Lie to me. Actually, lie to my friend, over here...
April 19, 2012 3:41 PM   Subscribe

I started becoming pen pals with someone online and now they're coming to visit! BUT they're traveling partner is wary of people met online and wouldn't be happy about hanging out with me. What do I do?

I befriended a cute and wonderful person from OKC, who lives in Alberta, but travels extensively doing science fieldwork. She's traveling through Denver (where I live) and wants to meet up, which I think is a great idea! She's thinking of a fun night, maybe try the local beer, maybe go camping for the night. There's been playful flirting, but I'm not expecting anything but a casual fun time with a potential new friend. And I love to travel and make friends like this.

Her research assistant who's coming along is a little more sheltered and doesn't think meeting people online is a good idea, in fact she thinks it's a really BAD idea - as in she probably thinks I'm an axe-wielding murderer or something. They're a little less adventurous, in a lot of ways.

We probably need to tell her that we met in RL and already know each other, but we can't figure out a scenario, where I was in Canada, and/or she was in the states, where we'd randomly be together. Is there a generic response to that sort of thing? Is there a better way to break here into the, "Look, it's 2012 and stranger meet online all the time for fun social things!"

My hope is to make her research assistant be at ease, so we can all have fun together. Is lying OK? Is there a better way? Tell the research assistant now/later/never? :)
posted by alex_skazat to Human Relations (91 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
You met at a scientific conference.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:44 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


You have a mutual friend.
posted by sawdustbear at 3:45 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


...her research assistant? I know that traveling in small groups for business makes socializing inevitable on some level, but I'd be super weirded out if the professor I work for asked me to come along to meet their online friend for the first time. Is there some reason the assistant can't...do something on her own?
posted by threeants at 3:45 PM on April 19, 2012 [25 favorites]


On the one hand, I would say your friend should tell her research assistant that she'd like to meet up with/hang out with a friend she knows, if she'd like to invite her along. If said research assistant wants to know how you both know eachother, a vague answer like "oh, it's a long story" could/should suffice.

That being said, on the other hand, if I was said research assistant, and really scared of meeting strange people on the internet, and I trusted my friend, and they lied to me and brought me along on a CAMPING TRIP OVERNIGHT with an internet stranger, why - I would never talk to my friend again. What if her fear is rooted in some kind of trauma? Good people are respectful of other people's comfort zones.

Can you reduce the amount of time you spend together and just meet up without the research assistant? Why does she need to come along?

Please do not lie. It is a stupid thing to lie about.
posted by pazazygeek at 3:49 PM on April 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


We probably need to tell her that we met in RL and already know each other, but we can't figure out a scenario, where I was in Canada, and/or she was in the states, where we'd randomly be together.

When in doubt, tell the truth; it's the easiest thing to remember.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:50 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Assistants don't really get to dictate what the person who they assist do. She's allowed to disapprove, but that's all. Invite her along, or not.

If she can handle humor, your friend should say "alex_skazat knows me, but doesn't know you, and doesn't know if you, ms assistant, are not an axe murderer."
posted by cmiller at 3:53 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Uhm, why can't she just say,"Oh, I'm planning to visit a friend of mine while we're in Denver"? Why does she have to give all the details?
posted by dotgirl at 3:55 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I do not see that it is this other person's choice. They can stay in the hotel or whatever for that evening.

If they do come along, humor them and bring a small ax.
posted by Danf at 3:56 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wouldn't lie about it. Lying basically confirms the assistant's suspicions that you're untrustworthy.

Go out for local beer or whatever with both of them. Hopefully meeting you in person will make her feel more at ease, and I'd think it would be within her comfort zone. I mean, if you're traveling for fieldwork anyway, you're always meeting some people you've only ever corresponded with before, and odds are, occasionally having a drink with them or something since you're new in town and don't know anybody, right? Leave the question of camping open and don't be too disappointed if it doesn't happen. Maybe you won't hit it off in person after all. Maybe the assistant will talk your OKC friend out of the idea. Who knows.
posted by hattifattener at 3:58 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd avoid maybe go camping for the night to not add to the she probably thinks I'm an axe-wielding murderer feeling. Meeting someone for the first time is tricky enough as is, is what most people feel.

And I wonder why there is a need to explain how&why you know each other to the research assistant at all.
posted by travelwithcats at 3:59 PM on April 19, 2012


Also, I agree with above posters that lying in this situation is basically not respecting someone's stated boundaries in a very not-cool way.
posted by threeants at 4:00 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


No, lying is not okay nor will it make her relax and feel comfortable around you given she thinks that people from the Interwebs are nutjobs who would, you know, probably lie and would probably be really pissed/hurt/confused if she ever did find out she'd been lied ot.

I think honesty is probably the best way to go given that you're all adults. Think of it this way - everyone will get to learn something new about socializing with other human beings!
posted by mleigh at 4:03 PM on April 19, 2012


...her research assistant? I know that traveling in small groups for business makes socializing inevitable on some level, but I'd be super weirded out if the professor I work for asked me to come along to meet their online friend for the first time. Is there some reason the assistant can't...do something on her own?

From what I understand, this research assistant is a little less into doing things like using Couchsurfing, etc, than other research assistant's my penpal has had - it's never been a problem before.

