#1077: ‘Ware the Hovering Hobbyists

Hey Captain!

I’m a single straight cis woman.  Some time ago I joined a new hobby group, and it’s been great!  There are lots of men in the hobby group and a number of them have asked me out on dates.  This isn’t the problem – I appreciate people who take the chance to ask me out outright and I am good at turning them down politely but firmly when I’m not interested. 

My problem is with the people who clearly appear to be romantically interested in me, but instead of asking me on a date they just kind of weirdly hover around me.  For example, they might suddenly take an interest in all of my Facebook posts, even when they have nothing to do with our shared hobby.  Or they might just keep starting chats with me online.  They might also try to engineer hangouts that are very clearly stealth dates, or they might focus all of their attention on me even when there’s a whole group of us and we are all doing the hobby together.  I find this very off-putting but I don’t know how to address it.  Since nothing is explicitly being said I feel somewhat paralyzed in these situations and tend to just act friendly but also kind of evasive in hopes that they will get the hint, but this doesn’t always work.  Is there a more effective way I can deal with this?

Thank you,


Dear Evasive,

The wonderful Commander Logic answered a similar question with advice that still stands:

1 – Only acknowledge and act on what is actually said out loud.
2 – Let go. You are not responsible for other people’s emotions.


To implement this, what I want you to do is to use your own comfort/discomfort as your guide for when it’s okay to get less friendly and more evasive. When you are uncomfortable with someone hovering over you, respect that discomfort, and pull away from the interaction. Do not get too caught up in analyzing the other person’s intentions or feeling like you have to be fair or give them the benefit of the doubt.

For example:

If you don’t want to chat with someone online, ignore their chats. Just fucking ignore them all the livelong day. Block them on the chat interface if you want to. Did they intend to seduce/annoy you? Who knows? Do you want to chat with this dude y/n? If n, then, don’t chat. Will it hurt their feelings/bug them? Probably. Is that your problem? It is not!

If someone is hovering weirdly over all your Facebook posts (WE SEE YOU WHEN YOU DO THIS)  but you want to ostensibly stay “friends” because of hobby-related things, deploy your privacy settings so that they can’t see anything else you post. Will they notice? You bet. Are their feelings about that your problem? Nope.

If someone is hovering over you weirdly at a group activity, ask them why or ask them to stop. “Hey, is there a reason you’re so focused on me & my work?” “Hey, you’re kind of hovering, I don’t like it.” “A little space, please.” “I’ve got this, please go work on your own stuff.” Will it be awkward? Yes. It is already awkward for you, so, return some of that awkwardness to sender.

If someone tries to arrange a stealth date (which I’m interpreting as “They set up a hangout in a way that led you to believe a group would be getting together but you show up it’s just the two of you”) a) THAT IS CREEPY and it is okay to be alarmed and b) It’s okay to say “Whoa, where is everyone else?” or “I thought this was going to be a group thing” and then leave. It’s okay to say why, too. “I was looking forward to a group hang but now that it feels like a date I’m not here for it.” Like, don’t reward the behavior by awkwardly suffering through a one-on-one evening. Make it so awkward that this dude never attempts the stealth date again!

If you push back, prepare yourself for denial and anger and attempts to gaslight you that what they were clearly doing is not what they were actually doing. That’s the edge of fear behind this question and questions like this: If a woman stops being nice & accommodating to men for a minute, what will they do? It sucks that we have to make this calculus at all. It helps…a little bit…to anticipate their reactions and think of ways to respond ahead of time, so you’re not caught off-guard. By, “it helps” I mean, “It helps you possibly defuse the situation while also making it clear that you are not down for whatever they are doing.”

For example:

Them: “What, did you think I was hitting on you?” (Yup!)

You: “Well, it came across that way. I’m so relieved to know that wasn’t the case! Let’s get back to [hobby hobby hobby hobby talk only].”

Them: “I wasn’t hovering, I was just trying to help.” 

You:Okay, good to know! I’ve got it, though, so, please go work on your own thing!” 

Them: “Why don’t you reply to any of my messages?”

You: “I don’t use Facebook that way. I’ll see you at [group hobby thing] though!” 


Them:What, did you think this was supposed to be a date?” 

You: “Well, I’d assume that if you wanted a date you’d just ask me straight out. Still, since nobody else would come, I’d rather just go home and do this on a night when we can hang with the whole group!” 

Them: “But I wasn’t hitting on you, I just want to be friends!” 

You: “Well, that’s good to know! Sometimes it’s hard to tell what someone’s motives are. I’ll see you at [Group Thing], okay?” Friendship, or “friendship,” isn’t an automatic thing. It takes time and for people to actually have stuff in common and for them to mutually want to hang out.

If any of these dudes escalate or seem like they are going to take it out on you, talk to the group’s organizers. “X has been kind of hovering over me here at hobby group. I’ve told him I’m not interested in solo hangouts and asked him to give me space, but he won’t back off. Can someone in the group talk with him?” Note: If you run groups like this, it’s part of your job to make sure that everyone can enjoy themselves free of harassment. Also, just because Velcro Victor doesn’t try to cling on you, it doesn’t mean he’s not doing it to the new, single, female members of the group.

In closing, these guys are gonna do what they’re gonna do. You can’t magically head it off before it starts (would that we had a magic spell for that) but you can decide how much you engage with it. You’ve been socialized to take care of their feelings and keep engaging with them in a friendly way  – even when you don’t really want to – in the hopes that they will calm it down or that you were imagining it all along. What if you removed that responsibility from yourself?




292 thoughts on “#1077: ‘Ware the Hovering Hobbyists

  1. Oh man, this is a really timely post for me. I do help run one of these hobby groups, and since we’ve had feedback about perceived “in-group” members making other people uncomfortable, we’re looking for ways to encourage people to speak up when they feel uncomfortable, since we’re far too few to directly monitor all interactions. I’m gonna be sitting in the comments of this one!

    1. I think your best bet is to say it up front when people first join and to top it up with periodic announcements: “We want this to be a safe space for everyone to enjoy our shared hobby. If someone in the group is making that difficult for you please talk to me or [other oranizer(s)], and we will help you out.”

      1. Oh, we do, but we still hear “oh no one will do anything, X person is in the in-group.”

        Unfortunately, since we’re part of a larger event, we have to be able to justify any bans we hand out.

        1. Yrsa, but when you DO ban someone for poor behavior, even if they’re the “in-group”, others will see that and know that the rules apply to everyone. Realistically, if you don’t enforce the rules equally, the group will eventually fade away. Why would I join a group where I would always be 2nd class?

        2. Do you have a formal process in place for handling these complaints and dealing with people who make others uncomfortable? If you don’t, I realize that it’s probably the last thing you and the other organizers want to add to your workload, but that’s probably your next step (and then publicizing the new procedures and encouraging people to use them). Formal structures and processes really help people who want to participate, but aren’t “in” enough to be able to access the informal ones, which are usually some sort of social pressure from the rest of the in-group to make offenders to behave better or leave. Plus, they’ll give you a paper trail to use when justifying a ban to your parent organization. If you have time and haven’t already read it, The Tyranny of Structureless talk about these kinds of issues in relation to the second-wave feminist movement of the 1970s. I think a lot of the points made in it are applicable to all kinds of organizations, including ones that don’t explicitly call themselves “structureless”.

          If you do have a formal process in place, then it’s time to update it and/or how it is being applied.

          1. On the subject of creating a formal process:

            A group I belong to has a grievance process in its bylaws, which I attempted to follow when a member sexually assaulted me at a group function.

            When the grievance was brought to her, that member pointed out that our bylaws state that someone who files a grievance must have made a good faith effort first to resolve things with the person they are filing it against. Because I did not go to the person who assaulted me and try to work it out between us, she argued that my grievance was null and void. (And apparently my telling her at the time “don’t touch me like that” didn’t count as a good faith effort? I suppose I was supposed to go up to her later and say “When you grope me without my consent, I feel violated BECAUSE THAT’S FUCKING SEXUAL ASSAULT, YOU ASSHOLE.”)

            I’m guessing that when the founding members wrote the bylaws, they were thinking well-meaning things like “Grownups should be able to work things out amongst themselves” and also had a big honking blind spot about the possibility of sexual assault and harassment in a women-only group.

            It has taken us five years to finally start the process of getting a change to our bylaws written and voted on. I’m not sure why it didn’t happen then, since the facilitator told me she would start that process. I suspect it has a lot to do with the woman who assaulted me being on our board of directors at the time.

            Anyway, if you have yet to create your formal process, I found this an important lesson in what not to do when creating it.

        3. You can justify it by using your words. “X person was harassing new members. We will not be allowing him back. This is final.”

          1. Exactly, it doesn’t need to be formal. And people can be given warnings before banning. Setting boundaries is using words.

        4. Justify how? Something I see a lot in my line of work is people saying “there’s no proof” when actually THEY were PRESENT for the interaction that made them comfortable and don’t recognize that their word is proof, and can be legal evidence on which action can be taken, and that in she said/he said cases, the people deciding what to do can actually decide which one of the two they find credible. If it’s allowed in criminal trials, it’s certainly allowed in the much lower stakes game of hobby groups, people just have been talked out of realizing that your own word for what happened to you is eyewitness evidence, not hearsay.

          1. Currently dealing with realisation of “your own word for what happened to you is eyewitness evidence, not hearsay” and basically re-evaluating my entire life (which, let’s face it, I’ve been doing since I started therapy). Why do these things seem so “duh! Of course!” and at the same time mind-blowingly-revolutionary to my brain?!

        5. My group went through this recently. One problem was that the hierarchy *did* do something, but it was all behind closed doors so no one knew about it and assumed that nothing was done. Plus the bad actor then doubled down on his bad actions, so many people assumed that it was okay, which led to a much larger, public outcry. I know it’s weird to talk about “other people’s business”, but I would let the group know what’s going on, like “there have been some complaints about X’s behavior. We’ve spoken to X and X assures us that they apologize, understand, and will behave better in the future”. Some people will be like, “ug, TMI”, but everyone else will appreciate knowing that they’re being taken seriously and have a recourse if they need it.

        6. “Oh, we do, but we still hear “oh no one will do anything, X person is in the in-group.””

          People are saying that because it has already been proved true. If you are not going to address the malfeasance already done by the organizers, things aren’t going to go well. Right now you are putting the burden of fixing the situation on the victims, AFTER your group of organizers have already proven to them that they won’t get help. Of course no one trusts you. You have to have to build a clear-to-everyone track record of putting the burden of fixing the situation squarely on the bad actors — the ones making people uncomfortable and the bad actors among the organizers who protected them.

          Make that your goal instead of just blathering on about how the victims need to to take all the heat yet again.

    2. I also think you can approach the “in group” members and say, “I’ve been hearing reports. I can’t see all the interactions, but these are alarming nonetheless. You in the ‘in group,’ so I need you to make sure that other people—specifically newcomers or those who don’t participate as deeply—aren’t being frozen out or spoken to in a tone that implies they aren’t welcome. Please be welcoming yourself, and if you see someone act snottily or excludingly, please step up and pull the target person into the group again. We’re alerting everyone to this, so all the other member should be able to recognize your cue.”

      So, not an accusation at all, but an alert to the problem, and a commission to be part of the solution.

      My church has a reputation for being tremendously welcoming, and we actually talk about it. And we have a few highly influential people who are quite assertively friendly, and who reach out to pull people together.

      So try to create some of those people in the little clusters of people.

    3. Don’t encourage people to speak up. Do the reverse. “We’re a hobby group. We’re not a dating site. If two people here flirt and fall for each other that’s great, but don’t let your interest ever get in the way of someone else in the group doing what they enjoy and socializing with the rest of the group. Making sure people feel comfortable and not pressured is on you, not on them.” Make it each member’s responsibility to not hover, not pressure, and gracefully accept if someone’s not interested.

      1. This only works if you enforce it.

        A truly terrifying example was a hiking group that would go out for 12 hour hikes in the middle of a national park. Some sleazy jerk thought this was an awesome way to creep on a target who thus could not physically escape him for the entire 12 hours.

        The leader of the hike then posted an angry blast all over the group’s social media about how people should not do that. Except the kind of people who would do that in the first place will usually either 1) rationalize that it does not apply to them, and/or 2) laugh about how, “YOU CAN’T STOP ME” and go right on with the same behavior.

        It only works if you insta-ban those who behave this way.

        1. I agree. I think this requires an active admin/host/person in charge.

          Make it known you don’t tolerate creepers in a tule or post, and then go ahead and ban the actual creepers.

          Otherwise, you get the whole “everyone has honework because one kid was a dumbass. Everyeone is bitter but the damnass doesn’t care.”

        2. Sounds like their timing was backwards. Instead of warningbehavior ensuesconsequences, they went behavior ensues warning with no consequences. Of course that won’t create trust in the group.

    4. Hi,

      I run a few public gaming meetup groups – and I’ve learned the hard way how important this issue is, and how to handle it (and how not to handle it).

      There’s a lot I could talk about, but if I was only allowed to give one piece of advice, it’s this: Trust your instincts and take action on them. You don’t need “evidence” or other people’s permission or testimony to take final, conclusive action against someone who you feel is interfering with a meetup or group that YOU are running.

      Multiple times, I got weird vibes from someone new who would show up to our group. At the time, I assumed that it wasn’t enough to go on – so I asked many of the single women in our group what they thought of this guy. Was he a creep? Did he bother you? Did the things he talked about make you feel uncomfortable?

      Each and every time, the women would deny any issue with a creeper. It was only long after the fact that I learned – from them directly – that they did not feel comfortable “being responsible” for getting the guy kicked out, so they said nothing and denied everything. Simply because I was an authority in the group and a male (even though they counted me as a close friend). It took me a while to learn that women are socialized to accept the presence of creepers and not call them out to other guys, even friends.

      As a result, at the time, I let myself feel like it was just my own weirdness that made me get creepy vibes from these guys – so I did nothing, and they were able to quietly harass the women for extended periods of time (which drove some of them away).

      I’ve learned from this mistake – and I’ve seen the costs of having made that mistake. If you feel like someone is a creeper, then TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. You don’t need to follow up – you already know enough, and you have every right (and I would even say a DUTY as an organizer) to take action. And while nerds are conditioned to be merciful and offer people second and third chance, I fully believe in the Mike Ehrmantraut school of thought when it comes to creepers – “No half measures.” Creepers are a cancer in meetup and hobbyist groups, and should be removed as soon as they’re identified.

      1. The few times I’ve spoken up to guys in this situations, I’ve gotten a lot of pressure to make nice, or just try to understand that so-and-so is a little awkward. So when the group leader came to me, I had to ask myself, does he really care? Or did he notice me snap at the creeper and really just wants me to play peacemaker?

        So, thank you so much for recognizing how hard it can be for people in this situation to speak up, even when approached from a place of honest concern, and learning to take direct action to intervene instead.

        It sounds like your group is on its way to being pretty awesome.

      2. I actually run a stealth reporting network for a hobby that I participate in. Part of the reason I do this is precisely because in many cases the women being harassed do not want to report their harassers. But in most cases they are comfortable sharing a warning or a story of their experiences. Running this network has been really trans formative for members of the group, but, It has also made some of the group organizers angry that people don’t “report” so that the issues can be addressed. So i want to address something that you said in your comment.

        Now, You say here that “women are socialized to accept the presence of creepers” But I would counter that and say that women are actually very smart about how we handle men who are habitual boundary-crossers.

