meant friendship or something else?
June 9, 2013 5:53 PM   Subscribe

opinion please!

Thank you to so many of you for helping me with my last question :)

I had another awkward encounter with an older man............... and would like to know what you think he meant if you don't mind commenting. I'm a female college student in my 20's.

This time it's a male acquaintance in his 50's or above who works at a supermarket nearby. He's always friendly and helpful when I shop there.

Him: "Hi. I thought you went home for the summer."
Me: "Hi. I don't know what I'm gonna do yet."
Him: "Do you still ride your bike?"
Me: "Yea, it's my only way of getting around, haha."
Him: "Your friends don't give you a ride?"
Me: "They would, but bike is easier."
Him: "I don't mind taking you to places. Just call me."
Me: "Thank you, that's very nice of you."
Him: "Yea, maybe then we can grab lunch or something. Does that sound good?"
Me: "Um yea! (I thought "lunch??!" but didn't know what else to say!!)
Him: "Do you want my number?"
Me: "Umm I can just call this store and ask for you."
Him: "Ok. Can I call you?"
Me: "My phone is currently broken. (This is true.)"
Him: "Oh ok. Looking forward to hearing from you. :) "

Do you think he probably meant just being friends, being nice, etc. or something else? Thanks! :D
posted by MiuMiu to Human Relations (51 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
He's asking you out on a date. Not a big mystery. If you don't want to date him, say no, thank you.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 5:58 PM on June 9, 2013 [20 favorites]

No, he is asking you out.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:58 PM on June 9, 2013

He is being nice, but he probably doesn't want to be just your friend. Don't call him.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:58 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Look this is going to sound cynical but when men more than twice your age, who presumably, know little or nothing about you besides what you look like and that you're friendly they generally don't want to be just your friend.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 5:58 PM on June 9, 2013 [28 favorites]

He's asking to take you out on a date. Please don't accept a ride from him. You really don't know this man. Have you seen him offer a ride to any middle-aged men, and lunch too? Does that suddenly sound like a strange situation to you? Why do you think that is? Men who are extra nice to pretty young women are not necessarily nice people. You have something they want.
posted by keep it under cover at 6:01 PM on June 9, 2013 [9 favorites]

He is asking you out. If you are not interested in dating him, you need to make that clear. You can be polite about it, but you still need to be clear -- he cannot read your mind. Do not call him, do not let him drive you places, do not go out for lunch; if you do any of these things, he will read these as signals that you are interested in him.
posted by scody at 6:02 PM on June 9, 2013 [14 favorites]

Seconding what everyone else said. This person wants to date you. Just like the last 50-something guy you asked about also wanted to date you. This is seeming to be a pattern for you, in which you have a much older man in your life and you think you're just friends or acquaintances but the man wants more than that. It might be time to rethink the idea that these friendships are healthy for you.
posted by palomar at 6:02 PM on June 9, 2013 [31 favorites]

Yeah, no. This isn't about being friends.
In the future, if someone you don't know offers something and it's not an emergency, politely decline. That way you don't back yourself into a corner when they go a step farther.
posted by bleep at 6:02 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thought-experiment: do you think this man in his 50s would act this way toward a male college student in his 20s?

Probably not, huh? (Assuming the supermarket worker isn't bisexual.) So ... what does that tell you?

Many of the 85 answers you got to your previous question have some relevance to this one as well. And palomar's comment in this thread makes a very good point.
posted by John Cohen at 6:06 PM on June 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yes! I thought probably so... thank you, just checking!!!
I wasn't going to call him, but I was trying to decide if I avoid the supermarket all together in the future.
posted by MiuMiu at 6:11 PM on June 9, 2013

It's a request for a date. If you aren't interested, say "No, thank you."
posted by michellenoel at 6:11 PM on June 9, 2013

Fifty plus men (almost never ever) want to be friends with college-aged girls.
posted by Lescha at 6:12 PM on June 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

I don't necessarily think you need to avoid the supermarket; I think you need to practice drawing your boundaries more clearly. So go to the store, and if he asks you out again, politely decline.
posted by scody at 6:13 PM on June 9, 2013 [28 favorites]

Yup, he's asking you on a date. If you'd like to know how women who are a bit more experienced or just a bit more careful about setting boundaries would handle this, it would be something like:

Him: "I don't mind taking you to places. Just call me."
Me: "Thank you, but I'm fine."
Him: "Yea, maybe then we can grab lunch or something. Does that sound good?"
Me: "That's nice of you to offer, but I'm going to have to say no."

