#1127: “I think my friend is falling in love with me and I don’t feel the same way.”

Dear Captain,

Nearly 2 years ago I joined a MMORPG community for the first time. Through a series of events, I met a guy who has become one of my best friends. We are bizarrely similar at times and he’s really been there for me. It started out just online but we now have each other’s numbers and text A LOT throughout the day. He has never had a girlfriend and I was raised in a religious, sheltered household and have never had a boyfriend either. (For context, I still am religious and I would NEVER be intimate before marriage and would never marry outside my religion. I admit I’m not doing everything right spiritually but this is not “just my parents’ religion” to me. My only close friend is also of this religion and I feel I cannot talk about this with her because I’m sure she would encourage stopping all contact.)

He’s been there for me so much and really understands me. But I think he’s in love with me…and it’s not mutual. I care about him as a friend but I don’t feel that way about him and some of his comments are starting to make me concerned. In the year since we started texting, he has told me about a ton of dreams about me (including one where he was my date at that friend’s wedding and after I caught the bouquet, we were at the altar – he described this dream as being especially vivid). He has asked me, very embarrassed, to not casually mention if I’m getting in the shower because it “gets him excited”. He’s also mentioned that he’s going to start saving up money to come visit me, which my parents are EXTREMELY not okay with. They have mostly hesitantly accepted the friendship but are very wary and my mom is really worried about it turning into something more. I’ve hidden behind my parents not wanting him to visit but the truth is that I don’t want to meet him. I’m good being texting buddies. But when he mentioned this plan and I said “I don’t know how my parents would feel about that” he responded “what, me saving some money?”. (He once also mentioned he believes he “accidentally found” my address somehow. I was afraid to ask how and did not ask him what he thought it was to confirm or anything. My parents don’t know this. I was very clear that he cannot send me anything.) His family teases him and calls me his girlfriend, and while he tells me he denies it, I worry hearing that from them isn’t helping.

We are both overweight and have incredibly low self-esteem. I don’t know how to clearly tell him I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship because this kind of attention is brand new to me. While I’ve tried to head some of it off, I feel like every text I send him is leading him on and making this worse. I know him well enough that I know it would break him if I cut this off and I don’t really want the friendship to end either. I’m afraid there’s no way I can be painfully clear that I don’t want more and not ruin everything.

(As a freaky side note, there’s another weird side to this: he has a lot in common with my dad. Not really personality-wise – though they’re both pretty big know-it-alls – but they have the same first name, birthdays 2 days apart, and middle names different by just 1 letter. I still call this friend by his (female) character name from the game because of this. Just in case you were wondering if the situation could get even weirder…)

Please help me,

I just don’t feel that way

Hi there, “I Just Don’t Feel That Way”,

I’ve been thinking about your letter for a few days now and this is what’s happening:

Your friend is trying to groom you into being his girlfriend by making his fantasy about that so big and airtight and real that you can’t say no to it. After all, his family is in on it with their jokes! Even his DREAMS are in on it! His fantasy is that he’ll show up at your house and you’ll be so swept away in his romantic gesture and how meant to be it all is that you’ll just, like, be his girlfriend.

But he’s not asking you if you want to participate in any of it.

He’s telling you he “gets excited” when you take showers and that he ferreted out where you live even though you never told him and he plans to visit even though you never invited him (and have in fact told him not to) but you are so worried about losing him as a friend or hurting his feelings that you don’t feel like you can say “EW! Nope!” And what he’s counting on in his fantasy is that when he shows up you’ll be too surprised/overwhelmed/embarrassed/afraid of hurting his feelings to tell him “no” then.

That’s a situation he’s manufacturing and taking advantage of, and I don’t like it. I know he is young and inexperienced and he is having big feelings that he doesn’t quite know what to do with, so I have some sympathy for his crush, but I have little patience for the damaging way he’s going about this. I’ve definitely acted in the same smothering, oblivious way toward people I had a crush on when I was too chicken to risk rejection, and I am mortified when I think about it now. It’s not okay to cast someone as the star in all your future plans without their consent. It’s not okay to make your hopes about that person more important than that person’s actual feelings or consent. What he’s doing is not okay and he needs to stop it.

I wouldn’t worry too much about his resemblance to your dad. I think it’s the other side of the coin of your friend telling you his dreams about you, where he is casting around for cosmic reasons that this is all a yes, at the same time you are looking for reasons that aren’t specifically hurtful to him to justify your no. Good news: You don’t have to justify it! You don’t feel that way, and that’s a good enough reason to not participate in this fantasy anymore.

Girls are not socialized to be direct with boys and say stuff like:

  • “No.”
  • “I don’t like that.”
  • “Why are you telling me this.”
  • “Ick, please don’t say things like that to me.”
  • “Idk why you keep telling me dreams about me being your girlfriend, but I’d like you to stop – I don’t want to know that stuff.”
  • “Why are you planning a visit here? I haven’t invited you.”
  • “My parents would not be cool with you visiting, but that’s beside the point: I haven’t invited you, and I don’t want you to visit.”
  • “I’d rather just stay texting buddies.”
  • “I like you as a friend, and the stuff you’re saying about ‘getting excited’ when I take a shower or planning a visit when I haven’t invited you is making it weird between us. Please stop.”
  • “I feel like you fantasize about me being your girlfriend. I don’t like that, I don’t have that same fantasy, and I want you to stop.”
  • “If you want me to be your girlfriend, why don’t you just ask me, so I can say no and we can go back to being friends. This dream stuff and threatening to visit is kinda freaking me out.”
  • “I don’t feel that way about you.”

And boys are not socialized to hear that stuff and take it seriously when girls say it. Look at what this guy is already doing to push boundaries – looking up where you live, making plans to visit you, and making light of it when you tell him you don’t want him to. Look at what you feel like you have to do – how much emotional labor you have to take on trying to strategize to deal with his feelings that you never asked for!

We can do better than this, I think. Boys’ fantasies are not more important than girls’ desires. Boy feelings are not more important than girl feelings. You don’t have to take care of them at the expense of your own.

It’s also okay to flirt with someone who is flirting with you while you even figure out how you feel. Even if you enjoyed his attention or were curious about it for five minutes before deciding to shut it down, that doesn’t make you equally responsible for what he’s doing or to blame if he’s hurt when you don’t want to continue. A lot of people and religious traditions try to make boys’ actions and feelings the responsibility of girls to carry, like y’all tempted him or something, and that is not okay to do. Anyone who tries to tell you this is your fault somehow (even if that’s you) is wrong.

I wish I could confidently tell you that this probably ends happily, where you tell the dude to cool it and he stops immediately and you go back to being cool friends like you were all this time. The first time you tell him no, get ready for a ROYAL SULK. Get ready for him to be suddenly short with you and sort of punish you with how and when he responds. Get ready for him to try to pretend that he never felt that way about you, get ready for him to say mean stuff about how you “led him on,” or get ready for him to say a lot of mean stuff about himself to the point where you end up reassuring him that it’s all okay and you’re not mad (even though it isn’t okay and you kind of are). Get ready for weirdness, is what I’m saying. That weirdness isn’t your fault and it also isn’t a reason to not say what you need to say.

I’m older than you and I’ve lived inside the internet for a very long time, so I’ve had A LOT (alotalotalotalotalot) of the “Male internet friend who is 99% awesome but who still keeps trying to insert sexual or romantic stuff into conversations on the regular” interactions. Before achieving my full Captain Awkward form, I experimented with lots of ways of defusing this stuff. As an awkward dork who had no idea how to flirt, I was very forgiving of fellow awkward dorks trying out their flirtation training wheels and sometimes let stuff go on for way too long before I said anything. Sometimes I liked the reminders that people found me attractive, sometimes I threw out  innuendo with the best of them. But over time it just got really awkward and old, especially when people kept doing it even though I wasn’t reciprocating.

One thing I tried for a while was to completely ignore it – like, I’d respond to everything else the person said, but totally ignore the “You’re getting in the shower? That makes me excited!” comments (a classic since 1998, apparently, like, did you know that people can just clean themselves without it being sexual in any way). Sadly, this almost never worked. How I saw what I was doing:Friend, I am going to pretend you never said that embarrassing thing and give you the face-saving plausible deniability to walk it back.How my Friend(s) saw this:She was cool with me mentioning my boner! Go for bonertalk. I repeat, boners are a go!”

I also tried total sincerity: “Friend, I’m not down with the sexy chat. When you make comments like that, it skeeves me out, please stop!

This was a mixed bag. I’d say 50% of the time the person would be like “Hey, sorry, no worries” and then keep things G or PG, because they actually wanted to be my friend and really were just sport-flirting.

The other 50% got real icky, I’m not gonna lie. “Bitch.” “Y so full of yourself.” “Yeah like I’d do that with you.” “Don’t flatter yourself.” “I was only kidding.” “You’re no fun at all.” “You take yourself too seriously.” “Slut.” “Get a sense of humor.”

Now I recognize this for what it was (pathetic wounded pride lashing out), but at the time it really hurt my feelings to have someone go from acting like my friend to acting like I was inviting or making up gross behavior they were doing. I mean, it would probably still hurt my feelings if someone I trusted behaved that way, but I’d figure out the “LOL, sad!” part quicker. People who reacted this way are not my friends anymore.

Almost worse than the insults or the gaslighting about what had been happening was: “Why do no women like me like that/Am I doomed to be alone/what’s wrong with meeeeeeeeee?” Like, now I have to pity someone and comfort someone for the gross line-stepping thing they chose to do. Great. If your friend feels embarrassed or hurt because of rejection, that’s a normal thing for him to feel, but that doesn’t make it your problem or your responsibility.

The other response to watch out for: “Well, if you felt that way, why didn’t you say something before?” aka “Why did you let me embarrass myself?” aka “Let’s look for the ways that my weird wishful thinking boundary crossing behavior might be your fault.” Treat this like the horsepoop it is and say “I thought if I ignored it, it would stop” or “I did say something but you didn’t listen to me” or even better “I am saying something now, so, you’re going to stop it, right?” which is the most important part.

Your friend might surprise you (and all of us) by being gentle and kind and cool about it. If he’s not cool, that’s about him, and not about you. If someone who will project a whole relationship that you don’t want onto you blames you for puncturing his bubble with your actual thoughts and feelings, that’s not because you did anything wrong.

In your shoes, I’d be getting ready to say something like “Hey, we need to talk. When you tell me dreams about being your girlfriend, or talk about how ‘excited’ you are, or make plans to visit me even though I’ve never invited you, or keep telling me about how your family jokes about us being a couple, it makes me really uncomfortable. I like being your friend, I like being friends who play video games and text occasionally. That’s all I’m interested in, and I need the other stuff to stop.” 

He’ll react however he does. You might need to repeat that you want the other stuff to stop.

If he reacts badly, and especially if he doesn’t stop, the friendship might be over, or at least on a long break. You might need to block him from being able to text you or contact you through the game. You might need to tell your parents that he found your address and was making uncomfortable and scary plans to come see you, so that they can help keep you safe.

And I’m so sorry if that’s the case, but I need you to know that even if things get really weird and sad and uncomfortable,  you are allowed to say no to boys. You don’t have to take care of their feelings about you, you don’t have to be quiet about your feelings in order to make them feel okay. Friendship doesn’t mean enduring behaviors that make you uncomfortable, and if this friendship breaks, you weren’t the one who broke it.




334 thoughts on “#1127: “I think my friend is falling in love with me and I don’t feel the same way.”

  1. I know him well enough that I know it would break him if I cut this off…

    LW, it’s not your responsibility to be concerned about this dude’s thoughts/feelings/etc… if you are not interested. If he is upset, those are his feelings to manage and deal with. You don’t have to play along with anything that makes you so clearly uncomfortable to spare someone else’s feelings. I don’t have a lot of experience with crushes or dating, but it seems to me that a huge part of dating is learning to deal (hopefully gracefully!) with someone not liking you. That’s on him, not you.

    1. Just to elaborate, in case the above feels harsh to you – your concern for the feelings of someone you care about is laudable, but this is a situation where he has set up a situation where you either have to do what he wants or hurt him. There’s nothing fair about that to you and it’s not your fault he’s done so. In the most generous possible reading he’s done all this unconsciously. It’s very possible some or all of it is deliberate. But either way, this isn’t some situation where you can just choose not to tell someone you don’t like their shoes. This is a situation you’ve been put in where you either possibly hurt his feelings or you have to allow yourself to be harmed. Don’t let him – unwittingly or not – make you think courtesy obligates you to make yourself feel bad here.

      1. Don, could you also go back in time and tell 18-year-old me this? Also 19-year-old me and 20-year-old me, just for good measure.

        LW, this is wonderful, important, accurate advice. Please take this to heart.

      2. “this is a situation where he has set up a situation where you either have to do what he wants or hurt him”

        I want to write this in the sky, in letters of fire.

        I’ve been in the LW’s position too many times to count, and younger-me (and, occasionally, current-me) could really have used this as a reminder.

        It’s not necessarily saying that LW’s friend is a terrible person, or that he did this on purpose and with ulterior motives — but, regardless of his intentions, this is the situation he has created.

        LW, this scenario is *way too common*, and you are not responsible for any sadfeels he may have about you ending your role in the fantasy he made up where you’re his girlfriend, regardless of whether you want to be.

      3. This is a situation you’ve been put in where you either possibly hurt his feelings or you have to allow yourself to be harmed.

        TRUTH TRUTH TRUTH. No prizes for guessing which is the worse option.

      4. Slight edit: “This is a situation *he has put you* in where you either possibly hurt his feelings or you have to allow yourself to be harmed.

        With that emendation, yeah, please go back and tell 18yo / 19yo / 20yo me that, yes indeedy.

        The funny thing is that 16yo /17yo me knew it, with boys of good intent, but the predators got sneakier as I got older.

      5. This is so wise and so helpful. Thank you for this — we so rarely talk about how this Catch-22 is totally solvable from the manipulative person’s perspective (and it IS manipulative to put someone in this kind of situation, even if you don’t do it cold-bloodedly or 100% consciously). If having hurt feelings when someone says no will “destroy” a person, they’re not emotionally ready to date anyone, because the essence of a relationship is ongoing, bilateral, freely-given consent.

      6. Just calling this out so it doesn’t get missed.

        he has set up a situation where you either have to do what he wants or hurt him. There’s nothing fair about that to you

        Also note this:

        It is kind of disrespectful to him for you to try to manage his feelings. He will feel what he wants or needs to, and negative feelings are important training tools for maturity.

        He will figure out how to handle his feelings. He will heal. A little bit of hurt feelings, wounded pride, and self-earned humiliation are ALL OF THEM something he can recover from. This will not be the end of his world. He is stronger than that–everyone is, pretty much.

        And lying to him, even by omission–by not saying, “hey, you know what, this is getting too romantic sounding for me. I just want to be your friend, without visiting or jokes about being a couple”–is not really fair to him either.
        Your only responsibilities here is to be clear and to not be mean.

    2. This exactly. It’s okay to be worried–it’s normal to worry about people we care about, regardless of whether the caring is romantic or platonic–but that never, ever means that you’re responsible for someone else’s feelings or actions.

      And it might not feel like it, but you have more options than just “Stay his fantasy girlfriend forever, let it escalate however he wants” and “Cut him off cold-turkey with heartless disregard for his safety”. You met him through an MMORPG community–you could reach out to a mutual friend there, let them know what’s going on, and ask them to check in with him. If you have contact info for anyone he knows offline (his family, maybe?), you can reach out and tell them what you’re worried about. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘break him’ here, but if you’re concerned that it could escalate to the level of self-harm, you could send him info on a hotline when you break things off. To be clear, you’re not required to do these things–he is ultimately responsible for managing his own emotions and his own actions, and even if you do literally nothing for him, you will not become somehow responsible for him–but if you think doing any of those things will make it easier for you to cut him off, they’re options you can choose to take.

  2. Oh wow, the fact that he jumped straight to “I’m gonna come see you someday” without even asking you if you wanted to see him in person, or asked if he could visit you someday, is seriously concerning. You tried to make your parents the bad guys here, but you really need to be clear that YOU don’t want him to come visit, and YOU will not like it if he shows up one day, it will make YOU very uncomfortable.

    Honestly, having someone with unrequited feelings for me find my address and just show up at my place is literally my nightmare, and that’s exactly what’s happening here, and it makes me afraid for you.

    1. The “finding your address” part is scary, I agree, but I have told people I would like to visit them (ready to hear a no) when I was sure that there was mutual interest (the friend kind of interest). I think this is very much a culture/style thing.

      1. No, this is a boundary testing/grooming thing, once you put it in context with the rest of his behavior. He’s lost the ‘it’s his culture!!!’ benefit of the doubt, given that he’s lied about ‘accidentally’ finding her address and all the other stuff LW mentioned. It’s not helpful to take each individual behavior out of context and search for kinder explanations for them.

        1. Agreed. Sure “I’d like to come see you some day/meet up when I’m in City in October…” is one thing. “I ‘accidentally’ found your address,” “I’m going to come visit you,” etc. in context with *everything else* takes away any plausible denial about his intentions being innocent or his actions being just clueless or some such.

          This is a deliberate pattern of behavior to try to make LW capitulate. He gets no pass on this at all. This kind of thing is so common (mostly amongst males) as to be *a thing.*

      2. There’s a big difference between “I would love to come visit you in person sometime” and “I am going to come visit you”. I don’t think it’s just a slight variation in phrasing.

        1. There’s also a major difference between having been told that a friend lives in New York, or in rural Minnesota, and saying that you’d like to visit them sometime, and (what seems to have happened here) telling an online friend “I looked up your address, and would like to come visit you.” Among other things, he’s already blown past the “so you don’t have to give out too much personal information” part of meeting in a public place the first time.

          1. Yeah, the address is skeevy. It’s not like “Did you just say you like [famous public monument]? That’s in [city]! I’d love to visit [city] some time and have you show me around”. It’s more of a “I found your house on street view and your curtains are so pretty” vibe.

      3. Yeah, no.

        “Culture” doesn’t enter in to it. He didn’t find her address accidentally. This is a boundary violation. (And it would scare me.)

        1. My first boyfriend, who was two years ahead of me at school, got my phone number by picking the lock on a teacher’s desk and getting my parents’ contact info.

          At the time, I simultaneously thought it was cute that he was so interested in me but also very shy, but also disturbing that he thought it was okay to do that.

          A few years later, long after we broke up, he was phoning me to play tape recordings about his dreams, lurking in bushes opposite my house, and following me to another country.

          Red flag red flag red flag.

      4. To elaborate on this: the combination of “finding your address” and “coming to visit you” is creepy. The guy in the letter is creepy. Not arguing that.
        But just saying “I’ll come visit you” in another context isn’t necessarily creepy because it can be a culture thing.

        1. I don’t understand why you keep bringing up culture and style.

          I think you’re saying that in your culture people announce they will show up and neither ask if they may visit, nor wait for invitations.

          If so, that’s completely unrelated to the LW’s problem. Her problem is that a so-called friend is stalking her and trying to coerce her into a sexual relationship.

          1. Precisely. Moreover, in most cultures even if the imposed upon person “welcomes” the intruder it doesn’t mean they are actually welcome. It means that they are too polite to show their annoyance.

            Source: 1) World traveler (many, many, many cultures) for over 40 years.
            2) Professional cultural anthropologist/sociologist (PhD).
            1&2 a) So I know a little about how “culture” works…across the board.

        2. Can you elaborate on why you think that inviting oneself to visit, without an expressed interest/invitation by the other party is a cultural thing? It’s pretty well established that just showing up sans invitation, even sometimes for actual family members is considered rude at the least.

        3. Yeah, but as someone above pointed out, dispensing with the context is not helpful. I mean, in certain contexts, it’s not creepy to say to your friend, “OMG, I had a dream we were getting married, weird right?” But that’s not the context the LW asked for advice on.

    2. I had a guy show up at my house on Christmas Day evening. I was 16, we had just gotten back from my grandparents house, and hadn’t even taken our coats off when he knocked on the door. I’m pretty sure he was outside in his car waiting for us to get home. My mom FLIPPED out. I avoided him like crazy at school from that day on. He liked to tell people I was stuck up and bitchy because of course it was my fault that I didn’t love his creepy behavior.

  3. Spot on advice from the Cap’n. I’m also involved in the religiously conservative world, and so many parts of that are blaring messages that boy’s and men’s actions, words, feelings, and sexual responses are the responsibility and fault of girls and women. Get that garbage out of your head. As CA said, his actions and response are his responsibility, and any weirdness is coming from what he did, not you. You were legitimately treating this as a friendship and being a good friend. He made it weird and awkward. No need for you to apologize or dwell on “what you did to lead him on.” And if you do get your parents involved, remember that it’s not your fault if they try to pull that on you. Sorry you’re dealing with this, LW, and I hope it turns out okay.

