I hate my roommate's boyfriend. Help!
July 29, 2011 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I really, really dislike my roommate/friend's boyfriend. How do I deal with him?

I have a three roommates, and we're all very close friends. We're in our early twenties. A few months ago, one, "Emily", started dating a new guy- "Chester." Chester is, well, a jerk. He is loud, crass, and frequently makes jokes at others' expense. He seems to have decided that certain areas of my life are ripe for joking about - which means that I've heard several comments from him, in large groups or around other friends, that imply he thinks I'm a drunk slut. Other friends back me up on this, confirming that they don't like him either, and that he is in general ruder to me than others. Referring to someone as a drunk slut in my friend group is not something we do - we are sarcastic and jokey, but not like this.

So far, my response has been to basically ignore him. I give him a cold stare when he makes comments like this to me, and start talking to someone else. Emily either hasn't noticed how he treats me, or maybe she thinks that this is just playful teasing on his part. I said something to Emily about Chester a week ago, when she and I were both relatively drunk. Her response was non-committal, saying that she cared about both of us. She sort of said that she would talk to him about how he treats me, but she didn't seem super concerned or upset. (In general, my relationship with Emily is quite strong.)

How do I deal with Chester? He is frequently over my apartment with Emily. I'm at the point where just the sound of his voice sets me off, and I can hardly stand to be in the same room as he is. At the same time, Emily will surely notice (and be hurt) if I simply ignore him all the time.
posted by spectacularicity to Human Relations (55 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
my response has been to basically ignore him

If you don't tell him his behavior is wrong, he'll never know. You and your friends need to clearly and directly point out his behavior every time he pulls this shit. Ya'll need to have zero tolerance here.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:57 AM on July 29, 2011 [20 favorites]

If you can comfortably do this I would talk to Chester one on one. I would look him directly in the eye very close to his face and tell him to stop the crap. Tell him you do not think it is funny or witty and you will not put up with it. Usually when you confront one of these passive-aggressive types they back off.
posted by shaarog at 8:57 AM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

"If that's how you talk to women, then I feel really bad for your girlfriend."
posted by hermitosis at 8:59 AM on July 29, 2011 [22 favorites]

Don't tell Emily how much of a dick he is (which is to say, don't make her choose sides). I've been the Emily in this situation, and (regardless of whether or not it was the right thing to do) I supported the Chester. And it just made me mad at my spectacularicity.

But please feel free to tell Chester to stfu. If my Chester had been put in his place more often when he insulted people, I think he would have realized that he wasn't going to be able to get away with treating people like crap. Avoid him when he's there, tell Emily you'd prefer not to hang out with them when they're together, and if Chester calls you a drunk slut, tell him in no uncertain terms that he is not allowed to insult you in your own home.
posted by phunniemee at 9:00 AM on July 29, 2011

1st it seems sad that your friend is non-committal. In life you kind of have to let people know what your boundries are. Whenever "Chester" does this I would say I really don't appreciate that and then pause pause pause until you get a response. It's takes some effort to do this because it's human nature to want to justify what your feeling, but in this case you don't have to justifty. Also it will put him on the spot to explain his juvenile behaviour. I'm sure if you do this a few times he'll understand your boundry...
Also, your friend is not a very dedicated friend if she doesn't address your boundry to her "Chester"..

Hope that helps.
posted by kmurray24 at 9:02 AM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Bizarrely having hung around guys like "Chester" I suspect he thinks he's flirting with you. OK that maybe a long shot. Seriously though maybe you could come out with some sort of snarky comeback to put him in his place like "Yet I could never be drunk enough to sleep with you". if that's something you'd feel comfortable with. People like that don't seem to like having their own games played on them. Or you could do the grown up thing and simply say something like "I am uncomfortable with your jokes" or "Do you really think that is appropriate?" but in your words. Then if he does it again in front of other people he looks like the ass.
posted by wwax at 9:03 AM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'd speak up to him instead of glaring.

Also, I have to admit I'm also wondering why, if your other friends don't like it when he insults you either, why they aren't saying anything themselves.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:04 AM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

If someone came into MY domicile and behaved like that, the response would be "Shut your fucking hole, or get out of my house." Especially if you have the explicit support of the other roommates. Sucks for Em to have to take sides, but she better learn to wipe her shoes - you do not track shit into a home you share with others.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:05 AM on July 29, 2011 [22 favorites]

Yes, as others have basically said, this is what shame is good for.

