’s okay and I didn’t need any other reason besides “I’m just not feeling this.”

      I’m really grateful for this site (nevermind that it’s helped me navigate the landmines of relationship-and-trust problems with my best friend and his SO).

    2. “So X is a very nice person who deserves good things. You do not need to be the one to provide them. They will make a very nice friend/significant other. For somebody else.”

      I LOVE this, great way to put it. I have met so many people I feel like this about – no malice but a definite lack of desire to be around them. My default way of expressing it is ‘I hope they have a very nice life, very far away from me.’

      LW, I think you’ll handle the awkward conversations very well. I hope the other people involved in them do too, but if they don’t, remember your right to feel safe trumps everyone else’s right to feel Not Awkward. Always.

  8. Friends are a lot like romantic partners– there has to be a certain chemistry there for it to work, and no amount of logic or persuasion can conjure chemistry where it doesn’t exist. No reasonable person would expect anyone to invest time, effort, and emotional energy into a romantic partner if they didn’t really feel anything for that person, so why should it be any different for a friendship?

    LW, your parents probably mean well and just want you to be happy, but if they are pressuring you to start a friendship with someone when you don’t want to, they are being unreasonable. Friendships aren’t a harmless, effort-free non-relationship that doesn’t count because there are no pantsfeelings involved; it is actual work (usually fun work, when you like the person in question) to maintain a friendship, and it is unfair for anyone to expect you to invest this effort if you don’t want to.

    As the Captain has said, both here and about a hundred bajillion other places, “I don’t like you” is reason enough, and you don’t owe any of them any more explanation.

  9. Wow, your parents.

    I am just a little boggled at the idea that the best way to get you a friend is to push the decorator on you, before you have a chance to get to know him while he’s decorating, and before he’s done with the job. I mean, if it goes bad, it’s clearly going to be terribly awkward! They just figured “he seems nice enough, our daughter will clearly love him!” and totally missed the CLEAR EVIDENCE BEFORE THEM that their daughter is apparently not inclined to easily make friends with random perfectly nice people in her vicinity.

    If someone has few friends, it may mean that they would appreciate help making friends. It may not. It may mean they are not investing that energy where they are right now. It might mean they need more time with people, or all the people in their current vicinity they’ve met are the wrong age/religion/lifestyle/etc, or they’re tired, or any of a number of perfectly legitimate reasons. It doesn’t mean they’re desperately lonely and need to be friend-set-up by all and sundry to anyone with a pulse in the same general age range and the same geological vicinity.

    And then the perfectly nice guy is a boundary-pushy guy with problems! In the house!

    I mean, how could this possibly go wrong?


    I also wonder if Mr Decorator was led to think that you were or were likely to be into more than friendship?

    I just…..


    1. Ha, right, the decorator thinks he’s doing you a favor and saving you from loneliness = NOT AWKWARD AT ALL. PARENTS.

    2. The parents may also be patting themselves on the back right now on how swimmingly things are going. I mean he comes over all the time, not even for work related things!
      And poor Daughter was too shy to be around him / talk to him / give him her number. It’s a good thing we pushed them together.

      1. Ugh, yes, that’s totally what I got from this too. I imagine another possible response from the parents isn’t just “Just give him a chaaaaance” but also a comment about how LW just needs to get back in the game (of having friends) and that it *always* takes a little while to get into the swing of things.

        I really do hope that they understand LW’s anxiety and help, or at least ease-up.

        1. Oh boy, ‘just give him a chaaaaance’. I am so tired of hearing that. When someone says it to me, I’m already internally rolling my eyes. It’s a reflex.

          One comeback I came up with: “Chances are for *raffles*.” Not my wittiest work to date, but still not bad. :3

          1. “One comeback I came up with: “Chances are for *raffles*.” Not my wittiest work to date, but still not bad.”

            I think it’s witty! I may use it sometime.

    3. This reminds me of when parents of young children encourage them to “go play with” their friends’ kids, regardless of whether they have anything in common but age. Kids have very different personalities! It’s okay for them to dislike each other! Usually parents outgrow that when their kids mature, though. Yeesh.

      1. Oh my parents did that, and I was forced to play with the daughters of their friends. They bullied me horrendously and made my summers a LIVING HELL for 12 years. And my dad still does this whole “oh, we never knew, this is the first I’ve heard of it” dance every time it comes up. After years of alternating between telling me that it was my fault and that I was making it up.

        Sorry, that is a sore spot. Putting your own convenience over your child’s safety and well-being=FUCKED UP AND BAD.

        1. My parents are being weird about this with my kids right now. Not in a “We will force them to like the kids we want them to like way”, but in a “You live in a neighborhood with dozens of great kids. Why don’t they play with any of them?” way. Both of my kids are idiosyncratic little buggers, and their best friend lives about 90 minutes away from here. My parents are befuddled as to why I go to great lengths to get them time with him, instead of making them go make friends with any of the perfectly nice kids that live right here.

          Uh – because they love their existant friend, and they all get along like a house afire, while the neighborhood kids basically aren’t interested in any of the same things and nobody has a good time when they play together?

      2. Yeah. I understand it, because with young kids it can be really hard to spend time with your friends!

        A good friend of mine has a kid close to the same age as mine. My kid, for whatever reason, does not like hers very much. It’s made getting together with her challenging, and the kids do OK in structured activities, so that’s what we do. My kid flat-out doesn’t want to spend his free time playing with my friend’s kid — but if a soccer ball or geocaching or lunch is involved, it’s fine and then everyone is happy. But figuring that out was …let’s go with “awkward”, ok.

      3. My mother did this to me once- she and my dad were going to see some jazz concert with these friends of theirs and the couple’s nephew, and without asking me first, she gave the nephew my cell phone number. And he actually called me. And we had this bizarre conversation where I was like, “Who is this? How did you get my number?” and he was like, “Oh, well, uh, your mother gave it to me, because, uh, I thought you were going to the concert too, and, like, I just moved here and don’t know a lot of people… so you like neurobiology, huh?” and tried to keep me on the phone chatting even though I was clearly saying I had to go. Then, he went and found me on Facebook and wrote me this LONG message about “Sorry that was weird, I thought you knew I had your number, anyway, I’m really excited to get to know you, here’s my entire life story.” And then he sent me a text message. And it cycled this way for a good part of the day and the night.

        When I told my mom not to give out my number without asking my permission, she said, “Oh, sorry! I was GOING to tell you, but then I figured he’d call you and explain it.” And I was like, “MOM. DO NOT GIVE OUT MY NUMBER TO STRANGERS. Now some asshole has my number and he won’t stop calling me and Facebook messaging me and texting me, and it’s weird and uncomfortable and I don’t like it.” My mom said, “He’s not an asshole. He’s my friend’s nephew.” “Have you ever met him in person before?” I asked her. “No,” she said, “but he’s supposed to be nice. Anyway, he has a girlfriend.” “So why does he keep trying to talk to me?” I asked. “I don’t know,” she said. “Anyway, next time I’ll tell you when I’ve given someone your number.” “No,” I replied, “NEXT TIME YOU WILL NOT FUCKING GIVE OUT MY NUMBER. DO YOU THINK YOU’RE A FUCKING BATHROOM WALL OR SOMETHING?”

        I actually ended up nipping it in the bud myself. That night I went out with my friend, and when I told her about it, she was like, “Call him now and invite him out!” We were both exceptionally drunk at the time. So I gave him a taste of his own medicine and drunk-dialed him several times. Loudly. Incredibly, he never called me again. (Disclaimer: I hesitate to actually recommend this as a viable solution.)

      4. Oh christ, yes, this.

        I once yelled at my mom because one of the little girls she set me up with had come over and I had ABSOLUTELY no interest in playing with her. I straight-up told my mom that I didn’t want her around…while she was sitting in the other room.

        So, I mean, awkward, and yes I was a rude little shit about it, but goddamn it, mom, she was NOT my friend, and no amount of forced playdates was going to change my mind.

    4. People make friends in different ways, too. I don’t like to be thrust into an intense situation with someone I don’t know. I need little interactions first! And time alone to reflect! Whereas others meet someone and decide right away whether they click or not. And, of course, people who do both to some degree or another.

  10. Was enjoying the advice and bloggystyle as usual, but then sat bolt upright (I thought that was just saying!) when you mentioned a dude “sitting on your couch crying and talking at you for hours.” I thought there was just one such dude! One dude that several people I know have interacted with on a happily infrequent basis, but nonetheless: a dude whose MO is (a) get rejected (b) get onto couch (c) cry for hours.
    Perhaps he moved to Chicago? Perhaps there is only one such a dude and not a whole school of Couch Crying? *hopeful*

    1. I can think of at least 2 who have passed through the Chicago area/my pants, so my guess is, there is a school.

      1. LOL @ “Chicago area/my pants.” Laughing so hard.

        Mine did not take up residence on my couch. He took up residence under a tree in my yard at 2 AM in the rain, begging me to let him onto my couch so he could make crying at me. The only thing missing in that whole surreal scenario was the boom box.

        1. Oh, buddy. I think it’s ok to cry when you’re dumped. I’ve cried when dumped. Men can cry when dumped! It’s the whole “But it must be HERE on YOUR COUCH where you COMFORT ME for HOURS” part that’s whoa, srsly off-putting. Dude, I just dumped you. Don’t make me make you feel okay about it, it won’t work. You’re still gonna be dumped later, so get out with your dignity.

          1. Definitely okay to cry when dumped. Necessary, even! Cry alone, cry to friends, cry to family, all very good. But so not okay to show up in the middle of the night demanding entry to a sleeping person’s home so you can cry at them, and to stand outside their home for hours wailing at the wind when they decline your invitation. (ended with him kicking in my door, but I left that part out to begin with because it wasn’t sad and a little funny but actually really scary)

          2. I am feeling confused and a little anxious because I don’t know if the gif was directed at me or the story of my ex.

          3. Yikes!

            Why, yes ex that has spent the last several hours crying at me in the rain from outside my house. In violently kicking in my door you have proven how very wrong I was to refuse you entry. Clearly, you’re exactly the sort of person I want in the same building as me.

            Hope that turned out okay! 😦

          4. Oh lord. I had one of those. But he was COMPLETELY SILENT other than saying “please don’t leave” when I tried to get out of his apartment after breaking up with him. So I just sat awkwardly there for an hour or so while he curled up crying. Not sure why I didn’t just get the fuck out.

          5. @Kellis & unlurking, thank you. Posting about that brought up seriously unexpected levels of vulnerability that freaked me right out for a little bit.

            @Bunny, it.. worked out? Not well, but it was a long time ago.

          6. Do women do that too? I’ve only ever heard of guys doing it (not all guys, or most guys, but some guys). I’ve been dumped before and I was too humiliated to cry in front of the guy–I went home and did it alone, and then made my girlfriends take me out for ice cream.

          7. @redgirl: Oh, I am a woman, and I definitely cried onto my ex-boyfriend during/immediately after the breakup. But I also made margaritas, so it worked out okay.

          8. Re: why it seems to be mostly guys who do this

            Women have friends that they can cry to, and it’s ok and no one thinks its weird. Men are socialized to be ashamed to cry in front of other men, or in general really. I read something somewhere (nice citation right?) that said that men mostly form close emotional connections–the kind of relationship that it’s ok to cry in–with women, and specifically significant others. Totally heteronormative I know, and I don’t know how this dynamic might translate to gay male romantic relationships (assuming the dynamic exists at all), but if it’s true, then you’d probably expect guys to not want to leave their ex girlfriends when they break up. That’s, you know, their shoulder to cry on. Just because he’s crying BECAUSE of her doesn’t mean he’ll leave; he may have no one else and maybe it’s preferable to crying alone.

            I AM IN NO WAY SAYING SHE SHOULD TOLERATE THAT BEHAVIOR IF SHE DOESN’T WANT TO. Just theorizing about reasons behind the gender breakdown. It’s another way PHMT!

            I wish I could remember where I originally read that thing about men’s emotional relationships. I have no idea the validity, or even the level of detail, it went into. Hell, I may have imagined it. I’m also pretty high so this whole thing may sound way more interesting to me than to you, in which case sorry for my boring irrelevant comment. 🙂

        2. .gif was definitely about your ex, sorry to cause you even a little bit of consternation.

    2. If a couch isn’t handy, I’ve found that he’ll also sit on your bed and cry for hours.

      1. I can’t believe this is a thing. How horrifying.

        I’ve used this story as a litmus test for years. If listener reacts with horror–green flag! we might be friends. If listener begins cross-examining–why did you let him into your apartment? why did you go out with him? how did you create this situation?–red flag! I’ve remained friendly with some cross-examiners, but basically it’s the same situation as the Captain suggests might happen with the parents, above: you’ve shown me that it’s easier to believe that I’ve made a mistake or misstep than that this strange dude has boundary issues.

        But only twice has a listener responded with, “Wait! That happened to me/my friend/my roommate!” And questioning revealed that it was the same guy!

        1. @Sara Davis – totally agree. That level of interrogation is like victim-blaming-lite, although I was only victimized in the sense that I had to let someone I’d just dumped sit on my bed and cry for 2 hours, and it was uncomfortable and I wanted him to cry elsewhere.

          For what it’s worth, this was a boyfriend of many years who really wasn’t scary in any way, and the situation wasn’t scary. It was just annoying.

    3. I used to know an Australian Crying Couch Dude.

      It’s a pity more Crying Couch Dudes don’t consider a therapist’s couch.

        1. Unless you’re both sobbing over a sad movie or something like that. Preferably with favourite food to hand. 🙂

    4. I once had a bout of Rejected Floor Crying, throughout which my Rejector felt compelled to awkwardly comfort me. I cannot say how long I went for. I was very drunk. *cringe* We are a shameful creed, and we are legion.

      1. I feel the need to interject with scale here. Repentent drunk floor cryer, I do not judge you, for I do not know you! For all I know you might have been really invested in this rejector, or the circumstances might indeed have been sad. Not clear from the comment.