    1. My ex was an Orthodox Jew (well, at least he was raised that way – lots of conflict in that one). I am not Orthodox and really are much more agnostic. From the very onset it was clear I wasn’t going to be the one responsible for managing his feelings or our physical activity (which is really a common attribute in Orthodox marriages). I did not hold the moral “rules” around sex or physical affection like he did, and therefore it was set in stone in the beginning that he was to manage his own self – and I would not. If he chose to break it, then he chose – not I. So, it is perfectly OK to set that boundary and keep to it. You cannot control what someone else thinks, does, says, or acts and no one else should be held accountable for a person’s own choices. Quite frankly, not a lot of people even follow these hard set rules of who is “supposed” to control these interactions because, well, men are grown people capable of handling their emotions and actions.

    2. I am also a woman who has grown up in a religiously conservative household (my dad was a pastor) and who is still religiously observant (although I wouldn’t call myself conservative). I wanted to echo that anyone (including you, op) who believes you are responsible for the thoughts or feelings or physical responses of any man is 100% wrong. Not only that, but, at least when it comes to Christianity, that is bad theology. You are responsible for your own actions and thoughts, op, no one else’s. I hope it doesn’t take you as long to de-internalize that as it’s taken me.

      1. yeah notice that the 10 commandments include “thou shalt not covet” (which I believe is the core sin in sexual harassment and stalking), but do NOT include, “thou shalt not entice someone to covet.”

    3. Something I’ve noticed happens to my conservative religious female friends is the shocking frequency with which some men assume either a) “The Good Pure Girl is talking to me! Ergo I am THE ONE!” or b) “Men are such a novelty for her that she’ll definitely swoon for me, a man.” Compound that with the good ol’ phenomenon I like to call ‘Girl in the MMORPG/Comic Shop/D&D Group’ (wherein they will assume any feminine presenting person must be their soulmate because they too are a nerd) and you’ve got a pretty stubborn combo.

      It’s a stubborn combo which is 100% on him though. I’m so sorry he’s doing this when you’d extended the hand of friendship, but if he’s worth the friendship in the first place he’ll respond well to the Cap’s scripts. If he doesn’t then you will have learned some important info about him as a person (namely that he’s someone who doesn’t think your feelings are important), and that would suck but it’d be better to know.

      I send hugs if you would like them LW and wish you many critical hits.

      1. There’s also the weight factor: dudes assuming any fat or overweight woman will be so grateful for any sexual/romantic attention from any man they will do whatever is asked of them on top of the other ones.

          1. I was coming here to address the weight factor. The LW says that both of them are overweight. I think she needs to unpack that; there might be some useful knowledge to be gained from it–does she think she has to settle for this kind of treatment because she’s overweight? SHE DOES NOT. Does she think he is emotionally stunted from knowing how to handle relationship issues because he is overweight? HE IS NOT. These are just the immediate scenarios that came to my mind. Whatever excuse is being made because of peoples’ weight, it needs to stop being rationalization for any of this conflict. It stuck out to me as more than a casual detail.

        1. That is definitely a thing. I had a boss who was trying to sleep with me. (Yes, he was a sleaze, he later got fired.) And he actually straight up said that me. “You’re not exactly thin, so I thought you’d appreciate it.” I said NO.

          Side Note: On his way home that day, a tree branch fell on his sports car and totaled it. I smiled about that all day.

          1. “You’re not exactly thin, so I thought you’d appreciate it.”

            I can’t even articulate the amount of ick this engenders in me.

        1. I’m being THAT stickler here, but while the wordplay is cute, it does feed into the idea that those who present as women are not an integral part of the fandoms they often built— and we’re not going to reclaim the spaces thirsty colonizers like the one above by letting that normalization pass!

  4. I don’t know if this is a permanent solution or just a convenient band-aid but you can always do what I did in high school (and college tbh) and use your parents as an excuse. “Sorry, my parents aren’t comfortable with you visiting. You know they’re super religious.” “My parents would kill me if they knew guys were sending me presents.” “My parents are really strict and don’t let me date.”

    I call this a band-aid approach because while it shuts off the possibility of the relationship progressing physically (visits, presents, etc.) it isn’t an explicit turning down. Still, it may help you build confidence by setting those boundaries, thus making the eventual “I don’t feel the same way” easier.

    1. The thing about the bandaid is that it gives this dude a cover to tell himself that the LW wants to see him, it’s just her parents that don’t, and that what he’s doing is actually rescuing her from strict parents.

      She doesn’t have to let him down easy or slowly take off the bandaid. He actually needs to hear (and she needs to say): I don’t want to. Because that’s both true and enough of a reason.

      1. I come from a conservative religious community and I saw several situations when I was in late high school/early college where the guy managed to manufacture a “Romeo and Juliet” narrative around the girl’s disinterest because it was very convenient to blame the parents’ objections. In one case that ended very badly this was even in the face of the girl actually voicing her disinterest directly to the guy: the guy just told everyone else it was her parents making her say that, and they went out of their ways to help him manufacture reasons to be alone with her — all in the service of “their” “forbidden love”. It’s much better to be forthright about your own feelings both to the romantic pursuer and to the rest of the community.

        1. That’s why I agree with Captain Awkward, that it’s so important for her to state her own feelings. Otherwise, he might think he’s “rescuing” her.

      2. When I was 12 or so and a 16 y.o. dude creeped on me with an outrageous gift, my mom coached me to give it back to him and to tell him “I can’t accept this, it’s too much.” She also coached me that if he pushed back, and if I wanted to, I could say “Whether you want it back or not, my mom won’t let me keep it, so I’m going to leave it here with you,” and then walk away. This was very awesome of my mom because she empowered me to set and enforce a boundary myself, but also gave me a card to use to get out of a situation with a boundary pushing dude: parental rules. I think it actually signaled to the dude: “This girl has a parent who is watching what happens, and will definitely protect her from the likes of you.” Given that I was vulnerable, a novice at dealing with creeps, etc. I think it is a pretty cool strategy. Most important it gave me a way to shut it down and get him off my back and protected me from dealing with his feelingscrap. It was a tool for enforcing a boundary I had already set with my words. In time I got better with the whole boundaries thing and didn’t need to fall back on mom’s rules. But when I was a kid and this was basically my first go-round with shutting down a creep? To this day I remain grateful my mom gave me that out. I agree that the dude in this letter needs to hear, and the LW needs to say *I don’t want you to XYZ.* But also the LW sounds fairly vulnerable and shaky with this, fairly new to setting boundaries, and maybe she just needs a way to get him off her back. If she says “I don’t want you to visit” and he won’t hear it, “my parents won’t allow you to visit” will protect her and I think she gets to use that if it will get him out of her grill. That whole part of the letter where he found her address and is saving up to visit her actually has me very scared, and it seems like it’s more important that the possibility of him visiting gets shut down by any means necessary. And LW, if there is a little voice inside you saying, “I should tell my mom about this,” listen to it. You do not have to wait and see what he does or allow things to reach a certain threshold to tell your mom. You can tell her now, if you want to.

        1. Great parenting by your mom! I’m with anyone who is like “whatever gets him out of her grill.”

          I just think he’s going to push her to the point where she has to be like “I know I said my parents wouldn’t like it, and that’s true, but also, I wouldn’t like it, so stop.

          The soft no, he does not listen to it.

          1. I agree. Alas. Pushy dude’s gonna pushy dude. I really hope he LW holds firm and he backs off.

          2. I so agree. I only has a son so I didn’t have to teach “girl boundaries” but I nevertheless taught him that he had a right to set his own limits on , as did everyone else and that he was to always, always, always to respect ‘no.’ We had regular classes on what a “soft no” sounded/looked like and how it meant the same thing as a giant, hard, capital letter ‘no’ screamed in one’s face. He died when he was 22 but was well on his way to being as close to a feminist as I believe any male (because of patriarchy/socialization) is capable of being.

            Warning: Personal anecdote ahead…

            I also gave him a card, “my mom…XXXXX..” to use if he felt he needed to ‘borrow authority’ in a given situation. I told him early and often to describe me any way he needed to if he needed to use that particular card because I knew him and I knew that if it came to that point he would just feel too overwhelmed/uncertain to take a stand and have it respected, particularly while he was an adolescent.

            I can only remember one time he used it for sure. I’d dropped him off a a friend’s house and before I was half way home (about two miles) he called me to pick him up. Apparently once he got inside and got the lay of the land *everyone* was high.

            Ok, high, whatever, but it was LSD high and he didn’t want to be a part of the scene. He told me he said something about “if a bad trip doesn’t kill me my mom will…you guys know she is sooooo unreasonable [he probably said I was a bi**h…but I have no proof and he’d never cop to using that word], so I gotta go.”

            He was waiting outside when I got back. I have never regretted him being able to blame it on me. As he got older (I think he was like barely 16 at that point) he was much better at telling people “GTFOH dude.”

          3. Out of nesting.

            Kaos, I am so sorry for your loss. It must have been devastating.

            Your son sounds like he was a wonderful person. You sound like a great parent.

      3. I agree that it’s best for the LW – and probably most effective – that she say I don’t want to.

        Nonetheless, I remember the relief, at 14, of turning over my unwanted suitors to my parents. Mind you, I’m talking about my actual mother and father deciding that she’d speak first, telling a man to leave me alone. That’s not the same as my telling him “Mommy and Daddy say no”.

        Maybe, though, the parents could intervene if the LW is young enough.

        1. I still cringe/giggle about the day I was in line at the bowling alley with my mom and this guy starts creeping on me with “Hey…” I was super socially awkward at the time and tried to just turn my back on him, so he continue in this slimy ‘I-think-I’m-charming’ voice “Shy huh? That’s okay.”

          I side-eyed him, said “I’m fourteen and this is my mom” and then hid on her other side. He got flustered, tried to explain himself to her and then scurried week.

          Took me a bit to tell randos to fuck off, but I’m proud of little me for getting herself out of an uncomfortable situation.

          1. I wonder how many girls’ first serious creep is when they’re 12 – 14ish? Mine was at 13, didn’t back off when I said I was 13, and yep, I ran for mom.

          2. My first serious creep / stalker latched on to me right after my dad died, so I was 12-13. He was 25. He showed up at my school, he followed me home, he pushed his way inside my house, and he literally picked me up off the floor / manhandled me / kissed my face when I’d try to squirm away. I was terrified and besides not having a dad to intervene with Creep (if it came to that) I was also dealing with peer pressure (friends who thought it was cool that an Older Man With A Car — and a disgusting mustache, not a fan of facial hair of any kind to this day — was interested in me) and mom pressure (mom, the narcissist, refused to grok that dating rules had changed a lot since the late 1950s / early 1960s, and also this MAN was twice my age and gross, and shamed me into talking to ‘that nice boy’) when he’d phone incessantly and drop off bouquets of roses (too much, stop it, you’re awful).

            It pretty much made me gun-shy around men for the next 10 years or so, as I was terrified they would ignore my very clear NO THANK YOUs and push into my home and bodily touch me again, and no one would have my back, and it might go beyond ‘just’ being groped by a creep next time a man expressed interest.

            So, yeah, based on personal experience, what I’m hearing here, and what I’ve heard from female friends, it is incredibly common, from what I can tell, to have creepers start hassling little girls right on the edge of puberty. P.S., for extra grossness, I looked about 9 or 10, and didn’t get boobs until I was maybe 24-25. I looked like a little kid.

          3. @Jules the Third (I think), I was eleven. I’ll grant that I was a tall eleven-year-old who hit puberty on the early end of average, but there is no fucking way anyone thought I was older than fourteen. These creeps know damn good and well what they’re doing. They know that a kid isn’t going to have the experience* and possibly not the social confidence to tell them to fuck right off as they richly deserve.

            *A lot of kids will know, “This isn’t cool,” but a non-trivial number of kids won’t be able to quantify it in words, never mind to shut it the hell down. Nor should they have to, because adults should goddamn well know better, but alas, there are a lot of asshats in the world.

          4. @DesertRose – Most of my friends tell me they were 11. I don’t know for myself, because I was completely oblivious to other people until much later in my life.

          5. @Jules the Third

            IIRC I was about 11 but pretty close to 12. It was the 70s but still…

        2. I was 13 from memory – on the older side, it seems by the comments. The guy was a youth group leader at the church my parents attended – middish 20s. He was super creepy with many of the younger teen girls but seemed to lose interest once they hit 15 or 16, which tells you something extremely unpleasant about him.

        3. Hi, I’m the LW. I wanted to add that this is slightly more complicated because I’m actually 25, so hiding behind my parents is *especially* ineffective (though I do still live with them for health reasons and am entirely dependent on them). I started getting chronic health issues around age 14 and it kind of seems like that’s when I stopped maturing, in a way. So I’m an adult who is not really used to solving my own problems and managing my own life. It leaves me frozen and worried every little thing I do is a misstep because I don’t feel like a real adult. But that’s a very different issue…

          1. Well, at least since it’s their house, you can claim they have a house rule or something. Like they don’t host anyone who isn’t family. So at the very least, he won’t expect to stay with you. But I agree that it’ll be far more effective if you just say some version of, “I don’t want you to come visit.” Having been on your side of this more times than I would like, I’ve learned that these guys tend to find their way around excuses. But “I don’t want to” is hard to argue with.

            Another thing that works well, in the moment, is, “Uh, that’s a weird thing to say.” It signals that you don’t like what’s happening while giving you some space/time to figure out how you actually want to address it.

            Do you frequent advice columns like this one? Maybe a helpful exercise would be to think about what you’d say to someone *else* who wrote in with an issue like yours. What would you tell that person? How would you reassure them? That tends to help me.

            You also have the advantage of most text-based interactions, so you can craft some phrases in advance. That’s helpful.

      4. Exactly this. If she blames her parents he will see it as her really wanting him but being restrained by her unreasonable parents. He needs to know it’s her that doesn’t want him/this, and she needs to go ahead and start building those “fuck off dude” muscles.

    1. And you’d think we wouldn’t need this, but I realized recently how many people, including otherwise very progressive people, are only okay with women saying “no” to men, and setting/enforcing boundaries with them, if it’s done in defense of a clear and present threat – in other words, unless you can prove that a man is literally about to rape you in that moment, someone will probably shame you for saying “no” or “please go away” because it’s not nice and it hurt his feelings.

      1. I thought exactly this, too. We are expected to take on (and conceal!) so much discomfort, unhappiness and anxiety in order to protect the feelings of men and boys. Then we get “I wasn’t gonna HURT you or something” thrown at us, like not wanting to be physically assaulted is the only boundary we’re allowed to have.

        1. Exactly!

          I realized this when I’d brought up a gender-related thing on social media, and a friend had some questions, and I prefaced my response with something like “I’m happy to answer your questions, but FYI, I really don’t want to get into a big debate on this” and because I’d been so firm about it, he assumed that something he’d said had caused me severe emotional distress. I had to explain to him that no, I wasn’t “upset,” and that not every “please don’t” comes from a place of feeling threatened.

          1. Yes! Unfortunately the current narrative seems to be “as long as she’s not feeling THREATENED I’m golden.” Because women have no settings between “neutral” and “terrorized.”

        2. I had a creepy guy be creepy at me in public earlier this week, and after feeling completely skeeved out I finally said, “Darlin’, you’re makin’ me REAL uncomfortable right now.” I got lucky that the guy apologized and backed off, but this other guy waiting in line said, “You know, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a girl say that before.” It didn’t surprise him that I was uncomfortable – everybody could tell and nobody stepped up. But it surprised him that I named it. It was incredible to me how shocking it was to everybody there that I said something, but we’re not socialized to speak up when we’re uncomfortable but only to speak up when we’re threatened. We get to have so many other boundaries, even when it surprises people.

          1. I mean, sometimes you just can’t. Standing up for yourself is not always a safe act.

            Usually I get verbal about it if I have witnesses around and stay quiet if there’s no one around. When I’ve stood up for myself in an out of the way place, the men have escalated and it has been very legitimately scary.

            IT SUCKS.

          2. Agreed, Raptor, and I am sorry if I made it seem like I thought people should just do this whenever somebody is creepy – I had to do my mental threat calculus and determined it was safe to try this, and I trust people to make their own judgment calls on situations they’re in. But I was shocked at how simply *naming* the issue was a surprise to the people around me, even though they could all tell I felt that way.

          3. The other day in line at the grocery store there was an old man (I’m 55 so “old” to me is kinda actually old) behind me in line. 1) he would not STFU and 2) was standing way too close to me. Also he was complaining about how long it was taking (I had maybe 15 items) even though it wasn’t the express lane.

            I was doing my best to ignore him because pick your battles yanno? Then he ‘accidentally’ bumped into me. I’m not new here, I know an accident from a “deliberate” but he had plausible deniability because he’s “just an old man” and was probably off balance or some shit.

            Even though it could have been avoided if he hadn’t been way too close in the first place, which is what I said when he fake apologized. The look on peoples’ faces. Shock that I said something, shock that I said it to an “old man” who should apparently have a pass because “old.” I guarantee he’s pulled some version of that ‘accidentally bump into a woman’s boobs” scenario for longer than I’ve been alive.

            One of the cashiers pulled me aside* after as I was waiting at the customer service desk and told me she was surprised because he does that all the time and no one (as far as she knows) has ever said anything.

            *I’ve lived in this area forever. It’s a “small town” inside of a big city. I go to the same places over and over for years. People keep their jobs for years. Pretty much everyone knows me by name. So…it wasn’t like the cashier was just pulling aside some random customer. She’s known me for at least 8 years.

          4. The thing where they treat you like YOU are the problem when someone finally stands up to this bullshit will piss me off forever.

            I tweeted about this a couple weeks ago, but here’s a true “cute old man” story:

            I was waiting at a bus stop and a very old man who walked with a cane toddled up to me and started asking me question about when the bus was coming.

            He stood WAY too close.

            I started answering his questions, and took a step away, when I realized, something was touching my leg.

            Namely, his cane, which he was using to lift my skirt.

            I reacted without thinking, taking a big step back and trying to shake the cane off my leg. My foot connected GLORIOUSLY and the cane was kicked through the air and halfway down the block.

            The old man called me a bitch as he shuffled away after it.

            To the diners in the nearby restaurant who watched the whole thing it probably looked like this mean lady kicked an old man’s cane away from him.

            He had 100% done this shit before.

          5. @Jennifer

            Yep. I get so sick of “he’s just an old man, he probably doesn’t know what he’s doing/doesn’t mean any harm/might have Alzheimers/excuse, excuse, excuse” bullshit. He might be old now but he’s been doing this shit since he was not old. He just gets more passes (!!!!!!!) now because “excuses.”

          6. @Sarah – Not so much your post specifically. Sometimes all of the “stand up, defend yourselves, have a perfect quip” posts get me down. If you can tell the situation is going to escalate, you just may need to get through it and get out.

            One of the times that really scared me, I was trying to catch the bus at 5:45 am, in the dark, and this guy came up to me and started chattering away. I calmly told him I didn’t want to talk right now. (There is no one in the world I want to talk to before 6am. I don’t know that I would talk to Obama if I saw him at 5:45am.) He started screaming obscenities and slurs at me and looked like he was just about to hit me when the bus arrived a minute early. Should have just let him talk at me, I guess.

            My husband and I shared a car in those days, and he got up at 5:30 to drive me to work for a few days until I could stand to be at that bus stop again. When we moved to a different neighborhood, he drove me to the light rail station every morning at 5:30 so I wouldn’t have to walk in a non-lit area on the way there.

            I’m a big believer in public transit, but I bought an entire car almost entirely to avoid creepy dudes. My creepy dude tally has really flattened out since I’ve been driving.

      2. Yup. My line manager is a woman in her early 60s who is generally awesome but not on this topic. (CN rape apologism below)

        The other day she said something like ‘THESE days it can be called rape if a girl says no while having sex and the guy carries on’ in a ‘what IS the world coming too?!’ type of voice. The implication being once sexual activities have started you aren’t allowed to say no.

        1. Ohhhh I had to have a LONG conversation with a coworker about that. I finally got her to see sense, but it was terrifying to hear that line of thinking even for a little while.

        2. Ugh!!!! I hate this even more than I hate males excusing stuff. I mean sure we’re all socialized this way, women and males alike, but as women we should be more …introspective I guess and consider maybe how we as individuals would feel before going ahead and blaming other women fro patriarchy/misogyny.

          It was always rape if she ever said no at any time…even if they’re in the middle of it. No means freaking no!!! In her 60’s? She has no excuse. That was the second wave feminism, “women’s lib,” Billie Jean vs Bobby Riggs, Flower Power, Summer of Love, Electric Acid Test, Haight Asbury, Hippie, anti establishment, etc. generation.

