Help me hone my creepometer!
September 21, 2011 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Online Dating Filter: What are some tell-tale red flags that someone might turn into a creep? Please help me fine tune my creepometer!

Oh, Metafilter. Let me tell you. I'm currently going through the throes of online dating and while it was going really well, things kind of blew up. I met this amazing guy recently and everything about him just seemed so perfect and wonderful and I was all excited that maybe this was THE. ONE. Welll...long story short, he turned into a creep. Basically he went from superawesomeguydotcom to being one of the neediest people I've ever encountered. Suddenly he'd be calling constantly, emailing like crazy, just totally glomming on. He told me he loved me after a month and while he was understanding that I wasn't on the same page at first, eventually got to the point where he grew really impatient that I wasn't there yet. I felt tremendous pressure and it was even starting to bring out the worst in me. On top of all that, he just seemed like a really bad listener and just wanted to be in a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship. Then things got really weird - the sex that was once really good turned creepy as well and it got to the point where I dreaded any physical contact with him and felt really, really pressured all around and bad about myself and guilted when I said no.

Anyway, long story short, I realized this was all horrible and cut him loose, and while I felt upset about the way I did it (not in person) I'm glad I did because he turned into a CREEP. Basically throwing tantrums on email, unsolicited phone calls - delete, delete, deleted! Then he sent me flowers at work (which made me pretty angry - it's so imposing!) he'd randomly be in the same places as me at once - you get the point. CREEPY. I've just been avoiding, deleting and ignoring it all and he's getting the picture finally.

So, besides all of the obvious that I just mentioned, what are some tell-tale red flag signs that someone turn be creepy? Were there any signs I could have noticed initially that just didn't register until he turned crazy? I'm back in the online dating saddle, but honestly, I'm feeling a little nervous about meeting more people at the risk of them turning into a creepazoid. Any other advice you can offer me on how to pick up and keep moving forward? What can I tell myself as a reminder?
posted by floweredfish to Human Relations (88 answers total) 112 users marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot you can do because people are, of course, on their best behavior on the first date(s) because they're trying to impress you, and say what you want to hear.

It's actually pretty rare for NO creepiness to ... creep in on the first date(s). A big one I noticed was the bad listener thing that you mention. They seem to just have this very blank, glazed smile, not really listening to what you're saying, occasionally saying the right things that you want to hear, but in general just patiently waiting until you're ready for them to glom on to you, or whatever. Look for that blank smile.

Trust me, after only two or three more dates like this, you'll learn to spot the creeps pretty quick. Good luck.
posted by Melismata at 1:01 PM on September 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

My experience is that creepy people tend to come off as specifically not creepy at all in early interactions with them — the creepy thing about them is that they've figured out how to manipulate interactions, and so they're on their A-game about not being creepy at first.

But it sounds like you really have a pretty good handle on things! I don't know the timeline, but it sounds like when he told you he loved you after a month, you recognized it right away for the red flag it was. I don't think there are magic signs you can look for in early interactions for the reasons I already mentioned, but I think you should reassure yourself that you already met one creepy person and got rid of him promptly instead of getting sucked into a bad relationship, because you are good at recognizing red flags and taking action accordingly. Keep reminding yourself that you have a proven track record of keeping yourself safe!
posted by adiabat at 1:02 PM on September 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: I just wanted to add that we saw each other for a little over a month and the creepy didn't really start until the final two weeks, but when it went, it WENT downhill fast to creepyland.

The listening part was weird, but what was weirder is that he'd try to be helpful by doing stuff for me but didn't really even address the needs of the exact situation? It was like he was trying to be helpful for helpful's sake, but actually creating more work for me. Ugh.
posted by floweredfish at 1:04 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I don't see the situation as creepy; just not your type of person. You could find this exact [type of] person anywhere--not just online.

When I was dating online extensively, I just assumed everyone was a creep until they proved themselves otherwise. Some tell-tale signs I saw though, which may help answer your question:
--People who talk about their ex relationships and how it couldn't have been their own fault at all;
--People who were quite open about wanting to simply be with somebody--anybody--instead of being alone;
--People who have no friends; just their family and pets;
--People who work odd jobs with weird schedules;
--People who talk about their hopes and dreams like they are seven years old;
--People who are from another country on a student/work visa and they have no plans on how they are going to stay once it expires (e.g. they are looking for someone to marry/help keep them in the country).
posted by TinWhistle at 1:09 PM on September 21, 2011 [21 favorites]

I think the easiest way to determine if someone may be creepy/needy (besides the obvious) is how much time they are willing to spend with you in the first 2 months. If they seem like they're always available, run. Non-creepers have stuff to do with their friends, hobbies that take up their time, personal improvement stuff going on (gym time, bike riding, classes, etc). You don't want someone who has nothing in their schedule so all they do is sit around thinking about you, texting you, emailing you, and all that.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 1:09 PM on September 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

The progression of an online to real life relationship varies per person but I notice someone who rushes to BOYFRIEND!! GIRLFRIEND!! status really fast is usually liking me for the wrong reasons (ie; all superficial like looks, ect).

If you or a very good friend has good instincts, ALWAYS trust them.

I have a wonderful, non creepy boyfriend I met off plentyoffish for 16 months now :) so it can be done!

Good luck!!
posted by kiwi-epitome at 1:10 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Superficial caring. People who ask about your problems, express a degree of sympathy, and then rapidly turn the conversation around to something about themselves, particularly if it's an expression of need for care on their part.
posted by Ahab at 1:14 PM on September 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

Too good to be true is almost always really too good to be true, and a warning sign. Calling and emailing constantly are warning signs. Instant true love and being over-demonstrative are warning signs. Extravagant romantic gestures can turn creepy fast, like flowers at work, inappropriate gifts, poetry, wanting to be with you all the time. Bad listener/big talker about himself is a warning sign. You had lots of them with this guy.

Coming on too strong at first is another, and at the end, not taking no for an answer. Turning into a stalker as this guy did is definite bad news. Jealousy without reason and trying to control your life are other things to look out for. Many of these attributes seem attractive at first but get old fast, so it might be good to get to know online contacts a bit better before meeting them in person. Look for a relationship that develops more slowly and respectfully as a friendship, then catches some sparks. Guys who come on way too strong and go out of their way to impress often have other ugly issues beneath the surface. This is the sad truth about romance novel heroes. Look for a regular guy instead, and see what develops.
posted by mermayd at 1:15 PM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Look for that blank smile.

Not so fast there cowgirl! As someone who is a little bit shy and socially anxious, the blank smile is sometimes the only way for us with jelly for insides to hide our social anxiety and introversion when it flares up without looking like we are going to cry or scream (because we might). We're trying to listen, really. While this is probably not the greatest plug for shy folks, we're (mostly) not creeps. Sure, we're not exactly the best first daters, but most of us have some great things to offer once we get comfortable.

This guy, not so much. He just sounds sad. I think TinWhistle's list is a good start.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:16 PM on September 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh my goodness, this is so helpful. Thank you! Keep this list of creepy signs coming! :) Also: what are good things to tell myself now while on normal dates with non-creepy people? I'm worried that they might get creepy too. :/
posted by floweredfish at 1:19 PM on September 21, 2011

Is that guy this guy? If so, re-read your previous question and ask yourself if anything sounds off, or sounds like a red flag to you?

It sounds like he was/became very clingy. If the two guys are the same, it sounds like he started off that way too, but that you reciprocated.