        Here is what I judge: my couch crier had *just* met me. *Just.* We were on our first date, about to watch a movie, and then he creeped on me and I asked him to go home. *tears* When he cried on my friend’s roommate’s couch, they were at a party and she wouldn’t kiss him. *tears* And if the LW’s irritating decorator came over to cry on her couch, I would judge that too, because as in the above examples, the crying would be about control. Not crying for loss, for sadness, for other things that come of a mutual connection, a long history, or a bottle of whiskey. The Philly Couch Crier might well have been crying for other stuff in his own life, but he made his crying out to be the just and warranted response to someone he hardly knows withholding the (inappropriately generous) gift of friendship or pantsfeelings. That I judge.

        1. Yeahhhh I’ve had a few couchcriers in my relatively short lifetime – my emotionally abusive dad and my all-kinds-of-abusive ex, both of which used their Big Important Feelings as a means of control. I just didn’t understand! They were having a LOT OF FEELINGS and somehow this was MY PROBLEM TO MITIGATE. On top of being miserable human beings, they both have entitlement issues that I’d imagine are gendered as hell, since I was feminine presenting at the time I knew both of them. Ladies, deal with my feelings! You are the magical piece missing in my life that will fix all my emotional turmoil! Nope, sorry bud, doesn’t work that way.

          Another couch crier was a very good ex boyfriend that I loved for more than a year, and he was just a dude who cries a lot. He wasn’t crying /at/ me so much as he was crying accidentally while at my house (post-breakup, but not about breakup) which I have always found awkward because I don’t deal well with people crying around me. It was annoying, but not overbearing. He didn’t expect me to do anything about it and he wasn’t crying specifically and aggressively in my direction. An important distinction!

          1. Yeah, it was a LONG time before I was able to get up the moxie to tell various dudes that I was not, in fact, going to be responsible for their feelings. (pantsfeelings or otherwise.) And then I watched them struggle with trying NOT to say, ‘But that’s what girlfriends are FOR! You must decode ALL my feelings, because, being a grown-ass man, I can’t!”

            And I just go, “Dude, I can barely keep track of my own stuff on a good day. If you’re relying on ME, 1) that is intensely unfair not to mention impossible for any human to achieve and 2) you’re in serious trouble.”

          2. Yes! I seriously am stealing this next time I am in a relationship. Why do I always become the therapist in the relationship?

          3. And then I watched them struggle with trying NOT to say, ‘But that’s what girlfriends are FOR! You must decode ALL my feelings, because, being a grown-ass man, I can’t!”

            I wish the dudes who thought that that’s what girlfriends are for (and there are many of them! Why are there so many of them?) would just come right out and say it. It would clear up so many miscommunications.

            This sentence particularly reminded me of all the whining by the clueless commenters in the Girlfriend Zone post linked a few days ago, who were completely unable to understand why a girl would be disappointed at being seen as a potential romantic partner instead of a friend, or parse getting asked out as thinking the guy doesn’t like her as a person when they think it’s obvious that asking someone out means you like them more than if they were “just” your friend.

            I’m one of those people who is disappointed and insulted when a dude who I thought I was getting along with wants me to be his girlfriend. It’s because, after many years of interacting with dudes, I interpret “wants to be friends” as “likes me as a person and enjoys my company” and “wants to date me” as “wants me to to do a bunch of stuff for him.” I am not interested in finding someone to be expected to do a bunch of stuff for! I can barely handle doing all my own stuff!

            Dudes who insist it’s *totally obvious* that “wants to be friends” = “likes as a person” and “wants to date” = “likes as a person MORE” have clearly not been paying very much attention to other dudes.

      2. It could always be worse. You could be my ex, whom I had to live with for two months following an extremely painful split. When he noticed that I tended to come home from work and immediately go to my room to be miserable (options for this pastime included crying and drinking), he knocked on my door one night and offered to comfort me. When I told him to go away and leave me alone, he protested that he felt guilty and horrible and wanted to make me feel better. So, in sum, he wanted me to endure his presence to soothe his guilt over the pain he himself caused me, like some kind of Ouroboros of crappy feelings.
        Later he suggested we should have sex a few times before I moved out. For “closure”. Yeah, he was that kind of dude.

        1. Ouch, that sounds horrific.

          But I want to congratulate you on ‘Ouroboros of crappy feelings’. It is a beautiful phrase which has made my day. 🙂

    5. Naw, I had a [genderqueer noun] do the same damn thing after I broke off any burgeoning relationship after 2 dates. It was intensely awkward, but I felt very good about upholding my boundaries. That was when I had my first epiphany of “This is not my problem and I don’t have to fix it.”

  11. How awful that your parents have gaslighted you to the point where you think you might be “probably in the wrong.” Personally I think the Captain is being generous about this guy; someone who ignores your simple requests to be addressed as you prefer and honor your contact boundaries is not someone who you want to be friends with no matter what other positive qualities they may have. At the risk of being ungracious towards your parents, I guess it’s unsurprising they don’t see this since they seem to have the same problem with recognizing where their inclinations should stop and yours should be honored.

    You might consider including that in your encounter with your parents. “I’m not interested in spending time with someone who doesn’t think they have to respect my desires and boundaries. It’s impolite and it makes me feel unsafe when nobody else is around.” It’s on the border of inviting discussion about the details, which I always like to avoid, but has the nice implied message about the fact that this is uncool and they’re doing it too.

    Regardless of whether anyone else will, respect your own right to make your own choices. Don’t let family or strangers cause you to doubt that.

    1. “someone who ignores your simple requests to be addressed as you prefer ”

      That, to me, is one of the biggest red flags. Basic decency says that if someone tells you “This is my name. This is what I prefer to be called.”–you call them that. Anything else is just being a jerk.

      1. I have been in some situations where people (boss/coworkers at a temp job, teacher/classmates in a class, exes, etc) refuse to call me by my preferred (nick)name and insist on my full name even after I’ve requested otherwise. Those situations have universally turned out to be bad. BAD. That threw up red flags for me, too, because of it.

        1. Yes, I knew a friend was being hurtful (even if subconsciously) when ze switched from using the name & loving nicknames ze had always called me to using my full formal given name, which no one uses and is not the name I go by with anyone. It’s like, okay, this along with all the other things; message received.

    2. If he’s not respecting your boundaries in addressing you, and turning up unannounced, what other boundaries is he going to just casually ignore?

      1. That is exactly the reasoning I apply. I’ve ditched people for what look like tiny things but it was just “red flag, red flag!”

  12. This. I have parents that are sort of like this [though, instead of trying to ‘hook up a friend’ they try to make me be friends with their friends which…makes me uncomfortable on all sorts of levels.] The best thing you can do is stand up for how you’re feeling and say ‘No, this is not what I want and you pushing this on me makes me really uncomfortable.’

    1. [Er…for clarity’s sake I should add ‘be friends with their friends’ doesn’t mean ‘be polite’ – it means full on being friends with people I neither really know, share interests with, or care to know.]

      1. UGH. I hate this. I cannot figure out how to explain that we don’t share any interests except this other person and have views about the world that are completely different without it becoming all dramallama all the time. And it’s always people I can’t cut off because we’re in the same church and so they’re always there. HALP.

        1. Before I completely cut off contact with him, my biological father tried to get a friend of his to basically watch me when I moved to Colorado for a while. His daughter, who he was living with, lived near the horrible little apartment complex where I was, so he figured he couldn’t be there keeping an eye on me (Which was weird, considering he’d never been part of my life before that, so why the sudden interest? I was grateful for his help with moving, and was kind of hoping to build up a better relationship with him because, y’know, he’s my father, but that didn’t work out) he could get his friend to do so for him, to the extent that he gave my extra apartment key to his friend, who was older than him by a few decades, without my permission.

          You can see where this is going.

          His friend was perfectly cool and nice to me while my father was around, but as soon as he went back to Texas his friend started behaving in a much different manner (mind you, I am young enough to be one of his grandkids, and he had grandchildren my age!) and coming into my apartment without my permission, unannounced, where he’d hang out. If I was there, he’d try to get me to show him porn on my computer, make very obscene suggestions to me, do such things as pretend to jerk himself off in front of me (I was nineteen at the time) or telling me that I needed to become a stripper at a local strip club and he wanted to be my manager, so he could get private performances, things like that. It got to a point that I bought an additional lock for my door, which I kept on constantly, and if he came and knocked on the door to see if I was home I’d end up hiding in my bedroom closet, close to my gun, even though I knew he couldn’t get in, and I’d sit in there crying and hoping he’d just go away. I told my biological mother what was going on, but she didn’t do anything about it and I never told my father about it because that was his friend, and I doubted he’d believe me and even if he did, he wouldn’t do anything about it. I was very relieved when I ended up leaving Colorado (the job market in the area I was in was nil, so I couldn’t afford to stay) and though he tried to keep contact with me, I cut it off entirely and refused to let anyone give him my number, email or anything else.

          Seriously, this guy was invasive and terrifying to the point that the thought of him being near me had me going for a gun, that’s how freaked out I was. I wish I’d had more of a spine back then, so instead of just cringing and hiding, I could’ve just stood up to him and told him to fuck off. At one point I did point out to him that I was his grandkid’s age, and he just brushed it off that yeah, I was their age, but I wasn’t related to him so it was okay. He didn’t get the hint.

          Simply put, just because your parents try to make you friends with someone, doesn’t mean you should be, and sometimes they are blind to problems with their friends that can actually put their kids in real danger. Listen to your instincts, they are trying to tell you something! You have every right to tell your parents and this guy that you are not interested and to leave you the hell alone.

          1. I am so sorry this happened to you. That’s a helluva thing to survive.

            But yeah. Part of finally growing up for me is admitting my instincts are good and it’s okay to want to protect myself. It turns out that in the past few years, whenever I’ve said, “My alarm bells are ringing, and I need a bit of a reset,” it has ALWAYS turned out to be FBI-level, from the ex who was a producer of child pornography (a TEXTBOOK “nice guy”) to the [information about current court case involving alleged poisoning and Munchausen’s-by-proxy redacted]. I used to believe that you need a reason to draw a line, something concrete. But “you make me feel uncomfortable” IS a concrete reason. It takes a whole lot for physical reactions to start with “no reason;” when you’re getting “fight or flight” responses from a person, your body is saying, “THIS IS A THREAT TO MY LIFE.”

          2. Ewww! Ew, ew, ew! I’m so sorry that happened to you. I’m so glad nothing worse happened and that you got out of that situation.

          3. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. You sound like an amazingly strong person.

          4. WOWOWOWOWOW. That is fucked up with a capital FUCKED UP.

            I don’t even know what else to say but I’m happy you got out of there eventually.

          5. Wow, just reading that story had my heart rate going up. I’m so sorry you went through that and glad you’re safely out of it. I’ve never had anything quite like that happen to me, but for some reason I could really relate to it from similar (but less extreme) experiences.

          6. I’m sorry that you had to deal with that creep, but glad that you managed to move far away from that creepy situation.

    2. Mine try to do this too, except they tend to pick out the children of their friends or the husbands of women who they wish I was more like. Almost all their choices seem to veer toward, “She (or more frequently, he) will be a good influence!” rather than, “You two both like all these same things, so maybe you’d enjoy each other’s company.”

      I’m at the point where I turn around and drive in the other direction if I see an unfamiliar car parked in front of their house.

  13. My dad likes to set me up with friends too. Just the other night, he came home going ‘I met some lesbians today!’ and showed me their picture and texted them my phone number (with a picture of me) telling them to call me. I had to go NO NO TELL THEM TO TEXT ME FOR THE LOVE OF GOD since he’d already given them permission to get in touch with me!

    Then he was like ‘yeah, I told them you were a bit of a scaredy-cat, too.’ and yes, I am introverted and socially anxious, but I don’t need my dad telling people I’m a scaredy-cat. Thanks a ton.

    They haven’t called or texted, so maybe his friend-matchmaking was as awkward for them as it was for me.

    1. Oh gods, I’m wondering how that went down.

      Hello, ladies! You look like a couple of nice, upstanding lesbians. You should call my daughter. Here’s her photo and number! She’s a bit of a scaredy-cat* so don’t worry if she freaks out a bit when you call her! Please allow me to take a photo of you to show her, so she won’t be so scared! This is totally normal and not creepy!

      *Ugh that term

      1. I think one of them is a sister of a friend of his, so there is SOME connection. I don’t even know about the rest of it and I’m not sure I want to! My dad just… really, really loves talking to people. A lot. I’m sure it seemed totally natural to him while it made me stare at him in mild horror.

      2. Oh wow yeah, maybe they’re not calling out of sympathy. “Don’t worry if she freaks out? Sounds like you totally did this with her consent and it is therefore definitely something I should do. Yeah. Uh-huh. I’m going over there now.”

    2. aaaaaaand my dad called and asked if I’d gotten in touch with them and offered to give me their number when I said no. I said I didn’t want to talk to them first, since… I didn’t want to be unwelcome company. Not five minutes later one of them texted me and I’m sure he said something to them. I have no idea how to respond!

      1. Yeesh. Instead of “I don’t want to talk to them because you set us up and that is creepy and uncomfortable for me,” he read it as, “I am dying for them to make the first move”! I’m sorry, that’s super awkward.

      2. You did rather tell your father to tell them to text you first, there, so he’s gone to them to pressure them into calling you. Just send a polite “Hi, I’m aware my father is trying to match make for us, but I’m not available at this time. I wish you all the best with the future.” message. Kind of sounds as if you’re in a relationship already, or you think that they are looking for a relationship, but you’re not actually lying.

  14. This is a totally ‘no duh’ statement, but it’s something I just realized and it is so, so freeing: It’s okay to hurt someone’s feelings. I mean, I don’t think anyone should be rude or go out of their way to insult puppies, but someone else’s feelings shouldn’t be one’s main concern, and it is totally valid to put one’s own feelings first in these situations.

    Like I said, a ‘no duh’ statement. But it took me 30 years to learn it, so maybe it will be helpful to share.

    1. You’re absolutely right – you risk hurting someone by saying “no, I don’t want this”, but if the alternative is being stuck in a place where you’re unhappy and uncomfortable, these things need saying.