          1. My favorite paraphrased quote (I think from a comedian) is: “If he will stop if your parent accidentally came into the room while you were having sex, he’s capable of stopping when you say “no”.

        3. Yeah bc once we’ve signed on, no matter what he wants to do, well, we’ve signed on, so…. As much as it disgusts me it also makes me a bit sorry for these women, as I wonder what happened to them that they are trying so hard not to call it rape. Like they have a history of something bad but want to push away the thought it was rape.

          1. The great thing about #metoo is that it’s actually causing folks to have conversations though, and maybe some of it will cause some real change. We have conversations in my local pub, and it is illuminating to hear some of the guys’ viewpoints. It provides us women with a way to make some assessments we normally wouldn’t be making, e.g. one guy is of the strong opinion that women should ‘be nice’ to a guy in a bar who comes up to them with some random conversation starter. His version of ‘be nice’ is: you have to talk to them, you can’t let them know you’re not interested, you shoulnd’t cut the conversation short too fast it might hurt their feelings, because well after all it’s hard on men, and you should give them a chance. After all, you dont’ know them and if you got to know them you might like them.
            Out of context, any one of these phrases might not be too insane. But the really telling thing, was that all his viewpoints were around the woman’s role in the exchange, her responsibility to the man’s boner (ooops i mean feelings). When I remarked he hadn’t expressed a single opinion on the man’s responsibility in such a context, he got embarrassed and couldn’t really come up with anything. Finally said quietly, and angrily, ‘you’re hard on men.’ The ‘nice guy’ version of ‘you’re a bitch’. I’ve been socialized to be responsive to ‘men’s feelings’ so long, one of the #metoo things I’ve gotten out of this, is how much of the dialog has centered in past on women’s responsibility to men. Women talk about it, men talk about it, but how much conversation has any of us really had, about a man’s responsibility? I don’t mean just to not rape and murder and stalk, i mean just to read the room and go the heck away in a bar if it looks like she’s not into you? Why aren’t there articles on ‘how to make sure you don’t behave like a skeeve in a bar.’??

      3. Because “he’s such a Nice Guy™” and the woman needs to “give him a chance” even if she has zero interest in it ever happening…for whatever reasons. Apparently all males are entitled to a “chance” even if the woman feels zero attraction, has zero interest. Add in the creepy/stalker aspect, and just freaking “NO!!!!”

    2. As the mom of a boy, I am going with Active Consent: “Ask once. A verbal, sober Yes is a Yes. Everything else is a No. Do not ask again. If they change their mind, they’ll know where to find you. You will have plenty of other people to ask.”

      Doesn’t fit well on a sticker, but it’s damn well gonna stick inside his head.

      1. As someone who remembers being a boy, I’d recommend leaving out the last sentence. He won’t necessarily have plenty or even any other people to ask, and that is not the key point here.

        1. We need to fix this for boys, b/c “I will only ask/talk about hard stuff to girls/women in my life” is not working out for, like, the species.

          1. I keep hoping, though not holding my breath. They (males) don’t have a strong history of sending us their best for stuff like this.

            I keep watching and this generation (millennial) of adult males seems so much more misogynistic than my generation (last boomer/first x-er, but solidly x-er vis a vis culture, life experiences, etc) and keep waiting for the other shoe to drop Handmaiden style.

            I’m really scared for the future of women in this country (and others naturally) honestly. I am heartened however seeing so many young/er women taking up the torch for those of us who are just…tired, ergo, I keep hoping.

            Not too hopeful about the next generation of males either. I have a nephew who will turn 18 this year. A couple of years ago he tried to school me on gender (my doctorate is sociology, specific gender studies) and the venomous stuff coming out of his mouth just ugh. He’s not allowed in contact with me anymore. Unfortunately he’s not the only one.

        2. I read this as “ask out”. I thought Jules the third was saying that she told her son he could ask someone out once.

          Thus the last sentence implied that if he wanted to date one person, there were probably other people he’d like too.

          (I realize that there are ace and aro people. Even if Jules’s son is one of them, he shouldn’t badger people.)

      2. That was more or less my approach too.

        Also, birth control is “everyone’s responsibility so if you don’t want to become a parent, you will do your best to not become one. Mommy’s not raising a second generation, so keep that in mind.

        Ergo, here’s a bag of condoms, which I will refill upon request, no questions asked. Just leave the bag on my desk, you don’t even have to talk to me or look at me.

        1. As an aside, as a kid I was incensed by the lack of male hormonal contraception. Then my mother’s CR group asked “How would you know a boy was taking it?”

          1. Well yes. But the point i think was that neither side shoul trust the other. And by trust i mean, folks forget to take their pills. Or forget to get their depo shot. It would be empowering to ‘some’ men and i suspect empowering to women as a cultural thing, if BCPs were available to men. The thing is, i doubt there’s much of a market for them, no one’s calling for them. But it would be very equalizing, esp for the letter writers that are men that say they’re worried about women getting pregnant on purpose and pretending it’s an accident. of course why these men still want to have sex with those folks, is a bit weird, but…

  5. I recognize and empathize with so much in this letter. I had to take a moment to reach out to Young Me and give her a hug, because this brought up so much of my own experiences.

    I have had a lot of relationships with people I met on the internet (through gaming, mostly). And some of them are still ongoing and have greatly enriched my life and made me a better version of myself. And some of them caused me lasting trauma.

    So LW, I can tell you: all of CA’s advice is spot-on. I can’t even add anything to it. Please listen to and absorb every word. I wish Young Me had been able to read this 20 years ago, in order to navigate towards the enriching friendships and away from the ones that would hurt me.

    1. Same here – Young Me is getting so many hugs (and so much validation) right now.

      I recognise this guy to some degree in my “I’d like to hang out with you and be your friend…but there’s no point in just being friends so if it’s a definite No to being my girlfriend then I wouldn’t want to hang out with you anymore” guy that also tried to pressure me into kissing him multiple times “because it’s not like it’s important”.

      I also recognise him (and echoes from the Captain’s advice) in the guy I met during university Fresher’s Week, who introduced me to my future long-term friends-group…He also invited me to his room to watch a film, wherein it turned out that I was the only other person there and our knees touched accidentally and I was a little creeped out but rationalised that we were grownups and he probably hadn’t noticed so didn’t make a fuss, but then later on it turned out that he must have decided that my lack of protest then meant I was up for being kissed and fondled at a party – and it turns out my brain does not deal well with emergencies of that type and so I froze and went mute instead of saying/doing anything, and merely crossed the room to get away from him…and then he followed and did it again, so I crossed the room again and he followed again and somehow no-one in that room intervened or wondered out loud what was going on…and I still have very conflicted feelings about that, because I DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING so an awful lot of people would say I was to blame for the misunderstanding, but somehow in my mental panic I physically COULD NOT think of any words at that time, so I still don’t know what else I could have done.

      So yeah, as much as it goes against the grain for you, LW, I would say from experience: I wish I’d had the Captains advice when I met both of those guys I mentioned. You currently have the benefit of distance on your side – please don’t wait until he’s been “romantically spontaneous” and is on your doorstep expecting you to let him through the door. Try to break those habitual social boundaries and give him a direct, unequivocal response to his boundary-crossing. If it loses you his friendship, then so be it; it was a friendship where the price he demanded of you would have become too high, sooner or later.

      1. I want to validate that you taking visible actions to get away from your creeper dude IS ENOUGH TO CLUE OTHERS IN THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG, the fact that you didn’t verbally say words does not mean you weren’t communicating clearly, and it is firmly on them that they didn’t step in. You did plenty. It’s not your fault that he ignored your clear signals, and it’s not your fault that others in the room didn’t intervene.

        1. I respectfully disagree.

          It was totally Fresher’s Week Guy’s fault for continuing to push.

          It is totally not Nicky’s fault that he’s a jerk, and that Nicky’s not easily able to react verbally to assault. (Nicky, that is actually totally normal – it’s Fight, Flight, or Freeze, not just Fight/Flight).

          But it’s not really reasonable to expect people to notice what’s going on inside someone’s head. Walking away from a friend at a party can be a lot of different things, and it is not enough to clue others in. Especially if others don’t know the people involved well. I know I’d have walked away with a smile plastered to my face, and only people who knew me *real* well might have noticed something.

          The only person to blame is Fresher’s Week Guy. Focus that anger on him, and may he feel a tremble in his bowels.

          1. While it’s true that people can’t read minds and walking away from someone once might not constitute a clear signal to other party-goers, I’m pretty sure that someone repeatedly criss-crossing the room while someone chases them around would raise eyebrows in most gatherings. That’s a pretty clear sign that at the very least, something odd is going on.

            Either way, though, I think we agree on my main point–that Nicky is in no way to blame for this happening.

          2. I missed the point of disagreement before. I disagree.

            Walking away from somebody is not a subtle cue. Even if you give Fresher’s Week Guy the benefit of the doubt and say he misinterpreted the cue the first time, he should’ve gotten it after she walked away from him multiple times.

      2. What Amy said. Moving away from somebody multiple times IS saying no. In the unlikely event that he didn’t know that, it was still his responsibility to know that.

        1. Exactly. He knew perfectly well that he was making her uncomfortable, and he was banking on her not saying anything so he had that veneer of plausible deniability.

      3. I’m really sorry something like that happened to you Nicky, I know what it’s like from personal experience to freeze up and be unable to say anything to someone who is trying to touch you.

        When I was 19 years old, during my first week on my first job, the janitor at the time was being super friendly with me. I just didn’t know -how- friendly he would eventually get. One day when he was going to change the bag in the trash can beneath my register, he came up behind me without saying a word and put his hand on my hip, right in front of a customer, to move me aside so he could reach. I was trapped in the small space of the register cubicle with no place to move away. Then he said “Ahhhh….” (Really creepy sigh very close to my head) “If only I were a few years younger…”

        The customer (a woman) just stood there acting like everything was normal (she actually side eyed me as if I’d invited his advances afterwords), and I felt I couldn’t show any sign of my discomfort because I might be perceived as unprofessional during my first week on the job. So I just froze with a huge lump in my throat, feeling sick and creeped out, unable to say a word or even shout “don’t touch me”. (My voice was shaking as I went through the motions of checking the customer out, so were my hands) If I had been alone, I know I’d still freeze up like that, because a similar thing happened again with another guy that worked there when he was alone with me in the break room, and again, I froze and just couldn’t get the words out. I was that frightened and the only thing I could do was flee.

        Yet I was afraid to tell anyone, fearing I had “instigated” both incidents by being friendly/smiling at these men before it happened, and that by not saying “No” I was “allowing it”. I really felt it was my fault (In fact I’ve carried that guilt with me for years until I started reading the captain!) Especially because nothing was done to either man after telling management until other women reported incidents of harassment. I even thought I didn’t have the right to say no or do anything about it, because “Maybe they misinterpreted my intentions and thought I liked them -that way- so its all my fault for being friendly” (Note- being friendly to someone NEVER entitles them to touch you, ever! I wish young me knew that! )

        So yes LW…seconded on your right to give him a loud, clear NO. Don’t be afraid of hurting his feelings- you do not owe him anything, especially when he is causing you so much distress and scaring you.

      4. Also, the freeze response in case of sexual assault is a thing, so big Kudos to you for managing to do what you did, which is physically move away not once but multiple times. That’s really hard. So Yay you! Like Amy said, you did PLENTY.

      5. Nicki: nd it turns out my brain does not deal well with emergencies of that type and so I froze and went mute instead of saying/doing anything

        Right. Men talk about the ‘fight of flight’ fear response, and completely ignore the “freeze and fawn’ fear response:
        * Freeze up and play dead, maybe the big bad will go away in search of live prey.
        * Or smile and show how compliant and submissive you are, and maybe the big bad won’t hurt you.

        What you did – freeze and then flee – is in fact classic fear response, and please do not blame yourself and/or consider yourself having behaved strangely.

        Science! On the side of scared girls!

      6. FWIW “freeze” is a natural fear response right in there with “fight or flight.”

        And WTH anyway?

        “I keep moving away from you. You follow. I move again. Buuuttt I didn’t use words so it’s my fault I guess…” Glad you figured that out. Never ever let anyone, including yourself make you think like that again.

        Males know what they are doing. They are just looking for plausible deniability. “But you didn’t say anything. How was I supposed to know that you literally sprinting to get as far away from me every time I came near you meant you didn’t want me around? God!”

        1. A friend (now an ex-friend) kept kissing and touching me at a party once. I gave him at least four “soft nos” but he kept going…and then he made some weird comment about “getting mixed messages” from me.

          I straight-up told him that if he was referring to my still letting him kiss me even after telling him I didn’t want it, it’s because my instinct when people push my boundaries is to freeze up. I said that maybe I should punch him or scream or leave but freezing up is the thing my body does so there we were. (It was a physical struggle to say this to him. My voice was slowing down and distorting as part of my freezing-up. But I did say it.)

          He kept kissing and groping me.

          A few weeks later, he had the gall to text me asking why I’d dropped out of touch. He said he hoped he hadn’t made things weird at that party.

          I texted back “you mean when you sexually assaulted me? Is that the weirdness you’re referring to?” because fucker, if you’re gonna force me to talk about this instead of ignoring you forever like I wanted to – if you’re gonna open this can of worms – you’d better be prepared to get them shoved down your throat.

          He said he’d had no idea I wasn’t into what he was doing and IF ONLY I’D BEEN MORE CLEAR, he would have stopped.

          The moral of the story is that if a guy wants to rape or sexually assault you, nothing you say will ever, EVER be clear enough.

          (Actually, I suspect bellowing “NO” would stop most public date rape/friendrape situations because it’s, like, textbook legally actionable. A courtroom isn’t gonna believe someone who says “gosh I had no idea the other person wasn’t into it” when witnesses say the person was screaming NO at the top of their lungs. But it’s HARD to switch gears from being polite and friendly to screaming. It’s HARD to reject a friend right to their face. And predators know this!)

          I’m just gonna leave this here: https://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mythcommunication-its-not-that-they-dont-understand-they-just-dont-like-the-answer/

      7. Oh i’m Sending you Jedi hugs if you want! I am in my late 40s and i still freeze when Someone encroaches on my space like that, whether it’s knees touching or the assault you are describing. I seem to have no control over it, and i always feel badly after, like why didn’t i say something? Why didn’t i defend myself in the moment? Which makes our socialization and like experiences so much more insidious and misogynistic. And is probably why no one said anything. You did the right thing, don’t judge yourself (i say as i judge myself for the same stuff).

    2. Seriously so much empathy. Also frustration but not surprised that apparently these dudes have not changed anything since they were manipulating me in 1998. TALE AS OLD AS THE INTERNET RIGHT HERE unfortunately.

      1. Older than that. The internet just gives creeps another venue to creep. 😦

  6. It’s good to learn to be ok with people–especially man-people–being upset near/with/at you. It’s uncomfortable while you’re getting in the habit of it, but it’s definitely a skill that pays for its uncomfortableness exponentially.

    Tangentially related to the letter here–my now-fiancee and I did the awkward flirting over text for a year before anyone confessed feelings with words, and when the awkward flirting over text is something you’re liking/enjoying/wanting with the right person, you will know it. It absolutely does not feel like your friend is making you feel right now. (The good kind feels weird and thrilling and good.)

    (Also, the right person for you will think you’re attractive in whatever shape you’re happiest being in. Sometimes it feels like that person doesn’t exist at all–but lots of us do–and sometimes we even find each other.)

    1. learn to be ok with people–especially man-people–being upset near/with/at you.”

      It is so nice when you’re at a point in your life when you can say: “get over it,” “suck it up,” if you’re gonna be all Donnie Downer take it away from me…etc.” and not care that what you said wasn’t the most emotionally supportive thing to do because you’ve realized that his emotional labor is his job not yours. Not bragging. It took me more than 40 years to get to this point, but man it feels good!

  7. “His fantasy is that he’ll show up at your house and you’ll be so swept away in his romantic gesture and how meant to be it all is that you’ll just, like, be his girlfriend.”

    Nobody do this, ever. Romantically or platonically. A long-distance friend paid me a surprise visit when I was in college. Even though I liked her very much on the phone and through the mail, it was REALLY REALLY AWKWARD AND AWFUL and the only way I could function was to be polite and friendly and stuff my feelings down a storm drain for, oh, a few decades.

    1. Seriously, the idea of having to host any overnight guest at the last minute, even someone I’ve hung out with in person before, makes me nervous. I need to not only physically prepare my home and clear my schedule for that kind of visit, I need to mentally prepare myself to be around someone for a long period of time, and make sure they have what they need at all times. Hosting can be stressful for some people!

      1. I used to know someone who reportedly maneuvered his way into sleep-overs. He’d visit people (women) in other cities, leave just before the last train would take off, miss this last train on purpose & then return to stay on the couch. Apparently he hoped this would lead to sex.

      2. I had a guy in the house looking at my fridge this morning (yeah…I need a new one!) for all of about 20 minutes. I still feel…invaded, five hours on.

    2. My then boyfriend did this once. *Because I told him it would be fine if he did it sometime.* He showed up on my doorstep without any warning after driving four hours to see me. I was delighted. Because, and I emphasize this again, I had told him that doing so would be fine and I liked that kind of surprise. I used my words and he heard me and it was fine.
      Lacking that conversation, I would have locked my door and dumped a bucket of water on him from the second floor window.

  8. I feel I cannot talk about this with her because I’m sure she would encourage stopping all contact.
    I was afraid to ask how [he got my address]
    I don’t really want the friendship to end either. I’m afraid there’s no way I can be painfully clear that I don’t want more and not ruin everything.

    In addition to everything the Captain said, I wanted to highlight these sentences because underneath a lot of this is your fear, not just of this dude, but of the idea that you have weak friendships with the people you are closest to and therefore cannot be both intimate AND set boundaries with them.

    For instance, you know your friend will give you advice you don’t want to take, but does really mean you can’t confide in her? Why is that the case? What do you think will happen if she gives the advice and you don’t take it? Do you think she will look at you differently? Be judgmental? Be bound to tell your parents? Will the friendship end? Will you feel like you HAVE to act on the advice? Why?

    Or the fact that you were afraid to confront your guy friend about how he found your address (and the quotation marks seem to me to indicate that you don’t believe his claim that it wasn’t intentional, to which I agree). Why? What did you think asking him would do? Confirm that he has bad faith intentions in communicating with you? And that would oblige you to do what? End the friendship?

    You say you have bad self-esteem and I just want to alert you to the fact that this may be challenging your ability to build your friendships in a mutually beneficial way. Right now, the way you wrote this makes it seem like you feel trapped with half-measures and every act you make is fraught, and that seems to be because you don’t want the potential consequences that come for advocating for yourself. What that means is that right now the end of your friendship with this dude is more negative to you than asking him to stop behaving this way. But in the long run, you’re going to have to make decisions about your relationships with people that do not end with an all positive outcome for you, and you need to have the strength to make the choice best for you anyway.

    Two things might help: 1)make more friends. I’m not saying this is AT ALL easy, but the more people you can handle building friendships with, the easier it will be to not get as invested in ones in which the other person isn’t behaving great, and therefore easier to tell them to cut it out. 2) you say you’ve been pretty sheltered. try to get involve in a variety of activities. the mmorpg group was a great step! what else do you enjoy that will have you come into contact with a variety of perspectives? sometimes being aware of the multitude of different ways we can structure our relationships to people can help when we decide what we will and will not tolerate.

    1. This is an excellent comment. Specifically in relation to “the end of your friendship with this dude is more negative to you than advocating for yourself,” I’d like to add that when a person doesn’t have much/any experience directly telling someone else what they don’t want to hear, hurting their feelings or rocking the boat, the fear, guilt and dread of doing so can be waaaaay more than it needs to be. Doing these things sucks (though it gets much easier with practice), but it doesn’t suck nearly as badly as your dread of it sucking. Also, a person with little experience in this department likely isn’t giving enough weight to the benefits of pissing other people off in the process of sticking up for yourself, because they haven’t ever experienced those benefits before. These 2 things can really throw off the equation of “end the friendship vs. advocate for yourself.”

      LW, side effects of pissing other people off in order to advocate for yourself can include relief, a little more self-confidence (eventually, when the suckage wears off), a feeling of personal integrity, and sometimes giddiness or euphoria. Even when the other person reacts nastily or has their feelings hurt, you often end up feeling better for having spoken up for yourself.

    2. Sigh. I am considerably older than this LW sounds like, and I still struggle with this, for similar reasons. I’ve always been anxious about conflicts, and I tend to be very sensitive to the idea that one (or more) of the few friends I have could just not want to hang out anymore because I suck somehow. Rationally, I know that the friends I have today, I’ve had for years, and I doubt any of them would just cut me off without at least a conversation first. But on an emotional level, I’m still one of those people who starts wondering if the person is mad at me if they haven’t answered a text promptly enough.

