Hi Awkward Team!
I am a lady and I have a lady friend who is, to put it in a word, creepy. We’ve known each other for about two years and I was always under the impression that our relationship was strictly platonic (I have a live-in boyfriend) but for a while she’s been doing and saying things that make me really uncomfortable. Examples:
– We went to see a movie about a dysfunctional relationship and she said to me, “This is so Us.” After the movie was over, she said she thought we should maybe break up because of how many parallels our relationship had to the movie. I was completely unaware that she thought we were together.
– I don’t like to be touched, and am very clear on this with all of my friends, but she regularly strokes my face and rubs my back and (?!?!) unhooks my bra when we’re around each other. I have heard her telling people that she’s the only one who’s allowed to touch me, but I don’t remember making this arrangement with her.
– She came out for drinks with me and my boyfriend once and very pointedly ignored him the whole time, and then when she thought he couldn’t hear her she leaned over to me and whispered, “Would you be really upset if we got rid of [Boyfriend]?” and then proceeded to stroke my back.
– Whenever I’ve been at her house, she’s made overt sexual advances (changing into lingerie instead of pajamas, touching me inappropriately, having explicit conversations that wouldn’t make me uncomfortable with anyone else, but I feel like if I’m participating if I allow it to go on with her) even though I a) have a boyfriend and b) expressed my lack of romantic interest before said boyfriend was a thing.
– Despite me being very clear that I don’t have any romantic feelings for her, she seems to think that we are in some sort of trump-card relationship, like I’m Cathy and she’s Heathcliff and my boyfriend (and anyone else for that matter) is Linton – when I don’t even consider her one of my better friends.
I’d really like to be done now but I’m not sure what social niceties dictate in this case. I make sexual jokes and have very close relationships with a lot of my female friends, so I feel like in some way I must be leading her on. If I were in this situation with a man, it would be very clear to me that I shouldn’t be around him anymore, for both my safety and my peace of mind, but I’m worried that this physical affection and pseudo-romantic dynamic might be a part of girl culture for which I just didn’t get the memo.
Any insight, Awkwardeers?
Just because her awkward boom box held up outside your window has Kate Bush playing instead of Peter Gabriel does not make any of this okay. Intense girl-girl crushes and friendships happen, of course. Fumbling about for how to express romantic feelings happens, especially with same-sex crushes when you don’t know how the person leans and there is an extra layer of risk in exposing yourself. But in friendships that survive mismatched attractions and awkward romantic fumblings, the fumbler stops making overtures when they are not returned and/or clearly rebuffed, and they don’t try to use “well she didn’t tell me NOT to” or “that’s just a cultural thing that you should put up with because it’s normal” as an excuse to keep escalating behaviors. What matters is that this woman’s behaviors are upsetting you and violating your boundaries. What matters is that you are second-guessing whether you are even allowed to just bluntly ask for this shit to stop. Unwanted touching, unhooking your clothing, sexual comments, sidelining your relationship, etc. deserves the same flat response(s):
- I don’t feel that way.
- I don’t like that.
- Please don’t touch me.
- That is not how I see our relationship.
- I don’t want to talk about sex with you.
- I’m leaving now.
Her behavior is really fucking weird, and I can understand if sometimes you froze up, hoping it would stop on its own if you didn’t reciprocate. I know that silent pleading of “I want to keep liking you, so whyyyyyy, please stop doing this,” and I know that fear that saying something will make them escalate whatever it is or throw an uncomfortable scene or somehow make it your fault or treat it like it was a joke when it wasn’t a joke.
But now, if you are done, be done. It doesn’t sound like there is anything to salvage here, so don’t put yourself through trying. There aren’t a lot of social niceties surrounding communicating “I don’t like you” to someone, so, you can tell her why or not, as your comfort level dictates.
- Explicit: “_______, I’ve been really uncomfortable with the tone of our interactions for a while. I really don’t like you touching me or making sexual comments or treating my boyfriend like he doesn’t matter, and I’ve had enough of it. I wish you well, but I don’t want to hang out anymore.”
- Non-Explicit: “________, I am not as into this friendship as I used to be, and definitely not into it as you are, and I think it’s time we said goodbye. I wish you well, but I don’t want to hang out or be in contact in the future.”
- Gradual/Non-Explicit: Don’t agree to any plans to see her for a month or so + “Hey, I’ve realized that I just don’t have the energy or desire for our friendship anymore, sorry. I wish you well, but I think it’s run its course.”
She is unlikely to take it well no matter how and when you say it. Rejection sucks, always. Either she’ll be really embarrassed about how she acted, or really sure that you should just give her one more chance to explain, or really sure that you led her on or misunderstood her hilarious jokes that weren’t at all serious and this is somehow all your fault. You can have empathy for her (as a recovered creepy person, I have empathy for rejection and humiliation that comes when you realize you really fucked something up and you can’t make it better), but you are the wrong choice of a person to comfort her about this. Your job is to get yourself free of a situation that upsets you. Her job is to go find friends, a therapist, a journal, etc. and to manage those hurt feelings herself. So keep it to your feelings (they’ve changed) and make the decision final (there’s nothing she can really do to fix it and be friends with you again, sometimes things just run their course). Once you communicate with her, hide/block her on social media and give it at least a few months of radio silence. You are not obligated to meet for FEELINGSCOFFEE.
Hi. I’m creepy and I don’t know how to stop myself. The problem is 95% of the advice about how to not be a creep is targeted to men, and although I follow as much of it as I can, it doesn’t really address my problems. I feel you might understand them better.
I’m an overhelper. I try to solve all their problems and be super sweet and supportive to the extreme. I respond too enthusiastically. I actually don’t like to be touched and I’m not one for inappropriate jokes, so that’s at least something. But one of my now ex-friends said he always felt like I was hitting on him. I apologized, pulled back on contact, and tried to act like it wasn’t a big deal but it still stung. Things are sort of repeating now with a new male friend and as I really value his friendship I don’t want this to happen. I’m already in CODA (this is actually how I met this friend) and I am good at defusing things with humor but I do not want to be known as “that girl who will glom onto you”.
Please help me if you can.
Dear Lady Creepster:
Is CODA this CODA? I’m not familiar with it, but I hope it’s helping. But maybe it’s not helping if you’re meeting your friends there, but then you can’t talk about those friendships there, because the friend is right there in the room with you, so you have to censor yourself? You tell me.
I’ve got two links for you about women who are trying to accommodate the shit out of other people and losing themselves in the process:
- I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Cautionary Tale From A Former Dreamgirl
- Ask Polly: Why Don’t The Men I Date Ever Really Love Me
The thing you will eventually learn is, even if someday you are able to “accommodate” your way to love, the people who will be drawn to this tend to be assholes, and the love you get will be paltry and insufficient and damaging.
I’ve been you. I’ve been your kind of creepy. “I will give you everything you never asked for, because being the world’s most giving person is how I will eventually deserve your love.” “I will make it so easy for you to be with me that you’ll just naturally never want to be anywhere else.” “I will pour myself into all of the cracks in you and your life, and then you’ll be whole, and I will be happy and appreciated.” I used to think that this poem was really romantic. I used to think it was a compliment when bosses said “I don’t know what we’d do without you!” right before saying “but a raise just isn’t in our budget right now,” too.
I’ve been noticing a new red, or at least pink, flag in letters I get, and it’s one I used to wave myself. It’s when people are not romantically involved, but one of them would like to be, and the evidence they offer is “Well, all our friends say we act just like a couple!” “Everywhere we go, people are shocked when they find out we’re not together” “People who just met us assume that we are together.” These things (the behaviors, how they are perceived by others) are probably true! But they are reflections, not reasons. “It would be so easy if we just….” isn’t the same as “I want you and you want me.” Sure, you have lots of couple-y habits and speech patterns, maybe. But have you asked the person what’s up? Have they asked you? Has there been an opportunity to say “yes” or “no”? Until there is, you don’t have anything to build a life or make decisions around.
There is some advice that helped me change how I approached men, dating, friendship, and self-confidence. Some of it is given to creepy dudes, but it doesn’t have to be gender-specific:
1. Work on your social skills and confidence, generally.
2. Work on your understanding of boundaries and ability to have and set boundaries. When someone says “no thanks” to invitation how do you react? Do you make it easy for people to say no to you? When you say “no thanks” how do they react? Maybe pay close attention to how you say and how you hear the word “no.”
3. Don’t peep your friends for potential romantic partners, or pour effort into turning friendships into partnerships. Lots of couples meet as friends first, and I see why it’s a time-honored strategy, so I’m not trying to argue that this should be a rule for everyone. If it’s not a problem for you, then you know it already and don’t need to debate it here, and I’m not talking about you anyway. But if it is a problem for you, and it sounds like it is for the Letter Writer, release yourself from the narrative that friends-make-the-best-lovers and stop looking for that to happen there. If you want dates, go to a dating site, make sure you don’t check anything that says “I’m just fine with being friends” and practice flirting with people where it’s explicitly understood that these are DATE-dates. Practice being open about your yes and open about your no and giving people the opportunity to do the same. Practice being rejected, if that’s what it takes, and learn to make it less scary for yourself. If someone dumps you or you dump them after a few dates, and they want to be friends, try saying “No thanks!” It gets to be a bummer when all of your preferred-date-gender friends are potential or discarded romantic prospects, maybe don’t accumulate more right now if you can help it.
4. Don’t treat friends of one gender significantly differently from how you’d treat anyone else.
5. Pull back very far on doing favors for people. What would happen to your life if you volunteered to do zero favors for one month? For 3? For 6? Like, maybe you’d do a favor for someone if they outright asked you (and it suited you to do it) but what if you stopped volunteering them? What if you stopped looking for people who need help?
6. When you meet a dude who seems to have a lot of issues, make the choice to NOT get closer to them. Practice saying to yourself “X is nice, but he seems like a lot of work.” You can choose to not take on that work, the work of another person. You can. I promise.
7. Pay attention to reciprocity, which we talked a lot about recently in the comments here. If you tend to chase dudes, what happens if you stop doing the inviting? Maybe what happens is that you don’t see those particular dudes very often, or at all. Those shitty “he’s not that into you”/”the rules” books have a lot of sexist, gross, ridiculous problems, but they do get one thing right: Do not put your life on hold, do not give all of your time and attention, do not go “all in” on someone who is not making equal effort for you.
8. NON-NEGOTIABLE: When someone gives you “back off” feedback, including radio silence, one-word, noncommittal answers, BACK OFF. Learn to recognize soft refusals & lack of enthusiasm. If you err on the side of backing off and interpreting people’s interest and signals very conservatively, and somehow mistake someone’s silence for being busy and distracted vs. not being that into you, it will be okay. It will be a messy process, but people who like you will make an effort to show you that they like you and it will come right in the end.
9. Be really nice to yourself, and when you get down or lonely, reach out to friends who do love and care for you without you having to do favors for them or fix them or sell them on you.
10. Consider working through this stuff with a therapist or a social worker or some other licensed pro who can listen and be a sounding board.
Could you learn and believe that now, without having to put yourself through it? With the current friendship, the one that might turn creepy, what if you just didn’t see him except for CoDA meetings? What if you didn’t get closer to this one person? Or, what if you let him do the work of making a friendship happen?
199 thoughts on “#620 and #621 Creepy Ladies”
LW #1: There is no “girl memo” that you didn’t get that makes your friend’s overtures okay. What she is doing is straight-up NOT okay. Your instincts are correct.
And asside from wee_ramekin just being straight up correct, you can also tell this by the fact that there’s only one female friend doing it, so it’s definitely not widespread in your local girl culture and thus perhaps something you’ll have to work around in order to have friends. As a socially awkward person myself I’m often so focused on not doing stuff wrong that I fail to see when other people are being off/bad/rude/mean because I’m used to thinking of myself as the obvious source of awkwardness and bad feelings. So it’s been a bit of a self esteem revelation for me to start asking myself if I *like* how other people are behaving, and then act accordingly to only associate with people I like who act in ways that I like.
If you have trouble making friends and socialising dropping any of the people who do seem to like you can seem like a really bad idea. But it’s not. If nothing else I’ve found it easier to be enthusiastically social with people when I’m not spending my limited social energy on people who suck – this was something else I used to do, and I would be so tired from sucky-time with sucky-friend (because that’s also way more tiring than fun positive socialising) that I would beg off events with cool people I liked a lot and who made me happy.