I don't think you should worry about Emily's feelings re: not spending time with them together, but if you continue to do so, point out that he's being a dick. This is not the same as going to Emily outside of the situation and making her choose between the two of you. That, from her perspective, would feel, rightly, weird. It's theoretical. But if in practice she's forced to have to choose between having a boyfriend who treats women poorly and not, which is what you pointing it out will do, she'll be more prone to open her eyes on her own -- or be more prone to get Chester to change or dump him.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:06 AM on July 29, 2011

Pull him aside, though not too far aside, at the next group thing:

"Chester, I'm going to say this to you bluntly because you've missed all the hints so far. The way you act embarasses and annoys me, it embarasses and annoys some of Emily's other friends - ask them directly if you like - and it's certain to embarass and annoy Emily sooner or later. Nobody likes a boor. The next time you start acting like a dick, I'm going to call you out on it in front of Emily and whoever else is present. That's it. I have nothing else to say to you, and I don't particular care about your perspective on this."

Then turn and walk away to rejoin everyone else.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:10 AM on July 29, 2011 [24 favorites]

I give him a cold stare

This doesn't do anything. It's easy to miss or misinterpret. You have to speak up. I wouldn't give him a heads up. Next time he says something like that, tell him that he is not to speak about or to you like that.

Just make sure you keep your cool, so that he and Emily can't write it off as you overreacting. (He could think your'e reacting to only that one event, rather than a series of insults, since you haven't brought this up before.)
posted by spaltavian at 9:14 AM on July 29, 2011

Emily is hurting you by having Chester around and by doing nothing while he repeatedly does something that you've told her bothers you.

So while I don't really think it even would "hurt her" for you to ignore her boyfriend, that shouldn't even factor into your behavior. Chester is doing something that bothers you. You gave Emily the opportunity to address it and handle it her way, and her way was to do absolutely nothing at all. Now it’s your turn to address and handle it your way.

I think ignoring him is the least offensive thing you could do here.

How about “Oh my God already, is this still supposed to be funny?” said in all seriousness without laughing or even cracking a smile. Or “Oh, good one Chester. Now let’s step up our game a try a joke from 9th grade this time.” Or “Okay Chester, maybe if we got to know each other better you could come up with a more original thing to [air quotes] make fun of me [/air quotes] about? Except that you’re annoying so it wouldn’t even be worth it for me.” Or just a classic “I don’t get. Why is that funny?” and actually wait for him to reply.

And as for Emily being upset if you stop hanging out with her when he's involved, you can just say "Oh well, remember that time when I told you that it really bothers me when Chester does such-and-such? Well he still does it and it still bothers me, so yeah, I'm not really into being around him anymore. See you when you get back!"

Bringing in other people, the other friends who allegedly feel the same as you but are too chicken to stand up for you, is just going to turn this into a gigantic dramafest. As nice as I know it would be, you don't need other people backing up on this to feel justified. He's making stupid jokes, and they bother you, so he needs to stop with the jokes. Any normal grown-up person who cares about his girlfriend and therefore her friends would stop with the jokes.
posted by thebazilist at 9:20 AM on July 29, 2011

Be as blunt as possible. Nothing else will get through to this guy. Emily will get upset. Too bad, she's the one who "tracked shit into your house," as FatherDagon expertly put it.
posted by desjardins at 9:21 AM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Fuck off Chester, no one thinks you're funny."
posted by windbox at 9:22 AM on July 29, 2011 [24 favorites]

Here's my cynical perspective, having been through something very similar -- do not enlist Emily's help in making this better. In fact, don't ever let on that you're displeased with Chester's behavior or that you don't like him. Don't point it out to him or stare coldly -- I'm sure he knows you don't like it. You can't win in situations like this. People get so weirdly defensive about their relationships, they just block out everything else.

If I were you, if you want to keep the friendship with Emily, I'd move out (since otherwise you can't avoid Chester), see her for lunch or something every so often, and when she talks about herself and Chester, just murmur "so happy for you guys" type stuff.

FWIW, in my case, when the relationship went bust years later, my "Emily" came back round and we're friends again. But we definitely lost several years because I made the mistake of confronting the situation with the Chester (even though I did so politely) and the ensuing discomfort was too much for the couple to deal with.
posted by sweetkid at 9:25 AM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, and by blunt I do not mean sarcastic or passive aggressive comments or yelling. I do not mean "you hurt my feelings." (He doesn't care.) I mean you must say the exact words "Stop being an ass" in the most calm and collected voice you can. Ignore anything further unless it's an apology. Change the subject. Do not get in an argument. Do not raise your voice. Do not show anger or hurt. If he makes another insulting remark, say "you're still being an ass."
posted by desjardins at 9:25 AM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