    3. “…underneath a lot of this is your fear, not just of this dude, but of the idea that you have weak friendships with the people you are closest to and therefore cannot be both intimate AND set boundaries with them.”

      The realness here hit me hard. That… pretty much encompasses my whole problem with people, in general. Thank you so much for articulating that so clearly.

      I’ve always had a super hard time setting boundaries in any relationship except long-term, committed romantic relationships – and I think it might be exactly because of that. I have this feeling that my friendships are always on the line, that I’m one minor offense away from being cast out, so of course I don’t ever dare stand up for myself. I’m guessing it’s probably a byproduct of having been neglected as a child and rejected a lot as a teenager.

      I’m making progress on that front though, I think? I recently told my best friend to stop sharing hospital horror stories every time I mentioned a surgery I was preparing to get (which was already scaring the crap out of me). She said she actually had no clue I didn’t enjoy her stories because of course, I had been smiling and nodding along. She took my request seriously and stopped, and I now realize it’s my fault for not telling her earlier out of a misguided fear-belief that she’d get mad or stop being my friend.

      I wish I could get to that level of confidence with more casual friends and just like, be able to set boundaries gently without being worried that I’ll lose them.

  9. LW, I also grew up in a very fundy household, and the way you fear how your mother and best friend might react to a very normal thing (you don’t want this romance, but, presumably, you WILL want one at some point in the future) raises some red flags to me. You shouldn’t be afraid a lifelong best friend will cut you off just because someone is showing interest in you. Your parents should not be wary of that, either, unless there’s some actual cause for concern for your safety. I know you said you don’t want to deconvert, but just as someone above mentioned that religion internalizes a lot of bad ideas about women being responsible for men’s actions, it also props up a lot of paternalistic weirdness about parents meddling in their adult children’s lives to an unhealthy degree. Remember that just like you get to say no to this person, you also get to dig in and make your own life decisions even if your parents don’t like them, whether it be deciding to be with someone they don’t like, or deciding that you do want to date outside the religion or become intimate, or any other thing at all because you are an adult and only you are in charge of you!!

    1. I was confused by this, tbh. I was raised Catholic and I get the no sex before marriage part but I honestly didn’t understand what the LW meant by “not doing everything right spiritually.” What’s wrong with having a long-distance text message friendship? Is it because it’s kind of flirty? Is it because they’re friends with a guy?

      Regardless, LW, tell this dude to jump in the nearest lake.

      1. I didn’t think the “not doing everything right spiritually” was meant to refer to anything mentioned in the letter. Just a general, “I know I don’t always get my religion perfect, but I am nevertheless generally committed to it and its values.” I often hear fellow religious people say that kind of thing, something along the lines of “I know I’m not perfect, but I do still try to follow Religion X as best as I can.”

        1. I don’t know why, but I think the most boggling thing to me is the whole, “Don’t tell me you’re showering” bit. Like, what next? Don’t say, “I’m wearing a new t-shirt”, because then he’ll think about how she had to put on the t-shirt, which means at one point she was not wearing the t-shirt and that gets him all hot and bothered?

        2. LW here. This is exactly what I meant. I guess that could have been clearer. I’m definitely not doing everything right (I really need to pray more and swear less!) but it is very important to me to try and do things right.

      2. I would guess it’s the whole “don’t be yoked to an unbeliever” thing. LW can feel free to disabuse me of my notion but yeah.

      3. I’m not sure the LW’s statement about not doing everything right spiritually was meant to be directly related to her relationship with this person. But if it was, LW may be coming from the “purity culture” of evangelical Christianity, with its strong foundation of gender essentialism and women’s responsibility for men’s sexual behavior. In more extreme factions, dating and even one-on-one platonic relationships between men and women are discouraged or prohibited.

        1. I took it as something along the lines of a Muslim who drinks, but still holds firm to no-sex before marriage. People like to rules-lawyer religious people with, “well you don’t follow this rule, so you should be fine doing this other thing you don’t want to do.” Like, they think if you’re not “perfect” in your faith, you lose the right to object to things on religious grounds. Which is crap.

    2. I don’t know about that, I don’t know how old the OP is now, but when I was a teenager and even in my early 20’s, my parents would have been very concerned if I’d developed a close friendship with someone I met online. They’d check on my using AOL sometimes and ask “who is this person? how do you know them??” because anyone can pretend to be anyone online, and at the time I thought it was annoying, but I get it now! And we weren’t a super religious or even strict household, they just didn’t want some creeper to stalk, kidnap, rape and/or kill me!

      1. Since she talks about being AFRAID to bring up the relationship, my fundy-sense thinks it’s more that they’re discouraging her from having any romance, whatsoever, not that they’re showing a normal level of interest that feels intrusive to someone who is very young.

        Again, though, we don’t know for sure, I just want to emphasize for LW that going forward, SHE is the one who gets to make her own romantic decisions, and that she should make them for her, not what her parents or friends want, even if she does choose to impose things like saving herself for marriage.

      2. What Allison said. I had internet/online friendships, and my mostly secular parents were very concerned when I announced that my high school friends and I were going to meet up with two of them at the mall. We were very lucky- everyone was a teen, and nobody was ever in danger- but it could have gone SO badly, and my folks knew it. All things considered, I commend them for being so chill about the whole thing.

      3. *flashback to 1999 when I planned a date with a girl I met on planetout.com and our moms each drove us to the mall partly because we couldn’t drive yet BUT ALSO to make sure we were both really thirteen year old girls*

        *it was an awkward, unpleasant date*

        *but our moms grabbed ice cream together and really hit it off and are friends to this day*

        But yeah, how old the LW is has a big impact to me on whether her parents being “really worried” about this turning into something more is overbearing and weird or just, you know, normal parental concern. Tbh, I would be worried about someone they’d never met texting my high school age kid “A LOT” every day, especially if I could pick up on the fact that some of this texting was distressing my kid.

        Then again, if LW is in her 20s or the primary concern is for her “purity” rather than her safety or her happiness…

        Good luck, LW. You’re not doing anything wrong here.

        1. Fellow 90s kid. I’m so amused your moms became friends.

          I worry a bit too about the identity of the online person. How do you know its not a person who is enjoying pretending to be similar to the letter writer and then “accidentally” making her uncomfortable with comments like the shower one.

          1. I too thought the details about how similar he is to her, and esp how similar he is to her dad, sound fishy. High degree of probability this friend is not who he says he is.

        2. I feel this – before my parents would okay my meeting my now best friend in person for the first time, there were many extensive phone calls between me and her, and my parents and her parents, pictures exchanged, etc.

      4. To be clear I am happy your parents were cognizant of your safety, no problem with that at all. As a parent I encourage it. How did you feel though when they were questioning you into your 20s?

    3. To add to that, you can decide you want to have a job, or go to school, or travel, or wear only bright green clothing, or WHATEVER. Your parents can have their feelings, and will have their feelings, but they are not YOUR feelings. They are not you, you are not them, and loving & respecting your parents does not mean you have to do exactly what they want all the time, no matter how big or small it is.

    4. I think she means the best friend will say to cut off all contact with the on line friend.

    5. “(you don’t want this romance, but, presumably, you WILL want one at some point in the future) ”

      Are you presuming this? Or are you saying LWs people are?
      Because if the former – Hello this is your periodic reminder that ace people exist.

        1. That’s why I specifically said ace and not asexual. Please don’t splain my own orientation to me kkthx Let’s team up to fight erasure instead.

          1. I’m confused. I’m aromantic but allosexual. In shorthand, aro not ace. Are there circles where ace is being used as shorthand for anyone on either the asexual or aromantic spectrum? I always thought it was for asexuals only so this is new and interesting to me.

          2. …ace is short for asexual. Aro is short for aromantic. They are not the same thing. You can identify as ace and that can mean aromantic, but you don’t get to apply that to others, because ace or asexual does not automatically = does not feel romantic attraction.

          3. I’m asexual and wanted to leave the same comment as Barlow (who, for all we know, may also be ace), and would add that putting aromantic under the same umbrella as asexual is itself a form of erasure… to me, anyway. So many people think ace means no relationships, period, much like people assume asexuals are sex-repulsed and/or celibate (and that you’re not ~really asexual~ if you don’t fit those criteria). But they’re all distinct things, and to truly fight erasure those distinctions need to be made.

            We’re getting off topic though. 🙂

          4. Jumping in on the ace/aro thing. I am most definitely ace, as is my husband, though neither or us are aro. One can be either or both or some combination of either, both, other stuff.

          5. I’m pretty sure that in at least one asexual community, “Ace” was being used as slang/shorthand for “asexual and aromantic” before the romantic/aromantic spectrum was in popular parlance. It’s not common usage any more for obvious reasons, but I remember it being a thing!

    6. You shouldn’t be afraid a lifelong best friend will cut you off just because someone is showing interest in you.
      I understood LW to mean that if she tried to discuss her guy-friend issues with her close friend, that close friend would say LW should cut off all contact with guy-friend. Not that best friend would cut off LW.

      That said, you are 100% correct that LW is the boss of who LW likes or loves.

  10. I am an escapee from the SBC, and I remember…

    There is always the, “I can’t date you. You are too much a brother to me. It would feel like incest”. That one works better than you think it will.

    1. That will probably leave him with an opening, since it suggests that’s the ONLY reason she won’t date him. And if he can just convince her to see past that and not see him as a brother, it’ll all work out. It might be ok as a bullet point in a list of definitive reasons that she is not into him, but on its own I could see it backfiring.

      1. Huh, I never had that issue. Perhaps it’s in the delivery – the eww factor evidently came through loud and clear.

        Several of them were well and thoroughly offended, but they went someplace I wasn’t for their pout.

      2. I am a big fan of not giving them anything at all with which to open a negotiation.

      1. I agree with you, Lissa. Thing is, the LW has been “girlfriendzoned” – she is just looking to enjoy friendship with her guy friend, but he’s making it all weird. If anyone has a right to cry about it, surely, it would be her.

    2. In my experience, that just leads to the person demanding to know what sibling-like behavior they’re engaging in so they can try something else, or simply begging for a chance anyway. It doesn’t matter why LW doesn’t want this. She doesn’t, and her friend needs to hear and accept that.

  11. I want to add that you mentioned your parents are religious (and sadly too many times religious means sexist and let’s slut shame our daughters). If you end up ending your friendship and you tell your parents and they come back with anything that sounds like “well why did you lead him on?” You get to respond with “oh I am sorry did I not explain myself properly. I though we were friends when he started acting in ways that made me uncomfortable I asked him to stop. Sadly he didn’t take it well and started lashing out. I was just acting friendly, I am not a mind reader, and if he mistook friendship as something worng than that’s on him”.

    If you are scared of saying that to your parents because of how they might react you have bigger problems and might need to start a get out plan

    1. I wonder if asking them for advice might also help? LW knows her parents better than I do, obviously, but saying “hey, I want to be friends with this guy, but he’s making me uncomfortable – can you help me deal with this?” could keep them on LW’s side, especially if LW emphasizes how she’s still committed to her/their faith and ideals.

      Approaching them about this calmly and maturely, instead of as something LW did wrong and should be ashamed of (since it’s not and she shouldn’t) could help frame the conversation as “three adults talking about relationships” instead of “naive* child needs to be told what to do.”

      (LW, you might be inexperienced with relationships, but the way you reacted to and articulated what’s going on with this dude shows a lot of maturity, and I don’t want to give the impression that I think you’re being naive – it’s just that it can be very easy for parents to fall into that pattern)

    2. My mom’s pentecostal, so I can’t say from SBC, but I can say that from her in this situation, I would basically get a “well what did you expect” because her church believes that unmarried men and women (well, boys and girls) shouldn’t be friends. Like, not in the sense that they hang out together and play games or anything.

      1. Exactly. The idea that creepiness/sexual assault is a kind of behavior that someone chooses to engage in–not a force of nature that a woman has a responsibility to avoid–is pretty alien in a lot of religious settings.

  12. One thing that I think the Captain touched on somewhat but I just wanted to call out a bit more specifically is the way that using your parents as the “reason” he cannot visit could easily be seen by wishful-thinking-him as “Letter Writer WANTS me to come, it’s just that her PARENTS are not okay with the visit [and therefore I should just plan for a way to work around the Parent Problem and give Letter Writer the visit she wants!]”. This is obviously not how you feel, but in an attempt to “save face” for him and give an excuse that isn’t a direct rejection from you, you may accidentally be leaving the door open for lots more wishful thinking on his part. It’s okay – and kind, even – to just be direct and state your lack of interest in a visit. If it helps, you can think of it this way: by letting him know right away, you are *allowing* him to move on from the visit idea before he gets invested in planning and saving for it, and giving him the heads up that he should save for some other vacation/splurge/matchmaking service/whatever.

  13. ‘I know him well enough that I know it would break him if I cut this off ‘

    If this guy is so close to breaking that one polite “I’m not interested in a romance” is going to be the final straw, then he has problems beyond anything you can or should be having to deal with. If his level of problems is that bad then I sincerely hope for his sake that he does get help, but you can no more provide that help than you could set his leg if he broke it or give him medical treatment if he was physically ill.

    I hope this helps clarify just how very much this is not something you ought to feel guilty about. It’s fine to feel sad for your friend (and it’s also fine to feel sad for yourself if he does choose to end the friendship over this, because that would legitimately suck for you) but it’s not OK for you to be taking on the responsibility of solving his problems, because that is a level of problem-solvingness that is well beyond the skills or responsibility of a friend.

    1. “If this guy is so close to breaking that one polite “I’m not interested in a romance” is going to be the final straw, then he has problems beyond anything you can or should be having to deal with.”

      +1. Your friend knows that rejection is a possibility, or he wouldn’t be afraid to ask you out directly. If he’s not prepared to hear a real life “not interested,” then he shouldn’t be risking that outcome by dancing around the subject with you.

    2. Following up on what Dr Sarah said: how amazing and fulfilling could a friendship possibly be, for either of you, if the ONLY REASON YOU ARE MAINTAINING IT is to prevent him from freaking out? Like, you’re no longer keeping this friendship going for positive reasons (you enjoy each other’s company, you’re excited to hang out) but only for negative ones (“ugh, if I don’t give him what he wants he’s going to lose it, let’s see if I can keep him happy enough to kick that can a little further down the curb”). There is much badness down that path, LW. So much badness. Ask me how I know.

    3. +111111111110000000

      Just in case you need this reinforced, LW, this guy has a whole decision tree of choices. “Putting his insecurities and health and hopes and dreams on you accepting him as your boyfriend” should not even be on it. He can get support from his other friends, his community, the crisis helpline (overstretched but still THERE FOR A REASON), his school (If he goes to school) and Employee wellness programme, his church leader, his former youth mentor, his doctor (If he can afford one), his therapist (If he can afford one), any anonymous crisis chat room (those things exist. I used to volunteer for one). He can deal with his feelings by taking up new hobbies, scrapbooking, interpretative dance… literally anything besides making his feelings your problem.

      Maybe he isn’t deliberately doing this but intent is not magic. He is making you feel responsible for his wellbeing and you have every right to shut that down. Let him learn to cope.

  14. I have always been quite scared to say no to boys, and when I consider some of the responses I understand why. One guy wouldn’t ever look at me or talk to me again and I actually regretted not saying yes (WTF). I do end up finding it easier to say no to the ones who don’t stop when they get really crass – I think I already told the story on here about the man who followed me around at a party and interrupted every conversation I tried to have by telling the person I was talking to about how I’d rejected him. So there I ended up not feeling guilty at all. But do practise self-care afterwards if you get a bad reaction and maybe role-play the conversation in advance if you’re nervous. Good luck!

  15. I know him well enough that I know it would break him if I cut this off and I don’t really want the friendship to end either.

    I don’t think you know that. What you know is that he wants you to believe that it would break him if you cut this off. It’s even possible that he believes that it would break him, but there’s no way he, or you, can know that. Lots of people have survived friend-breakups, and even romantic heartbreak, however unpleasant they can feel at the time.

    The reason I think he wants you to believe it would break him, but doesn’t believe that himself, is that he isn’t working to preserve the friendship that he is claiming is essential to his well-being. “If I don’t have you in my life, it will break me” plus things like telling you about supposedly really vivid dreams and the jokes he claims his family is making about you being his girlfriend is grooming you to think you have to date him/sleep with him/marry him or the world will end. (He’s already ignoring what you’ve told him about not dating or marrying outside your religion; I wouldn’t trust him to respect your boundaries about nonmarital sex.)

    He’s writing a story where “LW and Friend keep being friends, game together, and enjoy nonsexual chat” isn’t an option, hoping that if he turns it into “marry me even though you don’t want to, or never see me again” you won’t point out that the choice you want is continued non-romantic friendship. That vivid dream, if it really happened, and those jokes his family may or may not actually be making are part of that story. Dreams don’t come from Heaven, they’re from another part of the dreamer’s mind, fragments reassembled into a story if the person wakes up at the right time. (Even the ancient Greeks, who thought the gods sent dreams, recognized that a lot of dreams are false.)

    1. Lots of people have survived friend-breakups, and even romantic heartbreak, however unpleasant they can feel at the time.
      This is a really excellent point and I would like to cosign it in triplicate.

      Cliff Pervocracy has a really good piece about how, especially the first time you experience something like a breakup or losing a job, it can feel like the yawning chasm of despair – but in general, even when it sucks really, really bad, we survive.Content note: description of emotional abuse. http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-worst-thing-in-world.html

      1. I don’t know if this is something that the LW is dealing with, but I’ve noticed in my own life that the idea of “breaking” someone can be very gender-based. Like, if a woman gets sad and cries people assume she’ll just have a good cry and be done with it, but if a man cries people say he’s “broken.” That’s the first place my mind went, that by “It’ll break him,” LW meant “He may have a large emotional reaction that he can’t control like the Manly Man he wants to be.” Which… not everyone reacts the same way to emotions, but crying (and other expressions of emotion) are a feature not a bug. If he gets super sad, and even if he cries a lot, he’s NOT broken, his emotions are working exactly as intended.

    2. The point you make in paragraph 3 is a good one. OP is thinking of a [friend breakup/long break/whatever] as something that *she’d* be inflicting on *him.* But if she tells him to stop being creepy and he keeps on doing it, he’s making the choice himself. That’s not to say that you can’t break up with friends even if you don’t warn them first, just that OP might feel better about cutting him off if she can conceptualize it as a decision that he’s deliberately making about whether he wants the friendship to continue.

    3. Yes, this. I was also thinking of the ‘on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog’ trope.

    4. It’s certainly possible he wants her to think that– that’s definitely a thing people do. It’s also possible that the LW is feeling afraid of standing up for herself simply because doing that is scary, and is projecting that fear onto him as concern for his well-being. Sometimes people say, “I’m protecting So & So by not being firm,” or “I can’t dump So & So because they’ll be shattered,” but really they are feeling afraid of being firm or breaking up and rationalizing it by telling themselves the other person will be broken, probably without even realizing they’re doing it. Especially young and inexperienced people. Of course LW should totally disregard this if this doesn’t sound like what’s going on, knowing herself and this guy and where the fear is really coming from and who put this “he’ll be broken” idea out there in the first place. But if it rings a bell, LW should know it’s super common, nothing to be ashamed of, just be sure to own her own fear going forward.

      Whether it’s coming from her or from him, the prospect of him actually being “broken” if he is rejected strikes me as highly unlikely, I agree with Vicki and whingedrinking. But it’s worth LW remembering that even if or when she stands to really break someone’s heart, she is STILL ENTITLED to stick up for herself and what she wants.

  16. This made me think of an analogy that may or may not work. I love peanut sauce. Using this logic, I once ordered a bowl of spicy peanut soup in a restaurant. I liked the first bite. It reminded me of peanut sauce. I liked it a little less and less as the bowl went on. By about bite 10 I was gagging and feeling smothered by this bowl of soup. It was basically a bowl of the very sauce I loved, but it was way too much. Out of some sense of obligation, I finished the soup and by the end I hated it. (The fact it was $6? The fact I hate wasting food? Both are plausible explanations for finishing it.) It was a while before I ate peanut sauce again. Then, maybe 3-4 months later I was ordering lunch and there it was: the spicy peanut tofu wrap. It was appealing again. But just a little. Just enough to add some flavor to the sandwich.

    I guess what I’m saying is that you might like this person. You might enjoy having a relationship with him (where I mean not a romantic relationship but that you and he relate to one another as humans). You might like him in small doses. You might like him as the sauce on the tofu wrap of your life. But you don’t have to like a whole heaping bowl of him. You can choose whatever you want.

    I think it’s okay to tell him you like him as your friend and that’s it. I also think for your own sanity it may be a good idea to pull back from having so much contact with him. He could interpret ongoing contact as you not really meaning that you aren’t interested in him.