Also, be aware that it’s totally OK (and in fact probably necessary) to outright say to this person you no longer want to be friends. It’s usually impossible to slow fade on someone who’s really into you, because they’ll chase you and corner you and send you fifty texts asking what’s up the first time you try to drop your level of contact. It’s terrifying to reject people, but do it cleanly and then it will be over for both of you and you can move on to your new life free of people who sexually harrass you (because that’s what this is).
Yes! I had a similar revelation recently when I realized that: a) it’s optional for me to care about what certain people think of me, and b) perhaps certain people should care about what I think about them.
“perhaps certain people should care what I think about them.”
Oh. Oh wow. I hadn’t… Ok. Thanks for that. I’d gotten the first part down, but… Yowza.
I endorse keeping this in mind whenever social stuff gets weird. I has helped me enormously.
“…perhaps certain people should care about what I think about them.”
Um. Wow. Thank you, I don’t think that part of the equation has ever been articulated quite that way to me before and it really just blew my mind. Thank you. I need to re-think my interactions with a few people.
Are you me? These revelations are the Story of My Life.
LW #1, if you haven’t been doing this already, start logging all incidents and all behavior from this woman. I can see her behavior escalating, and a log will be very handy if this gets into restraining-order territory. What she’s doing is a form of sexual harassment. Tell her to stop, and let your boyfriend and any mutual friends know what’s going on. I get the feeling that if this were a guy doing this, you’d already be logging everything and possibly contacting police to find out your options. Doesn’t change just because the creepy person is female.
This exactly. What she is doing is sexual harassment. If a guy did this to you, would you be okay with it? No? She shouldn’t get an exception based on her gender. Seriously, undoing your bra like that? Massively not okay in any universe. You cannot possibly be leading her on if she does something like that without verbal permission first.
I like the captain’s advice. Say flatly, “Don’t do that,” or something similarly short and to the point, and physically take a step back. If she repeats the behaviour (and she will once she thinks enough time has elapsed), repeat your own response. After a set number of offences (I like the numbers two and three here), up and leave the situation (restaurant, her house, club, your living room, etc.)
It helps to inform your boyfriend of this so he can act accordingly and not be surprised or put on the spot. Also you can practise with him, because standing up for yourself to someone who is sexually harassing you takes practice, especially when it’s been going on long enough to be a pattern of behaviour.
Some of the things the LW describes sound like more than harassment: I think they are assault. Unwanted touching is assault, and so is _undoing_a_bra_ without consent. Several aspects of this are more than creepy; they are potentially scary. I agree that keeping a log is a very good idea.
I think assault is kind of a strong word. I got the impression that LW has not actually told Ms. Creeper that she’s not ok with that kind of activity, but has instead been sending a lot of non-verbal signals. This doesn’t make Ms. Creeper’s behavior acceptable, but I don’t get “I don’t care if you don’t want to because I do” vibes off of her. I get “Has dramatically misunderstood the nature of this relationship” vibes from her. I’m not a lawyer or anything, but personally, I wouldn’t call it assault unless she’s been told that bra-unhooking and other sexytime contact is unwanted. On the other hand, if I was in the LW’s position, I’d certainly *feel* assaulted, so… yeah, I’m definitely not trying to make excuses for that behavior.
That’s really not how assault works. It’s assaulted if the other person hasn’t consented, not if the other person hasn’t said NOT to do it. Am I supposed to go around telling every guy I see “By the way, I’m not up for sex” because it’s just assumed I’m sexually available?
I dunno if I’d use the word assault or not but “Maybe you weren’t clear enough and it’s your fault that you’re being inappropriately touched” is NOT what that letter writer needs to hear.
Assault is a legal term, and is defined slightly differently in different locales. However, there are plenty of places in the US where some of what is happening is legally assault. If an act meets the legal definition of assault in some jurisdiction, it does not require the target of the action to say “don’t do that” to make it assault.
If the law worked that way, then it wouldn’t be stealing for you to take my purse unless I had told you not to take it.
I’m not going to get into more details than this, because the specific rules do vary by jurisdiction. Just understand that “she did not tell me not to” is not a defense against an assault charge any more than it is a defense against a robbery charge. If the action meets the legal definition of assault in the jurisdiction where it occurred, then it is assault. You can make a crime not a crime by saying something (”yes, you may borrow my purse and the money in it” or “please, do remove my bra”), but that is not the same thing as requiring me to warn you off in order to make something a crime.
Apropos of the burdens we place on the targets of inappropriate actions, see the NSFW link here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/09/02/a-psa-about-nude-photos/
I really do not want to give the impression that I’m trying to defend the unequivocally not-ok behavior of Ms. Creepy, but… well, I live in a culture where people greet each other by kissing each other on the cheeks. I hate this custom. I do not want random strangers to kiss me on the cheeks, even if it is a polite and ordinary part of the local custom. Sometimes I am able to recoil quickly and stick out an intersecting hand for a handshake, but a lot of times I get kissed because everyone assumes it’s normal and leans in before I have a chance to react. By your definition, every person who has kissed me in greeting without my consent has assaulted me. I wish people wouldn’t do that, but I don’t think it’s assault just because I don’t like it and didn’t consent to it.
Also, I don’t think I ever said that it was her fault because she wasn’t clear enough, and I kinda resent that you put those words in my mouth. I just don’t think it’s assault, and I don’t think that calling it assault will help the LW either.
I think the spam filter ate my other post? To summarize, I said that I live in a culture whether it’s normal to kiss in greeting, that I hate this aspect of the culture and do NOT want to kiss people to say hello, and that this definition:
“It’s assaulted if the other person hasn’t consented, not if the other person hasn’t said NOT to do it.”
…means every person who has kissed me in greeting in the last 10 years has committed assault. I don’t really buy into that.
The definition in English law is that “A has not consented, and B does not have reasonable belief in consent,” whic I think is a very effective definition. So for LW’s friend, if you think that it’s not reasonable for someone to believe that their friend consents to them undoing their bra, then yes, it is assault. In your culture, if people generally do kiss each other to say hello, then those people who kiss you could be said to have reasonable belief in consent even if you actually don’t consent. What’s “reasonable” is culturally dependent.
This whole “is it assault” conversation is really shitty because none of us were there and none of us are entitled to more information than we were made privy to. The one who can say if it was assault is the girl who experienced it and she is not obligated to tell us which she thinks it is in order to deserve support. Whether or not that word applies is totally irrelevant to the topic at hand, which is that there’s a pattern of inappropriate behavior (including touch) that needs to stop and that the letter writer is not responsible for causing.
I agree– scary scary scary. I am frightened of this person. She is volatile and unreasonable and completely un-empathetic to your boundaries. Your example of a trump relationship is very telling– quick, think of something more destructive than Heathcliff and Cathy! Hurricane Katrina, yes, but only marginally. In general, anyone who thinks their relationship with you automatically “trumps” your relationship to anyone else is someone who has alarming ideas about what relationships are and probably should be avoided.
More than just boundary-crossing, I’m concerned about her willful ignorance about your presumably quite serious relationship with your live-in boyfriend. Like, even if she *did* think she’s your friend and she was just making Cute Fun Jokes! (& I am side-eyeing that pretty damn hard), she should recognize that Boyfriend is an important part of your life, and treat him (and you) accordingly. Her deliberate minimization of his role bespeaks a chilling distance from reality, only further reinforced by how she repeatedly interacts with you in ways you don’t like (which she should damn well know– all your other friends abstain from giving you back rubs, right? even your very closest? BECAUSE YOU SAID YOU DON’T LIKE IT).
Full disclosure: I winced at the beginning of the letter when I saw how narrowly I’d avoided being the creeper in #620– before the beginning of my quasi-relationship there was a lot of time spent on the Couch of Plausible Deniability– but everyone involved checked in with a specific eye toward not making anyone uncomfortable with boundary-crossing touching or general creepiness, and did so far, far, FAR before the point described in this letter. UNHOOKING THE BRA. I just– no. No no no. World of No. I expect that shit, at an absolute max, from adolescent boys, and I would be damn angry at any adolescent boy I knew who behaved like such a shitheel and made girls feel unsafe in his presence.
Oh my god, I agree. The first LW’s story just gave me such goosebumps, ugh. Every instinct I had was saying, “this is harassment, GET OUT OF THERE.” Especially when I read that she had unhooked her bra…? I’m not even kidding, if my SISTER or my BEST FRIEND did that, I would freak out and be like, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!” and probably chew their ass out and spend like a month staying away from them. What in the hell.
Yeah, relationships where unhooking someone’s bra without warning is okay, are definitely the exception rather than the rule. And probably have to be built on a foundation of explicitly talking about when it’s okay to take your bra off. I would be startled and a little upset if my *fiancee* did that.
Oh, LW #1, I am so, so fucking angry on your behalf. The unhooking-your-bra thing, along with all the other unwanted touching and sexual remarks, is really creepy, not to mention that your ‘friend’ is gaslighting you to the point where you’re questioning your own perceptions of reality. Your letter is full of phrases like: “I was completely unaware that she thought we were together”, “I don’t remember making this arrangement with her”, “I feel like I’m participating if I allow it to go on with her”, “I feel like in some way I must be leading her on.” You’re doing absolutely nothing wrong, you aren’t in any sort of intimate relationship with her nor do you want to be, and she damn well knows it, but predatory behaviour like hers thrives on the perpetrator pretending that they don’t see the obvious. Sh’s trying to passively-aggressively brainwash you into thinking you somehow already agreed to date her/ let her touch you without knowing it – which is impossible, unless you’re Doctor Jekyll and Ms Hyde. Worse, she’s trying to make you feel like you’re “leading her on” because your own desire to be nice means you don’t want to call her out on her boundary-crossing behaviour, which is victim-blaming logic in all its repellent glory. I think the Captain’s advice is spot-on as ever. She’s not any kind of friend to you, and I really think you might feel happier and safer if you can cut her out of your life for good. I hope this situation improves soon, because none of it is your fault and you do not deserve to go through this.
“Tell her to stop, and let your boyfriend and any mutual friends know what’s going on.”
Also, like, next time you overhear her saying something like being the only person allowed to touch you, consider (if you feel safe doing so) saying “WOW. That’s a creepy thing to say.” or “I didn’t agree to that” or “Why do you act like you’re my girlfriend? That’s so weird.” — right out in public, in front of other people. This is, IME, an effective way to alert large numbers of friends and acquaintances that there’s a problem; the people who are there will likely tell friends & acquaintances who weren’t there, and help make a network of protection for you.
Yes! If you have friends in common and you stay completely silent on the whole thing that means that the friends will -only- hear the other person’s (messed up) side. If you’re being public and upfront about you boundaries when she crosses them then the people you know will see the situation in action. They’ll know, from their own experience, that the other person is doing some creepy shit that you’re not okay with. Then if it comes down to her trying to make this into something where you were the creepy person who hurt her, your friends will have something to set against her word.
It’s really awful to have to try to convince your friends that your abuser does not, in fact, deserve your apologies and renewed friendship.
LW #1, I have been in this situation before and it sucks and I am so sorry.
One thing that I got after saying, “Nope, I do not like you Like That,” was a lot of backtracking on the part of the creepy friend. Typically it was in the vein of, “Of Course I Wasn’t Hitting On You, We’re Girls,” or a sudden decry that anything they had done could even possibly be interpreted as sexually creepy or inappropriate because of sacred bonds of sisterhood and girls are like that and we’ve all kissed a girl and liked it and it totally doesn’t ~count.
To my mind, this is a way of making you feel like you are the creepy one because obviously you were sexualizing something totes innocent! or as a way of flipping it back onto you for leading them on, because why didn’t you just SAY something etc. In both cases, absolutely one hundred percent remember that you are not responsible for creepy person’s behavior, you don’t have to endure creepy person’s behavior out of a sense of obligation, and that you are absolutely allowed to say done without, as the Captain says, having to deal with their FEELINGS about it.
Good luck 🙂
Also, if she accuses you of misinterpretation/overreaction, you can say: “Ok, you are probably right. Clearly communication doesn’t work between us, see ya.” You don’t have to argue with her if you don’t want to, but you can always leave, no matter what she thinks about the situation.
Yeah, I also think it’s likely she’ll start backtracking when you finally call her on her behavior. Look, you know she was hitting on you, and she knows it, though she won’t admit it, so just side-step that point entirely. Don’t argue abut it.
“Whether you were hitting on me or not, the point is you’re making me uncomfortable. I need you to stop touching me/snapping my bra/snubbing my boyfriend/whatever. If you can’t stop, then I’m not sure we can be friends.”
The only thing is, if you make that ultimatum, then you have to really enforce it. The good capt has written plenty on how to enforce boundaries before. But basically, next time she touches you, you step away and tell her flatly to stop. And then if she does it again, you walk away. Incidentally, it is way easier for you to walk away from a public place or her house than it is to get her out of your house, so I’d also suggest not inviting her to your house for a while, until you feel secure that she will behave.