At a low point in my life, I've been Emily. One of my roommates suffered in silence, the other tried to give me pep talks to get me to see that I could do so much better than the moron boyfriend and/or would be far more at peace being alone. It took a year and a half to totally get out of the moron's web of guilt trips, blackmail, and reconciliations, but I did it, and I sincerely appreciate the roommate who intervened, even though it took time for it to do any good. I still feel terrible that I made either one of them put up with him. So with your situation, if this is how bad he treats you, he's probably worse still to Emily. So your making her aware of the problems with Chester might confirm what she probably already knows--he's a tool.
posted by lily_bart at 9:26 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Call him out. "You seem to like calling people sluts" I'd prefer it if you'd stop." Flat out in front of as many people as possible, one second after he says it.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:28 AM on July 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think cold stares and calling him out are wastes of time. Treat him like some stranger's daft dog. Don't act annoyed, act amused. "There you go again" is a useful phrase. If you can pull it off, laughing at him is far more devastating to his shaky sense of self-esteem. You find his antics to be amusing, albeit pathetic, cries for attention and approval. Sad, really.

Never let him see that he got to you. He thinks you're a slut? "Why, Chester--how do you know anything about sluts? From what I hear, you're not exactly a ladies' man." and so on. Turn him into a figure of fun. You can easily get others to join you, trust me, but only if you are supremely cool and calm about it. And don't get drunk with Emily any more.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:30 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

She sort of said that she would talk to him about how he treats me

You and Chester are two adult people interacting with each other. It's your responsibility to tell him that you're not okay with his behavior.

Yes, you are only being subjected to this boor because your friend has shitty taste in men. It's irrelevant. It's on you to say "that's not an okay way to talk to me." If it happens when you've all been drinking then you shut it down w/o discussion and revisit it the next time you see him sober - nobody wins in a drunken argument about boundaries, particularly when one person is a clueless boor.

It's only "Emily"'s problem if/when he persists in treating you poorly and she's passively or actively complicit. But you need to take responsibility for telling other people when they behave inappropriately towards you. Chester is not someone's kid who it's inappropriate for you to discipline. He's an adult (in body anyway) who you need to speak to as another adult.
posted by phearlez at 9:33 AM on July 29, 2011

I mean you must say the exact words "Stop being an ass"

I would suggest going further and be specific, saying "Knock it off with the jokes about my drinking , who I'm having sex with or anything else you want to make fun about me. I didn't ask for it, don't want it and don't like it, so quit it."

If he continues, then say "I asked you not to do that, please stop."

Emily? If she's going to allow her BF to pull that shit, then she is not your concern.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:39 AM on July 29, 2011 [10 favorites]

I am not sure of the best way to deal with it--I always prefer the face to face (one on one) away from the crowd. But I do know that "phearlez" is absolutely right about one thing. No matter how you choose to deal with it--hands off the alcohol while doing it. If you choose to ignore it that means do not drink while trying to ignore it. You are likely to either numb yourself, stew internally and be even more resentful or lose control of the argument. The only problem solved by immoderate alcohol intake is rationality.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:45 AM on July 29, 2011

You said something ONCE to your roommate while you were both a bit drunk, yeah depending on how casual that little bit was, I doubt she was thinking "oh my this is serious!" she was probably thinking "oh, I tolerate him, he's not that bad, I think you're being a little oversensitive" and kinda forgot. You need to bring up that sort of thing again, when you're not drunk, as a group of friends when the bf's not present - make her aware of the specific things he does that make you all uncomfortable. Shit sandwich (positive-negative-positive criticism) --> We know you like him a lot so we're doing our best to see what you see. But he's really offending me with these comments (specific examples here). if he didn't make such rude comments all the time, he might be fun to hang out with. Could you please talk to him and get him to dial it way back? Thanks!"

But first you should tell him off yourself. He's an ignorant dick, and this is exactly the kind of person who you have to verbally kick in the nuts to make them aware of it. Your subtlety is failing you. If all you're doing is giving him cold stares and ignoring him, well that's apparently the kind of reaction he's enjoying getting from you if he keeps doing it. Guys like him don't think "oh, I hurt her feelings!" when you glare at him, he thinks "yeah, I totally got you good there!" If you want to make him stop, you need to embarrass him back by calling him on his shitty behaviour in front of a few people.
posted by lizbunny at 9:46 AM on July 29, 2011

"Fuck off Chester, no one thinks you're funny."

This is a wonderful ice breaker. I almost guarantee that he'll act like you're joking at first. Don't laugh, or smile. Give him the stink eye and say, "I mean it. Cut that shit out. I'm sick of it. We all are."