    1. Yes. There are people in my life who are EveryDay People – I could have them in my life every day and I would love them still. There are people in my life who are Sometimes and Often people – I can see you and hang out with you pretty often and it’s fun, but I need to occasional break. There are also Occasional People, and usually these are friends of friends (the best example of this includes a friend’s husband), who I might enjoy a conversation with or hang out with for a couple of hours once in a while, but then I’d enjoy a nice, long break from you, please and thank you. There’s nothing wrong with making him an Occasional Person (or a Sometimes Person), or heck, even a Never Person!

    2. He could interpret literally anything LW does as her not really meaning that she isn’t interested in him. And probably will.

      That doesn’t make backing off a bit necessarily bad advice. I think it’s good advice for a lot of reasons, including that it’ll give LW more opportunity/time/emotional energy to work on expanding her social circle beyond the couple of friends it currently consists of, and she might not find it so scary to think about the possibility of losing one frankly pretty bad friend if she has more than a few of them.

      But I’m concerned about the view that LW either can, or should have to, manage Friend’s expectations by showing unfriendly behavior intended to signal “see how not-interested I am? Believe my words: I Am Not Interested.” It plays into his narrative about how ordinary, friend-like behavior is “leading him on” and how there’s no real way to behave like you want a friendship but not a romance, because wanting a friendship “obviously really MEANS wanting a romance!”

      It can be hard to communicate, “Friendly behavior doesn’t necessarily mean I want to date you,” at the same time as you see communicating, “Here, watch me use unfriendly behavior in order to show you that I don’t want to date you!” I think LW is best off backing off the friendship a bit for other reasons, but I would not code it as part of the friendliness=romantic interest, lack of friendliness=lack of romantic interest paradigm.

      1. He could interpret literally anything LW does as her not really meaning that she isn’t interested in him. And probably will.

        Quoted for truth

  17. But when he mentioned this plan and I said “I don’t know how my parents would feel about that” he responded “what, me saving some money?”

    Ooooooooh, that is some skeevery right there. He knows FULL WELL what you mean, and he’s pulling this? That’s just him straight up disrespecting you.

    He once also mentioned he believes he “accidentally found” my address somehow.”


    And not just stalking you, but checking if you’re cool with it, basically.

    tbh, I don’t really think this friendship is worth salvaging. Maybe. But hoo boy, he seems like he has no boundaries and is super-creepy.

    1. Yes, this caught my eye too.
      “what, me saving some money?”
      That’s… gaslighting, isn’t it?

      It’s him saying, “Hey, this thing that is (clearly, obviously) happening is only happening in your head, you are the weird one for acknowledging this (thing that is really happening) imaginary thing, how could you think of me like that?”

      I see a lot of boundary testing here. A lot of little nudges. On their own, either of those comments might hit my “weird, inappropriate, but give benefit of the doubt” buzzer, but both together are starting to wiggle a red flag.

    2. Yeah, LW, these were not actual accidental things. In the statement “I’m saving up to visit you!”, the only thing your parents would realistically object to is the visit–there’s no reason for them to have any opinion on his money habits. He understood full-well what you were saying and chose to disregard it.

      And unless you commonly post your home address in your MMORPG community where he might stumble across it, the odds of him just accidentally happening to wander into it, notice it’s your address, and bother mentioning it to you are slim-to-none. It’s far, far more likely that he intentionally tracked down the information and lied to you about it to make himself appear innocent.

      These are not acceptable behaviors.

    3. Yes! I THOROUGHLY agree that this is some messed-up behavior! LW, I’m betting that if you liked someone and wanted to visit them, and you thought it was possibly that they didn’t want you to visit, you’d act in such a way as to make it MORE LIKELY and EASIER for them to tell you they didn’t want you to visit. You might even go OUT OF YOUR WAY to give them a chance to tell you they didn’t want you to visit. You might say “hey I realize I might have come on really strong about wanting to visit–it’s obviously totally okay if that doesn’t work for you! I’ll hold off on planning anything, maybe think about it and let me know if you decide it would be fun!” Because to you, the situation where they didn’t want you to visit and you visited anyway would be a BAD SITUATION. It would not represent a victory over their objections. It would be BAD.

      This dude is not acting in that way! He is deliberately making it more difficult for you to refuse his visit! That’s bad!

  18. Hey LW! I second absolutely everything that the Captain said! You can indeed say no to boys! You do not have to manage their feelings or reactions! You can tell him no, please stop, don’t say things like that, etc. for any reason at all! I want to bring up something that the Captain did not mention, however. Does your friend know about your spiritual and religious commitments? Have you included this part of your identity in your interactions with him? If not, now may be the time to start. This can serve a number of purposes in your friendship, but the main things I’m thinking of at the moment are:

    1. If you establish that you have religious boundaries regarding relationships, he may back off — if he respects your beliefs, that is. (It is possible but hopefully unlikely that he would respond to this by converting to your religion, to make himself more appealing as a dating prospect.)

    2, If he does not respect your beliefs, however, he may double down on his unacceptable behavior or not take you seriously. That would be a huge red flag for any sort of relationship, romantic or platonic. Perhaps if he revealed himself to be less that respectful about your beliefs, you would have an easier time cutting him off entirely.

    I can see that your religion is very important to you, so don’t be afraid to invoke it if you think it will help you navigate (or even end) this friendship.

  19. Hoooh boy. This happened to me, except the high school/internet boy in question DID show up at my house. I didn’t let him in- I answered the door to tell him that he needed to leave- but it scared the daylights out of me. There is no way for you to gently tell this person that he isn’t welcome at your house, but that isn’t your fault. He hasn’t left you with many options, except for 1) Ghosting him/blocking him, 2) Telling him clearly and in no uncertain terms that you do not want to date him, and 3) Passively going along with what he wants (which is what he *wants* you to do).

    “But when he mentioned this plan and I said “I don’t know how my parents would feel about that” he responded ‘what, me saving some money?'” LW, he is misunderstanding you on purpose, which is not something a close friend should do.

    He is counting on you to do what he wants because you’ve been nice to him, and he’s been nice to you. He is hoping that, even if you aren’t okay with being in a relationship with him, you’ll go along with it because you don’t want to hurt his feelings (and that someday you’ll magically be convinced that this is actually a great idea).

    And, because I feel somewhat equipped as an Internet Auntie (I used to live on forums/MMOs), I would be remiss not to ask: Do you have a good relationship with your parents? I know there is tension because they aren’t a fan of your friend, but do you otherwise feel safe with them/feel like they love you and prioritize your safety? If the answer is “yes,” please consider telling them as an emergency option. If the answer is “no,” please skip this next paragraph.

    I say this because a) Friend has already found your address without your permission and b) There is a chance he isn’t who he says he is- by that, I mean he could be much older (and wiser in the ways of manipulation/harassment). I hope you are as lucky as I was, and that this guy is also a youth who is behaving badly but otherwise not a direct threat to your safety. I hope he backs off, and you *don’t* have to tell your parents. But if you’re getting the vibe that he isn’t going to listen to you- or show up at your house- please notify your parents so they can help protect you.

  20. The “I accidentally found your address” thing seriously creeps me out and makes me wary. With online friends, I think an address should only be given, not looked for. Seems like a boundary issue for someone to look for an address and save up money to visit when there has been no invitation to visit.

    I had an online friend that I exchanged looong e-mails with almost every day for two years. By then I felt so close to them and comfortable with them I ended up offering to mail them some stuff I didn’t need anymore that they could get a lot of use out of. After they gave me their address, I sent them mine (with my real name) and admitted that I went by a fake name online for safety reasons. To which they admitted that they already knew my real full name and address because when we first started talking they decided to google some things I’d told them to see if they could find more information on me. They found a website I’d created that contained my real name and then searched for my address.

    I thought it was invasive and troubling for an online friend to do that, especially since I’d told them when we first met that I wasn’t interested in meeting up in real life. In the following months, they started doing creepy and bad things, and I ended up cutting off communication with them. I wouldn’t fully trust an online friend who let me know they found my address now.

  21. LW, but you mentioned that you’re not especially devout, but still an adherent to your religion and that you’ve told your friend that your parents wouldn’t be happy with some of the behaviour he’s exhibiting. I think that (in his fantasies) your horrible, strict, conservative parents could be something he needs to rescue you from and I think it would be worth it to set your boundaries on your wishes.

  22. This reminds of that one time I had to get someone to pretend to be a police officer to stop this one fragile Snowflake harassing me on the phone day and night. Literally the dude would just keep calling in the middle of the night and waking up my roommates. This was before mobile/cell phones.

    Then there was that time.. and the time.. and specially the time…

    It never ends

    1. That’s not sarcasm I’m sitting here marveling at reading every response I’ve ever gotten from boys I set boundaries with.

      1. If you think it will break him if you cut things off with him, then OMG Cut Things Off With Him Now.

        Let’s put aside for now the fact that YOU don’t want this…It is very unhealthy for HIM to be in a situation where only one person is standing in between him and being broken.

        If this is true, he needs to get help that is far beyond what you as (presumably) not a trained professional can give. And if you were a trained professional, you’d be ethically bound to NOT give him treatment since you two already know each other outside of therapy and he’s acting skeevy toward you. So either way he needs to go find help. And you cannot be the source of that help (it wouldn’t help him and it definitely wouldn’t help you).

        If it’s not true, then great. Still not your problem to resolve.

        Good luck. I have all the empathy for you. This isn’t fun at all.

  23. LW, you don’t say how old you are but it sounds like your parents are really involved in your life so I’m assuming you’re very young. Since you only know this guy from the internet, I just want to urge you to please be cautious. You know from role playing that the Internet enables you to be anyone you want to be. Plenty of creeps out there are very good at using the internet to pretend to be young and innocent to lure young girls. There are a lot of creeps who are good at finding people online that don’t have many friends, who are sexually innocent, isolated, etc. Definitely don’t agree to meet this guy in person unless and until you see a serious, sustained change in his behavior. If he shows up unnanounced, don’t be afraid to call the police or your parents for reinforcement. It is OK to tell him “no.” I’ts OK to tell him to knock it off. And it’s OK to end a friendship that is becoming less and less friendly, especially if you feel unsafe!! You are NOT responsible for his feelings!

    1. Agreed – and only meet in person at public location with lots and lots of people (a mall, a park). And always tell someone that you’re going to meet Bob at Central Perk at 3pm, and if they don’t hear from you by 5 to check in (or something like that). When I was going on online dates, I would always let a friend know who I was meeting and where, and I’m always happy to be on the look out for a friend when they let me know they’re meeting someone for the first time.

  24. This reminds me of watching Loveline, of all possible things, back in the nineties on MTV (ask your folks, kids!) and Adam Corolla, of all possible people, calling out the ridiculous amount of slack girls are expected to cut for boys if said boys are their friends.

    “Yeah, he killed my whole family and drove my car into the river, but he’s my BEST FRIEND!”

    LW, I’m sure this guy is wonderful in many ways and so on, but it’s okay to like a person, to sympathize with their feelings, and still draw boundaries and not be okay with bad or sketchy behavior. You don’t have to struggle with his feelings or find cultural context for his desire to create a giant fantasy out of your actual relationship. You don’t owe him uncomfortable space violations because he’d feel bad if told to knock that off.

    You and your religion and your personal sovereignty aren’t bargaining chips, or offerings, or inconveniences. They’re precious and they’re yours.

  25. It sounds like the LW is saying her friend would encourage her to cut off all contact with this guy if LW told her friend about him. Not that her friend would cut off all contact with the LW. (Point of clarification)

    LW, have you told your online friend about your religious beliefs? If you have, his behavior indicates that he’s trying to circumvent them in order to finagle his way into making you his girlfriend. The Captain’s advice is spot on. Tell him up front that it’s not cool – also, remind him that your religious beliefs are important to you, and he’s not respecting them.

    If you haven’t told him, let him know and be clear that it’s not your parents’ faith, it’s yours and it’s important to you that if he respects you, he respects your religious beliefs and your commitment to not have a boyfriend who doesn’t share them.

  26. LW, I empathize with this so much and agree with everything the Captain has said! Storytime: Once upon a time I was raised in a very religious household and was kind of an outsider with one good friend. I also would always say hello and be nice to the kids who were picked on because I thought no one deserved to be bullied. It turns out, one of them in particular took this to mean I liked him. He hung around me more..other people said he had a crush on me and joked that we would go out…he talked to me all the time and implied things I was not interested in…I was interested in being kind to him but I had no desire to date him!

    One night I had a nightmare in which our whole class was flying in a plane and it crash-landed on a jungle island and we were the only two survivors and thus we became a couple. Like we had no choice. The entire dream filled me with such hopeless dread. It took me a few minutes after waking to realize we were not, in fact, married. And I was filled with such relief!

    So I guess the takeaway is the fact that this person IS telling you about this dream is not cool. And…dreams aren’t everything…and you deserve to be happy and you deserve to not have to worry about this person’s dubious attentions.

    1. I’ve had dreams like that! Where I was being forced by circumstance into unions I didn’t want and felt like I had no say in what was happening. The WORST.

      1. I’m so sorry you get to be part of this crummy club. Luckily for me, after that awful dream, I avoided the guy completely and I’ve never had to talk to him since high school.

  27. Confessions of a former Nice Guy:

    Well into my 20s, I didn’t date very much, and I thought of myself as the classical “nice guy” that girls only liked “as a friend”. I would have scoffed at the notion that I was being manipulative — I probably would have said something like, “If I’m so manipulative, how come I’m incapable of getting girls to have sex with me?” And to be clear, I never did anything really horrible. But there were definitely times when I made women — some of whom I considered good friends — uncomfortable. Eventually I realized there is a common pattern among certain NGs who place women on a pedestal and treat them as a prize to be won — or even worse, as a “mark” that they have to trick into liking them — without ever actually stopping to consider the women’s feelings. And that type of behavior is decidedly not “nice”.

    (As is frequently the case, what helped me see what was going on was observing that behavior in others: a female friend was casually dating a guy who was head-over-heels in love with her, to the point where he was ring shopping even as she was getting ready to break things off. I realized this guy considered my friend the love of his life, and yet he was so oblivious to the actual person he was dealing with that he had no idea he was making her supremely uncomfortable. It’s like Ben Stiller says at the end of “There’s Something About Mary”: “They don’t love you. They just love the way you make them feel about themselves.”)

    So while Captain’s advice perfectly covered what the girl should do in that situation, I’d like to implore all the boys out there — as well as parents who are raising boys — to be on the lookout for Nice Guys who aren’t actually being nice and call them on their BS.

  28. Dear Captain. Long time reader, first time writer. I just wanted to say that I wish you and this *awesome blog* had been around when I first started dating waaaaaaay back in the late 80s early 90s. This post and your response just swept me back in time to my first ‘real’ boyfriend who (I realize now) was an abusive, manipulative, sexist, lying, self-righteous POS. I stayed with him for two years because I didn’t feel like I had a choice. Sure I was young and inexperienced (I went to an all girls high school so had NO experience dating before I met POS) but, if I’d had a friend – or even a kind stranger! – tell me the things that you just told this young woman, I think I would have been able to dump his abusive ass and take some baby steps towards recognizing that my feelings and dreams mattered, too, and that NO it wasn’t okay for anyone to stomp all over them because managing their emotional needs took precedence. Sadly, it took me years to learn this on my own but now I’m all about the boundaries. Yay! Thank you. You’re doing good, important work!

  29. “I’m afraid there’s no way I can be painfully clear that I don’t want more and not ruin everything.”

    You will not ruin anything by setting up boundaries with your friend. The only way anything will be ruined will be by him if he does not graciously stop after you request him to. That is 100% on him, not you. There may need to be some pull back or cool down with the texting for a bit and that is okay. People who truly care about you will want to respect your boundaries. They are mortified to learn they have made you uncomfortable and then correct their behavior when told it isn’t great. Accept nothing less from friends. Life is too short to deal with people who only have their interests in mind.

  30. Over a decade ago, I was friends with a guy online. We chatted a lot. We were involved in some online RPG type stuff. We tentatively flirted a little back and forth. Then he told me he really wasn’t feeling it, and he’d rather we just be friends. I cried a little, privately. Outwardly, I showed him no sign of my being upset, just went on being friends with him where we left off, and a year or so later began dating my now husband. He and I are still friends, and he’s now happily married to someone else.

    For what it’s worth, at the time this happened, I was just out of a long term abusive relationship the prior year, had major untreated PTSD and depression – and still, my online friend’s not wanting to date me did not “break” me, nor would I have ever wanted him to think that it would.

    My point in this rambling story is that if he’s really your friend, he’ll remain so, and deal on his own with his feelings. And if he’s not, and behaves as if you owe him a relationship for some reason, then he’s not worthy of your friendship.

  31. Dear LW,

    I want to address this bit:

    I’m afraid there’s no way I can be painfully clear that I don’t want more and not ruin everything.

    Telling this boy that you like him as a friend and don’t want to date him will not ruin everything. If the friendship ends, it will end because this boy isn’t your friend. That is, he already ended it.

    I hope that he actually does like you as a friend, and will retreat from romance.

    Good luck.

    1. This. It is not your fault he has ‘girlfriend zoned’ you.

      You offered your friendship.
      – Your friendship is not a consolation prize for not dating you.
      – Your friendship is not a way to keep in touch with you in case you change your mind.

      Your friendship is a gift, because your time and attention are a precious commodity that you choose to share with him.

      1. “Your friendship is a gift, because your time and attention are a precious commodity that you choose to share with him.”

        THIS THIS THIS. You have given him your friendship. You are not obligated to give him anything else. You are not obligated to offer anything you do not want to give, and it sounds like all he’s giving you right now is anxiety and guilt.

        I was raised in a religiously conservative home too. I met a guy online who gave me a tragic feelingsdump about how he loved me (despite, as I later learned, being married with kids), and how he would TOTALLY pull back and never speak of his love again if I told him to, but that it would break his heart to know that the first person he ever really connected with couldn’t feel *something* for him. I felt bad, convinced myself I was in love with him too, and commenced years of emotional seesawing and, when I learned he was married, howling guilt.

        If you don’t feel the way he wants you to feel, there is nothing wrong with that. You have given him a gift. If he decides he doesn’t want it, you can (regretfully) take it back.

  32. Also, do you and your friend play together in a regular group, and how does the group handle his comments? I have a group of friends I play video games with, and we’ve been together for…seven? years now. Since I’m the only girl, and these people do not get out much, probably 75% of them have had a crush on me at one time or other. Things that have made it work:

    (1) If I tell them to knock something off because it’s making me uncomfortable, THEY KNOCK IT OFF. Immediately, without a guilt trip, and with a real apology.

    (2) The other members of the group look out for me. If someone is getting too weirdly loving towards me, they’ll usually get on that person’s case for creeping well before I’d need to intervene myself. Then they’ll check in with me later to see how I feel about the situation.

    In short, this is the sort of excellent treatment I get from the Internet-gaming, parents-basement-dwelling men-children whom I associate with, and you should settle from nothing less.

    1. This is a good point! Do you have other in-game friends you can talk to about this, who can be on emotional Team You, if your meatspace support doesn’t ‘get it’?

      I have also had success sometimes with friends who don’t get it by being really upfront about what I don’t want. “Friend, I expect you’re going to tell me to block him, but what I need is for you to hear me out and support me by (doing X thing).”

    2. If the LW is in a guild (or whatever) in this MMORPG with this dude, that guild will have officers, and part of those officers’ responsibility is to be available to the LW to help out with this stuff. Hopefully the dude hears “no” and gets over himself, but if not, hopefully the guild officers will do their job.

      1. Eh. Guilds are run by players making up the guild rules as they go along. There may or may not be officers who can help handle this, but I wouldn’t just assume.
        I say this as a guild officer who would certainly do my best to help, but I haven’t signed a job contract with clearly defined responsibilities.

    3. Hey, can we not harsh on people who are still living with their parents as adults? For one thing, that’s often more a result of financial and/or medical circumstances than of something bad about someone’s character. For another thing, both the LW and her unwanted beau might be in that category.

      1. And one very good reason they might be in that category is that they are teenagers!

      2. I think Argablarg is saying that even the most stereotypical-seeming MMORPGers are human beings with morals and empathy, and LW should expect that from her online friend group.

        1. Yeah, that was exactly what I was going for, that you can and should expect decent treatment even from the people society generally regards as being least capable/interested in giving it. I know most of their backstories, and they all involve intelligent, resourceful people sidelined by bad luck and un/undertreated mental illness, where their circumstances give them no way to bootstrap themselves out (trust me, I’ve tried running logistics for several them and yeah, there’s really nothing out there for them.) But with the fact that they have so much time on their hands, they’ve generally been the ones doing the heavy lifting for me when I’ve needed help.