        Here’s the situation, you have a “creeper” a guy who either doesn’t understand, or respect social boundaries when it comes to women. He gets to close, he finds out too much information about them through round about channels, he approaches them in situations where they are uncomfortable. Many of these guys are not popular with women and have an overdeveloped sense of victim hood and or feel entitled to cross those boundaries. They are PERSISTENT because they are ignoring social boundaries, and because of their entitlement and or victim hood. They might not even be very self aware, but their emotional responses are not the normal responses of a safe person.

        So what happens to a woman whose boundaries are crossed and who reports it and gets this guy removed? Keep in mind he’s already shown a willingness to violate her boundaries in a number of ways. Does he have her personal contact information? Does he know how to find her address?

        Now, you might say “But I wouldn’t tell him why I’m disciplining him, her identity would be safe.” But what if you let something slip about a specific behavior, and he remembers that he only did that to one particular girl? What if he just picks a girl at random that he’s been harassing to blame for his sudden loss of his hobby that he loves?

        Does he spam her with texts? Threaten her? Stalk her somewhere else? Try to sabotage her Job? Try to sabotage her work in hobby? Show up at her gym? Now 99 out of 100 of them wouldn’t do anything like this. But how are women suppressed to know who that one is?

        From a woman’s perspective, tolerating a guy who is breathing a little too heavy seems a small price to pay in comparison with what he might do to her if she doesn’t tolerate it.

        Now I want to clarify that I think you are doing the absolutely correct thing. By not waiting for people to “Report” but by holding people to a standard of observable behavior, you’re making a much safer space than one that requires the victims to be on the line for the situation. And it’s also possible that you understood all of what I said above and that you just glossed over it in your post because it’s a whole big issue. But I’ve had this discussion with a lot of male organizers so I just wanted to make this comment.

        Women’s decision not to report issues with boundary crossing/creepy men is not a result of weakness or socialization, it is a reasonable fear based response to the potential consequences of reporting. Depending on the situation the risks can be very high, and not all women are willing to face them.

        1. Just to make it clear, since S didn’t explicitly say it and sometimes men have a hard time grasping the level of risk that women negotiate daily–the “very high” risk is being physically attacked or murdered.

          1. Yes. Thank you. It can be everything from physical risk of assault and death to risks to her career, her reputation, or her relationships. And women institutionally know exactly where those lines are.

            It’s honestly hard to even articulate it, when a woman says to me “She doesn’t want to report it.” I know, without her telling me, exactly why. It wasn’t until I had this conversation with a man who was just like “so escalate, so keep escalating until they go away” that I realized how hard it was to explain.

            I think as hard as it was for me to explain the potential series of events, it was even harder for him to accept that this is the safest choice for many of us. The cost of being wrong about these guys, and them turning on you is just too high, even if it is unlikely.

            Ultimately are you willing to die someone at your hobby group was really annoying? How sure would you have to be that it wouldn’t happen before you would take that risk? Most women are just never that sure.

        2. Sometimes it’s fear but I don’t think it’s correct to say it’s never a result of socialization. Women are socialized to be accommodating and to tolerate a lot of shitty behavior from men in particular. I’ve felt the effects of that socialization in the many circumstances in which my assessment was that the physical risk was zero.

          1. It’s both.

            Also to combine the two (fear and social pressure), fear of being socially ostracised for being ‘touchy’ ‘difficult’ ‘a drama queen’, or worse, a terrible person who bullies socially awkward men by accusing them of things.

          2. TO_Ont is right. You see, if a man maybe sorta might be on the spectrum in theory, then you’re supposed to coddle him because he can’t do better, poor soul, what with that maybe sorta on the spectrum thing. But if you’re a woman on the spectrum, that doesn’t apply to you — it means you absolutely must coddle him and give up your time and energy to serve him, because having wimmin cooties means…something that means where a man gets a break, you get harsh judgement and orders to labor on behalf of the menfolk.

      3. This is great advice. I also think it shows why it is so, so important that these groups they their hardest to recruit women on the leadership team. They may have felt more comfortable being honest with a woman than with you. Not because of you personally but just because there’s a greater chance of not being dismissed with women, I think (as long as they aren’t the “I’m not like other girls” type).

        1. Hear hear! Welcoming/recruiting women to be leaders in all kinds of groups is NOT just about some arbitrary 50/50 fairness thing.

          1. Unfortunately one of the problems about being a woman leader is that you run the additional risk of getting typecast for standing up for other women. Or just against a male creeper. In my experience it’s still more socially acceptable for men to call out creepers than women. As well, when I call them out I expose myself. I’ve done it but it’s tough to negotiate. It’s an incredibly frustrating experience.

      4. “…women are socialized to accept the presence of creepers and not call them out to other guys, even friends.”

        —This is because probably 99+% of the time the guy being thus informed, even a friend, will excuse/defend the creeper. It gets just EXHAUSTING trying to —yet again “prove” that your claim is legit because being a woman your word is suspect from jump street.

        —The only people who ever believe me first time…are women. No surprise there because of course any random woman one encounters has been creeped on at some point[s] and knows the score.

        “Creepers are a cancer on society in general and should be removed as soon as they’re identified.”
        —Thanks for this. I’d amend it to say “Creepers are a cancer in meetup and hobbyist groups, and should be removed as soon as they’re identified,” though.

  2. ewww stealth date. It’s amazing how many people think that they can get away with just not asking you out so they don’t have to pluck up the courage.

    1. “I have planned our time together with the precision of the Normandy Invasion, are you not impressed?” UGH, NO, NEVER THE STEALTH DATE.

      1. Personally, the stealth date would have me informing them, “Sorry, I have to shampoo the cat,” and fleeing into the night. Bonus points if you don’t have a cat.

        1. When I took French in high school we practiced asking each other to do something and then rejecting each other. My go-to was “I can’t, I have to wash my dog that night.”

          It was actually a valuable exercise in many ways, as we had to actively practice actually turning people down. When I needed to turn people down in non-French-practicing contexts I actually used some of the excuses I had come up with in class. Maybe “asking someone out; turning down someone who asks you out; politely accepting someone’s rejection” should be part of the actual high school curriculum.

          (Also later when I studied Japanese we spent *multiple days* learning to both identify and produce the kind of “soft no” that is, according to my professor, the only polite way to say no in Japan. It sounds a lot like “Well, that sounds nice but… erm…” I turned out to have an absolute talent both for distinguishing between a true “maybe” and a soft-no, and also for producing a soft-no. Go me???)

          1. ‘Maybe “asking someone out; turning down someone who asks you out; politely accepting someone’s rejection” should be part of the actual high school curriculum.”

            I definitely screwed up the first time a boy said he liked me in seventh grade. Oh, and the second time. Again in eighth grade. Cringe. I mean, I totally, totally blew it. I definitely could have used some scripts.

          2. When I first went to Japan there was a definite conflict between the Canadians, who wanted to be all “no pressure, if you want to hang out that would be great but don’t feel obligated” and the Japanese who took this is a soft no or a polite invitation that shouldn’t be taken up.

            Cultures! They are fascinating.

          3. I’ve found that saying the words aloud helps you get used to hearing your voice say them, even if to yourself in a mirror.

          4. The Japanese soft no is my natural go-to. Unfortunately, I live in America, and people sometimes refuse to take the hint. (Looking at you, friends in direct sales.)

          5. Brief tangent:
            I remember this same French-class exercise, but we had to do it as a written dialogue between two characters. The excuse I wanted to use for the person saying no was that they had to wash their hair. But I made a couple of spelling mistakes, and when I got the corrected assignment back I discovered my new favorite just-don’t-feel like it excuse.

            In French:
            laver = to wash
            cheveux = hair
            lever = to raise or lift
            chevaux = horses

            I’m sorry, I can’t, I have to lift my horses that evening!

          1. I don’t know what a soft no is but I made my 18 year old cousin practice saying “no sorry and sorry no” because she allowed a beggar to follow her to my car because the lady asked her for a bus token and my cousin didn’t tell her no. I guess she didn’t want to sound mean but you don’t have to be mean to tell someone no.

      1. That’s exactly what I thought of! But then I remembered that he followed it up by actually telling her, “no one else wants to come but do you still want to go?” So, not so much with the stealth.

        It must have been followed up by a real date (?) Presumably you can’t get through a whole relationship/marriage this way. “A bunch of us are meeting up at this wedding hall, I dunno, it might be fun, want to come with??”

      2. OMG yes I was just thinking of that. He framed the story as kind of charmingly awkward, but when you think about it from the other person’s perspective it’s pretty weird and manipulative…

        1. So many stories about men getting together with their wives have this UGH behind them, but it’s “oversensitive” to notice because hey, it worked out, right? Stories about how He Just Knew they’d get married the first time they saw each other and would do anything to make it happen, or how she rejected him for a date three times before he finally convinced her, or about how she had a boyfriend at the time but he bought her some item he specifically remembered she liked and won her over. Or a combination of all of these.

          I’m not saying all the guys who tell stories like these are creeps, or irredeemable, or that their relationships with their now-wives are bad. But I think it’s a major theme in social framing that makes it seem good to “play up” the “she wasn’t interested at first” part of the story that is just plain uncomfortable. It speaks to the stories we “want” to hear – a determined guy winning over a reluctant woman! It plays into societal ideals of what’s “good” for a man (to be stubborn and going after what he wants!) and a woman (virtuously refusing advances!). I have a lot of Thoughts on this kind of thing..

          1. I think there actually did used to be a three-invitation rule. (I’ve seen this referenced in books, but Miss Manners has mentioned it as well.) From what I’ve read, it’s clear that people used to date…well, more often – and in some ways more casually. There was nothing wrong with dating several guys or girls/women at once, for example, so long as you didn’t lie to anybody. It was apparently a lot like those sock hops and so on that you see in the movies where a guy could actually cut in on a dance (as in “May I cut in?”) so long as he did so politely. Well, you could do a lot of things that we don’t do these days, so long as you did so politely.

            Then as now, if she flat-out said “I don’t want to go out with you,” you were definitely supposed to take “no” for an answer, But if she came up with plausible excuses, you could ask more than once. So for example, if excuse #1 is “I’m sorry but I’m busy,” and excuse #2 is “I’m sorry but I’ll be out of town,” then you were allowed to ask *once* more. But after that, you were expected to take “no” for an answer. If the woman/girl actually did want to go out with him but really did have reasons why she could not on those specific days, she was expected indicate this by suggesting something else, e.g., “I can’t go to the movies on Friday but I’m free Saturday” or “I’m sorry I can’t that night, but I do happen to have tickets to _____ if you’d like to go.”

          2. The idea of virtuously refusing advances seems like a wonderful way to give men plausible deniability. Eugh.

          3. I am suddenly rethinking the story I tell of how I knew, when I first met him, that my now-husband was crushing on me, but that I was never going to like him that way . . . . .
            Huh. I think it’s a funny story about how first impressions can be wrong, but if I don’t include the notes about how he was never creepy or pressuring, I can see how that might be read differently.

          4. I’m reminded of this YouTube video (link below) that tells that kind of story with two different endings. That kind of “manly determination” is only good if there’s a happy ending. Trigger warning for discussions of stalking and violence.

          5. If you live in a culture where it is not socially acceptable for women to ask out men, you tend to also make it socially acceptable to ask multiple times. Because sometimes the woman actually is really busy, or hasn’t really thought about the guy that way but is kind of interested after she she starts paying attention to him more, or really does just not like the activity he suggested.

            If you aren’t allowed to come back later with your own invitation, you’re kind of dependent on people being willing to sometimes repeat an invitation.

        2. In defense of John Green, he has since said that he knows it was creepy and weird and he regrets it.

        3. Was recently reading a book where one of the POV characters has the realization that persistence is only attractive if you were already into the person. I wish that was the dominant cultural narrative.

          1. There’s an episode of How I Met Your Mother that has a similar idea – they call it the Dobler-Dahmer Theory. If the person is into you, persistence or a bug dramatic gesture is charming, like Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything. If they’re not into you, it comes off as serial killer creepy, like Jeffrey Dahmer.

    2. In my fantasy world where all my responses are cool and collected I want to say something along the lines of “oh I was actually really hoping X would be here. I’m jut going to leave now”.

      1. Oh my gosh, I now regret never having done this on “stealth dates.” Because sometimes I WAS going to the stealth date organized by someone I didn’t much like to see another person I was trying to get to know better in group settings!

    3. There was a letter on Ask A Manager today about a dude organizing a stealth-date in the guise of career networking. Which is basically PEAK GROSS imo as far as stealth-dating, since you’re baiting your victim with career connections but then SURPRISE! it’s actually a date.

      1. Ooof. Had that happen to me. When I was a baby manager, a client arranged a business dinner at which we’d discuss his spending lots of money with the company. I pitched him hard all through the meal. I smiled, laughed at his jokes, all biz-dev, all the time. Turned out, he wanted me to be his mistress. Because he already had a wife. The fucking nerve.

      2. Ugh, I read that, it was SO GROSS. And then he was all “I don’t think this will work out,” and she’s like, the date I didn’t want to go on, or the job I actually need???

    4. Eek – stealth date. I had one of those a few years ago. The sad thing was that the guy was interesting and I was getting on OK with him in the group activity we were doing – but he’d just recently got divorced and was looking to be re-partnered asap.

      He asked me to go for a coffee with him and I said yes, fine. Then, when we got to the coffee place, he tried to “upscale” the event to lunch. Nothing wrong with that, on the surface – but my spidey-sense picked up the edge of insistence in his voice. We had the coffee, and he wanted me to stay longer, but I had to get back. (I’m a freelancer, and although it was the weekend I had to work.) I said I had to leave for work, and he sarcastically said, “Yeah – sure you do.”

      At that point, I thought – “Uh-uh – if you ever had a chance with me, that’s just blown it.”

      I had further confirmation that the episode was actually a date-that-he-wasn’t-actually-calling-a-date when he sent me a few texts afterwards saying “When can we meet again?” Why won’t you see me?” etc.

      TL;DR – trust the spidey sense. It’s there for a reason.

      1. I had a stealth date a few years ago where the guy agreed to help me with some fundraising ideas and said we should talk about it over pizza and beer, which turned into an upscale first-date-type restaurant and “do you want to split this bottle of wine?”

        I now ask guys I’m dating their policy on accidental dates because if some dude is creepy enough to trick me into a date and you’re going to get mad at me for it, I want to know asap so I can stop seeing you.

        (I told this story to the guy I’m seeing now and he thought for a minute and went, “WAIT! I’ve been on those dates. In college I asked a girl if she wanted to go climbing and I couldn’t figure out why she was so confused when we actually climbed. She had on all this make up and jeans and was clearly so unhappy, but all I wanted to do was climb! So she spent two hours belaying me and never spoke to me again. UGH. You just made things so much clearer for me.”)

      1. But the male professors are so sure that sexism in computer science is a thing of the past! And can’t possibly be threatening their students! Wimmin just don’t like CSci that much! Oh, yeah, there was that CSci grad student not too long ago who murdered the CSci undergrad who didn’t understand that she was his property, but that kind of omnipresent threat of violence has no impact on the female students at all!

        1. Absolutely not! And being afraid to network with your peers definitely doesn’t cost you professional opportunities or have a negative impact on your grades because you have no one to study with. Nope. Not a thing at all.

    5. If someone is going to be pleasantly surprised by a stealth date, they’d have said yes if asked to an actual date.

      On the other hand, a stealth date would turn me off a person I might’ve been interested in of they’d just straight up asked me out.