Brandon Blatcher's wording is good, too, except I'd avoid saying please with guys like that. They never seem to respect basic politeness and instead tend to see it as weakness.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:51 AM on July 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

He is loud, crass, and frequently makes jokes at others' expense. He seems to have decided that certain areas of my life are ripe for joking about ... we are sarcastic and jokey, but not like this.

Do you know what he's like around his own group(s) of friends? Different groups inevitably have different norms for what is and isn't acceptable in banter within the group. I (a guy) generally have the impression that mostly-male circles of friends tend to be more crass and overtly insulting to each other than mostly-female circles.

From your description, I'd guess that he's used to a harsher crowd and isn't aware how far over the line he's stepping, or that he's genuinely hurting your feelings. It's not great that he lacks that awareness, but ignorance is more easily cured than malevolence. Pull him aside some time and, keeping as friendly as you can, point out that "when you joke about x, y, z you're taking it way too far to be funny and genuinely hurting my feelings. Please, tone down x and don't joke about y, z at all".

If he ignores this and carries on treating you badly after you've explained how you feel, then he's definitely an ass, not just socially clumsy, and it's time start avoiding him and explaining to his gf exactly why.
posted by metaBugs at 9:53 AM on July 29, 2011

Talk to him directly. It's not unthinkable that he believes he's being jokey in a playful way. Some people are really tone-deaf about things like that. It's just a possibility, but one worth considering.

The next time he says something inappropriate like that (assumedly in a group setting), say to him, "Chester, can I talk to you in the hallway (or wherever is private) real quick?"

Once you're alone, remain perfectly calm and non-aggressive and tell him something along these lines:

"Okay, Chester, here's the deal. We haven't had a lot of time to really get to know one another, so it might not be obvious that the comments you're making about me are really rude and disrespectful. I'm asking you, respectfully from one adult to another, to stop. You're basically calling me a drunk slut, and that is not treatment I accept from others. Honestly, I don't need to know if you're just trying to do playful teasing or if you actually have a problem with me or your perceptions of me. What matters is that it's not okay for you to say these things about me. You're Emily's boyfriend and I'm glad that you make her happy, and right now you are welcome in our home and I'd like to keep it that way. I'm not asking you to change your opinion of me or my life. I'm asking you to keep your opinions, and your jokes, about me to yourself. If you want to talk about this sometime I'd be happy to do so, but what I'm asking for - that you stop with these jokes and comments about me - is not negotiable. Thanks so much."

Then walk back in.

From that point on, very simply, it's a matter of whether he keeps it up or not. If he doesn't, great. If he does, then at the most you need to remind him publicly one time that you're really not okay with that (if you do it in public, feel free to preface it with "I'm not trying to be a killjoy, but..." and this is for the sake of the general comfort level of the room, not his own). If he still does it after that then it's time for a house meeting where it is established that you (including the other roommates) have given him a chance to stop being shitty to you and he has not done so and at this point he's not welcome in the house anymore. Something like that.

It'll be awkward, because it always is, but with any luck he's just a bonehead who thinks he's being playful.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:56 AM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

"I get that maybe this is the way you get your yuks with friends -- but I am not your friend."
posted by kmennie at 9:57 AM on July 29, 2011

At the same time, Emily will surely notice (and be hurt) if I simply ignore him all the time.

This right here is everything that's wrong with how girls are socialized. Let Emily notice and get hurt. It is not your responsibility to put up with her boyfriend's insults in order to protect her feelings.

When you're in a social group and the resident "just joking" jerk starts "just joking" at your expense, it's really, really uncomfortable to risk spoiling the mood for everyone by saying something that directly addresses his behavior. Because the rest of the group all know that Chester is just like that, and they're all trying to have a good time in spite of him, and when you call him out on his bad behavior, they can't keep pretending it isn't happening. But I think that's what you have to do.

I'd aim for a calm but zero-tolerance approach, using one of the responses suggested above. I particularly like desjardins' wording. The trick is to believe that your dignity--your right to stand up to someone who is blatantly insulting you--is more important than your friends' social comfort.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:03 AM on July 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

To give a slightly different perspective, I was a lot like Chester in my early 20's -- that is to say, completely ignorant of social cues and used to a much more biting group of friends than most people would be comfortable with. I can remember several instances where I said something that seemed normal at the time but in retrospect was incredibly rude, and worse, I didn't understand people's social cues that they were hurt until they flat out said it to me.

