What makes a woman "creepy?"
April 9, 2014 3:21 AM   Subscribe

There's plenty of literature out there about creepy men, "nice guys" and other types of that sort. Where are all the resources for this regarding *women?* Google is only giving me examples like she put [something gross] in my food or she made inappropriate references to getting pregnant. I'm looking for something more subtle. Bonus points if it's aimed toward socially-awkward nerdy types.

I'm a 23 year old woman. I don't consider myself creepy. However, there was a recent post where someone continued to contact a woman after she'd asked to be left alone, and the response was resoundingly "wtf? that's creepy."

I didn't read his post that way, and that worries me. I found it irritating that he had failed to pick up on multiple social cues, but I considered his actions more socially awkward than creepy. Now I'm worried *I* might be creepy. This is the long and short of it, for those not wanting to continue on to the nitty-gritty details.

Anyway, I've done this - not as this person has - but I've had a few break ups where I'd cry/beg/plead enough that the person would ask to be left alone, and then I would continue to cry/beg/plead. After I did stop contact 100% I'd have a nasty habit of checking their social networking avenues, although I wouldn't make further contact. I also have a habit of snooping through e-mail or Facebook after a break-up, which already makes me feel creepy but I've run into enough snoops that I could palate it.

Then there was this among the advice given in that thread: "It sounds like you wanted her to help manage your anxiety and discomfort, and my guess is that this is really what made her want to pull away. Even when your anxiety is caused by an interaction with a specific person, involving that person in your process of resolving the anxiety can be inappropriate and toxic. Honestly addressing issues is great, but at some point, that can shade into you forcing someone into a role that doesn't fit their relationship with you."

This poster could have been talking to me. I have an anxiety disorder and I frequently say or do things I feel *might* be inappropriate, but I do it anyway because I'm so used to pushing myself through anxiety (another person touched on this in that other thread as well, but I can't find the post.) I even have a rule that if something makes me anxious I *have* to do it.

A recent example involves the current BF. I accidentally caught him on online dating sites once; since then I've intentionally snooped thrice, found something each time and flat-out told him "So I looked at your web history today and..." I've also broken up with him and taken him less than 24 hours later every time. A few years ago, I learned the hard way that breaking up with someone multiple times before I'm 100% sure I don't want to be with them causes the other party unnecessary pain. I knew myself well enough to know I *would* take him back whenever I left... but I still went and did the thing anyway.

(In the previous case, the person didn't trust me to stick around, was having problems with their romantic feelings for me for trying to shut them off so many times, and ultimately was tired of having their heart broken... they didn't leave me over this but it was a large reason they stopped trying.)

Since then I've definitely unloaded on him about my fears and anxieties revolving around that, and I also tend to mention any anxieties I get from interacting with him in general. I tend to do this with anything that upsets me with anyone I'm close to; I may bring up that I'm having trouble dealing with it and why, or re-open the conversation and try to understand why it happened. I know people don't like this, especially after they've already apologized, and if someone did that to me multiple times I'd drop them like a hot potato. But I did it anyway because Anxiety.

I also do the over-explaining thing when apologizing, which I also learned in that thread comes off as making excuses. I tend to get told I'm making excuses a lot and I never understood why until that; I explain why I did things to other people because I like to know why other people do things. I hate receiving apologies with no explanation of "why," and I always thought it was universal.

A final example would be this website; whenever I post an Ask Me question I feel it *may* be inappropriate to do so because I'm worried I post to Ask Me too much. But I usually submit anyway because I don't know 100% and Anxiety.

