Is this as creepy as I think or am I overreacting?
August 4, 2018 2:00 PM   Subscribe

I think my stepbrother got a little creepy on me today, and I'm not sure how to take it and what, if anything, to do about it.

Stepbrother (Steve) and I are close in age. We are both middle aged. I have not seen him since the 1990s, due to fallout from family shit. We have, however, been in touch infrequently over the years. We're friends on Facebook, for example.

We had no problem with each other, but he is estranged from our parents (i.e. my parent who is married to his parent). It's their fault, not his. Long story short, he's not related biologically to my step-parent but everyone was told that he was throughout his whole childhood, and then when he got older (age 13?) and it became extremely clear and undeniable from physical appearance that he was not in fact the bio-kid, they came clean. It's a lot more complicated than that and worse than it may seem, but that's the gist. We have more siblings as well who lived with us, if that matters.

A few days ago he texted me out of the blue, and we had a nice little non-weird exchange. But *then* he called me. First we had some really good conversation about how we were both affected by our toxic family dynamics, and rehashed a bunch of stuff from back in the day that we hadn't really talked about. It was a nice conversation.


The specific reason he called was apparently because he wanted to tell me that when we were teenagers he had the hots for me and that I am still really hot and pretty and a cool person. My response was basically "Oh how weird. It never would have occurred to me back then to think of you as anything but a step brother, but considering our parents had just told you back then that you weren't actually the bio-kid, I can see how you might have seen me as entirely unrelated to you." I also told him that I still have him in that sibling category in my mind and always will. He went into some detail about just how hot he thought I was back then in different memories he had,* and repeated several times how hot I am now. I half got the vibe that he was trying to be complimentary? But also it was creepy.

I'm feeling kind of gross about that conversation and am at a loss as to what to do. I mean, I have no logical issue with the fact that he was attracted to me back then. But why is he telling me now, and why is he specifically telling me that I still AM? He was divorced a few years ago, and I am single. So that was ew. It was ew that he seems to think of me as something other than a sibling fercrissake.

OK, so here's where I need your help, metafiltarians.
A) Am I overreacting? B) What should I do now? Ignore it? Block him from everything? Ghost him? Ask him WTF he was thinking telling me that and tell him to fuck off?


*(eg. Him: "Remember when we found our parents' sex toy accidentally? I was DYING.")
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is 10000% creepy. If anything you are under reacting. Block on everything.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:06 PM on August 4, 2018 [62 favorites]

This is very gross. He sounds like someone who has had a hard time and is now in a bad/unstable place in his mind and has no self-control. Someone like that isn’t going to bring anything good into your life. Block everywhere.
posted by bleep at 2:11 PM on August 4, 2018 [27 favorites]

It sounds as though you’re having a very mild reaction, in no way is this an overreaction. In your position I would probably ignore or block him forever, I doubt you’ll ever get any satisfying explanation as to why he’d act like this.
posted by skewed at 2:15 PM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is very, very weird. I would likely block any person on Facebook who called me and told me repeatedly that they thought I was hot, even after I said I wasn’t interested. This is disturbing behavior for anyone, much less a step brother.
posted by samthemander at 2:16 PM on August 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

He's hitting on you, and/or trying to deal with the sexual attraction he had when you were kids. It's outside what most people would consider appropriate. When somebody is going out of bounds with you, you can say. That's feeling creepy/ inappropriate/ skeevy and Okay, enough of that and Sibling, Cut It The Fuck Out. You gave him indicators, he chose to ignore them. Depending on family stuff, you may see him. It's hard to deal with aggression, but it's a useful skill to learn. It's not your job, but it's still a useful skill to learn.
posted by theora55 at 2:38 PM on August 4, 2018 [8 favorites]

It’s creepy, but I wouldn't recommend ending a relationship with a sibling just yet. I would at least try telling him you think this is completely inappropriate and he neeeds to cut it out immediately in those or very similar words. Your response so far has been on the gentle side, and some people need you to be that direct. If he persists after that, then blocking him seems more reasonable to me. Not to say you can’t make that choice now if you want to. But your earlier conversations seem to indicate that this relationship may have a place in your life. If you think that may be true, it’s OK to give him one more chance. But again, only if you want to.
posted by FencingGal at 2:59 PM on August 4, 2018 [21 favorites]

While I agree this was absolutely creepy and I don't think you're overreacting, I would not entirely cut him off just yet if you feel like this was really unusual, aberrant behavior for him. Not because you should have to put up with it, but a middle-aged adult with a sudden onset of inappropriate behavior is a medical red flag. (Obviously, it could also just be he's out of fucks about appropriate behavior now for whatever reason, or he could have been intoxicated.)

It's not your responsibility to care or do anything about it in any case, but it would hang heavy on me personally if I cut myself off from someone (completely - maybe cut off social media but don't block his calls or texts) at the first unusual sign when he may not have a lot of people in his life who know him well enough to recognize "unusual", if it turns out this is an emerging health crisis.

