How to deal with extremely nosey/creepy neighbors?
December 21, 2006 10:20 PM   Subscribe

How to deal with extremely nosey/creepy neighbors?

There is a man who does maintenance in my new building who is very nice but also strange. He had gone out of his way to help me when I was first moving in, and since he has a good sense of humor I was quite friendly with him. I *believe* that he is harmless, but he is very watchful over the building, seeing who is coming and who is going, who they are with, etc., at all times. He makes silly jokes that sometimes have a threatening undertone ("people disappear from the basement at night"). This makes me a little uncomfortable.

He knew from day one that I have boyfriend, so I don't believe that he thinks I will go out with him. The issue is more that I prefer to have boundaries wherein my space is respected (e.g. my apartment isn't entered unless necessary and no snooping is done) and I don't feel watched. This guy notices EVERYTHING and somehow I just don't feel comfortable in this situation. Furthermore, since I have already established a friendly relationship with this person, I don't know how to get him to back off a bit. I certainly don't want to offend him...he has done favors for me in the past...I just wish to have a living situation that is more anonymous and doesn't make me nervous about my every move being watched.
posted by mintchip to Human Relations (45 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like he's not your neighbor, he's an employee of the building where you live. Do you know any of the other employees? Can you pump them for information on this guy? You might be able to get some insight into why he's so creepy (maybe he has some mental handicaps, maybe he's very lonely because of X, Y, Z). More importantly, you could probably get one of them to get him to back off a little.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:28 PM on December 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

Maybe mention it to your landlord? You don't have to alienate the guy — just be honest about your privacy concerns. It might work best to do this in a light-hearted way — "So and so sure does know EVERYTHING that goes on around here..."
posted by Brittanie at 10:31 PM on December 21, 2006

To clarify, he is an employee of the building who also lives in the building (a super, basically).
posted by mintchip at 10:37 PM on December 21, 2006

In similar situations, I've tried to establish boundaries and get in the habit of enforcing them, even if they seem minor. My next door neighbor was in the habit of knocking on my window at 11pm, making me accept whatever wine he was drinking, and monologuing for 30-60min. about whatever was on his mind. He's older, and perfectly nice, and probably harmless, but it was weird and creepy enough that I wanted it to stop.

So I just started saying No and sticking by it, even if it felt a bit rude. "I don't want people coming over after 9pm." "I don't have time to talk right now." "Don't look in my window to see if I'm home, it makes me extremely uncomfortable." "No, I don't want any wine."

I figured someone with good intentions would respect my feelings and back off. He didn't -- and in fact launched into monologues about why it was ridiculous that I felt uncomfortable, which was such a huge red flag that I felt perfectly justified cutting off all contact with him. (If you can't respect my feelings, and if you don't understand the meaning of "no," then I really see no reason I should be going out of my way to be nice to you...)

Obviously, if he's the super, you can't cut off contact, but I think establishing yourself as someone who says No and means it is still a good thing. Which doesn't mean you can't be friendly or polite, or stop to talk to him when you do have time, just that you should be conscious of not falling into the assumption that because you're a woman, you're required to be nice to everyone. (I'm assuming you're a woman from your post.)
posted by occhiblu at 11:13 PM on December 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

Women who worry about offending someone or being rude are usually the first ones to get raped or robbed. You have no responsibility to be nice to everyone you meet. Don't be submissive. Don't be a victim. I recommend being very abrupt or even rude with the man when he tries to talk to you. Have your boyfriend be seen with you whenever possible.

You think this guy is harmless, but he has already made some very inappropriate jokes (about people disappearing in the basement). Don't take the risk.
posted by Ariadne at 11:16 PM on December 21, 2006

Okay, my boyfriend made me post a second time so that he could get his two cents in. He recommends (and I concur) that you read The Gift of Fear. Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin De Becker.

This might be just a nice guy that wants to make new friends, BUT do you really want to be the girl that is found in the basement, dead, while all the neighbors give interviews to the news about what a nice, quiet man he seemed to be? What does your gut tell you?
posted by Ariadne at 12:01 AM on December 22, 2006

Your shoulder needs to get colder in a hurry. No need to be brutally brusque, but this fella needs to see your attention dry up and quick. Likely this will result in a press of unwanted attention from him in the short term, but it is likely that you shall receive more definitive evidence as to his true nature during this time. Creepy stalker or harmless close talker? His hysteria level shall reveal it.

Meanwhile, talk to the landlord. Be discreet. This situation is a potential risk for their business, after all.

Figure out some method of self-defense. Regardless of their immediate situation, every woman needs to know how to protect herself. Mace & pepper spray are good. Martial skill is better.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:22 AM on December 22, 2006

arm yourself. if he enters your apartment without your permission, point it at him. if he takes one more step forward, cancel his ticket.
posted by bruce at 1:36 AM on December 22, 2006

bruce, what kind of advice is that. Do you think that you are bruce wayne? grow up
posted by pwally at 1:52 AM on December 22, 2006

Oh my god... I'm really amused at all the "YOU GONNA GET RAPED" talk up thread.