      I once asked a girl out when I was in my teens, and did so in a rather crass way – much to her credit, she dealt with it brilliantly and told me firmly that she did not want to go out with me and told me EXACTLY what her feelings were and what she felt I’d done wrong. They were not things I wanted to hear, but I’m glad she had the guts to say them – they taught me a great deal, our friendship survived and flourished once I’d got over it, and ultimately I’m glad she put me straight, rather than suffering my unwanted affections in silence.

    2. I have problems with this, one of many things I’ve contemplated over the past year. I’ve spent pretty much my whole life being told that my feelings, wants, opinions, etc., are of the absolute least importance, so it’s challenging to put myself first in any situation, especially since people seem to fight back when I do.

      But yeah, it definitely is a no duh statement.

      1. “I’ve spent pretty much my whole life being told that my feelings, wants, opinions, etc., are of the absolute least importance, so it’s challenging to put myself first in any situation, especially since people seem to fight back when I do.”

        Does the fighting back take the form of you being insensitive and uncaring and told that not worrying about hurting other people’s feelings while protecting your own means that you’re on the same level as the jerks who deliberately set out to hurt someone’s feelings?

        Because that’s what I get.

        It’s really hard to protect yourself when your self-defense is consistently compared to a premeditated attack.

        1. My jerkbrain definitely tries to tell me this. It’s taken force of repetition to start to believe things such as: I deserve to be safe, I know who I am, I know my heart is good and sensitive and caring, I have kind actions and kind intent (which does not mean I act without flaw, but is far different from deliberately hurting someone’s feelings), I am worth others’ kindness.

          There are people who see the worst interpretations of any situation, and so self-defense and even kindness may appear to be a premeditated attack. But – important! – that does not mean that is true. What they think is not necessarily true. And if they are constantly telling you that your motives are insensitive and uncaring and deliberately hurtful when you know (in your heart, and from others in your life who you trust) that you are not, then you may want to consider that you may not ever be able to convince them otherwise.

        2. Pretty much. I feel like I had to essentially fight for the right to be allowed a basic level of respect.

    3. This is a really good point, and no, I don’t think it’s a “no duh” statement. We, particularly women, are socialized never to hurt someone’s feelings no matter what the cost. I mean, one should never hurt someone else’s feelings just for the fun of it. But there are situations in which someone’s feelings ARE going to be hurt, inevitably. The LW is having her feelings hurt by this guy–he is calling her by a name she’s asked him not to, he is making her feel anxious and unsafe, etc. She has tried getting him to back off politely, to no avail. At this point she has every right to protect her own feelings even if it means hurting his. It’s not that she *wants* to hurt his feelings, but ultimately she has to take care of herself, because no one else is doing so.

    4. Yes this! Also, and related – it’s OK to not bend over backwards to prevent drama. Some people use the threat of drama to get their own way, because they know that many other people will do anything to prevent it and smooth the ruffled feathers. The ‘no-duh’ thing I finally learnt from this site is that *they* are the ones bringing the drama, and you can stand your ground and watch them flail and wave their arms around and turn into Giant Squids of Anger without erasing your own boundaries. And you can keep ignoring it even when other people pressure you to back down in order to make the drama go away (which far too many people do).

      Why on earth do we learn that it’s reasonable to humour the nasty crazy boundary-erasing people amongst us just to keep the peace?

      1. We learn because some groups ostrasize us and punish us for having boundaries. Not agreeing with everyone else is a threat to some individuals. Going through grad school (for clinical psychology!) I had classmates and professors(!) telling me I needed to “change the way you think” because I’m quiet/reserved. I was considered hostile because I didn’t engage in groupthink (If I disagree with something I won’t lie. I’ll go with the group consensus and keep my mouth shut, but if asked I won’t lie). My performance appraisals suffered for this.

        You know what though? I came through the experience with my integrity intact. Those individuals had their drama and I went off to have sensible conversation with other people. The occastional social stigma of being “stand-offish” was totally worth it to avoid the crazy. Not ideal, but worth it.

        1. Ugh…forcing an introvert to be extroverted. “You make us uncomfortable with being quiet so you need to be more like us!” People give me that nonsense all the time. I rarely hear about extroverts being forced to be introverted.

          Good on you for sticking your ground and refusing to conform to other people’s standards.

  15. I agree with CA’s advice, but would like to ask one thing: this decorator… your parents haven’t given him a key, have they? So he can let himself in to do the decorating work when they’re not around? I wouldn’t ask except that I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

    1. Augh, this question is completely on-point and also made my stomach flip over. LW, take care of yourself.

  16. Good lord. I am sure there is a good chance that this guy is perfectly nice and just quite clueless, but your description made ALL my creep alarms go off — ALL of them. As has been said many times, you are perfectly within your rights to not be friends with him just because you don’t want to, but you are also within your rights to not be friends with him because he is being VERY CREEPY. Anyone who ignores that many boundaries, I would not trust with anything.

    1. Right. I sort of skipped over this in the “holy crap, he stops by your house?” part of the answer, but “My name is Name, please don’t call me Nickname” followed by “Ok, whatever, Nickname…” is a right-off-the-bat sort of “I don’t have to ever like you even a little, or worry about how you feel, even a little” kind of moment. It’s dehumanizing.

      1. Yeah, even assuming this guy has nothing but good intentions, he doesn’t seem interested in developing a friendship so much as having found a sounding board he can talk at. LW should absolutely not feel bad about declining that “opportunity.”

      2. I think it’s a more, “Well, I want THIS and I’m going to have what I want, and I will totally ignore anything you say otherwise.” Like many men I’ve dealt with, really.

        Ugh, this dude creeps me out so bad. I would bet good money he does have a key to their house, or will soon, at the rate he is going. LW’s parents need to get a clue and get on the stick to keep him OUT of there.

  17. Are people ever this persistant and likely-to-be-defensive on behalf of socially awkward women? It always seems like it’s a woman being imposed upon and being told she’s paranoid or something.

    1. I think you’re right that this is a very gendered thing. Women are expected to be social and socially adept and are also expected to be very accommodating towards men. So socially awkward women are seen as less sympathetic and as having less of a right to impose on men.

    2. Only in very particular circumstances. I was visiting a LARP I used to play in my home area, and a few weeks before my trip some mutual friends introduced me to this girl who we’ll call Needypants. We got along very well when we only talked online. She was a bit younger than me and we had some common ground where I could give her information. And she needed a ride to the LARP and my husband and I were passing right through where she lived, so we offered.

      Right away, Needypants is self-obsessed and demanding. What’s fine in text is sometimes annoying in person and this was one of those times. Then she wanted to stop for food, but when we stopped at a convenience store, she didn’t buy anything. When I asked what was happening, she said (word for word, my hand to god) “I’ll just mooch. That’s what I do, I mooch people’s food.”

      And then all damn weekend she kept clinging on to me. She was 22 and playing a 12 year old who, for reasons I cannot recall, had the mind of a 4 year old. People: don’t do this. Apparently she likes to go around pretending to be a child in real life too, according to something she told me. Dunno why, don’t really care, but don’t involve people in your pretendy games who don’t want to be involved.

      Whether it was character or player, she was too inept to run from things that were going to harm her. She kept touching me, like hugging me and curling up against me, though I repeatedly told her in explicit terms not to do that.

      It’s not just that she didn’t contribute to the fun, having to handle her took away from my good time. I was coming from out of town and this was my only opportunity all year to play this game. I had the best weekend I could under the circumstances, and when I got home I unfriended her on Facebook under real world and roleplaying accounts. I thought it was over.

      A month later, two separate individuals message me on Facebook to ask me why I have “a grudge against [Needypants].” At some point Needypants noticed I wasn’t paying attention to her and cried at them, She somehow contacts me with a third Facebook account because my roleplaying account isn’t locked down tight enough. I told her I had no desire to be friends and listed the myriad reasons why (which were more than I listed here) before blocking her. My so-called friends acted like I was some sort of monster for not wanting to be her bonus mother figure. One of them mentioned the “drama” of it all. But I didn’t start anything, I just quietly cut her out, and I’d known her for no time at all.

      Moral is that if you’re a toddler-like adult woman and it’s another woman who you think needs to be your friend, people will totally be in your corner.

      1. Yeeesh. I’m detecting a slight subtext of, “We thought YOU were gonna handle her! Now she’s crying to US about it!”

        Because “being polite” totally means “denying all your needs so other people never have a moment of trouble”.

        …OH WAIT. That’s what the older women of my family actually think it means. *HIDES FOREVER*

        1. That makes a lot of sense and I’m sure there’s some of that behind it, but I got the impression people thought I was being genuinely cruel to poor, sweet little Needypants. There’s a lot of Geek Social Fallacies happening. I am an evil ostracizer for not wanting to handle someone’s shit! Shuuuuunnn.

          And of course, why would you have NEEDS? Can’t you think of other people!?

      2. I know exactly how you feel, except I’m the younger woman acting like an adult, and I keep meeting these older women who go all mommy!feels on me, and try to treat me like I’m their child. And when I calmly and quietly express my dislike of this treatment, they act like I’m a sulky 13 year old.

        Then other people ask me why I’m being so mean to them, because obviously it’s my responsibility to somehow be a substitute child for these women (some of whom have been childless, others were clearly missing the relationship with their own teen or 20-something children).

        For the record, I’m 38, and I very deliberately try not to get too friendly with these women, and I do not have the kind of personality that invites this kind of treatment.

        tl; dr – Some people try to suck others into inappropriate parent-child relationships, and the unwilling subjects of this kind of attention are not likely to get support. Probably because everyone else is hoping that it means the emotional vampire won’t focus on them.

        1. ARGH YES. I especially hate the part where *other* people think badly of you for setting boundaries because EVERYBODY LOVES MOTHERS and WHY DO YOU HATE MOTHERS SO MUCH and SHE JUST WANTS TO BE YOUR FRIEND (in this fucked up dynamic).

          Pro Tip: Not everyone has had good experiences with maternal figures. It’s an asshole move to force your maternal role on others.

  18. This advice is right on. The Captain is right when she says not to open this up for discussion with this guy. In my experience it’s best to just brutally chop these relationships off and discontinue any and all contact. These kind of situations can go bad really fast if you allow communication to continue. When women reject someone we’re often made to feel like we’re being mean and unreasonable, or that we led someone on by talking/smiling/being around them. No one is entitled to your attention.

  19. LW, I think the Captain’s advice is good, and I hope that you can get your parents on your side with a minimal amount of stress.

    I have a higher-than-average quotient of Ridiculously Awkward People in my life. My boyfriend, bless him, is one of the most out-going and accepting people I have ever met, and awkward people flock to him. Which is sweet, that he has so many friends who otherwise do not have many friends. But it’s also unpleasant because I sometimes need to interact with those friends, and it makes me achingly uncomfortable, especially because social anxiety makes hanging out with *anyone* exhausting and scary.

    So I have a rule: If you show up unannounced, I am not opening the door for you.

    It doesn’t really matter who you are or what you want. If you didn’t give me a heads up about your intention to drop by, I will straight up refuse to answer the door. If BF is home, he’ll do it, and handle you accordingly (he also answers all phone calls from numbers I don’t recognize, and handles business transactions that increase my anxiety levels — he’s like a seeing eye dog of social skills).

    Not saying the “go hide until the person knocking goes away” method is necessarily the *best* one, but it is a nice sort of classical conditioning way to support the message that you send.

    1. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I’m not really okay answering the door when I’m home alone and/or not expecting someone. By “coming to terms with” I mean “realizing that it doesn’t make me a horrible person to ignore the doorbell”.

      I work at home, so I’m home all the time. And I used to always answer the door. And I’d end up “trapped” talking to solicitors who annoyed me and whom I did not want to purchase anything from, etc. So eventually? I just stopped answering. If I’m home during the day? That is work time. So I get to ignore things that aren’t work if I want to. And furthermore my home is my sanctuary, which means no one gets to invade my space there if I don’t want them to.

      It’s infuriating how long it took me to get to the point where I could deprogram my sense of obligation to the world at large – basically to everyone except myself. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m getting there.

      LW: you are allowed to say “no”. More than allowed, it is your RIGHT.

      1. I’m kind of the same way wrt answering the door … with the complication that there is a window next to the door that basically points at where I spend most of my time (because computer) and so people coming to the door can see that I am there and I just feel like a general asshat for straight-up ignoring their presence. Because it is Rude or something.

        I have gotten better about Talking Through The Door rather than opening it automatically, but argh.

          1. I’ve covered the window by the door with black-out curtains. Mostly because it’s a south-facing window and desert heat will bake me alive if I don’t, but it also really helps sell the “I’m not home” thing.

            I also work from home, so, yeah, random visitors = death to productivity, in addition to all of the social anxiety that comes with them.

            The sad thing is, for me it’s not just solicitors who get the silent treatment. I once panicked and hid in a closet for half an hour because my BF’s grandmother dropped by unexpectedly. Probably not my proudest moment.

          2. Rat Lady – One time I was home alone and the doorbell rang unexpectedly, and without thinking I rolled behind the couch (had been sitting on the floor reading the Internet previously, in view of the door). Then I felt kind of silly, because now I’m stuck behind the couch until Mystery Person goes away…but it was probably a “fix your siding/windows” solicitor, and I didn’t feel comfortable dealing with them, and I’m too anxious to talk at them through the door, so….avoidant couch-rolling, yay!

            I probably need better strategies, but it is kind of hilarious remembering myself (about 30 weeks pregnant at the time) rolling across the floor to get out of the line of view of the door.

          3. Emmers–I used to do that all the time, though I was a kid, and not pregnant. There were some younger neighborhood kids who got along fine with my younger sisters, but I found them mean and annoying and hated being around them because they were honestly a couple of little hellions (they’re the main reason I will never have children and feel uncomfortable around children). So if they’d come over and I was the only one home, I wouldn’t answer the door. If I was upstairs, I’d just stay there; if I was downstairs I’d hide behind couches, in closets, etc. And I’d sometimes have to move, because they’d walk around the whole perimeter of the house checking the front door, back door, side door, and garage, and peering in all the windows. But if they hadn’t been jerks, telling them “my sisters aren’t home right now” wouldn’t’ve been a problem.

