Dear Miss Lonely Hearts,
There’s this guy I’m sort of friends with who acts really freaky towards me, I think without realizing it. Whenever he sees me on the quad, he comes over and interrupts the conversation I’m having to say hello and then tries to change the conversation, so that suddenly I’m talking about his thing and my friends have disappeared. When we’re hanging out with our mutual friends he sometimes jokingly puts an arm around me, which makes me really uncomfortable! When I’ve asked him to stop, he says that he was only joking and everyone laughs but me. One of our friends told me that he has a crush on me which makes everything worse. I just want him to leave me alone!
Over fall break he Facebook messaged me, asking if I wanted to be a group Halloween costume with him. He said he’d thought of a really funny idea but nobody else would do it with him. The last thing I want is to spend all of Halloween matching costumes with him like we were dating! How do I tell him to leave me alone, both on Halloween and forever?
Zoinks — you’re right! This guy has been acting super uncool towards you, and I’m proud of you for deciding to stand up for yourself. That can be really difficult, especially when you have mutual friends and when the guy in question has made it abundantly clear (as this one has) that he doesn’t care about the boundaries that you very clearly set. You’re 100% right not to let him get away with “I was just joking” when he touches you without your consent. It sounds like you’re ready to get this guy out of your life, which is super important. It’s so easy to convince oneself out of taking action by thinking: “I’m not sure if I should do anything about this, I mean, campus is small and we basically have all the same friends. . . ” You, however, have done an awesome job not listening to that little doubting voice. By choosing to stand up for yourself, you assert that your comfort and safety (not to mention your plans for Halloween) are more important than this guy’s freaky fixation. Bravo!
Now comes the most difficult part: actually talking to this guy. The easiest thing to do would be to simply message him back, saying “no, I don’t want to share a Halloween costume with you,” but I don’t think it’d be the right thing to do. Refusing to do a group costume with him would free up your Halloween and rid you of your specifically costume-related problem, but it wouldn’t clear up his disrespectful behavior or his lack of respect for your boundaries.
Before you tell this guy to freak off for good, sit down with a few of your trusted mutual friends. Tell them that he’s been making you uncomfortable and you’re going to cut him off. This not only allows them to support you, it makes sure that he won’t contact you through them, using them to apologize or to guilt you into “reuniting the friend group.” It may sound reactionary to assume that he’ll do any of that — and it’s totally possible that he won’t. Nevertheless, it’s better know that your friends have your back when you’re entering a difficult or painful situation. It’s important to remember here that you’re not asking them to pick sides or to turn against someone who they might care a lot about. You’re simply telling them that you can’t be around this person anymore, and you need your friends to support you and respect your decision.
If you’re comfortable speaking to him face-to-face about the way that he treats you, find a moment where you’re together in a public space — maybe on the quad or in commons. Approach him and say something along the lines of: “The way you’ve treated me has made me incredibly uncomfortable, and we can’t be friends anymore. Please stop talking to me.” Know that, since you’re physically in the same place, he’ll probably try to argue with you. At this point, you can simply walk away. You don’t owe him a counterargument or a chance to air his grievances. Your boundaries are your boundaries, so don’t give him the chance to tell you that you were wrong in thinking that he was icky, or stupid for feeling uncomfortable around him.
If you’d rather avoid an in-person confrontation, a firm but polite email should do the trick. Just like talking to this guy in person, don’t feel like you have to frame your argument in “I’m sorry”s or “it’s just”s. You’re protecting yourself and making your world more comfortable — you don’t have anything to apologize for! If he responds, it’s up to you whether you read it or not, but don’t respond again. Just like in person, don’t let him involve you in an argument.
Things might be awkward amongst your friends for a little while, Halloweenie. But you should feel proud and accomplished to know that you’ve done what’s right for you — and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Enjoy your Halloween — I know I will!
Miss Lonely Hearts
If you have question for Miss Lonely Hearts stick it through the slot in her mailstop 1022