F you, that's what's up
December 6, 2018 6:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a response to "What's up?"or "What's new?" or "How are you?" that gives off a certain tone...

Assume the situation is you run into someone socially (party, public transit, grocery store) that you don't really want to talk to because they treated you poorly - an ex who dumped you in a callus way, a (you thought) good friend who ghosted you. You'd rather ignore them but they come over and say hello. You really don't want to waste any more seconds of your life on this person, even just for pleasantries. How to shut this down and communicate this?

This cool Don Draper vibe is what I want to give off.

I'm also looking for something that gets across I do not want to talk to YOU in particular. This is not at work and assume there's no big audience, ao it can be slightly cutting/edgy.

I don't want to say "Nothing" because that just implies my life is boring.
"Fuck you" or "What do you care?" or "Why are you talking to me?" or even "Why do you want to know?" are too strong. I don't want that person to think they have so much meaning and power that they can upset me.
A withering glance and icy tone by themselves might be too subtle; the other party might think I'm just having a bad day. Ditto something like "I need to go."
No, I don't want to be polite and the bigger person because Reasons.

I hope you guys have fun with this one.
posted by unannihilated to Human Relations (74 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Look them up and down, scoff, and then walk off ?
posted by Jacob G at 6:40 AM on December 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

I would make eye contact for a second with a perfectly neutral expression and then continue on with your day without saying anything - like they don't mean a single thing to you anymore.
posted by randomnity at 6:43 AM on December 6, 2018 [22 favorites]

What's up?

My force field /deflector shield /select evasive action thing.

What's new?

Not my utter disinterest in telling you things.

How are you?

Better without you in my life. *drop mic* *sashay away*
posted by wellred at 6:43 AM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Stephen J. Gould did this to me.

I was taking a class from him at the time and then at a social event (think: private art gallery opening) I saw him there. I walked up to him and said 'Hi, Professor!"

He glanced at me briefly (this is to say that yes he heard me) then turned his head and walked away.This communicated to me: "I have zero time for you, lowly undergraduate". So, in summary:

1. quick glance as acknowledgement.
2. Then, ignore.
posted by vacapinta at 6:43 AM on December 6, 2018 [48 favorites]

yeah the power move here is an incredulous/slightly amused look, then looking away and moving away (but not leaving the venue, just moving to a different part of the room.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:43 AM on December 6, 2018 [8 favorites]

Say the person's name out loud while looking at them but a tiny bit like it's an observation you are making to yourself, identifying that person. I had a boss that used to do that to people when they were on the shit list. It may be a British thing; it's technically polite but very cold.
posted by BibiRose at 6:47 AM on December 6, 2018 [65 favorites]

The weekend before the primary elections in August this year, my doorbell rang. I answered it, to see a fresh-faced young person wearing the T-shirt of a candidate that I would not be voting for, even if I were to vote generally for the party to whom that candidate belonged. I said "Oh WOW no," and closed the door before the person could say a word.
posted by Etrigan at 6:47 AM on December 6, 2018 [49 favorites]

I would go with "Not a whole lot, you?" or "Not too bad, you?" depending on the question because if I need to burn down his house later I don't want people remembering that I despise him.
posted by turkeybrain at 6:48 AM on December 6, 2018 [23 favorites]

Ooh, I know this feeling. In my experience, the greatest cheer has been gained not with a smart remark, but within the contrast between the glacially polite "Doing fine, thank you" to past-evil-doer and the fun times you have with everyone else. It's shade: you know and they know that you hate them but you give them nothing to work with!

Just grey rock. Don't bother enquiring about their life, glide on past quickly and involve yourself in a conversation with someone more interesting to you. It's the old cold shoulder with a nod to plausible deniability and it's a classic for a reason.

They are not entitled to waste any more of your time, not entitled to occupy any more head space. Give them the bare minimum and get on with having your best life with people you actually care about.
posted by doornoise at 6:49 AM on December 6, 2018 [20 favorites]

The cut direct is what you want.
posted by corvine at 6:51 AM on December 6, 2018 [27 favorites]

Perhaps something to the effect of "Nothing that concerns you," or "So many things, none of which have anything to do with you."