You definitely do get to shut him down if it ever happens again. Whether you want to call him out about this one and see if he has anything to say for himself is up to you.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:00 PM on August 4, 2018 [9 favorites]

>He went into some detail about just how hot he thought I was back then in different memories he had

That's very inappropriate and not OK.
posted by GiveUpNed at 3:53 PM on August 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

A) Am I overreacting?

Under-reacting. Every self-preservation button should be turned on. That fact that it isn't is something that should worry you.

B) What should I do now? Ignore it? Block him from everything? Ghost him? Ask him WTF he was thinking telling me that and tell him to fuck off?

A quasi-stranger you knew at a younger stage has has come out of the blue and dropped a nuclear bomb on you. He is saying you are "hot" -- not kind, understanding, compassionate -- but hot. That's where you are classified by him and always have been. After all those years, he has labelled you in a single category, and not a complimentary one -- and he knew you at an age where that should have not been that label.

Unless you want to complicate your life, I would stay away from him. He figures you are single, and he is divorced. If I were you, I would be curious to his current finances -- are they worse than yours? Is there a family score to settle, and loss of your peace be some sort of prize?

Because that was a sucker punch. The foot in the door was to emotionally isolate you from the rest of the family -- just you and him against and superior to them. He got you to bad-mouth them and place them lower on a pecking order to the both of you, making you being able to go to them to ask if there is something about him that you ought to know much harder. It's an old ruse of us-versus-them.

And after he got you a little emotionally away from a group of people who, for better or for worse, are your primary anchor, he throws an out-of-the-blue punch that not only you cannot handle, but has emotionally disoriented you. That is his way of showing you who is going to be in control of his preset narrative.

Every red flag that you are being sucked into something that will be too emotionally overwhelming to handle is there. That is beyond toxic. That is dangerous and strongly hints that "lost little boy" is most likely a predator.

So, to recap: he comes to you reminding you how he was a vulnerable little boy who was picked on by the big bully family. Chances are great that he, during this narrative, planted seeds of guilt in you -- and there being a subtext that you didn't do all you could to save him.

And then, after that routine had a chance to set in, he tells you that he finds you sexually pleasing. Is that what you owe him for him not having a perfect childhood?

Because that is exactly what is implied -- and after that, will come a bill of all the trinkets he will also need to make up for some mediocre childhood.

That's the bottom line. The "hot" comment was not to praise. It was what is expected of you and the role he has decreed you play. The first conversation was a probe to read you. The second "confession" was to grab control of the dynamic.

I have seen this dynamic play many, many times in my life with identical scripts. Same words. Same implications. Same sucker punches. Same order.

This is a game where you cannot win. This is predatory, and he is more cunning than you are because you didn't see it coming, and I would have known the game from the first part of the conversation. It was an ambush. If you do not want to be chewed up and spat out, you owe him no explanations, but just walk away with no consolation prize.

Do not ask him WTF anything -- you will get dragged into a vortex where you will be painted as a heartless villain who is as horrid as the rest of the horrid family, and considering you agreed with him that the family wasn't always wearing a halo, it will be a fight you will lose. It will be put all on you, and you will be trying to justify and explain yourself to him who will be the blameless little boy. He is not a boy anymore.

Narratives don't exist in reality. No one needs a label. No one needs to be a hero in every person's self-serving fairytale. Walk away. Don't turn back. And learn a complicated and difficult new skill to take up the free time you would have wasted replaying the episode in your mind to second-guess yourself.

Good luck to you. If you can avoid stepping on that hamster wheel, you will be in a minority.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 3:59 PM on August 4, 2018 [52 favorites]

extremely fucking creepy, disengage, do not give him another chance to "explain" himself or worry that he might be mysteriously unwell all of a sudden when there is a 99% chance that he is simply being a cishet human man in 2018.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:33 PM on August 4, 2018 [37 favorites]

He was very awkwardly and creepily expressing interest in you, feeling you out for your potential interest in him. How you react to that depends on a lot more factors (is he usually very awkward? do you want to have a relationship with him? is he aggressive or generally someone to be intimidated by?), but this was not just him processing old feelings; this was him attempting to introduce sexuality to your relationship.

With that in mind, I do think you're under reacting a bit. I would probably firmly back off and return to FB friends who are rarely in touch, not talking on the phone anymore. If he pushes it, at that point I might cut him off more thoroughly (block him on FB, etc.).

I'm so sorry this happened. Way to mess with your head.
posted by gideonfrog at 4:59 PM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

A guy reaching out on social media saying how hot you are is basically one thing: expressing that he's fantasizing about you sexually and is hoping on some level that you'd like to make that fantasy a reality. It's... overwhelmingly gross that he did this. So gross that I think it's just fine for you to block with extreme prejudice.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:12 PM on August 4, 2018 [10 favorites]

Yick. I don't know what's going on with him but it's damn inappropriate for him to put this on you. Given that you aren't especially close with him, I think that you should not go out of your way to share personal details or much of a relationship with him at all. If it comes up again, even if he wants to apologize, keep him at arm's length. You can feel free to say, "You are my brother. This is inappropriate and something you should discuss with your doctor or therapist. I won't have this discussion." And then refuse and just, you know, keep an eye out. Maybe he thought you were close enough to share these strange things with you, but it's obvious that you are not and it's boundary pushing in a weird way, and it's not your job to figure out what's going on with him.
posted by amanda at 5:16 PM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

If he brings this up again. cut him off and say "I'm not interested. Please don't mention it again." You don't need to further explain why, or tell him details about how you feel about his clumsy and selfish proposition.

