#712: “You’re not still mad at me, are you?”

Dear Captain Awkward,

After two months of just-can’t-get-enough-of-you, he went cold overnight. Just like a switch was thrown. No responses, no communication, nada. Okay, it’s happened before with other guys, I can deal.

What has also happened before which I CAN’T deal with is running into him again and getting that question. You know the one. “You’re not mad at me, are you?” [cue sheepish grin]

I simply cannot come up with a satisfying answer to this question. If I say, “why, yes, you’re a big shit-ball,” it feels like I’m giving up power somehow, and it’s easy to dismiss me as bitter, as someone who’s still hung up on him. If I say no, then he walks away feeling absolved. Either way, he feels good / righteous.

It’s surprising how often they turn up again with this question. I hate getting cornered this way, and I _will_ run into him again (small town). It’s hard for me to even articulate to myself why this question feels SO manipulative and self-serving.

I’d really like a script that is the truth, but also puts the responsibility for his shitty behavior right back where it belongs — on him. I want nothing to do with making him feel better about how he behaved. Make sense?

Being Prepared Gives Me Peace of Mind

Dear Prepared,

I’m sorry you’ve encountered Shirley Jackson’s Daemon Lover.

If you ever encounter this situation again, I offer you this script:

“Undecided.” + Awkward Pause + Turn back to whatever you were doing.

Picture this lady Viola Davis as Annalise Keating from the pilot episode of the ABC show How To Get Away With Murder that aired September 25, 2014 saying it:

Viola Davis from How To Get Away With Murder

You don’t need to act cool or smooth things over. You don’t need to reassure him. He knows you’d have a good reason to be angry with him, or he wouldn’t ask the question.

I hope everything starts to feel better soon.

319 thoughts on “#712: “You’re not still mad at me, are you?”

  1. This may be a terrible idea, but I’m tempted to suggest, “Aw, you’re not fishing for absolution, are you?” accompanied by a pitying smile, like you couldn’t possibly be more embarrassed for him. Then awkward pause + turn away.

    1. I’ve always wanted to say something like this, but unfortunately for the people in my life who tended to need it, it would have led to more arguing than was worth it. I’m still holding it in reserve, though! (Maybe someday…)

      1. How about, “Why, are you still feeling guilty for the way you treated me?”

        1. I like this one, it basically turns to situation back onto the other person.

        2. I would like to go for ‘what do you think?!’ but the tone of voice would have to be perfect so’s not to come off as bitter. Possibly too hard to pull off IRL.

          1. A good tone of voice for this one, I think, is the teacher tone of voice. The Minerva McGonnagall cool, expectant tone of “you know what you did and I know what you did and I’m going to wait let you stew on it until you figure it out/own up to it.”

      2. Agreed about the arguing, or similar. My personal ex would have used it to launch into a monologue studded with spiritual epiphanies, being as he couldn’t see a bird fly by without making some ellipses-riddled metaphor about the human spirit’s need to soar or something.

        1. So, the monologue would talk about the birds flying, etc and then I’d probably just go back to “Awww! You are looking for absolution!”

    2. I love it!

      My only suggestion was going to be: “Now you’ve decided my feelings matter?” But that veers too far into the bitter/write off this crazy person category that the LW is (rightfully) trying to avoid.

    3. I also like it!

      When I was 23, I traveled back to my home city (I’d been living halfway across the country) to go on a pretty damn awesome first date with the person I wound up spending 12 years with.

      Part of the date involved going to a $BigGothBand concert, since we were both fans of their music.

      When my date ducked into the men’s room, I ran into an unwelcome person from my teenaged past — someone who had deliberately toyed with my emotions, treated me terribly (emotional and minor physical abuse), and who was frankly a shitty memory that I would have preferred to put behind me permanently.

      Being the egocentric bastard that he was, he smarmed up to me, looked me up and down, and smugly said something about how I must have *known* I was going to run into him there.

      And I smiled, cut him dead with my eyes, and said “Oh — no, I haven’t thought of you in years.”

      Cue pivoting on my heel and taking the arm of my date and strolling away.

      The line obviously works best if it’s been a while, but in response to “U MAD?”, something like “That would require me to have been thinking of you” might work.

      1. And then he spent the next 20 years in the ICU recovering from that sick burn 👍

      2. Those are the best!

        My wife had one like that, by proxy — the woman who one of the centers of the “popular” high-school crowd, who put out endless nasty rumors about her in high school, and then a couple of years later asked my wife’s mom in faux-pitying tones “how far along is her pregnancy?” when we announced our engagement, ran into her mom in the grocery several years later and asked sweetly if she was coming back to town for the 10-year high school reunion.

        My wife’s mom looked at her as if she was asking if the sky was made of cheese, and replied, “Oh, _f***_ no.”

    4. I like it, too, but I think I might go with awkward pause to “I didn’t know I could feel this embarrassed for somebody,” and then turning away. Anything he wanted to reply to that would lead to “No, no. First rule of holes.”

    5. I really like the pitying “Oh, Honey…” smile like he’s a little kid who’s learning the hard facts, but then just let it be awkward. This guy does not deserve precious words, or at least his relationship history with the letter writer certainly doesn’t.

      1. (Though the problem with that is that it’s a lot more obvious what it is with a text description than a facial expression. Not everyone can pull it off very well without accompanying tone of voice & word choice to support it.)

    6. I think that’s great.

      Or this: “You’re the one who stopped talking to *me*.”

      1. Good point “oh, I thought you were the one angry with me… oops! Sorry about that!”

    7. I was thinking “… … pause… … I don’t know. I haven’t been thinking about it.” or “… eyeroll… oh, seriously” go back to doing whatever.

      But I like this better!

    8. Or even just, “Why do you ask?” I cannot think of a single way he could answer without specifically spelling out what a jackhole he’s been.

      1. I vote this one. Especially if it can be said with an air of wide-eyed innocence. Because it communicates that you know what a jackhole he was, but also doesn’t provide him the satisfaction of an answer to his question.

      2. Seriously.
        “Why do you ask?”
        It is such a perfect thing to say in so many situations that I practice it on it’s own. It is a multipurpose little Swiss Army knife of a phrase.

  2. I also find those people are particularly irked if you tell them that you haven’t even really thought about the situation. As though they don’t actually matter to you.

    Also, slight nit pick, but “this lady” is definitely Viola Davis. She deserves a name.

    1. I know who Viola Davis is (and it’s detailed in the alt-text) and chose her, specifically, on purpose. I can add a caption for people who don’t know she is if you think it’s a problem.

      1. I did not know who she is, and the caption was very helpful. Thank you for adding it!

        Also, was the plan maybe that people who didn’t recognize Viola Davis would see the alt text when they hovered over the image? Most browsers don’t do that anymore, but they do display the title text instead.

      2. FWIW, I think it’s cool to have more than a couple of WOC in badass roles on TV now whose pictures you can post *without* giving their names, and know a substantial portion of the readership will know who they are. It’s a nice recognition of Davis’s current influence.

        And it’s not hard to look up who she is, if you don’t happen to know.

        (Don’t watch the show, but I love her nonetheless)

        1. I wouldn’t recognise her name, but having watched the whole season of HTGAWM, I totally recognise the face.
          She was awesome, awesome, awesome.

          1. wouldn’t recognise her, still don’t know who she is, don’t watch whatever that program is….so yes…caption helpful so at least I can look her up if I want to know more about how she might deliver a line.

  3. I think something like, “I don’t waste time being angry at inconsiderate assholes,” might be appropriate–no absolution there.

    1. I think that veers into “yes” territory – the “inconsiderate asshole” part (though true) does come off as if OP was angry or upset with him, and does give off the “bitter” vibes that OP doesn’t want.

  4. If you don’t think you can control your expression, “Oh, were you playing ‘throw her down until you feel like picking her up again?’ Wow, that’s a boring game. Buhbye now.”

    One of the few times I ever managed to shut up a school jerk–a “friend” who was a member of a little clique that liked to be nice to selected outcasts and then publicly mock them.

    1. Since I can’t ETA: I think it was the expression of bored disgust that did it. Which was exactly what I was feeling. I had been in the middle of a good book, damn it.

  5. I had an ex who did some very unclassy things after we’d broken up, then dropped off the face of the earth for months before showing up out of the blue one day and casually asking: “What, you still haven’t forgiven me?” I told him: “I can’t forgive someone who never apologized.”
    There can be such a thing as water under the bridge, but the scrubs out there who expect to have their slate wiped clean without ever truly acknowledging that they fucked up can GET OUT.

    1. I LOVE this. I may have to use it if (here’s hoping not) the situation ever comes up again!

    2. “I can’t forgive someone who never apologized.”

      This is perfect!

      …the scrubs out there who expect to have their slate wiped clean without ever truly acknowledging that they fucked up can GET OUT.

      YES! It’s something the “you have to forgive everyone no matter what” crowd can’t seem to understand.

  6. I would also suggest “Nope, just disappointed” + awkward grimace + turn back to whatever you were doing. On one hand, the failed relationship did disappoint you. On the other, so did he.

    1. Yes! I also quite like ‘well, your behaviour was a disappointment’ – that frames it so that it’s explicitly his actions and not his loss that you’re disappointed with.

  7. My strategy has always been looking at them like “seriously?” or without an expression and then going back to what I was doing, without saying anything at all. So far it’s worked alright, although if somebody has had disastrous results with that plan, then that’s data I’d love to have! (I’m really curious to see what strategies other people have been using–I always feel rude doing this and I don’t know if that’s returning-to-sender awkwardness or really me being kind of a jerk.)

    I think if I WAS going to say something, I’d tell them more explicitly “I’m not going to answer that” and then look away/ignore them. I don’t know if that’s actually more likely to end the conversation than “undecided”, but pretending I might not be mad when I’m mad and explicitly asked about it makes me feel hinky. I think that might just be my own issues, though?

    1. I like your “seriously?” strategy. It indicates to the guy that you know that he knows exactly how out of line his question is. I think it really is returning the awkward to sender.

      pretending I might not be mad when I’m mad and explicitly asked about it makes me feel hinky
      Same here. The person asking whether you’re mad (while knowing that you are but expecting you to deny it) is seeking undeserved absolution and relying on the toxic societal expectation that women must always manage men’s feelings.

      1. I usually do my right eyebrow lift. That eyebrow lift usually comes with a look of “you’re disgusting” or “seriously, how idiotic?”.

        Works very well.

    2. I think wordless stare is a very good strategy. If you say something, you have to frame it just right to not provide a jumping off point. But if you just look at people they would have to 1) Put into words what you just did and 2) Complain afterwards. That’s much harder to do in a second.
      It’s acknowledgement of what just happened and dismissal at the same time. I love to use it.

  8. “Why do you think I might be mad at you?” Then watch with a neutral expression while he tries to put into words what you both know he did.

    1. I’d use this one sparingly because a skilled practitioner of Nasty on the other side can easily flip it. “Well, I know how you get!” or some other phrase can be fairly unpleasant. I favor the “I don’t feel the need to waste my time on being angry with you” or “I would need you to apologize before I can even begin to answer that” sorts of responses because they’re less likely to be reversed. (Less; not impossible.)

      1. “For what?” would avoid this and still invite him to put into words his assholery. Unsmilingly, obviously, otherwise it sounds like you’re saying no forgiveness is needed. I like this line of approach more than “undecided” because the latter runs the risk of implying you’re devoting a good deal of thought to deciding when he really doesn’t deserve the brainspace.

    2. Many of the suggestions in this thread are excellent, but this is the only one I could really imagine myself deploying with a straight face and even tone.