Personally, I'm fond of essentially what vacapinta described above. Make eye contact to make it clear you heard them, then casually turn away.
posted by Tabitha Someday at 6:53 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

There is also the sharp exhalation of air from the nose that is not quite a laugh. Similar to scoff but more snide.
posted by wellred at 6:56 AM on December 6, 2018 [9 favorites]

Pretend you forget who they are for a second. Then blandly say "oh, hello" with their name as if it's just come to you, but getting it slightly wrong, and walk away as if they are a salesperson who annoyingly rang your bell and gave a long pitch three years ago.
posted by nantucket at 6:56 AM on December 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

"I'm going to take the Fifth."
posted by effluvia at 7:02 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Squint eyes, slightly shake head, "We don't have to do this", turn and/or walk away.

'This' meaning exchange social pleasantries while ignoring whatever unpleasant past you may have with them.
posted by Diskeater at 7:19 AM on December 6, 2018 [20 favorites]

"Mm, fine."

"Fine" alone sounds sullen. The mm adds the necessary dismissive contempt. Just to be clear, this isn't a long thoughtful mmmmm, it is a very short m delivered from closed lips. The lips are closed in an expression between disapproval and a smirk ("can you BELIEVE this person is talking to me") and the fine is delivered with a very sweet fake smile.

Then, as everyone else has said, immediately and obviously walk away, possibly with a brief eyeroll (potentially overkill, but not if you have a friend conveniently around, in which case it's simply a continuation from the smirk, "wow, some people")
posted by Cozybee at 7:21 AM on December 6, 2018

I have done this! The thing, where you look at the person for a moment and then allow your eyes to wander off to someone you are interested in talking to.

It was a long time ago and I still remember how satisfying it was.

I also think the chilly use of their name and nothing else would be good.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:25 AM on December 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

A friend of mine employs a simple, "Nope," and continues walking. Amazingly effective.
posted by brook horse at 7:30 AM on December 6, 2018 [64 favorites]

To riff off of brook horse's friend, you can also affect an incredibly polite "Oh, no thank you." and then walk away. Conveys the same message, is somehow less yet MORE of a snub, and it can also leave them wondering why the heck you treated them like a street vendor.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:34 AM on December 6, 2018 [50 favorites]

1. "Me, since I stopped speaking to you!"

2. "Just about anything else other than this conversation." (then saunter off)

3. Quizzical look, then a long loud laugh as you walk away.
posted by blurker at 7:44 AM on December 6, 2018

Came her to second the cut direct. Look at them, look through them, then turn aside.
posted by corb at 7:45 AM on December 6, 2018

I do this almost monthly with a guy who rejected me but keeps coming up like a puppy dog to talk to me. "Same old, same old, and you?" is my response, nothing more. (Then he brags about his own life for a few minutes, which I tune out.) He's not self-aware enough to realize that I don't want to talk to him, but my response has the effect of a) not giving him any personal information and b) not wasting any more brain cells on the encounter.
posted by Melismata at 7:53 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Stare for a moment silently with a cold and narrowed eye.

*chop hand down diagonally

"You are dead to me."
posted by BlueHorse at 7:56 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Who are you again?
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 8:02 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

A question invites an answer, so don't ask a question. A cooool Hello, Name is enough. If you can manage it, even just %Name and a nod, and move on.
posted by theora55 at 8:02 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you want to make your position clear, you can simply say "i'm doing much better now" in such a way as to make it clear that things really are better without this person in your life. Optionally, then, notice something else in the room that needs to be done, that's really not necessary, and go do it. Maybe picking up a piece of litter and throwing it in the garbage, or pour a cup of coffee, or straighten some flowers.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:15 AM on December 6, 2018

I know you said you don't want to be too subtle, but I do think that your delivery choices are going to be more cutting than the words you say. Take a beat to respond, as though you're having trouble placing them, then a distracted, "Oh...hey. How are you" as you look over their shoulder for your intended destination (pretend you saw another person you recognized, or you really need to get to the can aisle.) Walk towards that immediately after you finish speaking and do not wait for their response.

An insult or a retort carries emotional weight; it communicates to them that they're still taking up a tiny fraction of space in your brain. I think that instead, your goal here should be to convey your complete indifference to their continued existence on this earth. Much colder!
posted by superfluousm at 8:17 AM on December 6, 2018 [11 favorites]

Raised eyebrow, "Really?", turn away to talk to someone else.

I like all the no-word/one-word suggestions. This person doesn't merit an entire sentence.
posted by sohalt at 8:18 AM on December 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

For something completely different. Some lyrics from the group Doomtree, "I'm a pit bull running with wolves, you a Shar pei in a sweater made of cheap wool, fella." Then of course just walk away.
posted by deadwater at 8:35 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

"I'm going to take the Fifth."