  33. A year or so ago I was chatting with a guy from a fandom I’m in online. It was all well and good until I mentioned I was female. Suddenly, there was an AWFUL LOT of him mentioning how DEFINITELY NOT ASEXUAL he was. (I wish I were kidding.) It skeeved me out big time, and when I was like “whoa, how did our conversation end up here” he was like “have I said something that made you uncomfortable” (yes) but… later on it would happen again.

    After a few awkward conversations like this, I ended up messaging some other, more trusted internet friends in tears because I JUST WANTED TO NERD ABOUT FICTIONAL CHARACTERS WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED HERE. (Sound familiar at all?) They encouraged me to trust my gut, I blocked the guy, and fortunately that was the end of it. But I found out later he was doing the slight creeper vibe on at least one other girl (happily, we were able to pass on my experience and she blocked him too).

    I tell this story because I’m in my late 20s and I was still really thrown when this guy suddenly morphed from casual fandom friend into… well, I’m not sure, but I’m happy I never found out. LW, you sound pretty young to me, like in your teens or early college years. And so I feel like it’s worth saying that internet friendships can absolutely be a genuine and healthy thing. But this guy is no longer behaving within the bounds of healthy internet friendship. There are rules of both etiquette and safety around meeting an internet friend for the first time, and they tend to involve mutual agreement (!!), picking a public place, and letting a trusted person know where you’ll be. He “accidentally” found your address and… is making plans to come visit you… possibly at your house? When you’re not on board with this? (And when he knows your parents, who presumably own the house, are not on board with this?) Personally, my gut says “run.”

    The Captain has given excellent advice that I recommend you follow. Best-case scenario is sheepish apologies and he knocks it off. Definitely enlist your parents’ help if you need to block him, though. It may suck to have to tell them things have gone sideways, but since he might know where you live it’s better to play it safe.

  34. I just wanted to say how thankful I am that CA and the commenters are not giving LW a hard time about sticking to dating within their religious tradition. I made a similar decision and was amazed how harshly I was criticized for it, as if I was obligated to date anyone who expressed an interest.
    LW, for what it’s worth, that was the right decision for me and it worked out. Maybe later you’ll revisit it, if you want, but as the Captain said you’re always allowed to say no.

  35. Hi LW!
    I agree with mostly everything that has been said, but wanted to add a piece that I don’t think has been fully addressed by other posters.

    Considering that the friendship was good to you to some extent, it can feel really hard to deal with the possibility of losing it, particularly over something you can’t control (anything related to him: feelings, choices, and attitudes). That said, it is completely normal that when two people want two different things (he wants to date, you want his friendship/support), that you cannot continue to maintain this connection if both are to retain their self-dignity. And it’s ok, although it sucks, going separate ways is actually a mature thing to do (still hurtful, I know). So, if you reject him and he does not work on actually being your friend (for whatever reason), it is in your best interest to let this go.

    But anyway, I would be concerned with this guy’s attitudes, particularly finding your address (unless he lives in the same city and coincidentally saw you on the streets, “accidental” is just a code for “don’t get mad at me for stalking you”). You hinted at the low self-esteem and I do think this might be playing in this situation but it doesn’t really make it ok.

    OBS: I am not saying this is the case here in this letter, but I do not believe in the whole “if he is really your friend then he will take the rejection and just be your friend and if he doesn’t he was not really your friend” —- there are cases where having feelings and maintaing a real friendship are mutually exclusive and that’s ok. From my own personal experience, there were a few people I was friends with and truly enjoyed them. One in particular, I can’t even be in the same room a year after the rejection. It does not exclude how much I like the person, but staying close makes me lose my self-dignity.

    1. “there are cases where having feelings and maintaning a real friendship are mutually exclusive and that’s ok.”

      Seconding this! Good news for LW if the friendship does end though: no matter whether it’s because he was never really her friend or because he was a well-meaning friend who finds unrequited feelings too painful, it won’t be her fault and his pantsfeelings won’t be her responsibility to manage.

    2. To add to this: if you tell him you’re not romantically interested and he decides to not be friends with you anymore as a result, I want to really emphasize that it’s not your fault. It could be him being a creep who was leading you on by pretending to be your friend while he was really after something else. Or it could be him being a generally nice guy who needs time and space to get over his romantic feelings and recognizes that he’s not capable of being a good platonic friend for you in the meantime. No matter which it is, you can’t fix it–you can’t control whether you have romantic feelings for him, and you can’t control his reaction to you not having those feelings.

      One of the hardest lessons for me to learn in life has been to not take responsibility for things I can’t control. It’s so tempting to think that if I just did the exact right thing, I could make everything work out in the end…but it never works out, because taking responsibility where you have no control just leads to shouldering a lot of extra guilt and blame. I hope you can let go of that burden for yourself.

  36. His actual or potential hurt fee-fees are NOT your responsibility. At all. At any time. Ever. Also, being blunt isn’t necessarily rude or mean, and blunt may be the only thing that gets through to him.

    I feel like it can be an extension or subset of the Geek Social Fallacies that Any Attention is Good Attention, even when it’s making somebody squirm uncomfortably. And honestly, what the hell makes it OK for him to push his dreams and desires on you regardless of the welcome or lack thereof you feel towards them, and NOT OK for you to push back and demand that he knock it off?! You are not required to submit to his BS…

    What I have done in the past when I’m super uncomfortable, but HAD to have my say (on paper) was to write it out. Get it out on paper in all its rough glory and awkwardness. Then fine tune it. Some more. And let it sit and ferment for a little bit (hours/days/weeks) Then, when you judge that it’s as good as you can get it, send it to him in whatever format you choose. And drop the rope. He takes it how he takes it, but he is responsible for his feelings and response, and you AREN’T.

    If it happens again with him, or with somebody new, then you recognize the symptoms and react sooner.

  37. I’ve had some success with responding to the *kidding not kidding* sexual and romantic references with hard nosed humour (think Darlene from Roseanne):

    “I’m going to show up on your doorstep someday!”
    “Well you’ll be sleeping on the kerb because you’re not invited “.

    “Its hard for me to hear the word ‘shower’ without getting excited”
    “I will be excited when you learn how to tell jokes that are appropriate between platonic friends”

    “I had a dream about us getting married”
    “I have a dream that my friends will ask me and then listen to what I actually want in life”.

    You’ll find that they are allowed to ‘joke’; you’re not. They get pretty confused when you say: “I know you wouldnt expect me to seriously consider and respond to a dumb joke youre making. You and I are not anything of the kind!” or “How is it mean to be surprised when youre making references to us being together when we never have been?” or “I know it’s not a serious request to be with me. Those generally include an opt-out”.

    YMMV of course. It’s dangerous to joke, even in response, with a certain type of guy. With a particular plausible-deniability-scared-to just-ask-a-closed-question dude it can be useful to hear ‘I’m not SERIOUSLY asking you’ and respond with ‘No you couldn’t possibly be serious and at no point did you ask’.

    1. Oh, I really like these! They call things out without you having to be the one who stops the fun train.

  38. This is oh so sadly familiar. It was on Captain Awkward I learned to spot boundary pushing dudes and I’m super grateful for it. I recently went on one date with a guy who tried to cancel at the last minute, made me watch the football when I told him I wasn’t into it, texted me every day after the date when I told him I was too busy to engage in that (and it’s super needy after one date anyway) and is now constantly harassing me for a second date although I’ve already told him directly why I don’t want one: because thus far all he’s done is prove he isn’t interested in what I think, need or feel. It’s pesky, but at least I’m not going to give in and ‘give him a second chance’ as he is trying to insist i do. Maybe there was a misunderstanding about some of the details but the alarm bell for me is not accepting no. I have a bad feeling about this guy and that’s enough for me…

    1. Oh man. The “second chance” guys. No, dude, this is not a court of law in which the burden of proof rests on me to show good cause for why I don’t want to go out with you.

    2. Ah, the old “I’m not interested in you, but my ego is interested in your attention” card.

  39. LW, I feel for you on this. It sucks so much when you put in the time and energy and emotion to build what you think is a really solid friendship with someone, and they insist on only pushing for a romantic one instead.

    To be clear, that’s what he’s doing. You’re not imagining things. He wants to date you, and he doesn’t care that you’ve never shown any interest in dating him. From what I can tell in your letter, he’s never once asked “Is that something you’d be interested in?” It’s just been a series of HIS fantasies and HIS future plans, even in the face of you actively telling him that his ideas (like him visiting) aren’t going to happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was already sort of thinking of you as his girlfriend (either in the present–a “well, we’re not CALLING it that” kind of deal–or in the future, as a predetermined certainty).

    This is not the behavior of a good friend. It’s not that friends can never become romantically interested, or that mismatched feelings have to destroy friendships–people weather that kind of thing all the time. It’s the blatant disregard for your wants and needs in this relationship that troubles me.

    I want to give you permission to be more blunt here. Next time he brings up literally any sexual or romantic thing (or thing you suspect even COULD be hinting in that direction, or just plain thing that makes you feel uncomfortable), tell him “That makes me uncomfortable. Let’s talk about X instead” He’ll probably try to convince you that you’re toooootally misinterpreting; you respond with “It still makes me uncomfortable. I value our friendship, but that’s not a direction I want to go in. Please drop it.” If he continues to push, stop responding until he gives up and drops it. This is you setting a boundary; respecting your boundaries is a baseline requirement for interacting with you, so he doesn’t get to have you respond until he respects it.

    If you do this every single time he says something that makes you feel uneasy, there’s a reasonable chance that he eventually realizes that you’re not going to budge on this and gives up. If he doesn’t, you may eventually reach a point where you have to either tell him, “I am your friend. I am not your girlfriend, and I am not interested in becoming your girlfriend. I am not interested in you romantically, and I need you to permanently drop all discussion of us ever being together that way,” and hope he listens to your super-blunt words, or simply ditch the friendship. If it reaches that point, it will be because he was such a bad friend that he couldn’t be bothered to treat you like a human being–and there’s nothing you can do to fix that.

    1. Oh, yeah, OP: You are not imagining things and the reason for your discomfort is real. Just in case all the other people here going ‘yeah, we’ve seen this’ doesn’t bring that out clearly enough.

  40. Hey OP, I sympathise so much with your situation and think that the Captain’s advice is spot on.
    Your letter reminded me of a younger me, and I wanted to share what I learned in case it’s helpful for you.
    I want to be clear that my youth was very different to yours, and I’m sharing this because I sense some similarities in some specific /feelings/, not in our situations.

    Because of a lot of related-but-not-relevant-here-context growing up, I was a very obedient person. When I was young, I could have been described as “Nice, shy, and obedient”.
    Once I had a boy who was a friend, but he was a Nice Guy. He’d complain about not having a girlfriend, flirted with me more than once, tried to get me to expose myself on webcam to him.

    I was profoundly uncomfortable with this. But if someone has asked me about the situation, I would have started talking about how my mother wouldn’t like it, how my other friends would want me to cut the friendship off, how he was actually a cool guy sometimes but was just sad and needing support – and not once in that conversation would I have said, “And I don’t like it, but I don’t like hurting feelings either”. I would never have mentioned myself, at all. I felt pressured from all sides – because here were two or more people I cared about, and they wanted very different things from me, and I felt like it was my job to negotiate between them.

    OP, I have the benefit of hindsight and many years of reading Captain Awkward, and I know now that back then /I didn’t know that I could say no, for myself/. I knew, intellectually, that I was within my rights to say no to things. But because of my upbringing, I had internalised that I wasn’t allowed to make decisions – I had decisions made for me. Somewhere deep inside, I believed that if someone loved me, it was conditional on my obedience to them. I believed that I was a tool to be used, and would be discarded if I stopped being useful.

    I don’t know if you feel anything similar or if you do, if you feel it as strongly as I did. But I do sense some hesitation in you – that if you don’t live up to their expectations, these people will love you less. OP, you get to make decisions for yourself. Your parents are a special relationship – they do and should expect some level of obedience to keep you safe, but that level should change as you get older. I think they love you for you, not for your obedience.

    Friendships aren’t like that. You get to be a whole 50% of that relationship. If a friendship is conditional on your obedience, OP, that’s not a friendship.

    You are more than what you can do for other people. You are a whole, vibrant, human person all by yourself. That comes with the privilege and responsibility of making decisions for yourself, even when other people don’t agree. By all means, consider all the information, take advice from the people around you, think about their feelings – this is good and kind and necessary! But you are responsible for you, and they are responsible for them, and this gets easier with practice, I promise.

  41. LW, I’m sorry this happened to you, but the bottom line here is this: friendships should make your life better. They’re not always fun (I spent several hours once at a vet with my friend the day her cat died, for example) or easy, but you should feel good about having your friends in your life.

    This guy? You’re not feeling good about him being in your life with the way things are. It’s sad but it’s not your fault, and it’s not your responsibility to fix it.

  42. Oh LW I really feel for you. Good luck!! One thing: he’s lying about being embarrassed telling you about “getting excited” re the shower (EW). He didn’t need to tell you that. He *wanted* to sexualize your conversations.

    1. Yes, let me be another voice of bitter experience confirming that he was NOT embarrassed to disclose this, and telling you was definitely a Sex Thing for him. Some of the other awkward stuff I could prrrooobably be persuaded is just the fumbling of an overeager, socially inexperienced kid—but not that, not the shower-excitement disclosure. No benefit of the doubt there. Or, now that I’m thinking about it, the “accidentally”-found-your-address thing. I’m not saying he’s fundamentally a monster, but at BEST this guy has absorbed some very Not Good ideas about how to express attraction etc. And it’s not your job to gently tutor him out of these misconceptions.

    2. Ding ding ding ding ding. At very least, his desire to sexualize the conversation outbid any embarrassment he felt. Plus, he could make it LW’s problem/fault: it’s not that he WANTED to sexualize the conversation, it was HER doing it by mentioning a normal, nonsexual human activity.

      I really don’t know if he’s doing this consciously. I don’t know him and it sounds like he’s young. But it is so, so manipulative. He’s taken to heart some really toxic messages about women, sex, and love.

      And I agree with Cassandra: it is NOT LW’s job to unpack that with/for him and teach him this stuff.

    3. Yes, I noticed that too. Any time I’ve been embarrassed, I’ve wanted to crawl in a hole and not mention what’s going on. I think that’s it for pretty much everyone. It’s practically the definition of embarrassment, that feeling of wanting to hide. The only time to mention embarrassment is when you’re seeking a bond with others who might also have been secretly embarrassed. Like years out of school when I said to old classmates that I’d been too embarrassed about having so much trouble with a class that I was too embarrassed to admit it or go to the teacher for help, and they all said they’d struggled with the class too. We were all trying so hard to seem smart for one another that we lost an opportunity to help each other. Point being that it’s decidedly weird to bring up being embarrassed the way he did: I’m embarrassed to tell you this (then don’t) so you need to change what you’re doing. What? If he’s embarrassed, then he needs to change what he’s doing.

  43. We are bizarrely similar at times and he’s really been there for me.

    Ok, so I am definitely being paranoid, but it is only because I’ve had the unfortunate experience of people reading my diary in an effort to ‘connect with me:

    OP, do you have a private blog, or use message boards or social media? If so, this guy may be reading your posts to appear to be on the same wavelength as you. Since he has found your address it seems he is motivated to know a lot about you, so just in case, maybe lock down your accounts for a while.

  44. But like sheezlebub principle.

    How much more time do you want to spend in a relationship with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable?

  45. He has asked me, very embarrassed, to not casually mention if I’m getting in the shower because it “gets him excited”.
    Oh man, this is the most unacceptable thing to me. Like, everything else, imo, could be acceptable behavior in the right situation, but this is just like, never do this. There are times when it’s okay to tell a woman that the thought of her showering gets you excited, but there are no times when it’s okay to ask a woman not to talk about her daily hygiene rituals because of your boner. UGH. I feel like it was pretty dishonest of him to be like “oh, I’m so embarrassed to HAVE to tell you this!” because like, there is exactly 0 reason he needs to tell you this information. It’s not your problem if he’s attracted to you, and, frankly, I don’t even see why it would be a problem for him. Like . . . what’s going to happen if he gets “excited”? Is he going to have a heart attack and die? No. He’ll be fine. Just take a cold shower or jerk off like the rest of the human population, don’t act like this is everyone else’s problem. Ew.

    Honestly, I feel like I’d be grossed out even if a guy I really wanted to bang framed me showering in those terms, like, I don’t shower because it’s sexy, I shower because otherwise I would stink. It kind of would make me feel like I can’t ever remove my clothing even for the most utilitarian purposes without it having to be viewed through the lens of men’s attraction or lack thereof, which is not a great feeling.

    I had an MMO “friend” like this, too. I distinctly recall that I was underage, and when I mentioned my actual age to him, he made this uncomfortable joke about me being “jailbait.” Anyway, I eventually friend-dumped him and left his guild after he wouldn’t stop making comments about how he hates women in front of me and his (trans, female) best friend, and then when I tried to extend the olive branch to him, following it up with a bunch of transphobic comments. As far as I know, she’s still friends with him. She has a stronger stomach than I do, I suppose. But for me, I’m glad to be rid of him.

    1. ” It kind of would make me feel like I can’t ever remove my clothing even for the most utilitarian purposes without it having to be viewed through the lens of men’s attraction or lack thereof, which is not a great feeling.”

      This. When I heard some research about how much time women spend in self-monitoring (and observing yourself regularly through the lens of male arousal is a HUGE part of that) compared to how much time men spend doing it, I felt chilled. It was so recognizable to me.

  46. Hi,
    Just mentioning this, because I haven’t seen it further up the comments. (I think you’re probably already doing this) But, consider taking his comment about not telling up when you’re just going for a shower etc very seriously. You’re wanting him to respect the boundaries that you’re giving him, so play reciprocity and respect the one that he’s given you.

    This will, give you a plausible recourse if he oversteps anything you ask of him – you can just cite it as a boundary of his that you respected, and you need yours to be respected in an exactly similar way. (Also, if you don’t respect it, he will almost certainly interpret it as flirting)

    1. I’m genuinely curious here, not sarcastic. Why do you think his telling her that he is sexually aroused is setting a boundary?

      If he’d said “Don’t talk about bathing, it makes me uncomfortable” he’d have set a boundary

      “Don’t talk about bathing, because it makes me hard” is sexualizing a non-sexual conversation. It is also claiming that how libido is her responsibility. That’s gas-lighting.

  47. LW, are you me ten years ago?
    I got entangled with a guy whom I met through an mmorpg. He started threatening to self-harm, subtly at first, then overtly, if I didn’t become his internet girlfriend (at one point, I thought he was dead for a few hours- that was what broke me). I was very devout (and sheltered and so very innocent) at that time, and I felt very guilty and defensive about the situation. I also didn’t let any family or friends know what was happening; I felt that I ought to be able to take care of it and that other people in my life would urge me to make choices without considering the other person. I gave him with all sorts of reasons why it ought to stop: my family, my religion, logic, but of course he was getting what he wanted, and my wants didn’t matter. It got really abusive, and eventually, I ended it and blocked him everywhere. It wasn’t easy; I had to get over the loss of giving away the purity that I had valued.

    If I could go back in time, I’d tell my younger self:

    Heart break and rejection hurt. He groomed you to feel sorry for him and his fragile emotional state, but you aren’t responsible for his heartbreak any more than you are for his feelings. And no, you aren’t responsible for his feelings. You were just being a nice, friendly person, and that is not leading someone on in any world.

    You matter. You are so much more than emotional support for other people. You are your own person.

    Sure it ‘takes two to tango’, but it only takes one person to make an interaction gross. You have no reason to feel guilty about those conversations.

    Your innocence and your sheltering makes you vulnerable. You value any friendship because you have so few. But there are great people out there who don’t manipulate you.


  48. LW, when you met this guy through his online character, you of course knew it was a character and that he was not really a Paladin or a Norn or whatever he looked like in-game. You knew that it was pretend, that it was a story that he shared with other people doing the same story-telling with their characters.

    Here’s the thing: you have been talking to a character he presents himself as his “real and” You know the lore and backstory he has told you about himself. And you have no real way of knowing if he is telling the truth about his age, about being overweight, about whether he has a partner too, or really much at all.

    (Also, I don’t believe for a second that all the overlapping stuff about names and birthdays is a wild coincidence. The dude found your address. It would be trivial for him to figure out details like your dad’s name.)

    What you DO know about him is his actual behavior towards you:

    – He does things that make you uncomfortable
    – He gives you the impression that you must tolerate this behavior or lose his friendship
    – He lies to you about prying into your offline life (“accidentally” finding your address)
    – when you are direct with him about something that bothers you, he plays cutesy-dumb
    – He is making decisions without consulting you about how involved he will be in your life

    This is now how a real friend would treat you. It is how a catfisher or a selfish creepy dude would treat you.