The fact that I didn't realize how NOT OK some of the above was? Kind of sucks. So long story short, I'd like some books, websites, articles, blogs, something written that explains what creepy behavior in women looks like. Along the lines of Dr. Strangelove, but more detailed and not just an aside in an article written about men.
posted by Autumn to Human Relations (23 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
To me, creepy = entitlement and a severe lack of empathy. Someone who thinks their needs, emotions, thoughts, and actions are so much more important than everyone else's that they don't need to even consider other people. Usually, their own actions would not be acceptable to them if someone else acted like the same way on a much smaller scale (so, the "creepy" person persistently talking to someone "hot" who is not interested in them, but acting completely offended when someone "not-hot" expresses interest in them by talking to them)
posted by saucysault at 4:08 AM on April 9, 2014 [27 favorites]

I think that what makes that kind of persistence get described as "creepy" in men has a lot to do with how society has constructed things differently for men and women. So the behavior you see described as "creepy" in men may be called something else in women, like "obsessive", maybe - which may be why you're not finding anything about it by looking for "creepy" and "women".

I would focus on the anxiety itself, as it sounds like that will take care of the behavior itself, and then it won't matter anymore whether it's being called creepy, or obsessive, or anything.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:10 AM on April 9, 2014 [17 favorites]

This touches on entitlement and lack of empathy manifesting differently in men and women.
posted by saucysault at 4:28 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry this isn't a direct answer to your question, but you sound like you're struggling a lot with your anxiety and therefore I think a more helpful approach - instead of trying to figure out whether a negative and loaded term like 'creepy' applies to you (how will that help your self-esteem?) - is to work with a therapist to get your anxiety under control. A lot of your phrasing reads to me like your anxiety feels so big that you let it control you ("I did it anyway because Anxiety").

I have had my share of anxiety issues, and I know a lot of people with the same, and I certainly understand the urges that make you over-explain yourself (you don't want to leave any room for misunderstanding) or unloading to other people about your fears and anxieties (you want them to reassure you). A good therapist will help you work with your anxiety so that eventually you will reach a place where YOU are able to reassure yourself.

And yes, a lot of behaviours that stem from anxiety do end up damaging relationships with other people because, essentially, it drains emotional energy from the listener... (Ask me how I know!) Basically, when you are loading someone with extraneous detail or offloading to them about your problems you're putting them into a position where, if they're nice or not great with boundaries, they'll end up spending a lot of time and emotional energy trying to reassure you that you're worrying for no reason... So yes, even though your anxious feelings are driving the behaviour, they do end up becoming entitled and non-empathetic.

Hope this is helpful.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:33 AM on April 9, 2014 [26 favorites]

A lot of behaviors that get called "creepy" when done by a man are labeled "crazy" when done by a woman. I suppose the difference is that men don't feel threatened by this stuff as often, or they're trying to dismiss the woman. This is all semantics and weird gender stereotyping, so it's up for debate and not entirely relevant to this question and not worth a derail. (I would advise against googling "crazy woman" in an attempt to learn anything useful; I have a feeling that would only lead to trouble.)

What is relevant is that the type of behavior we label "creepy" when done by a man is just as inappropriate and discomforting when it comes from a woman - and women do these things too.

I don't have any articles for you, but here are a couple quick and dirty guidelines to figure out whether you're acting inappropriately around another person:

- Are you refusing to take no for an answer? Do you try to argue or persuade for a "yes," or do you ignore them and assume they will change their mind later?
- Do you find yourself trying different tactics in order to get the response you want?
- Do you "test" the other person, i.e. do you do or say certain things with the intent of seeing if the other person will act a certain way?
- When you're around this person or trying to be around this person, do you neglect to take their feelings into account?
- Do you refuse to compromise when you don't see a direct benefit to you? Do you accommodate the other person thinking they will "owe" you or that it will give you leverage to get something you want later?
- Do you do anything without their knowledge or consent because you know it would make them uncomfortable?

That's just a general, partial list. The good news is creepiness/inappropriateness is a set of behaviors, not a personality trait, and therefore it can be changed with awareness and effort. Anxiety can be helped, too, and getting help for the anxiety and feeling more self-confident and secure about relating to other people will help you act appropriately. I've been the "crazy ex" before, many years ago, and I'm not proud of that, but I learned and I changed. You can too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:45 AM on April 9, 2014 [65 favorites]

I will respond totally differently!

