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Should I text this stranger?
November 15, 2010 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday I received a text message from an excited stranger asking me whether I was ready for some sort of meet-up (possibly a first date) tomorrow (today). I duly yet tongue-in-cheekly informed her that she had the wrong number. Now I'm wondering, on a scale from stalker/freak/weirdo to fun/random/friendly, how inappropriate would it be for me to follow up tomorrow, asking if it went as well as she hoped? (Obviously in a humorous and "I'm aware of how random this is" kinda way)

I know you are asking yourself "WHY??".

Well, having grown from being an introverted, socially awkward loner to just being socially awkward, I have learned that a lot of fun can be had with people if we put ourselves out there. I have learned that people enjoy attention and interaction. I have learned that I would rather regret something I did rather than something I didn't do. I have discovered the value of taking chances and following impulses, of saying yes, of hopping on a plane with someone you've only met twice, of kissing the girl because you feel like it, of ignoring norms and of just plain ol' living life without giving a hoot about the consequences. If you obey all the rules, you'll miss all the fun, right?

Now, I'm not an animal. I do mostly analyze and think things over quite extensively (seemingly more than most people, even), but always with the above firmly planted in the front of my mind. If I can't see a seriously compelling reason not to do something, then I will hopefully go ahead and do it.

This is one of those cases where I see no serious reason not to do it; however, it seems to reek of intrusive scary weird psycho-stalker type inappropriateness. If I am to stay true to myself, then I will go ahead anyway. I mean, it doesn't cost me thing. What's the worst that could happen? It's not like she will be scarred for life or get a restraining order against me. I'm expecting a simple response along the lines of "Oh it was great :)" at which point I'll probably leave her alone. Best case, however, it will be a conversation starter which might lead to a new acquaintance, if not friendship or even something more. Side-effects may include: a story to tell, additional confidence in interpersonal relationships, a lesson in human nature.

So that's my reasoning for doing it. Let's see if anyone can talk me out of it.

The only reason why I'm making a big deal out of this is that I've read too many comments here in Ask about not doing this or that because that would be inappropriate or scary or stalkerish etc. Otherwise I would probably have gone ahead no questions asked just for the hell of it.

Footnotes:
- I suggested that the message might have been about a first date because if she already knew the person then she probably wouldn't have messed up the number. This was probably the first time she messaged them. Also, she seemed excited and possibly nervous the way women in my experience tend to be ahead of a first date (as opposed to just a regular, friendly gathering).
- I looked up her number online. Turns out I don't know her (surely you figured that much already), but she lives in my (relatively small) city. Although I do want to follow up in order to humor myself and because I enjoy poking and prodding people to see how they react, I must admit I wouldn't have been this engaged if she didn't live in my city. Or if she'd been a guy for that matter.

Feel free to be ruthless when judging me and my thoughts. Tear me apart if you must.
posted by spr to Human Relations (95 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would ask. It's not that weird. If they don't respond then leave it and that's that.
posted by josher71 at 10:56 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now I'm wondering, on a scale from stalker/freak/weirdo to fun/random/friendly, how inappropriate would it be for me to follow up tomorrow, asking if it went as well as she hoped?

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say it's about a 7.
posted by the foreground at 10:57 AM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Its 100% inappropriate to do this as its a violation of that person's privacy. Its especially inappropriate when a man does it to a woman, as it can come off as threatening/stalker. A dialed wrong number isn't an invitation to someone's life.

I looked up her number online. Turns out I don't know her (surely you figured that much already), but she lives in my (relatively small) city

If you're this lonely you should be trying to meet people, not googling wrong numbers.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:57 AM on November 15, 2010 [39 favorites]


This reeks of intrusive scary weird psycho-stalker type inappropriateness.

The above counts as a "serious reason not to do it."
posted by Rallon at 10:57 AM on November 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


In itself, the action you propose isn't a terribly wrong thing to do. I can see how appealing the idea that this might be a movie-style "meet cute" introduction might be. But your motivations seem to be unrealistically fantastical ("best case...it will be a conversation starter which might lead to a new acquaintance, if not friendship or even something more")and/or utterly annoying, in that most people don't enjoy being poked and prodded to see how they react.

In other words, I'd be in favor of it if it were truly a sweet-natured whim, in which case you probably would have just done it without posting about it and thinking about it so much, but you seem to have so much focus on this idea that it borders on creepy.
posted by Miko at 10:59 AM on November 15, 2010 [16 favorites]


Personally I don't like the idea. The fact that this person sent you an email by mistake is not a sufficient basis to try to extend the discussion. If you like the idea of finding new people to talk to, chances are you will at some time find some statement posted on this site which might lend itself to further discussion of a private nature; send someone a message. That is perfectly legitimate.
posted by grizzled at 11:00 AM on November 15, 2010


I am a girl. I have texted first-date-type meetup plans to wrong numbers before. If the wrong number texted me back and asked me how it went, I would freak the goddamn hell out. Ywrongnumbergirl'sMMV, but yeah. I am nthing creepy and stalkerish.
posted by coppermoss at 11:01 AM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


If life were a cheesy romantic comedy, this would be a fantastic idea. It's not. The target of your humor will find it really creepy. Don't do it.
posted by phoebus at 11:02 AM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


If I were that person I would be embarrassed by the original mistake and then creeped out by your followup. Don't make a bad situation worse.
posted by tommasz at 11:03 AM on November 15, 2010


The only reason why I'm making a big deal out of this...

Yeah that. You're over thinking it. Either do it or don't, but there's no need to really analyze the why's and hows and whats and imagining things.

If you're curious, then ask. If she thinks it's weird, it'll be a short conversation and you can move on. If not, well then cool.
posted by nomadicink at 11:04 AM on November 15, 2010


I would rather regret something I did rather than something I didn't do.

This can be a fun philosophy to go through life with -- provided that your own regret is the only thing at stake, and someone else's private life and peace of mind isn't intruded upon.

In this case, the woman has no way of knowing that you're just a harmless socially-awkward bystander. You could cause a great deal of distress for her. Don't take the chance of scaring her and creeping her out on the very, very off chance that she'll find it charming or intriguing.
posted by Gator at 11:04 AM on November 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


Did she respond to your message that she had the wrong number? If not, it's just creepy. If so, it's less creepy but only marginally so unless she wrote back something kind of flirty.

I see how it seems fun, but I'd be careful. If nothing else, if it's a small city word might get around that you're a creepy guy who randomly messages people asking about their dates. I'm not saying definitely don't do it (unless she hasn't responded back to you in which case definitely don't do it) but I'd be wary.

And, if she doesn't respond, never contact her again. Seriously. THAT would be creepy.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:07 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


A dialed wrong number isn't an invitation to someone's life.
I couldn't have said this better.

- I looked up her number online.
I must admit I wouldn't have been this engaged if she didn't live in my city.


Even if you don't follow up, you've already crossed that weirdo/stalker line.
posted by puritycontrol at 11:07 AM on November 15, 2010 [11 favorites]


Another woman saying "Oh hell no." Definitely edging up the creepy scale. It's not going to win you anything, and it's going to give her anything from a bad moment to a really bad week, wondering if you're going to escalate further.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:08 AM on November 15, 2010


I'm a a guy, and I say there's no reason to do it. At best I would think you're a freak and ignore it. At worst I'd go to the cops and see if there's a reason to get a restraining order or something similar.
posted by theichibun at 11:10 AM on November 15, 2010


That would creep me the hell out. Sorry.
posted by wondermouse at 11:10 AM on November 15, 2010


grarrar ugh. Honestly, your approach to this whole thing is creepy. You say "it seems to reek of intrusive scary weird psycho-stalker type inappropriateness" and you're still considering doing it?

"Best case, however, it will be a conversation starter which might lead to a new acquaintance, if not friendship or even something more."?

"I enjoy poking and prodding people to see how they react"?

"I must admit I wouldn't have been this engaged if she didn't live in my city. Or if she'd been a guy for that matter."?

You admit you're socially awkward. That's OK! But don't be that guy who uses his social awkwardness as an excuse to be a creepy ass weirdo to strange girls, like it's cute or something. "Oh haha, sorry I creeped on you, I'm just socially awkward!" No. Not OK. You clearly recognize that this is weird, and thus you're barely/not even skirting a very fine line between clueless and predatory.
posted by MadamM at 11:11 AM on November 15, 2010 [20 favorites]


Look, there's maybe a 50% chance that she'd think it was cute for a few minutes, and about a 50% chance that she'd find it sufficiently creepy to weird her out for the rest of the day or week.

There are better ways to execute random acts of whimsical cuteness. I recommend them! But the fact that you have her number makes her a little vulnerable. And she's going to think you want something from her. You *do* -- even if it's just a giggle and a flicker of human interaction.

Another way to look at it: the interaction could be the opening scene of a romantic comedy. It could also be the opening scene of Saw X.

