Thanks, Dad!
July 15, 2013 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Please bear with me, because there's a lot of background here. The simple question: My dad gave my phone number to someone I'm not interested in talking to. I need a list of my options and a plan.

Kay lived next-door to me growing up. We grew up in a rural area, with houses far apart, so she and her brother were my de facto playmates. When she got her driver's license two years ahead of me, my mom paid her a nominal amount to drive me to school. We went to the same church.

Last time I saw Kay was in 1996 or 1997. She was visiting the city I lived for her cousin's wedding. She called me (this was pre-cell days, and she found me in the phone book) and asked if I wanted to have lunch while she was in town. Sure, why not!

When we met for lunch, after catching up on small talk and such, she told me that she had come across this really great business opportunity. I asked her what it was. She couldn't really tell me -- she'd have to sit down and explain it to me. Maybe she could come to my apartment tomorrow?

Okay, so hell no. She looked me up in the phone book and called me so she could get me involved in some get-rich-quick or pyramid scheme. (At this point I remembered that her dad always had one of those going as well; he sold Amway and a variety of other things.) I politely told her I wasn't interested and that I had plans the next day anyway, and that was that.

Reflecting on all of that at the time, I realized that I never really even liked Kay. We were 'friends,' yes, but we were the kind of 'friends' that you are in a small town where everyone knows everyone and you're roughly the same age and you go to the same church and have the same high school teachers. She was an obnoxious partier in high school and I don't even know how many times she asked me to lie to her parents for her. She was just kind of annoying. After the pyramid scheme thing, I had an adult moment where I realized that it's okay not to like everyone, even people who have been a part of your life for ALL of your life. It's a lesson I try to remember to this day -- it's okay.

Fast forward. Since that incident in '96 or '97, Kay has seen my parents a handful of times. Her family has long since moved out of the house next door, but she'll drop by their house if she's in town. She feels fondly towards them, and that's great. I appreciate that about her. But, every time she's seen them, she's asked them for my phone number. (I moved out of state, to California, 13 years ago.) My mom has always been under strict instructions not to give my number out without asking me, and she's always successfully dodged with Kay.

Until last week, when they saw each other at a funeral. Kay cornered my dad, and he gave my number to her. When I talked to my mom this weekend, she relayed this story in passing, and said "Oh, by the way, she has your number." (In the background, I could hear my dad loudly say "She's not selling anything this time!")

Here's where I maybe sound like an asshole: I don't want to talk to Kay. I am not interested in catching up. I don't do Facebook because, for a variety of reasons, I don't have the need or desire that some people have to stay in contact with the people I knew during that era of my life. I am in a different era now, and I have different people (and a different life), and I am happy with that. I am happy where I am. I don't need to like everyone.

I know that a lot of people really enjoy connecting with people from their past. That's great! I like that people like that! I am not one of those people. There's no trauma involved. There's no awful past. It's just that I am a card-carrying introvert, and I don't like to have conversations just for the sake of having a conversation, especially with people I have no desire to converse with. I don't like talking on the phone. The only people I ever talk to are my parents and my partner. Maybe that makes me an awful person (Mom: "How can you just write people off like that???"), but that is who I am. As a 40-year-old, I don't need to catch up with everyone who remembers me from their childhood. I am okay with who I am.

So, I assume Kay will be calling me. I know that Plan A is obviously don't answer the phone. I'm fine with that. I assume, though, that she'll keep calling. She's been trying for over 15 years to get my number, and I don't expect that she'll stop at one call.

But where do I go from there? I'm sure my silence is baffling to her. She probably just wants to "catch up." There's nothing malicious about it, and I get that. But I am not a "catch up" person.

Am I somehow obligated to talk to her? Am I somehow obligated to tell her that I don't WANT to talk to her? (I mean, that seems kind of rude.) Am I somehow obligated to explain my introversion and aversion to playing the catch-up game? Because that in itself would require a conversation. And then one conversation obligates you to further conversations, and so on.