It's worth considering that he's being ignorant rather than mean. Pulling him aside for a one-on-one when nobody's been drinking will give him the chance to evaluate his behavior in a non-threatening way. If he continues after that, well, let him have it with both barrels in front of people, because then he's being a jerk and not just awkward.
posted by zug at 10:05 AM on July 29, 2011

Thanks everyone for the answers so far... some really excellent points. I agree that I should talk to him directly about it, rather than bringing Emily into it (at least right away). Obviously, I have a problem with confrontations (or I wouldn't be asking this question), so the answers that relate to what exactly to say to him are great.

I guess the next point then is: until he makes another comment like this and I call him out on it, how can I force myself to be at least civil to him?
posted by spectacularicity at 10:08 AM on July 29, 2011

I find that the kinds of guys who make these sort of jokey put-downs are the insecure types who learned everything they know about socializing from dopey male-oriented sitcoms, and he's basically playing one of the characters. It will take a while and a lot of awkward incidents before it sinks in that he can be his real self and people will still like him and want to be his friend.

So, maybe try to keep that in mind when you confront him (as others have said, preferably in front of others: "You know this is real life and not television, right? And that you don't get to just talk to people that way if you expect them to ever want to speak to you again?"
posted by hermitosis at 10:10 AM on July 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

Tell him if he calls you a drunk slut again you will slap him, and then follow up, making sure there are lots of friends to back you up.

Sometimes the only thing trogs like this understand is the threat of violence.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:14 AM on July 29, 2011

BTW, I don't think talking to him about it will work. I think the best thing to do if you go down the talk route is to plan an "intervention" with some of your friends first. Tell them what you plan to do, and then plan to have them in the room.

When he calls you a drunk slut or whatever, say something like "are you calling me a drunk slut? Fuck off, asshole." And get your friends to chime in, in your support. This will require some planning, but I think it will be effective, because it become him vs. the group, instead of him vs. you, which is what he desperately wants (to find an isolated person to pick on).
posted by KokuRyu at 10:18 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Referring to someone as a drunk slut in my friend group is not something we do

I see no reason for you not to tell him to shut the fuck up the next time he does this. I further see no reason to treat him civilly in the interim. He already thinks you're a drunken slut. Why worry if he also thinks you're a bitch?

disclaimer: I have a really short fuse for shit like this so very clearly YMMV.
posted by elizardbits at 10:23 AM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

People have given you good Chester-related advice. I have Emily advice. One of my good friends was Emily (though we were not living together, thank God; I can't imagine being around Chester that much more often!). The VERY FIRST TIME I met Chester he was a DICKBAG to me, and I quickly figured out it was because he was jealous of/threatened by my close friendship with Emily. Emily was eager for him to make a good impression on me and for the two of us to get along, and in that VERY FIRST MEETING he went out of his way to be nasty to me, making cruel jokes and trying to exclude me, and that continued the entire time they dated.

My method of dealing with Chester was to avoid him and, when forced to socialize with him, ignore him as much as possible and socialize with others and, like you, give him cold looks when he was a jerk. Responding at all seemed to egg him on. This did put me a little on the margins of our group, since Chester was a center-of-attention, class-clown type who liked to hold court at gatherings, but that was okay. (Being older now, I might tell him to fuck off, but I'm much more likely to get shirty in defense of others; when it's me being attacked, I just get cold and polite and shun the offender. I'm capable of defending myself, I just mostly don't feel a burning need to.)

My method of dealing with EMILY, however, is what I suggest to you. I never said a word against Chester. When she asked why we didn't hang out much, I just said, "I don't think Chester and I have a lot in common, our senses of humor don't seem to mesh" or something non-committal like that. I focused on maintaining my relationship with Emily, knowing she was a smart, strong woman who would eventually get tired of Chester, and my goal was to support Emily. So while she was dating Chester I said nothing against it, and when she broke up with him I supported her more, um, vocally.

Years later, she said, "Man, Chester was such a JERK. I can't believe I dated that douchebag and it took me so long to figure out he was a douchebag." I said, amused, "I figured it out the first time I met him." "Why didn't you SAY anything?" "You would have been mad, and you wouldn't have listened." She thought about it and agreed I was right, she would have been pissed. If Emily is smart and typically has good judgment, just wait it out.

However, they were never in any danger of moving in together or getting married, at which point I would have spoken up.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:41 AM on July 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

I agree with KokuRyu in that I don't think talking to him will work. People who act like assholes don't magically correct themselves after a single talking to.

spectacularicity: "how can I force myself to be at least civil to him?"

You don't. Avoid him as much as you can, ignore him as much as possible when you can't, and only interact with him when you absolutely have to. You are going to have to wait this guy out, or maybe distance yourself from Emily if he becomes permanent.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:45 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

You've gotten a lot of good advice.