I'd really like things to be all-inclusive and not leave anyone out from any fun. I can see how hanging out in a town your don't know ALONE is also not so cool of a move to do to someone. Like I sort of hinted at, I'm not expecting romance, but I love traveling and meeting new people and people who travel and also like to meet new people Developing a friendship would be totally rad.
posted by alex_skazat at 4:07 PM on April 19, 2012


Tell the research assistant the truth. Then she can determine for herself whether she would be comfortable meeting an online stranger, or whether she would prefer to spend some time alone. Some people like that, some people don't, and some people would prefer it to meeting a potential axe murderer.

tl;dr - Please give her the facts and let her decide.
posted by segfault at 4:14 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I think you're looking at this in reverse. A boss's responsibility in a situation like this is not to provide fun for her employee, but quite oppositely, to make sure that she doesn't make her employee feel coerced into doing random social things she doesn't want to. Like, I'm super down with CouchSurfing...but it's not something I would ever want to do with a boss on a work trip. Boundaries, y'all.
posted by threeants at 4:15 PM on April 19, 2012 [32 favorites]


Lying is not ok in this situation. It would be far, far better to leave the research assistant out than to have to lie to get her to go along with it. Why are you opposed to respecting this girl's boundaries?
posted by J. Wilson at 4:15 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Quite frankly, if an employer wanted to hang out with me all the time on a business trip, my internal reaction would be "Sorry; you only pay me for forty hours".)
posted by threeants at 4:17 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I love traveling and meeting new people and people who travel and also like to meet new people Developing a friendship would be totally rad.

Some people just don't love this, though. In fact, she actively dislikes it. It sounds like your friend's RA is not social in that way, either (she doesn't like couchsurfing, doesn't like meeting people she doesn't already have in her social network in a non-structured setting, etc). Leaving her out isn't leaving her out of any fun, because meeting you would not be fun for her. She wants to be left out of these particular shenanigans. Leave her out. For her sake.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:18 PM on April 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


I agree with the others here that lying to your friend's subordinate in order to get her to come camping with you is not okay. Meeting in a public place like a bar is one thing, camping is quite another.

If the research assistant is only going to feel comfortable staying in a hotel, your friend shouldn't try to prevent that.

Why not invite the research assistant to drinks with you and friend, and then you and friend can go camping and the RA can stay at a hotel, then you all meet up the next day?
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:18 PM on April 19, 2012


You're not in charge of entertaining the researcher assn't. She can watch a movie in her hotel room or pick up drunks in a bar, but she's not your worry, and not really your pal's worry. Everyone's a grown-up, right?
posted by Ideefixe at 4:19 PM on April 19, 2012


(Hmm, apparently, without me knowing, my pen pal has already told her RA that we met in RL already - I fear this is going to turn into one white lie, turning into another, into another, into.... )
posted by alex_skazat at 4:20 PM on April 19, 2012


There are some weird boundary issues at play here, but let me add to the general consensus that lying is not okay in this situation and in fact compounds the idea that you are doing something wrong. Let the research assistant decide whether she wants to make a new friend this way or not.
posted by sm1tten at 4:21 PM on April 19, 2012


People here have hinted to going out for a beer and getting to know each other first. This time you might want to keep your own wanderlust under wraps.

We need our research assistants to feel respected because they do a good bulk of the work and we spend so much time with them. And yes it sometimes means that we have to adjust our own expectations - I stayed at a local hotel that had no plumbing (as is standard in that country) because my RA picked it. The only other hotel there that had plumbing was expat owned and gave her the creeps. No biggie.

Be respectful and honest. And as others have pointed out: don't make yourself an example of "creepy internet guy"
posted by travelwithcats at 4:21 PM on April 19, 2012


Lying is not ok in this situation. It would be far, far better to leave the research assistant out than to have to lie to get her to go along with it. Why are you opposed to respecting this girl's boundaries?

I'm not opposed to anything, I'm simply asking a question, in what I hope is a safe place to talk about things that I don't know the best answer to and why I'm asking for help.
posted by alex_skazat at 4:22 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Question: why is it so important to your pen pal that her RA be involved in this at all?
posted by sm1tten at 4:23 PM on April 19, 2012


Question: why is it so important to your pen pal that her RA be involved in this at all?

Because they're traveling together. - would you want to be ditched in a city you have never been to, in a country you don't live in?
posted by alex_skazat at 4:25 PM on April 19, 2012


Tell her you met through an online community; you don't have to specify which one.
posted by brujita at 4:28 PM on April 19, 2012


would you want to be ditched in a city you have never been to, in a country you don't live in?

If my other option was camping with someone from work and a stranger? Fuck yes.
posted by grapesaresour at 4:29 PM on April 19, 2012 [59 favorites]


would you want to be ditched in a city you have never been to, in a country you don't live in?


Yes, please! Having some time away from my boss who I've been traveling and working and eating and sharing close quarters with for days would be absolutely necessary for me. Knowing my boss was having a nice time with a friend who lives locally would be great, and going with her could be weird (you're not old friends, you've got some chemistry, it's a first IRL meeting). Some time apart would give us something to talk about on the trip back to our city/office as well.
posted by headnsouth at 4:29 PM on April 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


FWIW, there are definitely some times when I would've been totally delighted to be "ditched" in a place where I knew no one. A night of the hotel room to myself, a nice long bath, maybe some room service--that'd be fantastic.

