I can't respond to your 3000 messages
September 21, 2011 9:24 PM   Subscribe

TL;dr, I have a very clingy friend.

Skip (not his real name) and I met through a sports club a little less than a year ago. We have a bunch of mutual online friends and RL friends. I am super anti-social to begin with, but don’t mind hanging out with people at sports events and the like. Skip is a nice guy, and very popular on the online forum we both read, but I would rather have him as an acquaintance than a good friend.

A few months ago, Skip began calling/texting me ALL the time to talk about our training, and life in general. Every night, sometimes more than that. If he can’t get me on my cell, he calls the house, then texts me, then posts on Facebook. Sometimes he leaves me voicemails on my husband’s phone.

I have told him that it takes me a long time to respond sometimes, as when my husband and I get home from work, we have very limited time together before bed and we don’t normally take phone calls. Skip says he can’t see why I would have time to post a two sentence Facebook status, and not have time to talk to him for 30 minutes on the phone, or respond to his MANY text messages back and forth. If I don’t respond to a text message immediately, he doesn’t understand that my phone might not even be on.

DH thinks that I should just tell Skip not to contact me anymore. This would go VERY badly in the sports community that we are a part of. (For the record, Skip is married. Both Skip and Skip’s wife post on Facebook constantly how much they love each other, in statuses and on each other’s walls. I don’t think this is about Skip being attracted to me.)

Help. How can an anti-social girl turn down a friendship without making herself look evil?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Nice Guys rant is fun, and helped me out.

A few months ago, Skip began calling/texting me ALL the time to talk about our training, and life in general. Every night, sometimes more than that. If he can’t get me on my cell, he calls the house, then texts me, then posts on Facebook. Sometimes he leaves me voicemails on my husband’s phone.

Tell him you want him to stop, and that its making you uncomfortable. Don't worry about the friendship - I've done this to family members who call too much.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:37 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

When he calls, don;t return the calls.
When he texts, do not text back.
When he emails do not reply.

Many cell phone and home phone companies allow you to put a block on a number. Put a block on Skip's number.

When you happen to meet in person and he questions you on not returning texts and calls, make a lame excuse such as "we've been having phone problems lately so it's hot or miss". Same excuse for emails.

Rinse repeat until the issue is solved. It should not take long.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 9:39 PM on September 21, 2011

If slowly not responding does not work for you, blame it on your husband. He will take the heat. "sorry skipper, my husband is the jealous type and is uncomfortable with all the contact. See you at the next game/event."
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:53 PM on September 21, 2011

Yep, don't respond. If you feel a need to, let him know that you're uncomfortable with the relationship and the contacts, then, don't respond. It's that simple.
posted by HuronBob at 9:55 PM on September 21, 2011

If ignoring him really won't do, maybe something like this would: "Hi Skip, this will come as a surprise, but I'm seriously not as social as you think I am. I mean no offense, but I'm afraid our social interaction needs to be limited to the sporting events we attend. I'm glad to see you on those occasions. Thank you for understanding."
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:00 PM on September 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

Ask an influential, popular, and likely to be supportive member of the same crowd what you should do about it.

The two good things about this are:

1) You will get advice that will be appropriate for the norms of the social group you're interested in maintaining

2) You will have a pre-set defense against accusations from this guy that you are mean, stuck-up, or what have you--when/if the gossip gets to the person you asked, they will already know about the situation and can head it off at the pass with actual information about how this person has been treating you
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:02 PM on September 21, 2011 [16 favorites]

Here is my general answer to ANYONE like this:


Ok. the truth is I have never had to say this because I never ever answer my phone if I am at a restaurant, busy with my infant son, at work, driving, asleep, cooking, on the toilet... etc., etc., etc.

In truth, everyone just gets the message from my behavior. I do not treat my cell phone as an electronic leash, although I try to make replies timely, but also convenient for ME.


How old are you?

Back in the day, we had answer machines, not cell phones. Folks had to wait for a response. I treat my cell phone (including texts) exactly like that.

I don't think you owe an explanation, just adopt the behavior you wish to see mirrored. Eventually Skip will get the hint.

Additionally, you could assign skip's number a silent ringtone. Memail me for directions if google fails you here. I have no probs ignoring my text beep, no matter who it is, even if I read it. You won't either if you change your demeanor towards phone contact.

posted by jbenben at 10:06 PM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

This would go VERY badly in the sports community that we are a part of.

I bet you aren't the only one he has Skippified. They are just politely not talking about it in the forum would be my guess. Or they are talking about it via PMs and emails.
posted by ian1977 at 10:06 PM on September 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

Interesting. Maybe I've become more callous, and probably way too blunt, but I find myself more recently responding rather brusquely to people who can't seem to take a hint.