I don't want any drama out of this. I don't want a conversation. I just want it to go away.

How do I make that happen?

(And on preview, I realize that a lot of what I wrote -- which was meant by way of explanation -- might sound kind of defensive. It might be, but it's because I'm trying to head off any responses of "Oh, just talk to her! It might be fun!" To be very clear, that is not the answer I'm looking for.)
posted by mudpuppie to Human Relations (36 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Be "too busy" when she calls.
posted by capricorn at 9:55 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I promise you, you are overthinking this. As you said, it's okay not to like everyone. You have no obligations to this person.
posted by elizardbits at 10:00 AM on July 15, 2013 [8 favorites]

I don't think you're obligated to pick up the phone when she calls.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:01 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think you can take the call and be your sincere unenthusiastic self. She should get the message and it shouldn't be a long conversation. Likely a lot shorter than the time it took you to write this question.
posted by Dragonness at 10:01 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

You are in no way obligated to talk to her or communicate with her in any way, shape, or form.

You have her number; you'll know when she calls. You can simply not answer the phone. If she calls from some other number, you can say "I'm sorry, I can't talk right now" and hang up. Yes, it's a bit rude. So what? She's some person from your past to whom you know nothing and who you don't like very much.

You have no obligations here whatsoever.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:02 AM on July 15, 2013

You are not obligated to talk to her. Feel free to block her calls. (Not answering is great, but if she's not good at getting the hint, seeing her phone number blocked ought to do it.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:02 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you're over thinking. You have the Internet's permission to ignore her calls.
That part of your life is over, and you don't have to let anyone reopen it if you don't want to. Just ignore.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:02 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

You don't have to talk to her. You don't have to take her calls. For a little while, let unfamiliar numbers go to voicemail (I do that a lot anyway). The only reason I would say talk to her is if it would be a hardship/pain for your parents if you didn't. But it sounds like they get it and that wouldn't be an issue.

It's your phone. It's your time. It's your life. Keep on doing what you're doing.
posted by headnsouth at 10:03 AM on July 15, 2013

Ignoring is fine, but unfortunately you probably need to have one more conversation with her or else it won't ever go away. When she calls just say something like, "Kay, I have moved forward from that part of my life and don't wish to be contacted any more. I wish you well, goodbye."
posted by FreezBoy at 10:03 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Let's suppose she calls and you answer. She will probably think it's rude if you say, "Kay, thanks for calling. I don't keep in touch with with people from Hometown. Have a great day." *click*

But, so what?
posted by MoonOrb at 10:03 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Don't answer the next few calls from numbers you don't recognize - inevitably she'll leave a message. Add that number to your phone under the name 'Do Not Answer.' And then do not answer.

If you have a voicemail message that says your name, change it so it just says "you have reached 555-555-5555. Please leave your name and number and I'll call you right back" or something that doesn't say exactly who you are. Never give her the change to even confirm that she has the right number for you. Eventually she'll stop calling.
posted by troika at 10:03 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

If she hasn't gotten the hint after fifteen years, she's not going to get it after a conversation with you. Don't answer, and after her number is in your phone, set her ring tone to "silent" and forget about her.
posted by 1066 at 10:05 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, you're way over-thinking this. Just don't pick up the phone. You don't have to talk to or explain anything to her.

You're being an asshole.

It's totally fine and ok to be an asshole in this situation.

FWIW this is the best reason to have a Facebook account.

No, it isn't, because then Kay will be commenting on Facebook wall or messaging her or whatever. If the OP doesn't want a particular person in her life, that's her choice and right.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:06 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Mom: "How can you just write people off like that???"
From 20+ years ago? Easily.

I assume you have an Android cell phone (I assume because Android has the largest market share in the US)? There is a call block list feature in your call app that will allow you to block her number without even getting a ring or notification. Unless you can't for some reason, I would let every call from an out of state number go to voicemail, then block her number when she inevitably calls. Boom. Done.