      1. I’m fairly sure I’ve been stealth dating a friend for years. My other friends think we’re probably stealth married by this point. Alas, we both have enough anxiety and social skills issues that at this stage it’s easier to both simultaneously Schrodingers Relationship each other than Use Our Words…

    6. Ugh, seriously.

      I think my favorite was the time that the leader of a group creative project (who had been hovering around me creepily the entire time we’d been working on said project) called to tell me it was being postponed, asked me out for coffee, and then, after I told him I really wanted to keep things professional, TRIED TO TURN IT INTO A STEALTH DATE INSTEAD. “Oh, haha, you thought I meant just you? I actually meant everyone! So, next Sunday at 2 at ?”

      So, I waited a few days and sent out a group email being like, “Hey all, I just want to make sure I have the date right for that full-group coffee meet-up that Leader mentioned! Was it Sunday at ?”

      Every other person emailed back to be like, “Oh, I hadn’t heard about that yet, but it sounds great!”

      After a few days of this, Creepy Leader sent out a group email that read, in its entirety, “Coffee is cancelled.”

      1. Please tell me the rest of the group ignored his “cancellation” and just had coffee without him.

  3. I left an interest group because a guy abused their Meetup account to set up a stealth date–and the organizers took his side. Luckily for me, I wasn’t heavily invested in the group so it wasn’t a big loss.

  4. This is a great moment for, “I think this is yours.” If it’s awkward, then let it be awkward. You don’t have to save Stealthy Steve from embarrassment.

  5. Ugh. I had a Lurking Larry. Only mine was at work. So obvious he was interested – he’d even give me token gifts here and there – never in person, I’d get to my desk and they’d be there. I wish he would have just asked me out because then I’d’ve told him I have a strict policy of not dating people from work and he could have moved on instead of mooning over me for years. Like the LW, I prefer it when those interested in me are direct and candid. If he does’t have the nerve to say words like an adult, that’s fine. But I’m not going to coddle any man and ask him out when I’m not interested just so he can stop feeling awkward and bashful. And the gifts? I gave a polite thank you as we passed in the halls, but gifts are not an obligation. Showing up to my boss’s fundraiser party? It was, “Nice to see you – gotta mingle – see you around the office, I’m sure!” Oh, and the card he sent directly to my home – even though I never gave him my address – that went ignored. Cuz yea, you can look up someone’s address, but that felt like an invasion of my home life and that’s not cool.

    So I agree – don’t react to what hasn’t actually been said/done. Let them feel what they feel. Take measures to protect your privacy. And escalate it to the group Administrator’s if things get creepy or abusive.

    1. Oh! I also wanted to add that you should keep your eyes open and get a feel for how many other women in the group are being targeted by these creeps. There’s strength in numbers so if you’re not the only one, you can all keep an eye out for each other and step in to help each other out of jams. Also, it might send a strong message to the group’s Admins if they are facing the possibility of losing their female members because of guys like this. I don’t know how much weight that would carry in your group, but for an organization that really wants a diverse membership, or if you have financial investments in the group, it might give you leverage, should you not get immediate help from them.

      1. Or ask around – I mean, the problem is that they probably serially do this to all the new women members, and then either drive them out, or eventually move on to a new target. So the LW might be the only *current* visible target.

    2. “he’d even give me token gifts here and there – never in person, I’d get to my desk and they’d be there”

      Like a cat leaving a dead bird on your doorstep?

      1. Some cats will bring you a dead (or worse, the nearly dead) bird right to you. And then get pissed that you don’t enjoy their offering.

        1. Supposedly it’s because your cat now views you as part of its pride and is making sure you’re fed/learning to hunt.

          Nevermind I don’t want a dead mouse in my work shoes >.<

        2. Sometimes your cat will leave a dead mole at the foot of the stairs and confuse you and your toddler (it took three double takes before it finally sank in). That is still preferable to secret ‘gifts’ from a colleague.

    3. I’m not sure this would work for everyone, but I once picked a fight with a guy like this at work. He did something very minor, but technically wrong. I overreacted and refused to back down. He steered clear of me for awhile, and then started treating me as a colleague. It’s not a silver bullet, but maybe something to think about? I don’t want to say you should bully your lurker, but maybe move towards that end of the spectrum?

      More commonly, for guys I actually liked, but did not want to date, I would just excitedly tell them all about my new crush. It felt a bit mean, because you could usually see the pain in their eyes. But I figured it was like pulling of a band-aid. Better for them to know you aren’t interested than spend months following you around like a puppy, trying to work up the courage to ask you out.

      1. I think my favorite one of these I ever witnessed was this one:

        Janitor in our office building decides he has a crush on one of our people. She tells him firmly she is not interested, several times. He promises to drop it, then leaves a bouquet of flowers on her vehicle.

        Cue major bruhaha until finally the right bosses make it clear to this guy he is never to speak to her again nor to anyone in our building except as required to do his job.

        Not long after, he’s apparently crushing on a young student, takes her into our offices after hours, and lets her help herself to any laptop and peripherals she pleases. They are caught on the video cameras.

        I have no idea how he thought that was supposed to turn out.

      2. That’s not mean! First of all, not being interested in a person is NEVER mean. Second of all, it gets the message across without them losing face.

    4. Oh my gosh I had a guy do that! Kept asking me out I’d say no, leave gifts on my desk! So creepy! Luckily the other men at work got angry on my behalf and offered to bring back the gifts. The one guy made a point of returning them when creep would see him do it. To make the point that no I wasn’t interested, no I wasn’t going to discuss further, and yes I was going to enlist help to scrape off the Klingon

    5. For what it’s worth, I think it would have been perfectly fine to return the gifts and tell him not to give you anything or send mail to your home, even though he was using that figleaf of “friendly” to cover his flirtatious intentions. It’s totally okay to not want gifts or personal mail from your coworkers regardless of their intentions! And often (but not always) telling this kind of Stealth Date guy that you don’t want their gifts is taken as a rejection of their luuuuurv, so it upsets them enough that they don’t like you anymore.

      Obviously work stuff makes this a little more fraught so you have to stay professional on top of the usual personal safety consideration. But if GreenDoor’s coworkers sounds familiar to you, its at least worth considering!

    6. Another grad student in my office did this to me. Unwanted gifts and notes on my desk, coming by when I was trying to work and refusing to take the hint, constantly inviting me to stuff on the weekend no matter how often I said no. We had only been friendly at the office for a few weeks when I took planned time off for a medical procedure. I didn’t mention it to him because the reason was private, and we didn’t actually work together. He got my personal email off my LinkedIn and emailed me to ask where I was. He was always super interested when I changed my hours in any way– super creepy since I walk alone to and from work– and once asked if he could come up and see my desk at a temporary job I took in another building.

      The last straw was when I cancelled a lunch with him and was always “too busy” to reschedule. He came by my desk to chat and wouldn’t leave even when I told him I was studying for qualifying exams. There is no clearer way between PhD students for someone to give away that they are not your real friend and do not care what is in your best interests. Before he finally left me alone he said, “go running with me, don’t run away from me.” Oh, so you’re knowingly interfering with my work and knowingly pursuing me even though you can tell I’m not interested? I went to my boss first thing the next day. When I finally reported it, people *flipped out*. It was actually a little scary seeing how frightening everyone else found behavior that I had been tolerating.

      IMO there is something really wrong under this hovering behavior. I’ve never had a truly good person go through a spell of doing it. The plausible deniability is about more than just whether they want to go out with you.

  6. LW, these dudes may also try and be sad AT you if you don’t behave in the way they’re hoping you’ll behave. If they do, remember that this is NOT YOUR PROBLEM. This is entirely on them and their sads are their own fault and their own issue. You keep doing you, and these dudes can figure out their own issues on their own.

    1. Oh, the Pouters. I’ve dealt with SO MANY POUTERS. I like to be all cheery around them and when they do a big, heaving sigh as bait for me to ask how they are, I’m just like, “cool story, bro!” and then watch them stew and pout some more until they give up.

  7. I was JUST reading an article on ask a manager where a guy asked a girl on a “networking” lunch via linked and then at the end was all “I don’t think we should go on a second date.” So beware the sub class

    STEALTH TRANSFORMER DATE (Obviously, a Decepticon.)

  8. The advice is really good.

    Back in the early 90’s while I was still in high school I had an inkling that one of the guys in my social group wanted to ask me out. I didn’t want to go out with him, but prom was coming up and he’d apparently spoken to the rest of the guys in the group about his feelings and they all made a pact to say no to me if I asked. I wanted to go to prom so not only did I end up going on a date with this guy, I ended up doing the asking. Prom night was miserable and after that I promised myself that I would always be very upfront about my expectations for dates or group outings. A number of years later I was out with my cousin. She liked a guy at a bar we were at and so, being the kind person I am, I played the wing man and chatted with the friend. He asked me out. I said no. I was not interested in dating at the time and told him this. His friend and my cousin dated for a few months and we spent more and more time together. We were never alone together and I was always very clear that I wasn’t interested in him or dating in general, but over the weeks he started acting like there was something more between us. One night we were headed to a movie and he asked me “when are you going to just give in and be my girlfriend?” And the lesson I learned that night was sometimes stating your boundaries and intentions isn’t enough. Sometimes you need to do the hard thing and avoid all contact unless absolutely necessary. I stopped hanging out with my cousin for a while after that, avoided all of the guy’s calls, and if I had to interact with him at all it was always in a way that any other person would do (a guest at my cousin’s birthday party, accidentally running into him while I was out shopping with friends, etc) and then my interactions were very polite but not super warm. He had strong feelings about my boundaries but instead of arguing with his gaslighting attempts (nearly word for word said as the Captain has written!) I would just walk away.

    Good luck LW, I hope the hovering stops soon! 🙂

    1. Ugh to that guy group for doing that! Something similar happened to a friend of mine in high school – one guy in her honors classes friend group liked her and told everyone but her, and then when she went on a date with someone else the entire group treated her like she had cheated on the crushing guy. It was awful and she’d done absolutely nothing wrong!

      1. That happened to me in high school. This guy got all mad that I started dating a guy I met at a club (one of those juice bars for teens, if that’s still a thing). He told all our mutual friends how devastated he was and how could I do that. We kind of vaguely flirted and liked each other, but I remember thinking – like, how are we a couple, tho? Sure, we sit together at lunch, but there’s a bunch of us there, and we don’t really talk on the phone or go on dates, so…..what was in it for me?

        1. I had a female friend do this in high school she was crazy about a guy friend of ours and he had turned her down more than once and straight up told her he didnt like her at all in that way. She made a huge production of asking him to the school dance in front of the whole class and everyone acted like he was the asshole but she knew he was gonna turn her down

          1. Ick. I was on the receiving end of a few of those surprise big staged gestures in high school. I didn’t care for it, because it struck me as obviously manipulative.

            My school had a tradition of doing those regarding invitations to one particular dance, but the convention was that you were only supposed to do the big staged stunts AFTER privately confirming that both people wanted to go to the dance together and that both people wanted to participate in the staged gestures. When everyone is freely consenting ahead of time, it’s fun. When they’re not, it really is not fun.

      2. This happened to me in high school too – my best male friend started mooning around and giving me presents, which he didn’t do for anybody else in our mixed-gender friend group. It was extremely obvious, even to acquaintance bystanders, but he never actually talked to me about it or asked me out properly. I suppose he was hoping I’d bring it up, but I wasn’t interested in him that way and it was never addressed. A few of us ended up at the same university and they all started treating me like a giant slut for the crime of being interested in and occasionally flirting with other men. (Painful irony – I didn’t even become sexually active for another couple of years – but that shouldn’t matter!! I wasn’t doing anything wrong!) The story ended really badly and I regret not stamping on that earlier.

        1. I *did* like this guy, but it was like he didn’t want to put in any effort into properly asking me out or maintaining a relationship, so I…thought we weren’t in one? So, I proceeded as if I were single when I met that guy at the club and then suddenly that made me an asshole? Ugh, WTF…

    2. Something similar happened to me – this guy told everyone he was going to ask me (so that no one else would), and then at the last minute, my nemesis asked him to the dance instead so that I would be dateless.

      I actually hated dances? And didn’t like the guy? So I was fine (and completely oblivious), but my nemesis was so excited about her victory that she bragged about so widely that my MOM heard about it and told me.

      And then the next dance, a guy asked me during dialogue practice in our language class, and I thought it was an example from our text book, and agreed as part of the exercise… but he held me to it. 😦

      I ended up to agreeing to 3 more stealth dates from 2 other guys before I figured out how to recognize the signs and shut it down. It is not easy, by design.

  9. Scream. I had a guy who lurked on me in an SF club for more than a decade. At least one other woman in the group seemed to think I owed him…whatever, because girls are supposed to do that.
    No. No, we don’t.

      1. Stool flinging. The key is to get a feel for the center of gravity in relation to the single leg League regulations allow you to hold it by.
        Also try not to hit any parked cars.

          1. omg, I didn’t realize it was about the other kind of stool until I read this! I thought she meant League regulations required you to stand on one leg while flinging.

        1. I have to admit that my first read of this was, “What? Stool doesn’t have legs.” Because I was reading it as being like poo-flinging monkeys. It’s actually more satisfying to imagine than what I think you intended.

    1. Could be science fiction or San Francisco. I’m leaning towards the former because of “an.”

  10. Wow. It had never occurred to me that when I encountered a situation like this, I wasn’t obligated to keep playing the plausible-deniability game of ignoring the possibility that he* was trying to have a date. I can see that naming it might stop that game and give the OP some power. Thanks!

    *(it’s never happened to me with anyone who didn’t use male pronouns)

    1. Not only is playing not required, but if you’d like, you can roll with the implicit or explicit claims that you’re arrogant. “Yes, I do think you’re coming on to me. Yes, I do think I’m all that. Yes, I’m arrogant, and I’m making an accurate assessment based on past behavior.”

      (Yes, I’ve said all of those things.)

      1. You can even use it to turn the situation humorous if someone’s just inept rather than deliberately creepy. ‘Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were coming on to me, I am fairly fabulous. Can’t judge a man for having good taste. Just, you know, letting you know that trying someone else fabulous would be a better use of your time.’


    For the past few months I’ve spent a silly amount of time being all, “Hmmmmmm but I was pretty bold with the friendship at first! and I could just be imagining it! maybe it’s super mean to pull back?” When, really, what matters is that I was becoming uncomfortable.

    The dude in question is not as focused on his hobby as I am. Well, for me it’s not a hobby but re-training, and I state this only so I can then say that even if it were a hobby, my focus and enjoyment would be equally as important and my time needs to be protected! And also that, god, I used to feel obliged to listen to him talk and talk and talk on messenger or in the studio and to answer every single question he had about the class because I needed to feel Helpful.

    I started feeling a bit :\ when my man was quite suddenly like, “Hey… there are more than two genders…. there is the non-binary gender 🙂 and 🙂 🙂 I think my attraction is a bit more… non-binary… :)”

    I haven’t disclosed my gender. I read as a girl with a pixie cut. (But but but he may have google me? He may have seen my FB profile refers to me as “them”??????)