  49. LW, you’re worried about your actions potentially hurting him, but his actions are hurting YOU, NOW.

  50. Yeah that bit about “your parents couldn’t possibly object to me saving some money, it’s not like I made an actual PLAN to visit you, jeez, btw I found out your address”… it’s like you’re not allowed to object until everything is ready to go.

    5 minutes before he’s bought plane tickets: “What, I’m just saving some money”
    5 minutes after he’s bought plane tickets: “But I already bought the tickets, how can you say no now”

    It reminds me of my cats. They’re SO offended when I push them off the table. “What, I was just SITTING here. I was just LOOKING at your food. I was just STRETCHING in the direction of your food.”

    The truth is, I push them off anyway because it’s exhausting to keep constant vigilance against that moment when they do go over the line. And it sounds exhausting with this guy too.

    You don’t have to play by his rules about when you’re allowed to say no.

    1. I just thought of Alastor Moody roaring “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” at Harry Potter all the time. (I bet Mad-Eye could keep cats off the table. Probably they’d just wait till he fell asleep and chase his magic eye under the stove.) Anyway, yeah, realizing that I’m keeping constant vigilance with dudes who haven’t “technically” crossed a line is my cue to hit the block button.

    2. The truth is, I push them off anyway because it’s exhausting to keep constant vigilance against that moment when they do go over the line. And it sounds exhausting with this guy too.

      *stands and applauds*

  51. On my first day of high school, a nasty older boy saw me standing alone, and all the nice, obedient quietness I was radiating. He actually pulled me by the elbow until he could speak in my ear in a low tone (the kind you use to a dog who needs to obey) and said as though it were his due: “You are going to stay with me and do everything I say”. All my obedience was not equal to the shock, so I just pushed him away from me and said: “Go Away”.

    But…he gets older and wiser. He learns more sophisticated ways of saying the same things. He learns to wheedle and guilt trip and come in the name of friendship but never actually forgets or changes what he thinks to be his due. I never saw that boy again but I have to say that I was not quite so firm with his next incarnation.

    1. Ewwww oh my God that’s so scary. I have been you many, many times. I’m short and skinny and reek of “easy target.” School bullies were always very shocked when I snarled at them and punched them in the face. Then they left me alone. 🙂

      1. Jinx! I punched a bully in the face once. It was pure fear response. Then I freaked out because I was safe, but likely in a lot of trouble.

        The weird part was I totally got off with it; because my goody goody reputation was that solid it was like they thought ‘oh it was accidental’.

        1. Awesome. I figured I got away with it because nobody ever expects the short ones to do anything, which makes sneak attacks that much easier.

  52. Suggestions for subtle showing of feelings:

    Him: “So my family was joking about us dating again, lolz.”
    You: “I hope you shut that down really fast. Or relationship isn’t romantic, and it’s skeezy and disrespectful that they keep teeing to turn it into something else.”

    Him: “I had a dream about how we were getting married and having babies, how funny, right?”
    You: “Oh god that sounds terrible, I don’t even want to date you, let alone get married – you’re my friend.”

    One of the ways he’s keeping plausible deniability while still testing the waters is by asking you to react to things that are not direct statements of his feelings but that reflect the way he’d like the world to be. You know he’s doing that, which is why you feel awkward about it. What if instead you followed the rules he’s proposing and treat this like am abstract game separate from his desires?

    I found this method quite accidentally while trying to deal with a much older man who wanted me to sleep with him, despite the fact of his wife [who I love]:

    Him: “Imagine hypothetically that you and I were sleeping together…
    Me: “hahaha. Noooo thanks.”

    And have kept it ever since.

  53. Hi LW, just a mention on what you say about him having a similar name to your Dad. If you put your Dad’s name into the internet I bet you would find hundreds at least. If you are from the same religion, there might even be a tendency to name people in a very similar way, so you might get (for example) loads of Joshuas and Josephs and Micahs or lots of Karims or Kareems or Mohammeds or Muhammeds. It might seem like a super-strange coincidence to you if where you currently live does not have a lot of people of your culture, but believe me, especially among boys, there is not a huge variety of names.

    The human brain actually evolved to recognise patterns, which is useful in things like seasons, weather, where food plants grow, where animals gather etc. It is also where a lot of superstitions or myths have arisen – “the bird flew into the tree just before this person died – therefore birds flying up into trees is a harbinger of death!”. If you think you see a pattern or a coincidence, interrogate it with facts!

  54. Ugh, the shower comment. 😦 I was once having a conversation with a male friend and out of nowhere he said ‘can you button your top up a bit more? I’m getting distracted’. I’m flat chested so I’m lucky not to really get boob related creepiness but what threw me about this is we were just talking normally, and the top was done up a pretty normal amount too, like the same amount of boobage as you’d get with a v-neck. Me and this guy had made out once but nothing came of it (I didn’t enjoy some of the things he said during make out time) so I knew he might have some lingering feelings but apparently they couldn’t be kept internal and he just HAD to let me know my boobs were making him have sexual thoughts right then.

    Best of luck talking to this guy LW, we’re all rooting for you soooo hard whatever the outcome is. His emotions about what you’ll be saying to him are his responsibility to manage and its very likely he will feel bad but that doesn’t mean YOU are bad. Sorry your cool nerdy thing has been made awkward by weird comments guy, a tale as old as time. 😦

    1. >:-( There is a 0% chance you weren’t supposed to completely unbutton your top then and there.

    2. These kinds of comments are just…such a reminder that some guys see us as walking, talking sex dolls. Like, there is nothing we can do to make them see us in a nonsexual light, because even when we’re just acting totally normally, they’re thinking about what if we were naked or what if they were having sex with us. It’s such a sexist attitude, to look at women and always be focused on how we could be titillating, instead of acknowledging us as fully complex humans with all sorts of non-sex-related attributes.

      1. I think the sexism is in the attempt to make theirdesire my issue.

        That is, it’s not sexist of them to always want to bang particular people. It is sexist of them to feel entitled to change the subject of any conversation to their penises.

        (There have been people I fantasized about whenever I was in their vicinity. I still managed to talk about movies or Scotch or books or whatever.)

        1. So I actually think it can be a problem to always be thinking about banging someone, even if there’s no expectation of them doing anything about it. I’m thinking about, like, what if my boss or one of my college professors was thinking about me this way–if their thoughts about me were focused on my sexiness, instead of my achievements or the areas I could use constructive feedback in, then that could have a pretty strong negative impact on me even if they never voiced those thoughts aloud. I’d be missing out on the mentorship and management that they might have offered if they had been seeing me as a student or as their team member instead of just as a sex object.

          Or with friends, like in this case–this guy is spending so much of his time thinking about how great it would be to bang LW that he apparently doesn’t have time left over to think about whether their friendship is meeting her needs, or even to simply listen to the words she’s actually saying to him. That would be detrimental to her even if he weren’t making skeevy comments–the fact that he is being a verbal creep makes it easier to recognize the impact, but it’s not the entirety of the problem.

          I’m not saying it’s always bad to fantasize about someone, for the record; that’s a pretty common thing! But when you have a relationship with them that’s not about that, and your fantasies become the bulk of how you think about them, I think that’s a problem even if you never verbalize the fantasy or ask them to actually fulfill it for you. And I have noticed an unfortunate number of men that fall into this pattern with the women around them–either they want to have sex with them and see them mostly through that lens, or they don’t want to have sex with them so they ignore them completely. Which is a pretty sexist attitude, even if they’re adult enough to keep their thoughts inside their own head.

          1. I agree that objectifying people is a problem and that thinking about them only as means to an end is objectifying. Men thinking about women as the sexual means to their manly orgasms is the classic example of objectification.

            I also agree that allowing yourself to focus on how someone turns you on in nonsexual contexts is inappropriate (and a problem).

            I agree that men allow themselves to do more of this than women do. I agree that there are many contexts in which applying a sexual lens to a relationship is something men do for control, and is sexist.

            But (and you knew this was coming) – in some specific contexts the problem isn’t desire. I should have been clear that I’m talking about ostensibly equal social relationships where one person wants sex or romance and the other doesn’t.

            What I’ve observed – often – is that lots of people get crushes and twinges of desire.

            Remarkably few women, and remarkably many men make a point of bringing up their desire as if it were everyone’s issue:

            You’re beautiful and I want to touch you. How do we handle this so we don’t hurt my wife?

            That’s the sexism I was pointing out.

        2. Yes! OMG, I LOVE the phrase “attempt to make THEIR desire MY issue.” That’s what the entire “Nope, go away” scripts are all about. Perfect phrasing.

      2. Hands down the grossest comment I have *ever* overheard was a guy saying that he loved going to the gym because the women were dressed so “seductively”.
        Now, if you like looking at women in sports bras and yoga pants, more power to you (I am not averse myself). However, I do not put those things on when I work out because I’m trying to seduce anybody; I’m wearing them so I don’t flop all over the damn place and so the cuff of my pants doesn’t snag on the stationary bike. I am, in fact, wearing my gym clothes for the exact same reason that dudebro wears his: to meet minimum standards of comfort, hygiene and social acceptability.
        But nope – he likes lycra-clad women, therefore we are not just sexy, but actively seeking (male) attention. Of course.

        1. Eew. Creeps like that are half the reason I wear oversized conference t-shirts to the gym. The other half of the reason being it keeps my shoulders from getting weird marks from the barbell, or sticking to the bench.

        2. Oooooomigod this reminds me of something said by my Worst Ever Date…

          Apparently, all men – every single one on the planet – has a thing about women’s feet and ankles, and all women know this. So when women wear those little sports socks that don’t show above your shoe, it’s not because we don’t want sweaty feet, or our trainers might rub against our ankles, or anything like that. It’s to entice men with our sexy, slutty ankle bones. Women, in fact, wear fuck-me socks.

          I wish I was making this up but I’m not.

          (There was a load of other creepy shit, this wasn’t anywhere close to the worst thing he came up with.)

  55. As a highly religous lady who was not traditionally attractive, I feel you. I hada great guy friend who flirted but never came out and asked me how I felt. I tried everything to try to still be friends. Now it’s been 5 years and I regret all the effort I put into protecting his feelings. We don’t talk and honestly I don’t miss him. Since you mentioned your weight, I want to share the truth about beauty, every one likes something different. Dating is a picnic i always want deviled eggs but my friend likes the potato salad. Someone amazing and attractive to you will want you. Wait for a guy you actually want to date.

    1. And one who treats you well! No one’s romantic stock is so low that they need to settle for someone whose attentions make them uncomfortable. There are so many better options out there for you, young LW. I can’t promise that a lovely boyfriend who wants the same things you want will appear, but… aren’t the years of having no boyfriend much lower-stress than having the Ghost of Boyfriend Yet to Come (To Your House, When You’ve Asked Him Not To) hovering at the periphery?

      1. I don’t think the LW wants a boyfriend (even a much cooler one) at all right now, so, “no boyfriend” is definitely better than “pushy friend!”

    2. This is a good point that I haven’t seen addressed much in this thread! LW, being overweight and being attractive are definitely not incompatible things. I’m quite fat and I get hit on pretty frequently. Plenty of others aren’t, of course–but that would still be true if I were thin. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder; everyone’s got their own tastes, there’s no such thing as a universally attractive person.

      Plus, when it comes to serious dating, there are so many things more important than physical appearance. Personality, sense of humor, interests and hobbies, how you like to spend your time, plans and dreams for the future, attitudes towards money, just plain whether you ‘click’ as a couple…people who are looking for a life partner generally have a lot of things they prioritize just as much as (or higher than!) appearance. Don’t sell yourself short; I bet there are a lot of things about you that the people in your life value deeply.

    1. I wanted to scream at that. If I were that letter writer, I’d be having 2nd thoughts about my “best friend.”
      “Give him a chance.” To do what? To try to show that he’s not the total little maggoty creep he’s proven himself to be?

  56. “He has asked me, very embarrassed, to not casually mention if I’m getting in the shower because it “gets him excited”. He’s also mentioned that he’s going to start saving up money to come visit me, which my parents are EXTREMELY not okay with.”

    He’s not “falling in love” with you. He’s creeping on you. As you’ve mentioned, you’re not intimate with this guy, so there’s absolutely no reason for him to mention that he’s “excited”. As far as visiting, you haven’t invited him to visit, so in addition to being creepy, he’s just plain rude.

    Don’t worry about sparing his feelings. Tell him to knock it off.

    1. Yeah, that shower thing is revolting. I’m not surprised the parents are extremely not okay with him visiting; I’m sure they see what everyone else does and that it’s not really about religion or sex or whatever at all. It’s about a fucking creep.

      In “Why Does He Do That?”, Lundy Bancroft says something like “He doesn’t have a problem with his anger; he has a problem with yours.” I have also heard “He’s in tune with his emotions; he just doesn’t care about yours.” That sentence helped me sooooo much. That’s why the letter writer shouldn’t worry about sparing this jerk’s feelings. He’s counting on her to do that so he can keep on being gross and wheedle his way into her bed.

      Also, the “accidentally” found her address “somehow” thing realllllly tingled my spidey sense. I don’t believe for one minute that was an accident. Nor do I believe that this guy and her dad share similar names, birthdates, etc. I don’t even think they’re “bizarrely similar at times” or that “he’s really been there for [her].” I believe he’s saying a lot of “Oh yeah, me too” or predicting what she’ll say next so he can groom her into going along with “We have so much in common, see?” And the “being there” thing reeks of “I’m such a nice guy; here, lean on my shoulder so you can fall into my pants.”

      Letter Writer, you don’t have a friend. You have a stalker. If you haven’t read The Gift of Fear, please do (usual disclaimer about “not the domestic violence chapter”). I would seriously consider a ton of extra safety measures like not walking home alone, not accepting packages you weren’t expecting, etc.

      And don’t for one minute let yourself believe that you are “leading him on.” He cooked this up all on his own. It’s not your fault he’s being gross, and it’s understandable that you’d feel awkward and uncomfortable in trying to figure out how to deal with it. If his feelings are hurt, too bad. That’s what happens when you’re creepy and gross and people tell you to knock it off. Mostly likely he’ll deny everything, get angry, call you names, possibly whine about you to friends, and then he’ll disappear forever and you can live happily ever after.

      1. Snickerdoodle,

        Yes, this!

        The whole time I was reading LW’s letter, it sounded -exactly- like something I experienced when I was ~19. I made a fantastic friend through a MMORPG and we would message and text ALL THE TIME. We had so much in common! Our in-game characters started a relationship, and somehow he thought that this would translate to real life?? Even when I told him I wasn’t interested. And then he “accidentally” found my address and told me how he was going to come visit and…

        This turned into a full-blown stalker situation. I blocked his phone number, but he kept using friends’ phones to text or call me. I blocked his character, but he kept making new ones to get in touch with me. The game administrators wound up IP-blocking him, but he’d find ways to get around that too. He wound up “getting the hint” when I started killing his alts whenever they showed up. Through the whole course of this, I realized that almost everything he had said to me was a lie and we really truly had nothing in common. He had been grooming me and then got very violent when I refused to play into his hand.

        I was stressed out and panicky every time I got a phone call or met a new person in the game. I considered quitting the game and/or changing my phone number, but I didn’t want to give him the pleasure. I’m really glad that in-game violence seemed to work?? Also I’m really glad he never was able to save enough money to fly out to where I lived. Because that would have involved the police.

        LW– I know you want to believe the best in your friend, and you don’t think he could turn into this kind of person. You might be right, in which case he -should- back off if you make yourself explicit. If he’s anything like my MMORPG “friend” then this could get dangerous really fast. Please be careful.

        1. OMG, that’s terrifying. The first guy I ever dated grew increasingly controlling and otherwise emotionally abusive until I dumped him, and then he stalked me for months in very similar ways to what you describe: He’d email me, drive past my house, instant message me until I blocked him and then get a new user name, told a friend that he’d hacked into my email (I deleted the account), told a friend he was going to key the hell out of my car, etc. He found out where I worked (I had just started a fast food job in college) and when I was scheduled and would come in every time but with a couple of friends who didn’t know who I was and would only stay to place his order and leave (so he could be around me without me being able to complain to my manager, though I definitely would do so today). He figured out which bus I rode to campus in the morning and would sit a few seats away, watch me, get off at the same stop (I tested different stops, and he followed me every time), and I had to get a classmate who also rode that bus to walk with me until the stalker gave up. In the end, the next guy I dated instant messaged the stalker and told him that if he ever bothered me again, we’d call the cops. The stalker denied it was him and pretended to be his own (nonexistent) girlfriend, but “she” swore to tell the stalker what was up and to tell me that he was sorry for scaring me (lol). When the other guy showed me the chat, I recognized the writing style as the stalker’s immediately. At least he never bothered me again.

          Normally, I would NOT recommend anyone else talking to a stalker on your behalf (except possibly a cop or lawyer, etc.), but in that case, it worked, probably mostly because the stalker was a tremendous physical coward.

          I got stalked again a few years ago by a guy I’d rejected online. He sent me a way-too-enthusiastic email on a dating site, and when I said no, he sent me a stream of harassing emails with an email he’d created as “Snickerdoodle’s Future Man @ gmail,” and then he somehow found out where I worked and made an obscene phone call to my workplace. I reported it to my boss, who left the guy a voicemail “politely” asking what THAT was about. Thankfully, he (supposedly) lived out of state, but that didn’t stop me from calling the cops, filing charges, buying pepper spray, and having my dad give me a refresher course on the shotgun just in case. After all, he could save up and come visit me without me being okay with it . . .

          Oh, God–and my most recent ex has had a few creepy moments as well, like trashing me online a year after the breakup, posting on that same message board that he missed me and was considering forcing contact since I kept ignoring him, hanging around where he knew I would be and then taking his time about leaving, etc. Stuff he knows is just this side of the line. He also knows cops were involved with two different exes, so I doubt he’ll escalate, just keep dancing on that line to piss me off. I’ve documented everything, told mutual friends about it, and

          Some dudes don’t take rejection well. I fully expect the letter writer’s creepy friend planning to visit her is exactly like the guys who stalked me. Even if police don’t get involved, there’s still a very high likelihood of something creepy AF happening.

          Letter Writer, please, pay attention to what you told us and your own language. Your letter focuses overwhelmingly not on the friendship you say you want to save, but by how unnerved you are by what he’s doing. You mention that he told you about a bunch of dreams about you, he told you he found your address, he told you he was visiting–didn’t ask–TOLD, he ignored your discomfort about that, he tried gaslighting you, your parents do NOT want him around, you believe your friend would tell you to get rid of him, and I also noticed a lot of uses of words like “fear” and “weird” in your letter.

          Please be safe. If you want to, send him exactly one message telling him not to contact you again. Then block him, and make sure he stays blocked. I like somebody’s idea of having a different character, different server, or even different game (at least for a while) to avoid him in the game. Watch out for anything that could give you away elsewhere on the Internet. Lock down your privacy settings on social media, don’t use your real name anywhere, and don’t use the name of your character in that game for other characters or have other similarities between characters. Document anything he sends you, but don’t respond.

          I’m sorry if this sounds harsh or fearmongering, but I think all the comments on this page about creeps who start off exactly like this guy are pretty telling. I didn’t see any comments about a creepy guy where it turned out to be just a misunderstanding and everything’s fine now. Again, please be safe.

          1. Damn. That was supposed to be “I’ve documented everything, told mutual friends about it, asked friends not to relay messages from him or give him any information about me, carry pepper spray, and have friends walk me to my car if it’s anywhere he might be.”

        2. Oh, and Addie–I LOVE that you just repeatedly killed his characters. That’s amazing. I can’t love that enough. 😀

  57. On most topics, I’m generally not in the “blame pop culture” camp, but I do think Hollywood has been incredibly irresponsible in sending the message that guys who are pining for women should either hang around until the girl comes to her senses (think “Friends”) or else make some grand romantic speech/gesture that will convince her to fall in love with him (think ‘When Harry Met Sally”). The only counter-example I can think of is “There’s Something About Mary”, which highlights the ridiculousness of men using ruses and feigning friendship to attract women, but even there, Ben Stiller ends up getting the girl.

    The more prosaic truth is that, in the vast majority of cases, people know fairly early on whether they are attracted to someone, and they are unlikely to change their minds. And even if it does happen, it still doesn’t justify acting creepy, making women uncomfortable, or gaslighting them.

    1. I’ve remarked in the past that I want to see an aromantic comedy – like, applying all the tropes of a rom-com but to someone realizing that, in their desperate pursuit of romance and their Other Half, they’ve been neglecting what they really needed all along, and it was a profoundly satisfying career with a circle of good platonic friends.

