Please don't flirt with me!
October 25, 2008 9:46 AM   Subscribe

How to maintain self-respect without trashing a friend?

I have a friend who comes to visit on occasion. I've known him for a long time (since high school) and while we've never been particularly close, he's very cool and easy-going, and I like hanging out with him well enough. Lately, though, he's been REALLY OBVIOUSLY hitting on me in a way I don't appreciate. He has dated / been attached to previous friends of mine, and these relationships haven't really worked out for him. I feel like he's effectively using me as a replacement for these other girls.

This is obviously not particularly flattering, and often quite awkward for me (I don't like being referred to as "sexy" or "beautiful" when I'm clearly not flirting back). At the same time, it's largely innocuous - he's a nice guy, mostly harmless, and really interesting to talk to when he's not being kind of a jerk about this. What I'd really like to do, of course, is be able to hang out with him without the song and dance --- just talk like normal people, be friendly, and hang out without having to navigate this (unreciprocated) sexual tension.

I know the easiest solution is just to avoid him. But you know, people are mostly good and I think deserve the benefit of doubt -- or at least, tolerance of minor flaws. Also, I don't see him so often that I feel like this is really a problem (it's mostly just an annoyance).

Still, it's something i'd like to fix.

Any thoughts on how to best approach this?
posted by puckish to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"hey, i like you as a friend and it's really fun to hang out, but as i've seen your personal dating history and i know how things with X and Y went down, i'd feel more comfortable if you'd treat me like one of the guys"

and then he'll either get super offended or he'll deal. either one will show you if you were right about saying he's a good guy.
posted by nadawi at 9:58 AM on October 25, 2008

hi there, puckish. i agree that there's nothing wrong with giving this long-time friend of yours the benefit of the doubt, and you don't need to drop him like a hot potato because it started flirted with you. what you do need to do is tell him you're not interested. loud and clear; you're not rejecting him as a friend, but you are rejecting him as a potential boyfriend/date/lover. otherwise he will keep pawing at you trying to get a reaction until you explode, give in, or he finds someone else. be upfront with him -- a lot of guys don't take hints and require actual communication.
posted by tamarack at 9:58 AM on October 25, 2008

People may be mostly good, but they're also kind of stupid sometimes, and need to be told their behavior is inappropriate or awkward. Next time he says something, stop him. Be direct: "It makes me uncomfortable when you say that kind of thing, please stop." Use his reaction to judge what your next step will be: if he's embarrassed, but takes your request seriously, then you were right and he's a decent person; if he ignores or belittles your request, then he's probably not going to stop pestering you, and you should think about spending your time with people who respect you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:59 AM on October 25, 2008 [6 favorites]

Be aggressively normal with him and the second he starts to get flirty, roll your eyes and say "c'mon dude, cut that shit out" and continue with the previous conversation.
posted by Diskeater at 10:01 AM on October 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

Play the "like you like a brother" card.

The next time he calls you sexy, tell him it makes you feel uncomfortable because you think of him like a brother. That will totally send the signal you want to send without having to talk everything out.
posted by NoraCharles at 10:02 AM on October 25, 2008

ohh, i change my answer to diskeater's, unless that fails, in which case do mine next
posted by nadawi at 10:03 AM on October 25, 2008

Yup, I was just going to suggest that as well. Compare him to your brother, your brother's friends, or some other male relative. He'll get the hint.
posted by Diskeater at 10:04 AM on October 25, 2008

You know this guy better than we do, so you might know what specific approach might work best. I just have this advice.

1. tell the guy you are not interested - you can decide how much you want to be polite about this, but be aware that if he's clueless he might need to be told more directly. If it were me I'd be like "Hey friend, this sort of flirty talk is a little annoying, you're not my type, let's move on from that, okay?" and see what happened after that.
2. if he persists, tell him specifically to stop flirting with you, esp as you've explained it to us [i.e. "stop calling me sexy"]
3. if you have been direct and decent about this, and he does not stop [or esp if he's like "lighten up, don't all women like to be called sexy?"] you can decide if you do need to start avoiding him or not hanging out with him.

I don't know you, but I have known women (and some men) in this sort of situation before and sometimes they think they're sending a stong "stop it" message but what they're doing is hoping someone will read signs/body language/etc. So you may want to try a reality check with one of your friends to see if the problem with him not stopping is, in their opinion, him or you.