And, I wouldn't tell guys you meet in situations like this anything about how you get around, your friends level of involvement in it, that your phone is broken, etc. You can have friendly conversations with the guy in the store without giving him these little windows into your personal life. I am perhaps overly careful but it wouldn't hurt you to go too far in that direction.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:13 PM on June 9, 2013 [49 favorites]

Is this a novel in progress? No, he doesn't want to be your surrogate uncle, a father-figure or a mentor. He wants to date you, just like the guy in the park. You might want to print out these pages and keep them handy for reference.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:15 PM on June 9, 2013 [10 favorites]

I know, because I was young once, too, that attention from older men can seem very flattering. You think they appreciate your mind better than the immature young men your own age. This is incorrect. They are hitting on you. You may or may not be witty, intelligent, well read, and thoughtful. They don't care, although they may remark on it in order to flatter you.

This is not to say that their behavior is bad. It is not. It is only to say that you should be aware of the dynamic so that you don't have to keep asking.

And, by the way, it never stops. As long as there are men older than you, older men will continue to hit on you.
posted by janey47 at 6:23 PM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Wow DestinationUnknown's scenario sounds like it takes a lot of guts to say!!! >_< but thanks!!
Oh this is not a novel...
I guess I just have a real hard time understanding why this keeps happening to me.
I'm truly not pretty at all by the way, sorry to disappoint (?) you. And I dress very cheap (Walmart $5 T-shirt & flip flops). Never make-up on, sometimes even not combed hair.
Maybe because I look and sound foreign = easy target?!
posted by MiuMiu at 6:26 PM on June 9, 2013

You probably just seem like a nice girl. They are probably nice guys looking for a nice girl. It's just not appropriate for you to engage right now.
posted by bleep at 6:35 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

You just say a shorter form of what destination unknown said while smiling (or not). Just say "oh that's okay, I don't need rides, I like biking". You said thank you, that's nice of you, which is fine but you needed to add a "BUT that's okay/no" in there somehow. Basically you accepted ride offers and lunch offers while not wanting either. And it's not how you dress, it's probably some sort of vulnerability thing. But remember, these offers aren't just out of kindness, so you really need to get the "no thanks" out there.
posted by bquarters at 6:39 PM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you look like you don't have a lot of money, they will think you are more likely to want a free meal, a ride, a place to stay and so on. A woman with her own resources doesn't need a sugar daddy. Go buy and read The Gift of Fear.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:40 PM on June 9, 2013 [10 favorites]

How about something like "oh thank you, but I don't think my boyfriend/husband would like that!"

If I remember the last story correctly, when you got to "lunch" the restaurant was closed and you went back to his place.
posted by loveyallaround at 6:41 PM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

He asked you out on a date. I would ordinarily say that you need not avoid this supermarket, but in your case, you should probably avoid this supermarket for a while. When you go back and he says "Hey, you never called," just say, "I changed my mind. Have a nice day!" and continue shopping or checking out.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:42 PM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

With regards to understanding why this keeps happening, DestinationUnknown also makes a really good point about avoiding being too forthcoming with personal information when you are barely acquainted with someone. I know you just want to be friendly and kind and make conversation, but when you give out information about your personal life as freely as you seem to (I'm basing this on your current question as well as your last one), you are creating an illusion of intimacy with these guys, which is what makes them think you'd be receptive to being hit on.

It is possible to be friendly with people you see regularly (like the grocery store guy) while still being guarded. I go to the same coffee shop almost every morning and the dude behind the counter recognizes me and knows what I usually order, and I'm always friendly to him, but I don't tell him random stuff about my personal life because we are not actually friends. We are friendly with each other.

I don't think you need to avoid the store, either, but as scody (and others) have said, you just need to say no if he asks you about it again, and hold firm if he keeps asking. This goes back to what many folks were saying in your last question about how to draw boundaries. DU has given you a great script for how to draw boundaries clearly. It might feel like it takes a lot of guts to say it that way, but the more you do it the easier it will become.
posted by thereemix at 6:44 PM on June 9, 2013 [18 favorites]

Yes, DestinationUnknown's script does take guts, but you can develop these guts with practice. It sounds like in this case you really did the best you could to let this man know you didn't want to hang out with him, but you still have some room for improvement. Practice saying DestinationUnknown's suggested sentences, and next time this man or the next one like him tries to ask you out or inappropriately engage with you, just say those two sentences to them. Repeat as many times as you need to in order to get your point across. It's okay, in fact maybe even more effective to just say the same thing over and over to some people.
posted by gubenuj at 6:48 PM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

As a general rule, you should assume that significantly older men who make friendly offers to give you rides, do you favors, and take you out for meals are interested in dating you. This doesn't mean that they're bad people, necessarily, just that they're interested in dating younger women. You are extremely, extremely unlikely to find a 50-something guy who really wants to hang out with you as a friend. You shouldn't assume that just because you don't think you're cute, that these guys don't either. They're chatting you up because they're interested in you, not because they want to go on a platonic lunch outing with you.