No reason for you to answer her calls at all.
posted by dozo at 10:15 AM on July 15, 2013

I broke up with a bad boyfriend in late 2006. He called me two or three times a week (sometimes more) for more than a year after that. I thought that the way to handle it was to just ignore the calls (oh by the way he didn't leave a message -- he would just call and hang up when voicemail picked up). In fact, his calls were what finally nudged me into getting caller ID.

So it turned out that ignoring the calls wasn't the right way to go. This pattern of calling (often between the hours of 1 AM and 5 AM) went on for well over a year. Finally, I had had enough. I called him, got his voicemail, and left a message that said, "Ex-boyfriend, you need to stop calling now. It's been over a year and your repeated calls just make you look pathetic and creepy. Stop it."

He didn't stop completely but he as good as stopped -- He only calls me twice a year now, and sometimes he leaves a message.

The moral of the story (for me -- ymmv) is: take the bull by the horns. Some people need to be told that you don't want to hear from them. Some people don't learn by example or by hint. You don't need to have as harsh a conversation with Kay as I had with my ex, but in your shoes, I would pick up when she calls (or you know, you could let her call a few times to see if she'll stop, but then if she doesn't, pick up) and say, "Hey, Kay, hey, thanks for your interest in keeping up with me, but I can't say I feel the same way. I appreciate that you're friendly with my folks, but let's leave it at that. Yeah, no, I'm not interested in catching up or staying in touch. Okay bye now."
posted by janey47 at 10:15 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Because of occasional spammy calls, I never answer my (cell) phone when the number is blocked or unknown. If it's someone I know calling from a phone number that's not in my contact list, they leave me a voicemail and I call them back.

I have never regretted not answering a call from a blocked/unknown number.

So, yeah, nthing that you just don't answer your phone if you don't recognize the number. You never have to talk to her if you don't want to, and that doesn't make you an asshole.
posted by rtha at 10:16 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

You don't ever have to answer or return her calls. Change your voicemail message to the most generic default available. I think the electronic voice reciting your number is ideal so she has no reason to be sure she even has the right digits for you.

She'll either stop calling, or try rarely. If she escalates, then that's all the more reason to never answer or return her calls... and then, y'know, start keeping records of days/times, but this doesn't sound like Gift of Fear territory to me.
posted by juliplease at 10:16 AM on July 15, 2013

Am I somehow obligated to talk to her? Am I somehow obligated to tell her that I don't WANT to talk to her?

No, you're not obligated to do anything. Some people will tell you that saying "I don't want to talk to you" is the quickest way out of this, and possibly they're right --- but frankly, I'm not even sure that's true. (Because she may follow up with "Why not?" or "Is it something I did?" or "This is just like when we were kids!", and that's just more conversation.)

You can certainly ignore her calls; you have no social or ethical obligation to take these calls. (Have you let your parents know that you wish they hadn't given her your number? And that in future, you'd like them not to?) But she may well keep calling, hoping to reconnect with you, for personal pleasure or to promote her sales.

Here's what I'd do in your shoes: Pick up when she calls. After she's identified herself, you say "Oh, Kay, Dad said you'd be calling. I'm glad you two had a chance to catch up, but I'm very busy, gotta go. I'll say hi to Mom & Dad for you." And then I'd get off the phone. (Note: you have absolutely no obligation to do this; I just find this more productive and faster than trying to avoid someone's calls.)

This little speech isn't friendly, I know --- and that's the point. It's civil, but not welcoming. Most importantly, it closes the loop on her ongoing expectation that she'll get to catch up with an old friend. And it does so while still allowing her to save a modicum of face: without being told "I DON'T WANT TO TALK TO YOU."