I can't recommend strongly enough that you don't HIT the guy, though. Not that you are considering it, but it would definitely have the effect of escalating the situation and would likely turn people from your side to his.
posted by Pax at 10:52 AM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Feel free to burn him in effigy, however.
posted by elizardbits at 11:07 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sometimes when someone says something blatantly offensive like that I like to respond with something along the lines of "let's unpack that statement you just made!"
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:40 AM on July 29, 2011

thebazilist probably has the best advice for dealing with this publicly, which is to loudly ask him to explain why this is funny? Don't let him wriggle off with an attempt to divert attention, either (e.g., "hey, lighten up"). Insist that he answer. It's likely to end up with an answer that reveals him to be either a dick or a total moron, or it will end with an apology.

I'd also recommend that you limit your intake of alcohol whenever you need to deal with Chester, whether it's being in his presence, or discussing it with Emily (if you must). Alcohol consumption destroys your judgment long before you feel any physical effects--it's insidious that way. It's especially unwise to drink more than one drink (if any) when you're in the presence of anyone you can't completely trust, even if you're surrounded by friends. That goes double for people as mean-spirited as Chester.

Last, I'd recommend against threatening or using any kind of physical violence. That's a really stupid way to (try) resolve any conflict, let alone this one.
posted by Hylas at 11:41 AM on July 29, 2011

"Did you seriously just call me a drunk slut...again!? WTF is wrong with you? Jesus."
posted by ian1977 at 11:46 AM on July 29, 2011

I guess the next point then is: until he makes another comment like this and I call him out on it, how can I force myself to be at least civil to him?

Don't, in the slightest. Chilly civility if you're in public, open disdain if he's in YOUR house again. I can't stress enough - random jags do not get to mistreat you in your house, doesn't matter which roommate they are banging.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:46 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you have to interact with him, I would recommend being very open about the fact that he's a sexist neanderthal who is still getting off on the kinds of insults that reasonable people stopped appreciating after high school ("you did finish high school, didn't you, Chester?"). Not that I would go out of my way to insult him, but if a subject comes up, maybe you can remove the filter of civility for a minute or two.

To me, a constant source of amazement is how much sexism and casual verbal abuse women take from men to avoid the appearance of some unseemly "uppity-ness". Please, for the sake of everybody, be uppity.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:59 AM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

There is no need for you to be civil. You can acknowledge his presence, but beyond that, you don't owe him anything, including civility.

If he says it again say, with a straight and serious face "You don't know me. Don't talk to me like that." He will try to reframe the argument to make it out like he was joking and put it on you for not being able to take a joke. Don't engage in this. Just repeat "It's not a joke. Don't talk to me like that." Then start talking to someone else about something else. He'll decide you're a bitch and maybe will leave you alone from then on.

Also, don't be surprised if he wants to get in your pants. "Drunk slut" can be as much a wish as it is an insult.
posted by cnc at 12:10 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

how can I force myself to be at least civil to him?

If you really want to then take the most generous interpretation of his actions you can and assume he's just ignorant of your boundaries and how he comes across. There's really not any harm in assuming such - it's not like you get any joy out of being pissed, right? So convince yourself he just doesn't know any better and write it off to male friendships often including ribbing each other beyond the point of courtesy.

That doesn't mean you don't immediately smack that shit down the next time he pulls it with you. But if you want to be able to be in his presence and be civil that's probably the easiest way.

I agree with folks above, you don't have to provide anything more than not being overtly abusive. I don't know that I think being deliberately chilly gets you anything other than retribution, which I'm not a fan of, but if that reflects how you really feel then by all means - just withdraw.

If he says anything about it then you can just be politely honest. "I'm just tired of you saying nasty things about me as if they're funny. I think it's rude and I don't enjoy it so why would I want to do anything that gives you more chances to be that way with me? So yeah, I AM avoiding you/talking to you/being around you."

I'd personally avoid any sort of dialog or deflection.

You're only just saying this now?
I didn't think I needed to tell people not to call me rude names.

You never were bothered by it before.
Yes I was.

You never told me.
I didn't think I needed to tell people not to call me rude names.

How'm I supposed to know you're angry if you don't tell me?
I didn't think I needed to tell people not to call me rude names.

Look I didn't mean anything by it.
A rude name is a rude name.

Just don't engage beyond saying that you don't like it and don't want to hear it. Folks like this often want to turn this into some big dialog or nit-picking about details. Don't play along. "I'm not interested in being around someone who treats me rude." [endless excuses and blah blah blah from him] "Just don't be rude to me."