Go overtip a harried waitron, if you want to brighten someone's day.
posted by endless_forms at 11:11 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Totally 100% inappropriate. Do not do this.
posted by uans at 11:11 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would be skeeved beyond belief.

The fact that you looked up her number already pretty much sets you up for stalker status.

Actually there are several comments in your original post that concern me.

"What's the worst that could happen? It's not like she will be scarred for life or get a restraining order against me."

You have no way of knowing how something like that will impact her. You don't know her or her history. It was great of you to respond and say "Hey, you sent this to the wrong person."

"I'm expecting a simple response along the lines of "Oh it was great :)" at which point I'll probably leave her alone."

Probably? Um... yeah, no. If you do go forward with this you damn well better leave her alone.

"Although I do want to follow up in order to humor myself and because I enjoy poking and prodding people to see how they react"

Ew. There is so much wrong with that I won't even go into it.

Finally, if it is a relatively small city there's a non-zero chance you might run into this woman down the road. And what if she doesn't respond this time but you somehow manage to get her number at a later date. You call her and on her phone she's saved your number as "that weird stalked dude. DO NOT ANSWER". That would suck.

Then again, it kind of seems accurate.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:12 AM on November 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


What I'm not seeing here is the extent of your interactions with her thus far.

Taking on faith that what you're saying is what happened - namely that you got the text, sent a tongue-in-cheek response, and that was that - then no, don't do it. It would be kind of creepy.

If there was an actual conversation of any sort besides one text from her and one from you, then sure, why not. But it doesn't sound that way (and no, it wouldn't count if she sent one back apologizing).

No, she won't get a restraining order or anything like that, but she might still be kind of skeeved out. In the grand scheme of things, that wouldn't really affect you since I doubt you'd ever hear about it.

But look. When folks talk about living without regard to consequences, there's an implicit idea in there that we're still taking the comfort and boundaries of others in mind, because living without regard to either personal consequences or the feelings of others is not so much a devil-may-care life as it is just plain old being a jerk. And you don't sound like a jerk.

Long story short: If she gave you any indication that she'd be into this sort of thing, then sure. If not - and it sounds like she didn't - then leave it alone. If fate were to come knocking with some once-in-a-lifetime thing for you, I suspect it would be knocking rather more forcefully than this.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:13 AM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


What if she's underage?
posted by desjardins at 11:17 AM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


If all you did was tell her it was a wrong number -- not even knowing if it was a man or a woman, having not looked up her number and found out where she lived -- then sending a text two days later to say "Howd it go LOL" and then seeing if they responded (they probably wouldn't) would be harmless and fun.

However, you've already invested way too much time in this, giving it far too much significance to you, and so you shouldn't do it. You know too much. It would no longer be a harmless text on a lark without intention.

To visualize the difference, think about getting on the elevator with someone who accidentally presses the wrong button, causing you both to hit an extra floor, who apologizes and you both laugh. Two days later, you end up on the same elevator, and they make eye contact when pressing the elevator button -- so on a whim you smile and say "are you sure?" and you both chuckle. No harm, no foul.

Now picture that same scenario, except that the person was a woman you didn't know, and you searched through the company directory to find a match for her face, and found out what floor she works on and what time of day she's likely to go to the elevator for lunch, and you coordinated your day to improve your odds of running into her so you could make a pithy comment that you had planned in advance. To her it may seem no different, but it is, and it would be bad, because you're already lying to her (by behaving in a way that suggests it was a casual encounter, but you've put significant forethought into it.)

I hope that's clear.
posted by davejay at 11:18 AM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


P.S. - It's creepy whether she is underage or not, but since everyone else has addressed the inappropriateness, I thought I'd bring up the trouble you could be bringing onto yourself if her parent sees a text message from $randomdude.
posted by desjardins at 11:19 AM on November 15, 2010


I'm expecting a simple response along the lines of "Oh it was great :)" at which point I'll probably leave her alone.

Why should we believe that? Most people expect a response of "Wrong number" at which point they are left alone.
posted by mazola at 11:20 AM on November 15, 2010


You know you're harmless and nice, but she really, really doesn't. Did you ever read this thread? The worst case isn't that nothing happens, it's that you make her feel unsafe.

(okay fine, not "scarred for life." But feeling unsafe for a day or two isn't much fun either.)
posted by mail at 11:22 AM on November 15, 2010


Every time I get called by a wrong number, I look it up online. That doesn't seem weird to me at all. And FWIW, I had something similar happen a few months ago. The texts went like this:

Wher u at im at the front wher they sell tix

Think you txtd wrong #

lol dont play u late

No, srsly, I don't know you. Please check the #.

Sorry abt that! My bad

No prob. Have fun.

(Thirty minutes later)

Damn he didn show

Heh. Stop waiting and go get a beer.

Lol u OK if I knew where u was id bring u a six

Thx! Drink one for me.
********
And that was the end of that. I like to think those crossed wires brightened both our days.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:23 AM on November 15, 2010 [22 favorites]


Bizarre and wrong. How do you feel about frightening an individual and making them feel like they have to change their phone number? Because that is a perfectly likely outcome. You should not have this person's personal information, it was an accident (combined with the questionable follow-up of looking them up online) that you do, using it to communicate with them is wrong. Would you look up random numbers in a phone book and start dialing people up to ask them intrusive questions about their love lives? That is what this is equivalent to.
posted by nanojath at 11:24 AM on November 15, 2010


I am a woman and I don't see how this is creepy at all. She has the option of ignoring you if she chooses so, whatever. But also, I am in the habit of starting up short conversations with strangers who text me by mistake.
posted by Lobster Garden at 11:25 AM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am in the extreme minority of women who would think this was entertaining under some circumstances. However, most wouldn't. I'd say, out of all women you do this kind of thing to:

- 5% will think it's entertaining and play along.
- 45% will play along only because they've been socialized to be "nice girls" and feel obligated/pressured to respond, and will feel uncomfortable about it.
- 50% will think you're a creep and will not respond.

Is it really worth casting such a wide net for the 5% when you're going to be creeping out or making uncomfortable 95% of your market?

Since you are self-proclaimed awkward person who's trying to figure out social clues, I'd really recommend you read some of the fabulous threads here about how women feel about getting approached by strangers. Start here. It will help you understand things from their point of view and hopefully you will shape your actions accordingly. What to you seems like good fun can be to some women at best an annoyance, and at worst a threat.
posted by yarly at 11:26 AM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


What's the worst that could happen?

I'm not going to give you the hypothetical, hyperbolic worst that could happen. Here's the real worst that could happen: You text her, she thinks you're the kind of person who would google up her address, she doesn't text you back, but spends the next 1-3 days kind of nervous that you are following her around AT ANY GIVEN TIME.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:28 AM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm with BitterOldPunk on this one. I would totally get a kick out a follow up text.

I thought it was super fun when once I got a wrong number for someone with my same name and he later called back asking just to chat. I'm a girl and I wasn't weirded out by it.
posted by Zoyashka at 11:30 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Please don't do this -- I would be totally unsettled by this, and would probably look up your number/try to find out if your some weirdo/be really, really nervous about this for a week or so.

You don't know someone's history/how they will react to this. I (and many people) would be nervous that if you were so invested in finding out my city you would find out my address, too. I don't want to be looking around my shoulder whenever I enter my place -- that is what you would be forcing me to do.

I know you're coming from an "Oh that would be so funny!" place, but many people don't want this boundary to be crossed, and you could make her feel unsafe. Don't do this for your amusement -- your whimsy is not important as someone's feeling of security.
posted by superlibby at 11:31 AM on November 15, 2010


I think yarly's estimate is right. I actually had a nice conversation with someone who texted me by mistake (though it was another woman, and she thought she was texting her son, and we exchanged apple pie recipes so that was fun).

But you're turning this into a whole imaginary scenario in your head and all I can say is WHOA STOP. Life is not like the movies. This girl is not going to become your girlfriend. This girl is not going to become your friend. This girl is either going to exchange some jokey texts with you, or she is going to be creeped out by you.

Is it really worth it to you to risk creeping someone the fuck out in order to exchange some jokey texts with them? Because you're thinking that the risk/return is "creep someone the fuck out" vs. "find my soulmate" but the risk/return is really "creep someone the fuck out" vs. "exchange a few jokey texts with someone."
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:32 AM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


And that was the end of that. I like to think those crossed wires brightened both our days.

I think the differences between that situation and this one are:

1) 30 minutes vs. 24 hours
2) the caller was the one to re-respond vs. the wrongnumber was the one to re-respond
3) you made no assumptions about the vs. assuming the woman was on a first date
posted by 23skidoo at 11:34 AM on November 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


Feel free to be ruthless when judging me and my thoughts. Tear me apart if you must.