Maybe that's the lesson for next time? That even if you really really want to exchange "about 8 million text messages and about 12 billion emails" in the first four days, it might not be the hottest idea.
posted by ericc at 1:22 PM on September 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

What were some of the red flags that this guy displayed?

You might not have seen them this time around, but hopefully in the future you'll recognize them in someone else.
posted by Neekee at 1:23 PM on September 21, 2011

Best answer: Just jumping back in with another one. Someone with a lot of wisdom once told me that when I find myself getting irritated or angry for no apparent reason (in a social situation, or when I'm interacting with others) it can be a pretty clear sign that someone is trying to manipulate me. I'm not always focused on the interpersonal power relationship/politics side of things, and would often let things go too far before getting all grumpy about it. Now, I stop and do a reality check when I first start to get irritated, and often it is because someone is trying to set up a situation I don't really want to be part of.
posted by Ahab at 1:26 PM on September 21, 2011 [75 favorites]

Lots of guys don't know what the fuck they're doing. Just in general. It really is staggering. But online dating exposes this fact even more so. I've seen what men write to women and for the most part it's pretty lame and over the top. Your guy sounds like he's managed to make it through a couple of dates before totally falling apart mentally.

When it comes to online dating, your chances of meeting someone weird, or getting yourself into a weird situation, is only going to go up. That's just my opinion. Everything is a performance and you have very little information. The amount of weight you put on the first couple of stimulations is totally up to you. If the fucking's great but you don't really know the person, I'd call that a red flag.

In other words, you create your own problems, and I think one thing you could try out is not fucking your dates too soon. It hampers your ability to judge people.

Imagine the conversation: We went out on a date, he looks great, he's so nice, we went on a second date, we slept together, the sex is great, he starts acting a little weird, he starts calling me all the time and sending me and sending shit to my work.. you messed this up. You let him taste the goods, and he went nuts on you. You would think getting laid was a reward, but when it's with the wrong person, and if it keeps happening with more wrong people, then you realize this is a pattern and an adjustment needs to be made.

The motivation to move forward is to think what if somebody told you they developed a system where you had to go out on say, 100 dates, and 99 of them were going to be catastrophic, but the 100th date would be with Mr. Perfect. That's how you can look at online dating. When you meet the right one, it will recontextualize all your failures as learning experiences, and all will be well in the shire.
posted by phaedon at 1:27 PM on September 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

Also: what are good things to tell myself now while on normal dates with non-creepy people?

Relax, have fun, and don't spend the whole time worrying about whether to label him "creepy."
posted by John Cohen at 1:28 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

A few creep indicators (of course nothing is absolute, but if there are more than a couple of these going on...):
Puts his phone number in the first email and demands a call. (too soon)
Sends way too much email without ever mentioning meeting up in real life. (online dating addict)
Writes overly long email -- easy to get sucked in to this one if he's a good writer, but trust me, it's a flag. (too in love with the sound of his own voice)
Posts pictures of himself that he took in bathroom mirror. (what, no friends, no effort?)
Post pictures of himself in briefs and no shirt. (ew, girls don't work that way)
Bad teeth. (inexcusable in a responsible grown up)
Talks about ex in profile. (too soon)
Talks about "nasty divorce" in profile. (injured, angry, possibly broke)
Talks about other women on the site in profile. (serial dater)
Frames what he wants by writing what he doesn't want. (grass-is-always-greener)
Talks about porn in profile (no way, much later).
posted by thinkpiece at 1:31 PM on September 21, 2011 [15 favorites]

Ask about their present relationship with their exs. Being on good terms with at least some of their exs is usually a good sign in my book. Granted there may be reasons (similar to yours) that they don't have contact, but being on good terms and not bad mouthing former lovers is an important indicator to me.
posted by white_devil at 1:31 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have met a number of guys through online dating, and while I'm a pretty tolerant person, some date behaviour just goes over the edge from "guy is nervous" to "yikes". So here's my creep list:
-standing me up, then playing dumb when I call him on it later;
-clamming up and remaining largely silent during the date;
-Doing all the talking during a date;
-treating waitstaff like crap at a restaurant;
-lighting up a joint or drinking a lot to "calm his nerves", then insisting on driving me home;
-making me come to him, all the time (not picking me up or meeting me somewhere)
-going out on a skating date, then rolling his eyes or acting impatient when I fall down;

Everybody's tolerance point is different. Fundamentally, you need to work out for yourself how much you are willing to tolerate from someone, and then be willing to call them out if they cross that line.
posted by LN at 1:33 PM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

If there were a short and foolproof answer to this question, I suspect the person who knew it would be very rich indeed.

The thing is, a lot of people will have various tells that indicate that they're creepsters but those tells will be different for different people. Thus I can only provide some minor guidelines culled from my own meandering experience. Here are some.

If someone's profile has no photos of them from the neck down, I generally don't respond to them. There are a couple reasons for this: It doesn't mean that they're definitely hiding something, but every time I've seen this in action, that has been the case. I'm sure exceptions are out there - maybe they just really like the classic camgirl angle - but I personally haven't seen any. And here's the thing about that: There is nothing wrong with being fat. Nothing at all. But by hiding that in photos and by using only pictures which make you look average or thin, the owner of the profile is deliberately creating an awkward situation for the person they might eventually meet up with. It's like lying your way into a job where you don't actually know how to do any of the things you'd get hired to do. It's a mindset that I tend to find indicative of bigger issues. My feeling is that, if they're willing to mislead you in order to get a date, they might be thinking of you as a thing to be gotten, and not as a person with whom there might be some spark. Again, there are probably exceptions to this out there but I suspect they're pretty rare.

I don't think I'd date someone who hated dogs. Your mileage may vary. It'd be a different thing if they were allergic, indifferent to dogs, or even afraid of dogs, but if someone can look at a happy dog and feel contempt, there's a mental process there to which I just cannot relate.

Avoid people who have a lot of negative shit to say about the people they've dated in the past. No one expects that a person will be able to flip from being in a relationship to just being friends quickly or easily, but if they're not at least on pleasant social terms with at least one person they've dated then there's probably a reason. I find a willingness to mend fences to be a sign of maturity.

Basically, empathy is a huge thing for me. Consequently I also avoid people who don't tip at restaurants, or who only do so grudgingly and with a speech about how they don't believe in tipping.

Beyond that, it's hard to say. Some people stay on their best behavior until they're comfortable in a relationship and then they let it fly. Your best bet is to give people a fair chance, but to listen to your instincts.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:38 PM on September 21, 2011 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Avoid any man who refers to women as "females".
posted by rosa at 1:43 PM on September 21, 2011 [96 favorites]

I think the biggest red flag for me is guys who don't respect your boundaries. I found Gavin DeBecker's The Gift of Fear hugely helpful when I was online dating, because it helped me recognize when guys were pushing my boundaries, and it helped me feel justified in not allowing them to do so. Seriously, I can't recommend it enough.

And also, weirdly enough: Guys who talk about health problems in a way designed to draw you in. For example, I know of one TOTAL creep who has a list of 10 things about him on his dating profile that includes something along the line of "I've had chest pains on and off for three years. I haven't seen the doctor because I'm too chicken, haha!" Another guy who contacted me online and quickly got creepy included stuff like "I like running too! My doctor says it's not safe for me but I think my doctor's a wimp!"