  58. Ugh. If I had a nickel for every “plausible deniability” creeper I’ve met . . .

    I recently blocked a guy online who kept trying to steer the conversation toward sex. The first few times, I would just stop responding when he brought it up. I didn’t hear from him for a couple of weeks and thought that was the end of it. As the Captain said, though, hints don’t work. Guys don’t get that no answer = no. They get no answer = hmm, must be okay to continue. The guy tried bringing up sexytime again, at which point I told him point blank it wasn’t happening. Predictably, he retorted that he never insinuated any such thing (lol, he’d done nothing BUT insinuate; nice gaslighting fail). I didn’t respond and didn’t hear from him for a couple more weeks and again thought that was the end of it. Naturally, he started up again, at which point I hit the block button without replying. I still wish I’d told him straight up “not happening” the very first time he said anything and then blocked him if he said anything other than “okay, sorry” before backing off. And this is after over a decade of other boundary-pushing creepers I didn’t handle nearly as well! Every single time I’ve gotten rid of somebody, not necessarily a creepy dude but possibly a crappy friend or generally some other “I am not happy with this person,” I’ve been relieved and wish I’d done it sooner. For instance:

    – The guy who cajoled me into meeting up which totally wasn’t a date and then “forgot” I told him I didn’t like him touching me
    – A guy on the bus I struck up a friendship with and exchanged email addresses with, only to learn that it wasn’t his real email because his wife didn’t like him having female friends because she was super jealous . . . I lost touch with that guy until I got a random email one day addressed to me and about twenty other girls saying “Dunno if you remember me, but I’m pretty sure we had cybersex back in the day.” Ew.
    – Another guy whose “socializing” consisted primarily of complaining about his wife and saying he was in an open marriage (me: “Um, does SHE know it’s an open marriage?” him: “[endless insisting that of course it’s fine and we should totally bang]” me: “No.” him: “But it’s an open marriage; it’s fine.” me: “Don’t care if it’s fine with you or her; it’s not fine with me. Bye.”)
    – The guy who, knowing I was broke, offered me $100 . . . in exchange for nude photos . . . and he was going to take me to dinner and he WAS going to kiss me (No money, no photos, and no dinner happened. He ignored the “Don’t contact me again” email I sent and texted/emailed me several times after that, to which I didn’t reply.)
    – The old school friend who grew increasingly caustic over the years and criticized everything I did to the point where I noticed I wasn’t telling him things anymore because I didn’t want to hear his crap, and then he started a bunch of drama on social media and blamed me
    – The acquaintance who mocked a show I enjoyed going to see, flipped out when I told her to please not say things like that to me, and later got violent with a friend of mine in an unrelated incident
    – The guy who made a huge show of what a nice guy he was, which didn’t extend to accepting that I didn’t appreciate his constant pervy innuendos
    – A coworker who almost instantly began hitting on me when we met despite allegedly having a long-distance girlfriend. He constantly talked about my looks, and I realllllly wish I’d told him right off the bat to knock it off and/or reported it to the manager and gotten his ass fired for sexual harassment. In the end, he blew off work one day, I was livid I had to work a double shift to cover him, I called him out on it, he blew me off, and we never spoke again.

    There are plenty of others, but this is already far too long. It’s a very noticeable pattern of “Hmm, I don’t think I like this person very much” and procrastinating on talking to them, dodging, meebling, and otherwise allowing it to continue, either because of my own denial, hoping they take the hint and stop, not wanting to deal with seeing them around and it being awkward, etc. Screw it. It’s better to have one unpleasant “Knock it off” conversation than an indefinite period of discomfort. People–women especially–are conditioned to just live with it and not speak up so as to be nice and spare the other person’s feelings.

    But you know what, letter writer? Who cares about sparing his feelings? He’s not sparing yours. You’ve already told him repeatedly that you’re uncomfortable with him visiting for whatever reason, and he’s not asking why or backing off; he’s insisting on forcing it anyway. That tells me he’s likely to force a lot more. Document everything he’s said/done (especially that bit about “accidentally” finding your address–um, no), tell him to fuck off, and block him forever.

    1. This reminds me of the dudes with whom you’re not really much more than acquainted with who text/FB message you in the vicinity of the witching hour with messages like ‘heeeeeey’ or ‘you chillin’? Plausible deniability central.

      There’s no satisfying way to win. Instant blocking (my usual move) can rebound on you and besides you WANT to call.them.out – I like your phrase of knock it off.

      ‘Knock it off’
      ‘What did I say? Oh the injustice!’
      ‘You know what. Knock it off’
      ‘Please explain..’
      ‘All I want to explain is that you should knock it off’ *blocks with a vengeance*

      1. Seriously. It’s ALWAYS dudes you barely know. I’ve stopped accepting friend requests from guys I only met once or have a mutual friend because they never want to actually be friends; they want to creep all over my page, like every status, make weird innuendos, never actually ask me out, and flip their shit when I’m not interested and find their behavior disturbing.

      2. I started going really Grandma with it.

        “Hay is for horses. Goodnight.”


        1. *snorts like a horse* I like the boner-killing pedant approach.

          The one that rankles most in my memory was ‘I reeeeeeally like spending time with you….’ after a work social we’d both been at. (Sent at 3am predictably. Is that boner o’clock?) WTF man. So I could have corrected his definition of ‘spending time with’ in a really precise manner? Or critiqued the cliched use of ellipsis? Lack of proper address and salutation? Oh my kingdom for a time machine.

        2. Oh, man, I’d forgotten that one. A friend of mine used to say “Hay is for horses — aren’t you glad you’re a jackass?”

  59. Here is a song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzD_yyEcp0M . I like the video because it show several instances of the dude kind-sharking – that is, being manipulatively kind and helpful to try to prevent the girl he likes from saying no.

    Much sympathy, LW. I have been in your position several times and it sucks. Sometimes guys cast themselves as the hero and the hero always gets the girl. Even if the girl is a lesbian.

    I’m sorry that he’s almost a great guy. That he could be a great friend if only he would knock that shit off. I hope he does knock it off. But that’s on him, not on you. And I have good news! There are other fun, kind people out there who like the same games as you and who make great friends AND can take no for an answer. Ill-fitting pants works for friendships too. Don’t settle for someone who, actually, treats you pretty badly and doesn’t respect you (even though he would say that he does, he wouldn’t act like this if he did). Find some better-fitting pants.

  60. I gotta tell you LW, stuff like this, esp in the geek realm, is pretty common. I had something similar happen to me almost verbatim. Met a guy through a geek friend, long distance. We liked anime, RPG ect. ect. we were very VERY similar in everything we did (we were almost carbon copies of the other, it was really weird). Here’s the rub: I loved him like a sibling and he never accepted that. There was ZERO sexual chemistry on my end, and he wanted in the worst way for there to be romance.

    Here’s how it went down. He came to visit in person (because it was long distance) and over the week he stayed with my family I knew beyond a doubt that it Would Not Work. And I told him that towards the end. We had a long conversation and towards the he accepted this and wanted to remain friends. Ok, cool. Except not. He was basically dating me behind my back, or like the Cap said grooming me to be in a relationship I didn’t agree to.

    I was only 20 or 21 at this time, I didn’t have any experience with men, didn’t know how to handle it so I distanced myself. As luck would have it serious shit went down in my life and I ended up destitute, agoraphobic, suicidal and unable to leave the house I shared with my parents. I didn’t realize until years and years later, but he took my mental illness and used it as a way to insinuate himself into my life. The more withdrawn I became, HE was the only one who understood me. When I was drowning in misery HE was the only one could talk me out of it. When I tried to pull away, he said ‘no no something is wrong, you better not get off the phone with me’. He effectively isolated me from the world, all over the phone/through email.

    I’m still sorting out what happened with that. Eventually I got to a point where I healed enough to get into therapy. That was the most uncomfortable summer of my entire life. He had moved into the city I live in. He was living with a mutual friend, figuring out a job, trying to rent a house ONE BLOCK AWAY FROM ME, when it struck a chord of terror in me. I still didn’t want to sex him but he came over late one night anyway and told me, TOLD ME, we were getting married, whether I wanted it or not, no matter how long it took.

    That scared the bejeezus out of me. It was a shit show – after horrible mental anguish I came to the decision to cut this huge support beam out of my life because even though I didn’t understand it at the time, I knew something was wrong about the entire situation. He became my stalker. It took the intervention of my father and threatening a restraint order before he finally believed i was serious about breaking the entire thing off. He still contacts me almost FIFTEEN YEARS LATER, even though I haven’t said a word to him since 2005.

    Look, you don’t want to go through what I went through. I wish to GOD something like Captain Awkward existed back in the early 2000’s because it was a MESS. Take her advice, draw boundaries and PLEASE stick to them and don’t be afraid to cut him loose. Also, keep evidence, just in case.

    1. Oh man, I’m so sorry you went through that. What a nightmare. I hope you’ve been able to pull your life together since then. Jedi hugs, if acceptable.

      1. Ehh, from where I was in 2005 WAAY better: graduated college in 2009 (only to have the economy tank, lol) . Live by myself, work, hang out with friends, mostly have a normal life except that dealing with severe mental illness (agoraphobia in particular, which is utterly isolating) kind of screwed me over for the whole ‘college, career, marriage’ path. I’d like to think that I might still get married but I’m far past my ‘prime’ oh joy. Still working on traveling and figuring out full time employment. Its kind of like being an alcoholic or anorexic – you never get over it, not entirely. You just have to figure out how to work around it.

  61. Oh LW, I’m so sorry, because that totally sucks.
    Reading your letter, this is literally what went through my mind: Aw, this is sweet and yet so sad, you make a great connection and he starts to develop feelings but you don’t. Yep, been there. It’s hard to disappoint guys who are genuinely kind and fun, but it’s gotta be done. Yep, yep… I so relate, it’s so hard and painful and confusing and
    he has told me about a ton of dreams about me huh…
    (including one where he was my date at that friend’s wedding uh-oh…
    and after I caught the bouquet, we were at the altar yikes.
    – he described this dream as being especially vivid). danger Will Robinson!
    He has asked me, very embarrassed, to not casually mention if I’m getting in the shower because it “gets him excited”. Holy shit! Get the hell out of there! ALERT! ALERT! AAAA-OOOO-GA! AAAA-OOOO-GA! Deflector shields up! Defensive positions!

    Just like that, in two sentences he went from “geek love is awkward” to setting off this internet stranger’s creepdar so badly I almost climbed backwards out of my seat. And it only got worse from there.

    It sucks but your friend is not your friend because he is not treating you like a friend. He is creeping on you. Maybe *maybe* some day he’ll learn better if someone can knock some sense into his head, but that someone doesn’t have to be you. You owe him nothing.
    You did nothing wrong. You were minding your own business being friends with your friend, and he turned out to be a creep.

    Please, follow the Captain’s advice and shut this down. A critical part of her advice is: “He’ll react however he does.” If he reacts well, you can continue trying to be friend if *you* want to but if he reacts poorly, like tries to convince you that you are responsible for *his* feelings, shut. him. down.

    Be well, LW. You’re a beautiful person and there are beautiful people out there who would love to be your friend.

  62. Yikes! This guy’s looking up LW’s address and planning to visit her is creeping me out! LW, please tell your parents immediately and have them buy The Gift of Fear. This guy is a potential stalker or worse.

  63. The other night I had an especially vivid dream: I was visiting Mick Jagger and his wife, but the wife wasn’t Bianca Jagger or anyone I’d heard of, just a nice lady with an American accent and a sort of 60s style hair do, and we were all in his kitchen which was run down but clean and painted a pea green color, and they were hospitable and down to earth, and they had a dog only the dog was one I had as a child, and the dog had puppies, except the one I had as a kid was a male, and I remember really liking them, but then the doorbell rang.

    Here’s the thing about dreams: They don’t mean anything! It’s just the way people’s minds mix up stuff from our memories in weird ways, and while there’s nothing more interesting to me during the few minutes I’m between sleeping and waking and figuring out I’m not even a particular fan of Mick Jagger’s, it’s exceptionally boring to everyone else. I’m certainly not contacting Mick Jagger to tell him the dream because, while I guess he gets fan mail, that would be weird and boring and pointless even for someone who has probably gotten a lot of weird, boring and pointless mail over the course of his life. (If Jagger ran my bell, I’d invite him in and offer him a cup of tea.)

    This may be applied to this guy’s dream about your catching a bouquet. It’s fine for him to dream it. It’s weird boring and pointless for him to tell you about it.

      1. I know when I was an awkward young teen dipping my toe into romantic waters I would casually feel out my crush by including an ‘it was all a dream, lol’ sheen of plausible deniability.

        I grew out of it and know it for the manipulative crap it is. I didn’t need to do it when I felt cooler about myself and okay to hear rejection – even if I was disappointed, I was interested in the other person as a human being and I didn’t want them to be with me because I manipulated them.

        This guy doesn’t understand that, or he is wilfully misunderstanding. Regardless he is not a good friend.

  64. Lurker here; this post has finally driven me out of lurking to reply.

    LW, first, I’m so sorry this is happening to you. As a fellow MMO gamer, as a nerdy, geeky girl who grew up in a sheltered/strict-religious home, I’ve been where you’re at now. I’m echoing BigDogLittleCat above: as someone who’s been through harrowingly similar situations (both offline &in MMOs), my advice is harsh…but cut him off, now. Break it off. Use the scripts the good Captain has provided, but break it off & stop all contact. “You had no right to track down my address. You have no right to plan a visit without asking. You are being creepy & you just went way over all the bad lines. Don’t contact me again.” (I’m not good with scripts — if others can offer better ones, please do).

    Yes, it will hurt. Feel free to cry & get angry over it. Even take a break from the game, or make a totally different character on a completely different server & play something different for a while — heck, try out a completely different MMO! Game solo for a while; a lot of MMOs have random-PUG options, and it’s a good way to meet people & hook up with guilds of folks like you.

    But anything that lets the contact with that guy continue in any way will only encourage him to continue his awful creepiness, and he’ll keep pushing and pushing as long as he thinks he’s got even a tiny sliver of a foot-in-the-door of hope.

    I tell you now, he’ll send you messages begging “why” & claiming to apologize & appearing to freak out — don’t believe any of it. Don’t resume any contact. Ignore all of it. Block him, block him, block him. It’s completely & totally ok to harden your heart and ignore the creep.

    You, LW, are an awesome person. This creep is not your friend. Bluntly, he is using you. He is pushing to see how much he can get away with. That’s it. There’s no friendship there. Someone who has the attitude that guy has, who has said & done the things that he has, will not change.

    Real friends don’t do things like that. Real friends respect your boundaries. Real friends do not track down your offline info. They do not invite themselves over. They do not make plans about you without asking you first. They do not tell you about “getting excited” when you do certain things.

    I don’t see any indication in the letter as to how old the “friend” is, and I think Captain’s assuming too much that said “friend” is young & inexperienced. You’d be surprised at how old gamer guys can be, and still be living with parents, and still be major creepers. The stereotype exists because it can be, sadly, the reality.

    (with that said, I also know a ton of gamer-folks who are nowhere close to that stereotype, thank gods. It’s just the rotten apples raise the bigger stink.)

    But the LW’s description is setting off all my red-flags, warning bells, & alarm sirens: GET AWAY NOW.

  65. Gah! I remember when I had a friend like that. I thought we were cool. We talked about everything. We both wrote ridiculous R-rated fan fiction and cheered each other on with our writing. And then he started getting more touchy feely and got to the point where he was trying to get me to join him and another couple for a weekend in a cabin in the woods. (My visceral reaction was a resounding NOOOOPE). Last time I saw him my mum and I arranged to meet immediately after so that it did not drag on forever. I felt so bad when I cut contact…

    But guess what LW? Even if I had been inappropriate or misreading signals, I still had a right to change my mind. We don’t talk anymore and while I am a bit sad about it, I also don’t regret cutting contact. You will have more friends. You will have better friends. Friends who don’t make you responsible for their feelings. Don’t let the scarcity mentality win out. Be honest about how you feel.

  66. I live a life that’s very different from yours, and I receive a lot of male attention. I’m what you would considered “experienced” with men. I want to let you know that there’s no reason to doubt your feelings here based on your inexperience with men/romance. There’s nothing you could learn from “experience” that would trump the feelings you are having. Men pull this manipulative shit all the time no matter how “vulnerable” you appear to them.

    I am very good at blocking phone numbers. I will straight up ghost dudes with red flags- particularly those that demonstrate that they will not respect my boundaries. It’s a hard habit to get into at first, but I have had zero regrets and only relief after I’ve cut them off.

    Let me tell you, there will always be another person looking to connect with you out there- many of them with the same desire you have for a fun, platonic long-distance friendship based on a shared hobby. What YOU want out of this relationship is what’s most important, because you are the only person who can advocate for what YOU want here. Let him worry about his feelings- yours are just as important and valid.

    Think of friendships like cars- there doesn’t have to be anything bad or wrong about a pickup truck for you to prefer a sedan. You want a friendship with four doors and he only has two. Time to look for a car that suits YOUR needs.

    We often wait for the situation to get “bad enough” before acting because women are conditioned to ensure they’re never “overreacting,” but the situation is already “bad enough” because YOU DONT FEEL GOOD OR SAFE IN THIS RELATIONSHIP.

    But, even if he’s a “great guy,” you still don’t have to be friends with him. No one is entitled to your kindness, or time, or emotional labor. Why should you have to expend this much mental energy on fending off his advances? Why is that fair to you and your time? You could be texting with someone you like more who doesn’t imply that the thought of you showering gives him an erection- I really hope you find that person/those people. I’m rooting for you and I want you to be safe.

  67. Oh, man. It’s with no small amount of shame that your description of this guy is bringing back memories of when I met a woman online and played a very similar, ultimately harmful role in her life. And while I want to be careful about projecting my own situation onto yours, there are so many red flags that I can’t see this ending in you having a comfortable relationship with him.

    What worries me the most is the continual boundary-pushing. While I would like to think you could set some solid, explicit boundaries with him, I have this creeping feeling that, yeah, he might go along with them at first, but all sign point to him pushing at them again after some grace period has expired.

    I think Jennifer nailed it on the head when she said that he’s counting on showing up and you not being able find it inside yourself to tell him no. In my situation, I wasn’t consciously thinking that, but in hindsite there are so many instances in which I would exhibit certain boyfriendish behaviors (e.g. being overly familiar, saying the sorts of things romantic partners say to each other in a joking tone, while not actually meaning them as a joke) just because I thought they were benign enough to get away with. There was usually an element of plausible deniability involved, and not just for her benefit; I was frequently convincing myself that I wasn’t behaving in a manner that a platonic friend would even though I increasingly wasn’t. And I used her soft no’s, politeness, and consideration as encouragement.

    She eventually made it crystal clear (and I know this wasn’t easy for her) that she wasn’t interested in me at all, and while on one level I accepted that, on another I basically decided, “Fine. Then we’ll just be best friends and do everything together and I don’t need a girlfriend.” Basically, I started grooming her as a sort of surrogate girlfriend. It was an insult to her intelligence and autonomy; it was a betrayal of the otherwise strong friendship we had at that point; and it was REAL fucking gross.

    Jennifer’s statement, “It’s not okay to cast someone as the star in all your future plans without their consent,” resonates strongly with me. I mean, I eventually moved across the country to live near her. I even believed at the deepest center of my core that she WANTED me too! She finally had to decisively cut all ties with me for me to back off. And, yeah, I responded in the totally predictable manner of lashing out at her. I denied being in love with her, and I even accused her of being ‘disloyal’ or some other rubbish. She wisely made good on never talking to me again, but that didn’t stop me from trying to send her the occasional, innocent-sounding email or to try to add her on facebook once a year or so. It took me half a decade to finally leave her alone, and another half to even be honest with myself about what I did, how I truly felt at the time, and how I and I alone was responsible for all that went wrong.

    I imagine the act of ending our friendship hurt her a good deal, but I didn’t leave her much choice. And that’s on me. And if you end up having to do the same with your friend, that’s on him. And I know it will hurt you, and you don’t deserve that hurt. And like me and my former friend, he may never have intended you any harm, may, in fact, truly wish you the very best, but casting someone as an unwilling participant in one’s romantic fantasy is fucking abusive, any goodwill be damned.

    I don’t know if recounting my experience in this sort of situation helps anyone, but I feel like I recognize the behavior all too well, and it worries me what you might have to deal with to extricate yourself from what seems to me an already deteriorated friendship. Please be careful. And if he can’t manage to change his behavior, respect your boundaries, and value your friendship enough to treat it as what it is, a friendship and nothing more, then do what you have to do to protect yourself and never look back. And maybe just as importantly, remember that this is all on him, not on you.

  68. Reblogged this on a coherent heart and commented:
    “If someone who will project a whole relationship that you don’t want onto you blames you for puncturing his bubble with your actual thoughts and feelings, that’s not because you did anything wrong.”

    Louder for the people in the back

  69. PSA for all people, but especially the younger folks, to make sure their private information like address, phone # etc. is not easily found online.

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