    A few weeks later, he engaged me in a curious–I don’t think “conversation” is the right word, I think “monologue” is more accurate. He likes to just whip out his phone and start showing you photos, and he started off with pictures of his cat (good), pictures of monkeys from the zoo (also good), and then a fish (ok?) which he said was “him”, it was a “selfie” because he was a Pisces, and isn’t it interesting that he was a Pisces with an Aries ascendant and I was an Aries with a Pisces ascendant?* It’s like we’re opposites! (erm?) And then he started showing me actual selfies of him in a TRILBY and a STORMTROOPER HAT (oh god ohgod ohgodohgod), and if I was interested in getting lunch with him, then…

    I did not get lunch with him.

    (Again: I reasoned with myself that I had had lunch with him before! Had initiated it, in fact! Why was this particular interaction so uncomfortable??)

    Anyway, after drawing back–which is easy to do because I need to be super-productive because I’m Applying For Big Stuff–he has very easily found other people in our class to talk to. The sky did not fall down.

    *Astrology is nonsense and I am not interested in talking about its validity; the relevant detail is that he got it wrong. He wanted a detail about me to fit a narrative he’d crafted.

      1. Right? I’m still wondering about that thought process, like, “Mmm gonna show my classmate a photo of me wearing a hat based on a FICTIONAL FASCIST ARMY” ???

      1. I have a guy friend who is not at all creepy, but is a little quirky, and a while ago he purchased a trilby that he wears from time to time. Whenever I see him in it, I think “oh honey, no,” but he’s so proud of it that I can’t bring myself to say anything. I guess at least it’s not a fedora.

        1. I feel like I’m missing something. If he likes the hat, why shouldn’t he wear the hat? Is there an appropriation thing I’m not aware of?

          1. A lot of MRA/PUA/Nice Guys(TM) wear those hat styles (often mistakenly calling a trilby a fedora, but that bit of haberdasher’s trivia is neither here nor there). I think it’s supposed to be some sort of statement of being an Old-Fashioned Man’s Man or something, but it’s often a big ol’ honkin’ red flag that the hat-wearing guy is one of the sort who think he is owed romantic/sexual attention from any woman he finds desirable simply by existing in the world. 😦

          2. Not an appropriation thing. It’s just that MRAs and other Sad Men of the Internet seem to have a bizarre enjoyment of fedoras and similar hats. Not every man who loves such hats falls in that group. But it’s common enough that I do give a bit of an internal side-eye when a guy proudly shows off his new fedora.

          3. It does answer my question, though I don’t think it’s very nice. I don’t want to be mocked/teased/looked down upon for wearing “toddler grandma” styles, so I don’t think people ought to be mocked/teased/looked down upon for wearing a hat that they like either.

          4. Right, I agree, I am not into mocking people much myself. But plenty of women take is a red flag and to avoid, avoid, avoid that person. And that was the first site I found that talked a little bit about why that might be.

        2. Although the bad thing about “fedoras” and the fedora bros is usually the hats actually trilbies and nobody apparently knows what kind of hat is on their own head and just end up calling every hat a “fedora”.

      2. Oh my gosh, you’re right! It’s a thing, isn’t it??

        My man was all, “Haha yeah I’m trying to be Pete Doherty…”

        ok….. so……………. unless you’re going to pull a proper personality and also genuine respect for & interest in women (and those w/ proximity to women) out of that hat….. please….. stop?,,

    1. The term I’m familiar with is Lecherous Octopus.

      Sadly, I used to know someone who played up to his reputation as one because hey, attention for bad things is still attention! So let’s make a Thing about Meeeeee!

      Note, I say “used to”. I wonder if he ever learnt to dial it in, or is still single and desparate. Not a good look.

    1. My mom has been doing the return awkwardness to sender thing for as long as I can remember. A memory from childhood involves someone telling a joke I didn’t understand but all the adults laughed at it – some a bit awkwardly. My mom just stood there (she must’ve been 23 at the time) just staring at the guy who told the joke, her face completely blank. He asked her if she understood it and she replied “yes, but I’m waiting for you to explain why it’s funny.” I was 6 or 7 at the time and remember feeling like my mom was in the wrong for making this guy squirm like that. Now I think back and say “damn…the woman was ahead of her time!” She did it all the time – to people who say inappropriate things, to overly touchy people, to anyone who tries to make her feel bad about her feelings. She’s a pro at it! I’m in my 40’s now and only just fully embracing the return awkwardness to sender. It really is an awesome thing to do.

  12. Larper here! As anyone in a theatrical/improv/roleply type hobby can attest, these people will often employ the tactic of Being in Character. “Oh, my satyr character is just lusty like that!” “My rogue is just very handsy!” “My paladin wolfkin just likes to flirt with everyone!” (except it’s only a particular group of people and definitely not “in character”). Com. Logic’s rule of only acknowledging what is actually said out loud is a good one, but often the creepers in a roleplay hobby will use the excuse of Being in Character to test people’s boundaries – saying exactly what they want but pretending it didn’t “mean” anything or wasn’t real.

    In these situations, I’ve found calling it out directly helps – first in character, then second out of character. If they get the message in character – great! You can say that it was you “being in character” as well. If not, I will call them out even if it ruins the mood. It helps to be part of a community that takes player safety very seriously (as was in my cases, fortunately) but if that is not the case for someone, then I would still let the creeper know you are uncomfortable and will not put up with their shit, even if they try to throw out the excuse of Being in Character/plausible deniability.

    People can certainly roleplay a lusty character with appropriate boundaries and respect. But unfortunately, all too often this character type gets hijacked for more nefarious purposes.

    1. Argh! And a friend JUST today told me the story of being at a convention several years back and having a much larger man dressed as a Klingon use that choice as his excuse for engaging in “role-appropriate” repeated unnegotiated and unwelcome physical flirting/ boundary crossing… (My friend was encouraging me to attend one particular con with them, while using that vignette to illustrate why they were recommending I avoid another local con…

      1. Ugh. Seems like these douches are forgetting one of the first cardinal rules of roleplaying – namely, the enjoyment of the game is not a slave to your character’s “in character” actions. Because you, the player, decide what’s “in character” for your character. Something you do makes another player at the game uncomfortable? Too bad, table fiat has decided that’s not acceptable to be “in character” for your character, now think of something else to do or -make a better character.- (This also goes for the thief trying to steal from the other players, the loner character in a team-oriented game… ugh. I refuse to play roleplay-type games with strangers now.)

        1. YES. I was once playing a tabletop game with an acquaintance who pulled an incredibly stupid stunt in-game. I turned to him and said, exasperated, “Why did you do that?!” He defended it with “It’s what my character would do in that situation”, and I replied, “Then why did you make a character who’s such an asshole?”

    2. How does one play a lusty character with appropriate boundaries and respect (in a role-playing/LARP context; I think I understand how it would work for acting)? Is it a matter of keeping one’s hands to oneself? Sticking to certain phrases? Being equally lusty with everyone? Establishing everyone’s boundaries beforehand? I’m genuinely curious about this and these questions are sincere, and am not being snarky.

      1. Presumably you know pleasant, high libido people in your social life. How do they act? Because that’s a good guide.

        I’m guessing at least some of the following holds true for remembering.

        They aren’t handsy. They don’t proposition everyone they know. They figure out what will charm individual people and try that. They are funny. They are good at something (other than seduction).

        1. I cannot for the life of me remember where I read this, and it honestly could have been right here in Captain Awkward comments, but somebody once described flirting as something you do with someone and harassment as something you do to them.

          I am a naturally flirty, high libido, see-sex-everywhere kind of person. I make dirty jokes, I talk about sex, I flirt HARD with people – but there is a buildup to it and if at any point somebody is uncomfortable with it, it stops. If I rank my lusty jokes/interactions on a 1-10 scale and they indicated they were uncomfortable around a 7/10, I’ll back down to a 3 or a 4 because it often takes a while for people to say they’re uncomfortable or put their finger on why. If they escalate from there, I’ll follow their lead, but the joy of flirting is that there is participation on both sides. I can have all the lusty thoughts I want, but I can only talk about them if everybody in the conversation is comfortable.

          So if I were to talk to somebody role playing a character like me, I’d tell them that the single most important part of playing a lustful character people are comfortable around is listening. After all, successful flirting is what gets other people/characters to fall in lust with you, right? And successful flirting relies on being specific and tailored to the person you’re interacting with and engaging and escalating things WITH them, not AT them.

          1. For me, it depends on set and setting. If someone is uncomfortable with swearing and/or a child is in earshot, I keep my conversation profanity-free. If I am with my friends at an adults-only party, then I feel OK with swearing. Dirty jokes are OK only if everyone around is an adult. I NEVER flirt with anyone, because I am happily and monogamously married. What would be the point?

        2. Libido and desire to hit on people aren’t really the same thing. Plenty of people with high sex drives don’t want to hit on everyone in sight, even when they’re single. And there are plenty of other people who enjoy being flirtatious regardless of whether they actually want to have sex.

          1. Well no, of course they’re not the same. That was my point. People with high sex drives (that is, lusty people) are not necessarily creeps. Nor do they hit on everything in sight. Those people, and pleasant flirtatious people, are good templates for “lusty” characters.

      2. Mrs Morley’s example is good. And to your question, Tea Rocket – typically it’s establishing everyone’s boundaries beforehand. The people I’ve played with who did lusty characters respectfully would check with everyone out of game first, before they started playing. They also would immediately quit flirting and be respectful of someone if they were told it made them uncomfortable.

        One of the cardinal rules of larping in all the games I attended was NO TOUCHING, and applied for everyone. It was mentioned multiple times by the mods. If you need to pick up a “body” – you don’t get to touch them, you hover a hand and let the “body” walk on their own. You need to heal someone – you hover a hand or touch them with a packet. Of course if permission was given, you could touch someone in an appropriate manner – I didn’t mind being held by the arm or whatever – but it always had to be explicitly given.

        Lustiness in larping usually came in the form of flirty talk and being outgoing and charming, but again, those people who did it respectfully were aware of people’s boundaries and sensitive to the fact that not everyone is comfortable with that type of character. They didn’t try to bulldoze anyone.

      3. The strategy I use (as an ace girl who hates creepers) is to have my RP character flirt with NPCs until and unless another player initiates flirtatious banter with mine. And I don’t escalate, even then.

        For maximum fun? Have the character flirt with unexpected NPCs they encounter, not just bar wenches – are you fighting a handsome enemy knight captain? Go for it. Elderly sorceress? Why not! The thief who just tried to pick your pocket? Sounds like a bad idea, do it!

        Flirt UP, too, and not with people your character has power over. You don’t want to keep your group surprised, entertained, and not creep out your GM.

        1. Yes, this is an excellent way to play a lusty character who hits on things for laughs/entertainment. It’s not like in most tabletop games your characters don’t spend like half their time interacting with NPCs.

      4. Even for larping and roleplaying you can also explicitly negotiate these things before-hand! If you’re setting up a group/preparing for a specific event you can connect with people who are also going and say “I’m playing X type of character and would love to connect to people who want to play friends/enemies/love interest/a relative” people who are interested will respond and then you can talk and decide together how you want that to work. I actually find offgame/ingame a great tool for discussing these things frankly.

        1. Great comments, everyone! Here in Scandinavia many of us role playing gamers/larpers are promoting talking about things beforehand and having a ready anti-harrassment policy active. We have ready made rules and policies available and these things have been discussed a lot which I find great. We do have different styles of playing games here: in some styles the game masters write the characters and create the setting beforehand and players are specifically asked whether or not they are interested in playing romance or flirting in game when they apply to the game. The wishes they express should always be honored, at least the groups in which I have been writing have honored them. Also the players of the romantic characters have been chosen with care – but of course, mistakes do happen, unfortunately. There are many things we take into account when casting the players, like the age difference of the players.

          Of course there are other types of games, too; games where players write the characters and in them things are handled just like M.J. said.

          I myself just wish that off game flirting and hitting on people would be restricted to events one can avoid.

      5. The way it’s done at my LARP is by sort of…establishing a baseline that doesn’t target anybody + saying very low-stakes things directly to people, and gauging from there.

        So for example, let’s say Tara is such a character. Tara makes plenty of innuendo about HERSELF, and towards NPCs or characters that don’t appear “on screen”–say, the Baron in the next county, who we know must exist in this fantasy world but isn’t actually a played character.

        Tara also makes initial comments like “ooh, hello handsome” or “I love being surrounded by beautiful ladies!” towards other characters. If the characters respond positively, or flirt back, she escalates*. If they do not respond, or respond negatively, she doesn’t make comments or overtures to those characters again.

        *By escalates I mean maybe more flirting, or occasionally making innuendo about/towards them, ramping up until they reach a zone that is comfortable for both. If at any point during this escalation the other person becomes uncomfortable, she drops it back down to the level they WERE comfortable with (or stops entirely if they are no longer comfortable with anything.)

        Also–and this is most important–any time they talk out of character, she does NOT flirt/make innuendo at them. She maintains clear boundaries between in character and out of character.

    3. OH MY GOD YES. I hang out with several people (mostly women) who play the actual “lusty” characters, who are also good with in character/ooc boundaries.

      However, those people often get weird hangers-on that do the whole “your character flirts with everyone, whyyyyyy are you now upset that I’m following you around and making uncomfortable innuendo out of character?” thing. Or, worse, do things like asking them out in increasingly uncomfortable ways and then go “no, no, that was IC, I wasn’t REALLY asking, haha I can’t believe you thought that” when their targets react badly.

  13. Ah yes the random FB messages from hobbyist dudes. Woman goes to event. By the timing me she gets home, there are a handful of “Hey it was nice seeig you tonight” or just “Hey! What’s up?” messages.

    Ignore those messages, unless you are interested in the sender. Even if you open them and inadvertently send the read-receipt. Do not respond to be polite. You will enter a time suck of follow-up questions and weird gifs attempting to woo you. If asked at the next meetup why you don’t respond, just follow the Captain’s advice say, “Eh, I don’t really keep track of/like FB message.”

  14. I once accidentally asked someone on a stealth date. That is, I meant to be upfront about it, but since we were both bi women but she’d never actually dated a woman before, “Do you want to go to the movies with me?” was not explicit enough. (After that I made sure to insert the word “date” someplace if that was my intent.) I think somebody in our friend group said something to her, and she asked me when we actually got to the movies if this was a date, and I was like, “Well, that was certainly what I meant it to be, but if you don’t want that, it doesn’t have to be one.” (She was ok with that, and we dated for a few weeks, but it didn’t work out.)

    1. I think the Stealth Date is when one party intentionally sets it up as a date while presenting it as a non-date, whereas what you had was the Confusion Date where people are just legitimately confused.

      1. Right, the stealth date is “you wanna grab drinks sometime?” or “wanna play games and hang out” often accompanied by “I’m not asking you out or anything, I just wanna, you know, hang out.” Often used when the intended is in an emotional, vulnerable state and likely to appreciate your company. Except I see right through that business and there’s nothing I can say about it without sounding like a paranoid jerkface.

        1. For me, the stealth date would not include “you wanna grabs drink sometime” with a newly-met person. I both use that and hear that as a date invitation unless accompanied by a disclaimer that it’s not a date/a platonic friendship that would contextualize lots of stuff as not dates.

          The stealth date, for me, is usually something where the asker has provided a non-“wanting specifically to spend one on one time with you qua wanting to spend one on one time with you” reason for the activity. So, “hey, wanna grab a drink sometime?”=not a stealth date, but “I’d love some advice on how to do that kayaking trick, wanna grab a drink on me sometime and I can pick your brain?” Is a stealth date.