Ok, I fucking hate you for making me reference an old Garfield comic to illustrate how creepy and sad this could make you seem.
posted by contraption at 11:35 AM on November 15, 2010 [13 favorites]


If I were on the receiving end of this sort of attention, I would ignore it, and would figure out how to block numbers so that I didn't get another text from you. Then I wouldn't give it any more thought.

If I were an acquaintance of yours and you told me that you were planning on doing this, I'd tell you not to, for all of the reasons listed above. But then, if you went through with it anyway, I would make a mental note to limit your access to my other friends and to be careful about which details of my life I wish to share with you in the future. I'd do this because you'd strike me as a person who's notion of personal limits do not reflect my own. I'd want to protect myself and others from your intrusions.

There's an important difference between being open to things and nosing into private matters which are none of your concern. To my way of thinking, this falls firmly into the latter category. People who's behavior fits in the first category can be fun. But people who's behavior falls into that second category always make me uncomfortable.
posted by .kobayashi. at 11:36 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the days of my youth, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and caller ID had yet to be dreamed up, it was not unknown for a wrong number to try to get chatty with you. I'm sure it happened more often to women than to me, but it did once in a while.

Being a little stand-offish and a crank about the phone I'd usually brush them off, but I knew people who'd have long conversations with folks they got accidentally by wrong number.

Personally I'm with the folks who aren't bothered by the idea, provided you're not a douche about it. A return text "Hey wrong number - how'd the date go anyway?" is totally ignorable. The idea that you shouldn't do it because there's some non-zero chance the recipient might find it creepy? There's no doubt I'm a bigger hard-ass than average, but I really don't see the harm in making someone say "not interested" or "fuck off" or just ignoring you.

If you're an ass-bag and keep at it or respond to being ignored with a call? Yes, jerky and potentially scary and I hope you get the cops called on you or something. But being intrigued by a random encounter? Googling a phone number and realizing it's a woman's name? I don't think that makes you weird or creepy, it makes you a human interested in connecting with another person - preferably female.

If you're too invested in this, well, then if this falls into the 99% failure rate that attempting to connect with someone results in... you'll be disappointed and learn better not to over-read into things or get your hopes up based on nothing. But how else will you learn?

Send the text and don't be a jerk is the response is negative.
posted by phearlez at 11:43 AM on November 15, 2010


if you have to ask if it's creepy, it's creepy. just like contraption's garfield reference above.
posted by anya32 at 11:44 AM on November 15, 2010


Don't be a jerk IF (probably) the response is negative, I mean.
posted by phearlez at 11:45 AM on November 15, 2010


"Best case, however, it will be a conversation starter which might lead to a new acquaintance, if not friendship or even something more."

This is why you shouldn't do it. A random person sends you a text message by accident and you're fantasizing about having a romantic relationship with them? You're invested in this in a way that is not healthy for you.
posted by Jelly at 11:45 AM on November 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


Some really wonderful things can happen as a result of unplanned interactions with strangers. I once emailed an incorrect address and ended up with a pen-pal. These things do happen. Interactions with strangers can be very rewarding.

Treat like you would any unexpected interaction with a stranger -- go in gently and at the first sign of negativity, disengage.
posted by Jonathan Harford at 11:47 AM on November 15, 2010


I'm with BitterOldPunk. It could be fun.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:49 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think you should do it. Online dating sets women up for lots of weirdos and stalkers- even though you aren't one, she's probably operating at a higher baseline of suspicion in general b/c she's communicating with unknown men. There is a pretty big chance she'll be slightly or even very frightened to realize that now some unknown stranger has her number. That will be unpleasant for her. You only see the cute side of the equation (possible new friend!) but she sees the cary side (unknown stalker!) It's not worth it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:50 AM on November 15, 2010


The idea that you shouldn't do it because there's some non-zero chance the recipient might find it creepy?

No, the idea that you shouldn't do it because (based on the responses in this thread) there's a really good chance that the recipient might find it creepy.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:51 AM on November 15, 2010


So I'm guessing since you know this girl's name and where she lives, you also know quite a bit else about her and have probably looked her up on facebook. You know what she looks like. You probably know her age and what she does for a living. You've already developed some sort of little fantasy about her and what kind of person she is.

I would be very weirded out by this and just because it wouldn't "scar me for life" doesn't change the fact that it's really not nice to weird someone out. It kind of ruins your day and makes you double check your locks at night.

There is a certain kind of man who feels that he is entitled to a little bit of time or attention or some small personal tidbit of any and every woman's life, should he so desire it. And because it's just a smile or a text or an email or a comment about their appearance or to ask about their relationship status or to ask what they are listening to on their ipod or who they are texting or why they look sad today or where they are going or if they are meeting their friend or their boyfriend at the bar or to have them listen to their unsolicited advice about what to buy at the supermarket, they think this shouldn't be too much to ask or really demand from any woman. Because what's the big deal? A little attention from a woman they find attractive will really brighten their day and stroke their ego a bit and what kind of bitch would deny them that? And because women are socially conditioned to always be "nice" and deferential to men, at penalty of being considered a "bitch" or occasionally far more dire consequences, the vast majority of women politely play along, while feeling very uncomfortable and remove themselves from the situation as soon as possible.

Now I realize there is a fine line between doing this and making polite small talk with the person standing next to you in line for your morning coffee, but in this situation you are decidedly on the other side of that line. You admit that you want to text her because she is a far flung romantic prospect. This isn't making conversation with someone who you happen to be standing next to. You are reaching out to a total and utter stranger and asking for personal details of her love life on the off chance that this will somehow develop into some for of relationship with her. You might as well just start looking up names in your local phone book and start sending texts asking them if they are single and looking for friendship and maybe more, because this is really no different.
posted by whoaali at 11:55 AM on November 15, 2010 [40 favorites]


I've done it, she responded.
posted by Rubbstone at 11:55 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Absolutely not. Hell, she made a mistake and unfortunately gave you some personal information: her phone number, her sex and/or gender, the fact that she was going on some sort of date/meetup. She knows you have that information. You used that information to figure out who she is and where she lives.

That? Is creepy. It's creepy, it's invasive, it's weird, it's socially awkward. Good thing is, you haven't done anything about it yet. Let her believe she accidentally gave some perfectly reasonable person her phone number and that that perfectly reasonable person deleted it and forgot about it.

At best, you'll embarrass her. At worse, you'll seriously frighten her. Don't do it.

PS. One of the scariest things that happened to me was getting a text from a number I didn't know, late at night, while I was home alone, and just after having had a very difficult breakup with seriously unhinged boyfriend which involved me having to change the locks: it said "i am here". Now, you texting her could potentially not bring up that sort of feelings or worries, but it might. Don't do it.
posted by lydhre at 11:57 AM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is a certain kind of man who feels that he is entitled to a little bit of time or attention or some small personal tidbit of any and every woman's life, should he so desire it.

That reminds me, OP, please read this. And I suggest you rethink your "poking and prodding people to see how they react" policy in light of that comment, as well.
posted by Gator at 12:00 PM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


But look. When folks talk about living without regard to consequences, there's an implicit idea in there that we're still taking the comfort and boundaries of others in mind, because living without regard to either personal consequences or the feelings of others is not so much a devil-may-care life as it is just plain old being a jerk.

Please read and re-read this excellent point from FAMOUS MONSTER. This is exactly right. What you are proposing to do has a very high likelihood -- not 100%, but pretty close -- to crossing someone's boundaries and making her uncomfortable (and you have no idea how uncomfortable you will make her; it is actually within the realm of possibility that this would make her extremely uncomfortable and frightened due to circumstances of her personal history that you have no way of knowing about).

As others have said, life is not a romantic comedy in which this sort of thing is cute, and you do not get a free pass to behave inappropriately (which this is) because you have acknowledged your own social awkwardness. Indeed, if you have any genuine wish to overcome your social awkwardness and learn how to engage with people more positively and productively, I urge you in the strongest possible terms not to do this. But more than that: I urge you in the strongest possible terms not to do this based on a thoughtful, careful reflection of what it might be like for this stranger to receive a text from you under these circumstances. Do not attempt to interject your agenda into this reflection; think, as humbly as you can, about what it would be like for someone else to be on the receiving end of this type of contact.

In short, I am asking you to think empathatically rather than analytically. Because empathy is one of the key components to non-awkward socializing, and yet it seems to be wholly missing from how you are framing this question.
posted by scody at 12:15 PM on November 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


I read this question and instantly thought, "care to make that the right number, sweetheart?" Thanks to contraption, I learned I had the quote wrong all these years!

For the record, I don't think this is an absolutely creepy move. I don't know if I'd find it creepy or fun if it happened to me; it'd probably depend on the context and on what I could gather from the person doing it. I think it's very easy to interpret as creepy, however, and it's a safe bet that this will not brighten the recipient's day.

The difference between BitterOldPunk's example and what you're proposing is time and the other person's willingness to play along. That conversation went well because it was in the moment and the ball was rolling, and the stranger at the other end was happy to text back. I'm guessing the person who texted you wasn't interested in continuing the conversation once you let her know she had the wrong number.