Letting the calls go to voice mail leaves an open loop: she's sent a message into the world and she expects it answered. Saying you'll call her back leaves an open loop: she's waiting to hear back from you. Close that loop by re-directing her back to the people who opened it in the first place: your parents. They are the ones who arguably incurred a social obligation, so refer her back to them.
posted by Elsa at 10:19 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

This has happened to me. There's a girl I was friends with in high school who I just don't want to be friends with anymore. She's fine, really, and thankfully the things she's tried to rope me into haven't been pyramid scheme things, but it's a similar idea.

Anyway, my mom has been successfully blowing her off for years not giving her my phone number or new email address. (I'm on facebook, but this person is privacy walled so I look more or less inactive on there.) One day she asked my dad, and my dad was all "hurf durf here you go!" Dammit Dad.

-Set your voicemail to the prerecorded "you have reached [phone number] please leave a message"
-Ignore all incoming calls
-Yell at your dad and instruct the parents under penalty of death to tell them you had to get a new phone if she happens to ask them again and to NOT confirm your phone number
-Continue to ignore incoming calls until she decides that your phone number is disconnected
-Do not feel bad
posted by phunniemee at 10:27 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

You're not just overthinking this, you're actively beating yourself up about it for no reason.

You not only have no obligation to talk to her (none! zero!), you also have no reason to feel guilty about not talking to her (none! zero!) and also no reason to feel guilty about not even wanting to talk to her (none! zero!).

I love Facebook and seeing what old friends are up to, but I also do not hesitate to unfriend or block anyone from my past who's incompatible with my life now. You do not have to justify being selective about who you allow in your life. The whole thing with introverts is that we tend to have fewer social connections than extroverts, but those connections tend to be deep; acquaintance-level relationships are harder for us, I think. That's ok, and valid, no matter what your mother thinks it implies.
posted by jaguar at 10:31 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

"Oh, hi."
"Blah blah blah."
"Uh huh."
"Blah blah blah."
"Uh, yeah, no thanks."
"But blah blah!"
"Honestly, I've got to run. Take care."
posted by thinkpiece at 10:32 AM on July 15, 2013

I'm all for making this into a game. Answer the phone in your best exaggerated Spanish/French/Tagalog and keep her on the phone ("Que?! Que?! No, no se!") until she hangs up in frustration. She'll think she dialed the wrong number. When she rings a minute later, change languages and tone of voice.
posted by Falwless at 10:34 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Thanks, all. I think I did need permission to ignore. And possibly use silly accents.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:35 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

As a related aside:

One thing that I've noticed about people from smaller towns (generalization I know, not true in all cases) is that they really need the "don't write people off" mentality to hold their small town together. In a small town where everyone knows each other, writing someone off is almost impossible as you're probably going to have to see that person and their family/friends on a semi-frequent basis for the rest of your life. At that point, it's just easier to endure occasional contacted than start DEFCON-1 small town drama by ignoring them.

I see where this mentality stems from, however, you no longer live in Small Town. If you chose to ignore Kay, it's not going to make your life a sea of awkward or start a Hatfield/McCoy revenge tragedy. It will be fine. You're not an asshole, and you're not responsible for entertaining childhood friends for the rest of your life.
posted by Shouraku at 10:49 AM on July 15, 2013 [10 favorites]

I would not answer, but if it continues, pick up, and calmly explain that your partner isn't cool with her calling. Don't get into details or a story, just blame your partner.

Yeah, it's a bit of a lie, but it's a lie for everyone's convenience. (And, of course, tell your partner that you're doing this.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:55 AM on July 15, 2013

Google Voice makes it easy to block people.
posted by grouse at 11:00 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have a smartphone, the Mr. Number app is great for screening calls. You can set it up so that it picks up and hangs up on some callers, directs other callers straight to voicemail, or even set it up so that those are the defaults and only a small set of numbers are allowed to ring through to you.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:17 AM on July 15, 2013

I believe in treating others the way I would want to be treated. I think silly voices, and BDSM gambits are childish. If she calls, and you don't know that she really will, pick up the phone, answer, tell her that you're glad that she stays in touch with your parents, but you'd rather not go over the past, you don't really enjoy those conversations. Thank her for understanding, and say good bye.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:23 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

>calmly explain that your partner isn't cool with her calling.