Totally extend the invite to RA, but don't discount the possibility that they'd be must as happy--if not happier--staying behind. Not everyone is a social person who loves making new friends, etc--I find it really stressful, and would usually much rather have a nice evening reading or whatever.
posted by MeghanC at 4:29 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


would you want to be ditched in a city you have never been to, in a country you don't live in

We're talking Edmonton or Calgary to Dallas, not to Abuja. The languages are the same. The culture is similar. One evening. And, yes, I think I would prefer the option of not attending to being forced to join my boss and her friend, though I might feel obliged to go. And I don't even object to meeting online strangers.
posted by jeather at 4:30 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Tell her you met through an online community; you don't have to specify which one.


The RA has already condemned site's like couch surfing, so that's out.

Also, I have found out my pen pal has already told her RA that we have met in RL - I wish I knew that before asking this question! Now it turns into, how the heck did we know each other in RL, which is different question and takes a lot of the choice/decision of mine out of it. I think we're going with, "mutual friend that hikes in Colorado"
posted by alex_skazat at 4:32 PM on April 19, 2012


Because they're traveling together. - would you want to be ditched in a city you have never been to, in a country you don't live in?

I would absolutely prefer this to my boss and a stranger concocting a lie to get me to accompany them on their first date/friendly camping trip in a city I've never been to in a country I don't live in.

It really just sounds like you and your friend are really outgoing and gregarious and your friend's RA is not. Please trust her, as an adult who makes her own decisions, to know what kind of social situations she likes and is comfortable in. Please do not lie to her about your relationship with her boss.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:32 PM on April 19, 2012 [11 favorites]



It really just sounds like you and your friend are really outgoing and gregarious and your friend's RA is not. Please trust her, as an adult who makes her own decisions, to know what kind of social situations she likes and is comfortable in. Please do not lie to her about your relationship with her boss.


Well said. I'll ask if having some alone time for the RA is a good, or bad thing.
posted by alex_skazat at 4:36 PM on April 19, 2012


I'd rather spend time alone in a strange place than be manipulated by someone that I should trust.

I think it's presumptuous to assume that she would have more fun with the two of you, odd that your friend and her RA need to be attached at the hip because they're traveling together, and selfish for your friend to lie to her RA so that your friend can do something that she wants.

But clearly you and your friend disagree. There was a better way, definitely.
posted by sm1tten at 4:36 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, I would want to be ditched in that situation if I were as uncomfortable with it as you think she is. Why not let her decide if she wants to be ditched after you tell her the relevant facts?

Maybe her boss ditching her would be shitty -- that would depend on context I don't have -- but there's no doubt that lying or failing to disclose this information that you both know is relevant and material to her stated personal boundaries would be even more shitty.

Your update changes nothing. You should still come clean in advance. It's the only decent thing to do.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:37 PM on April 19, 2012


It's not too late for your friend to tell her RA the truth. I would find out if she's willing to do that. It would be so easy for the truth to slip out later, better to be honest sooner rather than later.
posted by daikon at 4:39 PM on April 19, 2012


I'm sorry to say this flag me if you wish but this whole thing does not sound very mature. I don't think it will hurt your potential friendship with this girl if you don't go camping/hiking or do any other activity that the RA does not feel comfortable with.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:41 PM on April 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'll ask if having some alone time for the RA is a good, or bad thing.

Yeah, but don't ask your friend, ASK THE RA! Let her(?) decide whether she wants to hang out with a stranger or watch Law & Order reruns back at the hotel.

You and your friend are coming across like real creepers here, I gotta say. Don't lie to the RA. Encourage your friend not to lie to her RA. This seems like totally weird awful boundary-crossing behavior in a professional relationship.
posted by mskyle at 4:42 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dude, why are YOU so worried about any of this? It's nice that you're trying to be friendly and inclusive, but in the long run, this is between your friend and her RA. Let your friend negotiate this - after all, she knows the woman in question. With all due respect, y'all are over-thinking this. You friend just needs to say, "I'm going to hang out with my pen pal from OKC. Want to grab a beer with us?" and THAT'S ALL THAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN. Everyone is a grown-up and you're not, like, the only three English speakers in Katmandu. It's all going to be fine.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 4:42 PM on April 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


I would never flag something like what you've written, travelwithcats and I respect your opinion and I def. see your point of view. I'll continue to talk to my pen pal about this all and make sure everyone is being treated with respect.
posted by alex_skazat at 4:44 PM on April 19, 2012


I'm also gonna jump in and say, I would be a little wary of your new friend! Lying was her choice; now it's your burden. It was very presumptuous of her to decide you have to participate.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:45 PM on April 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's quite possible that this woman is actually incredibly gregarious, loves going out, and regularly meets up with strangers from the internet on her own, but is fibbing because she doesn't want to open up the potential for being the third wheel on an OkCupid date with her boss.