If he persists on it then just say "fine, you don't know when something is rude? I'll tell you when you say something rude to me."

posted by phearlez at 12:21 PM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Since you know that other people agree that he's being a jerk, get some of them to agree to back you up. he calls you a slut, you call him on it. Like "I don't know why you keep insulting me, but please cut it out". If a few of your friends would chime in with a "yea, knock it off already" he is much more likely to back off. Best would be to do it calmly, keep it short, and then change the subject before things get too awkward.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:02 PM on July 29, 2011

There are several different tacks you can take to deal with people like this, but being emotionally honest is very likely to backfire. The best way to deal with it is by “winning the crowd” meaning to shame him publically. In order to be able to pull off shaming, you have to be a bit of a mastermind, because shaming only works if you appear to be above his level. If people see you getting angry and defensive, you will lose face. Emily is not thinking rationally right now and her attachment to him will trump her attachment to you, and the other roommate will probably pick Emily and Chester over you as the path of least resistance because she’ll see the power dynamic and numbers are on that side.

Here are some (questionably evil) tactics for you. I’m aware many people like to believe honesty will work, I personally don’t think it will.

The Wounded Bird: This is especially easy as a female. What you do is fall absolutely silent when he insults you or speaks to you. You should hear a record-scratch noise. Everyone’s looking at you, waiting for your reaction. You must then fake being stoic, trying to gather your thoughts, and then either actually cry or say something like “I’m sorry…I just can’t…Emily I’m so sorry” and get up. Go to the bathroom and fake cry. He looks like a jerk, you look like a wounded bird and this will bring out the other women’s protectiveness.

Miss Manners: You feign complete and utter shock that he would be so crude. This is hard to pull off and may be too subtle for him. You must be able to act like a schoolmarm who’s heard a model little boy suddenly say a bad word. You just sort of snap your neck around like “What?” and wrinkle up your face with disgust, and then back off a little bit. You can even ask him, “I’m sorry? What did you say?” in your best “trying to give you the benefit of the doubt” tone. You then act like you’re politely ignoring his awkwardness. “Oh, I see.” You CANNOT seem to be acting. You actually have to seem genuinely shocked, even a little afraid. Channel Princess Diana.

The Gaslight: You just act like he’s crazy. You make yourself sound genuinely puzzled and perplexed by him, cock your head to the side, and go “Why do you say that?” “Oh, do you think so?” “Well…uh…okay.” “Wait, what are you talking about?” “Oh, sorry I missed that Chester, what? Oh….riiiight.” No matter how clearly he explains, act like he’s speaking a foreign language. Act distracted and like you’re trying to placate him even though he makes no sense. Don’t let on that you even understand he’s insulting you. Act like a psychiatrist, soothing his delusions and trying to understand.

The Jokester: Laugh at his joke as if you’re in on it. Then start making “friendly” cracks at his expense. This is easier if you’re male, but can be done as a woman. Seek out whatever he’s most defensive about (probably that he’s named Chester, ha) and hit that nerve from different angles. Be sly about it.

The Sarcastic Sophisticate: Just act really, really bored. “Oh this, again” “Please tell us, Chester, we’re all dying to know.” “Fascinating, thanks for sharing.” “Chester, what would I do without your opinion?” “Thank you, Chester. Thank you.” A little sardonic, mostly unimpressed. Golf clap.

Disclaimer: I’m probably evil.
posted by Nixy at 1:12 PM on July 29, 2011 [19 favorites]

If you try to engage with Chester by telling him how you feel, he will likely try to negotiate the situation by reframing it as "I was just kidding around, you know I don't mean it," trying to cajole you into agreeing not to be (what he sees as) overly-sensitive. If you try to engage with him by one-upping him insult-wise, there's a good chance he'll see this as tacit acceptance of his conversational gambit. In either case, his ego remains intact and he continues making these awful comments. So: I wouldn't engage with him at all.

Chester needs to be publicly shamed, so that he will subsequently know that there will be negative consequences as a result of his comments; windbox's response is to-the-point and doesn't allow him any room to maneuver (except perhaps, nervous laughter and an implication that you're overreacting, to which you can repeat "shut the fuck up" until he stops trying to respond), so you might want to go with that.

He's making offensive jokes as a way of being social, trying to frame himself as "the funny guy" who's a little bit "edgy". By smacking him down with a minimum of cleverness or explanation, you're demonstrating that his shitty comments are actually making social situations more stressful and less fun. This will make him nervous about saying the things he wants to say to you. Which: he should be nervous. He ought to learn not to say whatever pops into his damn fool head, and you have my sympathy that the teacher of this lesson is apparently going to be yourself.