I think that the discourse of "creepy", like the discourse of "fedoras", has become so formalized, crystallized and formulaic that it is no longer a useful thing to talk about in this type of situation. (As in, situations where people are saying "am I accidentally being creepy" or "I am really awkward and I did this thing and it went bad, what do you think") Right now, "creepy" is so laden with moralizing, shame and a bunch of internet cliches (push a button and we all say "entitled", "boundaries" "break up") that...it just doesn't help. Like, in what way does it help you to set up some rules in your head around "being creepy is bad, must do THING to avoid being creepy because creepy people are bad and no one likes them"?

Basically, I think that a new idea ("creepy", "entitled", etc) comes into a discourse and it's really powerful when it's new and needed. But eventually it gets old and worn and people use it to describe everything, and it acquires baggage, and it obscures things rather than clarifies them. (That is why, for example, in my lifetime when people have been trying to describe 'being against racism in a useful way' language has shifted from "anti-racist" to "ally" to "opposing white supremacy" with a bunch of stops on the way...each of those words has been really useful; each gets worn out.)

I also think that there's a huge amount of moralizing language around anxiety, mostly from people who do not suffer it in an acute form.

When you say that you have to do something if it makes you anxious, I know exactly what you mean. There were times when I was much younger when I either had to do something or cut my arms, it was that intense. That's not a matter of "am I creepy".

I would suggest that you seek out a way to frame things that is compassionate toward yourself and that is outcomes-based, not definition-based.

"I am feeling so much anxiety, I am afraid I am going to do something that will upset [person] because I am so anxious".

"I want to manage my anxiety because I don't want to feel this way"

"I want to be able to trust [person], not be in the grip of my anxiety".

Think about specific behaviors that you have, not your motives. I truly believe that intent does count (because it always counts with me!) but it's not very useful here. You call people for reassurance - or whatever - more often or more intensely than is fair...How can you dial that back? What can you do differently so that you're not tempted to look at someone's email? What can you do when you're tempted to break up with your boyfriend for anxiety reasons? Can you write a letter and put it aside instead?

It does not matter if you engage in "creepy" behavior on some abstract scale of creepiness; it matters how your particular social life works, how your friends feel, how you feel.

For example, in college I was super anxious. I wish I had not put some of my friends through some of the bullshit that I did. But I also had awesome friends, and they had great times with me - I brought something to the table. We often talk as if someone being anxious/creepy/"crazy" is ipso facto a reason for people to deep six them unless they Change Right Away One Hundred Percent, You Creeper, when actually most of us who are anxious just have a few crappy behaviors that our friends would love it if we stopped because things would be even more fun.
posted by Frowner at 5:20 AM on April 9, 2014 [38 favorites]

I agree with Metroid Baby that the normal gendered breakdown is creepy (male), crazy (female), with the addition that adding power to the mix (say, an older, wealthier woman behaving inappropriately towards a younger man) gets called creepy. Right in the terms themselves is an implicit power structure, so asking the question of if a woman can be creepy is like asking "can black people be racist?" -- it's a big and complicated question that isn't really all that helpful at the individual level.

I would focus on the anxiety itself, as it sounds like that will take care of the behavior itself, and then it won't matter anymore whether it's being called creepy, or obsessive, or anything

The answers that say to work on the anxiety itself, rather than worrying about imaginary people's definitions of what might not even be a real problem, is the smart option here. To be a happy and relaxed person, do you really need to split the rhetorical hairs between "creepy" and "socially awkward"? I would argue no, and that happiness lies in a different direction entirely.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:21 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I second the above sentiment that 'creepy' frequently has a connotation of entitlement - it's "I have a right to this person's attention/affection/body, and I will act like they are unfairly depriving me of that right if thy disagree". Or (and often overlapping with this) it's a way of saying "this person is tripping my 'not safe' alarm in a way that I can't quite put my finger on, but makes me very uncomfortable to be around them." There's an implied threat there, beyond just "this person is acting in a way I don't like."

So it's worth making sure nobody around you feels threatened by the way you interact with them, whether or not you call that 'creepy'. But, honestly, I suspect you already knew that. You don't come across as someone who doesn't care about the feelings, boundaries and autonomy of others. You come across as someone who cares very deeply about respecting those, to a point where you are willing to judge yourself very harshly, and very unfairly, for any time when it seems like you're putting your thoughts and wishes ahead of someone else's - even if that someone else is being totally unreasonable, or even if that someone else exists nowhere else but your imagination.