      2. It also took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I don’t have to open the door or answer the phone. For me, I’d end up “trapped” by the next door neighbor, who is very social and very lonely, and very much a boundary stomper. It got to the point that I woke up with dread every day, and put off getting too involved in projects because I haaate to be really into something and then get interrupted The final straw was when we were all sick with the flu, she still pushed past me and talked at me for half an hour. That night, I put a sign on our door that says, “We’re up to our elbows in dishes and bills. We’re tied up with laundry and homework and spills. We’re just simply swamped! We have so much to do! So leave us a note and we’ll get back to you.” I put a picture of kitties dancing in the rain at the bottom.

        It got uncomfortable for awhile. She was befuddled. She knocked once, testing to see if I meant it? I didn’t let her in. I said, “Oh, did our sign blow off??” One day, she knocked and knocked and knocked until I went to the window, and then she furiously demanded to know what she had done wrong. I fumbled for things I had read on CA, and ultimately just said we were really busy, and I had to go because my toddler was in the bathtub. (Lie. Shameful.) She has backed off majorly, and now just says a quick hello to my children, but ignores me and my husband completely. Funny, though, she never did leave a note!

        I’m not proud that I wasn’t more direct, but I’m a teeny bit afraid of her, irt retaliatory type of behavior, because of the stories she’s told.

        tl:dr Annoying neighbor finally takes massive hint, Home feels like home again!

        1. Don’t feel bad! The note was awesome. Direct communication is always ideal, but sometimes you just need to manage your own sanity and try to be as nice as possible – especially with neighbours.

          Honestly, if I went to knock on someone’s door and saw that note, not only would I definitely take the hint, I’d be touched that the person I was bothering let me down so sweetly. Seriously, kittens in rain? Who could object to that?!

        2. I love that your note rhymed, and the kittens part. But the neighbor? Yowza. What a PIA. I hear you on being concerned, but you may find the other neighbors are sympathetic, since she has likely tried it on them!

        3. Holy crap, I’m not the only one who hates answering the door! *happy dance* My very least favourite is when people ask for someone who is clearly not me, then ignore my one word answers and the stony, about-to-close-the-door-in-your-face look on my face and ask if I know where that person is. Here’s a hint, since clearly you assclowns need the help: someone who wants to see you will take the bizarre and unprecedented step of TELLING YOU WHERE THEY LIVE. Given the total lack of evidence that the person you’re looking for wants to see you, I wouldn’t tell you where they were even if I knew.

          …Okay, I feel better now. Yay awkward army! Also, I finally figured out what I want for my birthday – an unwelcome mat (instead of welcome it says go away)!

          1. Sigh, Thank you so much, drug dealer, for moving into the room above mine when I was living in one of those biggish-houses-converted-into-flats. I LOVED the fact that, even though I lived in the basement and therefore had a COMPLETELY SEPARATE external door to you, all your customers would try to get me to let them in if you weren’t answering.

            *opens door*
            “Hey, is Dave home?”
            “Sorry, I don’t know who Dave is.”
            “He lives here, though.”
            “Yeah, but this is a whole building of flats, I don’t know anyone else who lives here.”
            “Dave isn’t answering his door.”
            “I guess he isn’t in,then.”
            “I tried shouting up to his window but he didn’t come down.”
            “I noticed. But I don’t know what you think I-”
            “Can I come in and wait for Dave?”
            “What? Erm, no.”
            “I’ll just wait in the hall for him…”
            “No, no you won’t.”

            I really feel sorry for the rest of the tenants, who all had the same external door as him. And I really REALLY feel sorry for the person who moved into his flat after he left. I am grateful that most external doors around here have chains fitted.

          2. I live in a building with a lot of college kids, and occasionally they ring the doorbell at late-thirty because they locked themselves out of the building. My rule is if I’m already in bed, I am not coming to the door, which usually works and they take the hint. But once, at 2:30 in the morning, someone kept ringing my doorbell every few minutes, repeatedly and insistently, while I was home alone, in bed, with the lights off. This went on for at least half an hour. I went through everything in my head logically: “Maybe it’s someone I know.” “Then why wouldn’t they call my cell phone before coming over?” “Maybe it’s an emergency and someone is being chased by someone else and needs to get in the building right now.” “Then why wouldn’t they bang on the door/window?” (I live on the ground floor.) “Maybe I should answer it anyway.” “But why? You are obviously asleep, your lights are off, what possible reason could someone have for trying to get YOU specifically to answer the door?” And I couldn’t come up with one, so I just ignored it and tried to go back to sleep. But they KEPT RINGING THE BELL.

            Eventually I kind of wanted to answer the door just to scream at the person about how rude they were being, but I didn’t, and after a long time they stopped. I still don’t know what the deal was.

      3. I don’t answer the door either if I’m not expecting someone. Unfortunately, once night falls, it’s very obvious to any random person dropping by that I’m home (given the setup of the lights/my location, you can pretty much tell while standing at my door that someone is home if the lights are), and those are…more difficult. Some shitheads have just stood there ding-donging away until someone comes, by god. And those are the people who apparently got given the wrong address to go to for some reason. I can understand their panic, but still, I don’t want to open my door (as a lone female, no less) to any random creepy salesman or religious pilgrimage-person who wants in.

        And seriously, those magazine salespeople are frightening.

        1. I have to agree that your reluctance to answer the door or the phone while alone at home is appropriate and justified. I’ve had the experience of opening the door to a man who appeared to be delivering something who then tried to force his way in the door. I was able to shut him out and call the police, but it was a close call. Also, at least once, when I still had a landline, I was getting obscene phone calls, eerily, only when I was at home alone. Once again, I called the police. Now, if I don’t expect a visit or don’t recognize the phone number, the person on the other end of the transaction is out of luck. We don’t live in a safe society and don’t really receive any support for defending ourselves, so if somebody objects to this way of protecting ourselves, well, they get put on the no-answer list. Period.

          1. Another one on the not answering of phones. I decided a year ago that I will not answer my landline phone at all unless expecting a call. I have an answering machine so I can always call people back if / when I choose to, and all my work calls come to my mobile (my family and close friends have that number too so they can reach me).

            I have a mild hearing loss which makes phone conversations not so easy at the best of times, plus I had a hard time dealing with the salespeople, the several friends and acquaintances who call whenever and talk for a VERY long time, and the friends of my two elder daughters who call very frequently and get shirty with me if my daughters aren’t available to talk to them. All these calls made me feel a) irritated b) trapped c) derailed from whatever was engaging my attention beforehand and d) like my boundaries were being transgressed constantly, given how hard it is to get some of these people off the phone. So now I don’t answer any of them and it makes me feel much more comfortable.

            As for answering the door, if I’m here alone it’s because I am working. I won’t stop working to respond to an unexpected visitor or neighbour or door to door salesperson. I do have a glance (fortunately I have one-way glass at the door) to make sure it’s not a parcel delivery – I do collect those 🙂 Otherwise, no.

            If it’s just me and my children, the door is fairly porous for kids (they have many kid-friends in the street) but again, I do not let in adults who are not expected or are not a parent of another child come to fetch them home again.

            I know some of my neighbours without kids think I’m stand-offish (all the parents on the street are on friendly-acquaintance terms, due to the kid cross-pollination). I am OK with being thought of in that way, so long as they respect the boundaries I have set.

          2. @zucchinibikini – I might have to take a leaf out of your book. I have some auditory processing issues (I think; it’s one of those ‘I’m autistic so something unspecifiedly weird is happening with my senses’ things) which can get really, really bad on the phone and just hate phone calls hate. I’ve taken to only answering the phone in the evenings, when I know it’s likely to be my parents, and only answering my mobile if it’s someone I know, but that leaves most people with no way of getting in touch with me by phone at all. I’m not sure why I never considered an answering machine!

            (It also gets bad re: answering the door because we have a buzzer+phone thing to talk to people at the door. Good, right? Except that I can *never ever* understand what it is they’re saying so I generally end up having to buzz them in no matter what while feeling defeated and helpless. Nowadays I don’t answer the door unless I’m expecting someone either.)

          3. Oh, kaz, I hate those buzzer things. We’re on the first floor of our six-unit apartment building, and we get buzzed all. the. time. by people who don’t know the specific unit they want. I can’t understand what they’re saying, and I don’t want to let in random people without seeing who they are, so I either end up ignoring the stupid thing or walking out to the main door to see what’s up. Either way, it’s annoying and stressful.

          4. Zucchinibikini – one of the joys of having a private number. I get very few calls anyway, but if any marketer tries it, I feel free to be very short and demand to be taken off their list, because they should. not. have. my. number.

          5. I just told my mother that I’m almost certainly moving to another city in a month and her reaction was pretty good which I think makes it even more real and I’ve realised that once I’m away, the phone will HARDLY EVER ring and it will ALWAYS be for me. (Except for wrong numbers.) I’m so excited. My father works at home and both of them are in various social groups etc, plus they’ve been looking at houses and estate agents are always after them, so it’s always ringing. And all my friends know that I don’t like talking on the phone – the only calls I get are really from my bank or the student loan department or whatever.

        2. I have a notice in big red letters next to my door, by the bell where they can’t miss it: No salespeople, no religion peddlers, no hawkers of anything. If any of them do try their luck, I point to the sign and ask what part of it they can’t read (I have a solid mesh security door, they can’t get in). Fortunately guns are rare in Australialian society, so the chances of someone carrying one are much, much lower than in the US.

          1. We call them “door-knockers” in my neighborhood. Sometimes they really are from Comcast, but sometimes they are bad guys casing the place. Our police department recently instituted a new regulation: legitimate salespeople have to have a permit. Whenever I get a door-knocker I 1) do not answer the door, 2) post a description on the neighborhood listserve, and 3) call the police non-emergency number and ask for a drive through. There’s enough suspicious characters that the cops don’t mind checking them out.

      4. I’ve gotten myself to the point where I do not actually care if a person knows I am home or not. There’s no law saying I have to answer my door. I don’t care if you saw me through the window, Mr. Comcast Guy, we aren’t using your service and have told you we don’t want it and I am not obligated to explain that to every employee that comes a-knockin’.

      5. OMG same with me. I REFUSE to answer the door if I’m home alone. My parents are fine with this and perfectly respectful.

        But I actually had one boyfriend YELL at me for not answering the door while I was at his place alone. He was really genuinely furious, and it made no sense to me. (The visitor had left his Amazon.com package outside, but he didn’t live in a high-crime area, so really, wtf?) I explained about my anxiety and the potential threats and he just brushed it off with a cold, “That doesn’t happen here.”

        I was so angry, and so upset. He and I didn’t last too long after that–how could I continue to date a person who thought an Amazon.com package was more important than my personal safety? X_x

      6. As much as I loathe talking on the phone, that’s actually one of the benefits of telemarketers–I get to tell them no and hang up on them whenever I want. When you’re dealing with someone in person, that’s a bit harder to do.

    2. I blew up a friendship over this issue… I had a very awkward friend who I only saw very rarely. For whatever reason he would show up once or twice a year and want to hang up, which would always end in awkward times when he got weird and creepy. I still felt some kind of loyalty to him, though, and just tolerated it.

      A year goes by with no contact between us when he calls out of the blue. We chat, and in the course of the conversation he mentions that his girlfriend is traveling and he hasn’t had sex in six months, isn’t that terrible? So right off the bat I’m creeped out because dude…why the hell do I need to know when you last got some?

      But I’m weak and continue the conversation. He invites me to a play the following week, to which I agree so long as I can bring a friend because now I really, really don’t ever want to be alone with this guy.

      Then he tells me he’s standing outside.

      I told him to leave and never show up unannounced like that again. He proceeded to stand outside my house for almost an hour and even threw rocks at my bedroom window. Whining and pleading for me to let him in. I probably should have just called the cops, but I just kept repeating that he should leave.

      Three days later I wound up in the hospital (my body decided it hated my stomach and tried to eat it.) I was in the hospital for three days and found out later that Creepster had called the house, was told I was in the hospital, and started demanding the room number so he could visit. Luckily everyone I live with agrees he’s creepy and he was firmly told he would not be visiting.

      I haven’t heard from him since…it’s been almost a year, which means I’m probably due for a surprise visit any day now.

      1. Hoyeah, I agree with Staranise on this one. If that freak shows up at your place again, CALL THE COPS. Throwing rocks at your window? Just showing up at your house and refusing to leave? That’s straight up stalker behavior right there (I’ve had one before, I’ve seen the signs) and that cannot be tolerated. Even if they aren’t the particularly dangerous kind, and they genuinely don’t realize how creepy they’re being, there is still that chance that he’s one of those kinds that will straight up attack you and rape or kill you, and you do not have to take that chance. Screw being polite. This guy needs to get gone.

        I hate talking on the phone, which is why my friends usually text me or send me a message online (actually, most of us don’t like talking on the phone much), but I can adopt a professional manner when talking on the phone. However, if you come to my door unannounced, especially if I don’t know you, or even if I’m just not really ready for a visitor at the moment and don’t want you there, you’re not coming in. This is partially due to past experience with people forcing their way into my home before, and also because I really value my privacy and if you try to violate that I will straight up smack you. I had a friend who would constantly look over my shoulder at my computer screen, twisting himself around to see my laptop. I told him to knock it off, that I hated when people watch my screen and get into my business. He said “Oh, yeah?” in the condescending tone he always uses on me (He drags words out really long, and says them in a particular tone that screams “you are clearly a lesser being and probably pretty dumb”) and when he did it again I closed my laptop and told him that I’d told him already I didn’t want him doing that, he was being disrespectful by ignoring me and to fuck off. He just kind of laughed, but he went back to talking to our other friend and not paying much attention to me anymore. He wonders why I won’t date him. (Well, there’s his behavior, the fact that he doesn’t bathe and has the hygiene of a dead boar, the fact he lives with his parents and refuses to work, citing an old back injury that doesn’t seem to get in the way of his anime convention-hopping and gaming as the reason he can’t, and a few other things…but yeah, mainly the disrespect.)

        Now, if someone comes to the door, I may answer it if I’m feeling generous, but if someone tries to look around or over me at the house, or shove their way in, I don’t care if I know them or not, I will kick them out. Physically if necessary.