If you're not comfortable saying, "No thanks, I'm not interested" when someone asks you out, you should practice being more distant in your conversations with older strangers (in addition to working on the courage to say, "No thanks, I'm not interested"). So, for instance:

Him: "Hi. I thought you went home for the summer."
You: "Hi. Nope, still here." [Don't give extraneous information]
Him: "Do you still ride your bike?"
You: "Yeah, and today's a beautiful day for it." [Direct the conversation to something pleasant but impersonal]
Him: "Your friends don't give you a ride?"
You: "Haha! Hey, how much did those apples cost?" [Redirect to something specific to the business at hand if he keeps pursuing personal topics]
Him: "$4. Say, if you need a ride somewhere, I could take you. Just call me."
You: "Hmmm... $4? OK, just making sure. Have you tried this kind?" [Make really pointless small talk about the business at hand]
Him: "Uh... sure. They're good."
You: "Oh good. I usually only buy Granny Smith, but these looked good today. How much was the total?"
Him: "$25. So, about that ride..."
You: (pay) "What? Oh, no thanks, I'm good. Bye!"
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:49 PM on June 9, 2013 [19 favorites]

I guess I just have a real hard time understanding why this keeps happening to me.

You sound very friendly and sweet, which in itself is attractive; you also seem to offer up a lot of personal information, which can signal that you are open to further personal intimacy. It's also my understanding that you're an international student, which may affect how men (whether older or not) relate to you in terms of potentially dating (for example, if you're from a culture where women are seen as accommodating). Finally, based on the dialogues that you've posted, you don't ever actually say "no" or otherwise draw your boundaries when any of these men verbally test the waters to see if you're interested.

All of these factors are almost certainly combining to send certain signals to certain men. Some of this is out of your control (such as your age or the fact that you're from overseas), but some of it is not. I would advise you to start being a little less open about your personal life (you can still be friendly) and learning to draw boundaries more clearly (I know, it can feel weird/rude/frightening!), so that you start to lessen the chances of this continuing to happen. This is not to suggest that this is your fault or that you've done anything wrong, but it is to say that you have the chance now to exercise some agency in presenting yourself, so that (hopefully) you can start to be bothered by this less often.
posted by scody at 6:49 PM on June 9, 2013 [17 favorites]

I think you might be right that looking and sounding foreign could be making these older guys you keep running into see you as an easier target, because they might assume you aren't familiar with US cultural norms for interactions between men and women. And I apologize for assuming incorrectly if this isn't the case, but if you're Asian, you might be running into guys who stereotype Asian women as more submissive.This effect is probably compounded if you are less self-confident, more friendly and forthcoming, and not model-gorgeous or super put together.

If it's helpful, here's how I might have responded to a conversation like the one you had with grocery store guy, as a woman in my early 20s who's generally pretty friendly to strangers:

Him: "Hi. I thought you went home for the summer."
Me: "Hi. I don't know what I'm gonna do yet."
Him: "Do you still ride your bike?"
Me: "Yea, it's my only way of getting around, haha."
Him: "Your friends don't give you a ride?"
Me: "They would, but bike is easier."
Him: "I don't mind taking you to places. Just call me."
Me: "Oh, that's OK, I love riding my bike!"

(At this point, I would have also felt a little weirded out that this casual acquaintance was offering me such a significant, open-ended favor. I probably would have ended the conversation and walked off, and made a mental note that this guy was overly friendly in a way that creeped me out. I wouldn't avoid the store, but I would keep it in mind in future interactions with this guy.)

Him: "Yea, maybe then we can grab lunch or something. Does that sound good?"
Me: "Oh, I can't, but thanks! Sorry!"

You can say this with a smile, and pad it out with some friendliness, but the message needs to be an unequivocal no. Not "maybe another time," "I can't because..." "my boyfriend wouldn't like it!"- just no. You don't need a reason and you don't need to explain yourself; your not wanting to is justification enough.
posted by MadamM at 6:54 PM on June 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

I dress very cheap (Walmart $5 T-shirt & flip flops). Never make-up on, sometimes even not combed hair.

This never stopped much older men from hitting on me, from age 16 onward. And trust me, despite how you feel about your appearance, these men do think you're attractive. They are very clearly not seeing you as platonic friend material.

Maybe because I look and sound foreign = easy target?!

Sadly, there are men who look for women who seem vulnerable in general - perhaps lonely, lacking a support network, lacking financial or other resources. Speaking as a fellow "foreign looking" female, there are also men who specifically target women who appear to be from certain other countries. It's gross and it sucks to know there are men who look at me and think I'd fulfill their fantasy of a stereotype, but it's good to be aware that this kind of thing happens. MadamM said it very well.