          1. Interesting, I would hear “you wanna grab drinks sometime” as a platonic friendship invitation unless it was explicitly stated to be a date. I guess this why Confusion Dates happen 🙂

          2. I was once grumbling to my friend Petrarch about some bad behavior on the part of our mutual acquaintance Dante, and his response was, “Yeah, Dante’s been going around telling people that I suck just because of something that happened between their friend Laura and me.”
            “Well, I met Laura at one of Dante’s parties, and I thought she seemed cool and maybe I was into her, but I didn’t know for sure, so I asked if she wanted to hang out. And she said yes and we did, and afterwards I asked her if she’d be interested in dating, and she got mad and accused me of trying to ‘stealth-date’ her.”
            “Ouch. Well, that sucks, but you know, it sounds like as long as you apologized for the mismatched expectations…”
            “Oh, I did! Like a bunch of times! And kept explaining that that wasn’t what I was trying to do! But she just kept getting madder and madder until she said she didn’t want to talk to me any more!”
            And that’s where I had to tactfully explain that in general, when someone says, “I’m upset because I think you were trying to do an end-run around my boundaries and consent,” the best way to prove that you *aren’t* a consent-and-boundaries violator is to immediately back off, not try to wear them down with explanations about how they’re wrong to establish their boundaries where they are. I was frankly amazed the whole time because I did not think Petrarch was that profoundly clueless about human interaction.

    2. I once asked a (male) friend of mine if he wanted to go to a large amusement park with me because I was bored, because we both worked in service jobs that had weird days off, and because I didn’t feel like going alone.

      I didn’t find out until YEARS later (like, after he married my best friend and they had two kids years later) that he believed we had been on a date.

      I like the difference between Stealth Date and Confusion Date Traffic_Spiral describes.

  15. At some point in their lives, most people have been in the shoes of the crush-er who wants plausible deniability from their crush-ee. Usually that time is somewhere in middle or high school. Teenagerhood is awkward and kids can be really cruel about things like that.

    This is one reason that behavior is infuriating in a grown-up! It anticipates very poor behavior from the object of the person’s affection, and it is not flattering at all. What, do you seriously think that if you dare to be straightforward with me I’m going to laugh at you behind your back in the hallway with my friends during passing period? Come on.

    1. excellent point! And if you DO expect that of me, WHY are you interested in asking me out? Does not compute!

    2. I feel like much high school fiction makes egregious use of this trope- I get UST can be a very compelling hook and all that but uhhhg, it’s annoying sometimes at how it seems encouraged/normalized/romanticised rather than portrayed as obnoxious

    3. Well, it depends. I asked someone out last year who not only ignored me completely but mistreated me for MONTHS and also literally spread a lot of negative things about me for pretty much anyone who would hear. She told my friends that I wanted to be friends with them just to date them (I was sort of “friends” with that woman before). Funny thing is that when it’s just the two of us, she compliments me non-stop, and probably thinks I don’t know she tried to smear me to my entire workplace. She’s 43 by the way, and supposedly in a high profile job.

      I think that straight-forwardness is the way to go but there ARE people who cannot deal with it.

      1. Oof, I’m sorry that happened to you!

        I think most people do grow out of the notion that having a crush is inherently shameful or weird even if it’s unreciprocated. You grow to understand that attraction isn’t always something you can help either way, and appreciate tactful and straightforward handling of a crush in appropriate situations. (BIG caveat here for homophobia and transphobia, which still make this scary territory for queer crush-havers worldwide, because their attraction can be perceived as deviant even when it’s expressed in the most benign and appropriate of ways.)

        But just like some people keep on acting like middle-school bullies in other arenas, they may still be middle-school bullies in this arena too. Their smear campaigns often fail because most people don’t think a crush is not something to be inherently ashamed of and the bully is the one who comes out of this looking bad, not you. I hope this woman stays away from you from now on.

  16. I get SUPER ANXIOUS when people hover over me, but my hobby is of the ‘competative game’ kind, so sometimes if people are finished with their own games they’ll come watch someone else. It’s totally innocent and well intended, but it makes me uncomfortable. So I usually ask them (politely, but a little tersely to let them know I am, indeed, uncomfortable and not just being goofy) ‘hey, can you not stand over my shoulder like that/stop hovering please/dude you know I don’t like when people get so close’.

    And then guess what? They stop! Because they are genuinely interested in what I’m doing, but also care about me as a person and don’t wish me discomfort. Because they are Good Friends, who just sometimes get too excited about my wicked card playing skills to remember not to loom.
    I’m getting the feeling LW worries that if they ask certain dudes not to hover, they will not respond in this way. The only thing I can take from that is said dudes are NOT Good Friends, and it is 100% okay to not be friendly with them.

    People make mistakes and invade the personal bubbles of others, it happens. Some of us have bigger bubbles than others. But calling people out is (almost) always the right response: either they care about you, and they’ll stop, or they’re stealth jerks, and you can start treating them as such.

  17. What’s this? The Captain has informed a self-proclaimed cis straight woman that she done’t have to coddle the man-feels?

    Oh dear, it looks like the Captain has broken the Universe. Does anyone know where we can bring it in for repairs?

  18. The best way I’ve found to preempt a potential stealth date is to get specific names of other people who will be there. So I do a lot of, “Sounds great! Who else is going?” and “What a good idea! Let me see if Friend and MutualFriend want to go!” Or if you’re sort of getting to know a group all at the same time, something like, “That sounds fun! Let’s bring it up at the next meeting and see if anyone else wants to join.”

    Most of the time, they either back down or change it to a group thing. Or maybe they actually admit they were hoping for a one-on-one outing, in which case you can just turn them down and be done with it. At least that’s my experience.

    I’ve never had someone lie about it being a group thing and then show up to nobody else there, but I imagine you’d at least feel more justified in going, “Um, why isn’t anyone here? You know what, this is weird and I think I’m going to go home.”

  19. I had a guy do the not-quite-asking-me-out for like two years straight in a group I used to be part of (I’ve since moved, or would still be part of it!). Lots of hovering, trying to strike up conversation, asking me for contact info to chat outside the group setting, etc. Once I figured it out, I basically handled it by not engaging with anything he tried to throw at me for more than a minute before detangling myself. I was reasonably friendly, because that’s just how I prefer to be with everyone, but I consistently found excuses to disengage and go talk to someone else/do something/etc.

    I think the most frustrating part of it was actually the group, not the guy himself. Like, in this particular case, his behavior was clearly rooted in awkwardness and nerves–he was a genuinely nice guy, I never felt remotely threatened, he was never trying to manipulate me into anything, it was just straight-up middle-school not knowing how to ask a person out (with a side dose of not being great at reading ‘not interested’ signals, but like, they were signals, not explicit words, not everyone is good at those). Not the end of the world. And he always accepted my ‘Oh I don’t give out my number much, oh look there’s Sally, gotta go say hi!’ gracefully.

    But I got a sense that a couple people thought I should either give him a chance, or explicitly reject him and release him from his Poor Awkward Pining, and *that* was super frustrating. It’s not my job to manage his feelings! He had the option to ask and get a straight answer, and he chose not to do it. He also had the option to accept that he wasn’t going to ask and I wasn’t going to do it for him and drop the whole thing, and he chose not to do that either. The entire situation was a thing he chose, basically, and if it wasn’t working out great for him, it wasn’t my job to fix that. I wish those couple of people had told him to back off instead of expecting me to fix it.

    1. I feel like though that once you said no to giving him your number that should have been the end of it. That means you clearly are not interested.

      1. Oh yeah, most people definitely should pick up on that, but he was a walking ball of awkward and had serious trouble understanding non-explicit cues in all parts of life due to a medical condition that he was in the middle of learning how to manage. He gets some leeway on that, under the circumstances. His close friends in the group, on the other hand, who knew that about him and knew how he was coming off, and handled the situation by low-key hinting that it was my job to manage this, instead of taking a minute to explain things to their friend themselves? I do have problems with their approach.

        1. Say what? That’s some nerve. “If you’re so concerned about him, you deal with it.” Especially since if they wanted to really help him, they’d help *him*.

          Gods, it’s the same pattern over and over and over, isn’t it? No matter what the awkwardness is, the people who are “concerned” about it want the person bearing the brunt of it to fix it.

          1. It definitely is the same pattern! If I wanted to have a “You’re not explicitly saying so, but I’m getting the sense that you X from me; here’s me letting you know that it’s definitely not happening” conversation, that would definitely be a good line. I handled it by ignoring their nonsense, because it was clearly nonsense, and because if I wanted to have a conversation like that I would’ve just addressed things with the dude directly.

            I also was, like, 50/50 on whether they (the friends, not the dude) would handle me addressing things by backing off, or by escalating to the ‘but he’s a nice guyyyy, and you’re single so why can’t you give him a chanceeeeee, he deservesssss it, you’re so meannnnnn’ nonsense. It just wasn’t worth it, especially since it was a small chunk of the group and stayed at a level I could intentionally ignore. But it speaks to the pressure people put on women when a dude is attracted to them–even when the dude himself was a perfectly nice person who wasn’t really bringing that dynamic into things, that pressure still happened, because the people AROUND him brought it in. It’s a good thing they were only a small corner of the group, and easily avoided.

    2. I have angered a number of people (okay, men) by saying that “friend-zoning” isn’t something one person can do to another; you can only do it to yourself. If you’re friends with someone and you never ask them out, they’re not deliberately and maliciously rejecting you; if you do ask them on a date and they say no, then if you choose to stay friends with them, it’s not their fault if you continue to pine for them.
      There are the rare situations where one person is aware of another’s feelings and manipulates them for their own benefit while dangling the prospect of a relationship always juuuuust out of reach…but again, the target always has the option of saying no, ending the friendship, etc. (And why do you want to date such a person anyway?)

  20. So I’d like to hone in on a piece of the discomfort we feel in calling out the hoverers.

    We are supposed to self-effacing.

    If we are nice girls, if we are ladies, we don’t acknowledge that we are attractive. We certainly don’t have opinions on whether we like a boy before he has asked us out.

    By stating the obvious – “Hey, you’re acting like you find me attractive. I don’t find you attractive.” – we turn the paradigm of passive womanhood on its head.

    1. Well, in that messed-up old-school paradigm, the Almighty Dude is the one who bestows value upon the ~lady~ (the object) with his attention, soooooo yes.

      Objects don’t have pre-existing opinions! It’s like he reached up for a box of cereal on the shelf and it’s like “nah, not going in that cart, thanks.” Whoooooooaaaa!

    2. This is why I rage at all the ‘you don’t know you’re beautiful; that is why you’re beautiful’ tropes in pop songs and movies. Bees.

      1. Ugh. I used to think that song was a wholesome tribute to feminine modesty. Someone actually had to hit me upside the head with a clue-by-four to explain what it really meant. *glares at One Direction*

          1. I am so, so sorry, but I have to say: that would then be a modesty blaze. And Modesty Blaise can be amazing.

          2. Ugh, and now that I think about it, Modesty Blaise was, hrm, a product of its time and super-problematic… I hope the mods can delete my post. It didn’t add at all to the conversation.

  21. This was such a weird post for me because I know SO MANY PEOPLE who absolutely CRAVE being hovered on!
    Like, most of my friends love having this kind of attention and to be honest I kinda like it too. It might be cultural (I’m latina and mostly thinking of latina friends) but I have seriously never heard anyone complain about this kind of behavior before. But I can see why it would get awkward really fast particularly in a group setting.

    I’ve never really done the stealthy dating and no one did it on me so I can’t really comment. That said I kinda wonder if there’s a connection between the “Nice Guy”TM thing and this sort of behavior.

    PS: I do not intend to diminish LW’s issues, it’s just that I come from a very different perspective.

    1. This is very interesting to me. Would you mind talking a little more about this? Is there ever a sense of pressure, or expectation when (I’m going to use men/masculine because that’s my experience, but substitute any pronoun that is relevant to you) men do the hover?

      I think what creates my negative response to this is the sense of expectation – no guy has ever hovered, or given me that attention, without expecting something from me in return. That’s not always romantic or sexual, necessarily; sometimes they want a girlfriend substitute, or emotional labor/management, but it’s always something.

      And because I am jealous of my own time and energy, I am very often unwilling to give anything in return, even if it isn’t a romantic thing they’re looking for.

      Is it also possible that there is a cultural expectation that women want this type of attention, which might make it extra uncomfortable for your friends to speak up? Could it be that, culturally, women are wary of complaining about it?

      1. So, the crowd I hang out more are all lesbians (I’m a homo ace), but I have a lot of straight friends too. I think it all comes in a spectrum. It goes from just someone who has no social skill and genuine good intentions to people who are borderline stalkers/perps who scare the shit out of everyone.

        In my home country it is still very acceptable to see men who demand things because, gasp, they have they dings in the middle of their legs. It is still cultural and many women believe in that too, that women are here to “serve” men. But thinking about it, I do see this same “demanding” behavior coming from women (straight or gay), just in a lesser proportion. I started seeing people complain about it lately, but it is still a very low voice compared to the societal expression.

        But I think in the end it all comes to a sense of being desired. The culture I grew up in dictates that a successful woman is the one that is desired (esp. sexually), even if they have no intention of dating the people interested in them. Having lots of romantic/sexual attention tends to be equated to self-worth.

        1. Thank you for explaining. That shed some light on a really weird situation in grad school in the USA.

          A grad student from Brazil was stalking the stunning blonde in my lab. Once I twigged to that, I asked her some pointed questions, was horrified at his behavior, and went right out and rounded him up (easy because he literally hung out in our hallway all the time to rush at her if she dared try to go to the bathroom) and hauled him up before our professor for a lecture in how to behave.

          He kept insisting that his behavior was fine for his country. We kept telling him that he wasn’t in his country — he was in a country where his behavior was against the law.

          The stupid little pissant actually tried the line on us that we had to respect his culture. He found out what my professor’s rage face looks like. I suspect it still haunts his nightmares.

          Anyhow, a couple of days later, he actually went back to my professor’s office and threw a tantrum screaming that he’d been humiliated by my professor, and how his behavior was right and correct and more about how he’d been humiliated and I don’t know what all. I know when my professor backed him out of his office, he stood in the hallway and screamed for a while. My professor kept yelling at him to get out and go away, while others dove for phones to call security. Finally the little pissant burst into tears and ran away.

          He ran straight to his professor, who has a hell of a rage face of her own. She came storming back ready to flay my professor alive for making her student cry. When she found out the truth, she instantly calmed down, apologized, and said she would educate her student on professional conduct. I can’t think of anything scarier than that professor deciding you need to be personally educated by her in how to conduct yourself with basic decorum. My professor told her to make sure he knew never to speak to any of my professor’s students again.

          The little pissant for months would stomp into elevators after me and spend the elevator ride glaring his seething rage and hate at me. It seemed to really deflate his sad little self that this failed to bother me in the slightest.

          1. OMG… I am so sorry that you and your colleagues had this experience. To be honest, it doesn’t surprise me that this guy did such thing as I have met a few folks who were exactly like that or even worse, but usually it is also tied to social standing. I would not be surprised if that guy was actually very rich in Brazil or at least a very high classfella. You know, the whole “how dare you talk to me like that, do you know who I am?”kind of thing. Thankfully, not everyone in my country is like that!!

            I particularly think that American culture encourages people to live in their personal spaces so much that there isn’t space for more open, genuine, carefree interaction. But I absolutely condenm attitudes like this guy had (actually I think he should have been sent to jail to learn one thing or another about decency).