This and similar answers comes off as flippant, even flirtatious. It invites the other person to engage. If delivered with truely sub-zero disdain, unless the timing is perfect, then it comes off as weird. Leave the theatrical remarks off the table.

The approach of letting your gaze wander off while greeting them is much more effective. Above all, convey boredom, amused ennui if you can manage it. Body language and facial expression serve excellently in these matters, much more so than words, unless you are a superb actor with excellent timing, or a sociopath who has perfected the art of the deadpan delivery.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 8:39 AM on December 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

"What's up?"
One of Pixar's best movies.

"What's new?"
New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico and the New Christy Minstrels. (dated reference showing how long I've been using this)

"How are you?"
Minimally functional.

and today's more common "How's it goin'?"
It's been gone for along time.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:39 AM on December 6, 2018

A chipper "Nope!" combined with a raised eyebrows and punctuated with a finger point at the offending party would be great as you keep walking by.
posted by Stewriffic at 8:41 AM on December 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

Give them the White Person Office Smile, say, “Would you excuse me?” and walk away.

That’s it. Literally say nothing else. Communicates everything you need, and if observed, looks perfectly polite.
posted by pecanpies at 8:42 AM on December 6, 2018 [24 favorites]

Say the wrong lazy response on purpose. Like if they say "hello how's it going" you say "nothing". Or if they say "what's up?" you say "good". It's kind of a thought exercise for you and kind of fun.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:52 AM on December 6, 2018 [11 favorites]

"I don't know you, you do not exist."
posted by fso at 9:14 AM on December 6, 2018

I like the cold grim nod that Hillary greeted Melania with at the Bush funeral yesterday
posted by sestaaak at 9:32 AM on December 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

I endorse the look away, but "Oh, I don't think so," with a slight, chilly smile, as you turn away, can also work.
posted by praemunire at 9:43 AM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm a big fan of pausing, then saying "Huh" with a flat/dismissive affect. Usually along with the look at them, then through them, then away.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:50 AM on December 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

I've also seen a direct "don't talk to me" used to great effect - it's got the advantage of being not even remotely ambiguous.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:51 AM on December 6, 2018 [8 favorites]

My best overall response for you: "Too soon. Go away."

"Oh dear, van down by the river not work out for you?" (C. Farley)
"And you arrrrre?... And I would know you howwww...?" (D. Spade)
"Buh-bye." (Also Spade)
"Oh, how quaint, (after all this time) you still are desperately clinging to the delusion we're on speaking terms."
"Sod off, Baldrick" (Blackadder, use only among fans)
"Sorry, I think you want Arguments, way over there. This area is for Abuse, you festering formation of fetid ferret feces." (after Monty Python)

"How sweet. If only I could (force myself to) say the same to you."
"Yes, I can see you too."

"It's what I'm about to throw in your direction."
"Oh, it's the opposite of down, but that's not important right now." (Airplane!)

"Well, I don't need a catheter just yet. And you?"
"Toward me and away from you."
"That way. Would you be a dear and follow it?"

(How are you?) "No, I'm not him, it's pronounced 'Howard Hughes', and he's dead."
"Fantastic. And I have references." (after an old acquaintance)
"Great, until just about now."
"I'm great. You, however, could use some meat tenderizer and a pinch of salt."
posted by zaixfeep at 10:17 AM on December 6, 2018 [3 favorites]


"That way. Would you be a dear and follow it?"

posted by wellred at 10:24 AM on December 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

OH, I have done this once, ever.

To his "what's up?" I did the snort/chuckle then in a slightly incredulous tone: "OK", and walked off.
posted by gaspode at 11:05 AM on December 6, 2018 [13 favorites]

"No, thank you. I couldn't possibly eat another crab puff."
posted by tubedogg at 11:18 AM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

A short but emphatic nod of the head, but upwards, to the side and back, rather than forwards and down.

At the same time utter a single syllable e.g. "tut", "git", "shoo", or perhaps a brief hawk as if you were about to spit.

Head off with the same body language you'd use when walking past a market stall from which you definitely don't intend to buy anything.

Alternatively, a thumbnail aggressively flicked off the back of the top teeth in their direction would avoid the need for any utterance at all. Probably better if they're not actually from a culture in which such gestures are a thing; the meaning will hit them instinctively at the same time as being interacted with like this throws them way off kilter.
posted by protorp at 11:24 AM on December 6, 2018

I agree with those above who've said that this is more about how you say it then what you say. Like, there's an icy tone and withering glare that says, I hate the world today and another icy tone and withering glare that says, I don't have time for you, shitty ex, you know?