If someone I thought of as a longtime friend did this I'd probably call a domestic abuse line. Don't do this.

Blocking the number is fine, a brief "I'm not really interested in reliving those years" is fine too. Honestly, I'd lay even money on her not calling. "Oh, I'd love to get back in touch with my dear childhood friend!" is the sort of thing I'd say when meeting an acquaintance's parent to be polite. If she actually wanted to reconnect she would have looked you up directly.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:25 AM on July 15, 2013 [8 favorites]

Yeah, I would be surprised if she called. Parents do this kind of intro-our-kids thing all the time, it rarely goes anywhere.

I am also a big believer in treating others the way I'd want to be treated, which in this case would be either not picking up the phone and not returning the call; or if she does get through, say "oh yeah Dad mentioned you'd be calling. I don't have time to meet, though, I'm really busy these days, and in fact I'm on my way out the door right now. Good luck with everything!"

Silly voices or weird excuses sounds inappropriate, rude and childish to me.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:41 PM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm a big fan of treating others the way I'd like to be treated, and for me that means not hounding somebody's parents for fifteen years to get their phone number.

This person categorically does not get it, and that releases you from the normal social niceties in play. Having reasonable boundaries doesn't make you an asshole, and even if it did, the Lady Who Won't Let It Go earned it.

When she calls, put her number on silent, continue to ignore, and have a moment of gratitude that you moved out that small town.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:55 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is there a small part of yu that feels that you want to behave nicely to her because she's nice to your parents? She has a cordial relationship with them, but it's with them, not you. If you know her number, you can block her call. Otherwise, you have 2 choices - duck all unknown calls or answer the call, and blow her off. You don't have to be ugly, just a brisk O, Kay, yeah, hello. Dad said he gave you my number. I'm busy these days and don't have time to get together. She may be insistent. Yeah, I've pretty much moved past the old days. Listen, I have to go now, Take care.

It's possible she's in AA, and wants to make amends, or has a burning question about some detail of her past you may know about. If it's the former, it's still okay to say Well, I'm glad you're in AA, but I'm not available. Good luck. The key strategy is to get off the phone. I really have to go now, Take care.
posted by theora55 at 1:48 PM on July 15, 2013

I've had a "friend" like this, and luckily my natural lack of phone communication skills seems to have gotten the message across.

My secret? Don't fear the silence. Embrace it. Don't ask questions about their life, give long pauses before answering non-committally on your end. Be Gertrude Stein's Oakland, and even the most determined will find other things to engage their time on.
posted by klangklangston at 4:14 PM on July 15, 2013

Per falwless's silly accents idea: if your silly accent talents are not very good, also try 'little kid' ---
Kay calls.
You answer in your best baby voice: "mommy?"
Kay: "May I speak to mudpuppie?"
You: "mama? mama? want mama! wahhhhhhh!"
And go from there.
posted by easily confused at 5:30 PM on July 15, 2013

I vote for either having fun with the situation or ignoring it. This is how I'd go about it.

A) if you have a toddler or preschooler, when you answer the phone and she says, "hi, it's Kay!", give the phone to your sproglet, telling them that the nice lady wants to hear ALL about what they've done today. Eventually one of them will hang up. (Works on telemarketers too.)

B) When she says, "hi, it's Kay!", put the phone down on the nearest surface and continue on with your life. Check every now and then to see if she's given up, and hang up. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 11:32 PM on July 15, 2013

Don't create some elaborate lie, or concoct some prank. When she calls, if she calls, just say, "Oh, hey there! I'm really sorry but it's a bad time to chat. Can I call you back later?"

And then later, alas, never comes. If she calls you, you have her number and can screen it. Done and done.
posted by elizeh at 6:48 PM on July 16, 2013

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