  9. Been in similar shoes — a year after the ghosting (and some weird, sexist treatment), he calls me bawling and asking for forgiveness, not because he felt sorry for what he did or cared to understand it, but because he wanted absolution (he was about to move away and wanted to tie up loose ends, not that he told me that — I had to find out the reasons for his call through a mutual friend). He wanted to be my “friend,” only…the kind of friend who moves across the country and never calls. So. That was fun. I, uh, let him have it (over email, so I could say my piece and then not read his replies if I didn’t want to). Not in a shouty way, just like “you seem to be looking for a way to feel good about yourself by demanding a performance out of me, under false pretenses. If I’m going to forgive you, it’ll be on my own terms and on my own time. If you want to apologize genuinely, you’ll need to a) show me you’re taking definite steps not to treat other women the way you treated me in the future, b) show me you understand what you did wrong, and c) respect that I don’t want you as a friend and I’m not here to teach you how to be a good person. I hope you can forgive yourself.” Real apologies should not be about the apologizer’s feelings. Hell, you didn’t even get a fake apology, just a question meant to lead you into “forgiveness” without regard for your actual feelings.

    You getting angry isn’t giving him any power he doesn’t already have. He can talk shit about your reaction to people who don’t know you, but he could do that anyway, and he’ll sound like an ass about it. But your anger is YOURS. It can be a healing fire. You can control it. You’re certainly entitled to feel it, and as long as you use it to express your feelings healthily (no slashing tires, nasty threats, etc.), it’s your power. Not his. If you’re not comfortable expressing your anger, that is your power too — your power to keep your feelings and yourself as far away from him as possible.

    There is basically NO WRONG WAY to handle this situation: be angry, don’t be angry, be delightfully, cooly ambiguous as CA suggests, it’s all good! You can even just say “wow” in a flat tone and walk away, just like any other situation where someone’s said something incredibly offensive or gross. You can say “what a manipulative, self-serving question.” You can say “oh, do you feel guilty?” and turn the emotional tables on him. You can reply in song-and-dance form, summoning a cane and top hat out of thin air and tap dancing offstage as your ode to your asshole ex ends.

    Sorry it’s happened multiple times. It’s not you.

    1. “Why, do you feel guilty?” I love that option. Assuming you can walk away if they choose to take it as the conversation opener it clearly isn’t.

    2. “wow” in a flat tone. Yes. This is the one I would go with. What’s great about it is its ambiguity — is it “wow, you are SO TERRIBLE HOW COULD I EVER FORGIVE YOU” or “wow, I can’t believe you think I even think about that either way” or “wow, you really do need attention badly” or “wow, I have so many thoughts, it would take a novel” or “wow, my heart is beating fast with ongoing devotion, gotta keep it together”?

      It flips the ambiguity and the “what are they thinking what is going on what is up wonder wonder puzzlement loose ends” right back on the originator of that set of power moves. Let them enjoy how it feels!

  10. I’d look him up and down with my best “what’s that rotten smell?” look then say in my best “I could care less” voice, “Actually, I forgot about you a while ago.” Then walk off.

    Alternatively, I’d say, “I’ve moved on to better things a long time ago.” Then walk away. (Leave him wondering if one of those better things is New Relationship).

    1. This is one of the reasons to delete the numbers of exes/almost-rans/ghosts from your phone. When they text you 6 months later looking for a booty call or a shot of attention, you can honestly say “Who is this?”

      1. And that is just the most satisfying feeling in the world. I told Darth Vader Ex to lose my number, and when he texted me a happy Easter a few weeks later, I took great relish in asking, “Sorry, who is this?”

        1. Seriously I just had this one person text me three weeks ago. I had to try very hard to remember who he was. Turned out he was someone I had lunch with during a weekday. He was late anyway even though I had mentioned that my lunch period was quite restricted. When I told him I was going to leave, he went all “no no no I’ll rush there now.” Needless to say nothing came out of this lunch. This was a year or two ago. And now he’s texting to see if I’m “free”?

          “Sorry, who is this?”

      2. Yeah, that’s a nice move. My BFF got devastatingly dumped by a guy who seemed nice but turned out to be a shocking asshole. A few months later, she got an extremely pathetic text saying sorry, but since she had deleted his info, she didn’t know who it was. She wrote back, “Who the hell is this?” He didn’t reply, and when a few days later she figured out who it had been, she was very glad she hadn’t wasted any more words or energy on him.

      3. Personally I always keep the numbers, I don’t want to mindlessly pick up the phone and then realise in horror that I’m on the line with some Darth Vader who decided it was time to call me back months later.

        1. Likewise! I found a great middle ground, though: my phone now has a Nopity Nope, a Mr Nopetopus, and a LOL NOPE (and I can’t remember which is which.)

          1. I do this! Mine are all the same– they’re in all caps, DO NOT ANSWER. I also use this for the fundraising line from my university.

          2. You could even just file all the numbers under the same name with additional numbers.

            “Oh, wow, look, it’s Count von I Think Not’s… third office line!”

            “Oh, I see it’s another caller from the Office of Count von I Think Not. So tedious, with their endless fundraising calls.”

          3. Agreed. Mine are: Draco, Crabbe, and Dolores Umbridge. So not only do I not have the stomach drop sensation I would if I saw their actual name pop up but I also get a chuckle out of imagining the toxic ex getting slapped across the face by Hermione or getting dragged away by centaurs.

        2. I don’t pick up the phone if I don’t recognize the number. Ever. If they actually know me they’ll leave a message.

        3. I also keep them, with their names, but put ZZZZZ in front of them so they fall to the bottom of my contact list and I don’t scroll through them. The ZZZ means that they are jerks and I should respond (or not) accordingly.

      4. Oh, I love it.

        I was thinking of the ‘new phone who dis?’ meme that’s going on when you mentioned this.

      5. I’ve enjoyed this. And they reply with their name, and you reply with… nothing.

  11. You could also try calmly saying, “Well, it was a pretty shitty thing you did,” while making a contemplative face/noding thoughtfully, and then drop the subject.

    Because it was, and they can fill in the blanks on their own.

      1. Thanks! I actually got that from a professor of mine – he had a way of speaking that really made you consider what you were saying without ever uttering that you were wrong (though I certainly never saw him in a situation like this!) and I’ve found it helpful in a bunch of situations.

    1. I like this too. It implies you are mad without actually saying so with a good helping of “you obviously know damn well you were a shit.”

    2. I like this a lot! While I also really like the ones above that imply you’ve practically forgotten him/don’t care, I think I’d myself prefer to go for one that still calls him out for the bad behaviour.

  12. In a perfect world where I come up with snappy comebacks on the spot, I think I would flip the question: “You’re not really asking me this question, are you?”

  13. That picture is absolutely perfect for the line.

    My suggestion for an actual statement: silence, a raised eyebrow with a “really? did you really ask that?” look, and ignoring.

  14. Put the discomfort of being expected to answer right back on him. “Why would you ask me that?” with as much confusion as you can muster.

  15. You know, I don’t think that you’re actually ceding power by admitting that you’re angry about his inconsiderate behavior. When someone screws you over, I think it’s normal to be angry with them. Feeling angry doesn’t mean you still want to be with him, or that you are pining for his manly musk, it means that he was an inconsiderate weenis and that behavior made you angry.

    I have been in this situation before, and when the Weenis in Question asked me if I was mad at him, I told him yes. I told him that I don’t enjoy being treated inconsiderately, and I was angry with him for having done so. I also told him that I was angry at myself for having expected more from him. I didn’t yell/send a long FEELINGSEMAIL/TP his house, I just told him how I felt.

    If you feel comfortable doing this, I think it’s a good idea. It helped me from feeling that hardening pit of dread in my stomach whenever I saw/thought I might see him, because for me, a large part of that dread came from not feeling able to act like The Cool, Chill Girl and pretend I wasn’t bothered. Telling him maturely, concisely, and firmly that I was disappointed in his behavior and that I didn’t want to be his friend any more felt very empowering and made future run-ins less awkward for me.

    1. This is great advice, but I think it depends on the situation. In one relationship I’d tried way too hard to be The Cool Girl both during and after, and when I finally a year later let him know how much he’d hurt me it was like a huge weight off my back. But an earlier controlling and manipulative partner loved to get any kind of reaction out of me, so admitting that he’d hurt me was ceding power to him. With people like that, your best bet is to make them think you don’t care one whit. That’s where the cut direct or the “actually, I haven’t thought about you in ages!” comments come in handy.

      1. Also depending on how vile the misogyny is in the situation (in many of the examples, it’s been a woman done wrong by a male lover, although of course shitty behavior occurs along all axes of the gender and sexuality spectrum), righteous fury could easily code to the listener as “those hysterical women, what the fuck,” allowing him to neatly box away your hurt feelings as crazytimez, which I think LW was concerned about not letting him do.

        Not that it is ever your responsibility to control how someone else responds to you, but if LW’s intended effect is to leave him confused with a barb, displaying true anger truthfully may be a complicated option.

        1. Maybe “Not so mad that I can’t be civil” to assert your rationality and how friendly you want further interactions to be

        2. I think it depends on how you display the anger, though.

          I don’t think “righteous fury” is an appropriate response. It’s okay to feel it, but not to act on it. To my thinking, if/when you tell someone they have made you angry, there should be no raising of voices, no flipping of tables, no taking this business outside. Frankly, I don’t think those methods of displaying anger are really ever appropriate (YMMV, I am just speaking for myself).

          On the other hand, I think there is no harm in openly and calmly admitting that you are angry. There is no need to actually *be* emotional about it or feel the anger at that moment. Calmly, firmly saying that you are angry with the person cuts through his/her passive-aggressive tomfuckery. That can and should be the end of the conversation.

          Sample script:

          HIM: “Are you still angry with me?”
          LW/ME/YOU/WHOMEVER: (calmly) “Of course I’m angry. You treated me very poorly. I’d rather not talk about this any more, have a good night.” (turns back to friends/goes to get another drink/walks away)

          I’m not comfortable telling people (women especially) to feel like they have to hide their anger because people will think of them as hysterical. That just plays right into a gendered and sexist view of dealing with women’s emotions. If you feel angry, don’t do anything that isn’t acceptable in company (ie. raising your voice, getting violent, throwing a drink at someone). But by all that is good and righteous in this world, please don’t feel like you can’t use your words to tell some juicebox that he made you angry. If he wants to take your calm assertion of emotion as “hysteria”, that is definitely his (sexist) ish.

        3. This is why I like to answer “Yep, I’m mad at you,” in a calm and pleasant tone of voice, and then walk away. They don’t get absolution, but they also don’t get the satisfaction of watching me explode.

          (Um, in a perfect world. In reality I’m more likely to go with ‘fuck off’).

        4. Frankly, I think the best way to fight the “I can’t get emotional ’cause I’ll be dismissed as the hysterical woman” is to say Fuck That. It’s one thing to stay calm when laying out a maddening problem for someone not directly involved (talking to first-line Customer Service phone people, for example), because it’s not their fault. But dealing with a person that has actively done you wrong?

          Fuck. That. Shit. The longer we worry about seeming “hysterical” instead of just being clear that the person we’re telling off is a shithead, the longer we’re going to be boxed in by that expectation of calm in all situations.

    2. I’m with you on this – it’s not actually wrong to admit anger at someone who treated you terribly. To “Are you still mad at me?” you can answer, “Why would I not be?” Especially cool if you can manage it in a confused tone with a frown and a look of slight shock that conveys “I can’t believe you’re asking me this the answer is obvious what the hell is wrong with you”. This one is best if you think you can manage it and then not engage in any attempts by them to suck you into some horrible, manipulative, gaslighty argument. You need to be able to follow up with some kind of “Not interested in discussing it actually, lets not talk to each other” and then leave him to it.