The interesting thing about that Don Draper clip is that it seems to be a lot about the dynamic between the two characters. Like Don is cold and distant the whole time and that grows in power as the other dude keeps trying to connect, engage, and get acknowledged. So his final remark-- "I don't think of you at all" --is so cutting partially because of the build-up and the other dude's increasingly intense bids for acknowledgement.

So, it's kind of an improv game, you know? Also a power game. There's different moves that make sense and have different impacts depending on what the other person does. Scripting out conversations beforehand doesn't usually go super well, in my experience--so in a way you might want to develop your wit and intuition about what to say more than you really want a specific phrase.

Also seems like it might help to get a bit more clear about the impact you're going for. "Stay away from me" is pretty easy to communicate; "stay away from me and also you have no impact on me and also a hint of fuck you" is a bit more challenging, because there's some internal tension in there.

If you want to really make the person feel bad, a bit of false welcome or neutrality at the start might lead them to lean in more and then you can more deeply rebuff/reject them (to have the kind of impact that Don Draper does in that clip). But it sounds like mostly you want a very brief interaction?
posted by overglow at 11:24 AM on December 6, 2018

Another vote for just “Nope.” and going back to whatever you were doing
posted by a strong female character at 11:30 AM on December 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:47 AM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Blank stare, then "The number you have dialed has been disconnected or is out of service."

Rinse, repeat.
posted by zaixfeep at 11:47 AM on December 6, 2018

O Don Draper! Who can top him?

Wrinkle your nose ever so slightly, but not enough to look like it's work. Then ask the air, "What's that smell?"
posted by BostonTerrier at 11:55 AM on December 6, 2018

a bland, slightly frigid country club smile and a "hmm, no thank you" as though you are turning down subpar hors d'oeuvres at an event you are only attending out of pity.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:56 AM on December 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

Another vote for the "oh, wow, np" and "nope" responses and quickly move along holding your head high. If it were me, I would definitely laugh along as I said them, as in, "I just remembered you again after having forgotten you, and simultaneously find it hysterical that you would think you could just waltz up to me again."
posted by knownassociate at 12:46 PM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

"I'm sorry. Your face looks familiar. Do I know you?"
posted by terrapin at 12:52 PM on December 6, 2018

"Nope!" works really well. And it feels really good too. "Nope!" and either turn heel or - if you're already in motion - keep walking. Ahh.
posted by pammeke at 12:56 PM on December 6, 2018

with great bonhomie "Peachy keen. And you?" As they open their mouth to reply, you coolly say "Never mind. I don't care" and walk off.
posted by MovableBookLady at 1:32 PM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

"Oh, it's Shitty McShitlist. This isn't a good time." Look away, pull out phone, open Candy Crush.

Alternately: Can you burp on cue?
posted by fritillary at 1:35 PM on December 6, 2018

I would rather cut off my own arm than to let someone know they got under my skin. So I would probably go with "how's it going" or "not bad" depending on what they said to me first. Something super noncommittal said while walking away.

However, for the one person I loathe more than anyone else in the world, I would just say their name, and then walk away. As in:

"Lyssabee, how are you?"

pause, maybe raise my eyebrows in acknowledgement.


Then leave. That's it.
posted by lyssabee at 1:50 PM on December 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

Ooh also, just a disdainful "Yes?"
posted by aspersioncast at 2:08 PM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would rather cut off my own arm than to let someone know they got under my skin. So I would probably go with "how's it going" or "not bad" depending on what they said to me first. Something super noncommittal said while walking away.

Agreed, but I guess I am in the minority of people who think that it is not okay to act like a jerk when you run into someone like this. I know you say you don't want to be polite. But also consider that the best revenge is demonstrating that you're happy in your life without them. I guess another way to accomplish that might be pretending to get a call from your new significant other/best friend/etc when you see them, relieving you from the need to talk to them and showing that you've moved on.
posted by pinochiette at 2:30 PM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have responded to "What's up?" and "how's it going" with "No thanks!". Usually in response to the people at subways or shopping centers or trade shows who are probably wanting me to give them money for their cause/product/story/etc, but it also applies to anybody I don't want to talk to. They're not really asking how you are, they're really saying they'd like to start a conversation, to which you say, "no thanks!"
posted by aimedwander at 3:05 PM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

"How did you get in here?" Quizzical tone of voice, devoid of malice, mostly to yourself, and walk off without giving them a chance to answer or engage.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:31 PM on December 6, 2018