If she tries to interrupt and derail you by ‘explaining’ her actions, interrupt her back. It doesn’t matter WHY she has behaved this way. What matters is that it’s not okay and you are telling her to stop. Don’t let her derail. She can’t possibly come up with any reason that will suddenly make you feel happy with her unhooking your bra. So don’t even waste your time.
LW1: As a lady-lovin’ lady, I will tell you right now that there’s no ‘girl memo’ that covers her activities. She is creeping on you, and trying to gaslight you. African violet her with the quickness.
Srsly. I too love me some ladies, and I want to assure the LW that even if her friend is queer and attracted to her, what she’s doing isn’t okay. If a woman did this to me, I would tell her to back right up, even if my loins were wont to yearn in her direction. It’s fine to lust after whoever you lust after. It’s NOT FINE to make someone uncomfortable because you are attracted to them. This woman is engaging in non-consensual, boundary-violating behavior, and it is completely inappropriate.
Frankly, this woman has gone so far over the line of appropriate that I don’t see much point in trying to salvage a friendship. LW, if I were you, I would consider her persona non-grata, and avoid her forthwith. I really like the Captain’s “explicit” script for ending the friendship. But if you don’t feel comfortable issuing that directive, please just stay away from this woman. She doesn’t respect you, she doesn’t respect what you want, and she doesn’t respect your relationship. Those are not qualities you want in a friend, and I think you’ll find that you feel a lot better once you’ve removed her from your life.
hi wee ramekin! long time, no see
In big text, I second the motion. Nothing, but nothing, makes this behavior okay. OMG, her interpersonal interactions with you are assault. And to compound the terrible, her trying to control other people’s access to you is just oozing scariness. Who goes around telling other people that only they are allowed to touch you? And otherwise isolating you from friends? And insisting they know better than you what you want and think? Scary abusive people, that’s who.
Your instincts are good, LW1, and you should feel totally legit if you send this person an entire field of African violets.
PPM! Hello! It is good to see, mein kleine little nacht musick (that does not make sense…).
LW, I would just like to add that if you want to set the entire field of African violets ON FIRE and then send them to your abusive “friend”, that is okay too. I’ve been thinking about your situation over the past few days, and I really think that removing her from your life — completely and as soon as possible — is a *really* great idea.
LW#1, I have a friend who is just like that. Even though I’ve made it quite clear that I’m not into her in that way, she is completely not my type and that I am not comfortable with hugs and kisses from her, she still persisted – so I stopped meeting up with her for anything and she no longer gets invited round. All our interactions are online only – and even there I am polite, noncommittal and distant. She will NOT respect boundaries in person, so she doesn’t get to be around me in person. Simple as. With some people you just have to cut things dead before it can escalate somewhere scary.
For LW1: even if there was a ‘girl memo,’ the only memo that matters is the one on which is drawn the map of individual people’s boundaries.
For instance, you mention her disrobing you without your consent, so let me use myself as a more extreme example on the ‘it’s noooormal’ scale. I cover my hair. Most women in my society do not. Most women are TOTALLY OKAY with people seeing their hair, and that’s great for them, but I’m not them. If a female friend took my cover off me, the fact that most women don’t cover would not make that any less *taking my clothes off without permission.*
I use that example not to make this about me (or about hair-covering; seriously let’s not), but to convey the irrelevance of what I or any other woman thinks about bras and the wearing and removing thereof. Boundaries do not need a quorum to be valid. Anyone who tries to push past your boundaries by telling you those boundaries are abnormal is gaslighting you.
That’s a much better way of saying what I tried to.
This is really well said.
*slow clap* This times a thousand. Your boundaries are your boundaries, and a real friend doesn’t try to talk you out of them — a real friend just respects them, because they respect you and they don’t want to do things that make you uncomfortable.
Yes to this!
Really well stated.
Love the phrasing on “boundaries do not need a quorum to be valid”.
Really well said, thank you!
May I borrow the phrase “Boundaries do not need a quorum to be valid.” ? It is my new favorite phrase.
By all means! Let us all spread the good word of BOUNDARIES.
OMG, this really brings it home to me. It is exactly like snatching a hijab (or equivalent) off someone’s head – I cannot imagine ANYONE, no matter their view of head-covering, would think that was OK. Great comparison.
Hell, in my circles, grabbing someone’s hat off their head without permission will get you weird looks. (Even if you *are* embarrassed by your younger brother publicly displaying his affection for the Yankees.) I’m having a really hard time thinking of a context where removing any piece of clothing without explicit permission wouldn’t be cause for concern.
(All of which is to say, LW#1, that that behavior is not okay by any definition I can come up with.)
Me too – at best it would be considered the kind of childish, it’s-only-a-joke-don’t-be-so-sensitive, why are you hitting yourself kind of bullying that people are expected to grow out of by age 14.
“I’m having a really hard time thinking of a context where removing any piece of clothing without explicit permission wouldn’t be cause for concern.”
Outside of an actual emergency (like loosening tight clothing when giving someone CPR or, say, yanking off a piece of clothing if the trailing ends of it had caught on fire), there ISN’T a context when it’s OK.
This, so much this. While I was reading LW1 I was talking to my computer screen. I said, “No. No. No, run!” And I fully agree with all of the comments saying this is not okay and this is not a girl culture thing. But I also think it’s important to emphasize the general principle that real friends will accept exceptions to the local culture. I’ve done this myself. I was in a culture where it was normal for non-romantic friends to tickle each other sometimes, and there were sometimes tickle-fights. It was all good, clean, friendly fun for the participants. Except that I hate being tickled and am very not okay with it. So, I told people that I don’t want to be tickled. So, they continued the tickling among each other, but they did not tickle me. No big fuss had to be made, and I could continue being friends with them. Sometimes I might need to inform a new person about it, but it always worked out just fine.
This letter writer mentions having told friends that she doesn’t like to be touched. She’s already done her opt-out for her social group. And it sounds like most people she knows respect that, which is good. That’s what good people do. You don’t touch others without consent. This one person is ignoring that. There is no excuse of culturally acceptable touching after somebody has explicitly said, “I do not like being touched.” You don’t need to reconfirm or call people on it when they do it. Someone who pushes that boundary is a problem. I also agree that it sounds like a lot of gaslighting has happened in this particular case. I’ll repeat in this comment what I said out loud to my computer, “Run.”
BTW, Captain, thank you for that Succeed Socially link. I’m not the best-socialized person, and that site looks like something that will be really helpful. Thanks again.
Ditto. The link explains some things about social interaction that I’ve been trying to understand for a long time.
LW #1: social niceties dictate that you RUN SCREAMING IMMEDIATELY.
That is beyond weird. That is seriously disturbing.
Yes, RUUUUNNN!!!! I would also warn the rest of your friends that you are seriously disturbed by her actions and that you are concerned for your safety. The more who know about the concern you have for your safety, the more who can help protect your back. This person absolutely set off “STALKER” warnings in my brain. If she was male and ignoring your boundaries and your boyfriend would you be more concerned for your safety? Then why aren’t you as concerned even though she’s female?
I needed both these letters in a general way and Letter #2 SO BAD.
LW2, I have had very giving friends who have had similar experiences – they’re being very giving and loving in what they feel to be a platonic way, but the people they’re interacting with are reading it as romantic interesting. A lot of the problem seems to come from there being different expectations for men and women interacting than women and women interacting. For one of my friends, the problem stopped when she got a boyfriend. She then had the problem that a lot of her male friends cut her off suddenly, and she realised that they were viewing her through the potential-partner lens that the Captain mentioned, rather than the ‘good friend’ lens.
I think you did a good thing by accepting that someone was reading your actions as flirting and then pulling back from them. But what is and isn’t flirting is an incredibly complicated and kinda ridiculous topic, so don’t be hard on yourself if you have a different reading on an interaction to someone else. If it helps, it’s not too weird to have the ‘Do you read this as me flirting with you? Because I’m not flirting with you but someone recently said that I’m a flirt. I’m just being nice! What am I doing that is flirting?’ talk with people. It might be that one or two people have been reading your actions as flirting but no one else is. If you have a way to bring up the topic with your friends (or at CoDA maybe?), then I think it could be beneficial. A lot of flirting is this stuff that is subtle and often isn’t articulated, so it can be hard to know if you’re doing it or not. I invited a friend to a movie with me and he accepted. Two years later I found out that his acceptance was a flirt. I missed that completely in the moment. I thought we both just liked horror movies. I guy thought that I was flirting with him because one time we argued about Star Wars. Because of course women only talk Star Wars as part of a mating call. A friend thought I was flirting when I told her to stop stroking my leg – playing hard to get, right! Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. So yes.
Advice points five, six, and seven are things I did, back when I was at uni and was an over-giver but also getting sucked dry by a toxic friend and hit on in weird and creepy ways. And they seem like good ways to minimise any glomming. One thing I learned about myself is that, while I was very good at putting everything and more into a friendship or into a person who had a lot of cracks and missing pieces, I didn’t actually enjoy it. I didn’t even get any personal satisfaction or feelings of being useful out of it, because most people who were taking advantage of that were thankless jerks, and always needed more filling up.
I don’t think I have a mating call, but anything related to Jar Jar Binks sure wouldn’t be part of it.
What would a JarJar Binks mating call even be?
LW#1 and anyone anywhere, I’d say if anyone, no matter who or what, touches you inappropriately without genuinely apologizing and backing the heck off in a way that restores to you a feeling of being safe and respected there? You have permission to Stop Going To Their House. Thing #1. You don’t owe anyone your presence in a place where you’re vulnerable to someone who doesn’t respect basic physical boundaries. Whatever else you decide to do, maybe stop going over there ever again.
Hoooolllly shit Captain, thank you for posting the link to that Rookie magazine article. I’ve never read something that so completely, completely spoke to me at a time where I feel so stuck in that pattern.
LW#1, when I got to “strokes my face and rubs my back and (?!?!) unhooks my bra when we’re around each other”, my face went like this:
and stayed like that until the end of your letter. When you’ve made it clear to someone that you don’t like to be touched and you have no romantic interest in her, and she then repeatedly unfastens your underwear, then there are no social niceties left that you need to worry about because she has already unilaterally abandoned them. Feel free to African Violet her with all speed. Good luck!
Yeah, I read that was like, “Unhooking your bra?! UNHOOKING YOUR BRA???!!”
>_> >_> >_>
There is no girl memo where everyone decided it was platonic to feel up on other women. Treat her as you would a creepy guy, because creepiness has no gender.
I was horrified when I read that letter. THAT is the reaction of a reasonable person to that behaviour, LW, and don’t let her tell you otherwise!
Yeah, that was…. indescribable.
Things that may be part of “Girl Culture” where you live: hugging, kissing (cheeks or lips), cuddling platonicly.
Things that are NOT: removing someone’s underwear against their wishes! Wearing lingerie instead of pajamas! FEELING UP YOUR “FRIEND” WHO DOES NOT LIKE TOUCHING.
Sounds like LW’s not the one who missed a memo about appropriate behavior.
Absolutely, and even things that ARE part of Girl Culture™ are still totally Ok for your to say “NOPE” to, if your personal boundaries mean you’re not comfortable with it.
I’ve been married for 10 years and my *husband* has never once just randomly unhooked my bra. Like, not even as a joke.
Mine did. When we were dating. In a Taco Bell sitting across from his grandparents. I wanted to kill him when I started breathing again. Maybe that was a red flag I should have noticed more strongly…
Ouch. Yeah, that sounds pretty red flaggy.
“Yeah, I read that was like, ‘Unhooking your bra?! UNHOOKING YOUR BRA???!!’
>_> >_> >_>”
Where’s the table-flipping emoji because that’s what I was thinking.
LW #1, there is nothing about pointedly and aggressively ignoring someone’s clearly stated rejection and boundaries in the Girl Code. If anything, I would say it’s oftentimes the complete opposite.
As a same-sex lovin’ girl, I have been in the position your (must I call her your friend? Because that is NOT Friend behavior!) creeper is in. The girl I convinced myself I was in love with didn’t return my affection. Yes, we were good friends, and we joked and talked about adult (and Adult) topics. But as much as it hurt to know that she didn’t want to be in a relationship with me, as as much of a Friend Zone Asshole as I was during the difficult renegotiation of our boundaries, the one thing I never, ever did was push her into physically or emotionally intimate situations that she had explicitly told me she didn’t want.