  20. Ugh, I got creeped out just by reading this.

    I also wish I’d read this advice four years ago when I dealt with a creeper of my own. I kept feeling sorry for him for way too long before finally saying “You know what. I don’t want to be your girlfriend. I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want to talk to you.” One of his friends called me a bitch for it, but cutting him out of my life was the best thing I did for myself all year.

    Don’t wait too long, LW. You’re not a bad person and you certainly do not owe him anything.

    1. This this this. A few years back a co-worker, who I do believe is generally well-meaning but VERY socially awkward (we now have what I’d describe as a cordial acquaintance), was intermittently creeping on me for awhile. And because I felt like it would be too bitchy to just say “Dude. No,” I had to put up with it for months. He eventually got the hint that I really did not like it when he suddenly *BAM* appeared next to me when I was leaving the building, or creeped up behind me at the water fountain to tell me how nice I looked that day, or took the most circuitous route possible through the office just to pass my desk, or sent me incessant inter-office messages asking 20 Questions about my day. But it would have saved a lot of awkwardness and done us both a favor for me to just say “Are you thinking of asking me out or something along those lines? I should be straight with you, sorry but I’m not interested.” (Instead, I quit the volunteer program we both also happened to be members of, just so I could avoid seeing him there as well. Still not happy with myself about that.)

  21. The Captain’s advice is absolutely on target.

    I hate to say it, but it’s especially important that the LW have a conversation with her parents first, and have their support before talking to Designer Guy.

    There is a not-insignificant chance that Designer Guy views the LW as lacking agency. (“She lives with her parents, her parents told me we would be friends…”) It’s unfair and it’s crappy, but it looks like Designer Guy is trying to take his cues on how to behave not from the LW, but from her parents. (“Well, the parents call her by nickname X, so I will too. The parents are OK with me calling the house and dropping by, so I’ll keep doing it.”)

    If that is how he’s filtering information, then when the LW cuts him off, he’ll ignore that and/or approach the parents, at which point the parents need to deliver unambiguous support of their daughter’s decision, and her autonomy. He might actually be more upset by the parents’ cutting him off than the LW, if he perceives that as the valued relationship.

    1. “There is a not-insignificant chance that Designer Guy views the LW as lacking agency”

      Oh yes I think that your whole comment but especially this bit is spot on.

    2. It’d help, but as the Captain says, she can’t necessarily count on their support. So if the problem is that he sees her as lacking agency, she needs to focus on correcting that impression and establish herself as a separate entity:

      “I know my parents call me [Nickname]. I’m asking you to call me [Name].”
      “My parents aren’t here right now. You can come back when they are. And please don’t keep dropping by unless you’ve confirmed they’re going to be here first. Thanks.”
      “My parents told you I’d be okay with X? I’ll have to talk to them about that; I thought I’d made it clear I wasn’t. Anyway, I’m going to have to ask you not to do that.”
      “My parents don’t get to decide that. I do. And the answer is ‘no.'”
      “I understand my parents were hoping we might get along. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. I don’t want that to hurt your relationship with them, but please stop trying to involve me.”

      That approach might also help her internalize that it doesn’t matter how others think she should handle the situation: the power still rests with her. Though if he keeps not listening, and the parents won’t back her up to the point of overriding her, then she needs to find a way out of there ASAP.

  22. “So I avoid him and then feel bad, because he’s just very enthusiastic and he can’t help his ADHD.”

    I have ADHD. I talk a blue streak (which may have something to do with the NLD that I *also* have, which contributes mightily to my social awkwardness). Let me assure you, ADHD has fuck all to do with this dude’s behavior. He’s completely ignoring your very clear desire to not hang out with him. That’s creepy. That is not okay.

    Let me also say that I would have sooner gulped down a glass of Clorox on the rocks before I ever would have been someone’s charity case. So frankly, LW, it’s perfectly okay for you to not want to be friends with a boundary-violating jerk. It’s perfectly okay for you to not want to be friends with a “nice guy.” It’s perfectly okay for you to not want to be friends with any person, for any reason at all.

    Take the Captain’s advice on this one. I really hope your parents have your back on this. If they don’t, are there friends you can stay with while you job hunt? Can you get an internship or temp gig where one of your friends lives and stay with them for a bit?

    1. Let me also say that I would have sooner gulped down a glass of Clorox on the rocks before I ever would have been someone’s charity case.

      Oh god yes. I was a painfully shy child whose social skills were not the greatest and while it wouldn’t have been terrible to have had more friends when I was kid (I’m a lot better at the friend thing now), I would’ve been absolutely crushed to find out that I was someone’s charity case, not their friend.

      LW, from your letter you sound to me like the kind of thoughtful, compassionate person who would have a terrible time doing something that hurts someone’s feelings, even if it’s necessary. It might help you to remind yourself that by cutting off contact with Mr Tromps All Over Your Boundaries, you’re sparing him the crushing humiliation of finding out later that what he thought was a friendship was really just pity. Not that you owe him useful life lessons! I just had the thought that framing it that way might make the conversation suck a little less.

      1. Thirding this.

        I actually was, I think, a charity case when I was a kid. Either with my mom’s friends kids just being nice to me or some of the more popular girls reaching out to me, polite and sincere, but just…not really liking me all that much.

        It’s the root of a LOT of my anxiety and trust issues. It takes a long time, months or even years, before I truly believe someone is around me because they want to be. And it’s why I’ll take a conversation with someone who’s a bit of a prick over someone who very mellowly makes polite small talk–with the prick, I KNOW if I overstep, they’ll call me on it, if they don’t want to talk to me, they won’t. The polite person (and I’m thinking of one coworker in particular)…it seems so fake.

        1. Fourthing this. I’m autistic, and was very very socially awkward and oblivious as a kid. I also developed anxiety issues and self-esteem issues and depression when I found out that someone in my class who I’d thought liked me had just been pretending, and I’m still dealing with the scars ten years later.

          Honestly, I’ve seen quite a few letters with someone going “I really hate X aspect of their behaviour but they’ve got Y so they can’t help it, so I should just suck up and deal” on this site and I flinch every time. Pretending to like someone although you hate spending time around them is not fair to you… and it’s *also* not fair to *them*. They deserve real friends who enjoy spending time with them, and people like that are out there! I’m still socially awkward and prone to babbling at length about things and sometimes talk in overly-detailed circles around whatever I’m trying to express or assume everyone finds something as interesting as I do. At this point in my life, if I found out one of my friends actually couldn’t stand this but pretended because of some sort of “ze’s autistic, we must be nice to the poor disabled people” thing, I would be fucking irate.

          1. They deserve real friends who enjoy spending time with them

            Kaz, that is brilliant. It just skewers apart the myth that one must always treat PWD as fragile and pitiable, and that being a pity-friend is a kind thing to do. Because underneath all those values there’s often this lurking assumption: “After all, if we just treated this person according to their merits, no one would ever like them. Pity is the best they can hope for.”

          2. For the Lois McMaster Bujold fans here: being someone’s pity friend is like the armsman who let young Miles win at crossball. Not only did it make Miles very seriously want to kill himself, it also poisoned every genuine victory after that.

            Pity friendships are like that, except for ‘succeeding at something’ substitute ‘ever having meaningful relationships with anyone’.

    2. ^^^^All of this. I’m an ADHDer, too, though mine is the inattentive variety. (I’m more likely to blank out while someone else is talking than talk a blue streak myself, lol.) But yeah. It’s not a reason for this kind of behavior, not by a long shot.

  23. Backing up past my initial yiiikes, I took another look at the LW’s basic issue with hir parents, which is “friends! yay!” vs. “I’d like to be alone now.” LW, it might be worth showing your parents something like The Power of Introverts, which drives home the point that people function differently, and that’s okay.

  24. “He is calling/dropping by way too often because it is too often for you.”

    Bolded, underlined, italicized, and with exclamation points.

    That’s all you need to know.

    The world will spend a lot of time trying to convince you that you should tolerate [thing you do not like] because “normal” people do/would. Do not let them. All that matters is where your boundaries are.

  25. I’m not a social person. I don’t have friends at the moment. The reasons for that are many –mostly boiling down to living at home again while I look for a job. At school, I had close friends I still talk to over the internet, but until I get a more permanent job with fixed hours I don’t have a pool of people I can talk to in a neutral space where I can happily make friends.

    Since everyone else has brilliantly covered the points about how to deal with awkward wannabe friend, I just want to add assurance: It’s okay to not be seeking friends right now. You sound like you’ve got a handle on what works for you, and what’s healthy — so don’t doubt it. 🙂 When and if you are in a place to *want* to find friends, you will. And there are resources for making that easier if you (or anyone else reading) need them. Being non-social (being a good friend to yourself) is okay.

    1. Oh, that didn’t take the italics tags. Duh, that first paragraph is a quote from the OP’s letter.

    2. This is exactly what I was thinking, and this might be a useful tactic to employ with LW’s parents. You don’t have to have a socially active life all the time. You don’t have to have a pool of friends to hang out with all the time.

      It can be helpful to say, particularly to someone who thinks they’re doing you a favor or thinks they’re coaxing you out of your shell, “I have a number of things going on in my life right now that I want to concentrate on, and making/hanging out with friends or acquiring a significant other type person is not on that list. When I have the time and energy to make friends and hang out with them, I will do so. I’m not sad or lonely, I’m not being ‘antisocial’ – I just have a particular agenda for my life at the moment, and I’m focused on that. Although I appreciate your concern for me and your efforts on my behalf, it’s really not helpful.”

      A similar conversation with the Decorator might work…or might not, depending on his particular (lack of ) boundary issues. At the very least, it’s a way to derail all the “but whyyyyyyy?” whining that conversations like this tend to engender.

      As a side note, do NOT let the parents or the decorator draw you into any kind of conversation wherein you have to list the things that are on your current agenda, or give a deadline of when you will be ready to be “friendly”.

  26. Excellent advice, as usual.

    I have a slightly different take on this situation.

    I was the Awkward Decorator once about 40 years ago, before therapy and life stepped in and helped. A group of people got together at a place where I was volunteering and told me they didn’t like me and didn’t want me hanging out with them any more. Of course I was devastated, but I asked for specifics and sincerely tried to make changes based on what seemed to bother these people the most, and that I suddenly recognized as my weirdness. I was lonely and crazy as a bedbug at that time in my life and took the confrontation very seriously.

    Oddly, after that upsetting conversation and my subsequent efforts to become more socially acceptable, some of those people actually made friends with me, and I correspond with them to this day! Others didn’t, but looking back, I probably wouldn’t have got along with them, ever, anyway.

    I think it’s extremely important that the LW stick to her guns and not be persuaded, unless LW genuinely feels better about Awkward Decorator after the drama is over with. In some ways, it’s much better if LW never gets to like the Decorator because it will begin the process of teaching the parents that No means No. As I am fond of pointing out, NO is a complete sentence and doesn’t need any kind of modifiers.

    My guess is that the parents probably won’t give up very easily, so–rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Correspond with friends or have the conversation in the mirror. LW, make sure you know exactly what you want. Do Not make excuses or explanations. Excuses and explanations open space for negotiation, and this is not negotiable.

    The good news is, the skills you learn from this unpleasant situation will help you throughout your life. The bad news is, suddenly your parents have feet of clay, and that rarely heals.

    I wish you luck and hope it goes extremely well. Please, check in later after you’ve had The Conversation and let us know how it went. Lots of support here.

    1. Being a socially awkward person who just got told what they’re doing that’s off-putting to other people can be EXCRUCIATING. It can really suck to have someone say, “I’m not comfortable being around you anymore.” That’s not a sign that you’re an awful human being, it’s just a sign that you’re *a* human being.

      What’s important is being able to pick yourself up again, sort through the feedback to see what to keep and what to throw away, and move forward, a little wiser than you were.

  27. Yes yes yes yes yes and yes to “you don’t owe this guy anything.”

    LW, do yourself a favour and let that really sink in. You are not a bad person for not wanting to hang with this guy. You are not a cow for saying no. You are not heartless for not pity-hanging with him. It is not your duty to be his friend because ADHD.

    Also, to the people in your life singing the “but ADHD means reasons for awkward be nice!!!” Song — no, actually. It is an explanation for awkward behaviour, maybe, but it is certainly not a free pass to continue making people uncomfortable. Just because someone has a disability like ADHD doesn’t mean they are incapable of regulating their behaviour. It makes it harder, yes, and it really sucks for the person — I have watched my father and sister deal with this for years, and I have had to learn a great deal of patience myself! — but it is still their job and the job of the people supporting them (parents, friends, partners, therapists, etc) to make sure they can be successful. Creeping on peeps is not successful, and he may need a reminder not to do that!

    Also please take my post with a grain of salt; while I do have folks in my life who deal with this, I don’t have to deal with it in my own life and it doesn’t make me the all knowing expert on things ADHD!

    Just stick to your guns, LW. You know what you want and need; don’t let people tell you otherwise.

    1. And the ADHD thing – my daughter has ADD. She’s also an unrivaled socialite. Drop her down anywhere and she will make 3 or 4 new friends. She’s been like this since she was a toddler, and her father is just the same. ADHD in and of itself is not a life sentence of awkwardness.

      1. I, meanwhile, have ADHD and have always had people comment on how quiet and reserved I am. I am super-introverted; when my therapist and I talked about it she said, “Wow, that is profound introversion. It sounds like most of the important events of your life happened inside your own head.” I also live with social anxiety, which means I’m really hesitant to talk to new people and I often cut myself off early because I’m afraid of talking too much. I force myself to make small talk with people I see every day, because otherwise I wouldn’t speak to them and they’d think I didn’t like them.

        ADHD has a lot of faces.

        1. I also have ADHD, and though extroverted am frequently Mistaken For Introvert because “quiet, focused listener”, “quiet, inattentive daydreamer”, and “super-overenthusiastic talker!!!!!!” seem to be the three modes I have. The third is actually my instinct but I *know* it’s irritating so I try really hard not to do it.