I would actually go one further than just words for a public shaming: I recommend that the next time y'all are out at a bar or something, and he says something terrible about you, you look him in the eye, say, "WRONG" or "UNACCEPTABLE" or "NO", and throw your drink in his face. All of Nixy's approaches are wonderful, but each requires some degree of skill and subtlety. An immediate bear-trap-like attack does not require any skill, only resolution.

until he makes another comment like this and I call him out on it, how can I force myself to be at least civil to him?

I would just have normal conversations with him, but never smile and never ask any questions.

I can't recommend strongly enough that you don't HIT the guy, though. Not that you are considering it, but it would definitely have the effect of escalating the situation and would likely turn people from your side to his.

At some point, a close friend of mine (the "Chester" in this situation) made a similarly shitty remark to his girlfriend's friend -- something about how she sure did like to sleep around, ha ha lol. She smacked him in the face with her cell phone and said, "Maybe you can SHUT THE FUCK UP". He was completely stunned and walked on eggshells around her after that.

Later, he told the story to me, presumably expecting a sympathetic ear. I cackled with delight! I then dated that young lady who'd hit him in the face, because I was all, "DAAAAMN, girl don't take NO shit, she sounds fuckin' MIGHTY"
posted by Greg Nog at 1:49 PM on July 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

Chester's behavior is mean and bullying. Call him on it. If he makes a "joking" unkind comment, say "That's crass and not funny." As Greg Nog says, when he claims it was "only a joke" tell him it's not funny. Bullies keep it up because they perceive the bullied person as powerless, and because they get away with it. The more people who calmly and politely don't tolerate it, the less they can bully. It's unpleasant, and I'm sorry you have to deal with this jerk.
posted by theora55 at 3:16 PM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing everyone who says don't engage....but "back off" rather than "fuck off".
posted by brujita at 3:21 PM on July 29, 2011

Fuck off Chester, no one thinks you're funny

This is good, and "fuck off" instead of "back off" will work better against an opponent who is casual with "drunken slut". The really powerful part is the "no one thinks" part, because it specifies a group norm. For best effect, put "Oh" in front and deliver the line in the same tone as the "Oh God" at the end of this song.
posted by flabdablet at 7:06 PM on July 29, 2011

for reference, here's my experience with my "Emily and Chester," same people I mentioned upthread. That question was a lot about their PDA, but I also did obliquely mention the comments he was making about me, much in the "drunk slut" vein.

What happened in my case: I tried to talk to the guy privately about the things he'd been saying about me (since we were friends), he kept avoiding and cancelling the dinner appt we had planned to talk about it. I felt hurt and gave up, but didn't say anything else about it, just let it go and kept my distance from both of them ( no roommate situation thankfully). Months later I reached out to her and said, "hey, I miss you, never had a problem with YOU, you know" and she basically said that since I caused so much trouble with my problems with Chester, they were too busy for me and didn't need me in their lives.

FIVE years later, she and I are good, water under the bridge etc. All I'm saying is this might not go the way you think it should go.
posted by sweetkid at 8:18 PM on July 29, 2011

I guess the next point then is: until he makes another comment like this and I call him out on it, how can I force myself to be at least civil to him?

Pretend he is Emily's magical vibrator who talks.
posted by jstarlee at 3:08 PM on July 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh wow, you ALL are so fantastic. Thanks much for the great responses. I've marked a few that really match how I'm feeling about the situation, but my reaction the next time Chester makes a joke like this will definitely be a combination of all of the above.

Nixy: your list is so great. Printing it out to keep in my wallet... !
Seek out whatever he’s most defensive about (probably that he’s named Chester, ha)
Yes, I'm planning to refer to him as such in my head from now on (evil cackle).
posted by spectacularicity at 4:12 PM on July 30, 2011

I like KokoRyu's slap in the face and Greg Nog's drink in the face, both with suitable backup informed in advance.

But if you don't want to initiate anything physical, I'd say something like 'I wish you could keep your sexual fantasies about me to yourself, Chester-- I find them repellent and they're hurting Emily's feelings', also with backup.

Then start treating him like a potential threat to your safety: never let him into your house when you're there by yourself, ask Emily to never leave you alone with him, and make a show of getting a lock for your bedroom door. Before you do anything like this, be prepared to move yourself on short notice or to ask Emily to move out-- with the consent and cooperation of your other roommate of course, which you might be able to secure by pointing out that if you move, Chester may well move in.

And in fact, I think there is a chance Chester is doing this in hopes of forcing you out so he can move in.
posted by jamjam at 6:41 PM on July 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

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