      Eh. If you just want to shut it down the “I haven’t thought about you much at all answer” that others have suggested is golden, but if you’re up for it owning that your anger isn’t silly or cute or something that he can imply is unreasonable with his “you’re not still mad at me?” manipulative BS is not unreasonable.

      Ideally you want to remain calm and disdainful whatever you say – buttheads like this are looking for either a response of absolution, and it’s possible to just *reject them* coldly and give them neither.

      1. Yeah, I think the key to this strategy is that you don’t want to use that moment to get into a detailed argument about “You did this and this and this, and this is how each one of those actions cut me to the core. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?”. This encounter is not about arguing, or winning, or convincing. It’s simply a factual report of your feelings.

        Women often get cast as “crazy” or “clingy” when we have emotions that men don’t like (especially if the source of those emotions is something he did). This is why I find owning my anger empowering. I find it really emotionally fortifying to look someone who has hurt me in the eye and calmly say: “Yes. I’m angry. I have reason to be, and we both know it”. I don’t yell, I don’t cry, I don’t throw things, I don’t try to make the other person feel guilty. It’s not about *them*, it’s about me. I just own my anger and I don’t apologize for it.

        Look: in a non-abusive situation, if someone is super into you for two months and then suddenly stops returning your calls, that’s objectively Not Nice*. Everybody knows that. Heck, the guy who did it KNOWS the LW has something to be mad about, that’s why he’s trying to head LW off at the pass by passive-aggressively addressing the issue. He’s hoping that by bringing it up, LW will accept his half-assed acknowledgement as an apology. There’s little effort expended on his part, and he reaps the rewards of a) smoothing things over socially and b) not feeling like the ghosting weenis that he is.

        If the LW feels this strategy is right for them, I highly recommend it. There’s delicious reward in side-stepping a passive-aggressive social trap like this. The key is remaining calm and remembering that this is not an opportunity to fix the situation, nor to convince the other person that they were a weenis. This is purely a chance to confirm that yes, you’re angry, and no, you’re not interested in a continued acquaintance. State it firmly, coolly, and concisely. Walk away with your head held high, powered by the cleansing flames of righteousness.

        *Always ALWAYS with the caveat that if you feel unsafe, do whatever the heck you need to do to GET AWAY and STAY AWAY from someone. Someone who makes you feel unsafe is not owed due diligence or a considerate breakup.

        1. What would you think of “Yes, I’m angry, but on the plus side it got a manipulative a-hole like you out of my life. I’m counting it as a GOOD thing!” And then walking away. [provided you feel safe in doing so]

  16. I think a kind of pleasant, bored smile and a “Come on, why do you care what I think of you?” might work. Answering yes or no implies you’ve thought about it and makes it about you. So reframe the whole implication of the question–it’s weird that he wants to know. Break the connection.

  17. I’d cosign the approach where you make him explain his behavior to you, but that can be stressful.

    For a simpler exit, I also like the calm, “Actually, I am mad at you. Have a nice day.” You’re not unreasonable or vindictive, you haven’t let your life be interrupted, but he’s not worth talking around your feelings for.

  18. Well, are you? I mean, you don’t have to tell him, but it’s good to have these things straight in your head.

    Possible replies:

    “Are you STILL on about that?” (Pitying look. His error, he has realised it too late.)


    “I think you know I’ve every right to be.”
    “You missed your chance to have that conversation awhile back.”
    “You may be overestimating how interesting you are.”
    “I don’t care to discuss it.”
    “I BEG your pardon?” (For all the ways Miss Manners can be problematic, God bless and keep her.)

    And, of course:

    “No, no, I’ve been quite enjoying your absence.”

    1. You missed your chance to have that conversation awhile back

      I really like this one. It puts the blame right where it belongs.

      1. I third this!

        It neatly sums up the problem without assuming blame or granting absolution.

    2. “You may be overestimating how interesting you are.”

      Ooooooooooh I like it.

  19. I get the feeling that whatever response you come up with will result in an epic bout of mansplaining so be prepared to walk away while he’s talking.

  20. Reblogged this on The Monster's Ink and commented:
    The question feels so manipulative and self-serving because 1) he knows you have good reason to be angry and 2) he’s asking for you to act like everything’s okay, without him first doing the work of regaining your trust.

    If he wanted to be friends, he should have handled the breakup differently. He handled the breakup like someone who doesn’t want to hear from you anymore. If he wants to feel better about what he did, then he needs to give that to himself, not take it from you.

    And if he wants to be able to run into you around town and have you be nice and friendly to him, then a) he needs to own up to having behaved like a shit-ball, and b) you still might not want to be friendly with him.

    That said, I’m also interested in this part here:
    ” If I say, “why, yes, you’re a big shit-ball,” it feels like I’m giving up power somehow, and it’s easy to dismiss me as bitter, as someone who’s still hung up on him.”

    Here’s the thing: do you care about what he thinks of you? Do you want to maintain power over him?

    If you’re worried about what he’ll say to your friends, that’s one thing, but if it really bothers you that he might think you’re bitter, perhaps ask yourself why that is.

    1. It’s the phrasing. “Are you mad at me?” sounds more like a genuine question, and the positive (in a grammatical sense) answer affirms anger. “You’re not mad at me, are you?” is like “You’re not one of THOSE GIRLS, are you?” The grammatically positive answer to a question is often the one that’s expected/wanted/accepted. Like if you have a guest and you get a cake out and say “do you want some?” you expect they probably do, but if you get a piece of cake out and are about to eat it and say “oh, you didn’t want any, did you?” it’s because it’s only just occurred to you and you don’t really want to go to the effort of cutting them a piece too.

      1. Yeah. The phrasing of the question makes it seem like an attempt at negging or other manipulative behavior. It’s designed to put you off guard regardless of whether he’s trying to make you act friendly toward him or to make you look bad.l

      2. For some reason this very useful explanation on the phrasing inspired this script to me:

        Disappearing artist: you’re not mad at me, are you?
        LW : *shrugs shoulders* so what if I am? *goes back to whatever they were doing*

        But admittedly this may not be the strongest, might invite lengthy mansplaining

      3. Yeah, the phrasing is what makes me want to say, “so, NOW you care about how I feel? A little late for that, don’t you think?”

    2. Can’t speak for the LW here, but there have definitely been situations where I didn’t care if the person in question thought I was bitter, in the sense of caring about his judgement of my personality, but I loathed the idea that he might think he had the power to MAKE me bitter. Because I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. Petty, yes, but there it is.

      1. Would it be more productive to reply to the question with something like: “Oh, no, I haven’t been thinking of you at all. Bye now!”?

        1. Possibly, though I think a lot of people would still read that as openly hostile and therefore proof of continued anger. For me personally, it would be more satisfying to *convey* that sentiment without saying it outright.

  21. I’d go with “you’re not really worth being mad about” in a totally neutral tone, coupled with a shrug. You don’t come off as angry at all (which you’re entitled to be, but I get what you mean about not giving him the victory of seeing you care) but it definitely doesn’t absolve him of responsibility.

  22. All the suggestions in this thread are great, and whatever you decide if it should come up is the right decision.

    The older I’ve gotten, the less I’ve cared what my honest sharing of feelings does for the other person (if they’ve been an asshole) and learned to love what it does for me. I’ve been in the exact situation you’re in. I had a guy ghost, apologize and agree not to do it again, and then (you guessed it!) ghost a second time. He hasn’t been in touch and probably won’t be, but I’ve thought about what I would say if he got in contact. And my response would be along the lines of, “I asked for one thing and it was as simple as don’t disappear again without saying goodbye or we’re done. I’m angry, because you’re a shithead and I deserved better.” That way I’ve said my piece and spoken up for myself and my worth.

  23. My options of choice:

    “Frankly, you haven’t crossed my mind in ages.” Walk away.


    “Sure am!” Walk away.

    – Or –

    “Sure Am!” in a really cheerful voice with a big smile. Immediately morph into the icy-death stare. Continue stare until he is forced to walk away.

    1. I have done the latter, but never morphed into the icy-death stare. Instead I just smiled brightly. And maintained eye contact. It was very clearly unsettling for the dude in question. I enjoyed his discomfort way more than I anticipated.

    2. I am the kind of person who would respond “Yes, you are a fuckface! :D” and then just leave.

      I also have several contacts in my phone named GO AWAY though.

  24. Ugh. I’ve been asked this time and again… I’ve come to the point where 1) I don’t really give a rats-patootie about the situation anymore; and 2) I make sure they understand that the WAY in which they went about DOING what they DID is actually the problem. This is applicable in many, many situations… not just breakups.

    My script goes something like this:

    Them: “You’re not still mad, are you…?”
    Me: “Honestly, I could care less about it, but that’s not how an adult handles [insert issue here].” or “that’s not how you do it.”… etc.

    Schooling. That’s what it’s about for me.

  25. I’ve had good success with “Sorry, have we met?” + look confused, smile politely, walk away.

    (Or if you really want to rub it in: look confused, offer hand to shake, continue to pretend you just don’t know who this is. I have seriously unnerved some terrible exes this way. They tend to get fidgety and then excuse themselves.)

    1. Aww you beat me to it!

      “Do I… know you? Oh wait, I’ve got it, the UPS guy? Free sample dude from Costco? Ah well, nice seeing you!”

      1. This reminds me a sentence I once read somewhere. I cannot recall the phrasing, but it was in the lines of “Sorry, I forget people that don’t add value to my life”

    2. Oh man, I was just remembering a fantastic example of this (the thread got me onto the topic of awful boyfriend types and then I scrolled down and there was this comment…)

      I have prosopagnosia – face blindness issues, and used to live with someone who a) aggressively refused to get this despite me explaining that I was often unable to recognise people I didn’t know extremely well, b) liked inviting a lot of similar-body-type guys around (basically ‘guys they were attracted to’, and they had a specific generic white guy type), c) had a casual relationship for a while with an absolute jerk who I, and most other people I knew, clearly disliked (and it takes a lot for me to get to that point).

      So I met Jerkguy a few times, had an increasingly chilly relationship, and just avoided them in general. Then one night, flatmate was having a party, with lots of random guys over. I sneak out of my room for a desperately needed pot of tea, and flatmate + random guy wander into the kitchen and corner me for Happy Social Chat while the kettle boils. I play along politely, thinking it’s a little weird that flatmate is actually talking to me at a party when they have all these random guys to talk to, and not being sure if this guy knows me or not (while the pool of party goers is large and constantly changing, I have run into the same ones a few times). After a few minutes, very tired of constantly being put in this situation and wanting to make a point that flatmate needs to actually introduce me (basically ‘return the awkwardness’, rather than taking it all on to make the social encounter go well for them), I ask if he has a name and if we’ve met before (“sorry, can I get your name?” was probably it). Cue awkward silence.

      Turns out that Jerk-guy had grown a beard.

      They say ‘um, it’s Jerkguy’, and I go “oh”, blank them, grab my (finally ready!) cup of tea and leave, thoroughly annoyed at being trapped in that conversation that I was clearly only staying in out of politeness (and because I was trying to use the kitchen). And then I looked back and reaised that it was one of those moments I will treasure forever, because I’d never have dared to it on purpose.

      (I felt a *little* sorry for flatmate, who was probably happy we were getting along, but a) she knew I didn’t like interacting with him, b) I was clearly in a position where I couldn’t avoid him even if I knew who he was, c) she never bothered to hang out with me at parties without an ulterior motive anyway (i.e. I am next to a Cool Person), and d) I’d repeatedly tried to explain that I hadn’t a clue who most of these people were and that was very not fun for me, e) she proudly refused to play host ever because that was boring and involved responsibility, so rarely bothered to introduce anyone …or clean up afterwards or stay sober, and f) she tended to ignore any sort of complaint that might affect how she did things until it made her life difficult somehow, so until I made it awkward for her as well, she’d just leave me to suffer/refuse to believe there was a problem).