Being spontaneous and fun and socially at ease works better when you're aware of when people will go along with it. This is not one of those times.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:19 PM on November 15, 2010


Don't do it! And look closely at your motivations for even considering it because it is creepy as hell.
posted by meepmeow at 12:20 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


LOL at all these overthinking, overanalytical responses. Please, just do it! If it's phrased right, it could be the start of something fun. Worst case scenario - she never responds.

Note, you're taking quite a risk as well -- she may turn out to be a psychopath/stalker/axe murderer ;-)
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 12:27 PM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bitteroldpunk's exchange was appropriate because it was spontaneous (not googled and strategized) and didn't have the intention of developing a relationship with the wrong number texter. It was fun and ok in the same way that it was fun and ok to send a joke-y "you've got the wrong number" message immediately after the wrong number girl sent you her text.

Initiating contact with the wrong number girl a day later is creepy, not whimsical and not friendly. I'm not someone who assumes every man is a threat to me, but if someone I'd accidentally texted as a wrong number contacted me on purpose a day later to ask about my personal life, my creep-o-meter would be going off like crazy. Don't act like you're entitled to information about someone's personal life just because she texted you by accident. You're not.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:29 PM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is one of those cases where I see no serious reason not to do it; however, it seems to reek of intrusive scary weird psycho-stalker type inappropriateness. If I am to stay true to myself, then I will go ahead anyway. I mean, it doesn't cost me thing. What's the worst that could happen? It's not like she will be scarred for life or get a restraining order against me.

You asked that we be blunt with you. Okay.

Even though you recognize that stalking her "reek[s] of intrusive scary weird psycho-stalker type inappropriateness" you still think this is a good idea. Then, you go on to say that it wouldn't cost you anything.

Buddy, you might be the nicest guy in the world in real life, but right now you're coming off as an incredibly self-involved ass who thinks it's cool to frighten or creep out a woman because it won't cost you anything.

Don't be that guy. What you're proposing isn't romantic. It's desperate. And looking her up on the internet to the extent you have seems repellent and somewhat obsessive.

Most of the "fuck no, don't do that" comments in this thread come from women. Please listen to them.

If that doesn't get through to you, consider this:

She doesn't know you now. Pursue this and she might be creeped out enough to figure out who you are. You don't know who she knows and you both live in a "relatively small" city. How long before your circles eventually collide in some way? Think about the six degrees of separation rule.
posted by zarq at 12:31 PM on November 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's not like she will be scarred for life

My sister has been stalked. Having a stranger start texting like this would likely give her nightmares for a few days about shit she's gone through. Me, on the other hand, I'd probably ignore you entirely. But I'd Google your number and call the cops on you if you kept it up, whether your tone was jokey or not.

This is not how normal people make friends or meet people. This is, of course, how some people have been able to make friends and meet people. There are easier ways with less serious downsides. This is indicating, to me, that you have inappropriate boundary issues which would then concern me and make me wonder if you knew where I lived and/or worked. Of course, not everyone is like me.
posted by jessamyn at 12:40 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wrong numbers sometimes get chatty with me. I sometimes get chatty with them. Sometimes they get chatty with me. Once a guy called me by accidentally and then a few minutes later called back and sang a rap song into my voice mail. It can be fun on either end because it's sort of off-the-beaten-track behavior, and if it turns out to be unwelcome you will know right away -- and even then, no foul really. You just lose the number and go on with your life.

I can imagine that some might find this really skeevy, but also that's what you get for having a source of communication that literally anyone can access. Now and then there are accidents and unwelcome communications. If the only thing unwelcome about your message is that she doesn't know who you are, and as long as you don't push your luck, then meh.
posted by hermitosis at 12:40 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


My answer?

LOL at all these overthinking, overanalytical responses. Please, just do it! If it's phrased right, it could be the start of something fun. Worst case scenario - she never responds.

Note, you're taking quite a risk as well -- she may turn out to be a psychopath/stalker/axe murderer ;-)

Think of the exact opposite thing this person said and pretend I wrote it.
posted by Green With You at 12:41 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another thing about BitterOldPunk's exchange: she texted the wrong number, BOP kindly informed her of her mistake, taking a couple of extra tries to really convince her, then SHE texted HIM back after her friend didn't show, and BOP finished off a friendly exchange.

Let me repeat that: he didn't follow up to see if her friend had shown: she texted him.

While there are some gregarious people out there who initiate exchanges like this and would get a kick out of a next day follow-up, you can see in this thread that most p[eople, especially most women, find it creepy.

Find some other way to brighten someone's day. This seems to be on the wrong side of risk versus reward.
posted by maudlin at 12:41 PM on November 15, 2010


This is not how normal people make friends or meet people.

There are a lot of pretty abnormal people out there. This isn't necessarily a bad or scary thing.
posted by hermitosis at 12:42 PM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Although I do want to follow up in order to humor myself and because I enjoy poking and prodding people to see how they react, I must admit I wouldn't have been this engaged if she didn't live in my city. Or if she'd been a guy for that matter.

People don't ordinarily like to be poked and prodded. That plus the fact that you're only into it because she (1) lives in your city and (2) is a chick... that moves things into stalker-land.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:58 PM on November 15, 2010


Story time! A few years ago someone called accidentally called me and started talking. It was along the lines of "Hey, what's up? Man, this day has sucked big time. I need a beer. What are you doing tonight?" For the first minute or two I just went along with it assuming that it was somebody I knew. I figured it was someone whose number I had just been too lazy to enter into my phone and if I chatted him up for a few minutes I might figure out who it was. After a bit, I still hadn't figured it out so I had to be all "Sorry, I thought I'd figure it out, but who is this?" Turns out we didn't know each other. The guy was apparently visiting his mom in a hospital where his phone didn't get reception so he had manually entered a number into someone else's phone and botched it up a bit. We laughed at our collective stupidity and hung up.

Later on, he texted me "Hey there wrong number! My friend bailed and this day is still the worst. Do want to go out anyway? It could be fun." And you know what? I had nothing planned, so I figured, why not?

I met up with the dude. He was nice. Not my scene, but it was a fine time. At the end of the night he asked me if I'd like to go on a real date-date. I had to decline, because, like I said, I wasn't feeling it romantically, but I left with a fun feeling of adventures having been had.

Now, if the story stopped here this could be a sweet ships-in-the-night big city kind of a tale. Unfortunately, that's not how it went. Dude proceeded to continue to text me. "Are you sure you don't want to go out again?" "Yeah, unfortunately I'm sure. Good luck with your mom though. Hope everything turns out ok." "WHY don't you want to go out with me again?" "I just don't think this is a dating kind of a match. Good luck though." Then the calling started. At this point I was done with the situation and simply didn't answer. Ten or fifteen calls later I finally picked up and FREAKED THE FUCK OUT. Dude finally got the picture.

So, I would say that there is no harm in following up, but seriously, if she doesn't respond you need to stop right there. Do not think "Maybe she didn't get my last text." Do not think "Maybe she is shy and I should be more aggressive." She is a stranger. Maybe she is down for seizing the day, but maybe she is scared you are going to show up at her house with a chainsaw. You get one message with no response before you have to stop.
posted by troublewithwolves at 1:04 PM on November 15, 2010 [18 favorites]


By the way, OP, since a lot of these answers are fairly negative - take them seriously, but don't take them personally. This is a potentially creepy move, sure. I suspect that you are not a creep, just not fully aware of the unsolicited attention that women receive and have to filter out on a regular basis. We can't always tell if the overly friendly stranger is a wonderful guy or a threat, and unfortunately there are enough threats that we can't take that risk in finding out.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:16 PM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Worst case scenario - she never responds.

It's also kind of interesting to examine the assumptions here. Never responding is not the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario is that you get involved with her - even by just meeting her briefly - and she's unhinged or otherwise trouble. The assumptions people make about strangers are certainly interesting. Chances are that whatever you may have imagined about this person's age, availability, interests, size, appearance, number of children, mental health, physical health, sexuality, or any other component of her being isn't accurate.
posted by Miko at 1:18 PM on November 15, 2010


i'm socially awkward as hell AND extremely extroverted, and I love randomness to make peoples days a bit more surreal. I would possibly do something like this, but i wouldn't have put so much thought into it, and it would be purely a throwaway event, and I wouldn't have any motivation other than just lighthearted fun.

I will impart the one lesson that I thankfully learned early on, due to just social unawareness, as opposed to simply awkwardness- as soon as you go down the road of wondering if something's creepy, guess what, it probably is. That voice is there for a reason. In all social interaction in which you feel inhibited or hesitant, you probably have some thought that's causing that. Being embarrassed, feeling shy, or seeing the potential for humiliation -- those are the voices to ignore, because these are very self-driven. If you feel like you might be creepy, scary, threatening, or anything else that involves how someone else feels, pay attention.