If a measured response time isn't giving him the reality of your inability or unwillingness to talk to him constantly and you're willing to accept the fact that gentle language may not be doing the job, I recommend a calm,

"Skip, are you keeping track of when and how often I might be online? Cut that shit out. You're a decent guy to hang with, but that behavior comes off as stalkerish and annoying. I'll return your calls and texts when I can, but I have a life outside of this sports group and I need you to give me some breathing room."
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:09 PM on September 21, 2011 [15 favorites]


You have a life to live, you can not and should not worry about what other people think.

Just do what is comfortable for you. Let others adjust to that or peel themselves off.


As long as you keep up your other participation, I don't see a problem here except with your perception.

You are autonomous. Accept your freedom and autonomy. Embrace it.
posted by jbenben at 10:11 PM on September 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

Upon re-reading your post... feel free to turn your phone off until Skip moves on with his level of contact. It's fine to tell him you turn your phone off in the evening, or when you are socializing with your spouse, or whatever.

Don't over-think this from Skip's point of view. Just start living your life as you want it to be!
posted by jbenben at 10:14 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ask an influential, popular, and likely to be supportive member of the same crowd what you should do about it.

the young rope-rider is totally right about this, if you are worried about Skip causing you to be shunned. If I were you, I'd ask several people their advice on this, not just one.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:23 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Skip is most certainly annoying other people in your community, too, if he's as needy as that. I would not worry about your standing within the group. Just do whatever you have to do to reduce contact with hime to games only.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:03 AM on September 22, 2011

make a lame excuse such as "we've been having phone problems lately so it's hot or miss"

Don't do this. It's cruel, leading him on, and won't stop him trying again, hoping your "phone problems" are fixed. Tell him the truth.
posted by Diag at 2:22 AM on September 22, 2011 [13 favorites]

Ya know, my first thought about Skip was: STALKER. A friendly stalker, perhaps, but a stalker nonetheless. You've tried to nicely tell Skip to lay off, so I'd suggest now moving up to ignoring him --- block his phone calls and text messages, send his emails directly to trash, delete him from your facebook friends list. As koahiatamadi says, he's probably doing or has done the same thing to other people; it's very doubtful that ignoring him will cause you problems in your mutual community, because it's a pretty sure bet that plenty of others in the group already know what Skip is like.

Also: all those lovey-dovey back & forth messages between Skip and his wife? Inmaterial. Whether true or not (that old thing about 'I think he doth protest too much' comes to mind....), Skip is stalking you.
posted by easily confused at 3:09 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

How can an anti-social girl turn down a friendship without making herself look evil?

If Skip were polite and friendly and out of nowhere you started ignoring him at group events or gossiped about him with other group members, that would look evil.

The real situation is one of those traps we humans socialized as girls fall into. When someone is behaving inappropriately, even if they are not being intentionally malicious, it is perfectly fine to object, firmly, even if the other person gets his feelings hurt and even if others around you would rather you didn't rock the boat.

I suggest you say something like, "Skip, I need you to stop texting me." And if he doesn't stop, block his number and tell the group's organizer. Don't answer the phone when he calls. Don't make excuses when he asks why you've stopped responding: "Skip, I tried to communicate with you in a way that works for both of us, but you insist on a volume of calls and texts that I don't want, and when I push back you don't respect my wishes."

It's not evil unless you retaliate against him by stalking his wife or, I don't know, set his house on fire. Those would make you look evil.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:27 AM on September 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

You've already mentioned that you and your husband don't normally take calls in the evenings, so stop taking his. If he asks you, remind him of that rule. "I like to focus on my family at those times."

Also, semi-block him from Facebook in such a way that he can't see your status updates but keep him as a "friend."
posted by cranberrymonger at 5:54 AM on September 22, 2011

You have a stalker. He seems like a pretty nice, well-meaning stalker, but he's a stalker just the same. He calls you incessantly, using multiple phone numbers. He sends you lots of messages. He checks up on your whereabouts on the internet and then uses that information to attempt to contact you further. And, most importantly, when you tell him that you do not want to talk with him at a particular time or in a particular way, he doesn't respect your wishes and argues that his desire to be close to you trumps your right to be left alone. You are being stalked.

Now, the question is, what would you like to do about it? A lot of people have suggested ways to tell gentle lies that might give him a reason not to contact you (e.g., tell him that your phone is broken or that your husband is angry). But I think you need to decide that it's time to stand up for yourself. If you haven't read The Gift of Fear, I'd suggest it, not necessarily because I think you're in danger from this man, but because it talks a lot about the ways in which people, especially women, are socialized to prioritize being kind or tactful over clearly expressing their desires and enforcing appropriate boundaries. I see a lot of that in what you've written here.