And yeah, your friend lying doesn't give you a pass on the same. Her bed, she made it, etc.
posted by threeants at 4:51 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really, this isn't your problem. You are stirring up drama at this point with the fake backstory.
posted by frecklefaerie at 4:51 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Sorry, I don't mean to seem needlessly aggro; I just think your friend has a very oblivious or disrespectful attitude towards work/life boundaries, so my advice to you is not to encourage that.)
posted by threeants at 4:54 PM on April 19, 2012


If I was someone's RA and they knew that I was sincerely creeped out by meeting online people and then they lied to me about how they knew someone with whom we went camping alone in a foreign country where I knew no one else but my supervisor I would flip my shit so fast that this aforementioned shit would break the sound barrier. This is an intensely creepy thing to do to someone, and exponentially more creepy when it is done to you by someone who is your superior/supervisor in a work/school setting.

what the actual fuck.
posted by elizardbits at 4:57 PM on April 19, 2012 [29 favorites]


This is very weird. What kind of science fieldwork involves having an RA and doesn't involve money for a hotel and a per diem? And an RA that can't be left alone for a night?

In the past I went to conferences or field sampling with my advisor, and I'd often go to dinner with her and other people. But after parting at dinner I don't know where she went. And some nights we wouldn't meet up for dinner and I'd have no idea where she went unless it came up in conversation the next day. The idea of my boss lying to me about how she knew someone she was meeting up with is bizarre.

This should be as simple as:

Your friend: "I'm going out for dinner with this guy I know who lives in town. I met him online, but he seems like a good guy. You're welcome to come, otherwise I'll see you tomorrow."

the RA: "Ok have fun, I think I'll stay in."
or
the RA: "Cool, thanks for the invite, let me get my coat."
posted by pseudonick at 5:18 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


what the actual fuck.

I think it stems from the opinion that my pen pal and I share that meeting people online isn't a creepy thing to do, that people do it every day - that people get married and spend the rest of their lives with people they've met online - all we're thinking about doing is hanging out for a day or two. You can meet creepy people anywhere and singling out meeting them online is short-sighted.

(to all that are not down with camping) I know camping seems like a weird thing to do, but perhaps not in the locale that is Colorado (or in the locale of AL, either, especially not for field biologists, which are camping on their job) or for people on a budget.
posted by alex_skazat at 5:19 PM on April 19, 2012


I've been meeting people online since 1991, and in fact married someone I met online.

One thing I've learned in all that time: If someone has to tell a lie to make the meeting happen, it's just not going to end well. What you've learned about your friend is rather than have a difficult conversation or accomodate someone's concerns -- when they are in a supervisory role -- they'll lie. I'd sit with that one a bit.

The best story to remember is the one that's true of course.
posted by Zen_warrior at 5:22 PM on April 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Why do you not understand that the RA's opinion is equally as valid as your opinion, despite the fact that they are polar opposites? Do you not see how unbelievably presumptuous and wildly rude and creepy it is to take away someone's agency like that? This is a super jerkish thing to do to someone, especially under these circumstances where you seem to believe that you somehow know better than them.
posted by elizardbits at 5:23 PM on April 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


I just wonder why the RA's opinion even matters at all. If she doesn't like things, can't she get just do something else?
posted by KokuRyu at 5:25 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I was someone's RA and they knew that I was sincerely creeped out by meeting online people and then they lied to me about how they knew someone with whom we went camping alone in a foreign country where I knew no one else but my supervisor...

THIS, especially given the sexual undertones of your planned outing. I know you said you're not expecting anything to happen and are happy just to make a new friend, but be honest. Are you and/or your friend hoping this will turn into something of a hookup? I mean, why else the urgent insistence on turning this outing into a camping trip? Is the RA being dragged along as a safety blanket, in case you and your new pal don't click in person and it all gets horribly awkward?

I'm not saying these are necessarily your motives, but as an objective outsider viewing your new friend's (frankly, bizarre) behavior, she may have something like that in mind. And speaking as someone who grew up in a very outdoorsy place with camping galore, I find it a very odd choice of plans with someone I've never met.
posted by keep it under cover at 5:26 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


If someone has to tell a lie to make the meeting happen, it's just not going to end well. What you've learned about your friend is rather than have a difficult conversation or accomodate someone's concerns -- when they are in a supervisory role -- they'll lie. I'd sit with that one a bit.

this. bc who knows what she has lied to you about—or will lie to you about in the future—rather than having an actual adult conversation where it's okay to have differing opinions.
posted by violetk at 5:30 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it stems from the opinion that my pen pal and I share that meeting people online isn't a creepy thing to do, that people do it every day - that people get married and spend the rest of their lives with people they've met online - all we're thinking about doing is hanging out for a day or two. You can meet creepy people anywhere and singling out meeting them online is short-sighted.

By the way, my ex-boyfriend of four years was someone I met online. I seriously considered spending the rest of my life with him. And I still don't understand why you can't let this woman make up her own mind about meeting you.
posted by keep it under cover at 5:32 PM on April 19, 2012


Here's what I think it is - and purely from my own perspective - not talking for my friend who's visiting:

Say they're coming, stopping here on their way for some field research, RA in tow, but the RA is very sheltered, small town, etc and wouldn't want to hang out with me, because I am gay. Or pick your prejudice - I'm the wrong, "race", or practice the wrong religion - or any religion. Is it still creepy to tell that RA that I'm not, just so we can all have a real nice time together? Certainly I'm playing a devil's advocate here and please take it with that grain of salt.