Maybe your creeper is coming to terms with her sexuality, maybe she’s fixated on you because you are the most amazing woman in the world- but you know what? Not your sideshow, not your monkeys. You’ve met the situation head-on by repeatedly drawing boundaries that she ignores.
What really skeeves me out the most about what you’ve described is her unhooking your bra. Yes, everyone relates to bodies/nudity/intimate contact in different ways, and has different ideas of what constitutes it. If you want to remove your bra, you can either unhook it yourself or tell your chosen partner that it’s okay for them to do so. It doesn’t sound like that’s ANYTHING you wanted, and a bra is generally considered intimate wear. That’s some seriously not-okay bullshit right there, LW #1. To me (and you may define it in an entirely different way, in which case, cool), that’s beyond “creeper” and is an act of unwanted sexual aggression.
If it were me, I would stop spending time alone with this woman immediately, and maybe even ask a close friend within the friend group to keep an eye out at larger gatherings to make sure a respectful distance was maintained. You said no, and she doesn’t get to choose whether or not she hears it.
Permission to borrow “not your sideshow, not your monkeys”?
I think it’s an old Polish proverb. Or, I’ve heard it as “not my circus, not my monkeys” which you can find on mugs and totebags and stuff.
You’re more than welcome, but I think it’s covered under fair use since I stole it (and apparently have been butchering it all along, via commenter below). Enjoy! Don’t let them fling poop at you.
Oh my goodness LW1: ditch your soon to be ex friend, as gently or firmly as you like. My preference would be to simply not be available to her, because really, she doesn’t deserve your time.
If she asks, and if you want to respond you can say you’re uncomfortable or not feeling it or offended or anything. But you don’t have to and she’s been a prize shit.
LW2, gain confidence, practice going out for dates (as the Cap’n suggests) and be kind to yourself. You don’t have to do favors. You can say No and it’s ok.
Best to you both
LW2, may I suggest also working to develop your own life and interests, absent other people and their stuff? Not that you have to do things totally alone, that’s not what I mean. I do mean doing things that are for you and you alone, and not for other people.
I used to be more of an over-helper, and developing my own skills and interests really helped me develop a sense of self that made my interactions with others much more balanced, because my identity was so much less tied up in other people. I didn’t need people to need me any more, because I feel now so much more whole in and of myself.
Things that helped me:
1. athletic pursuits, and for me specifically yoga, and even more specifically Ashtanga yoga
2. developing a fairly ‘powerful’ career
3. travelling alone
4. having a pet
5. riding my bike
I still have a bit of a service mentality and get very anxious about other people’s feelings on occasion, but generally I am much more balanced now, and my relationships are sooooooo much better for it.
I just re-read my comment, and I wanted to add (at the risk of sounding obnoxious) that I have a very active social and familial life, and a super-fulfilling romantic partnership. I say that only because it maybe sounded like I solved being an over-helper by becoming a loner, which is not at all accurate.
Having your own shit to do also helps you avoid the service to others urge. When you’re balancing “I could go home and relax or I could help this person who may or may not need help” it’s hard to feel good about yourself for deciding that relaxing is more important (although relaxing is important! I’m just talking about hte guilt reflex that drives people to always put others first). But when you’re balancing “This person may or may not need my help, but I have that pottery class to get to this evening. I’ve already paid the fees and I’m really enjoying it. If they still need my help tomorrow, and they ask for it, then I can spare them an hour or two then,” it somehow feels more legitimate to not jump to help.
I say this as a person who was Such a Helper for several years. Having classes to attend, having hobbies that I enjoyed, just generally having shit to do really helped me balance out what help was good and friendly and appropriate, and what help was overbearing on my part or being used by other people.
Yes to doing stuff alone for building a sense of self. I’m kind of appalled at how little sense of self I had and for how long – I didn’t really notice it at the time, but on hindsight… :-O
It also helps enormously with seeing and respecting other people’s boundaries to identify and start enforcing your own.
Oh man, I’m happily married (and a helpy helperson) and I love doing stuff alone sometimes. It’s such a nice change to blow everyone off and take myself to the wine bar and some costume drama movie that no one else will want to see.
I want to emphasize not just an athletic pursuit – but any pursuit that ends up requiring regularly planning and scheduling. Whether it’s running/yoga/archery/spinning x times a week or pottery/cooking/Spanish class y times a week – that ends up becoming time that’s just for you and cuts into the time when you can say “I have all this time that can be just to help you out”.
LW2 – you are not alone in having been in that ‘over-helping that comes across as flirting’ position at all, and I think perhaps the reason that it reads like flirting is that by being so over helpful, there’s often that feeling of increased intimacy. I had a male friend in college who at some point had his arm in a cast, and while he did need/want help with stuff – the fact that I was so ready to help him with ANYTHING not only pushed our closeness but also meant that all of his other lovely friends happy to lend a hand ended up being pushed out. Which then definitely lead to all the “you act like a couple” talk, that heightened the “this must be flirting/crushing” talk, and made my friend and the friendship uncomfortable for a while.
So yeah – as someone who’s been there – focusing on yourself and giving yourself more scheduled things to do definitely helped me.
LW#1 – this has happened to me, more than once, but not gotten that far. When I sense bisexual/lesbian attraction, I just start a dialog and say something like “I wish I were the least bit bisexual, but I am so totally straight. Never even messed around drunk with hot friends, or in Vegas, or in 3somes, or any other time when I could have freely experimented. It makes me feel really uncomfortable when girls get crushes on me and mistake my openmindedness for being into chicks. I don’t mean to send mixed messages. If I were curious, I would have experimented by now.”
If the girl is NOT bisexual and just has boundary issues, that sounds fairly innocuous and turns into one of those conversations about how it must suck to be lesbian or bisexual and deal with all that. If the girl DOES have those attractions, that sufficiently sends the message. Heck, I even said something to that effect to a lesbian friend in front of her wife, because sometimes hanging out alot together and being emotionally close DOES sometimes send the wrong messages to bisexual and lesbian women.
But right now, it sounds like your friend has crossed the line and you need to “break up” your friendship, because if a guy were doing similar, you would not tolerate that. I recently broke up with a borderline-creepy/possessive girl friend by being “too busy” and “taking a different direction” with my career (which didn’t involve her business)… and after about 3 months, our friendship was reset and now we’re able to get into cordial FaceBook conversations, though we will never be as close as we were last year. If she sends you long PMs or messages, just keep things short and simple, or just tell her she was starting to creep you out with all that physical closeness and you’re sorry for sending mixed messages but you’ve never been in that situation before with another girl. I prefer the too-busy/indirect route when we have lots of friends in common, or when it’s someone I don’t want to piss off (a business owner, someone from a networking event, etc).
btw- I am just not a touchy-feely person and pretty much all my friends know that and respect it. I will tell someone that “hey, nothing personal but I am not really into hugging or touching anyone but my partner. I’ve just never been very touchy-feely – thanks for understanding”.
“btw- I am just not a touchy-feely person and pretty much all my friends know that and respect it.”
Yeah! And I AM a touchy-feely person but one of my closest friends isn’t. So watch me NEVER TOUCH HIM because I know he doesn’t like it! Boundaries: everyone has them, everyone should respect them.
Yup. I have one friend who I’ve hugged twice in my life, and we’ve known each other since we were 13 years old (on our respective wedding days). Her husband I hug all the time. Different people have different comfort levels and that is OK! Respect for boundaries is great because nobody gets angry and upset!
Right? I am extreeeemly touchy-feely as a person. I could just be perpetually plantonically draped over another human being because touch is awesome! (to me) Before I moved, I had snuggly friends and we were pretty much always touching, cuddling, leaning on each other, etc. when we were hanging out. But now, I don’t have snuggly friends. So I don’t touch them. Most of them have progressed to be hug-hello-and-goodbye friends, but only after several months for some of them and generally with explicit consent/conversation the first couple hugs. It’s not that hard.
Um, I can see how that line of dialogue could be a good idea with someone who is doing the creep, but otherwise I can’t help but think that “I’M REALLY SUPER STRAIGHT AND NOT INTO CHICKS” out of the blue is going to come off as a little weird. Maybe there’s some other way to phrase it, but the way you’ve put it, I would definitely be uncomfortable with one of my friends saying that. I’m not alone on this, right? I mean, especially if you’re not just saying this to people who are creeping you out, but to random queer women you know. It really does make it sound like you think gay/bi women are into you, and to be honest, queer people get enough of assuming that they’re constantly attracted to straight people.
The LW doesn’t say whether she’s straight, and she doesn’t need to. This isn’t really about Creeper being queer and having a crush on a straight woman. This is about Creeper violating the LW’s boundaries despite clear feedback that she’s not interested. Regardless of the LW’s sexuality, Creeper already knows she’s not interested – the LW has said that, and already has a boyfriend, to boot. It hasn’t worked. Going “YOU GUYS I AM TOTALLY STRAIGHT” isn’t going to help.
No, not just you! As a bi lady, I did make a “Huh?” face at that comment. I mean, chica will almost certainly get the message because hellloooooo, not super subtle banging on about the AMAZING LEVEL OF STRAIGHTNESS THAT YOU POSSESS, but unless you want to get a “Ahahaha, oh poppet, don’t flatter yourself” from a lot of ladies, I would keep this for emergencies only.
Agree with this. I got the “No homo! . . . I mean, not that there’s anything *wrong* with that” vibe from that first part. Also, that approach seems totally counter to good communication skills. If the issue is a particular behavior that’s making you uncomfortable (that maybe or maybe does not stem from a crush), the thing to do is address the behavior directly, not do this weird roundabout “I don’t like ladies” shtick. If there’s no specific behavior to address, then maybe stop assuming your bi/queer friends are crushing on you, since you have no behavioral evidence to back that assumption up, rather than being all “no chicks for me, thanks,” appropos of nothing?
As a straight woman who has had a couple kinda creepy experiences with women hitting on me (nothing like LW1 though), I also went “wait… what?” Maybe K has had a really bad experience that has caused her to react that way now? It’s one thing to pull out a speech like that when someone has made their interest in you clear and keeps doing so, but another entirely when you only “sense” attraction.
“This isn’t really about Creeper being queer and having a crush on a straight woman. This is about Creeper violating the LW’s boundaries despite clear feedback that she’s not interested.”
There’s a lot about this comment that squicks me out. First and foremost, I’m really, really uncomfortable with resorting to “Don’t harass me because I’m straight.” It’s like the fallback “Don’t harass me because I have a boyfriend.” If it make the harasser stop, that’s great, but it really misses the point and reinforces some really gross social norms. Non-straight people have the right to not be harassed, too. I’m probably biased by my own experience, which is that people (especially straight people) tend to project their fantasies onto queer women, especially queer women who aren’t lesbians. Just because I’ve dated people of your gender in the past does not mean I am automatically sexually available to you.
The point should be, “Don’t harass me because harassment is wrong. Don’t touch me because I don’t want to be touched.” Full stop.
This would make me feel really weird, if one of my straight woman friends said it. I’d think she might be kind of homophobic, actually.
(Different social circles are different – in mine, queer women are pretty visible and plentiful, and there just isn’t a lot of that “you are straight but I am seriously into you anyway” stuff, and I can’t even imagine what that would look like – but I assume it does happen.)
This in particular bothers me:
Heck, I even said something to that effect to a lesbian friend in front of her wife, because sometimes hanging out alot together and being emotionally close DOES sometimes send the wrong messages to bisexual and lesbian women.
Do you preemptively say this to straight male friends who are seriously partnered? Because spending time with men, you know, might also give them the wrong idea. And since you’re assuming that partnered queer women are ready to jump you at the drop of a hat (we’re not, really) it seems only fair that you’re assuming the same about men.
If someone told me, in front of my partner, that I should be sure to remember that she’s straight, with the strong implication that I was getting an uncontrollable desire to jump her bones and had to be dissuaded at all costs….I don’t know whether I’d laugh or yell, but there’d be fireworks of some kind. You might want to box a bit carefully with this sort of statement.
“If the girl is NOT bisexual and just has boundary issues, that sounds fairly innocuous and turns into one of those conversations about how it must suck to be lesbian or bisexual and deal with all that.” Deal with all what? Being queer? Crushing on a straight woman? We can handle the disappointment, believe me. It’s usually like, “Oh, darn. Back to Okcupid, then.” The creeper in this story is creepy because she’s acting creepy, not because she’s queer.