I started out responding to these men very much like you did above, not wanting to be rude by outright rejecting their offers. This was especially so when I felt unattractive and low on confidence - part of me felt like I should be flattered and thankful for these offers. But I came to realize that there is nothing rude about saying "No thank you," no explanation needed. It's honest, it's straightforward, and if a man takes offense at a woman who exercises her right to choose who she dates, then he's not deserving of your kindness anyway. If he balks and continues to press the issue, remember that it's none of his business why you're not interested in him, and he has no right to demand that you justify yourself. You can always walk away. It gets easier. :)
posted by keep it under cover at 7:13 PM on June 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

Hey MiuMiu, you know what, I don't even think it takes guts to say no like that, though it might feel that way. But if it helps, a polite "no" is almost certainly what a much older man asking you out is expecting to hear.

It's sort of like if you've ever had anyone try to sell you something on the street, or a tout try to get you to come in to a restaurant. You know those guys stand out there all day and will say practically anything to drum up some business, and you know they're so forward because 95% of the people who pass by will ignore them or say no, or worse. These guys who ask you out, knowing little about you except that you're a foreign girl who seems vulnerable, have done this before and gotten rejected before, many times. They're trying, and that's fine, they have the right to ask, and this guy at least was not rude or anything. But just because they try doesn't mean you have to respond in a positive way. I bet they will not be surprised if you keep saying "No thank you."

The thing is there are some young girls who do want to date or sleep with guys like this, for healthy or unhealthy reasons. But it seems like you are not one of those girls - you get into these "friendships" by accident. When you do that, instead of saying "no thank you," you're acting in a way that makes it hard to tell the difference between you (does not want this guy as a boyfriend) and some other young woman who says yes and who does want him as a boyfriend. Does that make sense? I'm not saying "it's all your fault!" or anything like that. I'm saying that protecting yourself and your boundaries is a totally acceptable way to behave, and you don't have to worry that you'll offend anyone by behaving that way.

(and if he does get offended when you say no to an invitation, then he's a really bad guy and you don't have to worry about what he thinks of you at all.)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:33 PM on June 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

I guess I just have a real hard time understanding why this keeps happening to me.
I'm truly not pretty at all by the way, sorry to disappoint (?) you.

You keep giving these men all indications that you're open to hanging out with them in a dating context. I say "a dating context" because most people assume that a man in his 50s and a woman in her 20s aren't going to be hanging out just as friends. They probably assume that this is mutually understood. They probably think it's so obvious that it doesn't need to be talked about explicitly.

And just so you know, the fact that you don't consider yourself "pretty" is not relevant to any of this. I'm sure there are men who are physically attracted to you. For instance, I can think of two examples of men who are attracted to you: the man in his 50s who works in the supermarket, and the man in his 50s who found you looking lost in the park.

Are you getting the picture here?
posted by John Cohen at 8:09 PM on June 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

One more idea. You mentioned that DestinationUnknown's responses take guts. This suggests that your default reaction to these men is to go along with their suggestions. Not because you particularly want to get into a dating or romantic or sexual situation with them (even though that's what they're looking for), but because this just seems like the natural, polite response. That's a problem. Come up with a different default response. If you don't want to use DestinationUnknown's version, how about this: "Sorry, I'm busy." Or: "I already have plans." You don't need to be any more specific than that. Lame excuse, huh? Exactly! You don't owe him anything more than a lame excuse. If he keeps asking, you can keep giving the same answer. If he suggests something further in the future, well, you're going to be busy for a while. He should understand.
posted by John Cohen at 8:18 PM on June 9, 2013 [16 favorites]

Exactly what John Cohen said, especially in his second response. You never need to apologize for not wanting to spend time with a stranger or acquaintance, or go on a date with them. If you can't think of a way to turn someone down nicely, well, just turn them down. "No thank you" is fine, and if they ask again you can say no again, without going into further detail. They're repeating themselves; you can repeat yourself too.