Also, all the other stuff, what his motivation might be, whether or not he's been an okay boyfriend to other people, etc, that stuff doesn't matter. It doesn't matter WHY he's flirting if the goal is to get him to stop. The more polite and decent you can be about it -- esp if he's not being an overt masher about it -- the more likely you'll be able to come out of it maintaining your friendhsip. However keep in mind if you've told him he's making you uncomfortable and he persists, that's not really very friendly behavior.
posted by jessamyn at 10:08 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

eep! i would actually stay away from the brother comparison unless you're looking to slap this guy in the face and knee him in the balls. every single male in my life has complained vehemently about that very line and how shitty it is to hear. you're not only saying "i don't want you as a partner" but "you're so sexually revolting that i'd barf if i thought of you naked" - even if it's true, it's not very nice to shove it in his face like that.
posted by nadawi at 10:09 AM on October 25, 2008

"I feel like he's effectively using me as a replacement for these other girls."

That seems a bit presumptuous. He might just happen to dig you a lot. But regardless, if you're uncomfortable with him flirting you need to just come out and tell him so. Tricks like the "I like you like a brother" thing are just dishonest and might end up back firing. Just be honest, tell him he's great to hang out with, but you don't like him in that way and the flirting makes you feel uncomfortable. If he's a good guy, he'll apologise, get embarrassed and stop.
posted by schwa at 10:11 AM on October 25, 2008

Some of the previous strategies have a risk, which is that when you confront him, he'll turn around and say, 'What do you mean? I was just joking around, I'm not attracted to you in the slightest.' Which may or may not be a problem for you.

A common alternative approach for women in this situation, is to talk at excessive length about the men that they *are* interested in romantically, and by doing so, implicitly make it clear that he's not a member of this group. At this point, he'll either make his move, so you can reject him politely without being presumptious. Or he'll wither and die in a bundle of masculine insecurity and you won't have to worry about it any more. Or he'll start being a real dick, and then you can forget him completely.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:12 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Be aggressively normal with him and the second he starts to get flirty, roll your eyes and say "c'mon dude, cut that shit out" and continue with the previous conversation.

Yup - normalize the situation. This works really well by the way, I've used it myself. No need to make a big deal - just make it obvious you're not amused but not offended. If he's really serious about it, he will raise the topic himself, and you can tell him that you just want to be friends. Chances are good, though, that he's not really putting that much energy into it and will stop with enough discouragement.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:17 AM on October 25, 2008

You seem like a very nice person who doesn't want to hurt the guy's feelings or make a small thing into a big thing. You can be nice and still assert yourself, but it takes some fortitude.

Kindly tell him, "I feel uncomfortable when you __________." Then he responds by (probably) saying you're overreacting or misinterpreting. Don't worry about that; he's embarrassed. Just repeat your "it makes me feel uncomfortable" statements, maybe adding that you need him to respect how you feel. It will feel awkward, but there's nothing rude or unkind about it. And nobody can reasonably tell you your feelings are wrong, so you don't need to argue with him. Just wait till he either acquiesces, changes the subject, or shuts down.

If he repeats his unwelcome comments/actions, say, "You know you're making me uncomfortable. It seems like you don't respect my feelings." Again, no arguing or justifying on your part. You can be cool to him unless/until he apologizes or tells you he gets it.

I think being friends is an important thing... not a consolation prize. You two are friends already. I'm in favor of saying, "we're friends" and that you're not looking for "benefits." Saying, "I just want us to be friends" sort of implies that it's something less than lovers. It's not.
posted by wryly at 1:18 PM on October 25, 2008

Best line I've ever received went something along the lines of, "You're attractive, but it is not going to happen." Well it was more smooth than that, but you get the idea. My ego swelled so much I missed I had actually been rejected. I got the message, and didn't feel like I was some sort of ogre. You're question isn't how to reject someone, but how to do it without making your decent, nice friend feel like some sort of social reject? And to give you an idea of how much of a class act the girl was, she even threw a girl who was interested my way that night, "Hey have you met geoff.? He's [nice compliments]." I can't think of a better way of being rejected.
posted by geoff. at 6:01 PM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best line I've ever received went something along the lines of, "You're attractive, but it is not going to happen." Well it was more smooth than that, but you get the idea. My ego swelled so much I missed I had actually been rejected.

Yeah, when I was a young teen, two of us guys were interested in the same girl, and she figured it out, so she was prepared when the other guy (I wasn't quite that crass) just blurted out "which one of us is better looking?" -- she replied (referring first to him, then to me) "you're better looking, but he's sexier." Both of our egos plumped up nicely, and by making it about both of us, we both realized she wasn't interested in either of us.
posted by davejay at 12:55 AM on October 26, 2008

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