I completely agree that the whole conversation was gross. Besides that he's talking about wanting to have sex with you, though you've always had a sibling relationship -- his statements are all about him and give no hint that he cares about your thoughts and feelings.

From now on, you'll feel weird seeing or talking to him even about innocent stuff. Feel free to to severely limit your dealings with him -- he doesn't care about you.
posted by wryly at 5:18 PM on August 4, 2018 [7 favorites]

Oh, god, when I said "do you want to have a relationship with him," I meant "maintain your stepsibling relationship" not "get involved with." Jeez, ick, sorry.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:19 PM on August 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

Gross. This guy has made it perfectly clear that NO doesn't matter to him. That's more than enough information - I would block him everywhere, no explanation required. I am sorry he treated you that way!
posted by Space Kitty at 5:51 PM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


Indeed. You said it; MeFi says it; I agree.

Make him go away.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:23 PM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

the way you call him your stepbrother all through instead of your brother, plus the way you say you have him in the sibling category mentally instead of just saying you are his sibling, plus the way you immediately reacted by constructing an argument for him by which you could understand how he could pretend that he wasn't your brother, it is all too deferential and constructed and too undermining of your own point and basic reality, which is that this is your brother. if you ever talk to him again, be clear on that -- don't say you feel like a sister to him, say you're his sister. say: don't talk to your sister like that, what's wrong with you.

that is not a matter of how you respectively 'see' each other, it's a fact. he doesn't just feel to you like a (step)sibling, he literally is one. don't give rhetorical ground on this and don't make into some kind of relativistic subjective thing. as you say, private adolescent fantasies are just that, and if you didn't meet each other until adolescence, sure it's normal. would being step-siblings make it moderately less alarming if you'd had some kind of mutual crush or even secret teen fling? maybe, but you didn't. his inability to keep those thoughts private or his ignorance that he is required to do, together with his total lack of ability or interest in constructing the kind of empathetic model of your perspective the way you did one of his, means he is all fucked up.

don't slip down the slope of "even if he was just some guy it would still be bad"; yeah it would, but he's not just some guy and this is worse. even men who treat unrelated women this way don't talk to their sisters like this. don't do thought experiments that concede his warped erased view of your relationship, even if their purpose is to condemn. don't contact him, do block. if you ever speak to him again, tell him this ("you don't talk to your sister this way, what the fuck") without all the special excusing and disclaiming and seeing-it-his-way, and be done with him.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:14 PM on August 4, 2018 [26 favorites]

He's not just trying to be complimentary, he's testing the waters to see if you'll have sex with him. "Hot" is more than simply saying someone is good looking, it's sexual. The reason you two bonded and had a good conversation is because he was planning to create that bond with you and then capitalize on it. I wouldn't trust anything that came out of his mouth again if I were you. If you give him a chance to explain himself he'll likely just continue to manipulate you. Either he'll make you feel like you're overreacting and say he was just trying to be nice or he'll go the other way and start talking about how sorry he is and how terrible he is and that he ruined everything and really it's because of the divorce and this and that. Both are ways of using your empathy against you.
posted by blackzinfandel at 7:29 PM on August 4, 2018 [17 favorites]

You are underreacting so much that I worry that inappropriate sexual behaviours and poor boundaries may have been normalised for you at some point in your childhood. I hate to be the one who says it, but you might want to chat with a therapist about this as well as blocking this disgusting creepwad totally from your life no matter how guilty he tries to make you feel about it.
posted by windykites at 9:01 PM on August 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

Do you and Steve live in the same geographical area? I think those who say you're under-reacting to this are correct, and I wonder whether there is a chance Steve is going to show up in person. Does he know where you live or work? Is he in touch with other siblings, and could you ask other siblings not to give him information about you?

You don't say whether you've talked with anyone close to you IRL about this; I think you should, if at all possible. If I were you I would want to know that I had friends with knowledge of this creepiness that I could call for help with no need to explain the background in the event of him showing up. If he does live nearby and you think he might appear, you might also want to think about other things you could do to keep yourself safe and supported in the event that happens.
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:50 AM on August 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

You are absolutely not overreacting. As others have said, if anything, you're underreacting. This is so, so creepy and gross and I'm sorry it happened to you. I, personally, would go for the cutting him off route, given that you're not particularly close and one good conversation doesn't set the tone for a future relationship, but if you don't want to do that, I would strongly encourage you to be firm with him about this boundary. He is your sibling and that's all there is to that; you're not interested in anything he's trying to start with you, and if he doesn't stop, you're going to stop speaking to him. That kind of thing.

It's not on you to try to guess at other possible reasons he might have for doing this (health issues, etc) when he's made you feel gross and creeped out and has been categorically inappropriate. You owe him nothing you don't want to give. Take care of you.
posted by Anne Shirley at 2:33 PM on August 8, 2018

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