FWIW, when I was in my twenties (and now as well) I had a significant handful of friends in their fifties and sixties, some of whom were male. The key difference is that they were people I'd had ongoing "safe" relationships with; we worked at the public library and chatted every few days for a month before we ever had take-out tacos together sitting on the library steps on our lunch break, or they were a friend of my family's, or my next door neighbor who was friendly. In all these situations, we had a good rapport (like, talked about the history of the city we lived in for an hour, the exhibit at the museum we worked next to and had both cut through on our way to work) and at no point did any of them ever, ever act like we were going on dates. I could tell they were safe--not just in the sense that they would behave gentlemanly even if they wanted to get in my pants, but that they didn't want to get in my pants in the first place, and I never had to second-guess myself about it. In retrospect, when we made plans to hang out for the first few months of our more-than-passing-acquaintances friendships, they would explicitly invite other friends or coworkers along so that I wouldn't potentially feel uncomfortable one-on-one with them. Knowing the power imbalance in our relationship, they ensured I wouldn't misunderstand their intentions. It's fine to be friends with much older people, but when a much older man asks me out to lunch and it's not after we've already made good real connection, I assume they want a younger girlfriend, whether or not I have definitive proof or it or not. I'm not interested in that, and it's okay to tell them so. There's no reason to be obliging with people who hit on you, or anyone who wants to amp up intimacy really quickly (the produce guy inviting you to lunch is amping up [hopes of] intimacy fast). In my experience, if I feel out of my league (i.e. "Why would this person want to hang out with little old me?"), it's a sign that I'd be at too much of a power imbalance in any friendship or relationship we could have.
posted by tapir-whorf at 8:51 PM on June 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

I guess I just have a real hard time understanding why this keeps happening to me.

Because you're a young, foreign woman.

I'm truly not pretty at all by the way, sorry to disappoint (?) you. And I dress very cheap (Walmart $5 T-shirt & flip flops). Never make-up on, sometimes even not combed hair.

All the better to make you reliant on them (young, broke women need someone to look after them, right?). And maybe your standards won't be too high. And so maybe you'll go out with them.

Maybe because I look and sound foreign = easy target?!

Not that you're an easy target, but just that you're exotic and they're fetishising that. And young people want to have fun*. And they want to have fun with you!

*I.e. sex and reliving their youth.

No worries - this will all cease once you reach middle age and become irrelevant to them. Until then, work on your strategies for deflecting them (don't tell them so much about yourself; say 'no' - and note that some will not like this very much, but they can go fuck themselves).

It's not so much that you're nice - when I behave like a total bitch I still get hit on because it's a challenge for them - but it's mostly that you're a young woman.
posted by heyjude at 9:04 PM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a handy flashcard cheat sheet that should help you with these things in the future:

Q) Is this 50+ year old man interested in more than friendship with me?

Any time you are unsure look at this flash card and it should answer your question. Really, this shouldn't be that difficult for you to figure out. Even if you don't understand why they are hitting on you, just grok that they are. And they are almost always going to be, because most 50+ men aren't out there looking for platonic friendships with female college students.
posted by Justinian at 9:07 PM on June 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

You mentioned that DestinationUnknown's statement of, "Thank you, but I'm going to have say no," would take a lot of guts to say. I want you to know something: For the average person, that is not a difficult thing to say. It's OK (really!) that you are not comfortable right now with saying that, but you should consider practicing politely saying "no" so that you do feel comfortable ending awkward situations like these.

DestinationUnknown's statement is a very normal, very polite, socially acceptable response. If you want to practice politely saying no, so that you have some go-to phrases in case you feel uncomfortable, you could gain a lot of confidence. Here are a few I use:

"Thank you, but no. I hope you have a nice day."
"What a kind compliment. It was nice talking to you, but I need to focus on [other topic or even just 'relaxing'] now."
"That's OK, but thanks anyway."
"That's not something I can do. Nice chatting, but I'm going to do [other thing / relax] now."

All of the above are polite, and they are all conversation stoppers.

Separately: If you have friends who regularly make you uncomfortable in this way, they are not your real friends. Real friends don't make you feel more awkward-- they make you feel at ease.
posted by samthemander at 9:16 PM on June 9, 2013 [14 favorites]

Him: "I don't mind taking you to places. Just call me."

So that you better understand for future reference, this is where the conversation stops being chit-chat and starts invading your boundaries. That's not an appropriate thing to offer - it's literally taking a ride from a stranger, which children are taught NOT to do from the time they can walk.

It is a test to see how easily you can be manipulated. Strong sensible people who know to not take rides from strangers will - even if they don't say NO out loud - shut down that line of conversation. A lot of people have suggested a response like "Oh, but I love my bike!", which is fine. Very neutral, and impossible to argue with.

There's also a phrase in English you may want to use more often: "No, that's okay." It sounds polite, it sounds agreeable, but it's a no. It's used to turn away salespeople or other people who are pushing you to agree to something when you don't want to agree. And you can say it over and over again as you finish your shopping and leave. "No, that's okay, my bike works great. No, that's okay, I'm really busy with my friends. No, that's okay, I always have lunch plans."

I'm sorry that this is so hard to understand, but there are basically no circumstances where a man in his 50s should offer to go or do or interact or socialize with a woman in her 20s. Men who do that are already violating normal social customs. They shouldn't be inviting you to do things AT ALL. Not lunch, not car rides.