YMMV, but to my mind the “I’m Super Straight So Don’t Hit On Me” monologue is kind of odd and bordering on homophobic (like, dontya know those predatory lesbians, always on the prowl looking for fresh meat!). If the woman in question in question is gay/bisexual and non-creepy, her reaction is likely to be “Er, yeah, I know that. Thanks for making that assumption based on my sexuality, though!” And if the woman IS in fact creeping on you, it still leaves room for her to deny everything and say, “Oh, I’m totally straight too! We’re just Super Special Friends! *strokes arm suggestively*”. Either way, it doesn’t actually address the problem, which is that the person is doing something that makes you uncomfortable, and you want them to stop. Your sexual orientation is irrelevant- even if you WERE bisexual or lesbian, you would still be allowed to object to unwanted advances. I think this is a case where directness is the best policy, and the scrips the Captain recommended are the way to go.
Well shoot, I didn’t mean to jump on the dogpile there. It looks like several people already said what I was thinking before I refreshed the page. Apologies!
I was looking at it from the other side. What if LW isn’t straight or monogamous? If she can’t do an elaborate display of heterosexuality and/or monogamy, does she still get the right to say, for the love of all that is holy, stop unhooking my bra without permission?
Yeah, exactly. In my case, I usually date men, but I do have bisexual/bicurious leanings. In order to use this defense, I would have to lie about my sexuality, which is A) demeaning and invalidating and all kinds of gross, and B) also not a very convincing argument, since it can be rebutted with “But you didn’t look that straight when you were dating Sarah!”
As the Captain often says, “No” is a complete sentence, and “Because I don’t want to” is a perfectly valid reason. When telling a creeper to Back Off, it’s unnecessary to invoke one’s sexual orientation/relationship status/history of abuse/the phases of the moon; and in fact, doing so can unintentionally make these reasons the topic of debate. “Please stop touching me, I don’t like it,” is reason enough, and much harder to argue about.
“When telling a creeper to Back Off, it’s unnecessary to invoke one’s sexual orientation/relationship status/history of abuse/the phases of the moon; and in fact, doing so can unintentionally make these reasons the topic of debate.”
And it opens up the creeper’s orientation to debate. “Oh, I’m straight too, we’re just being girls! Girls can cuddle and be naked and it’s no big deal? Don’t you watch GIRLS, they’re always naked around each other and it’s no big deal!” I’ve had several experiences where straight women were creepy towards me because they were trying to explore curiosity or crushes or fantasies or whatever and when I tried to address it, they claimed they obviously couldn’t possible be hitting on me because they’re straight. In fact, by bringing it up, I was the one hitting on them, because bisexual ladies are just so horny and predatory and indiscriminate. Kinda like, “Only racists see racism.”
Replying to Xenophile.
Many years an acquaintance ‘AQ’ used to invite my friend group out for ‘girls nights’ that involved getting trash drunk. She knew I’m bi and always started the evening with a ‘joke’ that after three drinks I could do what I wanted with her. I wasn’t into her, so I was already doing what I wanted to.
AQ got really angry and possessive one night when I ran into a crush and flirted with her. Crush was butch, and AQ was sexy in a very hetero-normative way, so she said something along the lines of “Why would you be trying to get with Crush when you could have me?”
The idea that I found a beautiful woman who was openly into women more attractive than her conflicted and closeted self, that I was looking for relationships and had no interest in being her experiment or secret lover or whatever she had in mind was utterly unreal to her.
The concept that straight girls are what everyone wants, and that lesbian and bi women are foaming at the mouth to get with them is really ugly on so many levels.
Replying to espritdecorps: **Solidarity fist bump if you want it**
It is definitely homophobic! It would also make me feel super uncomfortable (as a bi lady) because something that happens to me (and I’m certain to others) fairly regularly is that those Totally Super Straight women will then turn around and get all weird and try to come onto me because I am the ONLY queer person they know and actually DO want to “experiment” (ugh). It’s a terrible dynamic in all ways, basically.
In my experience it’s either the Totally Super Straight ones or the ones who only date people of the opposite gender but constantly say, “Well, everyone’s bisexual if they’re being honest.” Gee, thanks for the erasure. Your attempt at support and open-mindedness is SO much more meaningful when you declare non-gay queer people invisible. /rant
I got into a huge argument with a guy who declared that female sexuality is more fluid and when women let go of their societally imposed inhibitions they are all naturally bisexual.
No, just no.
Associated myths that I hate with the fire of a 1000 suns:
– Because all women are bisexual (but men never are!) men and women all find the female body to be inherently sexual. That makes sexual objectification of women okay.
– Everyone is bisexual, therefore bisexuals are the majority and can’t be oppressed.
– Everyone is bisexual, therefore bisexuals do not have unique experiences and challenges.
– Bisexuals have passing privilege, and therefore can’t be oppressed.
The idea that being bi means you are turned on by everyone, walking around in a perpetual state of arousal just waiting to be asked to do sexytimes with randoms really, really, needs to die.
One of the best things about being in a monogamous relationship is having fewer conversations that go:
“Kevin and I have decided to open up our relationship and would like for you to be our third”
“Oh, wow! That’s great for you guys! I’m not interested, but there’s lots of great people out there.”
“Why not what?”
“Would it be easier if it was just you and me at first with Kevin watching?”
“You and Kevin are great, but I’d rather keep you as friends.”
“What if he was in the other room while we fooled around?”
“I’m not interested, but Craigslist and Adult Friend Finder are good places to look for a third or another couple.”
“We’re not ready to be out yet. We’d rather try things out with someone we already know. What if we took you out on a date and saw where it led?”
Of course they haven’t stopped entirely because as a bisexual woman in a monogamous relationship I’m obviously either cheating on Spouse or open to cheating under the right circumstances, so now the offers include lots of references to ‘discretion’ and ‘respecting my privacy’.
Do they ask if you’re swingers? I used to get that question a lot. There were also a lot of a lot of dudes winking at my then-boyfriend and giving what they clearly believed to be knowing looks. Uh, no, I’m not going to do your girlfriend while you guys watch just because I’ve dated girls in the past.
It’s less about me as an individual and more about my being the person they know who has experience with non-straight, non-monogamous sex and being a comfortable person who doesn’t freak out about things.
It’s like calling that person in your group who knows about cars to come listen to this noise before you take it to a professional.
They are at that friend level where they could call me to come look at their computer or help edit their paper, and want to run openness by me before trying it with a stranger.
Which isn’t sexy at all, my body and emotions are not in the same realm as my skill set.
“being the person they know who has experience with non-straight, non-monogamous sex ”
Yes, that. Is soooo annoying. Bisexual poly women have preferences too! Argh.
Jumping On the ditto train for the ‘I’m super straight I swear so don’t go there!’ being all kinds of insulting and rather irrelevant to lw#1’s situation
“If the girl DOES have those attractions, that sufficiently sends the message.”
Well, yes, it sends *a* message, but as many commenter have already pointed out, probably not the message you thought you were sending.
Also, saying it to a lesbian friend in front of her wife? I mean, would you EVER start a monolog about how you’re a one-woman man, you hate cheating, etc etc to a married straight male friend with his wife sitting there?
Heck, I even said something to that effect to a lesbian friend in front of her wife, because sometimes hanging out alot together and being emotionally close DOES sometimes send the wrong messages to bisexual and lesbian women.
If I were that “friend,” in front of my partner or no, this would get the slow blink and the fast fade. No one needs homophobia from their “friends.”
Hey K, people kinda dogpiled on you about this and I thought it was unfair. They seemed to think that you make this statement about yourself out of the blue, where I saw “I just start a dialog and say something like…” as meaning that it was part of a larger conversation among friends.
I think it might come down to the fact that you’re depending on using what I call a “Miss Manners” approach, where you share information about yourself generally with the assumption that the person who needs to learn from that will do so. And this can work with people who have a decent level of self-awareness and a desire to be good company.
But Captain-Awkward-Land is filled with people who (a) lack the skills and know it, so they’re still at the baby steps of using their words to say things really explicitly; or (b) are looking for tools to deal with other people who don’t have those skills or just flat don’t care about them. (Me, I’m here because I feel very intermediate in this stuff — I know things with my head more than with my gut. Oh, and because Ms Peepas is a really good writer.)
(And while we’re all sharing, I’m a very touchy person who does not actually touch that many people. I have moved in circles where everyone automatically hugs — full body hugs — all the time, and it’s way too intimate for me. I don’t want that much information about someone I’ve only just met.)
No, people piled on it because it was a rather dodgy angle in to he first place. It makes an assumption that ‘I don’t like you like that because I’m straight’ not ‘I don’t want this because I’m not attracted to you’ or ‘this doesn’t fit my boundaries’.
And it’s rathe preemptive based on reading someone’s sexuality, which is a no go. It’s like a guy with a beard walking into a room and her ‘starting a dialogue’ about how she ‘totally doesn’t like guys with beards just so we’re clear. Your wife may like beArdy blokes but I do not like beards ARE WE CLEAR?’
It’s weird and you can see why people get twitchy about it when it smacks of the kind of soft homophobicla tht tends to trickle out of allies unintentionally.
Thank you, Preludes. What people were pointing out was not that we all need “baby steps words” (what the flying ferrets?) but that this approach is a) in and of itself flawed, and b) homophobic as hell. Actually establishing boundaries is something that you can do regardless of your own orientation or that of the person who is behaving badly. Announcing that you are straight does nothing except tell everyone in earshot how frightened you are of being mistaken for possibly being slightly queer.
The commentariat has not dog-piled on K because they “lack social skills”.
K received the avalanche of negative responses that she did because what she’s advocating is a really odd and *extremely* presumptive way to go about informing queer women that she’s not into them (like….O.o….thanks? I guess?). It’s one thing to inform a woman who is hitting on you that you’re not into ladies. It’s another thing to say something like that out of the blue *to your lesbian friend and her wife* because you have shared some intense emotions. Being a straight woman and sharing an intense friendship or emotional experience with a queer woman does not mean that the queer woman is into you. If someone is making you uncomfortable with their behavior, go ahead and address that, but it’s really condescending to presume that attraction exists simply because the woman you’re friends with is queer and you’re straight.
I sense that K is coming from a good place, but her approach is really insulting. The fact that almost everyone who replied negatively to K’s comment is a queer-identified woman should tell her something. I think it would be a good idea to recalibrate this behavior now that a bunch of lady-lovin’ ladies have given her approach some major side-eye.
Man, letter #2 and the associated articles came just at the right time. I’m going on a date with someone tomorrow night, and this guy, a friend/coworker said yes to going on a date with me, but expressed hesitancy in that it negatively affect our super awesome working relationship. So, because of that I’ve been ridiculously nervous, not sure how to act, what to say or expect, etc, at this date. I forgot, of course, that the most important thing for me to do on this date is be my awesome, geeky, non-apologetic self. If he likes me, great, if he doesn’t, oh well, back to being coworkers and friends. Shrinking myself will only do harm in this situation. Time to get excited instead!
Good luck and enjoy yourself!
LW#1, you don’t say too much about your boyfriend in your letter, so you may have already done this, but if not: may I recommend having a sit-down with your boyfriend where you tell him, in detail, everything that is going on?
I definitely don’t subscribe to the idea that boyfriends are Sexuality Keepers and that he should Defend Thy Honor, but he is a part of Team You and so it might help you out to empower him to back up whatever decisions you want to make. If you can say, “Boyfriend, this friend is making me really uncomfortable, and I would like your support in never seeing her again,” I will bet that he will say, “Cool, I will help you,” and then it won’t just be you dealing with this, it will be Team You.
This might be particularly helpful if he’s been holding back because he doesn’t want to get between his partner and his partner’s friend (which, hey, good instinct). Then you can feel like you have someone to help you with this and he gets to feel sure about how you would like him to handle any future awkward situations (what to say to mutual friends, how to handle party invites, &c.) Good luck getting very far away from this creeper, LW!
I would add to that – LW, you’re not Ruining Feminism if you do decide to hid behind your BF a little bit. The most important thing here is your safety and comfort, and the tools that you use to obtain that safety and comfort are varied, with varied chances of success. I was in a situation (with strangers, not a “friend”) where I really believed that I could power through the harassment with the Power of Kindness! I could not. So I enlisted my now-fiance, and it helped a lot. I’m still a feminist. I’m still an independent person.
Okay, so I have a question about being over-accomodating and over-helpful. There was a time in my life when I would solve partners’ problems for them (key example: “Oh, you’ve been too busy to clean your kitchen and bathroom? Let’s clean it together! Here, I’ll help!”) and since that Worked Disastrously I switched to the opposite extreme (completely ignoring the grime, the grime is not my problem, the lack of food in the refrigerator is not my problem, I will take care of my own needs by carrying granola bars in my purse).