      1. YESSSSS. Favorite.

        I’m slightly face-blind (I’ve had terrible eyesight since birth/multiple surgeries, which is probably a contributing factor). This is one of the most satisfying benefits of not remembering acquaintances you’ve lost touch with. Solidarity jedi hugs.

        My options tend towards High Farce:

        a) “Oh my god I thought your ARMS BROKE and you lost the ability to text! That was the only conclusion I came to a complete lack of communication! Glad to see you’re well.” Just smiling and polite the whole time and then immediately being somewhere else the rest of the night. But then, I’m a performer with improv background so I would play it up if I felt safe.

        b) This person refused to acknowledge your communications, yes? Refuse to acknowledge their presence! Stare slightly to the right and above them, wonder what that sound is, etc. Not the most mature but probably enjoyable.

        (Note, I do not necessarily recommend these in real life but my secret mean heart wants to see them)

    3. I’d probably opt for this too. “And you are…?”

      I’m also kind of immature, I might go for “Whaaaaaatever,” and just walk away. Probably save that for the mansplaination of why he did what he did, just in the middle of it “Whaaaatever.” What the hell, you don’t owe him mature, at this point you don’t even owe him “Hello”.

    1. Or, “Oh, you’re slightly-wrong-version-of-name! I didn’t even recognize you. Sorry, did you say something, my mind was elsewhere.”

      1. I like this! I’d suggest only using it to someone with a common (/white or perceived as white) name, though. There are connotations to POC being called names that are slightly wrong that the LW would probably want to avoid. It’s pretty touchy when you don’t have a ‘traditional’ name, and there’s no need for microaggressions.

    2. This reminds me of a British comedy skit I saw somewhere back in the 80’s… Unfortunately I have no recollection of who was in it or of how to find it again, so here’s a condensed version:

      A woman is alone in the store where she works, and is talking on the phone with a friend.

      A man comes into the shop, armed and with a stocking mask on his head. He points the gun at her in order to rob her. She holds up her finger, says “Ey!” and continues talking with her friend. The man tries harder to look dangerous and get her attention; she keeps detailing to her friend how she cut some guy dead and pretended not to know his name. ‘I just said “Oh, thank you, Bruce”, and turned away, and he looked SOO crushed. Cause his name is Barry!’

      The man finally gives up his robbery attempts and storms out of the shop.

      The woman says on the phone “Oh, you can’t BELIEVE who just came into the shop. BARRY!”

      …It would probably be more fun if you could actually see it.

      1. I’m sure I’ve seen this, but can’t remember who it was. Now wasting a lot of time searching :).

    3. This made me snort out my coffee, thank you!! Reminds me of Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec: “When people get a little too chummy with me I like to call them by the wrong name to let them know I don’t really care about them.”

  26. May I suggest, (and it takes a little practice to pull it off, so try it with a friend first), a slightly puzzled head tilt, a pause, and then, “I’m sorry, do I know you?”

    Stand there, politely puzzled and shaking your head vaguely and make them explain who they are and what they did to you.

    You can then respond with “Oh. Well, I hope everything works out for you,” in a tone that implies “I still don’t quite remember you, Odd Stranger.”

    There is neither dignity not absolution in having been so inconsequential that you are forgotten.

  27. I had a “friend” who did this to me multiple times before I figured out that he was just avoiding any kind of conversation that might be emotionally difficult for him and then picking the “friendship” back up later when he thought it had been a long enough time that he wouldn’t have to apologize for it. So, the last time he called, I just didn’t pick up. Haven’t heard from him since. Not sure what I’d do if I ran into him, though, so thanks commenters for giving me so many good ideas!

  28. It’s one of those things we ask ourselves and I’ll ask you. Why care what he thinks? CA’s answer is perfect. He is sitting around caring what you think. And you really don’t need to worry about what he thinks or what his reaction to your thoughts and feelings are. Why give him any control over your feelings? Indifference is a great solution. ❤ =)

  29. I haven’t read the comments yet, but I wanted to immediately offer Jedi hugs for you. I’m going through a similar situation right now and it sucks. You’re not alone.

    Here’s my own script (which isn’t very nice, I know):

    Insufferable Ex: You’re not still MAD, are you? 😀 😀 😀
    Me: (breezy and unflappable) Mm? No… just disgusted. (Walks breezily away)

    1. I like that, the redirection. It acknowledges that the LW was angry but also dismisses the impact he’s had on the LW’s life. It can also be fairly snappy and make her feel like Dorothy Parker.

      Ex: You’re not still angry, right?
      LW: No, I’ve moved on to contempt.

      1. “LW: No, I’ve moved on to contempt.”

        Maybe uttered in a sort of …. _consoling_ voice….

      2. The best part of this is that, with contempt, there’s less chance that the ex will try to renew the acquaintance.

  30. I had a friend do this to me. It was rather amusing. I’d stored some stuff at her place. We had a disagreement/argument after she got a boyfriend Because I wanted more information about whether or not he was going to be there (situation leading up to it long, so I’ll just say it had to do with her showing up over an hour after I thought she’d be home, and lack of communication about what we are doing.) . She moved, side stepped giving me my stuff back. And acted like I was doing something wrong the next time she wanted to hang out and I couldn’t go (no bathing suit) with an hours notice). Contacted her about 6 months later to get my stuff back and she was like “oh, you’re still mad at me” (communication happened via facebook, so I just ignored it). I was laughing my butt off though. She was more mad at me then reverse. I was just done with the friendship.

  31. You, like me, may find the disingenuous “Who are you again?” responses to do the same as the “Yes, you’re a shitball” one–because it’s crafted specifically to hurt the target, displays your anger, and the lie may be transparent. Your history or social connections or the time elapsed or even your body language makes it obvious you recognize them.

    I worry about that giving-them-power thing too, and having them walk away going “Whew, she’s still so obsessed she tried to act like she forgot me after two weeks/after we went to HS together!” wouldn’t make me feel heard or respected. And definitely doesn’t work on someone you dated for years.

    What I like about the Captain’s response is that it *is* truthful; you’re still mad, but on your way to releasing it out of your life. It gives him very little, because you owe him nothing–little to either forgive himself or label you crazy/obsessed. It’s inscrutable, like I imagine Viola Davis to be.

    If you really don’t recognize him, “Who are you?” is a killer blow. But if you’re crafting the lie TO make it a killer blow, it may make you feel just as used as the “You’re a shitball” response does, whether he sees through it or not.

    1. That’s exactly what I was going to suggest. I’m sorry, I’m bad with faces. Who are you again?

    2. My “go to” on this is to give them a look like they asked me the dumbest question in the world and calmly say, “Of course I am. You were an asshole.” and then smile and stare in silence. If they try to talk or explain I just wave vaguely and walk away.

    3. I agree. Unfortunately, I think pretending not to recognize him would feed his ego, in a weird way.

  32. Oh man. I used to have a similar problem. For years all the dudes I was interested in went through the same progression:

    1. Instant FEELINGS
    2. Mega constant contact/hangs/can’t get enough of each other
    3. Instant stoppage of communication from them after 1-2 months
    4. Me cries

    When I stopped giving into my side of the “can’t get enough/must be around you” instincts, it weeded out a lot of people and helped me slow down and look at the whole person instead of the “right now” feelings.

    This isn’t to say these dudes aren’t ultra turd bags. And maybe it did come completely out of nowhere. Two months is not a long time to figure out whether someone is trustworthy. But sometimes patterns are there for a reason.

    1. Maybe, but I also think that “two months in and you’re super focused on the relationship” thing is widely spread across lots of kinds of people. Even icy icebergs like me who drift slowly into Like have that happen. I think it’s just… the early stages of settling into a routine. Like arranging your life around a new, regularly occurring appointment, it’s disruptive at first.

      I think ghosting is also a widely deployed technique, used for many reasons. Some of it is about fear of intimacy, or being a jerk. But I dunno, with women at least it can be a safety thing. And for young people, a maturity growing up thing (a friend of mine admitted to “I wanted to break up but didn’t know how. So I went with going on Spring Break and… just never calling her when I got back…”. They don’t do that now.)

      It can be hard to know if that will become a crash and burn ghosting scenario until it starts to happen, I think. Besides, learning how to cope with post-ghosting is, in a weird way, a step towards learning to anticipate pre-ghosting.

      IOW, it’s altogether possible the pattern here is external to the LW’s skill in choosing ghosters.

  33. If you can manage it, look confused, then sheepish, then say, “I’m soooo sorry. What’s your name again?” I had to sell it, since we were both actors, but it worked like a charm. He looked horrified, then visibly wilted.

    1. I’ve done this under other circumstances. “Hey, uh, so we went out on a date a while back. I thought you were really hot. Want to get together this weekend?”

      “…I went on a date with you? Are you sure?”

  34. I quite like the idea of saying “sorry, I’m too busy to deal with minutiae right now. If you check back later I might be able to get you an appointment,” and then sauntering off.

    But I’m sure I wouldn’t think of it in this moment. The best part is being able to say “minutiae,” which is one of my favorite words.

  35. Another option: put your hand up and say “Sorry, not interested” and keep walking either like he’s asking you out again or trying to sell you something. Then walk away. This has the benefit of avoiding a big mansplaining conversation or really any response from him. It’s also accurate – you’re not interested in giving him absolution or validating to the emotional power he’s attempting to wield over you or letting him waste any more of your time.

    Also I love everyone else’s suggestions.

  36. No, I’m not mad. But I’ve pretty much lost all respect for you, which is sad.

  37. This is one of those things where there really isn’t a right answer, it all comes down to you and your personal communication style. Not everyone is good at one liners, being overtly angry, being dismissive, ignoring someone who has hurt them, etc etc.

    I’m the kind of irreverent shit that laughs at everything, at least internally. Everything is ridiculous, everyone is ridiculous, and my brain has a more or less constant stream of quiet giggling. I’ve found that the best way to deal with people like the dude the OP is describing is to just laugh at them. When they say something as stupid as “Are you mad at me?” after treating you poorly feel free to laugh because that shit’s funny. A grown ass man wondering if a fellow human being might have negative feelings when they’re treated badly? Duh, motherfucker.

    You don’t need to be over the top pointing and laughing, just fully appreciate how ridiculous what’s happening is and let out a surprised slightly confused chuckle (oh my gosh, is this really happening? Is this guy really doing this?). Laugh, go back to what you were doing while laughing and continue with an amused look on your face.

    If you’re going for a way to feel like you’ve got power, laughing is a great way especially with men. Don’t explain the joke, keep the interaction short as possible (because you have better things to do with your time), be dismissive, be amused, and watch him flail. If he throws an almighty tantrum, well that’s prime comedy gold right there.

    It completely flips the interaction, he’s either looking to rile you up or maybe get you into his bed again. He’s expecting anger, sadness, maybe hope. He’s expecting to have the upper hand. He is not expecting you to treat him like a punchline, or to walk away from the encounter with a hit to his self-esteem.

    One warning though, from experience a lot of men get extremely angry when laughed at by women (especially in my case, a tiny cute woman). It is very much a power thing to laugh at men and it’s one of the few ways that women can instantly devalue a man’s opinion. So if you’re in a situation that could turn dangerous always follow your gut, please be safe.

    1. “I’m the kind of irreverent shit that laughs at everything, at least internally. Everything is ridiculous, everyone is ridiculous, and my brain has a more or less constant stream of quiet giggling.”