          To make it worse, FirstKid has the Super-Over-Enthusiastic-Talker thing going. She shuts up JUST ENOUGH to not get in trouble in class…most of the time…and then lets it ALL out at home. Which is apparently exactly what I did at FirstKid’s age. *gulp*

  28. So, I DON’T know the details of this situation but I really struggle when I’m at home not to turn into a grumpy teenager and my parents really struggle not to treat me like a grumpy teenager. I love to sit around and watch TV and I was basically exhausted post college and wanted to do nothing for a month or two. My parents nagged me continuously to go out and *do something*. My dad literally tried to press money into my hands. Were they overstepping? Maybe. I had the right to be depressed or unhappy or whatever… but it was also their space. They wanted to relax. They wanted an empty house occasionally. They didn’t want to see my face everyday in a communal space when they got home.

    If you choose not to be social, if you chose never to leave the house, or you are (understandably!) stressed all the time job searching, parents may begin to feel a bit oppressed in their own home. They may not know how to tell you what they need and they start looking for solutions. Like random creepy guy. I am not saying befriend this guy AT ALL. Don’t. He sounds horrible. But consider your parent’s needs before you write them off. For my parents, I started really cleaning the house. Like everyday. For my parents, they felt like I’d accomplished something everyday! They seemed surprised everyday by the sparkling house. I also found some activities and did them *out of the house*.

    Look, I really really believe that everyone can benefit from a few hours alone in their home every week (other people in their rooms doesn’t count). If you are denying your parents that, please consider that they are getting desperate.

    1. This is a really interesting perspective, and I think it’s a good point. It doesn’t excuse the way the parents are handling it, but it might be a factor in their behavior that could be useful in approaching them. Sometimes having an adult child living at home (been there, done that) can be harder on your privacy than a little kid, because little kids go to bed early and sleep like the dead and don’t know what those weird noises coming from mom and dad’s room really mean.

    2. THIS so much. My mom knocked on my door earlier today and nicely explained that she would like a nice staycation with her husband and I was to pack a bag and stay at my grandmother’s for a few days so they could “have some time” ie, sit around naked, poop with the door open, and have sex.

      This is a reasonable request.

      1. I think that would be the way to go, being direct about your needs instead of going about it the way LW’s folks have.

        And now thanks to this discussion, I can feel much less guilty about leaving the house every now and then to go out and eat at my favorite cafe or checking out the peony gardens!

    3. This is a really great perspective. I may need to employ this with my mother (who lives with me and although I love her, she is semi-retired and gets a lot of alone time at home and I don’t, and I’d like to have some).

  29. Just realized that my previous comment might seem a bit victim blamey. It’s not! I’m just saying: I would follow CA’s advice but also think about ways in which I could be a better tenant to my parents, thus heading off some potential future problems and reducing the likelihood of them trying this again.

    The “parents believe happiness = friends” was what I THOUGHT my parents thought when I was 22 and living at home for a few months. Now I realize that what they meant was LEAVE OUR HOUSE FOR A FEW HOURS AND LET US WATCH TV AND TALK WITHOUT YOUR COMMENTARY = happy parents.

    1. Not sure where my previous comment was but the gist was this: parents are wrong to ask you to speak to this guy. Follow CA’s advice. HOWEVER it is worth looking at potential parental needs that they are expressing here. When I was basically in the same situation my parents spent a lot of time trying to get me to leave the house and do stuff with friends. I assumed that was about ME. Actually, in retrospect, it was about THEM. I had the right to be depressed/unhappy/whatever… but it was also their space. They wanted to relax. They wanted an empty house occasionally. They didn’t want to see my face everyday in a communal space when they got home. They wanted a few hours alone in their own home every week.

      If you choose not to be social, if you chose never to leave the house, or you are (understandably!) stressed all the time job searching, parents may feel a bit oppressed or unhappy by your constant presence in their home. They may react by trying to “make you happy”. So as well as getting rid of creepy guy, consider taking some time out of the house to just give them more space to breathe.

  30. The other thing that jumped out at me about this situation is this: Decorator is behaving in a deeply unprofessional manner. I know he’s “only 20” but if he’s starting a decorating business – or working for someone who owns a decorating business – he’s going to need to learn this quickly. PEOPLE DO NOT WANT DECORATORS IN THEIR PRIVATE HOMES WHO CREEP THEM OUT AND MAKE THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS UNCOMFORTABLE. Maybe your parents think he’s a nice guy, but it’s still deeply unprofessional and inappropriate behavior. In a sense, by backing you up, your parents are also doing him a favor…(not that he deserves any favors, mind you.)

    LW, if your parents try to guilt you into being nice to him during the “he makes me uncomfortable” chat, maybe this is something to bring up with them. He needs to learn this lesson sometime – you don’t aggressively pursue personal relationships with your clients. It is bad behavior and it is also bad business.

    Also – if he’s working for someone else, lodging a confidential complaint about his professional conduct if he doesn’t respect your “no” might also be a good thing to do.

  31. I agree with the Captain and commenters. I just wanted to add, as an adult with ADHD myself, that it is NOT your job to manage his potentially ADHD-related behaviours. Even if his behaviours really, truly, indisputably are a direct result of his brain structure and chemistry — a hypothesis we cannot test — it doesn’t matter. His behaviours are violating your boundaries. It doesn’t matter *why* he’s doing them, it doesn’t matter whether he’s doing them *on purpose*, but he needs to STOP.

    This person has repeatedly ignored a direct “No” from you, which is not acceptable behaviour. It’s true that adults with ADHD tend to be more impulsive, and may not be ideal conversationalists, but it is HIS job to manage his problematic behaviours. This can be a hard thing, and Maude knows it takes effort and practice and self-awareness, but again — it is not. your. problem.

    Nobody has a right to make you feel unsafe in your own home. Nobody has a right to dictate who you invest your social energy in. You are not judging him for his ADHD — many people with ADHD would act differently than this guy has so far, and perhaps they would be friend-compatible with you. Many non-ADHD people would behave exactly like this guy, and they would NOT be friend-compatible with you. That is OK!

    It sounds like you have good instincts and you’re very socially observant and you know yourself quite well. I hope that your parents respond with more thoughtfulness towards you than they have demonstrated so far, and that this problem is resolved quickly and peacefully. Best of luck!

    1. Yup. As an ADD-er myself, I suggest, “Please tell me, in your own words, what I just said, and what that means I want from you.” It’s okay not to be subtle.

        1. My boyfriend has ADHD and that, right there, is the #1 communication trick that saves us from fighting.

      1. Yup. It’s actually better (if one can manage it) NOT to be subtle as then we don’t sit there unsure if we’ve really got the message. Also, because people with ADD* can be arseholes just the same as anyone else, some may use “oh, gee, I’m bad at social cues” as an excuse to ignore hints (even more than a lot of people (who are mostly men, IME) do). If you’ve explicitly said “I’m sure you’re very nice but I don’t want to be friends” or even just “I don’t want to be friends”, it’s a) easier for him to know exactly what you mean and b) harder for him to pretend (either to you or to himself) not to know what you mean.

        *of which I am one, in case it’s not clear.

      2. “Please tell me, in your own words, what I just said, and what that means I want from you.”

        Noted. That is brilliant, thank you for it.

  32. Did anyone else notice this?:
    “Apparently he saw my books and “knew” he could have an intelligent conversation with me, which he can’t get from his other friends.”

    That one set off alarm bells for me right away. It sounds like he doesn’t have a lot of respect for his current friends. Not someone I’d want to get to know better, right there.

    1. That definitely rang some bells with me. I had a lot of kids like this in my high school AP classes, and I didn’t like them. Yes, they were smart, and yes, they shared interests with me, but they were condescending little shits to everyone else, and that is not fun to be around. Plus, there’s the whole layer of “You’re not like other girls, but still not as good as me,” or, “I’m invested in a fantasy about you and I won’t be swayed,” that kinda comes with cis-dude-to-lady interactions, and that icks me out something fierce too. I would run from someone like that as if my hair were on fire.

    2. Oh, I’m glad I’m not the only one.

      I really do hate it when I’m getting to know a guy (it’s always a guy for some reason) and he talks about his current friends like they’re just the people he’s stuck with for now. I mean, I give my friends a hard time (especially my best friend, especially these past months), but A) I’m not going to just put them down to relative strangers and B) if I want to make a good impression on someone, why on earth would I imply that I only hung out with losers or people I don’t like.

      Also not a huge fan of people who have this idea that they’re so much smarter than most of their “friends.” It’s usually an indication of someone who’s got a much higher opinion of their IQ than is justified.

      Although the book-thing does remind me of the last time my Dad tried to find a friend for me–he knew I liked dragons and fantasy and stuff and his friend had a daughter my age who also liked the books I liked. So he arranged, basically, a play-date for us. I was almost 14.

      She became my best friend. To this day, our first meeting is one of my Patronus memories. Y’know why? Because we hit it off instantly and spent hours conversing and sharing things with each other and being excited by each other. There was instant chemistry.

      But y’know, if there hadn’t been, I’m pretty sure that would’ve been the end of that.

      1. My mother did something similar, in that her co-worker and I spent much of a schoolyear hearing how much we’d like each other. (We’re the same age) This was eventually confirmed,, after he came out to my mom, I sneakily came out to him, and we began having conversations like “I read this great blog called Captain Awkward…” “Really? Me too!” (Yes, that really happened.) He doesn’t read the comments, though, i think.
        Anyway! While I now feel I would be missing out by not knowing him, I would not feel this way if we had never met. Note also that all my mom did was tell us stories about each other. Not personal or embarassing ones, just “My kid is a huge history nut” “My TA wore a homemade gryffindor tshirt for favorite sports team day”-type stories. The acutual desire, work and coirdinating necessary to be friends was left up to us.

        1. Yeah….while I had plenty of “friends” foisted on me when I was a kid via mandatory playgroups and neighborhood situations which never went well, the most recent time someone told me to go talk to someone because we’d get along great was at my sister’s graduation party when I was told to talk to her friend’s brother. I was wary at first, because she said he was “brilliant” (and I’ve known enough assholes who THINK they’re brilliant) but then some other information made me try….and now we live together. So set-ups can work…but they don’t have to, and sometimes they just don’t, and the thing is: if I hadn’t gotten along with this guy, I’d have the built-in escape route of only being in town for three days and living 8 hours away. If a guy you can’t really stand is coming to your house all the time and has a phone number for you….that’s an entirely different situation.

    3. Ugh, YES. Also: dripping with entitlement with a side order of whinging. And again, it’s not LW’s fault or responsibility if this dude she doesn’t even know has crap friends, or doesn’t like his friends, or has no friends. Even if he were her husband it wouldn’t be, but HE’S A STRANGER!

    4. I also noticed that. I also noticed the part about seeing her books. When I was living with my parents, I kept my books in my bedroom. If some decorator dude said that to me and they weren’t doing my bedroom, not only the red alert lights would be blaring, but the evacuate ship warning lights would be coming on.

      If your books are not in a public space and your room is not part of the remodel, how would he have legitimately seen them?

  33. A friend of mine was recently cornered in her building doorway, late at night, by a total stranger who “just wanted to take her out for a drink”. She said “No” several times, in increasing alarm, and finally he grabbed her arm and asked “Why not?”. She said, “Because you’re obviously not listening when I say no right now, so I can’t expect you to listen to anything else I say no to.”

    To her total shock, he looked appalled, let go of her, apologized, and left. As far as she could tell, it had not occurred to him that cornering a stranger, grabbing her arm, and insisting she go get a drink with him might be seen as the sort of thing a rapist would do.

    LW, if Decostalker Dude doesn’t listen the first time you say no, or if he asks why it bothers you that he won’t leave you alone, you may want to try explicitly connecting the dots. It’s absolutely not your responsibility to educate him, but if he cares about not being seen as a potential rapist, then it might encourage him to really change his behavior. And if he doesn’t appear to mind being seen as a potential rapist, that’s probably a good hint that it’s restraining order time.

    1. Just wanted to jump in and say holy crap, that sounded scary, but HOLY CRAP, your friend did awesome! The situation should never have been thrust onto them in the first place, but what a great way for it to turn out! Your friend did so great!

    2. Yikes! Glad your friend’s story turned out that way.

      Last summer I was walking home from an Olympics-watching party and I was a bit sad because of reasons, not quite crying, but obviously a bit upset (and sobering up). This guy appeared behind me and called out to me a couple of times, after the third I turned round and he was reaching out his hand to me (as though to shake it) which set off major alarm bells because I do NOT want to be grabbed by some dude, thanks. I kept my distance (he was maybe 10ft away) and he asked if I was okay. I told him I wasn’t feeling too well but was nearly home now and thanks and goodbye, all the while expecting him to lunge or SOMETHING, and he just said “oh, I’m glad, you looked upset and I wanted to make sure you were okay. Bye!” and walked off. I’m rarely afraid walking home (wary, yes, but not afraid) but that was pretty worrying right until he went away.

    1. I feel like there should be a Comradde PhysioProffe translator that makes all your swear words “PhysioProffe Style.”

  34. Honesty is also good in this way: Decorator, I am not looking for new friends right now. I have other things going on in my life, and instead of making me happy you are stressing me out. And it’s not fair for you to waste your energy on me when you could be out there finding someone else. Best of luck.

    Problem is that this is a version of the “not you, it’s me” conversation, and may be edging into lying territory, but I feel there’s nothing wrong with lying to people *you aren’t fucking friends with*.

    I feel for you, letter-writer, as I have also recently moved in with parents and my life is lonely and internet and upheaval, and the last thing I’d want is some annoying person poking around sucking up my precious energy that is used to keep from going off the rails.

  35. Hi letter writer!

    I am a socially awkward person who sometimes gets a little overenthusiastic about new friends. But here’s the thing: I don’t actually want people to be my friend as an obligation or out of pity for my social ineptness. I want them to actually like me and I want it to be a genuine feeling not something they worked hard to manufacture. The ideal state is mutual platonic overenthusiasm. And if they’re not feeling it, I want to know before I get any more attached. If I’m making them uncomfortable, I want to know so that I can stop, because I don’t like making people uncomfortable. Yes, I will probably have a sad, but that is not your responsibility and I will get over it.

