I just found your blog an hour ago, and haven’t really found anything fitting my situation.
I have a creepy friend I already turned down in no uncertain terms when asked on a date. I don’t see him often, only every few weeks at work. But he touches me – every time, the whole time. Too-long hugs, rubbing my back, touching my arm, sitting next to me instead of across from me in the cafeteria, and the most uncomfortable of all – saying I love you every time I say something slightly witty or funny. When I used to go after work for food with him and others, he would always pay for my meal. First time I literally did not have enough money for a meal. Every time after he would sneak talk to waiters, or steal the bill from my hand. When I told him I did not like him paying for my food, movie ticket etc, that it made me feel very uncomfortable, he waved it off, saying he was raised this way (What?).
Yesterday he crossed some line in my head. I said goodbye, I need to clock in, and you should go home since you’re off. He followed me outside to the clock in area and just kept hanging out there even though I was technically working. I realized then, he isn’t going to get a clue, and I do not want him to follow me around, touch me, or pay for my food. Ever.
Unlike similar situations I saw you answer, I’m not making excuses for him, I don’t care to keep his friendship if he doesn’t stop acting like this, and while I do think he is just terrible at reading clues I also know he does not touch other girls – or guys – as often or … creepily … as he does to me. He seems very nice, we’ve worked for the same company over two years, but I wouldn’t say I know him well enough to keep making excuses. I Do Not like his touch, and WILL tell him to stop.
I need advise on HOW to tell him to stop. He didn’t catch the subtle clues of shifting away from him, never initiating any contact, and tensing up whenever touched. I don’t care one way or another about losing this “friendship” but I do care about how this future conversation will get around to the rest of my co-workers, and how THAT will interfere with doing my job and the social situation there.
I am sick of worrying that he will be working the same shift as me, and need help on how to say something without being my normal blunt-edging-into-mean-self.
Desperate for advice,
Stop Touching Me
Dear Stop Touching:
I am having trouble finding her exact post, but the lovely Kelly Williams Brown at the Adulting blog has a fantastic solution, especially for when someone comes up behind you and touches your back or shoulders unexpectedly (or, totally expectedly in the case of Creeper McGee at your work): Visibly startle and audibly yelp. Cringe away and say “Yikes!” (Eep, Nope, Eek, Nah!, etc.) Make it unmistakable what you are doing, make it big enough to alert the attention of anyone nearby, make it awkward as fuck.
Do it every time.
If you see the touch coming, reach out, intercept his hands with yours, and say “Whoa, were you just going to touch me? I don’t like that.” Move physically away from him. Do this every time.
If he starts to sit next to you, boxing you into a booth, get up and switch seats.
If he steps into an elevator another confined space with you, step out of it.
If it helps you, practice these things with a friend so that you stand a better chance of not freezing in the moment.
This dude has been coasting on the social contract, the expectation that women are “nice” and accommodating, plausible deniability and your desire to let him save face (at the expense of your own comfort) for too long. He will, in my estimation, act hurt and surprised and put out by this change in reactions from you, and he will try to put it on you somehow, like you are the rude one, you changed the rules, you are being confusing, you led him on, etc. He may try to characterize you as a “bitch” or employ the old “how dare you think I was hitting on you (when all I did was constantly hit on you)” gambit.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to refuse utterly to get drawn into a conversation about what was and was not acceptable in the past. What matters is that you don’t want to be touched now, or in the future. He doesn’t have to understand why or feel any kind of way about it, he just has to not do it anymore. Resist the urge to defend yourself against any typecasting he does or argue the merits of anything he says, and become a Teflon-Robot: “Cool. Please don’t touch me, tho.” “I don’t want you to touch me.” “Thanks. Don’t touch me again.” If you’re lucky, he’ll avoid you for the next little while. If he does, don’t fight it. Treat him neutrally, and if he’s a good person and he gets it, most of the awkwardness will fade with time. If he won’t stop or escalates his behavior, involve management.
You may in fact get weird feedback from coworkers who witness any of this or who hear about it from him. “He’s-so-awkward-he-probably-doesn’t-mean-anything-by-it-whoa-that-was-harsh.” Don’t get drawn into a lengthy discussion here. Sometimes the conversations we have here about feminism and how creeps and predators work by constantly testing boundaries and then escalating them don’t translate to general audiences.Your coworkers don’t have to agree with you on principle, they just have to get the message, so don’t argue with them, just say, “Yeah, it probably seems harsh, but 6 months of being subtle wasn’t working. As long as he stops touching me, we’re cool.”
Then do your work and be cool, and remember, good people don’t want to freak you out or make your skin crawl.