And please, (and again, speaking purely of myself). I can keep it in my pants. I'm borderline asexual, but I love meeting up with people like this - people have been so supremely generous with me, when I travel, it's so natural to extend this type of kindness to others.
posted by alex_skazat at 5:34 PM on April 19, 2012


oh my god you just compared social anxiety to homophobia racism and religious intolerance

goodbye forever
posted by elizardbits at 5:37 PM on April 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Stranger danger "prejudice" is not irrational. Especially if you're a woman and the stranger in question is a man. This is not something you're likely to change her mind about, and tricking her into feeling safe with you certainly will not make her suddenly trust strangers from the internet.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:39 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Is it still creepy to tell that RA that I'm not, just so we can all have a real nice time together? Certainly I'm playing a devil's advocate here and please take it with that grain of salt.

Why are you doing this? Why do you need us to tell you that this is okay? Why do you need there to be a situation (which, by the way, does not matter in the least bit because it isn't the situation you are in) in which the way you and your friend are behaving is okay?

You know this isn't okay. Don't do it anymore.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:40 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


DUDE, everyone chill out, I didn't tell the RA anything. She's uncomfortable, we want her to make her comfortable. What do we do?

That's my question, really. I'm trying to understand her point of view - we can all talk about this like adults, without getting crazy, right. Right?
posted by alex_skazat at 5:43 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


She's uncomfortable, we want her to make her comfortable. What do we do?

psuedonick, above: Your friend: "I'm going out for dinner with this guy I know who lives in town. I met him online, but he seems like a good guy. You're welcome to come, otherwise I'll see you tomorrow."

the RA: "Ok have fun, I think I'll stay in."
or
the RA: "Cool, thanks for the invite, let me get my coat."

People are weirded out by this because you seem really committed to the idea that there's a way to make a lie of omission okay, and a way to make the RA a different person than she is, when it pretty much really isn't and you pretty much really can't.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:45 PM on April 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Say they're coming, stopping here on their way for some field research, RA in tow, but the RA is very sheltered, small town, etc and wouldn't want to hang out with me, because I am gay. Or pick your prejudice - I'm the wrong, "race", or practice the wrong religion - or any religion. Is it still creepy to tell that RA that I'm not, just so we can all have a real nice time together? Certainly I'm playing a devil's advocate here and please take it with that grain of salt.

Look, if I just had the sense a friend didn't like gay people and wanted to hang out with a third gay friend, sure, a lie would be kind of regressive but not totally unethical. If someone told me, "I really, really don't feel comfortable around gay people; please don't take me to meet any," I would give them the right to deal with their own hangup.

And come on now. I think online people who you don't have any context on are a group that can legitimately be described as having some small real risk factor, unlike gay people. The risk is so small that most people consider the options and choose to accept the risk. This woman has already made her choice! And it's being disrespected.

But this is all so, so immaterial! These people are not friends, they are supervisor and subordinate. The assistant has made a frankly reasonable request. I (and, I'd imagine, most people) don't want to accompany my boss on an OkCupid date, on a gay cruise ship, on a moose hunt, on a family reunion, on a zipline excursion, on a wine tasting, on a protest rally, on a spelling bee, or on anything beyond minor pleasantries that doesn't directly pertain to our job.

Your online friend is creepy and I'd be wary of her even as far as your own interest is concerned. People who casually lie to overstep the boundaries of others are dangerous business.
posted by threeants at 5:47 PM on April 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Tell the RA the truth. She may want to stay in the hotel and watch tv or go to dinner with a good book in tow. Or you know what? leaving her alone one night of the trip is better than lying to her.

She doesn't want to go on a date with her boss and some guy the her boss met on the internet. She especially doesn't want to go camping with them. It doesn't matter what the external circumstances are going on an overnight excursion with a person your friend knows from the internet and has never met before is creepy.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 5:47 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, I've lied to people about where I met someone who I actually only knew from the internet, but the point is, I didn't do it to manipulate them into feeling okay with doing something outside of their boundaries. I did it to stop them from worrying about ME. E.g. I met a guy for a beer once who I only knew from him commenting on my blog a few times, but there was no way in hell I was telling that to my office mate who asked me where I was off to that evening, because she would have probably called the police to save me from myself. (Plus it would have outed me at work as having a blog.)

I also told people that "a friend of a friend" sent me curtain rings from Sydney's Ikea recently, because I didn't want to weird them out with the idea that a random person I didn't even know in real life had responded to a cry for help I posted on metafilter.

But in both these cases, these lies were to protect ME from people worrying about ME. When I first read your post here, I thought that was what this was too. Like, your friend thought her RA would worry if she said she was meeting someone from the internet, so she was going to lie about it so the RA could relax that evening back at the hotel.