    It is possible that this guy is like me: harmless, overenthusiastic, and socially awkward. If that’s the case, his response to “don’t call me and don’t drop by unannounced” will be “oh, okay. sorry about that.” And then he will decide that you have his number so you can easily get back in touch if you change your mind. (You can also get this response out of me by saying “I’m busy” three consecutive times when I ping you to ask if you want to hang out once every couple weeks. I’ll decide that it’s your turn to ping me if you’re no longer busy and want to spend your free time with me and I’ll move on. I use rules like this to help make sure that the overenthusiasm is welcome.)

    If he is like me, he will eventually find other friends who actually like him, which would be an ideal solution for everyone involved. It’s much more fun to hang out with people who enjoy having you around. Even if he’s harmless, it’s better for him to be friends with people who like him and enjoy his company and value him as a person.

    But you don’t know that he’s harmless and stalking is an indicator that he is not someone who values you as a person. Please cut him out of your life for your own safety and spend your time with people for whom the feeling is mutual.

  36. Please post a follow up to this, let us know how it goes. I’ve been in this same situation so many times. Usually it’s my parents introducing me to some unwanted stranger who has already been told some incredibly personal things about myself, things I wouldn’t even tell good friends, who then uses those as conversational starters. Mortifying!

  37. My chupahija of a mother guilted me with “what have you got to lose” when I told her I didn’t want to go out with her friend’s son( who was completely not my type). I wish I’d been able to respond: “my self respect for not being able to stand up to you”

    1. I was totally derailed by “suckdaughter”. That’s a slang term I haven’t heard before!

      1. Daughtersucker….chupacabras(goatsuckers) are the boogeymen of the Hispanophone Carribean.

        I’m not Latina; I’m an LA native Ashkenazic Jew.

      1. Frankly, I’m surprised no-one has suggested the Jenna Marbles “What to do when you don’t want to talk to someone” video. I mention it because that face actually works fairly well on parents, especially if you have cooperative siblings around to help you by making the faces in concert.

    2. As far as I’m concerned, I have *everything* to lose by dating someone I know for a fact I don’t want to date. It starts with a date. Then you convince yourself a second date wouldn’t be so bad because you’re afraid of saying no and hurting them/causing unnecessary conflict/whatever. Then suddenly you’re in a relationship you don’t want and can’t bring yourself to get out. The longer you keep pretending, the harder it’s going to be to stand up and say, “No, I don’t want this.” Better to say it from the beginning and avoid being trapped by your own reticence. My favorite band Superchick has this song called “One More” that goes, “I have everything to lose/by not getting up to fight/I might get used to giving up/so I am showing up tonight.” I think it’s kind of like that.

        1. You might like a lot of their other stuff, too. They’re technically a Christian rock band, but overt references to religion are exceedingly rare and they have a lot of stuff that’s really awesome. Some of the songs go with a trigger warning, though, like Courage for instance, because the lead singer sometimes writes about her experiences with anorexia. That kind of thing is what really makes me respect them all as musicians, though: they’re not afraid to really go deep with the tough stuff in their own lives. They recently lost a band member to cancer, and their response was to write a song about it, because that’s what kind of group they are.

          My favorite albums of theirs (so far) are Regeneration, Beauty From Pain 1.1, and Rock What You Got. Especially Rock What You Got. Tons of good stuff on there. “Play it safe, play by the rules/or don’t play at all — what if you lose?/That’s not the secret, but I know what is/Everybody dies, but not everyone lives.” — from Cross the Line. They just don’t *stop* with the awesome!

  38. Hi I’m in the spamtrap here too (I left my comment not long after my previous comment on the other post which was also in the spam trap), if that helps.

  39. Yes, had to train my parents and relatives out of this. I have very few true friends and this bothered my family for a while. The fact is I have been hurt too many times by “friends” who were talking behind my back so now I only keep a few close friends.

    1. …and if those few friends are all you want and need, that needs to be respected. I’ve never understood the appeal of quantity over quality when it comes to relationships. I’d far rather have a few really close and trusted friends than loads of superficial ones.

      1. Yes, it’s hard to get people to realize this. Yet another reason I hate facebook, lol. Those people are not friends, but the people I talk to every day and do writing workshops with on google plus def. are.

      2. I’ve always felt this way as well, except that if you have few friends you’re more affected by the loss of one or two, say if they move someplace far away.

        1. Fighting with this now. I moved an hour a way for a job and now no one will visit me. Losing friends because they refuse to see me in town, I am always having to try and visit both them and my family in the hometown. Driving me nuts and making me lonely, sigh.

        2. True, and it’s a problem I have now, because I recently moved from London to Scotland and a lot of my close friends are now 400 miles away.

    2. My mom used to be on my case in high school all the time about making more friends because I spent all my time with my best friend. And I was always like “… but I don’t want more friends.” Even now, I really only spend time with a few people. I thought there was something anti-social and weird about me for a while, but I came to realize it’s just that I’m very introverted and don’t need or want a lot of friends.

      1. Yes, some people just seem to need a large number of friends. I have never been in this group. Yes, I am an introvert too. Hard to have downtime with no people when you have masses of random people bugging you to do things with them, lol.

  40. Just cleaned SEVENTEEN delicious comments from the spam trap. Good morning!

  41. Few things make me as uncomfortable as being set up with ‘friends’ by a third party. I have very few friends and a handful of buddies that are good to see every month or so at some form of holiday party or random get-together. I like it that way. I want my free time to be my time. I don’t want to dedicate every weekend to going out and doing something with someone. I want to sit at home and watch Netflix and putter around on craft/art projects or do chores at a 3-dishes per hour pace.

    Sometimes my boyfriend gets it in his head that I should go do something ‘girly’ with one of his friend’s spouse. I don’t want to. I’m happy to see these people at concerts and parties and I like them very much. If I ever needed help, I know that I can call on them for support because they are super-awesome people and they can rely on me for the same thing. But I hate shopping with other people. I don’t want to travel to the other side of the city for lunch. I don’t need to get a manicure. I am only good one-on-one with people I know well. Being alone with someone for hours will be a nightmare of awkward pauses because I’m poor at conversation. I’d be nervous the entire time and would make the other person feel awkward in turn.

    Whenever Boyfriend tries this, I have to keep repeating the same thing:
    “Maybe _____ and I will hang out some time but if that happens, it will be because we made our own connection and our own plans.”

    You don’t get to pick your family. You don’t get to pick the people you work with. You don’t have much say for neighbors unless you have the cash to move. The friend group is the only group you get to assemble and sort. If you let others do it for you, it’s hard to be happy.

    1. Ugh, forced playdates for adults = not cool!

      I confess I will sometimes use Facebook to make introductions, along the lines of:

      “X person is moving to your city soon, she is really neat, would it be ok if I introduced you?”
      “I saw that your company is recruiting x kind of position. My friend y does exactly that – shall I make an introduction?”
      “X director is casting a film, I think you really might like working together, here is the link to the notice.”
      “You mentioned that you’re moving and looking for roommates, this person is also moving and looking for a roommate situation, you’re both really nice, clean, artsy, etc. – maybe reach out?”

      Or, I have two new-in-town friends who like the same stuff and invite them to the same brunch or whatever – if they click they click! Once I did that for people I knew were mutually crushing on each other and it worked out awesomely. But that wasn’t the point of the gathering, there were tons of other people there, I didn’t seat them together or anything.

      But I don’t pressure people, or tell people too much about the other person, or have deep investment in whether they hit it off. I’ve really benefited from people making introductions and giving me a push away from the wall, and that’s one way you spread the love around.

      If anyone of those introductions started doing unannounced pop-ins or cornering the other person, I would a) be mortified b) TELL THEM OFF IMMEDIATELY.

      1. That sounds like the right way to do it. It’s pretty much how my boyfriend does it. He’s been trying to hook me up with these two cool ladies for months, but for many Reasons Not Having to Do With Not Wanting to Be Friends, it’s been slow going. We like each other! But we get all wibbly when it comes to reaching out. So he just tells me when one of them is going to be at an event, and asks if I want to come. If I don’t, no problem; if I do, great! This has led to several cool hangouts and it’s been fun.

      2. Yeah…introducing people that you think will get along is a lot different from trying to force people into the same space and make them interact.

        There’s a magic about people that become friends. Maybe they have the same interests. Maybe they don’t. It’s almost the same as the person/people that you choose as mates…no one can do it for you. There’s either a spark or there isn’t. Even then, sometimes the spark is temporary and they grow apart. Sometimes they like eachother for always. There are billions of books about trying to force connections to happen and they’re all wrong because there is no formula.

  42. I haven’t read the other comments yet, but as a person with ADHD, I want to say that having ADHD does NOT make you a stalker. It might be responsible for his motor-mouth tendencies, but don’t blame his completely inappropriate stalking behavior on it.

  43. Hey Captain Awkward, this has nothing to do with the article but since I guess I can’t email you I didn’t know where else to ask this question: Do you know that your site is advertising for “the Tao of badass,” a douchebag named Josh Pellicer, one of those hawkers of “foolproof techniques for getting you laid?” It’s one of the videos below the article. You may or may not have any control over what shows up there but thought I would mention it just in case you do. Those kinds of messages seem pretty contrary to what you are trying to achieve on this site.

  44. I had something like this happen to me, without the matchmaking parents luckily. I was working at a retail establishment, a guy came in who my boss knew and she introduced him to me. All of a sudden he decided I was his Best Friend in the World, and would come by every day and talk at me for ages while I was trying to work, and urge me to borrow things from him, and give me his phone number, and talk to me in the street, and then he learned (not from me…) that I usher at a concert series every Sunday and showed up there… But I did manage to get rid of him. I told him I didn’t want to talk to him; my boss would intercept him if he showed up at work, and the manager of the concert was prepared to throw him out if it became necessary (it didn’t). He caught on quickly and gave up trying within a week. I later learned that he had a repeated pattern of fixating on someone and behaving inappropriately to try to befriend them, and the local college had barred him from campus because he had been pestering someone there. But no one claimed he was dangerous, just annoying. Anyway, that worked out well, and I hope your situation does too, LW.

  45. “He is calling/dropping by way too often because it is too often for you.”

    I think this is possibly the most important part of the Captain’s advice. There’s no arbitrary boundary that says “on this side is Okay, this side is Creepy.” It’s all subjective and only you can judge what’s creepy to you. You have that right. Also, just because someone is Nice doesn’t mean you have to be friends with them. That’s like, “meets basic standards for decent human being.” And anyway, he isn’t being Nice, because he’s disrespecting your boundaries and making you uncomfortable. You don’t have to give any Reasons for not wanting to be friends with him. “Not wanting to” is absolutely a valid reason.

  46. First off, I essentially agree with everything that has been said about how the LW should handle this. And I know I’m late to the conversation, and that this may be a bit off topic, so perhaps I’ll bring it up at some other time, but from what I have read here and in other posts, there is no possible way for someone like me who is socially inept to ever make friends. The choices are to either not try, and at least not bother anyone in the process, or be labeled a creep. Other than my boyfriend, I have absolutely no friends.

    Not that this letter writer should bear that burden, but perhaps preaching a bit of patience and forbearance toward those who are not witty or polished in their mannerisms might be a humane addition to the discussion.

    1. HEY.

      I am sorry you are having trouble making friends.

      When you meet someone new, and they say “my name is x,” do you insist on calling them by a nickname you heard someone else call them? And when they correct you, do you keep doing it?
      Do you talk at them for long periods of time without any response or initiation or continuation of a conversation from them, and then make fun of them for being quiet?
      Do you call them twice a day and drop by their house uninvited? Even though they never call you, refused to give you their phone number, and never come see you?

      I’m thinking that you do not do these things. So your “don’t try vs. be labeled a creep” thing is a false dichotomy.

      Trying = going to places where you will meet new people, following your own interests, being friendly and nice, listening to them, maybe connecting with someone, looking for reciprocity and ease in connection (they initiate contact & plans as often as you, it’s easy to reach them and make plans).

      That has nothing to do with being labeled a creep. The creepiness comes from ignoring boundaries, coming on WAY too strong.

      You, MBKI, having friends, is not something that we can solve in an answer to someone else that has nothing to do with you and your situation.

      And, unfortunately, the baseline social contract is that even if you do everything right and are in no way creepy, not everyone will like everyone else, not everyone has to like everyone else, and if you read the many, many comments in the thread from people with similar diagnoses to the LW’s Unfortunate Decorator, they a) make friends just fine b) want real friends who really like them, not friends who must muster “forbearance” in order to hang out with them. Friendship, like attraction/romantic feelings, is subjective and unfair and must come from the heart.

      When someone is pressured, like the LW is, by her parents to have “patience and forbearance” toward someone who is creeping her shit out, the way a lot of women are pressured to put up with bad behavior, it is a problem. And that is the problem I am trying to address in the letter – what happens when you loathe someone but everyone around you is pressuring you to like them? The problem of how to MAKE friends is not the problem of this letter.

      If you’d like to keep participating in this thread, please let us know, what would “compassion” and “forbearance” look like for the LW’s situation? What do you think she should do?

      1. As I said earlier, I essentially agree with the advice given to the LW. I don’t think that anyone should have to be friends with anyone they don’t like or simply don’t want as a friend. I also think that anyone who is pressuring them to do so is in the wrong. I agree that the LW should make her feelings known as firmly as is necessary. But what bothers me, in a nagging, subtle sort of a way, is a sort of implied harshness. There seems to be an implication that if someone acts in a way that can be construed as “creepy,” they have relinquished any right to be treated with compassion, when, as others in this thread have pointed out, the person may not even be aware that they are being “creepy.”

        I’m not saying that the LW should be Decorator’s friend — not at all. I think that what I am saying is that she doesn’t have to think of him with such contempt, a perception which your reply to her seems to reinforce. That’s what I mean by forbearance and patience. If you have social skills and the person who is bothering you does not, then can you give them a break, realize their limits, and be the one who handles the situation with some dignity for both parties?