I think it works because the natural impulse is to say "No, no, you should listen to your doctor!" and go into nurturing mode. I'm sure this isn't true for everyone but personally I found it hard not to respond to that kind of thing. The thing is, a responsible adult you want to date will take care of himself, not brag about his untreated chest pains on Plenty Of Fish.
posted by pie ninja at 1:46 PM on September 21, 2011 [21 favorites]

Agreed 1000%, pie ninja. A statement like that says "I'm looking for a woman for her nursing skills." Run away.
posted by Melismata at 1:54 PM on September 21, 2011

Best answer: This isn't the same guy from your last question, is it? Because I remember reading that one and thinking, whew, slow down, you are setting yourself up for disappointment (not pertinent to the question you asked, so I didn't answer!). That kind of early intensity is a warning itself. It's so easy to enjoy the flirtation without thinking, why are we escalating so quickly?

Between this question and the last one, I think it would be good for you to acknowledge the exciting beginning stages of infatuation, and then realize beginnings are usually not great indicators of the rest of the relationship. Recognize that you can get caught up in those feelings and try to pay attention to what he says, what he tells you about himself especially, and then what that tells you about him.

You can also speak up when you're uncomfortable. I know it's very hard, especially when you've been socialized to be nice and polite, and avoid confrontation. Feeling like he's texting/emailing too much? Tell him nicely that it's overkill. Too needy in general? Tell him that you need more independence. I think people who aren't inclined to respect your boundaries thrive on finding people who aren't inclined to define their own.
posted by gladly at 1:55 PM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'd say that your first line of defense is understanding that people don't turn into creeps, they are or they aren't, and each person's definition of what a creep is will be unique to them. So creepiness is a function of your interaction together, not the status of the individual.

Your second line of defense is that you should be taking your time, and assuming that someone might not be representing themselves accurately until you've known them for a long time. I mention this because you may not have told him you loved him, but you were thinking he was "THE. ONE." after a few weeks, which is too fast even for an internal dialog to be trustworthy as a barometer.

Ultimately, though, here's what you need to do to protect yourself: if things start going downhill, face them head-on and without hesitation. That means telling him (in this case, for instance) that you're feeling pressured, that you're losing physical interest, etc., when it happens, not retroactively. In short, when you see red flags via current behavior, address those right away, and break it off right away if you don't like the response you're getting.

That includes post-breakup behavior. Don't break up in a way you're not proud of, and in a way that doesn't give him hope. It is one thing to break up over email/phone and then ignore him over and over until he gets the message, and another to break up face-to-face and then if he doesn't get the message right away, shut him down in no uncertain terms.

Just never forget that one person's creep might be another person's love; the majority of creepiness described by you could be chalked up to cluelessness and confusion over the sudden turn of your feelings toward him, both of which might have been mitigated by more up-front communication before and during the breakup (unless he's truly f'd up.)
posted by davejay at 1:56 PM on September 21, 2011 [9 favorites]

Also, I'm said:

He told me he loved me after a month and while he was understanding that I wasn't on the same page at first, eventually got to the point where he grew really impatient that I wasn't there yet.

But then you commented that you were seeing each other for a little more than a month. These statements can't be reconciled. Can you clarify?
posted by davejay at 1:59 PM on September 21, 2011

Don't break up in a way you're not proud of, and in a way that doesn't give him hope.

Er, that should of course be "...and in a way that gives him hope."
posted by davejay at 2:03 PM on September 21, 2011

Best answer: I have a long and storied history of attracting creepy dudes, so I've put a lot of thought and analysis into what's happening.

My specific flavor of creep was always the manipulative and possessive type who would mistake my reservedness as meekness and malleability.

Some of my key warning signs (with a fair amount of overlap) include:

Testing. As in conducting little social experiments to see how you respond. This could be anything from trying to convince you to eat something you don't want to eat to saying or doing something offensive to gauge your reaction.

Filtering and projecting. These are guys who hear what they want to hear, trying to manipulate your interests and proclivities to their ideals. They're not really listening to you or trying to get to know you, but actively filtering everything you say and do in order to try to make you conform to some ideal.

Moving way too fast. You know this one already, but if someone starts talking marriage and kids or long term potential based on a superficial attraction, before they know whether you're compatible, they're just looking for a fembot, not an actual human being with any kind of agency.

Boundary pushing. NO NO NO! Anyone who is spending too much time on the outer edges of your personal boundaries, interjecting himself into your life too intimately or persistently--whether it's physically, logistically, emotionally, or whatever--is not really respecting you and your choices. You do not owe someone you're casually dating any explanations or excuses for your choices, and if you find yourself on the constant defensive, arguing about why you're not ready to spend the night, introduce him to your family, or share intimate details of your life, that guy does not respect you as an adult, and that guy is not worth another moment of your time.

Treating you as a generic. As in the flowers example, he was probably working on some preconceived notion about how women like getting flowers at work, and discounting your personal boundaries and interests. This kind of guy has a role that he expects you to play, and will likely be intolerant or outright oblivious to you as a human being.

Now, if I may creepily project for a moment and assume your problem is similar to mine, I realized at a fairly young age that something about my superficial demeanor attracted exactly the wrong kind of people. So I started taking the initiative myself, and doing the asking. It's a little scary at first, but not as scary as dating creepy guys. And it turns out I'm really good at picking. The first time I really went out on a limb and took the initiative, it lasted six years; and the second time, well, we're not getting out of it without lawyers. (Not that we want to.)
posted by ernielundquist at 2:04 PM on September 21, 2011 [68 favorites]

It takes time to get to know someone enough to know for sure that they are not crazy people. I know it's hard, but when you first start dating someone, be SLOW. Take your time. hold off on the sexy times and the introducing-him-to-friends (not counting the one you should use as a Creep-detector).

Things to look out for:

-Is he ok with spending ALL his time with you RIGHT away? Think "why doesn't he have other things going on in his life?"
-Does he avoid taking responsibility for things? Like why he's not a famous drummer or why his last relationship went down in firey flames.
-How does he act when he doesn't get his way?
posted by Blisterlips at 2:07 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Pay attention to how someone responds to "no," from you or from anyone else. If he gets disproportionately angry or dejected, or tries to argue or bargain or persuade his way into a yes, generally not a good sign.

If he doesn't take no for an answer, then of course you run.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:09 PM on September 21, 2011 [13 favorites]

He told me he loved me after a month and while he was understanding that I wasn't on the same page at first, eventually got to the point where he grew really impatient that I wasn't there yet.

But then you commented that you were seeing each other for a little more than a month. These statements can't be reconciled.

Yes they can. They might have seen each other for 6 weeks. For the first month, he was great. At the one-month mark, he said he loved her. For the remaining 2 weeks (and even after the breakup), he started acting badly, including that he got more and more impatient with her for not saying "I love you" back. Seems perfectly consistent to me, and I don't see what good it'll do to cross-examine the OP about the exact details. She's made it clear what happened and what her question is.
posted by John Cohen at 2:18 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree that a lot of the signs mentioned above can point to creepiness, and you definitely have to listen to your gut, but there are definite exceptions. I dated a guy who I met online who wanted to be BOYFRIEND! GIRLFRIEND! right away, and who told me he loved me after a month, and didn't have friends that he hung out with at that point in his life, but he was definitely not creepy. We broke up 6 months later for completely unrelated reasons. When I started dating him, I knew that maybe the I love you doesn't mean as much as it would if he said it after knowing me for longer, but I knew he wasn't being manipulative by saying it, and I knew that he was a sweet guy who genuinely wanted to be with me. Although he never pushed me to say 'I love you' back, so that's one big difference, so yes, look at warning signs, but listen to your gut.
posted by at 2:21 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: - People who don't seem to get along with others of their own gender.
- People who always seem to have some nasty feud going with someone.
- People with a lot of stories about how others are "just jealous" or "can't handle me because I speak my mind" or "fired me because they were threatened by how awesome I am."
- People who say overly mean things and then try to temper them with "just kidding."
- If nearly all your friends dislike the person, that's an almost universal sign that you need to BAIL, like yesterday.
posted by bunji at 2:24 PM on September 21, 2011 [21 favorites]

So I started taking the initiative myself, and doing the asking. It's a little scary at first, but not as scary as dating creepy guys. And it turns out I'm really good at picking.