          2. Thank you for responding — I’ll have to share back with the others what you said about how he was probably of high wealth and standing. That is both hilarious and it explains a lot. He was so puffed up with his own importance and his own utter rightness, and to us he was just a useless little pissant not even competent enough to do his job.

            It clearly made him apoplectic that my world-famous, very intimidating professor treated myself and the woman he was pursuing as people of supreme value and the little pissant as of no value at all. I had assumed it was because we were women and the pissant was in love with his penis. But the class/wealth dimension on top of it is even funnier.

    2. There is totally a connection with Nice Guy TM.

      Just out of curiosity: if the hoverers are people who the hoverees would never date, do the hoverees you know still crave being hovered?

      In my crowd, the discomfort comes from *fear*. Every single one of my female friends over the age of 25 has been sexually assaulted – from groping to rape – usually by men we knew socially. We’ve learned that hovering after being asked not to = willing to ignore our stated boundaries = hey, that’s a thing the guy that assaulted me did.

      My experience was that about 20% of ‘men who hover’ escalated to hands-on, even when I said ‘stop hovering’ or gave some other clear verbal rejection. (I am a 5′ 10″ friendly blond female geek, I used to get hovered a lot)

      1. I replied above to Laura but I wanted to add a little story over this:

        I went to a (gay) bar with my friends recently. There is a woman who frequently goes there too who used to date one of my friends. My friend broke it off with her a while ago and moved on to another girl. This woman hovers (both IRL and online) over pretty much any living woman and she is all over the friends in my group… except me. I am invisible to her. I would never want to date her anyway, but it bothers me that she doesn’t give me any attention when she is hovering all of my friends. It makes me feel less of a woman, even if I don’t have any interest in her and actually find her disgusting. I am not proud of admitting this. One other of my friends in this group decided to hook up with her even if she has no intentions of anything serious (to be fair, this friend of mine doesn’t even ENJOY being with her) because hey… it’s attention and no one else is giving.

        1. Possibly she doesn’t hover over you because she has picked up that you find her disgusting?
          It saddens me that you feel less of a woman because you don’t get attention from someone you think is disgusting. You deserve better than that.

          1. I just realized the post I made above (to Laura) didn’t go through. But briefly, in my home country culture, women love having people hover them because lots of attention = worth as a woman. The more people you have hovering over you (regardless of your interest in them) the better. Certain behaviors that would give people jail time in the US, are completely accepted here. No wonders we are super famous for our naked women during Carnival.

            And this thing is very ingrained. Attention = Worth. I’m a homo ace, so I rarely get any kind of interest in/from people to the point it messed up my mental health and I decided to give up on that. But I see both straight and gay women tolerating all sorts of behavior like the one described in this letter because it reaffirms their worth in society (I have seen people think stealth dating just shows how much the guy actually likes and wants to be with the woman!)

        2. I really get what you’re saying.

          My best friend of my whole adult life is mysteriously “invisible” to men as a potential romantic partner. We’ve never really gotten why.

          And I, while not Hollywood beautiful, have had them flocking after me my whole life as if I were Charlize Theron. I’m really not. We don’t know why that is either.

          But it’s been a hell of an education, including in empathy, for both of us. I’ve badly wanted to be invisible; she’s badly wanted to be visible.

          I outgrew the “oh it confirms my worth as a woman” somewhere during the year I was 16, because I’d had enough already with the unwanted attention. I’ve both had those feelings, so I get how it feels, and have left them so far behind that at times it’s hard to remember ever having felt that way.

          Plus I’ve mostly been in a subculture where that’s not where one’s worth as a woman is supposed to reside anyway, because the real win is being enough of a smartypants that you get to not care. However, I’ve been in that subculture while still being conventionally hot enough for pretty much my whole adult life that saying I didn’t care was easy, because getting my ego fed for being femininely pretty would be easy if I wanted to.

        3. I understand this. I’m also ace, and when I was younger I’d feel sad if guys didn’t pay attention to me even though I had zero interest in them. Because it means my worth, as a woman and as a person, is tied to whether or not I am sexually available. It’s gross as hell but a very real dynamic when you’re at bars/other places people go to find dates or hook up. Even if this lady knows you find her awful, it seems blatant she is ignoring you because you are ACE, not because of your opinion of her. But I hope in your heart you know this. ❤ It's not a reflection of you in any way, it is only a reflection of how toxic and shallow her worldview is. You don't want people like that in your life.

    3. There absolutely is a connection between Nice Guys and this sort of behavior. And I used to not mind it much either, until I found out how quickly those guys become Not Nice Guys once they decided I owed them something for all their attention. :O

      I do think there are guys who can flirt and court and remain completely respectful (and enjoyable, even). But it’s not easy to tell them from the others…

      1. They’re rare, but I have met a few in my life. One of them is an old friend who has asked me out twice in our lives–the first time was 20+ years ago and I turned him down because I’d just started dating someone else, and the second time was a few years after my marriage ended. Both times he asked directly, and took my “no thank you” answer so calmly and maturely that I was super impressed (still didn’t want to date him, though). He’s been very successful with women in general throughout all the time I’ve known him, despite not being especially attractive by traditional standards, and I’m pretty sure it’s because he knows how to act like a decent person. All the dudes who complain about women only wanting tall guys with a six-pack and a Ferrari could take a lesson from him.

    4. Yep! We don’t all like the same thing which is cool. I’m glad you commented on it because it enforces the idea of “women are people” instead of the “woman as monolith”. This is why you treat people as people and not things.

    5. Curious, do you and your friends enjoy hovering from people you don’t like? I personally find it very different from someone whose company I enjoy, vs someone I don’t want to be around.

    6. For me a huge part of it is circumstantial! A lot of these behaviors are things I’m fine with, and even enjoy, from family/SO/close friends/etc. But from someone I don’t have a close (or even a developing) relationship with, it’s forced familiarity on a level that makes me really uncomfortable. And if I get even a hint that they’re deliberately avoiding asking me out so they don’t get an explicit no and can continue this forced familiarity game until it wears me down….that’s incredibly skeevy.

      I’ve never had women do this to me in an uncomfortable way, for what it’s worth, and I do date women as well as men. It’s always straight dudes, and mostly the missing-stair type of straight dudes, that do it in a bad way. I think there’s a strong connection between this and Nice Guy (TM).

    7. I don’t crave being hovered around but I DO really enjoy flirtatiousness from a certain kind of Latinx person! (I’m Latinx myself.) But the people who try it mostly end up being very sleazy and awful, and the people who do this that I enjoy tend to be very charming, charismatic, do it to basically all women (including not conventionally attractive ones) and are very socially aware and pull back easily and without any kind of protest when they sense discomfort or pressure. I love that stuff but it’s a hard line to walk.

  22. When I was an instructor at my hobby in school we had a guy like this who would target women. Really awful. Wouldn’t just ask them out that’d be easy. He had to keep hovering. He chased many women away and finally we’d had enough and we had told him multiple times to stop. He had to be banned from sessions bc of the boundary violations. What was creepier was he was in his 50s and his targets were 20-30s. He kept using plausible deniability. Wish I’d had scripts and been older then (of course he wouldn’t have hit on me then…).

  23. Oh man, I relate to this so much. I think so much of the plausible deniability land is to make it feel like we’re being arrogant for calling it out. I personally deal with this by just totally ignoring and not caring about motives. I am a non-touchy person in a very affectionate hobby group, so I have been dealing with this forever. “Hey, I’m actually not a hugger, so please don’t.” “I wasn’t *hitting on you*!” “Okay? I still don’t want hugs.” Can be used with other things like, please step back from my personal space, I’m not that into texting with you, etc.

    Often these guys seem to think if they can just litigate their actions as “not hitting on us” that we have to accept them. Nope! I don’t care why it’s happening, it just needs to stop. (I mean, OK, I do care a little but I determinedly don’t show that.) You have a girlfriend? Still not a hugger! You’re gay? Still don’t want to be touched! You find me completely repulsive and would never be into me ever? Great, then you should be totally fine with not hugging me!

  24. The more common form of stealth dating I have noticed is flipping normal one-on-one hangouts into dates. Like if going to see a gallery or a show is a requirement for a class, they’d go the same time as you and then suggest getting a sandwich together after to chat about the thing and then… Or “let’s do this part of the project together in this cool coffee shop near my house” might turn into “oh you noticed that coffee shop isn’t open today but since you are close by already, come to my place and we’ll watch a movie before we start”. The stealthy thing is escalating the hang out in a way that the stealth-ee is confused, and thinks that since already agreed to this and the plan hasn’t been changed that much they shouldn’t say no.. Of course this is the stealther’s plan, since they probably know they’d be turned down for an actual date if they asked. But luckily the Captain’s scripts work for these things too!

    1. Ewwww,….I can then see the stealthee then going to the stealther’s place and getting raped next, with a possible side order of unwanted pregnancy and possibly-fatal STI’s for souvenirs.

      1. So, I don’t want to minimize that spidey senses tingle in fear of sexual assault and should be listened to when that happens…

        But something about this comment is making me really uncomfortable, and it’s something about casually throwing out “rape=pregnancy=aids” and “being in college and not having the skill of asking for dates yet=usually rape.”

          1. My mind automatically went, “The kind of guy who manipulates a woman into a date that she doesn’t know is a date and then invites her back to his place will then: 1. Make advances on her 2. Say ‘what did you expect would happen? You asked for it by coming back to my place.’ 3. Then try/succeed in rape.”

            I am a very pessimistic person by nature and jumped right to the worst possible scenario: a woman ending up raped, pregnant, and contracting a fatal STI. To clarify. I don’t think anyone is “dirty” for being a rape victim, contracting an STI, or becoming pregnant.

          2. Sure. It can still be pretty triggering to have rape brought up all the time every time you talk about boundaries, though! I just would like people to stop reminding me of how much I could get raped. (

      2. I think my discomfort is a combination of these three things:
        -the way this comment associates STI/unwanted pregnancy with rape (which, obviously, are potential consequences but aren’t, like, the majority outcomes of most rapes) feels a lot like playing into really harmful tropes that rape makes a victim “dirty”
        -non-cishet men should be able to talk about ways to set healthy boundaries without constantly being reminded that they are disproportionately likely to be raped. It doesn’t need to be every fucking conversation about boundaries and dating, sometimes we want to set boundaries because something is annoying and harmful and we don’t need to talk about whether the boundaries also help prevent possible rape, that triggers a lot of people and had no bearing on whether the boundary they wanted to set was reasonable because they didn’t need any justification beyond “this behavior is unpleasant and I don’t want to put up with it.”
        -frankly, it contributes to the knee-jerk reaction that some men have when someone sets a reasonable boundary with them that they have to defend themselves as not rapists, because apparently their perception that by being told their advances are unwanted they may be being accused of being a rapist isn’t all in their heads (they still are unreasonable for going there immediately, but this comment shows that they are not wrong that some women are doing that.)

  25. This is all such great advice and the scripts are perfect. The best part for me is knowing it doesn’t matter what the person’s intentions are – if you feel uncomfortable then that’s enough reason to get them to back off.
    I get trapped in interactions that start friendly and gradually become awkward – it feels way harder to break out of it. I will be practising Captain’s scripts.

  26. Oh, dear LW, I know so well how this feels; I have been there myself for approximately 20 years or so and I just hope they would finally leave me alone since I am getting older. Probably I hope in vain. I wish there were a socially acceptable way to state from the day 1 that you are there only for the [hobby] – or in my case that I am asexual and that during my whole life I have only been sexually interested in two men and am now very luckily married to one of them. Of course, no reasons should ever have to be asked for not being interested. In my own male dominated mainly role playing game related groups I have for a long time repeatedly suggested that it would be best if people would concentrate on the game and not use the character interaction as an excuse for trying to hit people. Possibly my worst (and most hilarious) personal experience of being hit on happened after a larp. Back then I was in a monogamous long term relationship and sitting on my boyfriend’s lap when another guy came to flirt to me quite rudely so even not being single does not seem to help.

    Reading The Captain’s (and Commandeer Logic’s) answers felt so incredibly good. Being a cis female I have been conditioned to care for everyone’s feelings around me and when reading the answer I felt so very, very relieved, like I had shed a burden from my back. Feeling responsible for the feelings of people around you is very stressful. Of course there are situations when being aware of them makes the situation more safe, but I am lucky since those situations are quite rare. Still, I carry the same burden and wariness around and monitor everyone routinely even when it should not be necessary and I bet, so do many of us.

    Dear LW, I hope so much that after thought excercises and thinking about The Captain’s answers you gradually begin to be able to disregard the feelings of these men and that it goes well for you. The advice to speak to the group leader(s) sounds good; in my case, working for a long time with a few men creating games players often approached me with their worries and experiences of harrassment and luckily my co-creators listened to me so we managed to create a clear no-harrassment policy and banned certain notorious players. It can certainly be done and I truly hope that nowadays women are taken seriously. Are there any other women in your group? Would it be possible to combine your forces with them? Or in an on-line community? Having an active social media community of women playing role playing games here in Scandinavia has certainly helped to create a better environment. In my opinion it should not be the duty of the women but in truth it does help.

    I mostly just wish people would only hit on other people with clearly stated intention or in spaces where a mutual interest is to be expected because having to face a stream of assumed sexual interest is very, very stressful.

    Take care of yourself, dear LW and I hope you will get to concentrate on your interest in peace.

    1. I wish there was just like, a badge I could wear. “I am aromantic and asexual, don’t bother crushing on me or asking me out, it will waste both our time.” Like, technically I am in a monogamous queerplatonic relationship, but I don’t like implying I’m not interested because I’m not single. I’m not interested because I Am Not Interested! Why is there not a socially acceptable way to clear that up right from the jump?

      1. This, so much this! I also wish there was a badge – but I have doubts about people wanting to understand the meaning of that badge. I wonder why do some people seem to believe that they should always have the right to hit on other people whether or not said other people find it unwanted and stressful. The worst thing is, one never knows just how to respond and where will that response lead.

        In my case, if I observe hovering or continuous staring at (true story: when I began my studies there was this young dude who literally turned around during lectures just to stare at me; this continued for months) I often initiate a conversation in which I casually mention either being asexual or my husband. I hate that I have to rely to mentioning my husband but it has saved me a few times from physical abuse and even though I do want to promote ideas I believe in my own safety and well-being come first.

        I still keep wondering what on earth is wrong with some people, the one who hit on me when I was sitting on my boyfriend’s lap and the one who stared at me: I was at least a decade older than them and I never showed any interest. Now I just fear it will happen again.

        May you have best of luck with random dudes in the future, Kelsi!

      2. Poly and ace here, but it was so much easier to tell the Random Library Dude that I’m married (which is also true) and to say “no, I don’t do that” to a “one-time friendship” than to say, “If I was open to dating anyone at all, I’d try going out with you, but I’m ace and I’ve decided I’m too likely to get into emotional messes by dating, so no thank you.”

        (I did give him my number with the understanding that we’d explore the possibility of friendship. It took a week and three boundary defenses before he decided he didn’t really want friendship and I really wasn’t open to anything else. It was a very interesting experience.)

        1. I hate the friendship bait-and-switch. Dude, if you only want something romantic/sexual and that is officially off the table, don’t try to find a workaround via fake friendship while pining.

      3. I don’t like implying I’m not interested because I’m not single.

        Right? And not least because it in turn implies if only I were single, then maybe… No! No maybe! No if only! It is not that my interest is prohibited by Being Taken–it is that my interest is utterly absent!