      +1 would laugh again

      That is gold, and my day is made. I am the same kind of irreverent shit, and I would absolutely laugh if my soured-relationship dude pulled a stunt.

    2. “There’s little of the melancholy element in her, my lord. She is never sad but when she sleeps, and not ever sad then, for I have heard my daughter say she hath often dreamed of unhappiness and waked herself with laughing.”

        1. Well, you could just reply to a dude with “hm? Oh… have I told you how much I like the opening lines of the Thompson Much Ado About Nothing?”

    3. Came here to say this! I am a laugher as well – its so empowering!

      A few years ago, I ran into a dude who’d jerked me around for a bit who asked “don’t I get a hug?” at the end of our polite chitchat. I looked at him, tilted my head and realized how ridiculous he looked and how little I’d thought of him – cue my laughter, spinning around without a word and opening my umbrella to walk away in the rain.

      It made me feel like a heroine in a cheesy 80s karaoke music video.

      1. Ugh gods. “Don’t I get a hug?” Another HUGELY manipulative question. Especially if it’s in front of other people and/or mutual acquaintances. Now I’ve got to either hug someone I don’t want to or potentially look like I’m a jerk.

        I’ve used an even-toned “not right now” to deflect that one, said as if I’m saying I don’t have time to do something, or I don’t feel like having dessert someone’s offered.

    4. Yep, this is what I’ve done before (my ex made a big deal of claiming he DEFINITELY WAS NOT SLEEPING WITH a woman his roommates told me he’d slept with while we were together. After he dumped me, she was living in his room. C’mon, Ex, I’m not that naive.)

      Cue me chuckling at him, walking away to refresh my drink and never speaking with him again.

  38. i’d just give him a long evaluative look and just be like, you know what? i think i’m good. and walk away.

      1. you’d have to really sell the evaluative look though. it can’t just be “i’m thinking about it,” it has to be “i am judging you and finding you wanting.” and you’d have to treat him like nothing he said was very interesting ever again.

        1. Give them the ol’ elevator eye, in a way that might get their hopes up, then shut them down. I like your style.

        2. Yes, and letting it drag out for juuuust a beat, maybe a beat-and-a-half, longer than is comfortable. Beautiful.

  39. Raise an eyebrow of amused incredulity and respond, “Actually, I feel like I dodged a bullet.”

    And rejoice inwardly, for you did indeed dodge a bullet when this loser departed.

    1. This is my favorite. I usually find it keeps my stress level down to cast bad relationships in this light – they did you a favor. They made it clear what assholes they were before you wasted any more time. I was going to suggest a putdown along those lines, but yours is much more succinct.

    2. “Oh, I’m actually quite pleased with you. Thank you for letting me know what a jerk you are before I got more invested.”
      Situationally dependent, of course.

  40. One satisfaction of getting that question is that he’s feeling your hurt slipping away and healing, so he has to come back and give it a goose. I mean, it still matters to *him* — and you now know it. He’s not as powerful as he felt to you when he was just a sudden, puzzling blank. He’s actually putting some effort into throwing you off balance now. Whatever you say, you can draw some power from that — if he’s doing this, the dynamic has started to flip. He can tell you are starting to be over it and he hates that. Delicious!

    1. A lot of good ideas here, but this one (similar to the Captain’s suggested “Undecided”) stands out to me because it 1) acknowledges that you were justifiably angry with him at his shitty behavior while simultaneously 2) depriving him of the satisfaction of manipulating your emotions. I like this answer in particular because it also conveys the fact that you’re Done With His Shit. Not happy about it, but over it. You could tweak this to further convey your boredom with the whole situation–e.g., “I was, but I haven’t thought about you in awhile now.”

      I’m also a long-time fan of the flat Haxian “Wow.”

  41. Wow. This is one situation where I think I might successfully respond with the judgemental “wow”, or possibly “… are you serious?” because what even is this? My sympathy for people who’ve encountered this tactic: I am strangely shocked this is a thing. O_o

  42. The thing is that “you’re not still mad at me, are you?” is very manipulative and setting you up to say you aren’t angry to prove you aren’t one of “those girls.” Like you are suddenly in a competition with these other much less cooler girls who are somehow irrational for actually have feelings, but not you, you aren’t lame like that are you? It is a much smaller scale of the abusive boyfriend who constantly reminds you aren’t like all the others and how much better you are than all of his exes. You know, as long as you “behave” and accept all his shitty behavior and any cruelty directed your way. So actually I think he is the one who “wins” by you pretending to be so cool that you don’t care or want to answer. I know it can feel vulnerable and awkward not to live up to someone else’s expectations–in this case the expectation is to smooth everything over, be a good girl and not be mad even though you were completely mistreated. So if it were me, I would not give him the satisfaction of smoothing it over for him, and I would answer in a bored but firm voice, “yeah, I kind of am” and shrug my shoulders and walk away. You aren’t giving into any kind of emotional response, but you aren’t letting him get away with it either. It can feel very, very empowering to respond this way.

    I had a similar situation with a power hungry boss once who unfairly called me out for something I had not done in front of our entire team. I should mention we were also very good friends outside of work. She came up to me in the break room afterwards and said “So, do you hate me?” I looked her in the eye and very calmly and evenly said, “you know, I kind of do.” She was completely shocked and flustered before recovering enough to launch into some cockamamie excuse about how I was tougher than everyone else and she knew I could take it so that is why she had chosen me as her scapegoat. Um, what? I didn’t answer or tell her it was ok and let be awkward before shrugging and walking away. I only wish I had said “wow.” Looking back, I’m pretty proud of myself since that was way before I had discovered CA.

    1. I like this story a lot! Boss tries to gloat, boss ends up having to tapdance as hard as she can lest she own up to throwing you under the bus. Beautiful.

    2. This. This so many times, all over the place, in all directions.

      One other thing that I’d add: he said “mad”, not “angry”. He’s using the word for angry that oh-so-coincidentally also means “crazy”. Dude is invoking ALL the ableist/misogynist tropes with that one, and whatever the gender of the OP is, they still work. He’s still saying “either you are Chill or you are (like) a Hysterical Woman”.

      And it worked.

      1. Thank you. I’ve been pondering how to say something like this since it was originally posted. It makes me so mad 🙂 when women’s legitimate anger is described as “mad,” as though it’s irrational and unpredictable and doesn’t need to be taken seriously, just wait til it blows over

    3. I think there’s a lot of room for matter-of-fact honesty. It can definitely be a huge rush to toss off a snappy comeback, fling your scarf over your shoulder, and waltz off into the night. But it can be just as empowering to simply acknowledge that the ending was crap.

      I once got a call from an ex who had dumped me spectacularly two weeks earlier. He tried to absolve himself of being the bad guy: “But I think you’re super cool. We’re still friends, right?” And I sincerely considered the idea for a few seconds before thoughtfully answering, “No, I don’t think so.” He got huffy and demanded an explanation — since I’d refused to let him off the hook — and I just said, “Well, honestly, I don’t like you very much at this point. You were kind of a jerk so I think we’re done here.” And he promptly had a mini meltdown, calling me names and raising his voice, and I was just like, “Okay, right-o, bye now.” :: click ::.

      Similarly, I got a call from an ex who wanted me to clear his name in our friend group post-breakup, and he took the tack of pretending I was being overly emotional and unreasonable. And I just wasn’t having it. Him: “I know it was devastating for you –” Me: “I wasn’t devastated. I was annoyed that I was all alone with the vomiting flu for 18 hours when you left in the middle of the night.” Him: “You’re obviously still very upset–” Me: “I’m not still anything. I’m irritated that you’re calling in the middle of the Pride and Prejudice marathon to talk about what shithead you were.”

      There’s no need to pretend you don’t know who he is or that what he did is a vague memory if you’re not feeling that removed. I think there’s plenty of room for a response like, “Eh, you were pretty disappointing. It was kind of a bummer.”

      1. My only pause with this is I don’t like the idea that women should have to minimize our feelings (which we often feel we should do) by saying things like “pretty disappointing” or “kind of” a bummer. I’d just say it flat out – I was disappointed. I thought better of you. I am disappointed in myself for having any faith in you.

  43. “Mad — no, that’s not the right word. I think contempt would be more in line w/ reality.” Nod coolly, turn, & walk away.

  44. LW, I once had the delight of watching my BFF deal with an asshat like yours in the following manner:

    Dumbass: Are you mad?
    BFF: ::looks befuddled:: For what?
    Dumbass: Well, you know, I didn’t call . . .
    BFF: Oh! God, no. Was glad for the early warning that you’re a nice guy but a shit boyfriend before we got really serious!

    The look of utter shock on said dumbass’ face is a memory I will prize for life.

  45. I’m confused by the letter and feel like everyone knows some implicit knowledge about this situation that I don’t. Here’s what I got:

    1. LW was in an intense relationship with guy for two months.
    2. Guy all of the sudden appears to lose interest.
    3. LW “runs into” (they broke up?) guy, who asks LW if zhe’s still mad at him.

    Why would he even ask that question? It makes me think guy and LW had a fight or something, but from what LW said he was the one who apparently terminated the relationship. The way you’re all responding implies that something else is going on here.

    I are confused.

      1. That just seems weird to me. If he broke things off with LW, why would he care whether or not LW is mad at him? (I will disclose that I’ve never been in a romantic relationship before, which may be why I don’t understand some of this stuff.) It makes it seem like he’s feeling guilty about cutting things off so sudden & silently, but if that’s the case, I’ll ask again: Why is he asking if LW is mad at him (which is an assumption on his part) instead of just apologizing if he feels so guilty about it?

        On the other hand, the conclusions I’m coming up with that explain his question all paint him as a jackass or worse, and based on many of the responses left here it seems a likely conclusion and, disappointingly, common behavior.

        1. The “he’s being kind of a a jackass looking for reassurance from this person” is the simplest explanation. He knows he did something wrong but he wants to think of himself as a good person, and instead of apologizing (or staying away), he’s (maybe) gonna bug her about it in a public space. You got it.

        2. The same thing can happen with “friends,” not just romantic partners.

          I’ve actually had this kind of question asked to me by so-called friends when I was in middle school. My “friends” took something I said out of context, twisted it, and then flat-out lied to our teachers in an attempt to get me expelled. Later, after the school “suspended” me (and my best friend, who had nothing to do it with) [they didn’t actually suspend me because my mom threatened to sue because they had no proof/these so-called “friends” had lied to get me in trouble 2 years earlier], my best friend and I were eating lunch away from everyone else when the leader of the pack sauntered over and asked, “is your mom ever gonna let you talk to us again?”

          I just stared at her with an incredulous look and replied, “it doesn’t matter because I don’t actually want to talk to you anymore,” and went back to my conversation with my BFF. All of that just came out, I didn’t plan it, but it totally took the wind out of her sails and she slunk back to her group and none of them ever bothered me (or my BFF) again.

        3. Yup- you have nailed it down. The exchange is based on two-level communication. There is what the dude says with the words coming out of his mouth. And there is what the dude says with his ability to refer to social expectations, his ability to be manipulative, and other unspoken subtext *stuff.* He is asking one question with words, but the response he wants is indicated in the subtext.

          Your analysis of the exchange shows that the guy was being disingenuous from the beginning.

    1. She’s anticipating running into him. Dunno if you’ve ever been ghosted (someone you thought cared about you suddenly disappearing from your life) by a guy you’re sleeping with, this is not uncommon. Sometimes they show up by accident, often because they dropped you while they pursued someone else, that didn’t pan out, and now they want you back. As others have commented, “you’re not still mad, are you” is a really manipulative way to try to brush past the bad behavior and get back into your pants. LW wants to be prepared if/when (when) this happens.