Take the example of your boyfriend. As you outline it, your boyfriend is looking around on online dating sites; you have checked up on this several times, and found something incriminating every time; and you have confronted him about it, and broken up with him over it. And your reading of this is that you're the one in the wrong, because you might have hurt your boyfriend's feelings!

This is not evidence that you are in any way creepy. This is your anxiety beating you up. This is the exact opposite of you acting like someone's feelings and boundaries matter less than yours - this is you acting like your feelings and boundaries don't matter, can't matter, because any time they conflict with someone else's you must by definition be the one in the wrong.

You're worried about what strangers on AskMe might think of your behaviour, based on what they've said about some other stranger's behaviour in a question about some other circumstances. You're worried some people might think you are posting AskMe 'too much', despite knowing that you're not trying to violate the 7-day limit on posting questions. And it's not even "this other poster, whose judgement I really respect, might think..." - it's "some other person, whose judgement must be better than mine because they're not me, might think..."

You say you didn't realise until now how not ok some of your behaviour has been. I would suggest instead that what's really, really not ok is letting your anxiety run roughshod over your self-respect, your happiness and your life in general. You deserve better than this.
posted by Catseye at 5:41 AM on April 9, 2014 [16 favorites]

Nthing the people who've mentioned the creepy/crazy gender breakdown. I'd also like to chime in with something Dan Savage has often brought up, which is "good judgment"... he says that it's sometimes not someone's behavior ITSELF that's the problem, but the fact that their actions demonstrate bad judgment. I've found that relying on this metric is sometimes easier than analyzing individual actions... in other words, rather than asking myself "should I call my ex for a 10,000th unsolicited time?", I'll ask myself "would a person DISPLAYING GOOD JUDGMENT necessarily act the way I'm acting?"
posted by julthumbscrew at 5:51 AM on April 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

It seems to me that you were in a relationship that was guaranteed to trip all of your anxieites. You actually sought out the drama in sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. This reinforced your justification for the soothing/snooping that you were doing.

So yes, you need to corral the anxiety, and rather than feed it, you need to learn to disspate it in a healthy manner that doesn't compromise the privacy of your partner.

These are things one learns in therapy.

I take medication for anxiety and it helps an awful lot. If you don't, explore the possibility with your GP.

Anxiety is horrible, I get it, and I am so much more mellow and happy when I'm not trying to control the entire world.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:55 AM on April 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

I have an anxiety disorder and I frequently say or do things I feel *might* be inappropriate, but I do it anyway because I'm so used to pushing myself through anxiety (another person touched on this in that other thread as well, but I can't find the post.) I even have a rule that if something makes me anxious I *have* to do it.

Therapy is really your only solution here, but in the meantime, I can tell you what helped me out a bit: my advice would be to learn to identify which behaviors your anxiety is pushing you towards, and which behaviors it is pushing you away from. Try to compensate for disordered thinking, in other words.

In other words, ask yourself: Is this anxiety making this a compulsion, or an avoidance?

So me, for example. I deal with ADHD in my day to day life. For the most part, I have a pretty good handle on it when medicated. When not medicated (there was that shortage in 2011), there starts to be an emotional component to it - I get unreasonably anxious, and impulse control becomes hard. That's when bad behaviors start to emerge. So that's where I'm speaking from here.

What I started to notice was that I never had to push myself through anxiety when it was telling me to do unhealthy things. If I felt compelled to snoop, or check up on someone, or text or call someone more than was necessary, I found that I was doing it to assuage anxiety. What I was pushing through was not anxiety but reason. It was a compulsion.

If I felt like I didn't want to be around people, or I couldn't handle talking to someone, or I didn't want to get out of bed or whatever, I found that anxiety was pushing me away from these things which were healthy behaviors. It was an avoidance.