        I’m not sure I understand the reason for what appears to be a scolding tone to your reply (if that tone is indeed there — I know that tone is easily misconstrued). I understand that your allegiance is with the LW and not with the person who is bothering her, but since this is a public forum, I don’t think it’s out of place to consider his position as well.

        On a side note, if you think that “being friendly and nice” is easily done, or is something that everyone knows how to do, then I don’t think you have a true grasp of what it means to be socially inept, or of how easy it is to be perceived as creepy.

        1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Sometimes I am harsh about it because women are so pressured to “let people down easy” and not say what it is they think and told they are terrible people for not wanting to totally take care of the other person’s feelings. So it is very much “If they use that ‘but you have to be nice, and nice = letting people who upset you stick around in your life without resisting'” argument, here is how you defend yourself. Sometimes there is no way to get what you want that doesn’t hurt someone’s feelings, and that’s a risk you have to take. Some people really do make you tell them bluntly because qualifying things with “Hey, you’re nice and you didn’t do anything wrong, but I don’t want to make friends right now” is sometimes interpreted as “If not now, WHEN?!? Soon! I will try harder” by someone who is desperate to hang on.

          I think most conversations that we suggest here (and most in my real life) go much more gently than sometimes it seems. “Hey, you’re putting a lot of work into trying to be my friend, but I am not feeling the same way and wish you’d stop it,” is never gonna be good news. Rejection ALWAYS hurts. You can be gentle about it. You can be direct about it. You can try indirect ways. If it’s not what the person wants to hear, it’s going to hurt.

          You’re not the first person who has trouble making friends to react with sadness to a “how do I lose this annoying person” post here, and your compassion for people who struggle speaks nicely of you. We are all someone’s great friend material, and we are all someone’s annoying person who they’d rather not hang out with material. But if you read this and think “they’re secretly talking about me,” we aren’t, and that’s something that you’re bringing to the discussion. We’ve addressed the other side of it many, many times.

          Could you maybe tell us what a “friendly and nice” rejection would look like, for you, in this case? Because I think the LW has tried to just be noncommital and withdraw (not giving out number, politely correcting name, listening to his talking as long as she can stand, actually giving him a chance and trying to find the good in him), etc., and I’m not understanding what else she could do to get it across short of “Sorry, not interested in being friends. Don’t do the things that make me uncomfortable anymore, please.”

        2. As the good CA has already said, the problem here is not that this person might be socially awkward it is that he has violated the LW’s boundaries and refused to listen to her reasonable request of not calling her by her Nickname. This is where the ‘creepy’ vibe is coming from.

          Personally I dont think that this persons social skills are the important factor here, it wouldn’t be any better if this guy had well polished manners and an abundance of charm. He would still be overstepping in a ‘creepy’ way.

          Also, I would like to point out that I think the LW has tried to handle this situation with dignity already. She has asked him repeatedly not to call her by Nickname and refused to give him her number. These are clear signals and they are not being rude or hurtful or scornful of him. If he had picked up on these signals and respected her boundary then the ‘creepy’ label probably would not have been applied. But he didnt and it has gotten to the point where she feels unsafe in her own home.

          I truly believe that the critical tone you are picking up on has nothing to do with him being awkward or over enthusiastic, I know lots of people like that who are not creepy. The critical tone comes from the fact that this guy has overstepped very clear boundaries and really invaded the LW space and when this happens the LW (and us) has every right to call him out on this and say it is creepy.

          I acknowledge that for some people ‘being friendly and nice’ can be a very hard thing to do, especially with out practice. (Im sorry that this is the case for you and I hope you find more friends who are awesome and think the same of you.) But that doesn’t mean that violation of boundaries are ever ok and if that sort of thing occurs than the person on the receiving end does not, in my opinion, have any responsibility to consider the other persons feelings at the cost of their feeling safe.

        3. I think that it is easy to feel stung when you see parallels between yourself and someone that is being chastised.

          This is a specific case, though. The specifics are this:

          LW has already tried to handle this situation politely and allow dignities to remain intact. That has failed.

          LW is not dealing with one awkward person. She’s dealing with her parents encouraging the awkward person onto her, which makes it a 3 against 1 situation.

          LW now has to live in constant anxiety as this person is often in her own home. She has no safe space

          This isn’t a letter about a well intentioned but irritating person trying to be her friend. This is a letter about someone’s family pushing her into a situation that she is uncomfortable with to the point of not feeling safe in her own bedroom.

        4. I don’t get it. Let’s hypothetically elevate creepiness up to protected status. Like, now creepiness is like being a woman or racial minority. Even with all that, would it still be appropriate to derail posts like this? Do you hear yourself?

          Honestly, I am friends with plenty of types of people. But people who continuously derail and dismiss, I don’t like. Just a thought.

          1. I don’t think I’m following. It would be okay to say “I don’t like X and don’t want her to be my friend because she’s a woman” or “because she’s Asian”? If someone says that, it’s derailing to point out that it’s kinda fucked up?

            I don’t think that “being creepy” is the same thing at all, because it’s a subjective judgment. But I think I must be misunderstanding your point.

          2. Badger Rose, as I read Elle’s reply to mbkl, zie was pointing out that creepiness is a behaviour, an overstepping of boundaries, and that it is not something innate, such as race, sex and so on. It doesn’t rate protected status (for that matter, I don’t think shyness or awkwardness do, either.)

            Plus, as the Captain said already, mbkl seemed to conflate or confuse shyness and awkwardness with boundary-ignoring creepiness. In this case, I’d say Decorator is borderline predatory; he’s waving a whole collection of red flags.

            (Elle, apologies if I’ve got that wrong!)

        5. I hear you. I think we need to be more compassionate and understanding with each other in a general way. Neither my husband nor I have very good social skills and often recount our embarrassing experiences to each other to share the grimaces. It’s lovely when somebody actually gives either one of us a chance to explain or back out of whatever embarrassing thing we did.

          However, I think the LW is caught in a pincer here, between the Decorator guy and her buttinski parents, and any kindness LW shows that guy is likely to be misconstrued as friendship or willingness.

          So, yeah, I hear you. Been there on both sides of the equation. I’m an advocate for kindness and compassion in general, but I think boundaries make it all work better, and lots of people didn’t get the memo about good boundaries.

          For myself, when I feel like I’m being unfairly excluded or my oafishness is misconstrued, I try to talk it out with the person I seem to be annoying. Then at least we get to know where we stand without having to have a play-date. It’s surprising how much open communication about this stuff can dispel bad feeling. Genuine creeps, however, don’t respond well to directness, in general, so trying to communicate about boundaries unsuccessfully is a clear indication that you’re probably dealing with a creeper.

          Being kind and compassionate toward a stalker-type, or someone who has that kind of hidden agenda is dangerous, so sometimes it’s best to follow your instincts and be unkind or rude. Danger trumps hurt feelings.

          1. I just want to write in to say that I have read all of your replies with interest, and that I very much appreciate your insights, and your kindness, including the comment below.

          2. @mbkl, I appreciate you saying so. Sometimes I know exactly what I’m trying to say, but I’m not sure what I’m saying is coming across. I appreciate the feedback.

      1. INTP here! That livejournal link is awesome and very helpful. Thank you for sharing, staranise!

  47. i don’t think you are wrong at all. you don’t want to be friends with this person and there is nothing wrong about that. you have asked him not to call you by the family nickname and yet he does. he tell him no and yet he doesn’t accept it. he is an ass. the next time he shows up and knocks on the door ignore him. if he he talks to you tell him, “i have tried to be polite but you obviously are not getting it, i have no interest in talking to you. leave me alone.”

  48. I’m going to say one last thing on the subject.

    Even though “Creepy decorator” is the focus of the problem, I don’t view him as the source. Yes, he sounds as if he has a poor sense of personal space and is coming on way too strong. He isn’t however, acting on his own. He’s being encouraged by LW’s parents. It’s very possible that he’s even said “Mr. and Mrs. LW, LW doesn’t seem to be interested.” and they have responded with “Don’t worry, Decorator. She’s just shy. We think that if you keep trying, she’ll give in. We know that she is lonely and needs friends so you have our support to continue hassling her.”

    Yes, that is a big assumption, but it seems to fit. If that is the case, I feel almost as bad for Decorator as I do for LW. I believe that they are the cause of the problem and that their inability to let friendships form naturally is going to end in hurt feelings and resentment for everyone involved.

  49. I get the feeling that there are parents who don’t know how to step back and treat their adult children as adults. They think that their adult children are incapable of thinking for themselves and making their own decisions, and that’s the impression that I’m getting from the letter writer’s parents. While she may have moved back into their home, she is still an adult and should be given some semblance of space. They should respect her wishes and let her make her own decisions about whom she wants to befriend and when she wants to befriend them.

  50. Hello, LW here.

    Thank you so much for your advice, and for everyone’s suggestions, stories and support. I decided not to comment until I’d had the various Conversations you advised, and now they’re done.

    (Before that, I’m sorry about my poor choice of wording that made it appear I was trying to link “ADHD” and “stalker”, and I’m so sorry if I offended anyone. My intention was to clarify part of why it was hard for me to want to be friends with him, and how it probably wasn’t a good reason; I should have made sure I was clearer. The decorator loses his indoor voice really fast and gets extremely excited even faster, and I’m not very good at coping with very loud people for a significant period of time – that’s like a sledgehammer to my ears and brain. I do understand that his other behaviour most likely wasn’t influenced at all by his ADHD.)

    I decided to go for broke with my parents and say outright that I was unhappy and felt unsafe, and that I didn’t think his behaviour was appropriate.

    I had the Conversation with my mother first, and she was pretty alright. She said that although she was a bit disappointed that I didn’t try, she fully supported me and said that as her daughter, my security and happiness was more important than that of a relative stranger. She admitted that she’d found his behaviour a bit off, too (which kind of made me want to scream, a little, because it would have been nice if she’d mentioned this at some point!).

    My Dad was trickier, but I expected that. He’s an extrovert ex-soldier with MS; this means he’s a person who is used to going anywhere and doing anything, but is somewhat trapped now by his own need for security and control over his surroundings. He is now mostly housebound, with his only real break being a trip to the caravan some weekends. As a result he has few friends even though he really loves company, and when anything threatens his status or friendship with those friends it becomes this massive, massive, brainmeltingly stressful thing for him – it literally makes him ill. This whole situation was a threat to that, and that distressed him along with the fact that he didn’t know I was unhappy.

    So that conversation didn’t end happily, so I backed off. Mom has a mantra for these situations – “anything for a quiet life”. He was – well, you know when someone is annoyed with your decision and takes the attitude of “fine, whatever, get on with it”, followed by a “no no no, you know best” if you try to talk about the issue further, and then they stop speaking to you for nearly a week? Yeah.
    I talked to the decorator a couple of nights later, with Mom and Dad in the house but not in the room, and told him that while I appreciated his offer of friendship, I thought it would be more appropriate to maintain a professional relationship as his attempts at engaging with me were making me uncomfortable. (I even practiced it in the mirror, even though I felt like a bit of an idiot.) He seemed really good about it – he seemed a bit embarrassed and just said right, okay, fair enough, no hard feelings? and I left it at that.

    But that night he called the house phone, Dad ignored it, and after about forty minutes we had six missed calls from him. That really annoyed Dad, so my parents sat him down when he came over the next day to set some boundaries, because Dad was starting to feel harassed and was getting upset about it all. Now, he’s only allowed over within set working hours, never over the weekend, and we only answer the phone to him once per day – otherwise he has to text and he knows he isn’t guaranteed an instant reply.

    Maybe it’s not a perfect solution, but I think it ended okay. I know more about what to look out for, how to deal with this kind of thing, and – stupid as it sounds – that it’s okay to say ‘no’ even if my parents have already said ‘yes’ for me.

    (I’m sorry this is so long.)

    1. This is an awesome update. You did AWESOME. I’m glad your mom had your back, and I am (weirdly) glad that the decorator’s behavior became so off-putting that your parents could grasp the boundary violations and enforce them.

    2. I’m so glad you checked in to let us know how it turned out! I’d been wondering/worrying about you for the past couple of days (I admit this is largely because this sounds like the sort of situation I’d find myself in). It sounds like you handled some awkward conversations with grace and the situation has improved, so go you!

    3. Thank you so much for the update, LW!

      I think you handled it magnificently, and the advice given by the Captain was spot on. I have only one thing to add, and that is that you might want to think about having a talk with your parents, in the future, about not setting you up in that way again. Maybe people who still have parents (i.e. not me?) can provide some helpful scripts for that or you can model them on the ones above, if you think this is a good idea.

      It’s always lovely to hear back from Letter Writers.

    4. Hi, LW! Glad to hear back from you 🙂 Just wanted to say, I didn’t get the impression (perhaps I’m wrong) that anyone thought you were offensive about AD(H)D, I think it was more that Decorator himself (and maybe your parents) seemed to be trying to excuse his bad behaviour with his diagnosis. I have ADD, and that’s how I took it, anyway 🙂

    5. I am also happy that the decorator’s off-putting behavior validated your side of the argument. Not that you needed any reason not to like the guy (as has been said many times before), but it sure makes it easier when you can just point and say, “See? This.”

      Congratulations on three successful necessarily awkward confrontations. Go you!

    6. Congratulations! That’s got to be a huge burden lifted off your shoulders. And I’m glad that this guy showed his behind by calling incessantly because there’s the evidence that this guy makes you uncomfortable. I’m glad that your parents are taking it seriously.

      I wanted to comment that I saw some self-belittling comments in your post, where you said you looked like an “idiot” and said “stupid as it sounds” in regard to finally knowing how to handle these situations. You are NOT stupid and you are NOT an idiot. Don’t put yourself down like that. You are smarter than you’re giving yourself credit for. You handled this situation well and you deserve many kudos for it.

    7. Your mom thinks you didn’t try? What would have constituted trying? A month of twice-daily phone conversations with someone you can’t stand? :-p

      Your description of your dad’s “no, no, you know best” attitude made me nod my head in recognition. It’s a way of shutting down the argument without letting the other person fully explain their side of the story. Backing off is the only response I know.

      I think you handled it great, and I hope your parents learned a lesson about thinking they can engineer your life for you.

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