      In my experience, they *always* come back. And they always try to brush it off with charm and gaslighting. So it’s not a bad idea to be prepared with a script when they do.

    2. It’s a surprisingly common thing. Guy breaks up in some particularly terrible way, shows up later asking for a return to some degree of friendliness. As for why? Here are some possibilities:
      – looking for a casual hookup
      – looking for a backup plan girlfriend
      – looking for a quick filler girlfriend to step into the void of the one he just left/just left him, at least until he finds someone else
      – looking for validation that they were important to you (if you’re still upset then they must have been important)
      – looking fro validation that what they did wasn’t so bad, see you’re already over it
      – looking for validation that they had the power to really mess with you
      – looking for a boost of cheap, low-effort feel-good (didn’t have to apologize or change, but maybe get grateful forgiveness)
      – might be concerned about overlapping friends, wants to be able to say that things resolved amicably between you
      – doesn’t like to remember the things he did, wants to remember a lovely reconciliation/forgiveness instead

      So lots of reasons are possible. But VERY unlikely that the reason is ever “thought about it, feel bad, actually genuinely wast to apologize and become better person”

    3. I’m not exactly sure where your confusion is coming from, but I’ll attempt to explain.

      Something the good Captain has often reiterated is that one doesn’t need a ‘good enough’ reason to break up and that “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore” is more than enough. You also don’t have to explain any reasoning to the other party.

      However – I think – it’s decent to at least let the other person know that they’re been broken up with rather than doing a sudden freeze out where one stops replying to texts, stops picking up the phone etc.

      Additionally, you do not get to own or influence someone’s story after you’ve broken up with them. They get to be mad, they get to vent to their friends, they get to be hurt and to express that hurt in the way that they see fit. (With obvious caveats against abuse, property damage, violence etc)

      The subtext of the question “You’re not still mad, are you?” is “I want reassurances that I’m still a nice person despite freezing you out”

      Does that help?

    4. I’m reading it as the guy broke up with the LW *by* cutting contact. He pops back up and says “you’re not still mad at me, are you” with heavy undertones of “yeah, I did a shitty thing, but look how cute I am, like a small child who doesn’t understand that actions have consequences, let’s just pretend nothing ever happened!”

      1. That’s how I read it, too (no doubt influenced by Dudes Like This I Have Known). He also gets a degree of validation either way: if LW is still angry, then he was clearly important (this is a fallacy, but a commonly held one); if LW isn’t still angry, he gets reassurance that a) what he did wasn’t so bad and/or b) he’s so charming that no one can stay angry at him.

    5. Some people “break up” by suddenly dropping off the face of the earth. It happened to a friend of mine in college, who had seen the dude do it to the three other girls he dated before her, even. He was stationed overseas at the time, but it’s not a stretch to imagine him saying “oh, you’re not still mad, are you?” if they had bumped into each other in their hometown, with the heavy implication that “you’re not really going to make me face any consequences” and a side of “maybe I can still fuck you the next time I’m single.

  46. Whenever I am in a situation like this, the one thing I always do is laugh at the person. Honestly, it feels great to laugh at people who treated you like shit, and you don’t even really have to say anything. Though, you certainly CAN sarcastically say yeah, I’m all broken up inside, I can’t even leave the house. Then just turn and walk away.

  47. Maybe, “Nah. But now that I know what a terrible person you are/how you treat the people around you I’m not particularly interested in being friends/making polite confession/pretending I have any respect for you.”

    Dude sounds like an asshat. Good luck!

  48. Hmm, something ate my comment, but the system says it posted as it’s not letting me repost it because doublepost.

    1. The spam filter traps legit comment, and the (1) moderator sometimes takes a little while to liberate them. You should be all good now.

  49. Here’s a very short (very Southern) script, based on how I handle a group of shit-ball ex-friends:

    Ex-Friend: “You’re not still mad at me, are you?”
    Me: “Could you repeat that? I didn’t hear you.”
    Ex-Friend: *repeats self* or “You’re not still mad about X, are you?”
    Me: *big smile and super-saccharine voice* “Bless your heart.” *go back to whatever I was doing before the shit-ball interrupted*

      1. Wondering if someone with a Northern Irish accent could pull off “bless your heart” because I anticipate this very conversation this weekend.

        1. As long as you can convey the customary subtext of “Bless your heart (because you are dumb as a stump)” or “Bless your heart (by which I mean, eat shit and die),” you should be fine. The accent isn’t important, just the attitude. 🙂

    1. Alternative for “Bless your heart” for those of us who can’t quite pull off the Southern-charm thing (cough::me::cough) is “Oh for heaven’s sakes!” + immediate return to something-that-is-else.

      Basically, it’s a good phrase (as is “Bless your heart”) for acknowledging the ridiculousness of the question while also making it clear both that he’s not getting the absolution he’s looking for from you, and that you’re so far past all of it that he doesn’t even merit a “real” response.

  50. I vote appeal to decency.

    “Well, I’m sure you understand…”

    … you’re not my favorite person right now, I may need some time, I’m perfectly alright being civil, whatever rings true. He’s presenting you with a no-win situation, so I say lob it right back at him. If he disagrees that you have any right not to like him much right now, he admits he doesn’t in fact understand and is therefor the unreasonable one. If he does agree, well, hurray, you’ve told him the truth without compromising yourself or giving up all civility.

    “I’m sure you understand-” + truth, when delivered sincerely and courteously is a powerful phrase, to the point of being manipulative if abused. (“Of course you understand! You’re a decent person and therefor agree with me, don’t you? Well? Do you?”)

    Usually I’m 100% in the get-out-of-my-face-with-your-mind-games camp, but if people are going to be like that, I’m totally okay returning that particular package to sender.

    1. I like this a lot. “Well, I’m sure you understand.” as a sentence works all by itself, even.

  51. “Well, you did act like a shithead.” (Only works if you can say it calmly.)

    1. I really like this one. What’s made me feel like I’ve lost power in the past wasn’t admitting I was hurt or angry but acting like I was hurt or angry. Being able to say something that acknowledges the consequences of their actions and puts it squarely on their behaviour but in a calm way was very empowering.

  52. LW, someone I used to date came up to me once and interrupted a conversation I was having with someone else to say, “I behaved badly to you.” I responded, quite mildly, “Yes. You did,” then went back to talking to the person I had been talking to.

    An acknowledgment of having treated a person shabbily is not an apology and IMO need not be treated as such. Not that Mr. Erstwhile is being even *that* decent.

  53. Personally, I would go with a cheery “Wow, that’s an awkward thing to say.” And just leave it hanging. Walk away if you can. If he presses, just say something to the effect of, “Well, you come off a bit desperate. Goodbye!”

    1. I was going to suggest a reply but nothing I’ve got is better than this. “Wow, awkward.” I love it.

    2. OMG so brilliant: “Well, you come off a bit desperate. Goodbye!”
      Since “desperate” is one of those patented woman-condemning dismissives, like “crazy.”

  54. Some kind of lol bye would be good too. Chuckle and say you have to go. Basic social pleasantry to get out of there like you would use with someone you know enough to say hi to but would rather not stop to chat with. It sends the message that you’re not overly affected but you’re not interested in giving him any attention either, you’ve got better things to do.

  55. You probably don’t need more suggestions, but I’ve been there too, so here’s my 2 cents:

    I was ghosted by a guy who was really terrible to me. Emotionally, sexually, and once or twice physically (ie not in the context of sex) abusive. On the one hand, I was super glad to be out of it. On the other, victim brain is a weird thing, and even though you want to leave, there’s a perverse voice in your head saying you can’t. So I was pissed. Once it was clear what was going on, I got my stuff back and moved on. Later, probably after the girl he dropped me for realized what a douche he was, he messaged me with something similar. My response was icy. Basically, “so what is it you’re looking for, sex or money? Pretty sure that’s the only reason you’re contacting me.” Because I was his source for both in the relationship, and it was clear to me that I was a placeholder until he could procure these things elsewhere. So yeah, identify his use for you, and throw it in his face. No smile, no frown, just neutral. Btw he never bothered to apologize. He blamed his behaviour on a fancy disease name which I Googled and it’s WALKING PNEUMONIA. FOR THREE YEARS.

    Another option: “it’s not really any of your business.” And then disengage. Because at this point it really isn’t. You may have forgiven him. Or not. Doesn’t matter. He doesn’t deserve your feelings either way.

    PS I’m doing much better now, that was 10 years ago and I gave a great marriage with someone who treats me really well!

  56. ‘Of course I am’, in a tone that suggests puzzlement as to why he’d ask that and slight derision that he couldn’t figure it out himself. Followed by shrug and change of subject ‘well anyway, I’ve got to go’.

    1. THIS has become my go-to when someone is obviously stirring shit or being an ass. Redirecting it to their negative crap really turns the tables. And I learned to use those words right here folks- thank you all!

    2. I like “why would you ask that?” It puts the question back on him and it reveals nothing about you (which deflects accusations of bitterness/still caring, which may be important to the LW). You can ask it in a patently uninterested way, if you like. 😉

    3. I was going to suggest something similar. I’ve become a fan of “What is it you’re hoping to accomplish by asking that?”

  57. LW I think all of this advice boils down to one thing – be dismissive and calm, whatever information you choose to impart. Say less than you think you need to say. Let stuff be extremely socially awkward – let silences hang, don’t engage in pleasantries or discussion or debate. This can feel really weird if you’re not used to it. Be prepared to cut the guy off while he’s talking or literally walk away from him while he’s talking (depending on what kind of shit ball you’re dealing with you may have to). Basically some kind of cool disdain + disengaging. Disengaging even if he starts some kind of “that’s so like you” or “You always were too emotional” or “what’s your problem” or any other BS attempt to suck you in. The idea is to express that you don’t like him and are 100% done with him, but in a way that can’t be misrepresented as “hysterical” (I hate that word with the burning heat of a thousand suns, that is the word for “women can’t have valid emotions”) and isn’t an invitation to debate.

    I mean these ghosting shit balls don’t actually get to be your friend. Not without some serious explaining and genuine apology that indicates they actually understand what they did wrong anyway. It’s OK to be chilly as all hell in response to such people.

  58. One of my oft practiced in the shower lines is “do you honestly think you’re that important to me?”

    Am I still mad at you? Do you really think you and your antics still have a place in my life? Oh, honey. You are honestly not that important to me.

    And then you sweep off and go back to living your awesome life that’s been made even awesomer by their absence.

  59. From his question you get two options:

    1) If you’re angry, there’s a thing between us and we’ll argue about how you’re wrong to be angry right now, you uncool person.
    2) If you’re not angry that means we go right back to being nice with each other and you’ll swallow any residual anger you have about being treated like that.

    Both options are shitty so I like the idea of just completely ignoring the question. Regardless of what he actually says he’s basically offering to reconnect with you. So ignore what he says and respond to the offer.

    Him: *I’m here, let’s pick this up like nothing happened. Let’s establish friendly relations. You get to make me feel good, isn’t that great?*
    You: *Decides she doesn’t want friendly relations or the whole circus that is him*
    You: Meh/No, thank you/Sorry, gotta go/yeah, no. Bye. *walks away*

    Thinking about it like he’s making an offer makes me feel like I’m not actually playing his game and allows me to get away without picking either of his options.

  60. I’m not sure if it would work, but one way to acknowledge that he was a jerk without implying you still obsess over it might be something like “I have no idea. I’d have to dredge up our past and think about it, but I have no interest in spending that kind of emotional energy on you so I’m not going to. Bye.” *breezy exit*

  61. I think my ideal script would go something like this:
    Ex: “You’re not still mad at me are you?”
    Me: “I would ask why you care, but I’m not interested in your answer” *goes back to doing whatever I was doing*

    I understand not wanting to give away power by letting the guy manipulate me into responding emotionally and confirming or denying negative feelings towards him. I feel that this way I could deny him that power while also making a clear statement about his (lack of) value to me.