And the ones who are doing it to you are fetishizing you because you are foreign. They're hoping you'll agree because you don't know better. They believe that women from your country/ethnicity/part of the world* are submissive and eager to please**, easily forced into sex (and skilled in every kind of sex act), are tolerant of domestic violence, will be impressed by any amount of money, and are so desperately grateful for the protection of ANY random man that you will go with them and have sex with them and do whatever else they want.

They do not want to be your friend. They are hoping you are stupid so they can take advantage of you.

*I have no idea where you are from, and these men probably don't either. They just know you're not from here, and believe all women not from here are like that.

**Unfortunately, you keep playing into this stereotype.

You clearly seem very afraid to say no to anyone. One day one of these men isn't just going to want you to have sex with them, he's going to want to hurt or kill you. You have got to learn to shut these conversations down before you agree to your own death.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:23 PM on June 9, 2013 [12 favorites]

For a frame of reference: try to think if older women talk to you like that / offer you favors. No?
Do any other young women you know have random male friends in their 50s or 60s? No?

Older guys who act overly interested, friendly or helpful often have an agenda. You are absolutely in the right to turn them down! You don't even have to be friendly. Young women assert themselves in impolite ways all the time and this is what sleazy guys are used to.

There are two things at play here. For one, you say you "look and sound foreign" and some men have really weird ideas about women who "look foreign". You don't want to be friends with them because they don't care for you, your character and mind or how "pretty" you are; the only thing they care for is race. Avoid.

Second, you project a certain kind of naivete. And by offering up all the little details about your life you give those old dudes an easy hook.
The comparison to a salesperson is a good one; picture this: a salesperson offers new umbrellas to all the people who walk by. But since you told them your umbrella is broken, they try so much harder, are so much more persistent to sell you a new umbrella because you told them your umbrella is broken and they totally think you must need a new umbrella.
It's the same with those guys, you tell them you have no place to sleep, no ride, no phone or any other "thing" so they try offer their assistance because you must need their assistance (often having an agenda in mind like taking advantage of you, much like a salesperson who wants to push sales regardless of the fact if you really need an umbrella).

I think you are doing great in analyzing those encounters and thinking of strategies to avoid uncomfortable situations!
I also think it might help to have local female friends to chat with about stuff like that and to watch how they act/interact in situations like that.

I would like to recommend you something to watch on TV/internet regarding how young American women behave towards unwanted advances by older men (if you can not study the interactions of young American women and old dudes live, watch them on the screen), but I am out of my depth here.
Can anyone help out, please?

But frankly, you have most likely not led a totally sheltered life up until now: so what are the parallels to your life back home? Try to think of other situations (person wants to sell you something you have no interest in, person begs for money, etc.) you would totally turn them down back home, right? Channel that energy into those encounters with overly friendly old men. And any time you have this uncomfortable feeling in your gut, trust it! Does not matter if you think you "should" be doing this or that because the guy did this or that for you - if you have doubt, there is no doubt. Get out of the situation.

I said you project a certain naivete. It sounds like there are many situations where you appear (by American standards) to be in need (lost in a park, no place to sleep, no phone, no ride).
There are resources (like hostels or the University or friends) that you can use. I hope you don't feel alone and like you have no options.

Prepare some comebacks for situations like those when strange older men want to "help".
Because people usually have a plan - and even in stressful situations where they do need help- can draw boundaries and make plans for the next steps ahead. Become one of those people. By acting lost, unaware or insecure you send out signals to people who might want to take advantage of you.

Make a plan, you are not lost and do not have to accept "help". (Seriously, I am totally freaked out about your last, that I just read. You slept on a random old dude's couch "fearing the worst"? Please don't put yourself in situations like that. And here again: you had this uncomfortable feeling in your gut many, many times and yet you said "Okay". This is wrong! If you ever feel uncomfortable with something, you never say "Okay"!)

You said in your other posts that you just want to make friends, like talking to the older generation and like a "father figure".
Look for groups that meet at libraries, the community center or the university where all kinds of people of various ages come together. Those are way safer situations to make friends (old and young, female and male) than random encounters in parks and supermarkets. Take your time to get to know the regulars of those groups and don't go home with a stranger on the first few times you meet them.
posted by travelwithcats at 9:42 PM on June 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

I would like to recommend you something to watch on TV/internet regarding how young American women behave towards unwanted advances by older men (if you can not study the interactions of young American women and old dudes live, watch them on the screen), but I am out of my depth here. Can anyone help out, please?

The Office.
posted by John Cohen at 11:04 PM on June 9, 2013

Young women do not have friendships with older men. I second practicing saying the phrases suggested by DestinationUnknown and MadamM. Also, read the book, "The Gift of Fear", mentioned by another poster.