I'd also like to add that when you do the picking (at least IRL, if not online) you have more chance to see the person for who they are, because if they pick you, they get to craft everything they do to appeal to you, before you've even met them for the first time. If you pick them, you can see how they act when they're not trying to woo you.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:36 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The unfortunate truth is that really disordered people are good at presenting as charming, considerate, and empathetic. A good social presentation is actually part of their disorder. Some of the choicest creeps I've known have gone for as long as a year before showing any suspect behaviour.

Sure, in hindsight, they told on themselves quite a lot, but I could only be sure of the significance when I looked back. On the other hand, if I hadn't mentally circled every odd remark or behaviour and tossed it in my filing cabinet for later retrieval if I needed it, there'd have been much less to have hindsight about.

@ernielundquist wrote: My specific flavor of creep was always the manipulative and possessive type who would mistake my reservedness as meekness and malleability.

I nod vigorously.

Testing. As in conducting little social experiments to see how you respond. This could be anything from trying to convince you to eat something you don't want to eat to saying or doing something offensive to gauge your reaction.

Woh yeah. Add to this: excusing the test with a pity play. Of course, the pity play is just believable enough that any reasonably conscientious person is likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. To them, this spells only one thing: WELCOME across your back as you lie prone across the threshold. Your best qualities - your ability to have empathy and sympathy for another person and not rush to judgement - become the very things they use to manipulate and mock you.
posted by tel3path at 2:51 PM on September 21, 2011 [12 favorites]

Best answer: this here is probably the biggest one: extremely attuned, almost supernaturally, to tiny shifts in your mood or whatever subtext he reads behind throwaway comments you make. At first this may make you feel good, because he seems to really understand you and is giving you a lot of attention. But invariably you'll start to feel this vague discomfort that you're constantly being watched and you have no room to breathe. And it gets worse as he starts to monitor how distant or close you are to him. He'll get easily bruised when he thinks you're detaching event he slightest bit.

-any sort of addiction or past addiction
-noticeably pouts when you try to draw any sort of boundary, no matter how minor
-brazen way of speaking, overly blunt style, cutely calls you names or swears at you under the guise of playful banter, like saying teasingly "fck you too" with a smile and passing it off as a joke
-saying constantly that you're amazing without being able to specify what in particular about you they are so taken with you
-becomes overly involved in your life, offering help where you didn't ask for it to a degree that seems somewhat controlling
-either bitter and misanthropic in his orientation to the world or blankly optimistic, never betraying a trace of unhappiness
posted by timsneezed at 3:01 PM on September 21, 2011 [24 favorites]

Seconding The Gift of Fear. The second chapter has exactly what you're looking for.
posted by clearlydemon at 3:05 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ernielundquist has it. I also attract guys like that and I don't do online dating. I have also made the decision to pursue people myself and its liberating. I also know why i ended up with so many pushy dudes,asking people out is hard!
posted by fshgrl at 3:06 PM on September 21, 2011

Feeling of "get your hands out of my pockets" when you're with him or... worse... when you're not even with him
posted by tel3path at 3:06 PM on September 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. To clarify, he IS the guy in that other post and I think in hindsight, I kind of let myself get sucked in, rather than keeping him at arm's length as I would normally (because he seemed nice and differently nice than the others). I know that moving forward, rushing along and getting swept up in it all is NOT a good idea (hence, the creepyness). I'm definitely taking this as a learning point from this situation.

Thanks for the lists! This is incredibly helpful and all stuff I'm going to both keep in mind and in check as I continue with the online dating.
posted by floweredfish at 3:09 PM on September 21, 2011

Based on one sociopath I dated (I found her really charming at first), I would say the testing thing just leaps off the screen at me. She was always testing my boundaries, testing my tolerance, testing, testing, testing. We were together for about 8 months, because she basically trained me on how to behave. My friends were freaking out, but I didn't listen to anything they said. Among signs I could've heeded, does the person:
.Tell lots of stories about binge drinking, or excessive partying?
.Have lots of bad things to say about people from his or her life, even if you don't know the people in question?
.Make plans for you without your knowledge?
.When you are out of pocket, he or she tracks you down?
.Show up at your work?
.Show up anywhere to see you without calling first?
.Show signs of being unusually competitive (this can also be innocuous)?
.Tease you or join in with others who tease you?
.Start buying gifts right away (especially if they are extravagant)?
.Memorize little things about you to show how much he or she "cares"?

One behavior red flag my vanity allowed me to ignore: Does the person give false compliments? When we first met, my creepy person flattered me by saying what lovely hands I have. I have always been self-conscious about them, so I gobbled it up. Only much later did I acknowledge that my hands are my worst feature (they're scarred and rough-looking from years of working in a truckstop kitchen) and there's no way a remark like that could be honest.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 3:15 PM on September 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

And don't feel bad that you dated this guy, its not a reflection on you. I am above average in the independent and stubborn categories and people are always trying to manipulate me. I don't understand it, my friends don't understand it- is mystery! I'm pretty chill and don't take offense to much so I think they mistake that for passivity.
posted by fshgrl at 3:15 PM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Could you guys give more specific examples of "testing" behavior?
posted by timsneezed at 3:17 PM on September 21, 2011

Different people have very different ideas about what makes someone creepy. That being said, many of the suggestions above would be good to think about as far as who you want to get to know better.

Looking at your last question, I would not get the impression that frequent calls or emails would present some sort of problem.

Maybe you just soured on the guy. If you dread physical contact with someone, it's probably overdue for breakup-time. Things being really good for two weeks might be a bit too soon to start thinking serious as well -- generally you barely know someone in two weeks, no matter how much you've talked.

Take it slower next time.

People who work odd jobs with weird schedules

I picture someone trying to explain their job as a moderator. I hope the mods here don't have to deal with people assuming they are creepy.

posted by yohko at 3:27 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Bad teeth. (inexcusable in a responsible grown up)
This is a sign that someone is creepy in a kid's movie. In the real world it's a sign that they have bad teeth.
posted by caek at 3:32 PM on September 21, 2011 [61 favorites]

People will often tell you who they are very early, but as tel3path points out, it's a lot clearer in hindsight. One of my worst dating mistakes was with a guy who talked to me on our first date about how important honesty is. I probably don't have to spell this out, but he turned out to be a big honking liar. He wasn't some guy off the internet; we'd been friends at work for years. On the date itself, he seemed incredibly nervous and I excused his somewhat off behavior with that. But based on that experience, if anyone starts lecturing me about honestly or integrity or any other moral values, that's going to be the last date for us, because I'm not going to trust them.

I also had someone ask me on a sort of predate: "Do you think I'm a creepy guy?" I didn't need hindsight for that one.
posted by BibiRose at 3:35 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

A lot of PUA behaviours are actually tests. Google it, you'll learn a lot.

The complicating factor is that it's not entirely wrong for someone to test you once or twice in early acquaintance. I actually think that a lot of people do this naturally; it's more a matter of whether they play fair. It's how they take your reaction that allows you to test back.