I promise you that when you snoop, you're doing it because it momentarily soothes that angry buzzing in your chest (until you find something that sets it off, which you will, because that's how snooping works), whether you realize it or not.

I have always found that when you deal with an unreasonable amount of anxiety, the really unhealthy behaviors (saying things you shouldn't, etc) actually feel kind of effortless.

What helped me, as much as anything, was becoming determined to starve the Anxiety Monster to death. The less you feed it, the easier it becomes to not feed it.

As far as being socially awkward...I don't know. I was a late bloomer and I spent years of my life being pretty cringeworthy. I am now someone who's able to turn on the charm when I want to, situation depending, and I think that only came from just spending time around people and observing how they interact with each other. Paying attention to the people who seemed to be having the most fun. Seeing what they had in common, what they were doing that seemed to be charming to others. It's a process.

I agree that creepy seems to be used to describe men more than women, but it's definitely not a strictly gendered thing - I've known women whom I (and others) would describe as creepy. The problem with it is that it's qualitative. It can't be quantified easily. Sometimes it's a definitive list of Things That Person Did Which Were Wrong, sure, but sometimes there's just something off-putting about their manner which is impossible to explain but you know it when you see it. So maybe just go to more parties and spend more time observing. Do more listening than talking.

Speaking of, here's one more thing that jumped out at me:

I tend to get told I'm making excuses a lot and I never understood why until that; I explain why I did things to other people because I like to know why other people do things. I hate receiving apologies with no explanation of "why," and I always thought it was universal.

I get the impression that you're someone who lives in their own head a lot. Which is fine, that's how some people are, and there's nothing wrong with that. But you may find it massively helpful to try to cultivate the habit of taking your cues from other people when dealing with other people. I don't just mean when explaining things to others - it's just what made me think of that. Pay attention to cues other people are giving you, pretty much. Again, this is something you're going to need to work on with a therapist. The good news is that if you're even at the point where you're able to ask this question, you're in a good position to make some progress once you get there. But you have to get there. This won't be especially easy, and it'll take time and effort, but you can do it. Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:43 AM on April 9, 2014 [15 favorites]

I think a lot of the same "creepy" male actions are the same for both genders, but the word itself is no longer useful. In its current use it's a way to dismiss or distance while insulting someone you feel socially "above", rather than being a reflection of the person actually creeping you out. Genuine creepy behavior in men is "psycho" (as in my psycho ex-boyfriend) and "crazy" in women (as in my crazy ex-wife).

For instance, pursuing a romantic interest out of your league is "creepy", but snooping through their email is creepy.
posted by Willie0248 at 6:54 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Creepy is when you suspect their intentions aren't for your safety & well-being. Their actions are innocuous in and of themselves, but you just get this feeling like they're playing a different game here. They want something from you & they're trying to manipulate to get it. So they didn't 'just' give you flowers or 'just' try to chat you up & say hi, they're trying to lead you somewhere and that somewhere ain't good.

You don't sound creepy, just emotionally immature & impulsive.

To that end, I would google around about emotional maturity and how to handle strong emotions.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:06 AM on April 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

A movie that embodies female creepiness to *me* is Single White Female. While obviously it's an over-the-top example, the seeking out, the boundary-pushing, and Hedy's using Allie to fill a void without Allie's knowledge or consent is creepy.

Little girls & teens who want to dress like the popular girl in class aren't creepy because they're kids and going through phases, but an adult acquaintance who starts wearing scarves "just like you do!" is creepy.

Creepy is a stranger or acquaintance repeatedly showing up at a place they know I frequent in order to create an "oops accidental what *are* the chances?" encounter. Taking the same train to work as I do isn't creepy. Arriving 5 minutes earlier/later so that you are purposefully taking my train is creepy.

Snooping through email to look for infidelity is many things, but not creepy. Creepy is snooping through email to find about someone else's interests so that you can start up a conversation and appear to have the same interests too.