But that seems… accommodating too? A different kind of over-helpful?
It is a different kind of accommodating, good job for recognizing it. I have had to say “I really like you, but your house is gross, I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to it, and I can’t sleep/take a shower/spend much time there anymore unless something changes” to people before. “Do you want my help in arranging a cleaning service/getting started or do you want to handle it on your own?” They were ashamed. Their feelings were very hurt. But I could. not. spend. another. night. there. Sometimes that meant breaking up. Sometimes they cleaned their house or at least tried. But I had limits on what kind of space I could be in, and how many times we ordered takeout, and how many times I dried myself with ancient towels where the smelly fuzz fell off onto me and covered me. Some people are just mismatched for what you want, and the older I get, the less I personally want to unpick or insert myself into someone’s basic situation.
Yep, people have mental health issues that make cleaning hard (I have those, too).
Yep, it sucks to feel like you are judging people you like for their choices.
But when dating, you ARE judging them. Are you right for me? Does your life fit well with what I want for my life? And your needs matter.
AHHHHH Ancient smelly towel fuzz!!!!! I have dated two different people who had apartments that fell well below basic my standards of cleanliness (cat hair all over pillows, dog hair piled in drifts as though there had been a recent snow-storm. I really regret not saying something about it at the time. Instead, I just managed to be there almost never. Funny how those relationships didn’t pan out…
I’m not sure if I’d date someone who didn’t keep the kitchen reasonably clean. They’ll either expect you to do the work or consider you a fussy neurotic nutcase when you do.
That’s an awfully extreme way of looking at it. I’m not a particularly tidy person on my own, but I’m more willing to be when someone else is around to see and help.
I don’t think so. Everyone who is privileged to have a kitchen *should* keep their kitchen reasonably clean at all times and under all circumstances whatsoever. That’s more basic and more essential to proper hygiene than brushing your teeth.
You are entitled to your boundaries, and it’s a great reason to not date someone. But can you word views like this a bit less extremely? I am privileged enough to have a kitchen. I am not healthy enough to keep it clean. I’d like a clean house, but there are priorities, and it turns out a clean kitchen is not as important as a bunch of other things you probably take for granted. Basically, I have serious issues with the word “should”. I should keep my kitchen clean? Really, even if it means that I’ll have difficulty breathing and will slowly progress toward the shift from partially housebound to bedbound? And then how will I keep my kitchen clean?
You’re being really snarky. You get to have a personal definition of what amount of mess you can deal with in a partner’s kitchen, but asserting that your personal favourite level of cleanliness is the right one and everyone else is fucked up is not cool.
Some people brush their teeth in the middle of the day at work. Are those people the best and everyone else is trash? You get to decide you will only date 3x a day brushers if you want but making blanket statements that everyone else is trash would be messed up right?
Wow. You have absolutely no right whatsoever to say what anybody “should” do “at all times and under all circumstances”. Or ever, actually. Wow. Check your privilege.
That’s pretty judgmental, actually. So if one of your friends broke their leg and had just had a death in their family, and you showed up to offer condolences, you’d expect them to hobble out and start washing dishes?
Yeah, I’m with Charlene. Anyone has the right to live like (my personal definition of, YMMV) a slob if they feel like it. But other people get to decide that they don’t want to be in that environment, or that they don’t want to date someone who they can’t visit at home without wanting to take a bath in Jeyes fluid afterwards.
My issue isn’t so much with the idea that people can choose who they want to date based on their cleanliness– obviously they can and should if that’s something important to them!!– but the idea that someone that doesn’t keep their space tidy must automatically see people that do as nannies or “nutcases”?! Like, what???
While I’m sure what you and the people posting in response to you are saying is generally true, I also want to remind you all that disabled people exist. If the issues I have disqualify me with dating for anyone here that’s totally cool, no hard feelings, but at the same time it’s not always a personality flaw and it’s not unusual for people to have trouble because they’re physically unable to do a lot of cleaning. When I’ve talked about the issues I have in more detail one response I sometimes get is “Aren’t there government services for you people?” The answer is no, there’s generally not. Maybe if you’ll die without them, but don’t bet on it. And I’m very much alive…
The only real solution I’ve figured out is living with several understanding people who are willing to negotiate so that I get the cleaning tasks I’m actually able to do most of the time. That’s not always easy to work out, although I do have it going for me that cleaning toilets is of the cleaning tasks I find easier and therefore less unpleasant.
Anyway yes, these individual people sound frustrating and I wouldn’t want to date them either.
“Aren’t there government services for you people?”
Ugh, that is awful. I’m so sorry.
Most people know to be more polite than that so I’m exaggerating a little, but it’s still essentially a “people like you” perception coming among people without first hand experience. I think a lot of people just assume that if someone really needs help then she’ll be able to get it since that’s what they want to be true, but it doesn’t work that way at all and it used to be a lot worse.
“Aren’t there government services for you people”?
I’ve gotten a variation of that. “There must be government services for [chronically ill person I know] that will ensure all his needs are met.” Which, what? What about living in the U.S. has convinced these people that infinite tax dollars exist for this? Have they never encountered anyone begging for spare change?
Sorry, guys. The live-in-cook/housekeeper/nurse-for-every-severely-disabled-person stipend has been diverted to our various war efforts.
I’m holding out for robots, personally.
“I’m holding out for robots, personally”
Rosie does seem to be taking her own sweet time. I’m good at waist level or higher, and keep one room a day picked up enough for Roomba to clean the floors. but getting on my knees to clean the tub, cabinets, or under furniture isn’t happening. I hire someone to do it a few times a year. But in between then it gets pretty grungy.
Oof. This is tough. I think it depends on what your living situation is – do you have very separate homes, but you visit each other sometimes? Do you live together? Do you have separate homes, but semi-live together?
If your spaces are separate, then it is your partner’s space, so they get to manage it as they want (as you get to manage your own space). But maybe you could have a conversation with them where you tell them how uncomfortable the grime + lack of food makes you, and request they pick it up a notch? I feel like if they value having you around, they should be willing to make some of those minor adjustments when you’re coming over. If they aren’t…that says something about them.
If you are living together, I think it’s totally reasonable (and actually, a reeeallly good idea) to have a sit down and lay out expectations for cleanliness and distribution of domestic labor. My live-in partner tends not to “see” grime the way I do, and thus is less bothered by it, but is totally willing to clean the bathroom on ____day. He may not see the grime and think “Oh, the bathroom needs to be cleaned” but he can see “Oh, it’s that day of the week, time to clean the bathroom.”
Sure, but if my partner’s house is dirty all the time and grosses me out, I get to not be with that person and their dirty house is a valid reason for me to make that judgement. If a person makes the choice to never clean their underwear that’s great, but I also have the right to decide never to go anywhere near said underwear.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, because I love to show people affection by doing nice things for them. I still have a lot of thinking to do on the subject, but one thing that occurred to me recently was that there’s a big difference between doing occasional nice things for someone, and making such a pattern out of it that I start to seem like I’m kind of hovering — like I’m always available to help out with whatever. I’ve had the experience before of sort of…accidentally training my friends to think of me as a Person Who Helps With Things, such that after a while whenever they were having any kind of problem at all they would call me and hope that I could help them figure out how to fix it, and after a while that slowly drifted into them kind of taking my help for granted. I love making affectionate gestures, but I don’t so much love feeling like I’ve accidentally signed up to be someone’s mom for the rest of our lives.
I think a key thing which I’m trying to pay more attention to lately is how the conversation goes when someone calls me and asks for help with something. A red flag I watch for is when my friend describes the problem in detail, but when I don’t get the feeling that they’ve really done much thinking about how to fix it prior to calling me. If I feel like my friend is starting to expect me to take charge and come up with solutions for them, that feels kind of dependent, and like an unhealthy pattern. The pattern that feels healthier is one where my friend realizes they need help, does their best to assess what kind of help they need, and asks for it from me when they have a reasonable hunch that it might be a thing I could help with. Green flags I watch for are asking for concrete and specific favours (“Can you lend me X tool,” “Can you show me how to use Y program”), or for specific areas of advice (“You’re so stylish, could you come shopping with me and help me find a good interview outfit?”).
Of course, everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes! And it’s not a big deal if occasionally a friend calls me feeling stressed and overwhelmed and isn’t super articulate or together about what she needs from me or how she plans on coping with whatever problem she’s having. A little of that behaviour once in a while is okay. But when it starts to feel like a reflex, or like a behaviour I’m seeing from her in response to situations which my friend would be totally capable of handling on her own, that’s a major red flag.
One thing that I’ve been trying out when I notice that I’ve fallen into this pattern with a friend is to stop hovering and help my friend think about her problem herself. When someone calls me and starts telling me about a problem she’s having, I let her tell me all about it. I sympathize and I let her vent. If there’s a pause where I’m worried that she wants me to take charge and start throwing out solutions, then I let that pause be quiet and maybe a bit awkward. Maybe I say something sympathetic, but I don’t rush to give advice or jump in with an idea. And when I feel like she’s probably done venting, I say something to encourage her to start thinking about her problem, like, “Wow, that all sounds really tough. What do you think you want to do about it?” or “Oh ouch, that sounds like a really tricky situation. Have you thought yet about what you’re going to do?” If she says something like “What would you do if you were me?” I say “Gee, I don’t know. What do you think you should do?” I get her to start thinking about her problem, so that it’s clear that she’s the one who’s in charge of fixing it. Once she’s made some progress in forming a plan, then I can see if there’s a way I can help without dominating things.
Out of curiosity, did anybody ever take your advice back when you were giving advice? My experience has been that people usually don’t. It’s far more helpful to do what you’re doing and ask questions. Sometimes the questions you ask can jolt them into a new perspective, after which they come up with the answer themselves.
Oh man, LW1, I feel you so so strongly. My college roommate used to do this, cuddling and caressing literally while I was snuggled up to my boyfriend. She would not take a hint. I am bi, but just because I could hypothetically be attracted to a person does not mean one can assume this! I ended up having to ditch literally all of our shared activities, which was extremely unfortunate. She ended up maturing/changing later, but we were never friends again, at least not from my side. I always wish I’d been up front with how I felt about it instead of fleeing constantly; it would have made freshman year *way* more relaxing. It is not weird to tell people that you do not want them to touch you or talk about certain topics. If they respect you they will stop. If they don’t, they are a person to drop. Even if they respect it and you remain touchy feely with other friends, don’t feel bad at all. You are not obliged to grant all friends the same closeness or privileges, no matter their gender.
Good luck fending her off!
I would like to make the point that even if you were in a relationship with this woman, crossing boundaries like this would be very not OK. For example, when my BF and I first became serious, he would spend a lot of time groping my butt. In his mind, he liked me, he liked my butt and he liked feeling it. While it’s lovely that my BF is so into my bits, the constant groping made me feel really uncomfortable. So I explained this to him and asked him to stop. And guess what? He did. Because he loves me and wants me to feel safe and comfortable and my boundaries are more important that his wanting to grope my butt (and the permissiveness of past GFs who were OK with said groping).
My point is, if you have a boundary then the people you are with must respect that – regardless of their romantic status in your life.
Second – trying to ditch one person when out as a group is a jerk move – again, regardless of the romantic status of the person being ditched or doing the ditching. If I were out with a couple of friends and one suggested leaving the other, I’d like them a whole lot less. Because it’s a jerk thing to do.
I guess the short of it is: even if is wasn’t forced and this was a consensual poly arrangement love triangle, this lady is a jerk. I’d say move on because nobody has time for jerks.
… not responding to the LW (sorry), but the Ask Polly link. *stares at it dumbfounded* Oh. Oh!
Right. There’s a realisation I need to stare at for a while. That’s … ultra-reasonable me. Well. A stage on, as I cherish me. I’m awesome. Friends love me. I love me.
Not wanting to change the topic, maybe I should post this elsewhere (forum?) – don’t suppose anyone knows if there’s a follow up to that post on: right, you love yourself, now how to stop people you date thinking you’re just kinda cool and give them a chance to appreciate you too? I’d reached the cherishing self but via ‘you’re awesome; no one can see it in romantic relationships – might as well give up on them as a waste of esteem.’ If there’s a way to maintain esteem without opting out of dating … please throw it my way.
Sorry – hope I don’t derail anything. Just that link. That. Link.
I’d also like to discuss that exact topic. To the forums? I just made a forum account.
I’m heading there now (but won’t be on properly till later today).
Started a thread on it. 🙂
Oh my god, that Ask Polly letter. I’d say I have no words, but if you go to the forum, you’ll see I had plenty of them.