I have to nod vigorously in response to this list:
.Tell lots of stories about binge drinking, or excessive partying? check
.Have lots of bad things to say about people from his or her life, even if you don't know the people in question? check; see also "slagging off his CURRENT PARTNER on social media in ways clearly intended to elicit competitiveness from his latest target, who he is pursuing COMPLETELY OPENLY on the same social media?" (He actually did that, I shit you not.) [1]
.Make plans for you without your knowledge? check
.Show signs of being unusually competitive (this can also be innocuous)? check
.Tease you or join in with others who tease you? check
.Start buying gifts right away (especially if they are extravagant)? I wish, he was a stingy bastard
.Memorize little things about you to show how much he or she "cares"? check

[1] (No, I was neither the target nor the current partner, I did not date him at all. He pursued me until I failed one of his tests, which was "is she willing to throw herself at me despite knowing about my partner? are my super super covert NLP Svengali games working my will upon her helpless emotions?" Er, NO.)
posted by tel3path at 3:40 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Could you guys give more specific examples of "testing" behavior?

To use an example that a previous poster alluded to: say that you mention that you don't like tomatoes. Most normal people will simply say "OK" and not give it another thought. A person who is trying to test you will say "Come on, just try it! How do you know that you don't like it unless you try it? Oh, you have tried it before? Just one more time, your tastes may have changed!"

The test here is to see if they can mentally bully you into doing something that you would not normally do.

A sign that someone may be trying to test you is if they are overly concerned with having you do/say something that the majority of adults would not care about. In this example, what adult cares if you like a specific food or if you have ever tried it? You are not a child that needs to be encouraged to try new things, and that is one of the very only situations where you would need to talk someone into eating something that they would rather not.

You can expand this to most arguments about something that absolutely should not matter for any good/rational reason that the person can give you, yet they pressure you like a used car salesmen about.
posted by Shouraku at 3:40 PM on September 21, 2011 [22 favorites]

Testing is about control. These are guys who for whatever reason need to feel that they control you. They very quickly intuit what pushes your buttons and set up scenarios to begin to exert that control. They can tell you are a good candidate- don't ask me how, but they KNOW. It's just another type of predator.

If you're "nice," you give in the first couple of times when he forces a situation or pushes a boundary. Then the next time he pushes further. Since you already have established a history of giving in, there's added pressure and you feel like you have to comply since you've already done so.

You "don't want to make a scene" so you give in. You "don't want to be like ______" (person who was a bitch/cruel/uncooperative) so you give in. Soon you find that the personal boundaries you thought were fairly well-established have been destroyed by this guy. It's kind of amazing how fast this can happen. The lower one's self-esteem, the more likely this can occur.

You never need a boyfriend/girlfriend that bad... keep telling yourself that. No one deserves a relationship that turns them into someone's control object.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:52 PM on September 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

The kind of test Shouraku describes can be expressed through tomatoes, but another way to express it is through the "trust fall". Control freaks are usually obsessed with the "trust fall".

Supposing you're in a soul-killing office team-building exercise and everyone has to do the "trust fall".

Fun fact: my mother saw somebody break their spine because the catcher got distracted in mid-fall. Whereas, if someone doesn't drop you, it tells you... what, exactly? That you can trust them with your life? Well, no. It just means they were able to muster the coordination and stay undistracted long enough not to break the social contract to your detriment in front of everybody.

The "trust fall" is an example of a test which doesn't test the thing it claims to (trustworthiness of the catcher) nor promote the thing it claims to (trust between catcher and catchee). Its actual purpose is to get the faller to do something which puts them at risk, in exchange for little or no reward. Creeps will often put you in this kind of position, though the risk is most often humiliation or a waste of your resources.
posted by tel3path at 3:52 PM on September 21, 2011 [37 favorites]

Anyone who deliberately tries to make you uncomfortable and then justifies it by saying they're just trying to get you to "loosen up" is bad news in my book. Usually both because that person is interacting with you based on a stereotype (e.g. you're quiet and reserved so you must be a prude) and because they have no interest in respecting your boundaries.

Anyone who can switch the focus in any situation onto themselves, so that no matter what the actual problem is--and even if you are the one with the real problem--instead of taking care of yourself, you end up taking care of them.

Anyone who fails to keep asking you questions--both casual day-to-day ones like "How are you today?" and more complicated ones.

Anyone who makes it feel easier and safer to lie to them about small things rather than actually tell them the truth and deal with their resulting reaction.
posted by colfax at 3:52 PM on September 21, 2011 [13 favorites]

If you're "nice," you give in the first couple of times when he forces a situation or pushes a boundary. Then the next time he pushes further.

Going along with it at first can be a good idea. They show their true colours much sooner. Bear in mind though that innocuous actions may be more risky than they appear.
posted by tel3path at 3:54 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Testing behavior:

I'd had a small argument with a guy I was seriously dating, and so I didn't expect to see him that evening. After a few hours the doorbell rang, and there stood my boyfriend with an arrogant smile on his face and his arm draped around a young, pretty girl I'd never met. He just stood there looking... I don't know, triumphant or something... for a moment, giving me enough time to drink in the situation and assume the worst, before he finally laughed and introduced me to his sister.

Yes, it was just a prank, but it was a mean prank, considering that we'd had a fight and hadn't yet made up. He kept laughing and saying, "I just wanted to see what you'd say!"

I honestly think he was testing me to confirm that I was as meek as he suspected. Some girls in our social circle would have smacked the shit out of the "other woman" on sight... I don't think he would have put his sister in harm's way if he thought I might do something like that.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:54 PM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

-any sort of addiction or past addiction

Wow, a little too harsh maybe? I can see if they currently abuse drugs, but a recovering addict? Whatever happened to alcoholism is a disease, and let's not judge people by their diseases? Maybe we should add "any sore of mental disorder or past mental disorder" to the list too?

... also, I'm a little squeaked by the way people are throwing around the word "creep". Imagine if the gender rolls were reversed and the question was "Online Dating Filter: What are some tell-tale red flags that someone might turn into a bitch?"

My point is, it's not a dichotomy, but a spectrum, and people can be compatible with others to various degrees, it's up to you to decide what your threshold will be. That said, I agree that many of the behaviors described above do indicate some problems.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:03 PM on September 21, 2011 [13 favorites]

This isn't about "judging" people, it's about reading their behaviour to protect ourselves from future harm.
posted by tel3path at 4:10 PM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Cupcake, I think either gender can go creep-ish.

John Gottman (there's an institute) has done research on indicators of success or failure in marriage. Read this and this for more details . Any of the red flags - negative, accusatory, contempt, criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, body language, is a troublesome indicator.

Look for good mental health, respect, kindness, and kind humor, i.e., not mean, spiteful, put-down humor. People learn a lot from their parents, so listen to what he(she) says about them.

posted by theora55 at 4:25 PM on September 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

I have come to the conclusion that most of the time, the definition of creepy is "when you say no, they keep on coming." They won't take no for an answer, they "test" you (wow, I hadn't even heard of this), they push past the normal bounds of societal behavior. They go too far on the first date, and by "too far" I mean past where you'd be willing to go. They are trying to see how much they can get away with, basically. He'll be your official boyfriend who texts and calls you all the time after date one, stuff like that.