  62. I’d like to take issue with the statement “Either way, he feels good / righteous”. Whatever you decide to say, remember that he does not get to feel absolved. He gets to feel like he got out of an awkward situation that was causing him some anxiety. Deep down, he doesn’t feel good. Think of any close call, even one that has no moral issue involved. Maybe a time you skid on some ice and were out of control of your car for a full minute. Let’s say you didn’t end up crashing and injuring and that you managed to get home safely. When you remember that time, do you remember it with calm pleasure, or does the heart pounding terror come back to you? Now add a moral element. It’s harder to think of an example, but imagine getting away with cheating on an exam or a theft or a violent act. Do we really think that the people who do such things look back happily and wish they were back in the moment as the police were coming after them with dogs and searchlights? Whatever you say, this guy is living in a small town and earning the condemnation of everyone he knows.

    1. I don’t know, I actually think he may very well feel righteous or absolved or whatever, and if he does it will likely have very little connection whatsoever to anything the LW says or does.

    2. Uh, actually, yes, I have known people who get away with cheating on an exam or theft or a violent act and don’t have a sliver of anxiety about it later, because they’re assholes.

  63. “No, I’ve made peace with the fact that you’re an asshole already.”
    Which has the benefit of describing your situation exactly, if I read your letter right.

  64. “I thought about what you did and I just figured that your bad behavior and the way it negatively reflected on your character had nothing to do with me”

    1. I love this sentiment, but if it were me I’d want something much briefer–that’s why I like the short one-liners that also indicate lack of interest. I’d worry that a longer sentence would be easier for him to interrupt.

        1. Oh, I love this. Pithy, wonderfully emotionally disengaged, truthful, dismissive. All in a short phrase!

  65. I had someone do that to me, after a weird, unceremonious dumping-by-text. I actually aid, “Yeah, kinda.” In just this tone of “This is a very obvious thing; why would you ask me such a stupid question?” Dude was SO ready for that absolution that it blew him over.

  66. I once managed just a sound effect: a combo of ‘pfft’ and ‘pshhhh’ with a ‘bye, felicia’ wave (palm down, fingers flicking upward in unison, as if you’re brushing away a bit of lint). Pivoted, laughed at somebody else’s joke. Left the shitball standing in the smoldering crater of burn.

  67. I think writing these scripts is a great thing and part of the healing process, but I do want to second (or 9th) the notion that there isn’t really one right script or even genre of script. I totally understand the appeal of performing elegant unflappability or disdain but… depending on proximity to the break and the sad/anger/hurt feelings or even just who you are, that might not be doable and if it isn’t that’s totally okay. I wouldn’t want you to feel bad about “messing up” an encounter, especially as you say it’s likely to happen.

    Here’s a different perspective on a reply that reveals this guy hurt you, which you feel would give *him* power: This guy did affect you but, to me, it suggests you’re a caring, awesome person, capable of giving and receiving love. In other words, that all speaks to *your* strengths, strengths that with similarly awesome people probably already do and will in the future support rich, loving relationships (the Captain’s linked to reader Q 16 says this all so well).

    So, if upon running into this guy, you don’t feel you nail the perfect dismount, I hope you can be compassionate with yourself and recognize that feeling and even revealing that you were and are hurt speaks to normal, healthy feelings when the strength to be vulnerable/open yourself up to someone is responded to with uncaring asshattery.

    I do think one thing ALL this advice shares is this: aim for brevity. This guy doesn’t deserve any more of your time.

    1. i actually really agree with this. my first instinct is the total ice queen/king, but you feel the way you feel, and fact is, these confrontations never really go the way we imagine them while we wash our hair. showing that he hurt you doesn’t give him power over you. he can talk trash all he wants, you know now what he’s like, and you get to decide who matters in your life.

      (he might still hurt you. that’s normal. even if you pull off a fantastic one liner and walk off with him gaping behind you. it might hurt. it’ll heal.)

    2. Agreed. The most important thing is not to get drawn into a long debate with the dude, because that’ll never go well.

  68. I think it’s probably worth remembering that there’s no response you can give that will guarantee that he feels how you want him to feel. You really can’t control that, and whatever you say, there’s a decent chance he’ll interpret it however the heck he wants to interpret it to make himself feel as good as possible about everything.

    1. I’m afraid this is true. So probably best choose the response that is truest to yourself, whether witty, burn-y, angry or dismissive – this thread has plenty of choice on offer.

      Ultimately, he has to live with being a dirtbag and your best revenge is to live well.

  69. Personally, witty one-liners make me feel like I’m putting too much effort into the situation. I’d just say “Yes” in whatever tone of voice came out, then turn away and get on with life. If they tried to continue talking to me the response would be “I’m not interested in having this conversation,” then sticking with that script ’til they go away. These people aren’t worth our time or effort.

  70. I kind of want to just start carrying business-card-sized print outs of the “Field of Fvcks” graphic that has made a few appearances on this site, so I can just hand it to people like this dude who are not worthy of any kind of actual response to their self-serving b/s questions.

  71. There’s always the Rick Blaine: “Well, if I gave you any thought, I probably would be.”

  72. Like many artists, I often put my emotional experiences into my art (in this case, songwriting.) I often half-jokingly and half-seriously remark about past negative experiences with “well, at least I got a good song out of it.”

    I imagine something like this working as a response. “Well, at least I got a good song/painting/sculpture out of the experience.” Or even with things you experienced that this guy introduced you to: “Well, at least I got to see some good movies/read some good books/try that new restaurant.” (Note I’m beginning each one with “well”– and not “no” as in “no I’m not mad.” I’m not giving a yes OR a no.)

    It has the dismissive feel while simultaneously sounding like you’re focusing on the positive parts of the relationship. You *are* focusing on the positive– you’re just making it clear that the positive was not HIM.

  73. I have a terrible time recognizing faces —- although I always know I know the person, just not who they are or from where. Everyone knows this about me, so it’s occasionally proved useful in putting off jerks. Anyway, if you think potentially not knowing dude’s name could be a legit thing, this is the script I suggest:

    Dude: “You’re not still mad at me, are you?”

    You (mildly-confused-but-obviously-recognizing-him): “I’m so sorry, what was your name again?”

    Dude: “It’s ‘dude’.”

    You (slowly dawning recognition): “Oh yes . . . you WERE a bit of a shit, weren’t you?”

    This can be followed by walking away/turning away, nodding at him and walking away/turning away, or possibly smiling and saying something pleasant like ‘nice seeing you again, dude/take care/see you around’ before walking away/turning away. I like the last one because you can repeat it if he keeps talking, making it clear each time that The Interview Is Over until he leaves you alone.

  74. I recommend going eyes-wide, fake-sad, “Goodness no! I’ve moved onto pity.”

    And then walking away.

    (One of the most satisfying interactions with my life has been when a former-best-friend, who friend-dumped me when I came out to her, walked up to me at senior prom and went, “Hi, Anyanka!” like we were still friendly. I smiled and said “Fuck off and die.” It was fantastic.)

  75. LW, if you ARE mad, and if like me you don’t think you could pull off laughing etc. without sounding like I’M NOT MAD HA HA LOOK HOW NOT MAD I AM, a fine alternative is: “Sure, whatever.”

    You’re mad. You don’t have to pretend like you’re not. But you’re not making it more than it is. And you DEFINITELY aren’t inviting that dude to discuss it.

  76. How about, “Don’t flatter yourself”, or “Nah, sorry to disappoint you” – in a casual tone.

  77. Hmmm… very caustic, but the first thing that popped into my mind is:

    “Why, no, I don’t hold grudges, ’cause I’ve got better things to spend my mental energy on. You’ve just conclusively proven you cannot be trusted with my feelings, so you’re not welcome back into my life in any shape or form. Now piss off!”

    1. Yep. I am, er, “gifted” with a mouth that will spit out what I’m actually thinking if I don’t pay attention. Which is why when an ex-roommate of the drama manufacturing kind did the “GOD, why do you HATE me??” routine, my response was “I don’t hate you. I never have. Frankly, you’re not worth that much of my energy.” Definitely not nice… but effective.

  78. I’d like to ask for clarification because I’m actually kind of confused and a little worried as to why what the dude did in the first place (ghosting) is so bad that a response putting him down is warranted? I thought the slow fade was a reasonably acceptable way of ending short dating relationships (1-2 months)–is it because ghosting is so sudden and without warning and therefore caused the LW a lot of distress and worry?

    (I’m a little worried because I do the slow fade on “we’re not official but sometimes we hang and make out” relationships of < 2 months if I feel my interest naturally fizzling, but if it's no bueno I'll cut it out.)

    1. I think it’s the combination of “suddenly and without warning” and him coming back and being all sad-puppy-please-forgive-me rather than either leaving both of them to get on with their lives or actually apologizing if he wants to pick up some sort of relationship again.

    2. The LW wants to be ready if they sees him again and if he asks “You’re not still mad, are you?” (which is either a condescending question, or one that would put the LW in the position of making him feel better about an action that’s solely his responsibility, without him taking responsibility, and making the LW look like the “angry” one, or making the awkwardness he feels the LWs problem, or whatever, which is un-cool.) Also, ordinarily someone wouldn’t be 200% into you and then totally disappear overnight.

    3. I think the issue here is not so much the ghosting by itself as the ghosting-and-then-reengaging-with-questions-full-of-emotional-pressure. It’s not the same thing if you give them space and are OK with them feeling however they feel and don’t keep bugging them afterwards,

    4. It’s not the fade, it’s the possibility of “I know I faded out on you abruptly, but, you’re not UPSET, are you?”

      Like, you get to break up with people, but you don’t get to break up and also try to get them to reassure you about yourself.

      1. Yes, this. The last guy who ghosted me at least had the grace to look uncomfortable and guilty when we ran into each other at an event in our town about a year later. I sort of vaguely acknowledged his presence but didn’t try to engage him in conversation. He didn’t approach, but he visibly relaxed when he could see that I wasn’t going to make a scene.

    5. I think the general feeling is that he should have used his words like an adult? No explanation necessary, but a simple yes or no in response to “do you still want to keep dating me?” (or whatever similar question LW may have asked earlier in the ghosting) would be the mature thing to do. I don’t know about slow fade but it doesn’t sound like what happened here (abruptly cutting off all contact like a switch was flipped).

    6. I’m of the opinion that a slow fade is a super shitty thing to do to someone if you’ve had more than one date, and an outrageous thing to do to someone you’d consider you were actually dating. I mean, if it’s a mutual “we just never made plans again” I guess that’s one thing, but one party trying to make plans and the other person slow-fading until Person 1 gives up… that’s just really shitty. How hard is it to say (or text) “Sorry, but no.”?

      But yeah, it’s the asking for validation afterwards that escalates this to a whole new plane of crappy.

      1. Yeah, I agree. Also (and in response to Angie’s question), in general, I think if you’ve been putting your parts on their parts a text or chat letting them know you’re not really feeling it any more is a good way to adult. Not to guilt trip you- maybe your partners also wanted to keep it casual– but the people you’re ‘not official but hang and make out sometimes’ with might be thinking that you are dating and are together. I’ve rarely tried to have the define the relationship conversation in the first month or so, but if I’m making plans to hang out and am making out with you, we’re dating. Casual relationships are relationships, too.

        1. Right. There have been numerous discussions in this space about how you don’t owe your about-to-be-ex an explanation for why you want to break up, but there does need to be a conversation where you say THAT you’re breaking up.