After your clarifications, I think it is weird that your friend is expecting the RA to come along. I have been people's RAs and I have HAD RAs, and in both cases, if you are travelling together, an invite to join people for dinner is nice, but not expected. And as an introvert myself, I much prefer when travelling to NOT have to meet new people. Travelling is stressful enough as it is because you are in the public eye more, and if it's work related, you are probably interacting with new people for that, and god almightly all I want to do at the end of one of those days is lock myself in my hotel room with a good book. Or maybe wander the streets of the town looking at architectrue and trying not to interact with anyone.

But anyway, assuming someone wants social interaction when they might not is a small issue. The big one is that your friend thinks it's okay to lie about someone she is meeting in order to pressure the RA to overstep her own (perfectly reasonable!) boundaries. It is absolutely NOT the same as if you were gay or whatever, although in those circumstances I would still not recommend lying, because if the RA found out you had lied about being straight, that would just feed right back into her prejudices against gay people.
posted by lollusc at 5:49 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I find this whole self-created stess a bunch of childish drama. You know what grow ups do? They tell the "uncomfortable" friend to own his or her anxieties and tell your friend whom you met through OKC that she has to deal with making alternate arrangements for the RA. If the RA has a problem with it, then the RA has to find his or her own means of personal entertainment while you and your online friend hang out together. The grownup part is that no one dictates to the other person how to live or to go out of their comfort zone if they don't want to.
posted by deanc at 5:50 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


She's uncomfortable, we want her to make her comfortable. What do we do?

I shall now put on my calm liz hat and try to explain calmly.

When someone is socially uncomfortable about a potential situation, the way to make them more comfortable is NEVER, not ever, no never, to lie to them about the thing they specifically stated makes them uncomfortable. This is a shitty thing to do unless the situation is literally life or death ("I know she is terrified of flying but our only way out of this pit of satanic ninja laser wolves is via helicopter! what do i do?").

Seriously, if you are legitimately even the least bit concerned about this person's feelings, you will let them make their own decision based on the true and actual situational facts and not just lie to them for what you presumptuously believe is their own good.
posted by elizardbits at 5:51 PM on April 19, 2012 [21 favorites]


DUDE, everyone chill out, I didn't tell the RA anything. She's uncomfortable, we want her to make her comfortable. What do we do?

Leave her the hell alone, that's what you do.
posted by headnsouth at 5:52 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meeting people online isn't creepy. Trying to force someone to meet people online when that someone is, for whatever reason(s) uncomfortable with it, is totally creepy.

Also, "people who occasionally meet others online" are not an oppressed minority.

This story might be a little different if the RA insists on spending every evening with your friend, and not that your friend feels obliged to take her RA with her everywhere. You stilll shouldn't be lying to her.
posted by jeather at 5:53 PM on April 19, 2012


I shall now put on my calm liz hat and try to explain calmly.

I appreciate your followup response and thank you.
posted by alex_skazat at 5:54 PM on April 19, 2012


You know what? If the RA is that uncomfortable with meeting strangers online and can't be comfortable separated from your online friend, maybe this trip is NOT a good time for you and your online friend to meet up.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:57 PM on April 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure if this is something that's already been mentioned and it might not be something you want to hear, but I think the reason your friend is desperate enough to lie to her RA is because she (your friend) isn't entirely comfortable meeting you alone. There's really no other rationale to try and coerce the RA into joining you.

Given that maybe your friend isn't 100% comfortable meeting someone she only knows online, then I don't think her RA's feelings are that questionable and probably should have been respected instead of you two looking for a way to get around them.
posted by twinight at 6:04 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


And you're right, elizardbits that was a supremely stupid thing to compare this scenario to, and I apologize (to all) for bringing it up. I say/think stupid things, as I have a slim filter between my brain in reality. It's a affliction of the creative mind. Sometimes being a douche.
posted by alex_skazat at 6:07 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Folks, chill out and be constructive or come back when you can be. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:10 PM on April 19, 2012


If you're just meeting up at a bar, why does her assistant need to come hang out with you at all?
posted by Kololo at 6:15 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whooo, that got a little heated up there!

Here's what I recommend...

...if your friend thinks the RA would feel bad being left out, and y'all really want her to feel as comfortable and included as possible: plan the meet-up, tell her the truth about how y'all met (so she can back out if she wants), and have the meet-up be in a public place. Don't go camping, just go out to a pub, get food, play pool, drink beers. It'll be fun.

...if your friend thinks the RA wouldn't care about coming out or not, but just is generally judgey about meeting people online: plan whatever you want (like camping! fun!), tell the RA the truth, and don't effing worry about her, or her opinions on meeting people online.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 6:23 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It sounds to me like this resolves around your emotional investment in other people - even strangers, like your friend's assistant - agreeing with you that meeting folks from the internet is an okay thing to be into. Why do you care so much that other people think it's great that you meet people on the internet, do you think? When you examine your own feelings, would you say that you have a slight tinge of defensiveness about this, or do you genuinely feel 100% that meeting people on the internet is no big?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 6:25 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It sounds to me like this resolves around your emotional investment in other people - even strangers, like your friend's assistant - agreeing with you that meeting folks from the internet is an okay thing to be into. Why do you care so much that other people think it's great that you meet people on the internet, do you think? When you examine your own feelings, would you say that you have a slight tinge of defensiveness about this, or do you genuinely feel 100% that meeting people on the internet is no big?