As for bad examples of too-far physical behavior, I literally got CHASED DOWN at the end of a date for a forced kiss one time, another creep literally jumped on top of me in the passenger seat of the car. I got lucky in both cases there that it wasn't worse. I know one person who had a weekend fling and then the guy showed up on Monday morning and he MOVED THE HELL IN and they got married. (Bad, bad idea, but I won't get started there.)

Listen to your gut: are you getting an oogy feeling from this guy? Feeling a little put upon? Does he not listen to your answers so much or deny it when you say no to something? Is he groping your ass when you didn't quite want to get to the ass-groping right now? Does everything revolve around him and his moods? Which change frequently? Are you always on the defensive because YOU are the crazy one who's doing something wrong all the time?

(And uh, is he over 40 and wearing glasses and a baseball cap? I don't know why it is, but creepy guys frequently fulfill all three of these qualities. I hate to stereotype, but this comes up a lot for me.)

I saw a really weird Creepy Guy Attack last week in a store where this 80-year-old guy was coming on to a thirtysomething female. He was giving her over-the-top flowery compliments, wanting to know if she was married (she claimed yes, after awhile I was wondering if she was making up the answers), if she had children (she claimed 5), then he demanded to see pictures of her kids (for proof?! she claimed to have left them in the car) and asked if her daughter was as attractive as she was (ewwww). Now theoretically I guess if you'd only seen the conversation in text, it wouldn't seem completely out of the range of reasonable behavior, but the intention behind it was so predatory that it creeped the hell out of me and my friend who had to watch this. We felt like if the guy had noticed there were other women in the store, he would have come over and oozed all over us.

In general, listen to your gut. Creepy people will give you an unpleasant feeling there sooner rather than later.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:35 PM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Oh gosh, the testing. I once casually and briefly dated a guy like that, and later, with perspective, I can very easily see him as a physical abuser later. He would hang out with his buddies and me - not couples, just me and the guys -and in conversation with them, lie about intentions - we were in college and the microwave in their dorm was broken or something, and they talked about stealing the one in MY dorm. Then they went over and just USED that microwave. Or one of them was low on gas, and he talked about siphoning gas from my car.

Basically lies or weird plans that feel like challenges.
posted by Occula at 4:37 PM on September 21, 2011

Hm, I thought of another one: do you find yourself "going along" with stuff that you are not 100% comfortable with, but you feel kind of oogy about saying no to, and you know he'll just pester the crap out of you until you give in to what he wants?
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:37 PM on September 21, 2011 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Some red flags in the last guy I dated, who turned out to be a male bunny boiler:

(1) sent me an email telling me how much he "loved" me after two dates, and in the same email implied that I was never going to find someone else.
(2) never took no for an answer
(3) all his previous relationships were never his fault, always the other girl's.
(4) only has 5 friends, and was proud of it.
(5) student visa expiring in 5 months and wanted to stay in HK permanently.

or, tinwhistle's checklist.
posted by onegoodthing at 5:07 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

do you find yourself "going along" with stuff that you are not 100% comfortable with, but you feel kind of oogy about saying no to

Agreeing with this. If you're uncomfortable telling someone no, that's a warning sign. (If you're generally uncomfortable saying no, that's something you need to work on. It'll help you immensely.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:07 PM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Pay attention to how someone responds to "no," from you or from anyone else. If he gets disproportionately angry or dejected, or tries to argue or bargain or persuade his way into a yes, generally not a good sign.

This times nine million. I'm a guy, and if someone does not take no for an answer in seemingly innocent situations, it is a very short period of time before I categorize them as a Sinister and Potentially Dangerous Person. Were I a woman, I would probably be even more cautious.
posted by threeants at 5:21 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Breaking out the child abuse or dead parent stories within the first three dates. Telling you that your love can fix him, or that you "make" him feel a certain way (positive or negative).
posted by availablelight at 5:22 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Frankly, avoiding people who creep you out while hunting for the right one is damned hard. Your creeper is somebody else's match. The only thing that I have been able to do is go with that gut feeling and end things sooner than later if things get difficult. Weird situations and misunderstandings that turn into true love is shit for the movies, not real life. If you feel that warning ding, take heed.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:30 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to note that if someone is acting like a creep, don't delete their texts/emails. If if you think it's harmless creepiness, hang on to all that until you know for sure.
posted by whalebreath at 7:01 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Avoid any man who refers to women as "females".

Yes, yes, yes! At least 90% of my clients accused of domestic violence do this.
posted by janerica at 7:19 PM on September 21, 2011 [14 favorites]

only has 5 friends, and was proud of it.

Seriously? I mean has Facebook really warped reality like this?
I have quite a few acquaintances during any given period in my life but rarely have more than three or four people I would really call friends.

Knowing the difference between a friend and someone you know or hang around with at work or on the internet is, in my opinion, a characteristic of someone who is not a creep.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 8:05 PM on September 21, 2011 [25 favorites]

-Over-the-top "chivalry"- like, dudes who insist on opening the door for you even if they have to run in front of you, will never ever let you pay for dinner even if you say you feel more comfortable going dutch or switching off- that sort of thing. All of the dudes I've observed who proclaimed they were chivalrous turned out to be major creepsters.

-Big gifts super early on.

Also, re: what Poet_Lariat said, I don't think "only has 5 [close] friends" is a red flag, but the "is proud of it" part might be. I only have about that many close friends. I'm not ashamed of it, I'm not proud of it, it's just... how it is. If someone is using that as a plus (maybe "Ooh, look, I'm letting you into my sekrit circle of trust which very few can enter" or something) it would certainly give me weird vibes.
posted by insufficient data at 8:48 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Two separate guys who turned out to be total creeps said at some point on the second date (both in response to me declining to clear my upcoming schedule for them so our third date could occur sooner), "I'm sorry if I'm coming on too strong, but I'm really excited because I never meet any people I like even as friends EXCEPT YOU. I hate most people EXCEPT YOU." Both men also indicated that they only had one or two friends. I extracted myself from both situations. The first man began writing strange e-mails to my roommate, whom he'd never met, asking for her assistance. The second man confronted me in tears at the dog park in front of many people before I'd even had the chance to return his call asking for further explanation about my decision not to see him. Can't imagine why those men didn't have friends!

Another red flag that I've noticed is that if there's a time I'm truly busy and tell the man I'm dating that I won't be able to get in touch with him for a couple of days because a family member is in the hospital or I'm throwing a bridal shower or whatever, some men keep calling anyway. And they'll say they knew I didn't want them to call, but they just had to call repeatedly because they care so much. The last guy who did that to me still "unexpectedly" shows up at the same events I do. Without going into detail, I can assure you that our meetings are engineered coincidences. They've been happening for five years.

Both of these kinds of men are clingy, manipulative, and not really interested in you as an individual so much as your potential to role-play the part of girlfriend in some story in their heads. Avoid them!
posted by pineappleheart at 8:49 PM on September 21, 2011 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I think creeps try to control people's moods and reactions to things. If they think something is great, they expect you to agree and acknowledge how great it is. They want you completely in tune with their script and their way of seeing things.

The flip side of that is how they moodily withhold interest in things you're interested in or excited about. If it's "your thing," something you're especially invested in or engrossed in, they will purposely withhold enthusiasm --- ostentatiously glaze over and act uninterested --- kind of as a control thing, perhaps to get back to what they are interested in.

They react poorly to stress. I think any time someone doesn't cope well with stress, becoming hostile, super touchy, or rude in stressful situations, they have creep potential.
posted by jayder at 9:27 PM on September 21, 2011 [19 favorites]

My preferred way of distinguishing between actual creeps or dangerous people vs. people who are just socially inept is in how they respond when you tell them to stop something.