        Additionally, I’m married but I’m poly, and I’m open about it, so “I’m married” isn’t actually an impediment. I’ve joked that I need the a badge that says “Yes, I’m poly. No, I’m not going to date you.” Or POLY BUT PICKY for short.

        The creepiest thing is when someone asks about my marital status as a way to feel out whether I’m available, without actually stating that he’s interested in me–so it reads just as “small talk” until suddenly it doesn’t. Or until he shoots back “But you don’t wear a ring” like he’s accusing me of something, and I launch in the story of how I am too klutzy to be trusted with jewelry, especially finger jewelry, except on special occasions, so the wedding ring doesn’t come out except for fancy, but really what I should just say is “No, I don’t, what’s your point?”

        1. vortexae, I completely agree – and how I hate the question about the missind ring! Because of my field of specialization (biology) I often work in a laboratory and have to use protective equipment like gloves all the time when I work – and keeping a ring under gloves would be both uncomfortable and a possible hazard, even though it had no stones on it. The same applies to many, many people, for example people working with machinery, people in health care professions… The list goes on and on and having to explain it feels very exhausting. Besides, I do not even really like having anything in my hands since I love so many things which would potentially damage the ring: cooking, painting, dabbling with plants and gardening…

          I wonder if one could just answer with a question: “Why are you interested in that?” Or could one answer in such a way which would be very boring?

          1. > I wonder if one could just answer with a question: “Why are you interested in that?”

            You absolutely can! Even Miss Manners says so. (I think.)

            Here’s the script:

            Them: Why (invasive question)?
            You: Why do you want to know?
            Them: (Anything at all.)
            You: Oh, okay.

            That’s all!

        2. I find that telling people I won’t date them because I’m not single just invites them to hover. They do anything and everything to get my attention and stay on my mind, show me how great they are and identify all the things we have in common and remind me of those common interests all the time (I love Doctor Who but I am SO OVER dudes making random, awkward, forced or misplaced references to it for this reason), and occasionally ask how me and that boyfriend are doing, so that the second they find out I’m single, they can ask if I wanna grab drinks sometime.

          This thread is hitting so close to home you have no idea.

      4. I used to wear a button:
        I’m bisexual and poly and I still won’t sleep with you.
        Potentially interested in theory does not automatically translate to actually interested and available.

  27. Since this kind of crap has hounded my steps all my life, here’s one of the best tools I’ve ever run across for use in public/when other people are present:

    The beaming, super-pleasant, super-happy, somehat loud, “Oh, NO THANKS!” Smilesmilesmile.

    Most of these jerks are trying to wrong-foot you so that you look cranky or not pleasant somehow, so that you either have to comply or they feel justified in some kind of “YOU BITCH I WILL MAKE YOU PAY” reaction. The above shortcuts that. If you present as female, everyone else sees you performing society-mandated-female-cheeriness, so there’s nothing to attach the “bitch” tag to.

    Trigger warning for the rest:

    Note: As the recent discussions around consent in the wake of the Aziz Ansari mess have made painfully clear, this is not a winning tactic when alone with a dude, because, as those recent consent discussions have made all too painfully clear yet again, even the ones who are sure they care about your consent and are sure they would never do anything rapey will still take the smile as, “SHE WANTS MY PENIS IN HER RIGHT NOW RIP OFF ALL THE CLOTHES.”

  28. Ask A Manager just dealt with a story where some douchebag to set up a “interview”as a stealth date. Ugh.

    Dear douchebags, despite what romcoms tell you, we dispise stealth dates and we will dispise you for setting one up. If you did it because we would have rejected you on a real date, then what makes you think lying to us would make it any better.

    1. OMFG. Rather than go read that one I am going to just believe in my heart of hearts that the POS eventually got his ass fired for misrepresenting his employer and opening them up to the risk of legal action. I need to believe in some justice today. Please don’t disabuse me if I am wrong.

  29. Contributing to this problem, I suspect, is the standard advice that lonely people get given for the question “How can I meet someone if I don’t go to bars or know a lot of people?”
    Such people get the standard spiel of “Join clubs, take up a group sport, sign up for a night class, go to church, volunteer…”. Which is all well and good if the primary reason for doing these things is that the lonely person actually likes the activity and meeting someone is just a hoped-for side benefit instead of the sole aim. The problem is that the people giving the advice to Lonely Person rarely make that caveat.
    Year’s ago I belonged to a cycling club that had a female Lonely Person creeping around every single male clubmate within a certain age range. She clearly had no real interest in cycling and couldn’t keep up on even slow beginner rides, so the problem eventually solved itself. I’m not sure how we’d have handled a male version of her who actually could keep up.

    1. This, all day. I cringe every time I hear “oh, volunteer!” because I work with volunteers, and uh, please don’t. Unless you care at least one iota about your project, the mission, whatever. Speed dating services exist, and this is not one.

      A lot of that is the advice-recipient misreading the advice, though. There’s a world of difference between:
      a) Experience some things, meet new people, learn something, etc. It’s good for you, and will make you a more well-rounded person and a better date prospect in the long run.
      b) Do this to get dates.

      I think some people hear b) no matter the intent of the advice giver. It’s a shortcut. People love shortcuts.

      1. Doctor nerdlove had to add caveats about meeting people at hobbies/events because creepers and desperatos would only use those events and ignore all the “not attractive” people or the general purpose of the event (example: hunting down girls during a Knitting Club).

        Last month I went to a gaming event to meet new friends and I did that by—you know—playing games. Then I hung with them during dinner and exchanged contacts.

      2. I have to admit, I wondered if this factored in to the LW’s problem as well, this idea of Doing Things to Meet (the ONE) People. It’s like this sort of person never understands that it’s Doing Things to Do Things You Enjoy (and meeting people who enjoy the same thing as a side benefit).

        1. Yup. This is also why Doctor Nerdlove told his readers to NOT go to a geek convention in hopes of finding a date. People don’t go to cons for dates (unless there was a dating con?), they go to cosplay, shop, enjoy panels, and talk to their favorite celebrities. The last thing on a nerd wants to deal with is some creepo that wants them to perform Slave!Leia sex in a cramped, body odor-filled hotel room.

          Also, cons are fucking expensive. That is an expensive thing to drop on somethibg where the chances of getting laid are probably…. 3% if I’m generous?

    2. Yeah, I know what you mean. I think it’s not per se bad advice–if you want to meet people in general, it’s easier if you have a shared interest. But you should focus on things you’re at least interested in doing even if you don’t meet anyone you click with.

    3. “Which is all well and good if the primary reason for doing these things is that the lonely person actually likes the activity and meeting someone is just a hoped-for side benefit instead of the sole aim. The problem is that the people giving the advice to Lonely Person rarely make that caveat.” Ugh, yes.

  30. The hobby group I was in (D&D), it was the actual DM who was running it that did this to me and it wound up driving me out of the group when I couldn’t figure out how to redirect his unwanted sexual advances (and in fairness, I was 18/19, he was over 30, so I didn’t have the actual life experience and knowledge to figure out how to navigate the social situation). I tried several times to tell him I wasn’t interested, he kept trying to invite me on dates, I tried ignoring it, he kept pushing, and then the night he sent me way over-the-top sexually suggestive messages about what was happening to my character in the game, I decided I wasn’t coming back and that was the last session I went to.

    Looking back on it, I do wish I’d had the tools and strategies to return the awkward back and stand up for myself because I can see the sexual harassment so clearly now. This was over 20 years ago though. I hope he wound up drowning in a puddle somewhere, he was such an epic creeper.

    1. I think when it comes to dudes like those, who are “hosts”, then the best option IS to not attend. Because he is the “host”, then he has his “rules” and everything is set in his favor. If anyone has issues with him, he can just ban them or whatever. If people don’t like him, well, that’s too bad cause he is the host.

      That is when you or someone else, as Bender states:
      “Screw you! I’ll make my own [event]! With blackjack! And hookers!”

      1. And if the hookers just want to play blackjack, we’ll leave them alone and let them play blackjack!

          1. Whore is even more deeming. The phrase “hooker and blackjack” is a quote (not that it justifies its usage), but it might be best if we actually asked sex workers how they preferred to be referred too instead of making assumptions for them.

      2. You make a very good and valid point, and that might have also wound up being what weighed so heavily on how I felt I could (and couldn’t) deal with the situation at the time too. He clearly held a lot of power over me (figuratively) given that I really wanted to play D&D at the time and I didn’t know anyone else running games in the area so I was just sucking it up and tolerating the behaviour from him until it became so pervasive, I had to leave. He’d managed to get me alone a few times in the store (he owned it) and things he said were so bad that I always made sure I was only there when others arrived after that, but that’s when he started including the comments in notes pertaining to my character (so only I could see them).

        Looking back, he’d made it pretty clear that nothing I said was going to make him stop and he was taking his GM powers as far as he could so you’re right, he had set the rules that he could do what he wanted and the best thing was for me to quit. Which I did, and since I wanted D&D games, I started running them myself instead. ^_^

  31. Two techniques that might help you out in addition to the Captain’s scripts. First, I like to be proactive about saying the things I *do* want. Example, “Hey, are you interested in going to Llama Riders 3?” “Yeah, I might go, if we want to get a group together from the club.”

    This has two benefits. First, it makes it clear in what context you may be interested–as a group event, yes. Second, it’s still a pretty clear “I won’t go out with you” without taking away the plausible deniability on both sides. Third, since you’ve set the expectation that you want to go with a group, if Velcro Victor asks, “Hey, how about Llama Riders 3 on Friday night?” it seems natural to ask, “Maybe. Who else is going?” And if the answer is no one, you can easily decline. Fourth, if he lies and it’s just you and him, it’s easy to say, “Eh, since most people ended up not going, I think I’ll head out myself.”

    (You do not have to do any of these things! It’s fine to be direct. But if you feel uncomfortable in general or in the situation, I’ve found this to be a great ‘soft touch’ solution.)

    In addition to that, particularly in networking/business settings where I’m unsure, I like to be more direct. Let’s say a potential professional connection asks me for coffee and I’m not sure if they intend it as business or personal. I tend to just say, “Potentially! What would you like to discuss?”

    If they’re vague, you can politely pass. If they’re concrete in what they want to talk about, you can accept or pass depending on whether you’re interested in the discussion. (And I usually set a rather short window, like 30 minutes and make it clear I have to leave right on time.) If they try to get off-topic and get too personal, it’s easy to steer it back to the topic they originally offered.

    1. Even better, if he lies about anyone else going… you can contact them.

      Creep: Let’s go to movies!
      You: who else is coming.
      Creep: … Thor. Thor is coming
      You: Hey Thor, Creep says you’re goinnto movies with us!
      Thor: Really? I don’t remember us setting this up.
      You: Oh?

      Then you have it, instant stealth date detected.

    2. I have found out that this often works, too – but unfortunately it does take effort so unless you are like me and LOVE organizing events it might not be for you. I have mainly organized events and outings because I enjoy it vastly so the side effect of not having to experience stealth dates was a pleasant surprise. When one does the organizing, one also gets to control the invitations and see who is coming – and if it seems that quite possibly only Velcro Victor is sure to attend, then one can cancel the event.

      Of course, this should not be required of anyone. I find it utterly unfair that anyone should go through all this trouble just to concentrate on their hobby in peace.

  32. I’m a straight, cis, relatively flirty guy, and I will somewhat frequently ask people I have met through work, volunteer, and social events to lunch/dinner(less common)/a drink. For the most part, these aren’t people I have any non-platonic interest in, and in these cases (correct me if I’m wrong), I think this behavior is fine.

    I (believe I) act the same way with ladies I might be interested in. I don’t intend these to be dates – on the rare occasions I intend such invitations as dates, I include language like “I like you”, or “just the two of us” to convey my intentions. I do intend these, like all such get-togethers, to be an opportunity to get to know each other better… which might, potentially, lead to me asking the person on an actual date down the road. Is this behavior acceptable, or is this too close to the stealth-dates described above? I’m happy to answer any questions that might be relevant to the question.

    1. I think it sounds fine, but I’m curious what you see as the difference between a one-on-one get-together with someone you might be interested in dating, and an actual date with such a person. (I’m not trying to claim that there is no valid difference, just genuinely curious). FWIW, I tend to be oblivious and unless someone pretty much literally used the word “date” I would assume it was a friend thing.

      1. Honestly, not always much. Notable differences might include (1) not offering to pay for the other person, (2) not attempting to hug or kiss the other person at the end of it, (3) not attempting to escalate into something else (drink after dinner, movie after drink, whatever), (4) avoiding intensely personal topics, (5) remaining open to others joining, (6) choosing less expensive/less fancy destinations (Chipotle, I’m looking at you, and (7) not making any references to “next time”. Of course, not all of these happen on every date, and some of these things can start happening as friendships develop, which can definitely lead to the occasional Confusion Date (as someone described above).

          1. Yes, so much this. My standard (Ohai! Uptight, formerly sex-phobic gay boy with a history of attracting creepers who could creep for the Olympic team, here!) was always pretty clear. My now-husband asked me when we were still in the “just friends” phase of getting to know each-other how I determined when I was dating someone, and I said, “Oh, that’s easy. When one person explicitly asks the other out on a date or says, ‘Will you be my boyfriend?'” The clearer and more obvious, the better 🙂

            My approach has always been: get to know people on the basis that I like being around with them regardless, rather than start off with the pressure of considering them as potential spouse/partner material. Doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s worked really well for me.

        1. I wonder if your general pattern is like mine. I’ve only ever dated people that I was friends with first and had the friendship fairly organically develop into a dating relationship. I also have that thing where I need to know a person fairly well before the idea of dating even crosses my mind.

          1. Actually, I’ve leaned pretty heavily into the whole online dating thing. I like the exceedingly clear context and ability to pre-screen for things like desire to have children, smoker status, and the like. And, when it comes to people I already know, the idea of dating often crosses my mind pretty early… I just don’t ever pursue it until I know the person rather well and my interest is pretty firm, because I know how rarely relationships work out long-term and I don’t want to lose friendships over short-term relationships.

    2. You’re right that it’s a good idea to get to know potential new friends and new partners by asking them to hang out! As far as I’m concerned, the difference between what you’d like to do and what the men in this letter are doing is partly dependent on context, and partly dependent on time and efficiency.

      The context problem: are you doing any of the hovery and annoying in-person and/or digital behaviors described in the letter, while merrily ignoring the various SLOW and STOP verbal and body-language signals from The Objects of Your Affection? If not, you’re already out ahead.

      The time/efficiency problem: guys like the ones described in the letter tend to put off actually doing the thing and asking their crushes out as long as they possibly can because they are so scared of rejection. After one or two coffees of plausible deniability, if you’re definitely interested in these women, you need to say so, and not let it just hang in the air like smog. They will probably pick up on it, and if they want to just be platonic friends (or even just comfortable acquaintances) with you, they will feel weird about it. Better give them the chance to say yes or no sooner rather than later so the smog can dissipate either way.

      1. I certainly hope I’m not doing those things! I’m probably* on the spectrum, and when I was younger was, regrettably, commonly known as creepy. I’ve worked on a number of those behaviors, and have eliminated most of them, though they can still creep in from time-to-time. Contrary to popular perception, naming inappropriate behaviors *can* actually help reform some of us** that truly want to change but are ignorant as to what we are doing wrong! And I love the analogy to smog – that really captures the feeling that unrequited affection can leave in the air.