Personally, I like Monsieur Caution's advice for a fairly gentle way to assert your boundaries. But you can't hold yourself responsible for how other people, including your stalker, will react. It is not your job to make Skip comfortable by making yourself uncomfortable, and it is not your job to keep peace in the group by sacrificing peace for yourself. If they don't like that, it's their problem. You need to have confidence in your right to be left alone, and you need to be prepared to stand up for that right even if other people get upset with you. You have the absolute right to decide with whom you wish to speak and under what circumstances. Anyone who tells you that you're behaving badly when you politely assert that right is an asshole.
posted by decathecting at 6:09 AM on September 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

Depending on how long this has been happening, you might fake some surprise (which I did in the past when a friend started calling me at work just to chat, which I thought was the rudest thing in the world). It goes like this: you wake up to 8000 messages from him. Call, or send him an email: "What's wrong?" Him: "Nothing, why?" You: "Gosh, I woke up to 8000 messages from you this morning, and [pointedly] that's the sort of thing someone would only do if there was a serious emergency." Him: "Oh, no, just wanted to chat." You: "Oh, okay. If there's no emergency, then, I gotta [go to work, make dinner, work out] now. I'll call you Saturday after the game!" The aspects that seemed to make this work best involved A: Cutting off the conversation immediately--not having the conversation my friend wanted to have, and B: Giving a specific time at which I was going to call my friend back, and *not rewarding any contact made before then* except with a surprised "oh, is it something that can't wait? Because I have my [basket-weaving seminar/important meeting] right now and won't have time to chat until Saturday after the game, when I said I'd call you back."
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:19 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

When this happens to me, I usually ignore the texts/emails/calls and if they call me out on it in person, I just say, "yeah, i don't care for phones and texting' and leave it at that. Which is true, so I'm not actually lying.

Nowadays, I've become pretty good at figuring out potential clingy people, so I avoid them in the first place - or avoid making any plans or giving out my email or adding them to social networking sites.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:27 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I just came in to say: you're not anti-social. You're introverted. As an introverted person myself, I bristle at the misnomer :)

Also, what the young rope-rider said.
posted by Koko at 8:08 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Skip, you are a really nice guy and since I respect your friendship I've got to be really honest with you. I'm a really introverted kind of person and I have a really hard time keeping up with you. I know you like to chat and text a lot but that kind of interaction makes me really uncomfortable. I like seeing you at our events but I really need you to dial back on the calling and texting. You are a friendly, outgoing person and that is great. I'm just the opposite and keeping up with you is exhausting me and putting a strain on my relationship with my husband."

I'm a lot like Skip. I can be incredibly chatty and I respond to a lot of Facebook posts. I'm also completely dense when it comes to being too much and overwhelming people. I've had friends tell me to back off a little and I completely understand. I respect that different people have different personalities. Hopefully Skip understands that too. If not, at least you've been respectful in drawing your own boundaries and there's nothing wrong with that.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:14 AM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

DH thinks that I should just tell Skip not to contact me anymore. This would go VERY badly in the sports community that we are a part of.

I mean this kindly, not disrespectfully: if you characterize trying to dial back a friendship as something others might see as "evil" (which is unrealistic hyperbole) then I think your assumption about how your sports community will take it is also likely to be unrealistic hyperbole.

That is: expecting not to be harassed -- which is what Skip is doing (especially given details such as his arguing that you are obliged to talk to him because you posted a FB status!) -- is a completely reasonable expectation, and the boundaries you set down in order to enforce that are healthy, normal boundaries. Doing so will not make you appear "evil." Moreover -- assuming your sports community is mostly composed of generally well-adjusted adults -- they will not respond "VERY badly" to one of its members setting down healthy, normal boundaries.

If they do respond badly to you telling Skip to stop harassing you, then most likely one of two things is happening. Either A) the members of your community have equally unhealthy ideas about boundaries/friendship/stalking, just like Skip does; this should raise the question as to whether or not you really want to be a member of such a community anyway, or B) the members of your community are reacting only to Skip's side of the story (e.g., I just tried to be nice to her and she rejected me!) and not yours; this should raise the question as to how you might effectively let your side of the story be heard.

In other words, by assuming that your sports community will react badly to you asking Skip to knock it off, you are engaging in something called "catastrophizing," which is believing that the worst possible scenario will happen (no matter how unlikely that might be, or regardless of the options you would have even if it does). This paralyzes you, and shuts down your ability to consider the choices you have in a realistic, rational light.

So I urge you to try to rein in your catastrophe/all-or-nothing/black-and-white thinking, if you can, and consider more realistically the options before you. Skip is behaving badly (whether maliciously or just out of total lack of understanding of basic social dynamics), and you are not a bad person by wanting it to stop. (I also wonder if you may be actually pretty angry or upset with Skip that he's putting you in this position, but you don't find it acceptable to express your anger outward, so you are directing it inward instead, and it morphs into this fear of being "evil.")
posted by scody at 8:29 AM on September 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

What Disreputable Dog said -- except, don't say it to Skip. Say it to his wife and ask her to pass the message on.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 8:56 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

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