A pretty damn good point - far over the pale of this discussion, but something I should think ponder over. Thanks for bringing that up.
posted by alex_skazat at 6:34 PM on April 19, 2012


OK - I've told my friend that I'm getting a consensus that it's a pretty douchey thing to do to lie to her RA and that we should tell the truth and let her decide on what she'd like to do - hang out with us, be alone, or another option - their choice.




Thanks for all the feedback!
posted by alex_skazat at 6:36 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Gah, I type way too slow. On preview, you sound like you're getting it! I'm still posting because it's a little fun to remember departmental chaos from stuff like this.

If there's one thing AskMe's taught me, it's that different people and cultures have wildly variant ideas about guests and homes and public vs private space. I could talk what it's like to come from a background where couchsurfing would be unthinkable. There are probably dozens of people reading this thread who could tell you what it feels like to be pressured into a social situation when you are an introvert or if you have social anxiety. None of those people are necessarily 'unkind,' 'unfriendly,' 'sheltered,' or 'prejudiced.' It's not a problem for you to fix. You don't convince them of their wrongness, you offer and allow them to make their own decision.

It is completely ok for the RA to be uncomfortable with this.

It sounds like you're surprised that people have gotten their hackles up in this thread when, from your perspective, you're just trying to do something nice. When you go beyond a polite offer into 'convincing,' you're saying your preferences are better or more important than theirs. Ok when it's a movie. Not ok when it's personal safety, boundaries, or cultural norms.

The other layer is that socializing with someone in a supervisory position is always delicate territory. Your friend and her RA are not on equal footing-- especially in academia, the RA's finances and future depend on her being liked and respected. She shouldn't feel like being pressured in her personal life, no matter how much you think it's 'for her own good,' puts that at risk. It's also worth saying -- Maybe your friend also wants to minimize the risk of her (possibly work funded?) trip being perceived as improper by bringing the RA along. There are some crazy academic conference stories on the web, but I've worked in departments where a rumor that you used a business trip as an excuse to go hook up with your internet paramour will follow you around forever. And in situations where people didn't get along, I've seen coworkers + travel + dating have negative employment consequences.
posted by Gable Oak at 6:57 PM on April 19, 2012


(to all that are not down with camping) I know camping seems like a weird thing to do

Just to address this point: it's not that people are down on camping, it's that meeting a stranger for dinner or a drink at a bar is one thing, but going camping with a stranger is another. If you're in a restaurant or bar, there are other people around and you can easily get a cab back to your hotel if things get weird. If you're camping, you may be far from other people and with no way (under your own control) to get back.

If someone is cautious about meeting internet strangers, camping with a stranger is a much less appealing prospect than meeting them in a restaurant or bar. That's all people were saying, I think.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:08 PM on April 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


I feel like there's a lot more going on than meets the eye, but to answer the larger question: "If I told you the truth you wouldn't do what I want" does not make it ok to lie.

And if the whole backstory is accurate, you should know that fear of having boundaries disregarded is a big reason why some people are afraid of meeting people off the internet.
posted by Space Kitty at 7:16 PM on April 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think you've figured this out, but I'm from Colorado, and many women would not go camping with a guy they didn't know. That is not shy or small town, it's a basic attempt to protect oneself. You know you're asexual ish and won't try any funny business, but she has zero way to know that. Stop taking women not trusting you, a stranger, personally. It's not about you. It's about the epidemic of sexual assault and harassment that women have to deal with on a regular basis. If you're going to get all offended about it get offended at the men who perpetuate this fear by assaulting and harassing women.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:32 PM on April 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


If you're going to get all offended about it get offended at the men who perpetuate this fear by assaulting and harassing women.

And believe me, I do. I participant and support and have helped run many women-centered, lady/gay/trans/sex-positive, non-patriarchal and anarchist art and music projects around Denver, if it's a music festival, a zine fest, an art collective, a collective creative space, etc, or simply a fundraiser. I'm there.

I've also travel extensively and have stayed with women who are living alone, that I've met online, and/or in foreign countries, etc and many of my friends ARE women, who do similar things.

The good point that's been brought up is that many people have had different backgrounds/etc where this wouldn't be seen as cool. Understandable. Maybe it's a desire to help show these people that it can be cool and fun and that safe spaces can and are created for women traveling (for example) -

but I also understand that I'm overstepping my boundaries big time to force someone's hands into doing so. But like I said, my friend I've met online has told her RA that we knew each other beforehand - not something I told her to say - and now I'm trying to deal with that moving forward. If that means stepping back and fixing that mistake, that's a good idea.
posted by alex_skazat at 7:55 PM on April 19, 2012


Is it possible that it is your friend that is really uncomfortable with meeting you alone? Perhaps it is important to her that her RA come but she doesn't want to tell her why, or that she only knows you from the internet. Are you sure she's met other people from online before, or is she just talking a good game?

Otherwise, I don't understand the RA piece of this at all. I know many, many scientists. It is not normal protocol for a PI to try to spend as much time as possible with their RA on a work related trip. Especially not to the point of lying. And, if that's not the case, this does not sound like someone you want to hang out with unless you like unnecessary drama and keeping stories straight.
posted by fyrebelley at 8:19 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I was getting at is that online communities run the gamut. RA may well not approve of OKC and couchsurfing, but might eventually want to meet people IRL who she knows through sites dealing with things with which she is comfortable.