        *explanation not likely relevant
        **creepy individuals

      2. To elaborate a little bit, I think even *one* coffee of plausible deniability is too much with someone you know in a professional context. I’m really talking about a place earlier than that – where you would turn down a date even if asked, but know that you might accept (or even initiate) once you know the person better. Per the discussion below, though, this is probably a moot point.

    3. As a bi, mostly-not-interested-in-dating, pretty friendly woman, I absolutely think one-on-one friend outings are fine.

      What becomes a problem for me is when I feel like I got the rug pulled out from under me. If I get to what was sold to me as a friend outing (which is my assumption for basically anything not labeled a ‘date’) and it’s clearly a date, I’m going to be very uncomfortable and rather upset with the other person. And similarly, if we’re a couple friend-outings into what looks like a wonderful budding friendship, and the person suddenly asks me out, I’m going to be uncomfortable and rather upset with the person. (This isn’t to say that friendships can never develop into more! But if we’re still early on in building the friendship, it feels like they only wanted to be friends in order to try to access the possibility of dating/sex.)

      For me, your ‘pre-date’ outings would be too close to the line, and would end up making me uncomfortable. And even beyond that, I don’t think it’s very fair! You’re using these get-togethers as a way to figure out how interested you are in dating them; it’s only fair that they get the opportunity to look at you from the same perspective. I also don’t see how these get-togethers differ from early stage dating (which is largely ‘get to know each other a little bit, see if we’re compatible/interested in continuing’). Overall, I think you’ll be better off expressing whatever level of interest you have right off the bat, even if it’s tentative.

      1. How would you recommend handling that in a professional or semi-professional setting? I find that I, not infrequently, meet people that are attractive and interesting that I could be romantically interested in, would absolutely want to be friends with, but would absolutely not want to ask on a date (yet) due to professional considerations on all sides. Would your advice be to simply forego the friendship due to the potential future romantic interest (which is largely uncontrollable), to swear off romantic involvement categorically no matter what feelings develop (which feels like its own brand of dishonest), or something else?

        Phrased different, how would you recommend I get to know someone better that I’m not presently interested in asking out, but who seems like someone I could become romantically interested in? The answer may well be “don’t”, or to make my “almost never date people you interact with professionally” rule into a “never date people you interact with professionally” rule, but I’d rather not limit my options so dramatically if there is another respectful approach.

        1. Remember that the other people have agency and if they like you That Way they can take initiative to make something happen with you! You don’t have to have some kind of plan or strategy, especially for work acquaintances.

          1. Certainly true! But wouldn’t the two of us be in the same position? As in, if it would be inappropriate for me to do it, it would be inappropriate for her to do it? Of course, the gender power imbalance makes it preferable to allow her to make the move… though social convention dictates the opposite.

          2. I am not personally invested in you keeping allllllll your dating options open but I am pretty invested in women not running a gauntlet of “is this a date?” when they are just trying to work. If you are not sure of someone’s interest, I’m cool with a blanket “don’t cross the streams.” There are plenty of avenues for meeting date-partners thay aren’t work. #TimesUp

          3. Some lost relationships would definitely be worth eliminating the “is this a date” stress that (primarily) women have to deal with. If nobody comes up with another magical solution, I’ll take that approach going forward. I appreciate the perspective!

          4. Harley, maximizing your dating options is not remotely important here. What is important is the massive and constant violence the group you are in continually inflicts on the group that you want your romantic partners to come from. There is no reason you need to be able to try to date your colleagues. None. Zilch.

            I am concerned about the level of control you expressed over attraction you might feel to a professional colleague — I recommend you get some help and really work on that. If you can’t get to know your professional colleagues without developing uncontrollable romantic feelings for a few of them, that means you are not doing your job competently and you need to get on top of that YESTERDAY.

        2. I wrote a long response to this, and then I realized what I actually needed to say was a lot shorter. 😛

          When you are interested in someone, the best way to explore that interest without hurting or upsetting anyone is to be up-front about what you want. If you want to be friends, tell them you want to be friends. If you want to date them, tell them you want to date them. If you’re not sure yet, tell them that!

          Just don’t lead them to think you’re doing one thing while you’re actually heading towards a different thing (e.g. don’t act like you want to be friends when you’re actually considering the possibility of a romantic relationship). Social relationships work best when everyone’s on the same page. Be honest about what you’re thinking; the absolute worst it will do is chase off people who aren’t a good fit with you, and it will help things go much more smoothly with people who are a good fit.

          And for the record, I don’t think there’s any harm in asking out people you happened to meet in a professional context. I mean, there are specific lines you shouldn’t cross–a manager should never date someone they manage, for example, and it’s generally smart to be cautious about dating the people you work with every single day. But if you, say, meet someone at a professional conference? As long as you’re polite and low-pressure about it (which should be the norm everywhere, not just in professional contexts), I don’t think there’s generally anything wrong with asking.

          1. I suspect you’ll burn a lot more professional bridges by pulling the “not a date…not a date…ok let’s date” thing than by being up-front about your intentions, for the record. When a guy pulls that pattern, my immediate reaction is “Oh, you were thinking of those meetings as dates/lead-ups to dates, not the (friend-building/professional networking/hobby-doing) I thought it was. Without taking my interest into account at all. Ew, now I feel used and slimy inside.” Making people feel like that is pretty much always going to be worse than outright saying, “Hey, I understand of course if you prefer not to date within your professional network, but I think you’re a cool person, would you be interested in getting a drink together to get to know each other better?”

          2. I agree that if that was done more than rarely it would cause major problems (though asking people out regularly probably would too). My concern is that I legitimately don’t want to date most of these people early on, so asking them on a date would be out of the question.

            I have a friend who has a similar “used and slimy” reaction whenever anyone in her life – friends, coworkers, friends of friends, social group members – expresses an interest outside of an explicit dating context. It’s somewhat fascinating (and confusing) to me, because the “friends first, relationship later” pattern has been so deeply ingrained in me, and because I’ve never had that feeling when people I know have told me that they were interested in starting to date. I don’t think I ever assume that those men or women were hiding their intentions, simply that they hadn’t decided what it was that they wanted until (shortly before) they “made a move”.

            Do you have a sense of if most women have your sort of reaction? In my experience, not many men do, but perhaps it is a male privilege thing.

          3. For the third time, I’m not saying that a friendship can never develop into a romantic relationship! I want to make a really clear distinction between two cases here.

            Case 1: A and B meet. They both think the other is pretty cool, so they hang out more in a platonic context and become friends. Over the course of several months or years, they become pretty close. At some point, long after a solid friendship has been established, A realizes they’re developing romantic feelings for B. They tell B, “Hey, I’m developing these feelings. How are you feeling? If you’re not interested, our friendship is still important to me and I’ll get over it, but if you are we should give it a shot!” A and B, who already know each other well and have already established a caring relationship between them, can negotiate from there to figure out whether and how their relationship will change.

            Case 2: A and B meet. They both think the other is pretty cool, so they hang out more in a platonic context. After just a few hangouts, before there’s been much chance to establish a friendship, A suddenly switches to a romantic track and asks B out. B is left thinking “I thought I was making a friend, and now all of a sudden this is being sprung on me out of nowhere. What were our last couple hang-outs, was A trying to trick me into dating? Did A even want to be friends with me, or were they just trying to get close so I’d consider having sex with them? Why couldn’t A have been up-front from the start?”

            Can you see how these are really different things? To me, the former is fine and can be a fantastic start to a relationship. The latter is not. It’s too soon after meeting for me to believe that they really weren’t thinking about the possibility from the start–and if they were considering it and didn’t tell me, I’m absolutely not cool with that.

            When it comes to ‘most women’–women aren’t a monolith, each individual has her own preferences and opinions, but I think enough women have encountered enough skeevy, manipulative jerks to be at least suspicious of case 2. Case 1 is much less common of a concern.

          4. Sorry if I wasn’t unclear – I wasn’t trying to misrepresent what you think or how you are feeling! The friend I referenced is the one who feels slimy whenever someone else in her life initiates dating – she relayed a story about how a man she had been friends with since childhood revealed that he had developed feelings for her, and it made her question the entirety of their friendship – I didn’t mean to suggest that you felt that way.

            I agree that friendships can become more, and I certainly understand your point that, the shorter the friendship is, the skeevier it feels when one person in that friendship tries to “transition” to more. I would also expect that it matters somewhat how it is done (“Hey, so we’ve hung out a couple of times now… can we finally call the next one a date?” is probably much worse than “Hey, so i realize we don’t know each other that well, and I really value this developing friendship, but I find that I’m also developing romantic feelings for you and want to be up-front about that”), even if not doing it at all is the better approach.

            That said, I do suppose that I have some trouble really understanding the difference between the two situations, as to me they seem differences of degree rather than of kind. It seems like you are saying that making the transition after a month of friendship feels skeevy, but after (say) three years it doesn’t. Where is the line? Three months? Six? For *me*, the right solution is to probably not try to make the jump at all so that I’m not putting another person in an uncomfortable spot, particularly because “hmm, is there romantic potential?” is almost always in the back of my head to some degree or another (a separate problem that I need to continue to work on). However, if there is a more black-and-white distinction that you can point to, I’d certainly be all ears. Regardless, I really appreciate your time and thoughts on the subject!

            I’m aware that women aren’t a monolith, but when a position is held by the vast majority of any group of people I find it helpful to know. For example, catcalling is bad (even though some women like it) and offering to pay for dinner/drinks on the first date is good (even though it makes some women furious). Topics like this aren’t as widely talked about with men, at least in my social circles, so I appreciate the perspective.

          5. “Where is the line? Three months? Six?”

            You’re asking for handy rules of thumb, so here you go:

            Whenever you have crossed into this kind of rules-lawyering in the I’m-a-male-who-wants-female-romantic-partners space, you have already crossed into the realm of creepy predatory bullshit and you need to back up a thousand steps and sort your head out.

        3. You may not be able to control whether you develop a future romantic interest in someone, but you can and do control what you do if that interest develops. It’s not dishonest to decide ahead of time that you won’t date people who you met in X professional context even if you develop romantic feelings toward them, nor to pull back a bit from the friendship if that’s the best/least stressful way to get your feelings to cool.

          I have gotten romantically involved with people who I first got to know as friends, but I didn’t get to know them thinking “s/he seems interesting, let’s see if that interest turns out to have a romantic/sexual element when I get to know them better.” I got to know them through a process of “we’re hanging out with the same people…this conversation after the event is interesting, do you want to go someplace where we can keep talking…” None of this was in a (semi)professional setting, though, and you might need to be more cautious, or differently cautious, there.

          The one time I did realize that the interest might be romantic, I was straightforward about “you seem like a cool person,based on hanging out at this party. I’d like to get to know you better and see if we have enough in common that this might work.”

          1. I suppose my issue is that I at least consider whether my interest is romantic with most people I’m attracted to. The vast majority of the time, the answer ends up being “no”, and most of the rest of the time, the answer is “maybe if they were interested, but otherwise it isn’t worth affecting the friendship over.” Which isn’t to defend this as the healthiest pattern, but it’s my reality.

            Per the Captain’s comments above, I think the right approach is probably for me to forswear dating people I meet outside of explicit dating contexts unless they make the first move.

        4. First of all you act professional because its in a professional setting. Second of if you think they are someone you would like to get to know better as a friend invite them to hang out as a friend. If you would like to go out with them then ask them on a date.

          If you started off as being friends and as you get to know them you develope romantic feelings you say “hey I really enjoyed getting to know you, I would love to go out together sometimes. Feel free to say no”. If they say yes, great you are now dating your coworker good luck with that and remember to follow your company guidelines for work relationship. If they say no, then say “thanks for letting me know. I dont want this to get in the way of our friendship. (This part depends on how you feel about the rejection) I’m going to need X time for us to hang out less. I have some feelings to process and I dont want you to feel like you have to take care of my feelings. I would be up for hanging out in a group”

          This is what you dont do. Avoid speak/working/networking with a specific group of people because you might catch some feefees. If you are working in the US, refusing to work with a specific group of people (women, men, straight men, gay men, black women, Asian women, white men, whatever, atheist men, Muslim women) is discrimination. Everyone is a protected class, and the minute you start avoiding people who fall into a specific group you are being discriminatory.

    4. It sounds too close to stealth dating to me for the cases where the connection has anything to do with the other person’s professional work and/or professional network. And note that you don’t get to judge what that means — they do. If their career is charity work or their volunteering has some component of building their career in their mind, for example, that counts, even if you thought of it as “just volunteering”.

      It’s really rude to issue such invitations only for the other person to find out you’re checking them out to see if you might want to date them.

      I read a bit further and saw that you have a history of not handling these kinds of situation well. The only ethical way to deal with that is to stay a million light years away from if with women where the contact has anything to do with anything they perceive as relevant to their career. By all means ask them to lunch, but don’t ever try to date them after that. I get that trying to learn to handle that zone better seems like a viable idea in theory, but in reality it means using real people as your test dummies, which is completely unethical.

  33. I think Captain Awkward’s advice to get someone in the hierarchy involved is spot on. If possible, talk to both a male and female leader, and approach the female leader first if you’re worried the male won’t believe you.

    I used to co-run an online gaming group which was fairly huge. It went great most of the time – until a guy showed up who started doing the online equivalent of those behaviors, including hitting on and skeeving out the female members who fortunately came to us immediately.

    My two co-mods, both publicly female, told him to quit it and weren’t respected. He continued. I, who have a masculine online name and am usually assumed to be male, told him to stop it – and he did.

    Was it fair he listened to me above the female mods? Not at all. Did he end up getting kicked from the group? Yes, for not listening to them.

    This might be one of those unfortunate cases where creeps are more likely to listen to other guys which is why I’m recommending a mixed group smackdown. A united front and multiple people from above telling him This Is Not Okay, Stop It Now, is really hard for most people to ignore.

    Best of luck, LW! This is an awkward as heck situation and I’m sorry they’re putting you into it, but it’s absolutely on them to quit their behaviors and any reasonable leader will back you up.

    1. Hurray for your group actually taking action. I was in far too many groups where a key member was skeevy as hell, but the group wasn’t willing to sacrifice immediate progress and a quality player (but crappy human) for a less quality player (but much better human) and a better long-term atmosphere.

  34. Super late to the party here, and only skimmed / ctrl+f the comments in an attempt to make sure I’m not repeating anyone… sooooo… I’m sorry if I am.

    LW, I want to provide a possible alternative to one of the Captain’s scenarios. Hers went thusly:
    Them: “Why don’t you reply to any of my messages?”

    You: “I don’t use Facebook that way. I’ll see you at [group hobby thing] though!”

    My alternate response for you is a bit more direct. More along the lines of “I’d prefer not to chat outside of the group. But see you next time!” This keeps it from becoming a thing where he next finds you on LinkedIn or Instagram or whatever and you’re back to your same spot. (I grew up with a brother who’s a bit attentive to semantics, and as an annoying younger brother, he would point out my unintended meanings constantly. As it turns out, it’s been pretty good training. Go figure.)

    Is it a bit sharp and potentially biting? Yes. But so am I when you get too close or creepy. 😀

  35. Oh wow, the situation the LW describes sounds familiar and really upsetting and weird. I really hate it because it feels like the man (sorry, but from my experience it’s mostly men who do this) are trying to put down pressure while having plausible deniability. The best way to destroy that is to take away the deniability–“you thought I was asking you out?” “Yes, I was, because you were acting like you were.”

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