I have found that a simple, "Oh thanks, but I'm fine" keeps me from having to say the (difficult for me) word, "No" when I receive unwanted attention, whether from a salesperson, or someone hitting on me (Ok that happened when I was younger, now, not so much ; ). "No, I'm just fine, thanks." is the same...Really, practice these phrases until they roll off your lips like saying "hello, this is MiuMiu" when you answer your phone.

You are a lovely and kind person. Enjoy people your age who aren't trying to manipulate you for their benefit, which is what these men are doing, from the first time they go beyond a simple, "Have a nice day".
posted by mumstheword at 11:29 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow DestinationUnknown's scenario sounds like it takes a lot of guts to say!!!

No it doesn't. It sounds like a healthy, self-assured woman capable of declaring and defending boundaries. I'm trying to be understanding of the fact that this may not be part of the culture you were raised in, but it's a necessary skill in the culture you're navigating now.

I guess I just have a real hard time understanding why this keeps happening to me.

I'd guess because you come across as the opposite of a self-assured woman capable of declaring and defending boundaries: timid or passive and easily dominated or bullied. Please do yourself a favour: take a self-defence class or invest in some assertiveness training. Either or both will teach you to say NO with confidence, and discover that the sky will not fall if you do.

It's not rude to say no. It is however not sustainable to consider never returning to a grocery store because you were incapable of doing so.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:15 AM on June 10, 2013 [12 favorites]

What strikes me the most (maybe because I'm a guy and I've been in this situation, more or less) is that he pretty clearly asked you out on a date and you said yes. Now that you're thinking of avoiding him, never seeing him again...that's rather mean-spirited.

If you don't want to go out with him, that's fine, that's totally and completely your call. "No" is a perfectly reasonable response. But tell him this. Leaving him hanging like that...well, I've been on his side of things and that kind of misunderstanding can make you kind of crazy. You question your own motives and actions and never really get closure. It sucks, so don't be mean and tell him.
posted by zardoz at 4:45 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow DestinationUnknown's scenario sounds like it takes a lot of guts to say!!! ...
I guess I just have a real hard time understanding why this keeps happening to me.
Because you don't know how to gracefully disengage and move on. When somebody flirts with you, he's wondering whether you're going to continue to accept his overtures or whether you will not:
Him: "Hi. I thought you went home for the summer."
Me: "Hi. I don't know what I'm gonna do yet."
But you could have said: "Nope! Still here! Anyway, have a good rest of your summer!"
Him: "Do you still ride your bike?"
Me: "Yea, it's my only way of getting around, haha."
But you could have responded with, "Yep! Gets me all around the city. Anyway, I'm off to bike home!"

People are basically fishing for, "does this person continue to engage me?" And you continue to oblige. Remember this very good advice from the last thread:
Grownups can get lost, but after they ask for and receive directions from a kind stranger, they thank that person and go on their way.
Perhaps because of a sheltered upbringing where you grew up (were you always taught to follow the lead of older people?), you lack the social instinct to independently make a decision to "disengage." Instead you defer to the older man's desire to continue to engage you in conversation and allow him to drive the interaction, rather than you.

I think you need more friends your age whom you can consult with about these interactions and who can explain to you what's going on, because this likely happens to them all the time.
posted by deanc at 5:37 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Girl, what is wrong here? I'm wondering if this is a prank. I just can't believe that you're unable to see what you're doing wrong. You have had so much good advice, both in response to this question and your previous, nearly identical one. Why is all the good advice you're getting not sinking in?

You seem so strangely isolated, yet you mention having friends. WHERE ARE YOUR FRIENDS? Because they're probably dealing with this stuff too. Why don't you guys hang out together, for instance? Why are you alone all the time?

When I was your age, my roommates saw I was being way too nice to predatory guys. They took me under their wing and set me straight about how to deal with inappropriate approaches wherever they happened - on the street, in bars, in the library, at a concert, wherever. It's a combination of verbal and physical strategies that you learn and deploy to make sure you're drawing appropriate boundaries that are safe for you, and not open to misinterpretation by others. It's not hard to navigate this stuff, and it shouldn't be confusing AT ALL. You need some good old-fashioned girl support. Where is your network?

One thing to consider - your question is NOT controversial. You're not receiving a lot of different kinds of responses from us so far. EVERYONE who has responded to you on this and your other similar questions, has essentially been saying the same thing: protect yourself, don't engage older guys who want to get into your pants, and find a network of support. When you're getting a lot of responses that essentially say the same thing, you should heed them.

The fact that you still seem confused and naive, even after receiving the same advice over and again, makes me suspect that you have much deeper issues. In a previous question you mentioned your emotionally unavailable father. I think you're drawn toward men who seem fatherly. There's nothing wrong with being a victim of childhood trauma - it wasn't your fault what you went through. But you're an adult now - you have power you never had before. You can reframe the things that happened, and you can become conscious of your pain and make a new decision about how you're going to address your life from this day forward. This is work only you can do. Just know that the resolution of your emotional issues won't happen in the arms of a father figure, some stranger you meet at the store. You need therapy.

