How do I tell an odd stranger to back off?
July 20, 2009 10:50 AM Subscribe
How do I explain to an acquaintance with learning difficulties that his language and actions are unwanted?
posted by vickyverky to Human Relations (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Some background: I take the same train to work every day, and have always been the sort of person who talks to strangers.
Over the past few months I've been chatting with a man I'll call "Joey," who lives in a care home/shelter near the train station. He is very shabby, but not a drinker or a drug user; in fact, he is mostly very childlike. He may have some mental disability that makes him that way, but I couldn't diagnose him based on that. He takes the same train downtown, and we usually chat about general stuff, like sports or weather or food.
Joey doesn't ask for money, and I don't give him any. I don't know what his mental health is like, but I suspect he's somewhere on the autism spectrum. He is very literal, and he will answer direct questions, but not volunteer much information beyond the answer. He is childishly friendly, although I think he's in his fifties. He is just an odd bird.
He knows I am married, and a couple of weeks ago he announced at top volume on the train, "I KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE WHEN I DO IT BY MYSELF, BUT WHAT DOES SEXUAL INTERCOURSE FEEL LIKE WITH A LADY?" I told him very firmly and quietly that it was a private thing that you do in private, but that he shouldn't ask those sorts of questions in public. He said he wanted to be with a woman and know what it was like, so I sidestepped and told him he had to make friends with a lady first, and then talk to her about it.
He hadn't been inappropriate like that since, but this morning he tried to grab my hand and started shouting, "I WANT TO DO IT WITH SOMEBODY." I told him again, nicely and firmly, that he shouldn't just touch people without their permission, because they may not like it.
He seemed to get this, but I'm worried that by being friendly to him, I have given him an "out" to express his feelings to a woman, and I don't really know what to do next.
I'd appreciate any advice from mental health professionals, or others who might have some guidance in what I could say next time. I don't want to just stop talking to him, because I get the impression he leads a fairly lonely existence -- but I also don't want to have to fend him off every morning, either.