          If any of my exes had stopped contacting me after the point where we were officially in a relationship (which sometimes happened before the two-month mark), I would have worried that they were dead or in the hospital.

    7. Ah, sorry for this late response, but thank you all for the etiquette input! I’m not always clued in to this stuff so it’s helpful to hear all this!

  79. I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve decided that for me a one word truthful answer would be best.

    So if I were still angry “Yes”
    If I weren’t “No”
    And if, as is likely the case, it varied, I’d go with the Captain’s answer “Undecided”

    In each case there’s not much for the ex to latch on to. And after any of these I could and would turn away and leave.

  80. One thing you could try is to phrase your answer in a way that talks about your hurt feelings in the past tense. “Well, I guess I was pretty disappointed with the way you behaved. I thought you were a cool, respectful guy, and it was sad to realize that you weren’t.” You were disappointed, it was sad, and the implication is that you’re over it now.

    If he’s trying to be friends again, and if this applies, you can add “I’m not angry anymore, but I still don’t have any interest in spending time with someone who could treat me like that.”

  81. What I’d probably say, if I were at all articulate in social situations, is “Well, NOW I am.” Because it sounds like the ghosting itself was kind of meh for you, it’s the popping up afterward to ask manipulative questions that’s the big problem. It also doesn’t imply that you’ve been thinking about him at all in the meantime.

    …of course, I’m not great at actually shutting down conversations. That might just result in a “just aaaaasking!”

  82. Yeah. Was ghosted by a relative for over a year, no indication of why. Tried three times, as it is relatively important that this connection not be broken, for reasons. Latest response was “no more to say” except for small detail that nothing HAS been said, just a no-reason-given ghosting. Immediately followed response with request for newsy life details. Um…..no. No, I think probably that won’t be happening while all reciprocal information is blocked and given that the last several attempts to hand over the olive branch (despite not knowing what went sideways) were ignored. If you burn the bridge, don’t be overly shocked if requests to wade across to visit are met with refusal and a somewhat surprised look. Start building from that side, baby, if you’re serious.

  83. I’d say “Mad? No. If this is your behavior in relationships, I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet.”

  84. This wasn’t my most mature moment, but a guy I dated ONE TIME at the beginning of university contacted me on Facebook a whole year later to say “Hey _____, I’m sure you remember that I never contacted you after last semester. I really hoped you didn’t feel too badly about it, but I think you might have. I felt like we had different intentions.”

    THOSE EXACT WORDS. And then some crap about me being too nice a person to do that to, ect ect.

    People, this is the boy who made plans to go for poutine with me (a perfectly lovely student date!) but then changed his mind on the way there and INSISTED on going to the most expensive restaurant in town (despite my uncertainty/reassurances that I like poutine!), where we took one look at the menu and split a $15 ARUGALA SALAD.

    Have you ever eaten arugala? It is tangy and delicious but is is not substantial. Just the leaves and some dried cranberries and a vinegrette. I think the waiter took pity and grated extra parm on top for us.

    He then proceeded to use the washroom three times during dinner, constantly check his cellphone, AND left me on a park bench on the way home in the middle of a dark public park so that he could pee once again. He also handed me his sweater to wear on the way back, but it was a fuzzy pullover, not a cardigan, so I just kind of…held it for a second? And then handed it back?

    And then the moment he walked me back to my res building, I snuck out the back way, walked myself to the late night student pub and bought nachos.

    Safe to say, not the highlight of my dating history (and yet…not the lowest point either).

    Anyway, when he messaged me back a year later, I told him that I was so sorry he had felt so badly all this time, and that it was really unecessary, because I met my girlfriend shortly after.

    (I’m bisexual, but I didn’t feel like explaining. Can you blame me?)

  85. This would only work if I were prepared for the encounter—there’s little chance I’d come up with it on the spur of the moment.

    Him: “Ha ha, you’re not still mad, are you?”

    Me: “I don’t understand the question.”

    Him: [acts confused]

    Me: “If you don’t think there’s any reason I should be angry, why would you think to ask if I am? And if you do believe there’s a reason I should be angry, why phrase the question like that?”

  86. I’m also a big fan of turning on your heel and walking briskly away.

    No need to engage, no need to remember a script, no worry about what he’s going to say back, because YOU’RE ALREADY GONE.

    And because his whole script was to sit there acting cute and sheepish while you allowed him to mansplain at whatever silly lady thing you said in response, he generally won’t know what to do next.

  87. I wasn’t aware that sudden disappearance was such a vile crime against good manners. Admittedly, I do it rather often. Not with romantic relationships, usually, more with sort-of friendships. Because there are long periods of time when I just don’t feel up to talking to someone.

    This discussion explains a lot about my inability to form friendships.

    (Not that I’m the sort of person who would ask the victims of my bad manners if they’re still angry. If I meet them again I start the conversation with apologizing for not replying to their last mail, or such.)

    1. I think that’s the thing– if you can’t people at the moment, most people will understand that *if you tell them*. Otherwise, you’re sending a clear message that you don’t want to spend time with them, and they will listen to that. There’s no hibernation mode on relationships. If you’re withdrawing from the friendship (which is what a sudden disappearance is), you need to give them some reason to know that it’s not because it doesn’t matter, but because you’re withdrawing from everything. Saying that you’re exhausted or over-peopled or stupid busy (even if it’s a lie) or feeling unwell is fine– it’s a nice “forces outside of my control! If I had the time/energy/money, I would be spending it with you!”

      For a friendship to be a friendship (rather than just being friendly with someone/being acquaintances), there’s a certain amount of… oh, willing to make an effort? You expect and offer friends an amount of worthwhile inconvenience.Yes, I’ll come and see you at yours, even though it’s a three hour round trip. No, I can’t do anything for the next month… but can we meet up for tea or something third week of July, because I haven’t seen you in ages! Just suddenly not being there makes any friendships they thought they had with you, not feel true any more– it makes the friendship retroactively false, because the things they thought about it (that it mattered to you) are suddenly not true and maybe never were.

    2. I think generally it’s better to respond to the email and just say you’re really busy/etc these days and sorry if they don’t hear from you for a while.

      But that said, a casual ‘sort-of friendship’ is very different from an intense romantic relationship as was described in the original letter. Not just because it’s a romantic relationship, but because it’s a close and intense one. Because of the abrupt contrast between seeing someone very frequently and then not at all, and because of the contradiction between appearing to really want to be around them (and building trust, and letting them start to believe in your feelings and count on seeing you soon) and then not at all.

      Of course that doesn’t mean ‘don’t break up with people you no longer want to be with’ because that’s obviously ridiculous. But accept that unfortunately it hurts, and don’t try to make people feel guilty or ashamed for feeling hurt.

    3. Er, so what you’re talking about is an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT THING.

      Disappearing from a romantic relationship != letting contact lapse in a casual friendship.
      “You’re not maaaaaad are you?” != re-establishing contact.

    4. This is a late response, but sometimes people still check back…

      Your situation and the LW’s are very different. In the LW’s case, someone went from constant intense romantic contact to zero contact overnight. That kind of behavior can really disorient the person who gets cut off. It leaves them wondering things like, “What did I do? I don’t think I did anything, but I must have, for them to be so angry at me that they won’t speak to me? Did they get hit by a car? Are they lying dead in their apartment right now? Are they sick? Maybe they had to fly home on short notice for a funeral?” Those feelings and fears can drag on and on, until slowly the realization that no, there wasn’t any incident or disaster, the person has just been dumped by somebody too selfish to bother telling them. It’s cruel behavior (except in cases where the person who’s breaking up doesn’t feel safe telling the break-ee. Even then they can usually write a letter, send a text, or notify a friend.)

      What you describe is different. If you have a casual friend that you’re in casual contact with, and you don’t respond to their emails, they aren’t likely to wonder if you literally dropped dead. Instead they’re likely to think that you just aren’t very interested in them and don’t care very much about their friendship. However, people will understand _if you tell them_. Before I had friends tell me about depression and help me understand how it worked, I had a couple of people who I thought just didn’t want to be friends with me any more. I figured they thought I was boring or didn’t ever really like me that much anyway. Once they explained their situation, I understood, and felt bad about some of my own behavior!

      But even knowing about depression in general doesn’t help me magically know whether a new person I’m just getting to know has depression, or whether they just aren’t interested. If I reach out and get no response, I naturally turn my attention elsewhere.

      I know that many people find it hard to speak openly about these issues. But the more you can help people understand, the easier it can be to become close to them.

      Best wishes!

  88. I’d reframe the issue in my answer, shifting the emphasis from the supposedly emotional “crazy/mad” to a more rational perspective. Something along the lines of: “Mad is not how I would phrase it.” (Pause for effect) “But yes, I’ve made a judgement about you. And it is not a good one”. That way, you are making clear that you are not irrationally acting out by not wanting to engage with him, but that your decision is a result of your values having been violated. Not sure I am phrasing this too clearly – sorry, English is not my native tongue.

  89. I can see myself starting with an enormous sigh that indicates, “Oh, I have to gather all my mental and emotional energy to explain to this dunce exactly how thoroughly he is misunderstanding me. What a lot of work, and he won’t get it anyhow.” Then, I’d relax, say, “whatever,” wave my hand in an “I give up” manner, and turn back to what I was doing.

    (This is just a different flourish on the basic advice you’ve been given.)

  90. LW, you asked: ” It’s hard for me to even articulate to myself why this question feels SO manipulative and self-serving.”

    But I think that you’ve answered you’re question with this: “If I say, “why, yes, you’re a big shit-ball,” it feels like I’m giving up power somehow, and it’s easy to dismiss me as bitter, as someone who’s still hung up on him. If I say no, then he walks away feeling absolved. EITHER WAY, HE FEELS GOOD/RIGHTEOUS.” (I emphasized the point in caps).

    I am sorry you have to deal with him. the problem with this type of person is that it is all about him! He may feel insecure about himself (and I have a strong feeling that he is), and he may be testing how much you love/value him with this tactic just to see how much love and attention he can get out of you. But the point is his insecurities aren’t your problem and you don’t have to cater to them.

    The fact that he was the one who ceased contact with you for no reason at all, which you have every right to feel angry and upset about, and then painting you to be the villain in this scenario with that ass-hat question IS manipulative. The awesome news is that, as per the advice and experiences of majority of the comments here is that you don’t have to say either yes or no. You don’t have to ‘fit into his box/mold/expectations’ of what a forgiving girlfriend should be. And I really applaud you for valuing yourself and asking for help. He doesn’t deserve to be absolved and forgiven for his shitty behaviour, and you don’t need to.

    On that note, here are some more suggestions:

    -Him: “You’re still not mad at me are you?”
    -You: “okay…….” (then walk away)

    -You: *shrug* “The past is past, and you’re a part of it.”

    -You: “I’m mad? I was under the impression that you’re the one who’s mad. You’re projecting this on me because…?”

    -Him: “You’re still not mad at me are you?”
    -You: “Why would you think that I’m mad?”
    -Him: “…X…”
    -You: “So that was your intention all along. Nice” (You can say “nice” with a nod and a knowing smile, acting as if you knew his game all along, which you do. Then walk away, saying, “Good luck with any future relationships!”

    -When he asks, you can remain silent, scoff and have that ‘I knew it’ smile, while shaking your head briefly. Continue smiling and doing your business as he presses you for an answer for a few minutes. Then look him in the eye and say in a neutral tone, “I am answering you,” before walking away. (Yes, this is passive-aggressive and may make you look bitter to him. But at this point, who cares what he thinks. I feel that this gives him a taste of his own medicine.)

  91. How about, “Actually, I feel kind of relieved that I figured things out when I did so I didn’t have to waste time later on.” *Smile*

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