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?