Nthing everyone who says just go to a restaurant and not pressure RA if she doesn't wish to join you.
posted by brujita at 10:38 PM on April 19, 2012


alex_skazat, my advice is to be extremely firm that you will not be lying to the R.A., that you will be very pleased to meet them if they do decide to join you, but also perfectly content if they'd rather not. But insist on absolutely no lying, fibbing, or assistance with same, even via your silence if you find that the R.A. has been misled.

My further, unsolicited advice is to be on your guard. Your pen pal may be a lovely person, and I hope she is, but this doesn't bode well. At this point you really have no idea how many lies of what kind have been told to whom, and she may very well be lying to you about aspects of the situation with her R.A., and perhaps more. She may have some odd agenda that you are unaware of. To make such a complicated mess of something that should be simple, matter of fact, and straightforward is a very, very troubling development that would have all my alarms clanging. Please don't be drawn into what may be unpleasant inadvertent drama or worse.
posted by taz at 1:29 AM on April 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Danf: " If they do come along, humor them and bring a small ax."

Having gone to an old friend's house out in the middle of nowhere and spent an hour with her new husband that I'd never met, who spent the entire time playing with his knife, I can safely say this is Not Funny.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:12 AM on April 20, 2012


OP, I'm glad to hear you plan to not deceive and not pressure this poor RA.

I would also suggest that you be cautious with your new friend, as she sounds kind of nuts and unethical. The scenario she proposed (and has started carrying out, by lying to the RA) is WILDLY inappropriate and suggests someone with a fundamental inability to empathize with others' points of view.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:38 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's a desire to help show these people that it can be cool and fun

Don't go around trying to tell people, especially strangers, what they should think is cool and fun. No one likes an evangelist, whether it's about religion or about how they should socialize.

would you want to be ditched in a city you have never been to, in a country you don't live in?

Being a functional adult, I'm capable of making my own entertainment, especially if the alternative is doing something I'm really, really uncomfortable with (note, I am not actually uncomfortable meeting up with someone that I or a friend met online). I hang out in cities, along, that I've never been to all the time.

One of my favorite recent AskMe answers to a difficult question was this one about dealing with a BPD father while ill. It wasn't judging or taking the side of the crazy parent, but it was a sanity check for the OP basically saying, "step back for a moment and realize how unusual, difficult, and burdensome you can appear to an outside observer, even though this is no fault of your own, and why the scenario can freak someone out."

So in that spirit, it is unusual to go camping with someone you've only met on the internet, the first time you've meet them in person. It is unusual to bring an RA with you as a "tag-a-long" to activities that are not research related. It's unusual to try to make a special effort to convince the RA to participate in events she doesn't want to.

The nice thing about being an adult is that no one tells me what lifestyle I have to lead. If I want to go camping with someone I met online, I can, and the work colleague I'm traveling with can't veto it. If I am highly uncomfortable with hanging out with someone my colleague has only ever met online, I don't have to go, and my colleague can't force me.
posted by deanc at 8:20 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don;t like the imposition here - that you should lie for the convenience of others.

My mum is, obviously, of a different generation and she found it very weird that I had friends online. (I was the kind of kid who had penpals, and actually went to stay with one, but for some reason pen and paper made sense to her.) Once she'd met a few of them - my once-online now IRL friend came to stay for a few days - she found it was just another way of meeting people, and asks about some of them regularly. I personally wouldn't fancy going couch-surfing because in my head it's like hitchhiking with beds, but maybe she just needs the experience of meeting internet people that aren't weirdos.

Also, sex people exist everywhere!
posted by mippy at 9:26 AM on April 20, 2012


One very important thing that is missing in this thread so far is how incredibly captive and vulnerable young people in academic settings generally are. This RA's career likely depends on the good feelings and positive efforts of your friend and there is a good chance that she would have only have recourses against your friend of the career ending variety if anything were to go terribly wrong with your camping trip. Whatever you do, please don't take advantage of that vulnerability.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:38 AM on April 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think it's hard to overstate the degree to which lying in this kind of situation can permanently destroy trust and relationships. Personally I have had acquaintances (no longer friends) pull a kind of bait-and-switch on social interactions like this, because they thought I was too shy/not adventurous enough/would otherwise say no. It's the most infuriating thing, knowing you've been lied to and manipulated.

Maybe it's a desire to help show these people that it can be cool and fun and that safe spaces can and are created for women traveling

The way to create a safe space is to understand and respect that no means no. If she does not want to spend time or camp out with a stranger from the Internet, you have to respect her choice to say no. For any reason, or no reason at all, and without owing an explanation, she can say no. Otherwise you're not creating safe spaces at all, you're completely overstepping someone's boundaries which is quite the opposite!

And I noticed you're saying she probably thinks you're an axe-wielding murderer ie she must have crazy, irrational fears. Why say it that way? She just doesn't want to be forced to spend time with a stranger on a trip. She doesn't know you at all which is why it should be easy to accept it and not take it personally; it's not about you, it's simply her preference and that's OK.
posted by citron at 11:00 AM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


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