Don't ignore creepy. If the thought is even there, then it's best to just let it go, with very few exceptions.
posted by MysticMCJ at 1:20 PM on November 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


You wouldn't be considering doing this for a SECOND if it had been a guy that texted you by mistake.

I concur with everyone who said it's creepy and probably won't be appreciated (at best case) and will most likely be creeped out. If you pulled this on me I'd know you were trolling for a date with someone you have no idea about other than female and single, and that would make me go "ewwww."
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:22 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


LOL at all these overthinking, overanalytical responses. Please, just do it! If it's phrased right, it could be the start of something fun. Worst case scenario - she never responds. Note, you're taking quite a risk as well -- she may turn out to be a psychopath/stalker/axe murderer ;-)

The worst-case scenario for who? The OP? Sure, maybe. But the worst-case scenario for the woman in question is different, and more unpleasant. It's revealing that this sort of response hinges on completely disregarding any consideration whatsoever for the potential feelings of the woman who will be on the receiving end of this sort of attention. And as many people have pointed out, it's entirely possible -- not definite, but quite possible -- that this will upset and frighten her.

In fact, it could upset and frighten her to the point where she calls the cops on the OP -- in which case, his own worst-case scenario is actually far worse than merely being ignored. Because in spite of what you would like to imply by your shitty joke about women being just as potentially threatening to men, women really do have to factor in considerations of our personal safety on a day-to-day basis in ways that the vast majority of men will never experience. (And please note that many men understand this and are fully capable of being aware and compassionate about it, rather than dismissing it.)
posted by scody at 1:34 PM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


This would scare me a lot. I would probably be freaked out for a few days and then forget about it. I wouldn't respond to you.

Actually, this question made me look up my own phone number to see how easy it was to find. Luckily, it seems that they have me down as living in a different city than where I actually live.

However, I noticed that to get a full report about my phone number, I would have to pay $14.95. I really hope you didn't pay to find out who she is.....
posted by parakeetdog at 1:36 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


These are the kind of things that work out only if you're charismatic and/or good looking. I had a friend who was/is a model and bit actor. He is the spitting image of Joaquin Phoenix.

Once, I noticed he took a phone call and it seemed like a good friend, they talked on and on, for at least 15 minutes. I asked who it was, "Wrong number, but I have a date tonight." I have no idea how he did, only that it was completely unreachable to me. Obviously, since it was a phone call, his good looks didn't play the part -- but his confidence and charisma did. This is either something you have or something you don't, and if you have to ask you don't have it.

Other stories include how he saw an absolutely gorgeous girl on the street, walked up to her, told her how gorgeous she was, and they ended up dating for several months. I'm sure if he had asked here if he should have done it, he would have received a resounding no with a good heap of, "Why would you talk to strange girls you didn't know?" because the image of men talking to strange girls they don't know is universally a bad one.

So don't feel bad for wanting to do this, I've personally seen people pull this off in non-creepy ways. But for the other 90% of us, this just doesn't work.

PS You sound pretty lonely, which being stuck in a small town can do for you. How about this is a bit of a wakeup call and maybe you can start down the meeting new people path (internet dating, meetups, etc.)?
posted by geoff. at 1:39 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


keep in mind that my analysis of this is also coming from this perspective - I made one of my closest friends in high school pretending to stab my eyeball out with a pencil, complete with splattering eye-juice, courtesy of a creamer that I had palmed. This took practice, so I wouldn't stab out my eye, and premeditation, because it's not like high schools stock creamers on a regular basis.

i mention this because i want you to know that i get the idea of socially awkward, random to some, premeditated by me, events. note that I did not do this to a girl who talked to me just once by accident, it was with people i had made passing conversation with a few times already. that would be the difference between me making some great friends, and not having those friends, plus being forever ostracized EVEN MORE than i already was by the default of being a mulleted computer dork with questionable style by even mid-nineties standards, whose primary hobby was logging onto any local bbs i could find.

Even that me wouldn't do this.
posted by MysticMCJ at 1:41 PM on November 15, 2010


The more I've considered how much time has passed since the initial text I'm changing my answer to "don't do it".
posted by josher71 at 2:02 PM on November 15, 2010


Hey Crazy, as well-meaning as you might be, don't do it. It's desperate and weird. Try to learn something from all those mefi comments about inappropriateness and err on the side of caution. It would be very selfish and douchy to text her so YOU get a kick out of it, rather than refraining in case it freaks her out. I'm all with the Chaotic, live-free mindset - and am an awkward loner, too - but what makes it Chaotic Good is that you consider other people's feelings and privacy and space. Poking and prodding them for your entertainment creates TANGIBLE consequences that effect your life whether you think they do or not. And attention is NOT always wanted, even if you think is secretly is. (which, I'm afraid young sir, is a pretty misguided belief)

Frankly, just the fact that you wouldn't follow up if she weren't female and already a part of this fantasy kind of negates that life philosophy and turns this into total Creepy Town.

Read whoaali's comment. TWICE.

Geoff. had a good point... if you're lonely, how about trying to meet people in social situations where they want to meet you, too. That seems only fair, right?
posted by mostlybecky at 2:07 PM on November 15, 2010


I wouldn't automatically assume you were creepy if you did this to me. I would, however, assume that you had nothing better to do and no better way to meet women, and would then assume that you were probably a sad loser with no friends whim I should pity but not answer because I wouldn't want to encourage you.
posted by pineappleheart at 2:07 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, if I were the dame who'd accidentally sent you the message, I would be totally amused and titillated to receive a follow-up reply from you.

Except that I'm not the dame, I'm an AskMefi respondent who is privy to the small detail that you *looked up her number on the internet and found out her name.*

Which detail pushes this over into creepy territory for me, and makes me glad I wasn't the one who accidentally texted you.

Sorry to add to the negative chorus.
posted by artemisia at 2:26 PM on November 15, 2010


I think you really, really need to get that this woman has probably not thought of you. You are not in any way on her mind. Her life has gone on from a simple typographical error. It's not malicious or rude, but she has a life that probably does not include thinking about random interactions beyond 'oh, they happen.'

You, by contrast, have fixated on this to the point of looking her up and asking strangers on the internet for advice.

Why do you assume you're on her radar at all? She probably won't even recognize the mistyped number if she reprogrammed the mistaken contact.

Other people don't think about us the way or amount we think about ourselves. That is true for all of us. Why do you think you'd be an exception? Or, rather, why do you want to make yourself an exception?
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 2:30 PM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


So it's clear that some people would be skeezed out. And I think most people agree that there are some people who wouldn't be skeezed out, who, depending on how you did it, might get a kick out of it.

So-- how much does it bother you to skeeze out the first type of person, versus how much does it bother you to deny some entertainment to the second kind of person?
posted by nathan v at 2:48 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The very fact you posted this scarily over-detailed question makes this creepy, even without other details like the fact that you googled her number.

But yknow what? I think you should send the text. This isn't "Should we nuke Hiroshima" territory, for god's sake. I'd be willing to bet you don't get any response, and she cringes for a second and moves on with her life. Just do it.
posted by malapropist at 3:12 PM on November 15, 2010


... a lot of these answers are fairly negative - take them seriously, but don't take them personally.

Yeah, I don't want to give the impression that I'm really as spiteful as my comment appears. I was jokingly following your invitation to be harsh, and you did manage to remind me that the punchlines of old Garfield comics are still lurking in my brain. All I meant to communicate is that while I can sympathize with your desire to make friendly, spontaneous contact with a stranger, you don't really want to be Jon Arbuckle, do you?

I guess it's easy for things to be misconstrued when you're communicating with someone you don't know via short messages in a text-only medium.
posted by contraption at 3:14 PM on November 15, 2010


Say something funny but nice. Ask if she is interested in seeing a photo of you and if she is, oblige (make it funny though!).

I've done this before, not to meet up with the stranger, but just to have a laugh and it always ends up nicely :)
posted by darkgroove at 3:25 PM on November 15, 2010


LOL at all these overthinking, overanalytical responses. Please, just do it! If it's phrased right, it could be the start of something fun. Worst case scenario - she never responds.

Note, you're taking quite a risk as well -- she may turn out to be a psychopath/stalker/axe murderer ;-)


LOL, I bet you're a guy, right?

Anyway, this is another voice echoing hell no. Creepy as hell.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:47 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Please don't do this. I'm a fun/spontaneous person, and this would scare the hell out of me. As stated previously, you need to understand that women have to worry about their safety on a daily basis in a way that most men do not.

As for the suggestion of offering to text her a *photo* of yourself, if a wrong number offered this to me I'd change my number and call the cops.
posted by pammeke at 3:59 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


A photo? I hope that's a troll. That's horrible advice.
posted by MysticMCJ at 4:20 PM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


There is something you've got to lose: this woman certainly has girlfriends, and if she finds your looking up her number and name creepy (and 98% of us say she will) rest assured those girls--in your relatively small city-- are going to here all about it. And the friends of those friends are going to hear all about it too.