I hope this helps.
posted by kimberussell at 8:11 AM on April 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

My answer, in a hetero dating context, would be anything very premature or potentially non-consensual about commitment, marriage, and especially pregnancy. Also potentially sketchiness around birth control and sexual/reproductive health in general. A woman who stealth moves in with you, gradually spending more time, leaving more stuff at your place, but never saying "let's move in together" or "I'm losing my lease", is creepy. A woman who says she's on the pill but really isn't (or is wildly irresponsible about it) is creepy. As a woman, I feel like we hold the reins on a few delicate issues, and I think it's important to respect the power of that.

Agreed, too, about "stalking" type behaviors, in any gender permutation. Stalking in general is creepy and shitty. Being female doesn't make it cute. Snooping, too. Pretty creepy regardless of gender.

Controlling and dominating behaviors that step over a line can definitely be creepy. You mention looking at your boyfriend's online dating stuff and then saying, "I looked at your web history today, and..." That is a sentence that would make my blood run cold. As a survivor of abuse, I would be out of that relationship so fast.

I also work pretty hard, as a woman, to make sure I have my partner's full consent about sexual stuff. Margaret Cho has a bit about just sticking a finger up a guy's ass to make him finish faster -- that's creepy, to me.
posted by Sara C. at 9:27 AM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Anyway, I've done this - not as this person has - but I've had a few break ups where I'd cry/beg/plead enough that the person would ask to be left alone, and then I would continue to cry/beg/plead. After I did stop contact 100% I'd have a nasty habit of checking their social networking avenues, although I wouldn't make further contact. I also have a habit of snooping through e-mail or Facebook after a break-up, which already makes me feel creepy but I've run into enough snoops that I could palate it.

It's encouraging that you are looking to change this behavior. Other people have done the nuanced analysis better so I guess I'll do the "bad cop" thing. Yes, this behavior is creepy. It would be tremendously upsetting to the person that you're doing this to were they to find out. As others have said, you need to find better ways to manage your anxiety to prevent this behavior. Please don't get wrapped up in agonizing over being creepy, and focus instead on changing the behaviors that lead to the creepiness. Creepiness is behavior, not an immutable state of existence.
posted by schroedinger at 9:57 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd like some books, websites, articles, blogs, something written that explains what creepy behavior in women looks like.

Another vote here for the idea that generally, in our culture, the terms "crazy", "obsessive", "possessive", or "controlling" would be more likely to be used in discussing women's behavior, rather than "creepy". So maybe try using those terms when searching for info & perspectives.

The only specific recommendation I would have is a book mentioned several times in your linked thread, which is The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker. It's aimed more at helping people reduce their chances of being victims, and IIRC the discussion of women's behavior happens mostly in the context of celebrity stalking, but I think you could get some perspective on how the behavior you're concerned about could appear to others.

I have an anxiety disorder and I frequently say or do things I feel *might* be inappropriate, but I do it anyway because I'm so used to pushing myself through anxiety (another person touched on this in that other thread as well, but I can't find the post.)

Was it this comment from salvia? This part especially seems relevant:
"An ideal pattern would be: (a) observe reality, (b) react accordingly. A pattern I notice at times in your story is: (a) observe reality, (b) experience great anxiety, (c) refuse to give in to that anxiety, (d) take action.

This pattern, and particularly (c), the refusal to refusal to give in to anxiety, has probably been very useful at times in your life. "If I sharpen my pencil, everyone will laugh at me... Well, I have to sharpen my pencil anyway, so here goes!" You've probably had to get really good at saying "but I'm going to do it anyway!" However, in this story, taking action (d) regardless of what reality (a) was has led to you acting in not-great ways a few times.

You know that quote "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you?" It's similar: just because you're super-anxious doesn't mean that there's nothing to fear. It doesn't mean that your proposed action is advisable. The fear isn't an unreasonable anxiety this time; it's your awareness of reality."
And while I'm (of course) no doctor or mental health professional, it really seemed to me when reading the other thread (including the OP's responses) that there was a definite correlation between his anxiety issues and his possibly creepy behavior. So bringing up your concerns about your behavior during the course of treatment for your anxiety - or getting some professional help if you're not currently so doing - could be really helpful.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:27 AM on April 9, 2014

I'm pretty sure we haven't dated, but the similarities to a few of my exes here are amazing. :-)

The creepy/crazy power differential thing discussed above is pretty much spot on. The commonality between the two generic gendered manifestations, and your own situation seems to be the deliberate pushing of boundaries, while shifting the blame to some degree. E.g. "He's just awkward. Someone upset her. My anxiety makes me [X]."