LW2, it probably doesn’t help any that ANY attention from women towards men is often interpreted as flirting, so yeah… backing way off helps. It’s okay to be kind, it’s okay to be enthusiastic, but what has helped me and people I am close to is to remember that a lot of the time people do not talk about a problem because they want you to solve it, it is because they want their feelings validated (this is a pretty important part of emotional health honestly — that it is okay to have feelings about things, and that those feelings are indeed an expected response to things happening). Life got significantly easier for me to navigate once I laid this out with my partner, and he doesn’t try to “fix” me anymore unless I explicitly ask for help or advice, otherwise he plays a sympathetic ear.
When I was over-accommodating and the Most Understanding Girlfriend Ever I felt like it was so, so important to put the needs of others before myself. I was so CARING! So GENEROUS! I was also hollowing myself out, and pain and sad came flooding in, and shock and surprise when people I was involved with dropped me like a hot potato when I actually expressed my own needs instead of just being there to fulfill all of theirs. Who YOU are is important, YOUR needs are important, and you can still help people in other ways by channeling it into things like charities and volunteer work (feels good, and boundaries are pre-set, win!).
“it probably doesn’t help any that ANY attention from women towards men is often interpreted as flirting, so yeah”
This makes me crazy. I want to make friends with men as often as I want to make friends with women, but expressing that in a way that doesn’t get read as romantic interest can be a challenge.
Though to be honest, ever since getting engaged (vs. just “I have a boyfriend”) it’s been less of an issue…which has a whole other set of implications.
LW1 – As creepy as I find her physical space violations. (Unhooking your bra? I’m sorry, male or female, friend or foe, the first non-emergency-medical person who attempted this would receive the BYE FELICIA treatment from me immediately.) I find her wording to be more disturbing. She perceived your relationship to be a dysfunctional romance, and is campaigning to get you to believe it, too. (That movie about Sid and Nancy is SO US.) She has decided she is the only one allowed to touch you and tells people so. She sees your boyfriend as an obstacle and verbally puts YOU on HER side as she plans to get rid of the obstacle. Her phrasing points to some pretty disturbing thought patterns. Please cut off contact with this person, quickly or slowly. This is not a person who wishes you good things. If she did, she would pay attention to your boundaries.
Yup. The thing with the movie was scary. Like, you should be on the same page, whether you’re in a relationship? And then relating to a dysfunctional one, what?
Let me be one more voice saying: NOPE. NOPE squared. NOPE to the power of NOPE. NOPE factorial. A volume of NOPE greater than the cascade of NOPE emitted by a pair of yip-yips who have just learned the word NOPE.
(Yip-yips here, in case you needed something to make your day a little better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75aGG27dGUA)
There is only time anyone should be touching you like that, and it is “after you have given them explicit permission to do so, and before you have decided they don’t have permission anymore”. If anyone has missed a memo giving guidelines about this, it is not you.
I don’t comment much these days, but I happen to have narrowly missed a situation that involves similar boundary violations. It’s just brain breaking sometimes. You have no idea how to respond, because what they’re doing is so far beyond the normal social contract that it just never occurred to you that you’d need a game plan to deal with it, in much the same way it’s never occurred to you to scout an escape route for the invasion of the subterranean mole people, or have an emergency kit ready in case you wake up one morning and notice that your feet have gone. The bewilderment alone is enough to gum up the works.
I also echo the people above who were disturbed by the way she speaks of your relationship. At minimum, she obviously thinks the two of you have a very different relationship than you do. That she seems to think it’s romantic when you don’t AND you’re already in a relationship serious enough to be living together (you don’t mention if you’re open/poly, but even if you are, it’s irrelevant — that doesn’t mean you’re fair game for everyone) that she is ignoring/displaying hostility towards, frankly, gives me a case of screaming heebie-jeebies. Even if this is an instance of a truly heroic combination of obliviousness, thoughtlessness, and inappropriate sense of humor — which, strictly from what you’ve written, I am inclined to guess it’s not — it’s creating a problem, and you’re not obliged to let it continue.
LW 620: The only thing I have to add to this excellent comment is the Nopetopus.
Nopetopus knows what’s going down. Nopetopus is advising you to Nope on out of there. Because NOPE NOPE NOPE EWWWW CREEPY NOPE.
Also second on the “subterranean mole people” comment. I have had a comparable situation myself. We are just not generally set up to know how to deal with people who take off their social-being-masks to reveal that they are from a reality not only inimical but orthogonal to our own.
Octopi normally freak me out, but I love this GIF. 😀
I was walking with my then-toddler down by the harbor at low tide one day when she squealed and pointed. There was an octopus the size of my head, all the way out of the water and poking around in the rocks that were still wet from the tide. Well, they’re smart, inquisitive, and flexible, so yeah, they do that. What happened next was that the octopus apparently could see us 40 feet away, turned bright orange (translation: WHOACRAP) and noped into the water like JUST A ROCK HERE, YEAH, ROLLING ROCK, NOTHIN TO SEE HERE BUT A SLOWLY ROLLING ORANGE ROCK. And hung around just below the surface apparently hoping we would go away. Still orange. What was in those rocks–did somebody drop a box of McNuggets or something?!
Octopi are characters.
! ! This is the best story.
Pretty sure this is the most AMAZING gif I’ve ever seen!
But now that I’ve said that, I hope LW takes the lead from the NOPETOPUS. I also hope she posts an update. Good luck LW!
Love the Nopetopus!!!
Oh the Yip-Yips!!!!
As a side note to a side note, the amazing thing about the internet is being able to show my kids the things that are in my head when to outsiders I just sound weird: Yip-Yips, the squeaky wheeled typewriter, counting to ten – all from Sesame Street when it used to be awesome.
Yup, the first thing I thought when I read about LW1 is “this feels just like that Case of the Creepy Dudes post,” except without the weird friend/boyfriend dynamics going on with the dudes.
She knows exactly what she’s doing and it’s predatory as fuck.
(Also, those aliens freaked my shit RIGHT OUT as a kid. Hell, they’re STILL a little weird. But they’ve got a quality “nope.”)
“…it’s never occurred to you to scout an escape route for the invasion of the subterranean mole people”
Reminds me of this bit from Tremors:
Burt Gummer: “Food for five years, a thousand gallons of gas, air filtration, water filtration, Geiger counter. Bomb shelter! Underground… God damn monsters.”
Captain, that Margaret Atwood poem read like a love poem for me to – I can see what you’re getting at. (and what Margaret Atwood was getting at when she wrote it).
It’s quite alarming when you fully contemplate it.
Does that poem make anyone else think of Edward from Twilight?
Another relevant Atwood poem. Less of a love poem feel, but still an “oh, yeah” moment.
Oh wow. LW #1, I could have written your letter (except for the stuff that is specific to being a lady type human, of course). I had a creeper who was almost exactly like the “friend” you describe. And unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to make someone like that change their behavior. Creepers know, whether consciously or not, that what they’re doing isn’t okay. That’s why they have so many excuses prepared to explain away their inappropriate behavior.
The one piece of advice I can give is make sure any mutual friends the two of you have are aware that the creeper’s behavior is Definitely Not Okay with you. I didn’t do that, and as a result not only did I get to put up with being sexually harassed, I also got cast as the asshole in the situation. That’s not to say it’s right or that the onus should be on you to manage someone else’s bad behavior. But having the support of friends makes this kind of situation a hell of a lot easier to deal with.
LW 1: I too do not like to be touched and I would consider the unhooking the bra thing would be grounds for never speaking to this person again. Just reading that made me feel uncomfortable. At least it needs to be made clear that her behavior is not ok.
I used to be in CODA. I don’t know what CODA’s official word is on this say about this, but personally I think trying to become close friends with people you meet at CODA might not be a great idea. They might not be the kinds of friends who are good for you if you’re trying to break out of the patterns that sent you there in the first place.
I was wondering about this myself. It seems like a recipe for disaster, to me.
Ew. LW#1: you should shut this down with quickness, like yesterday. I’m not sure this person should be trusted as a friend if she can’t understand the word no. Plus, it could get worse! A while back I had a new work colleague who liked me in this way, which is fine, but hey, not my type. So I started avoiding interaction, didn’t take her up on any invitations, and thought it was basically handled, only to find out after a few months that SHE HAD MOVED INTO MY SAME BUILDING! Eventually I had to have a very awkward sit down with her about how things were being unproductive in the workplace, and she sure didn’t like it, but I guess that worked, as last I heard she’d taken a job in another country. (Yes, I documented the hell out of this. Yes, she had the nerve to say that the whole same apartment complex thing was “a coincidence.” Uh huh… In a city of 4.4 million, mine was the only available building?) Who knows if she’s actually over it, over it, but at least she’s not physically around.
Ok, I’m too frothy. The point here is that I still think your “friend” is more creepy than that girl! Mutual attraction, why is this not attractive???
LW #2: It’s hard to say if you’re creepy or if you are being just fine, but that one dude friend thought it was maybe sexual, and maybe got teased about it by some other dudes, and now rather than using his words, he’s trying to make you the problem, rather than having to say anything about it. The overhelping thing is problematic though. Are you hoping to get something out of this? Is there a tiny favorshark in your brain? (Not a big one, even just a leetle one.) Might be good to mentally check yourself on reciprocity norms and also ask, before you do each thing, “Is this something that I am genuinely happy to do and would be happy to do with no reciprocation other than a general warm feeling from the universe?”
Captain: sometimes I wish your site was userid linked the way things are on metafilter. Because I’m terrible with names and once in a while read someone’s answer and think, “wait, wasn’t there more of a history to go along with that?” I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but I like to put people’s answers into context sometimes to see where they’re coming from. Well, I guess we can always google, right? Or is that creepy?
LW 1, even if the boundaries your not-friend is violating were not sexual, it’s still not ok for people to violate your boundaries. The fact that the boundaries your not-friend is violating are sexual/physical, makes it creepier, maybe–but crossing your boundaries is deeply not ok.
OP1, you told us what your friend does and how you feel about it, but I am not clear on what “you” did about it. How did you react? When she made that comment about you two being in a dysfunctional relationship like the couple in the movie, did you laugh it off or did you answer seriously “I don’t think romances, like in the movie, have the same dynamic as FRIENDSHIPS, LIKE OURS!!! Also, why do you think our FRIENDSHIP is dysfunctional???”. When she touches you, do you submit to that or do you move away? When you heard her say that she is the only one allowed to touch you, did you contradict her, in the moment or later? When she suggested ditching your boyfriend, did you respond “Of course I would mind, hands off the man I love, I am never so happy as when he is around” or did you just smile awkwardly?
If you do in fact consistently and clearly shoot down her attempts to make your friendship more than it is, I think you should be extra careful in dealing with this person, since she is so out of touch with reality that she might react violently. If you don’t, and if you do think some sort of relationsip with this person is salvageable, I would suggest that you start doing so. Start reacting to every single comment or action of hers that makes you uncomfortable. Don’t let anything fall to the ground, don’t smile awkwardly to any comment or hint, don’t submit to any physical touch that, push her hands away and say no. It’s possible (though not probable), that she will get the message and pull back. It’s possible she will demand an explanation, at which point you can come back with “I have no idea what you mean, our relationship is like all my close FRIENDSHIPS”; that will force her to either back down or state that you two are more than friends, in which case you can set the record straight.
To tell you the truth, I am afraid that she is locked into this narrative that you two are soulmates and you are secretly yearning to be with her, but don’t dare to speak your love because of your tyranical boyfriend and the homophobic society we live in. The Wuthering Heights reference (two people who shared an all-consuming passion but were kept apart by social conventions) kind of suggests this;
But let’s not forget that Heathcliff and Cathy are horrible people, who most likely would have destroyed each other if they had been together. LW is not a horrible person.
The first time I read Wuthering Heights, I was astonished. I couldn’t believe everything I’d read about it said Heathcliff was a romantic hero and the book was a love story, when Heathcliff and Cathy are the Absolute Worst who destroy everyone unlucky enough to get involved in their death-is-just-the-beginning psychodrama. (Which is not to say that I don’t love the book – I do.)
Exactly. Just like it bothered Sting that some people heard his song “Every Breath You Take” as a love song, when really it’s about a creepy stalker. People who think WH is a love story have missed the author’s point entirely.
As usual, Kate Beaton is On It re: Heathcliff.
OMFG. That is awesome!
I read Wuthering Heights only once when I was in middle school. I wrote a six-page book report when the page limit was 2 pages because I. Did. Not. Get. It. so all I could do was give a blow-by-blow plot summary. I keep meaning to go back to reread it to see if it makes any more sense to me now. I figured maybe I was too young to understand or something. Didn’t enjoy it for sure, but then I grew up reading science fiction.