So, tomatoes - "I don't like tomatoes" "You should try them! They're really good if you just put enough salt on!" "I've tried them a lot of different ways and I don't like them." "Mine are really delicious, here, have a little piece!"

Now at this point you can wipe the smile off your face and say, "Hey, cut it out. I told you I didn't want any, what the hell?"

If you've done a good enough job of looking stern/angry, you can drop it entirely now (or once he apologizes/says he didn't mean to be rude), put on a small polite smile, and strike up the conversation again. Very few people will keep pushing it - if he does, it's a big red flag. And if he's someone who is trying to find a manipulation-toy, even if he stops he won't want a second date. You'll get fewer second dates, but I bet your creep-ratio will drop significantly. Meanwhile there's a significant population of socially awkward people who will be THRILLED to have found someone who is willing to tell them when they're screwing up.
posted by Lady Li at 9:39 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Read "The Gift of Fear"
posted by bleeb at 11:23 PM on September 21, 2011

I'm the sort of anti-ernielundquist in that I will only date men who demonstrate sufficient interest in me to ask me out. I do this because in my experience guys who show no interest are doing so because they're not interested, and guys who are interested but won't ask me out have good reasons for not doing so. Conversely, if a guy a) is interested and b) asks me out it shows me whether he is able to be appropriately assertive and be prepared to gracefully accept refusal.

But that is not my point. My point is that some men get REALLY, REALLY ANGRY at the idea that this should be expected of them by GAME-PLAYING, CONNIVING FEMALES [1]. They may have a point, but for my own safety I cross the street to avoid them.

[1] No, of course I don't tell them that I require them to follow this process for applying for a date with me and the committee will review their application and contact all short-listed candidates. I mean when it's a subject for discussion.
posted by tel3path at 2:06 AM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

So for you to think he might be "THE.ONE." after a few weeks is totally okay, but if a guy thinks that about a woman, it's creepy?
posted by allseeingabstract at 9:55 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @allseeingabstract - I don't think that's it entirely. I think it's more of how he presented these feelings. I felt pressured after he told me that he loved me after meeting me online only one month prior, and while he said "no pressure" in the last two weeks of the total of six that we dated, his actions just totally came unglued.
posted by floweredfish at 10:12 AM on September 22, 2011

It's possible that he overreacted because you had earlier led him to believe that he was the One. He might have been angry that you led him on that way, and was digging deeper to find out why you had changed your mind. But you've learned not to fall that hard again for someone, so that's good.
posted by Melismata at 12:01 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

@allseeingabstract, it's more a matter of what one does than what one thinks. When I like a guy, there is no bunny I wouldn't boil for him - but I would never show that in my outward behaviour.
posted by tel3path at 1:44 PM on September 22, 2011

Best answer: FWIW, I don't think a guy telling you he loves you after a month alone demonstrates creepiness. Men often fall faster than women. I had a few ex boyfriends who turned out not to be creepy say ILY that early. I also know a woman whose boyfriend proposed after only a month and a half and they're now happily married. I don't think coming on strong alone is enough to demonstrate creepiness. It has to be combined with other factors.
posted by timsneezed at 2:12 PM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

That's an important point - creepiness tends to be a pattern, not a single event. In isolation, a lot of creepy behaviours would be neutral. That's part of why it takes so long to recognize it.
posted by tel3path at 2:36 PM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

People that have a lot of "rules" that are supposedly taking some sort of a philosophical stand that you are supposed to accommodate.

It's a form of testing, but asking overly personal questions too soon. And then pushing the issue if you give vague answers or don't answer at all.

Anything that tries to categorize you or label you. Or you're *that* type of girl. Or even subtler comments that describe you or sum you up based upon very limited interaction with you.

Doesn't appear to have a lot of friends despite having a very outgoing personality.

Frame things they are looking for in a person in the negative. As in "no gold diggers or liars."

Really anything that dehumanizes women or implies that all or large subsets of women have certain traits.
posted by whoaali at 3:20 PM on September 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best answer: A lot of these clues people are listing could lead to false positives.

For example, not having a lot of friends. Some people are quiet and shy; this doesn't make them creepy or needy.

Some people with lots of friends are pathologically incapable of being alone, and are creepy and needy.

It's really a big picture you are looking for, to distinguish the creeps from the keepers. This is why I think there is so much wisdom in what many MeFites have said, that even if you don't click with a person on a first date, if there are no major red flags it makes sense to give them a couple more dates. They could turn out to be great people with great character, who don't immediately wow you because they are not bullshitters.

I notice that sometimes people who seem initially abrasive, turn out to be super-loyal and great friends. They have not polished up their personalities to lure people in.

People who are immediately charming turn out to have no spine, no principles, and are manipulative. They may come across, at first, as being very open and magnanimous, but there's something about their openness and magnanimity that becomes somehow oppressive; it is the bait to lure you into their sick little world. I've noticed in meeting people that sometimes it takes a couple of meetings with them to suss out the craziness.

People with clear boundaries often turn out to have a lot of character. People who don't make any immediate assumptions about what will be good for you, about what you will like, or about what you need. Someone who assumes that you have firm boundaries too, and doesn't propose to help you or fix your situation in any way.

People who act like they can immediately solve all your problems if you just "come with them" turn out to be creepy and controlling. For example, I notice that sometimes controlling people want you to suddenly do everything THEIR way. It's almost like they're saying they've got everything figured out and if you'll just follow their lead your life will be so much better.
posted by jayder at 3:40 PM on September 22, 2011 [17 favorites]

jayder is right, mostly, except that this

People who are immediately charming turn out to have no spine, no principles, and are manipulative.

reads as a hasty generalization about charming people. Charm can be a red flag... or it can be a sign of an ex-social klutz who made a big effort to improve! I love charm, myself, and have tried (not that successfully, but I try) to cultivate it in myself, and I don't think I'm doing it for the wrong reasons.

I've met charming bullies, but one of the most pretentious people I ever met was someone who prided himself on being a "brutally honest" nerdy slob. This guy fully believed that wearing the exact same unwashed clothes every day, and sometimes inside-out, made him a person of integrity and freed him of narcissism. The very opposite was true. But his pretentiousness was not something that immediately bashed you in the eye.

Unfortunately there is no one style of self-presentation that you can always rely on to not be hiding its opposite.
posted by tel3path at 12:58 AM on September 23, 2011

Best answer: This thread seems kind of directed at men being creepers, which is okay 'cause the poster is a lady asking for advice, but I thought I'd share my 27-years-old-pretty-happy-stable-job-successful-single-dude dating indicators of whether or not someone is gonna be... bad news.

This is all just my personal experiences. I try to go on a lot of dates and meet people casually just to find someone I really click with. My roommate has mandated that if someone asks me out, I'm obligated to at least try it unless I have a really bad feeling.

This stuff all happens on a first date or in our first few messages on OkCupid (or wherever):
*Extreme response to minor inconvenience, lack of humor about life's many irritations
*Rude to the waitstaff or dismissive of other people
*Overly negative things to say about past situations without context (a normal response if we're talking about something serious is to actually discuss it, not just say "My dad is an asshole. My ex-boyfriend is a psycho, etc. etc.") These people inevitably are Me vs. The World and they're never at fault.
*Stories that start specific but then end vaguely. Details often change mid telling.