I really like that "Nope" though :D
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:32 PM on December 6, 2018

unless the timing is perfect, then it comes off as weird. Leave the theatrical remarks off the table.

yes. every single one of the theatrical suggestions will make them pity you or worry about you at best, ridicule you at worst. if they can even work out what you're trying to express. you want them to feel small; this will make them feel big.

make your choice of response by thinking about how they can describe the interaction to other people later: like "..didn't even answer me, just stopped and STARED at me and then walked away, like I wasn't even there!" that's pretty good.

but "recited an SNL quote/complicated unfunny line from an old British sitcom and then waited expectantly" / "made a weird face and pantomimed flicking something at me" is the opposite of a power move. nobody is going to have the fantasy scripted reaction to a scripted line.

and while you said you don't want them to know they got to you, never take "Fuck you" all the way off the table. it's a classic for a reason
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:48 PM on December 6, 2018 [14 favorites]

IME, the cut direct doesn't work with people who feel entitled to being acknowledged. They'll just try harder to get your attention. It's better to say "I'm doing great" with a completely emotionless, deadpan tone of voice and corresponding facial expression, then disengage and walk away. Basically, using a tone of voice and expression that says "I can't be bothered with you". Of course if you really don't care about being polite or their opinion of you, you can always say "I'm doing great, now get lost."
posted by jazzbaby at 4:23 PM on December 6, 2018

I'm fond of the Malcom Reynolds quote " walking and talking"
posted by Jacen at 5:55 PM on December 6, 2018

"Don't worry about it"
posted by STFUDonnie at 5:58 PM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would laugh and walk away. People I loathe aren't worth anything more than that. They don't even deserve my anger.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:15 PM on December 6, 2018

Make unbroken eye contact with them for three solid beats, then turn your head and, very slowly and deliberately, spit.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:23 PM on December 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

When buttonholed outside the grocery store by people trying to get my signature for a political candidate for the party I dislike, I have employed, "Ha, definitely not," and just not even broken my stride.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:35 PM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Nope" and leaving the vicinity has always worked well for me. So has just saying their name in cool acknowledgement that they have spoken, while giving them the same quality of look I would give to someone who just did something really offensive in public. Definitely agreeing with everyone who suggests staying away from the more elaborate/dramatic responses -- it feels good to fantasize about those but the odds of the actual experience being like what you fantasized about are so slim that it's not worth it. Also nthing the suggestion for the cut direct. Having been on both ends of this situation, it stings SO SO SO MUCH to be treated like you are nothing, and feels SO SO SO SATISFYING to successfully cut someone down like that without losing one's dignity with an over the top moment that doesn't land.
posted by palomar at 7:30 PM on December 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Nicki Minaj shading Miley Cyrus, if you're young enough to pull it off. "What's good."
posted by fiercekitten at 9:53 PM on December 6, 2018

Mad Fucking Witches on FB use: ‘Oh do fuck off, and uh, when you get there keep fucking off’ which cracks me up. I have some contenders for its reception in my circle of dead to me people.

Never take ‘oh do fuck off off’ the table
posted by honey-barbara at 10:34 PM on December 6, 2018

I’m a big fan of Dr Who style bafflement

Maybe a quick
“Sorry, time is continuous and not discrete.....” no explanation and then just keep moving.

That or “hold this for a moment will you, there’s a good chap” followed by handing them a Kleenex (preferably used) or some pocket lint or whatever, and then move along.

Or simply point behind them, say “Holy cow, what’s that” and then after they turn and look back, move along. Works better if you have teleport capability admittedly
posted by inflatablekiwi at 10:45 PM on December 6, 2018

My hometown has one large shopping mall and if you go there over the holiday season you will inevitably run into some you know but don't want to talk to. A friend devised "the mall game" where the rule is that you don't stop walking and just continue what you're doing. So basically "oh hi" while you keep on walking. It's effective without feeling rude or petty. But sometimes you want to be rude and petty, in which case go with something harsher.
posted by emd3737 at 2:10 AM on December 7, 2018

I'm late to the party, but honestly, I just don't think there's an effective way to do this. If this guy has perception/intuition at all, any attempt at snubbing will clearly convey that you're still not over it. The best revenge is indeed a life well lived. Your best bet is to loving kindness meditate the shit out of this person until you really don't want to snub them. The big bonus there is, you feel a million times better too. True forgiveness is an art but also a gift to yourself.
posted by namesarehard at 1:29 PM on December 7, 2018

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