You say you are socially awkward--try to develop some empathy. Social interaction involves human beings--yourself and at least one other person. No one wants to be poked and prodded to see how they react. I bet you don't--even if you like to pretend to yourself that you do.
posted by uans at 4:22 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it's too harsh to call you a psycho or stalker at this point. You'd be a psycho or stalker if you didn't stop to think, "wait, is this a psycho thing to do? I'd better run this past MeFi".

Or, you know, if you actually did it.

I can see how this is well meant, and all, but she has your number and can just as easily contact you if she feels like it. Then you'll be in a romantic comedy. Or a slasher film, depending. Some of us are psychos too, you know muahaha muahahahaha.
posted by tel3path at 4:32 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Data point: As a woman who has been stalked, this would freak me out pretty badly. I would immediately know you were doing it because I was a woman (which means I would know you had fantasized or at least had a passing thought about me sexually), I would feel ashamed and embarassed, and I would immediately delete the text, block the number, and tell people about how much it freaked me out. I'd feel bad for a day or two. Trust me, there is no way to appear innocent while doing this. As a general rule women do not think "oh he's probably innocent" if there is any doubt - it's very hard to pass something kind of sexual/romantic off as totally innocent with our radars attuned the way they often are in modern life. Sucks, but there you are. Stick to meeting women at clubs, online dating sites, or by being introduced through mutual friends imo.
posted by Nixy at 4:36 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


iAsshole's got an interesting response to Schrödinger’s Rapist. Go ahead and read them both instead of texting that woman.
posted by kirstk at 4:45 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a random person you know nothing about who has shown no interest in you who you want to talk to because it "might lead to a new acquaintance, if not friendship or even something more." There is a vanishingly small chance that she would be up for that, and even so, since you don't know anything about her it might turn out you don't like her at all.

If you want to seize the day and meet new people and take the chances that a random interaction might lead to something great, why not just try to talk to some other random person in a less creepy way? With a better approach and a chance to pick the person based even just a little bit on who she is, it'd be a lot more likely to lead to "a new acquaintance, if not friendship or even something more" (especially given your hypothesis that this woman was about to go on a first date she was really excited about) with the bonus of being less likely to make someone feel uncomfortable.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 6:33 PM on November 15, 2010


You've done too much stalking and thought about it too much. This makes it NOT fun and spontaneous like it was supposed to be, but premeditated and weird. I think this could've been pulled off by someone who was more whimsical, but you don't seem to be that person, sorry. All this stalking and thinking about it isn't good for you, and certainly isn't good for her.
posted by lacedcoffee at 7:06 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, I know I asked for it, but my god you people are harsh! :)

Considering the overwhelming response -- in particular from the women -- that it would be creepy and/or intrusive, I will leave her alone. I don't care much about whether some stranger were to consider me a weirdo or whatever, but I don't want to put anyone in a place where they are scared or worried. I suppose I didn't quite appreciate how much damage a single, friendly message could potentially do (seriously, it would have been really harmless and ignorable).

That being said, I want to question some points made, fill in some blanks and say a few things in my defense. I've tried to be honest with myself, but some of the following may very well be knee-jerks and defensive arguments so once again, feel free to call me out on it.

-

its a violation of that person's privacy

Yeah, the privacy and minding my own business aspect crossed my mind, but then I figured she did have the option to ignore me. It's not like I would be putting a gun to hear head. I don't want to be intrusive, but some people don't mind sharing. The way I see it, I would be giving her an opening to do just that, and it would be up to her to decide what to do with it.

-

If you're this lonely you should be trying to meet people, not googling wrong numbers.

I don't have problems meeting people (anymore). That doesn't mean that I automatically let opportunities slide without consideration just because they're unorthodox.

-

"This reeks of intrusive scary weird psycho-stalker type inappropriateness."
The above counts as a "serious reason not to do it."


Right. I just needed some confirmation that it was indeed intrusive etc. enough to be considered a serious reason.

-

I can see how appealing the idea that this might be a movie-style "meet cute" introduction might be. But your motivations seem to be unrealistically fantastical ("best case...it will be a conversation starter which might lead to a new acquaintance, if not friendship or even something more")

To this and the others commenting on my romantic movie-style motivations and investment: I really wasn't expecting anything fantastical. Honest. I thought I made that clear in the post. The thought merely crossed my mind and I didn't outright dismiss it because similar long-shots have happened before (minus the creepy part). I don't see the crime in recognizing one of many possible outcomes. I would be going in expecting nothing more than a quick back and forth, if anything. Honest.

-

utterly annoying, in that most people don't enjoy being poked and prodded to see how they react

Maybe that was a bad choice of words on my part. I don't mean poking to the point of annoyance just for my own amusement. I mean more along the lines of doing something unexpected and seeing how it unfolds. Really, I'm not an asshole, ask anyone. In fact, historically I have always erred on the side of being way to cautious and careful not to put anyone in even the slightest uncomfortable position. Now I'm warming up to the idea of letting people speak for themselves, instead of me assuming the worst.

-

I'd be in favor of it if it were truly a sweet-natured whim, in which case you probably would have just done it without posting about it and thinking about it so much, but you seem to have so much focus on this idea that it borders on creepy.

Oh, but it would have been a whim if it were possible to do it when it occurred to me. If I could have done it when I first thought about it, then the message would be on its way in the space of 30 seconds, but I couldn't very well do that until afterwards, now could I? :) In the meantime it gave me time to think about whether it would be okay or not. It's an interesting problem, and since I couldn't quite make up my mind I came here for input. Live and learn.

-

"I would rather regret something I did rather than something I didn't do."
This can be a fun philosophy to go through life with -- provided that your own regret is the only thing at stake, and someone else's private life and peace of mind isn't intruded upon.
In this case, the woman has no way of knowing that you're just a harmless socially-awkward bystander. You could cause a great deal of distress for her. Don't take the chance of scaring her and creeping her out on the very, very off chance that she'll find it charming or intriguing.


Thank you, this is pretty much what I needed to hear. I don't think I was quite conscious about how bad it could affect her.

-

Did she respond to your message that she had the wrong number

Yes, she responded with something along the lines of "Oops! Thank you for letting me know :)". Otherwise the though of messaging her back wouldn't even have crossed my mind.

-

And, if she doesn't respond, never contact her again. Seriously. THAT would be creepy.

Well, duh! :P

-

You say "it seems to reek of intrusive scary weird psycho-stalker type inappropriateness" and you're still considering doing it?

Yeah, because I didn't know for sure if it really was as bad as I was making it out to be. Like I mentioned above, I have often been way to sensitive about things like these, so I needed a second opinion.

You clearly recognize that this is weird, and thus you're barely/not even skirting a very fine line between clueless and predatory.

I have to disagree. Just because I realize something might be weird doesn't make me predatory just for considering it. I'm not saying I wasn't being predatory; I'm just saying that weird doesn't imply predatory. I don't mind being prone to acting a little weirdly.

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The fact that you looked up her number already pretty much sets you up for stalker status.

To this and those of its ilk:
I'm really not seeing this. I have missed phone calls from unknown numbers before, and in several cases they have proven to be from someone I knew, for instance clients. I don't see what's so bad about looking up a number. Of course, I didn't expect to know this person, but I was curious. So what? Maybe you are justified in thinking I'm desperate or lonely for doing it, but a stalker? Really?

-

Probably? Um... yeah, no. If you do go forward with this you damn well better leave her alone.

"Probably" because I was leaving room for less clear cut variations. I would have left the exact "Oh it was great :)" well alone.

-

"Although I do want to follow up in order to humor myself and because I enjoy poking and prodding people to see how they react"
Ew. There is so much wrong with that I won't even go into it.


As I said above, I botched the wording on this point. I'm talking about doing things or saying something that might catch someone off-guard or challenge them in some way. Not to the extent that I'm being mean or annoying.

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But look. When folks talk about living without regard to consequences, there's an implicit idea in there that we're still taking the comfort and boundaries of others in mind, because living without regard to either personal consequences or the feelings of others is not so much a devil-may-care life as it is just plain old being a jerk. And you don't sound like a jerk.

Thanks. I do care a lot about the feelings of others, really, but this seemed pretty harmless in that regard. Even if I'm creepy, to think that a single frivolous message can cause so much distress is, truly, kind of sad. Sure, if she has a history, then I get it. What are the chances of that though?

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However, you've already invested way too much time in this, giving it far too much significance to you, and so you shouldn't do it. You know too much. It would no longer be a harmless text on a lark without intention.

Right. Curse my curiosity and tendency to get caught up analyzing the world to bits and pieces before jumping in.

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Why should we believe that?

Why not? Do I strike you as dishonest?