Example for the previous two examples: The last date I went on she asked if I had met anyone online. I said "yes, it's fun, have you?" She said she had met one guy, paused, then said actually two. One guy in Ohio who she met twice. Pause. And got married to for "practical purposes". Without a marriage license... because he was a Quaker. Then she called him a narcissist and wouldn't say anything else about it, not that I pushed hard.

*Very impulsive behavior
*TESTING behavior. I can't fucking bold that hard enough. I had no idea how to phrase it before reading this thread. That will now be my number one run away sign. I would never do that to someone, and pushing someone to eat a food they don't want to in public is my #1 pet peeve.

Some of the stuff posted here, I don't really agree with. Not having a lot of friends? Not everyone needs the level of social support others do. Being charming? I had crippling social anxiety and I spent years mentally working on myself because I knew inside was a charming, happy guy that was awesome. Now I am (mostly!) that guy. It's not a mirage where behind lurks an evil sociopath. :(

tl;dr summary would be
*A creep is someone who takes themselves and their own situation so seriously that they feel it is their right to never be inconvenienced or are responsible for hurting others.
*A keeper is someone who realizes life is ridiculous and we're all in this together so be a source of joy and kindness to people you meet while not being a doormat.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:30 AM on September 23, 2011 [17 favorites]

Not having a ton of friends can be a red flag, but it shouldn't be a dealbreaker. I enjoy friends and social situations but I'm kind of an introvert and really enjoy having one or two great friends. I've been with a woman I met on OKC for about three months now and we both agree it's the best relationship either of us have ever been in, so while it makes sense to look again at a person without a lot of friends, don't disqualify them!
posted by speedgraphic at 1:18 PM on September 23, 2011

Don't have sex. Seriously. There is no three-date rule or anything else.

Get to know someone at casually and go slowly. Really really really.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:54 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don't have sex. Seriously. There is no three-date rule or anything else.

Get to know someone at casually and go slowly. Really really really.

Great advice if you don't want to meet people on dating website who want to date more than a few times, and want to be written off as someone who is unable or uninterested in romantic relationships.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:25 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Listen to what people tell you about themselves. The true creeps I’ve been with all pretty much told me, right off the bat, what kinds of people they were. I suspect this is actually a form of the “testing” behavior discussed at length upthread. Really good creeps will combine this with the pity play, such that you feel bad for them and want to help them be better people.

Breaking out the child abuse or dead parent stories within the first three dates. Yeah, early overdisclosure. This can be a neat trick to rope you in emotionally before you can really judge the relationship. The same kind of disclosure can be either basic biographical information or emotionally charged manipulation; all I can say is have your emotional radar up.

The thing about “only 5 friends (and is proud of it)” in my book is that it’s really about whether the person sees this as a matter of “I have five wonderful friends and feel blessed to have them in my life,” or, “I’m only friends with five people because so many people are (stupid, manipulative, disloyal, etc.)” Do they talk about their friendship structure in terms of positives or negatives?

Excessive flattery doesn’t have to be implausible. One of my creeps went on and on and on about how smart I am. I actually am really damn smart, so it took me a long time to realize that this played heavily to my vanity, and also set up my creep as the only person who appreciated how exceptionally brilliant I am. Plus, I could never live up to how brilliant he thought I was, which was paradoxically hard on my self-estimation.

In general, look out for people who seem to be into an idealized and romanticized version of you, and not the real you.

I don't think I'd date someone who hated dogs. Your mileage may vary. It'd be a different thing if they were allergic, indifferent to dogs, or even afraid of dogs, but if someone can look at a happy dog and feel contempt, there's a mental process there to which I just cannot relate.

Look out for people who “hate” and “feel contempt for” ANY normal companion and domestic animals, or YOUR companion and domestic animals. This can run a spectrum from “creep” (“Ha ha your bunny is meat”*) to just “incompatible” (“I’m sure your black widow farm is lucrative, but I can’t deal with spiders in the basement.”)

And, oh god, general negativity. Talks about people in their life negatively. Has lots of bad things to say.

If you know their past partners, look for a pattern of people with unhappy and disrupted families of origin. Maybe they’re exceptionally patient and healing. But maybe they create relationships which only feel normal to people with unhappy pasts.

*Someone who can gracefully navigate rabbits-as-pets vs. rabbits-as-food is different.
posted by Iphigenia at 11:29 AM on October 20, 2011 [11 favorites]

I have a non-tomato testing example. This guy jokingly sort of gently poked me in the ribs with a screwdriver(this sounds strange, but we were putting up shelves or something and were just finished) - this totally freaked me out immediately- I told him to stop it, in a clearly alarmed way, not in a coy way at all. He kept doing it despite my continued protestations. I was unable to physically stop him, so I had to get away from him. He continued to consider it a fun joke and told me I was being unreasonable.

This is another big creep thing- people who try to rewrite reality - and will argue strong and hard for their edited version, and somehow manage to claim high moral ground while doing so.

Basically normal people should respect the feelings of others even if they are different than their own feelings about something.
posted by abirdinthehand at 6:15 PM on November 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

I know I'm late to the thread, but I have some things to add since my memories of dating a creep are still fresh (but no longer raw, whew):

-I nth the child abuse/family drama/abusive parent pity-party topic. The creep I dated brought this up on the 2nd date. Be careful of this because this suckers you in feeling pity for them, then you divulge more personal information about yourself (because you're a sympathetic soul), which gives them fodder for manipulating you. All my normal dates didn't bring heavy stuff like this up until we were in relationship mode. It's okay for people to bring it up as personal biographical notes, but it's a red flag when they constantly bring it up and make it the center of conversation.

-Guilting you and making you feel bad for setting up boundaries. Seriously, after every date, reflect on what was said that makes you feel bad. If they make you feel bad for normal behaviour, DTMFA. This is insidious and it builds up! I don't know about how het men feel about this, but I'm still working through some of my anti-woman socialized behaviour to please others, and the creep exploited this. Example: on my first coffee meet with the creep, he said the word date, and I asserted my boundary and said that this was a friend-meet because I was not available romantically. Then he said "Oh that is a shame" with a very hurt and accusatory look in his eye. My reaction at the time was guilt, but I really should have thought "Who the heck does he think he is?! Normal people would be glad that I came out and said it straight!"

-I nth the anecdotes/stories that start off specific that eventually become vague and make no sense. This gave me red flags with this creep, and I thought that he was just nervous (this was when we were eventually dating when I became available), but it got worse. This includes weird text messages that seemed like he was conversing with A Woman in General, rather than Me. And would not give specific replies to my messages (e.g. if I send a link to something specific, he ignores it, but keeps on messaging me with his random crap anyway). If you think that he's not having a conversation with you (even if it's just part of the time), he's not. RUN.

-Baiting and Switching, while not acknowledging the behaviour or saying that it wasn't their responsibility to notify you, especially bringing up deal breakers when they should have been brought up. Something along the lines of...
You: I'm not interested in children and I'm not ready to date people with children in their lives.
Date: Yeah, I don't remember the last time I dated someone with children!
(One month later)
Date: By the way, I'm a single parent of three toddlers.
You: What?!
Date: It wasn't my responsibility to tell you, because I had these children before I was dating you. (Then makes you feel guilty for not wanting children)

This happened to me. I ran early, but I should have ran sooner! It seems so stupid in hindsight, but creeps can good at being charming AND at being manipulative. Forcing things to go more slowly will give your brain enough breathing to objectively gauge recent developments. If it's going too fast, your brain doesn't have enough time to activate the creep-o-meter. But the creep-o-meter is in all of us as long as you don't rush things.
posted by Hawk V at 1:46 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

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