One of the biggest keys to living with other people is realising that for the most part, people care far more about what you do than why you do it.
This goes doubly for those of us with mental illnesses...whether I behave like grouchy, reclusive asshole due to a combination of depression and anxiety, or simply because I'm a grouchy, reclusive asshole makes no difference to the people around me. It's my responsibility to manage my mental health, rather than other people's responsibility to be understanding about my grouchy, reclusive assholishness.

In your specific case, the post-break-up cry/beg/plead loop and the re-opening of conversations look a lot like you pushing your anxiety on to civilians.
You know that you have anxiety, and you show remarkable insight in your question. Would that more people in your situation had that degree of self-awareness.
That said, these are behaviours that you have to learn to manage separately from the situations that trigger them. You don't specifically mention whether you have a therapist/counsellor here, but a good one can definitely help you with understanding your own behaviour, and provide you with strategies to manage it. Simply printing your question out and bringing it to a therapist would be an excellent start.
Good luck.
posted by Kreiger at 10:52 AM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mel, from Flight of the Conchords, is the first TV character that comes to mind when I think of a "creepy" woman.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:53 AM on April 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Mel, from Flight of the Conchords, is the first TV character that comes to mind when I think of a "creepy" woman.

I thought of her too, and I also thought of the Chicken Lady from Kids in the Hall. (She is in a number of sketches; you can search on YouTube.) She's creepy because she violates boundaries both in terms of appropriate conversation topics and in terms of not respecting the wishes of others. She also has some physical behaviors and speech characteristics that make her unsettling.

She also wears a chicken costume but that's neither here nor there.

I also agree with those who say your primary problem here is to find a healthy method of responding to your anxiety.
posted by capricorn at 12:09 PM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mrs. Danvers was creepy. Certainly she creeped out the young Mrs. DeWinter. It was based on obsession, secrets, and a controlling nature.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:55 PM on April 9, 2014

For what it's worth, when I read that whole train wreck of a thread it provoked a similar response for me of, "Oh my god, people can be that un-self aware? I might be in danger!" It can be kind of disturbing to witness people ignoring their blind spots to that degree because it means abstractly that there is an actual possibility of going through life being nuts without knowing it. For people who are primed to find the idea of making a social faux pas mortifying it's kind of like witnessing a slowspeed natural disaster.

Re: your "must do the thing that makes me feel awkward" rule - Speaking as an anxiety prone person, usually when I have a rule or a sense that I should behave or feel a certain way, it is my anxiety at work behind it. In this case it sounds like you're essentially anxious that your anxiety will stop you from doing the right thing. Which I can relate to but it's probably doing you no favors because unfortunately life is complex and difficult to reduce to a set of rules. For me I try to just recognize and be relatively good humored about (or annoyed by) the fact that for most of my adult life I will to some extent be carrying around the beast of burden which is anxiety and that this will come to bear on my feelings and impulses fairly frequently. So if I get worried about something I try to think, "Is that my anxiety at work or am I worried about doing that weird thing because it is a weird thing to do?" Sometimes it turns out that the thing I am worrying about is in fact worth worrying about. But it has to be teased out. It's kind of annoying that being worried requires these extra steps and justifications, but with practice you can call it and sort of figure out what impulses come from your comfortable happy sensible place and which ones come from your crazy. (I say this is as a craziness-positive person, which I hope allows me to use the word.)

With the begging people not to leave you, you should probably deal with that because it's not great for healthy relationships, or for ending relationships healthily.
posted by mermily at 5:32 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

The movie "Anything Else" stars a manipulative Christina Ricci. Related to "creepy". I watch this and think "Run!"
posted by 4midori at 12:56 PM on April 16, 2014

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