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Most people expect a response of "Wrong number" at which point they are left alone.

Not really a newsflash, buddy. This isn't about doing what people expect. This is about doing something they don't expect because, you know, surprises can be fun and all. The question at hand was whether the creepy factor outweighed the surprise factor, or if it was all in my head.

-

But you're turning this into a whole imaginary scenario in your head and all I can say is WHOA STOP. Life is not like the movies. This girl is not going to become your girlfriend. This girl is not going to become your friend. This girl is either going to exchange some jokey texts with you, or she is going to be creeped out by you.

I already covered this, but I will reiterate since it keeps coming up. I wasn't expecting more than a message or at most a "few jokey texts". I wasn't envisioning her being my soul mate. I wasn't obsessing about her. This wasn't about life in the movies, making a friend, or girlfriends. This was all about keeping true to following first impulses and taking risks. I couldn't do anything about it there and then, so I had time to reflect on it. My gut was telling me "no", but the outcomes of taking other risks were yelling "yes". It seems only natural to me to think about it, but then I enjoy exploring problems and questions. I mean, look at me; I already decided not to text her before starting this reply, yet here I am, still working through all these opinions and developing my own understanding of the various issues.

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I really don't see the harm in making someone say "not interested" or "fuck off" or just ignoring you.

and

Some really wonderful things can happen as a result of unplanned interactions with strangers. I once emailed an incorrect address and ended up with a pen-pal. These things do happen. Interactions with strangers can be very rewarding.
Treat like you would any unexpected interaction with a stranger -- go in gently and at the first sign of negativity, disengage.


These were my first thoughts, but I concede since there's a very real chance that she'd be seriously bothered.

-

So I'm guessing since you know this girl's name and where she lives, you also know quite a bit else about her and have probably looked her up on facebook. You know what she looks like. You probably know her age and what she does for a living. You've already developed some sort of little fantasy about her and what kind of person she is.

The only reason I found out that she lived in my city was because it popped up along with her name when I looked up her number in the phone directory (not google, mind you). I wasn't looking for the address. I didn't even read her full address. And no, I haven't developed any sort of fantasy about her. I haven't even really thought about her at all. I've been occupied with the creepy versus fun dilemma, because that's the interesting and stimulating part of all this.

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There is a certain kind of man who feels that he is entitled to a little bit of time or attention or some small personal tidbit of any and every woman's life, should he so desire it. [...]

Do I really come off as such a man? I certainly don't feel entitled to anything. It sure could be fun if she gave me a tiny bit of time, but I can't say I feel entitled to it. I'd love to hear what I said to make you think that I do.

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You admit that you want to text her because she is a far flung romantic prospect.

Not quite. I realized quickly that this was probably in regards to some date, so yeah, the thought of her as a romantic prospect crossed my mind. I guess that (passing) thought made me think twice about her before forgetting and getting on with my evening. I got a little curious as to how it would work out for her, especially knowing it would be going down right here. I figured it might be fun for her to let me know how it went since she nearly screwed up her Sunday evening and quite possibly the date by using the wrong number. Her being an (astronomically) far flung romantic prospect made the idea engaging enough to consider action, but it wasn't the primary driver.

Looking up numbers in the phone book would be approaching truly random people. But she and I are not truly random. I'm the guy she messaged by mistake, who then informed her that she got the wrong number. I know I know, it's nothing and I am 99.9999999% a stranger to her, but it seems unfair to equate it to contacting totally random people. Oh, this reminds me. Someone mentioned that she is not thinking about me or something like that. I know that. That's why it could be fun to message her back.

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you do not get a free pass to behave inappropriately (which this is) because you have acknowledged your own social awkwardness

I think I have addressed your other points already, so I'll just clear this one up. I don't use it as a free pass. If I did then I wouldn't have worried about this maybe being a bad idea. I thank you for pointing it out though, because I may not have been fully conscious about it. I mentioned those aspects of my personality mostly for color and backdrop for my current approach to these parts of life.

-

right now you're coming off as an incredibly self-involved ass who thinks it's cool to frighten or creep out a woman because it won't cost you anything.

I honestly wasn't sure if she would be creeped out and scared or if it was just me exaggerating the vulnerability of people. I wouldn't knowingly do anything creepy or scary (despite what my inaccurate mention of poking and prodding might have you believe).

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I suspect that you are not a creep, just not fully aware of the unsolicited attention that women receive and have to filter out on a regular basis.

I'll gather up what's left of my self-respect and cling to this explanation, thank you.

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The worst case scenario is that you get involved with her - even by just meeting her briefly - and she's unhinged or otherwise trouble. The assumptions people make about strangers are certainly interesting.

That goes for any stranger we meet, doesn't it? Even people we know by reputation or meet through friends can turn out to be unhinged given the right circumstances. I, for one, won't live in fear of that, but I sympathize with women having to always watch out for that.

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I will impart the one lesson that I thankfully learned early on, due to just social unawareness, as opposed to simply awkwardness- as soon as you go down the road of wondering if something's creepy, guess what, it probably is. That voice is there for a reason. In all social interaction in which you feel inhibited or hesitant, you probably have some thought that's causing that. Being embarrassed, feeling shy, or seeing the potential for humiliation -- those are the voices to ignore, because these are very self-driven. If you feel like you might be creepy, scary, threatening, or anything else that involves how someone else feels, pay attention.

Don't ignore creepy. If the thought is even there, then it's best to just let it go, with very few exceptions.


Thank you. Good advice to live by. Part of the confusion may have come from it not feeling creepy when the thought first occurred to me, but as I thought about it some more (since I couldn't actually do there and then) then it became creepy. So there was a conflict between the spontaneous "hey, that would be fun!" and the budding "this is starting to feel potentially creepy".

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You wouldn't be considering doing this for a SECOND if it had been a guy that texted you by mistake.

If I had thought about him and his situation twice before forgetting, then yeah I would actually have considered doing it. In fact, I might have done it without putting any more thought into it because then the whole scary/creepy thought would have been moot. The difference is that I did think twice about it in this case because hey, I'm a guy; I'm more inclined to think about women than men (please don't confuse "thinking" with "obsessing").

-

PS You sound pretty lonely, which being stuck in a small town can do for you. How about this is a bit of a wakeup call and maybe you can start down the meeting new people path (internet dating, meetups, etc.)?

I already commented on this viewpoint, but it seems to strike a nerve every time I read it. Maybe I'm a bit lonely. I sure used to be, though it took a long time to realize it. But I really don't feel lonely any more. I have enough friends and romantic relationships to keep me happy for the time being. I'm quite content with the way things are were they are headed. Sure, I'm still looking to expand my social circles and add new ones, but I don't need random names from the phone book to do so. On the other hand I don't want to miss out on possibly fun experiences or chance encounters just because they are not by the book. Actually, let me rephrase that: I don't want to miss out on possibly fun experiences and chance encounters, especially not if they are not by the book. So far this has served me well, though maybe I nearly took it too far this time.

-

I think you really, really need to get that this woman has probably not thought of you. You are not in any way on her mind. Her life has gone on from a simple typographical error. It's not malicious or rude, but she has a life that probably does not include thinking about random interactions beyond 'oh, they happen.'

You, by contrast, have fixated on this to the point of looking her up and asking strangers on the internet for advice.

Why do you assume you're on her radar at all? She probably won't even recognize the mistyped number if she reprogrammed the mistaken contact.

Other people don't think about us the way or amount we think about ourselves. That is true for all of us. Why do you think you'd be an exception? Or, rather, why do you want to make yourself an exception?


(Ah, here it is, the point about her not thinking of me.) I don't assume I'm on her radar at all; I know I'm not. That's what would -- err, I mean might -- make it fun to do. Because it would be totally unexpected.

-

The very fact you posted this scarily over-detailed question makes this creepy, even without other details like the fact that you googled her number.

So you're saying it would have been fine if I had kept it simple, e.g. limited my question to the first paragraph? Or even better, if I had gone ahead without bringing it up here at all? How would that change anything? Posting here is a consequence of reflecting on the situation and not wanting to scare or creep her out. You're basically saying I'm creepy by the mere act of being conscious and trying to not creep someone out.

----

Phew. Overwhelmed. I sort of saw the negativity coming, but the sheer magnitude of it was impressive. I'm not completely oblivious to the plight of women, but I didn't realize that the problem was this common and massive. I have of course decided not to go ahead with this.

I appreciate that there were a few -- even women -- who thought it would have been fine, and some more who thought it could have been fine if done in the moment. You provided some much needed pick-me-ups while processing this :) This also goes for those who shared their stories (even though there were some key differences, as others were quick to point out).

I will get around to reading the recommended threads. Some of them had already been on my to-read list for a while. That's the kind of data I love reading even though it sometimes forces me through an uncomfortable change of perceptions.

