A longtime casual friend, that many of my other friends dislike, is moving to my city and expecting us to become much closer friends. However, I don't feel particularly close to this person, our conversations have always been kind of awkward and I'm uncertain we can ever have the close friendship he wants. Should I give it a chance? Is it worth it? How do I handle this situation without hurting anyones feelings? Details inside.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total)
I met my friend, lets call him 'Doc', online in 2005. Doc is in his late 20s, is a large guy (tall and heavy), loud and forceful when he speaks, kind, physically demonstrative with his affection (ie: touches a lot) and the sort of person who spends his time at a party making sure everyone else is having fun/in good spirits/doing damage control - yes, even if it's not his party. He lives several states away, has friends/family, is employed (security), does some volunteer work, but seems very isolated/devoid of close friends. We initially began talking because of our mutual interest in a specific genre of art/stories and became a little closer because of a few other shared interests. He's been a presence through several very trying periods in my life (including a very messy break up), is accepting of who I am (I'm transgendered; post-op FtM) and is supportive of what I do. The friendship has always toed the line of casual for me as he's good friends with my ex (and has guilt-tripped me in the past over not forgiving/communicating with said ex) and we haven't had enough conversations about our lives, in my opinion, to connect on a deeper level yet. Our friendship appears to be much deeper/closer for him even though we keep in pretty infrequent contact (every few weeks/months but increasingly so). We've met several times over the years, but mostly in the context of parties or conventions.
Contact with Doc is usually pleasant, but has a tendency to end awkwardly. He revealed very early on that he was romantically interested in me, even though he knew I was in a relationship at the time (not the same relationship I am in presently) and even though he identifies as strictly gay (recoils at vagina - which I do have - and partly why I 'came out' to him when he professed his attraction for me). I was flattered and I thanked him, but was pretty clear (I think) that the romantic interest was not mutual. Since Doc has had a couple of relationships over the years, I thought we had moved on.
Except that doesn't appear to be the case and I can't help but notice that nearly all of my conversations with Doc inevitably end up the same way: him gushing about how attractive he finds me, how much he'd love to fool around with me (which -really- confuses me at best and makes me kind of feel like a novelty sex toy at worst) and how happy/lucky he is that we're such good friends. I am NOT a self-confident person, so at first I was flattered by these sentiments - and I thanked him for them (as well as for his friendship), but the topic always persisted, resulting in my not knowing what to say (which I have told him. literally.), a general feeling of awkwardness and ultimately the death of the conversation itself (I simply stop responding and this doesn't appear to bother him). This has been going on for several years.
At one point I reached out to some close mutual friends for advice on how I could approach the subject without offending Doc and was surprised to learn that a significant number of them can't stand him. Some have cut him off entirely, some are reaching that point, and everyone else just seems to be tolerating him to avoid confrontation. More importantly, I also discovered that even my partner -really- dislikes Doc. Given that my partner is the calm, level-headed, more extroverted one in our relationship, it's unusual - and he pointed to a few interactions he had with Doc that made him very uncomfortable, such as Doc introducing him to other people as his 'good friend' (even though they do not talk) and especially the touching (bearhugging, grabbing, restraining, ect.). He describes Doc as a creeper, manipulative, someone who forces their friendship on others, a liar and someone who doesn't bring anything to the friendship (ie: all 'taker').
I do see some of these qualities in Doc. He does lie, yes, usually about being friends with people he hardly knows, and his physical demonstrations of affection (bearhugs, particularly from behind) can be -very- unsettling/disrespectful for people (such as my partner). However, his behaviors don't seem severe enough for everyone to have such negative views about him. Everyones complaint just seems to be that he tries way too hard and they don't like him, which I feel like he could do something about if people were open with him about their issues (ie: tell him directly "you do x. It makes me feel like y and that's why we're not friends."). But maybe they have, and it didn't help. I don't know.
MeFi... I could really use some more objective takes on this. I'm at a point in life where I want to strengthen the relationships that matter. I don't have a lot of experience navigating friendships or interacting with people (and unfortunately what little I have is mostly negative). My inexperience is making it impossible for me to determine whether I should strengthen my friendship with Doc or continue to keep the friendship casual (or at all?). Am I being way too naive here? Is Doc's behavior creepy? Am I overlooking red flags? Should I try to talk to him about it? If so, how? How can I bring up these issues I have without hurting his feelings and/or avoiding drama now that he'll be living so close?
Thanks for your help and I apologize if I left anything out in an effort to keep things anonymous.