I got halfway through WH in high school — it was optional — and put it down, declared the people in it “terrible and no good”, and never finished it.
I keep meaning to go back, but it’s been more than 20 years and there always seems to be something else I’d rather read instead, like the US tax code or the box of tampons I found under the sink.
I was talking about this just last night with people from my book club. Can’t remember if I read WU in my teens, but I know I was quite puzzled when all the girls in the class we were reading it for at university were all swooning about it. It’s not romantic at all!
I didn’t love the book then, but a few years ago I had to read it again because it was on the syllabus for a class I was teaching. And I was blown away by how original it is in the way it’s constructed — it’s true that this makes it pretty hard to follow. I was also blown away by the masterful character studies of deeply warped people.
Still not my favourite book though, and I totally get that one might not feel like giving it another go!
If you consider that their not being together resulted in them destroying everyone around them, I think that would have qualified as a happy ending. And I don’t see what the character of the protagonists has to do with anything. There are a lot of people who consider this, in my opinion ghastly, novel the most romantic story ever, and the OP’s friend sounds likely to share this view.
Wuthering Heights is actually a serious criticism of the ideas that it’s okay to destroy everything on your path to true love, that there is only one true love for you, and that possessiveness is love. Emily Bronte did not mean for Heathcliff and Cathy to be seen as good, or for their relationship to be seen as wonderfully truly romantic. It’s supposed to be a story about how totally destructive certain ideas about love are. It saddens me that people either think the love story between Heathcliff and Cathy is sooo romantic or that it’s supposed to be.
Not to mention the Lintons, brother and sister, are destroyed by their inability to accept that Heathcliff/Cathy are pure poison. Even after the two routinely dump truckloads of abuse on them, these two nincompoops continue to pursue them. It’s a cautionary tale, for sure.
Oh the Ask Polly letter hit me right in the feels. Like the Captain has said before, the reward for being the Coolest Chillest Most Supportive Girlfriend in the World is an extra large helping of “Here, continue being my emotional doormat, enjoy!” But in addition, when I give too much, I get really suspicious of the motivations of others.
I had a friend in high school who looked like Catherine Zeta Jones and was always getting hit on by creepers. After a while any time a guy showed interest or affection, she’d shrug and say, “He doesn’t actually care about me. He doesn’t want to be my friend. He just wants to sleep with me.” Over the years I’ve tried to be the Best Girlfriend EVAR and it’s like catnip to a particular emotional vampire personality type that wants a Magic Pixie Dream Girl. I had a few incredibly draining, sometimes abusive, relationships with people who expected me to heal their emotional wounds without asking for anything in return or even trying to get to know me. They mistake basic kindness for a nurturer personality type and assume I get off on taking care of people when I just happen to be good at it, but find it draining. Now when people who don’t know me say things like, “Wow, I feel such an intense connection with you!” I shrug and tell myself, “They don’t actually care about me or want to be my friend. They just want me to make them happy.” No one ever says this, but after a while giving too much can rot your spirit as much as selfishness can.
Yup – the reward for Putting Up With This Bullshit is…ding ding ding – More of This Bullshit. Not a contest I want to be in anymore!
LW#1, it’s possible someone’s already mentioned this and I just missed it, but regarding your thoughts about having friendships with other ladies that are maybe still grounded in sexual jokes and feeling like that means you’ve led creepfriend on– I want to point out that it actually is okay to have different boundaries and standards of interaction with different friends! Just like some friends are Concert Friends but not Movie Friends, because they’re great to rock out with but not so great in a movie theater where they [talk over the movie, use their cellphone, want to rip the screenplay to shreds immediately after, etc.], it’s okay to have some friends that are Sexy Jokes and Touching Friends and some friends that, well, aren’t. Especially concerning the type of behavior you’re describing, it’s perfectly okay to reply to “But you let [X FRIEND] rub your shoulders!” with “Yeah, but that’s not something that I want in our friendship.”
Of course, I’m with the rest of the commentariat in thinking that for this particular case your best course of action is “AFRICAN VIOLET, STAT,” but for future reference– just because you’re comfortable with something with one person doesn’t mean you have to allow it from anyone else, and anyone that argues otherwise is just trying to trample your legitimate and necessary boundaries.
I’d like to address the “feel in some way that I must be leading her on” angle. Let’s pretend that you were. You weren’t, but for the sake of argument, follow this line of thinking. The unspoken contract that she’s trying to get you to sign reads: You were leading me on so you’re wrong, and because you’re wrong and I’m right, now you have to put up with whatever I want.” Even if she didn’t hand you that contract to sign, we tend to do that to ourselves. Somewhere deep down in our thinking we’ve got a tape that runs “I was wrong once in this situation or some other. I’m not perfect, and therefore I have no right to judge, hell I have no rights at all.” That’s what lies behind every time we don’t jump up, back up, and yell “What are you CRAZY?!!” the first time someone inappropriately starts fiddling with our bra– or whatever is the equivalent. With that in mind, if she does play the “you led me on” card, you can be prepared with “Whatever. Didn’t mean to, but if I did start this, I’ll take responsibility for stopping it.” That way you derail the argument about who led on whom and stay on track which is that she has to stop.
I just wanted to add on here that even if you were okay with a different friend flirting with you or doing the same things as this ‘friend’, that doesn’t make the Creepy Lady’s behaviour okay. I have friends whom I am fine with flirting with, making sex jokes, cuddling, hugging a lot, kissing on the cheek, foot/back/neck massages with, and friends who I am absolutely never okay with doing those same things. The important thing here is that she’s acting inappropriate and upsetting/creeping on you, not that you are sometimes okay with other friends having different boundaries.
hi, LW#2 here. thank you so much for answering my letter and posting those links. I really appreciate it.
CoDA is actually a big help to me in this regard. I’ve been going for almost two years and it’s helped me pull back from “must be sweet and kind to everyone” to “it’s okay to be sweet and kind to my friends and family only, and even then, it’s okay to not be sweet sometimes.” On the other hand, I still have huge, giant, glaring problems with intimacy and am totally guilty of practicing flirting with my friends, because they are safe. I am doing this less, especially now, but I still catch myself slipping into old habits. Dating is not something I can put into practice right at this time, but I hope to do so maybe a year or so after I can get back into therapy. Point #6 was also my dating life in a nutshell.
just to add: I started going back to school, so I am keeping busy and doing things to enrich my life and all that. I have asked Guy #2 to hang out outside of the meeting once, he said no, and that was fine. After I sent in this question, he asked me to come hang out at an event, and I said I would.
again, thank you very much for your time!
Thank *you* for giving us an update! You sound like you have things well in hand; good luck pursuing therapy, and good luck on a possible friendship with this fella.
LW#1, this lady is incredibly scary. Her grasp on reality looks tenuous at best. Thinking you two are a couple when you’re not, the way she treats your relationship with your boyfriend, saying she gets to decide when you are touched, and touching you herself in a way you do not want, are all individually acquaintance-ending offenses. Together, they add up to something truly frightening.
You did not lead her on. This is not about some girl code. This is about you unfortunately entering the orbit of an individual with some truly disturbing issues that are not your fault. You are in no way responsible for her behavior, nor can you change it.
LW#1, let me tell you a secret that took me forever to figure out. What if there actually were a girl code? What if every single woman on the planet agreed that light groping and bra unhooking were normal and okay, what if all the rest of us said that in unison and carved it over our front doors and tattooed it into our skin… but still, you were uncomfortable with it?
Then even if everybody in the world vehemently disagreed with you, still it wouldn’t be okay. That’s how we define okay and not okay. It’s not a group consensus, it’s what each unique person is comfortable with, and you’re uncomfortable, LW.
And so this isn’t okay.
What keeps coming to mind for me is that “only X is allowed to touch Y” is an ok real thing somethings,but *only* if Y is the one saying it. People can define their boundaries to include exceptions, but that is for *them* to decide, not the person who wants to be the exception
One line that really stuck out for me from LW1 was “I don’t even consider her one of my better friends.” The collective wisdom of the comment thread is definitely “HOLY SHIT SEVER” (and I totally agree), but that sounded to me like there may be some reason LW1 is/was trying to hold onto this friendship somehow, and given that the LW mentions things Creeper Lady has said to mutual friends I wonder if that reason is friend group dynamics, in whole or in part.
It really is OK to not be friends (or to take a break from socializing with, etc.) with someone that your other friends are friends with. Being friends with person A doesn’t mean you have to tolerate whatever behavior from person C. It doesn’t work that way. There’s been more written about that here that you might find helpful — Question 85, for instance.
LW1, you may be stuck the way I was(am still….) with feeling like you need to be “reasonable.” I felt for many years the pressure to be reasonable, logical, nice, polite, etc.
I’m still trying to lure my Ragesaurus back from wherever I banished it when I decided that I couldn’t be angry or throw tantrums. Sometimes anger is a useful sign that something is wrong and I pretty much got rid of that warning sign. It was really REALLY hard to do anything for myself that I couldn’t justify with reasonable logical explanations. This was used against me by a couple men that I was in relationships with. It can also be used against someone by a friend, or a “friend.”
This person is trampling your boundaries and using your unwillingness to make a scene against you. You have unwired your anger button like many of us take the batteries out of our kitchen smoke alarms(we shouldn’t, but, sometimes we do). It isn’t shrilling its alarm, and you aren’t running to save yourself.
I’m still working on standing up for myself. It isn’t easy working against decades of patterns. We are all rooting for you to get out of that fire, though.
Anger button … kitchen smoke alarm …
That’s a good analogy. I must think on this further.
Oof, thank you, LW2, You put some of what I have been experiencing lately with my boyfriend into words.
LW1, I have somewhat been in your situation before where at some point a female friend of mine got a crush on me. The big glaring difference is that the only reason I ever found out was because she confessed while drunk and then proceeded to assure me that my friendship was more important and she didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable because she knew I was straight and not interested. We agreed to never speak of it again and that was that. No awkward flirtations or insistence that I actually wanted to date her, we just kept being friends.
This has nothing to do with your friend having a crush or some sort of girl thing that you missed the memo on. Your friend just doesn’t care about your boundaries and thinks she knows best when it comes to you and your emotions. I assure you, this isn’t normal and your friend is displaying some huge red flag behaviors where even if you were interested I would advise you to turn her down. I mean, I totally hung out with my friend who had a crush alone at her house after her confession and at no point did things turn sexual at all and I wasn’t even dating someone else! (Not to imply that your boyfriend has a “claim” or whatever but your friend really really doesn’t respect your relationship and I suspect things would be worse if you were single because then you would be “fully hers” in her mind)
I definitely second the Captain’s advice of pulling back from the friendship, mainly because I’m not sure I would call it a friendship at all. It’s like the Nice Guy(tm) but in female form. She’s not interested in your friendship, if she was she wouldn’t be escalating to the point of unhooking your bra (seriously wtf my boyfriend gets the stink eye for trying that without asking even in private). She would’ve backed down and reassured you that she valued your friendship more than some relationship she made up in her head after being turned down. That’s what friends do. Or you know, even if she couldn’t go back to being just friends, she would’ve said something to the effect of “I am too invested and I need to downsize our friendship in order to get over this” which is also 100% acceptable.
So basically, please don’t feel like any of this is your fault because it’s not, I promise. She’s the one making this uncomfortable and weird, not you. And you do not have to put up with people who make you uncomfortable.
So much this. It is perfectly possible to be close friends with women and men who have an unreciprocated crush on you (or who you have an unreciprocated crush on). I know, I have been there several times on both sides. There can be a bit of awkwardness as everyone mentally rejigs things, but then you move on and value the relationship that exists. If a friendship is good and strong it is silly to throw it over because you are embarrassed that your friend has a crush on you that you don’t return, but that isn’t your situation. This woman isn’t your friend, she is a top level creepster and you owe her nothing. Get out now.
FFS, I have shared a hotel room with a man who was in love with me at the time, and it was fine. This woman feels you up in public! It is not a girl thing, it is not an unrequited love thing, it is a HER thing, and it is making you uncomfortable.
LW 1: I really empathise with you because I was molested by a female friend on a weekend camping trip when I was in my early 20s.
I was devastated, and although when I confronted her about the incident her response wasn’t 100% satisfactory, there were no further incidents with any inappropriate undertones, and so our friendship survived.
Like you, I was open about sex with my female friends. *That is not an invitation.*
This behaviour needs to stop, and you don’t need to sanitise your own way of being in order to justify demanding that she not behave in a way that makes you uncomfortable.
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