Oh, and hey, I learned a new word: skeeved

Alright, wrapping up. Thanks to every single one of you who replied. Thank you for your (brutal) honesty. I read every comment at least once, most twice, and some three or four times. I dare say every single one made an impact one way or the other. Pat yourselves on your backs. You may very well have saved a poor girl from some serious torment. Or maybe you just disarmed what would have exploded into a fantastically romantic fairy tale-style story penned by the gods themselves (even though that wasn't my intention going in. HONEST!!). Who knows? :P
posted by spr at 9:24 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


bummer--i kinda wanted you to just go for it.
posted by apostrophe at 10:04 PM on November 15, 2010


Side-effects may include: a story to tell, additional confidence in interpersonal relationships, a lesson in human nature.

Look on the bright side, spr: you still got quite a lesson in human nature. :)
posted by wondermouse at 8:51 AM on November 16, 2010


This thread was pretty painful to read as another former shyguy who had to learn to take the occasional risk. I also hope to be an ally for the women in my life who suffer harassment or who overcome abuse and I've certainly witnessed the female-attention-entitlement culture.

I think the backlash here shouldn't be taken personally. Everyone who commented strongly went into strong mode because that is the *only* way to deal with potential harassers and you have to set the frame quickly and doubtlessly. Nobody knows OP from Adam.

On the flip side, there are a lot of people, men and women, who recieve no attention at all in the public sphere and the most shy of these people feel emotionally neglected for it.

One of the risks of overcoming shyness is the risk of inadvertently triggering someone else's anxiety. Tread with good intentions and try not to become jaded. I blame the misogynists who uphold the system in the first place.

This was a pretty borderline Yea/nay case in my opinion but seeing as how OP would have lost a lot of potential MeFite friends over something that was supposed to be whimsical, this is a good outcome.
posted by Skwirl at 1:26 PM on November 16, 2010


Thank you for your (brutal) honesty.

If it makes you feel better, I think you should be reading these responses as judgments on how your actions would be perceived, rather than how you are as a person. Some of them were pretty harsh, but I hope that most people would at least agree with me that we can't write you off as a creepo based on one askme post, but we are certainly able to write off your proposal as totes creepo.
posted by Think_Long at 3:44 PM on November 16, 2010


Ok. Your long response makes me want to add something, because I empathize with your hurt feelings and I don't think you're a creep in the bad way, so I want to explain why that word and words like it kept coming up in this thread.

I would like to point out- and you've kind of proved it twice with this question- that, objectively speaking, you are more obsessive, on baseline, than most people. Even among MeFites, who are, as a group, also more likely to be obsessive than most people. This is not a judgement; all human qualities exist in continuum, and most qualities are useful in some application. (I'm also more obsessive than most people, as you can see by the length of the comment I'm about to write).

Your desire to analyze this situation and its possible outcomes, and your very very thorough responses to almost every reply in the thread, both prove that you are pretty tireless in your analyses. Look at any responses from OPs anywhere else on site- you will be hard-pressed to find a thread where the OP excerpts and replies to thirty different comments, with identical formatting and italics each time. You are not average in this aspect of your personality. You are unusual.

So commenters here who mentioned words like "stalker" are giving you important information to decode. They don't actually know if you're a real stalker, but they are using that word as shorthand to tell you that Most People don't analyze this much about casual things. Sometimes the skewed mindset of a stalker interprets casual things as Important Symbols Worthy of Major Analysis, and that is scary and weird. So if you analyze casual things this much, YOU might be scary and weird. That's the subtext here. It sounds harsh and personal and attacky, but it's not about you, it's about the behaviour you admit to and display, and which is different than the Norm.

What's so great about being Normal?, you say? You'd rather be quirky and surprising? Well, to some extent I agree, and I myself am proud that I'm a bit offbeat. But Normal means something valuable. It means, "I have noticed all the social rules and unverbalized communications that help other people feel safe. I value everyone's right to be able to basically predict what will happen to them in most interactions, because that basic predictability keeps them feeling safe. I understand and choose to abide by the basic pattern." There is definitely value in that, even if it does sound boring. It gives everyone else space to feel safe, when most of us play by the Normal rules.

Frankly, I really really genuinely WANT my bus ride home at 2am to feel normal and boring. I don't want some stranger, especially not an unknown man, thinking I need a little quirky surprise to shake me up. That will make me feel scared and resentful and angry and helpless, and will RUIN my night. You say you don't want that either. OK, well that's the value in Normal. It's a genuine value. Especially to women.

Now. Personally, I believe your assertion that you aren't a stalker. You didn't analyze things with this girl because you think you've found your future wife. No, you analyze ALL things this much, because you are Mr. Analysis. You need to realize this about yourself, and own it, and you need to understand how others might feel about it, and you need to quickly decode when you're overwhelming people with your natural analysis habits, and therefore giving them the wrong idea.

"Stalker, creepy, obsessed, weird"- these are not meant as insults to hurt you. They are very valuable clues to tell you that your behaviour is making it look like you don't think other people's right to basic-Normal-safe-predictability is important. People say these words because they worry that you may be losing sight of appropriate empathy (she may be scared) because of too much intellectual curiosity (but it might be interestingl!). It might even mean people are scared that you're not seeing the humanity in the object of your analysis. They mean "back off because you are breaking a social taboo". That's what a lot of the comments mean in this thread. There is a lot of value in those comments. I'm glad you took them to heart although I'm sorry they hurt your feelings.

Analysis isn't bad. Over-analysis- and let's use that as a shorthand for "More analysis than Most People would tend to apply to the same situation", which is what you've done here in both your question and your responses- overanalysis isn't necessarily bad either. It can be overwhelming and paralyzing when you try to make a decision, but that's your own problem and you can handle it, and it isn't in and of itself bad. But it is unusual. It's not Normal. And it can be offputting, because Most People don't analyze casual things this much. They only analyze things they're obsessed with this much.

So people see "He analyzed for hours" and they interpret it as "He is obsessed".

You say you're not obsessed with her, ok cool. But you do need to know, as an adult, that you in particular, tend to analyze casual things more than Most People. It's not Normal (it's not bad, either, but it's Not Normal). And it could be connected to being creepy, so some people will think You're creepy. So be aware of this. Especially because you're a man and you admit you're sometimes awkward- two other traits that can turn into a red flashing SCARY SCARY sign very quickly.

It's too bad that a baseline behaviour that's normal and natural for you, and in fact which probably helps you at work, will also read as creepy to some people. But knowing that, you can just mitigate your behaviours appropriately. When you turn your powers of analysis on casual encounters with women, it'll be a red flag for almost anyone you mention it to. Try using your intuition instead of your analysis in those situations. Your intuition is pretty good- it said "this might be creepy" and it was right. It was your analysis that went wandering off about how cool it might be. Analysis is good with data; maybe experiment with more intuition for interactions. People are unpredictable little animals anyway, so your animal intuition will often be righter than your facty word-brain. That is my advice to you.

Finally, I really don't mean this as an attack at all, and I hope I didn't hurt your feelings. And I hope you consider this carefully in future interactions, particularly with unknown women.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:52 AM on November 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Thanks you for that very insightful response.

I know very well that I analyze and obsess more than most people. I even mentioned it in the OP. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm a perfectionist to a fault and I know it. It's not always a good thing, it can wear me out, but it mostly serves me well. I feel good about this part of myself. Proud even. And I appreciate your not making this seem like a universally bad trait :) I do keep the vast majority of my personal thoughts to myself in real life, and people around me don't know (beyond me having told them "I tend to analyze things a lot") that I tend to analyze things a lot. In short, I have yet to be thought a stalker or creep in real life (well, to my knowledge that is).

I wasn't hurt, no need to worry. I was surprised that it didn't take more to be labeled a stalker and it was exhausting to go through all the negativity, but that's all. I consider myself to be more than the sum of a single post on the web. Also, like I said (at least I think I did) and you thoughtfully expanded on, my obsession was not with her, but with the situation. Seems many of the posters missed this distinction.

My intention with using words like "brutal" and "harsh" wasn't to entice sympathy or make people feel bad. It was just a light-hearted observation and confirmation that I got what I asked for. No hurt or hard feelings implied :)

As for being normal, I'm not a rebel hoping to break every rule and step on everyones toes in the process. I'm not trying to be weird or quirky or surprising. I'm just giving myself the choice to do it and be it without defaulting to just falling in line. I'm not afraid to be normal, boring or even predictable, but I don't want to make it a rule unquestioned either. That's why I came here in the first place, because I was questioning my own rule of now regrets.

I responded in depth because I thought about it in depth, and writing out the responses forced me to check my attitudes and opinions properly and not just brush off the contradicting opinions of others. I don't see why the discussion needs to stop after two turns.

Again, you needn't worry about having hurt my feelings, and I don't feel attacked. This is me living and learning. This is what I came here for. And yeah, I'll be careful. I'll play nice.
posted by spr at 5:15 PM on November 23, 2010


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