I wish you good luck.
posted by cartoonella at 9:15 AM on June 10, 2013 [12 favorites]

It might be helpful to note that white Americans are extremely direct when compared to almost any other culture. I'm guessing you grew up in a culture where indirect communication was the norm, and maybe one in which people never really say "No" directly? That tends to work perfectly fine if everyone involved in the communication is similarly indirect (that is, using body language or whatever to get their point across), but that's not the situation you're in with these older men.

Among white Americans, saying "No, thanks!" is not rude at all. It's actually considered more polite to say "No" directly than to be indirect, which can be seen as leading someone on. (You might, of course, still get guys who continue to push after you've said No, but that's because they are being rude, not you.)

So it may feel rude to you to say "No, thanks," but it's actually more culturally appropriate. Maybe you can think of it like a foreign custom, so it doesn't seem so taboo?
posted by jaguar at 9:39 AM on June 10, 2013 [8 favorites]

N-thing that while saying 'no' might feel like it takes guts, it's a really normal, everyday thing, and it's really the only way you can avoid doing things you don't want to do. It's also much kinder to him to tell him 'no' then to lead him on.

Think about it this way. If you asked a guy out on a date, and he wasn't interested in you romantically, would you want him to go out with you anyway just because he didn't have the guts to say no?
posted by Asparagus at 9:57 AM on June 10, 2013

About needing guts to say "no" or "no, thanks" or even "sorry, no" as a woman: yes we're socialized to make nice and be apologetic and not hurt others' feelings. It can take work to get over that impulse. One of the best things I ever read was that "no" is a complete sentence.

Others have said it above, but I'll repeat it: in American culture: it is totally OK to say "no."

Here is one of my all-time favorite clips from Friends. I'm not holding up a comedy show (from 1994!) as a great example of how to relate with people, but maybe it will help you because it's approachable? It's funny because Phoebe says exactly what she means, yet does it in a way that sounds apologetic, but isn't really.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 12:44 PM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

"I guess I just have a real hard time understanding why this keeps happening to me."

This happens to all women. It is because we have vaginas.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:33 PM on June 10, 2013 [8 favorites]

If you acted prettier and dressed more impressively they might leave you alone. They (accurately) perceive someone who seems like she might have low self esteem (thinks and acts like she's not that pretty and wears stuff she doesn't think is impressive), and think (accurately, based on your past stories) that they might have a shot with you.

Act like you believe you are worth something (not any random old man's for the asking) and start saying things out loud that feel scary to say. These are skills that are worth as much as any degree, and worth cultivating.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:57 PM on June 11, 2013

I disagree with Salamandrous above. You don't need to "act prettier" nor "dress more impressively." All the other advice in this thread about not engaging these older men who approach you is what you need to do.

I used to be in your shoes, though I'm not from another country. I used to give out those kinds of details, and view saying no as being impolite. It was only after therapy that I realized that it's OKAY for me to set boundaries, and that saying no is not slapping someone in the face.
posted by frecklefaerie at 3:31 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

This will probably be an unpopular answer, but I think you need to stop being remotely friendly to strange men (except strange men you're interested in dating, of course!)

Your last question really had me frightened for you. You could've been raped or killed. Seriously. I think it would be better to not be friendly at all. This might sound mean, but don't smile at strange men in parks, stores, etc. Don't make small talk. If they say anything to you, give a one-word answer to shut down the conversation. Be coldly polite.

If you eventually get to a point where you feel you would be comfortable saying "no thanks" to someone, I think you could start smiling and being (cautiously) friendly again.

Oh, and I agree with those above who said that there's almost no chance a 50+ male stranger wants to be your platonic friend. I would go so far as to say there's almost no chance a male stranger of *any* age wants to be your platonic friend. I'm not saying men and women can't be friends - I myself have plenty of male friends. But I didn't make those friends by chatting up strangers in the park or the grocery store. I met them in classes or at work. Could you theoretically make a male friend by chatting up a stranger at the grocery store? Sure. Is it likely? I would say no. I think for your purposes, since you're having a very hard time reading signals and intentions, it's better to assume the most likely answer about any male stranger talking to you: he is interested in you romantically/sexually.
posted by whitelily at 7:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]

He was hitting on you and the age gap is inappropriate. I once had the Lexus car salesman try to ask me out on a date when I was 16 and still in braces--thank God I told him I was studying for the SAT and didn't have time. Run, chica, run.
posted by lotusmish at 10:46 AM on June 17, 2013

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