How often do you REALLY have to interact with this guy? Everyday, once a week, when you need something fixed? If he's in your business every day then it's a problem... but if you just run across him every now then I don't understand exactly how it worries you.

So he's a weirdo... some supers and maintenance guys are. So he made a stupid joke about people disappearing in the basement - basements ARE creepy... Do you REALLY think he has a pyramid of skulls on his kitchen table?

If he bugs you when you interact with him then give him the cold shoulder. If you pass him in the hall and he says hi then nod and keep walking.

Re-reading your question I can't help but think you're over reacting. You say he notices "EVERYTHING" but you don't provide any examples... I mean, does he notice when the hot water goes out or that you tend to wear thongs on Fridays? Presumably the guy spends each and every day tending to the property, so he's bound to notice little things that you'd over look... and if he lives there, well then his whole life revolves around the building.

You imply that you feel as though he may have entered your apartment - what makes you feel this way? Do you have proof or is it in your imagination?

I don't mean to turn the question back around on you but there seems to be a trend (maybe advanced by the day time talk show circuit) that strange-friendly = serial killer / rapist and I just think it doesn't jibe with reality.
posted by wfrgms at 1:58 AM on December 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

I've said it before and I'll probably say it all my life. wfrgms - If jibes with reality even once, and protects one woman from being victimized (in any way) I'm all for calling out boundary overstepping. "I don't need your help," or "please take a few steps back, you are in my personal space," are very very powerful verbal cues. And the reactions one gets to those cues is equally powerful. When I use them and get a response of someone saying "hey lady, you're so pretty and so tiny, you really should let me carry those groceries to the car, for your own sake" my creep alarm rings even louder. But, if the guy apologizes politely and says, "Oh, well, have a good weekend," then I might feel a little bit like a jerk, but it doesn't change my mind about not wanting his help.

You are not obligated to be nice to this guy. Tell his boss immediately. Document all issues that you have with him, dates and times and locations of his creepy comments. Document his responses to your concerns, if you address them with him. Document the respsonse of the person who is his boss. Tell him and your boss exactly what you want. Saying "I thought you should know that Creepy McCreepypants said this, this, and this" is not enough. Add, "and I want him to not approach me unless there is something happening in the complex that I need to take action on" (or whatever it is you do want. It may not be unreasonable to want an investigation in the complex about whether he's scaring residents or guests, or has made any mroe concrete threats).

I think the scaremongering upthread is valuable. While it's not clear that this guy has any rape type intentions for any of the residents, he's said some pretty violently suggestive things. He has made her uncomfortable. If he is made aware that it is a problem, and it continues, it is harassment. Harassment is a crime in some places, for very good reason. Get it documented.
posted by bilabial at 3:13 AM on December 22, 2006

You mention that you think he has a good sense of humour. If he also has a black sense of humour and is a movie fan then he will be aware that dark goings on in an apartment block basement are a horror cliché (think Rosemary's Baby for example). From your description is it not really possible to tell whether he is sadistically trying to scare you or whether you just have different ideas of an appropriate joke. Be aware of the latter possibility.
posted by rongorongo at 3:27 AM on December 22, 2006

"If jibes with reality even once, and protects one woman from being victimized (in any way) I'm all for calling out boundary overstepping."

Ah, yes. The TSA theory of safety. "Is that hairgel or an explosive?"

Look, Mintchip, I dunno where you live. But it sounds like you've got soft conversational boundaries, and you've a previous question about 'em, like many women do. Many guys too, but if you were a guy, there'd be none of this "OMG RAPEXOR!" hysteria. You can go one of two ways: passive-aggressive or mildly-offensive. For passive-aggressive, just work on making yourself less open to this guy. Don't share personal stuff when he talks to you, encourage a professional sort of demeanor. It's OK to be jocular, just don't let it get anywhere below the surface. (Something else that I'll note is that having worked some of these kinds of jobs, and having had a lot of friends who did too, you can kind of latch on to anyone who doesn't treat you like a retarded shitstain just for being a janitor). For the tack that I'd probably take, since I don't really have, you know, social gracez, I'd make a joke about it. "Do you really know everything that happens here? Man, that's a little creepy." The other way would be to insinuate he didn't have a lot else to occupy him, but you're trying to limit the conversation, so you don't want to implicitly question him about what he does do (thus giving him a chance to open up more).
It also helps to be busy. As part of my job, I go to a lot of rock shows, and I get chatted up by cloying musicians all the time. It's far better to have something else to do, so that you don't have to talk to them (though my standard dodge of not being able to hear them over the music has now through karma become mostly true, meaning I can't even talk to the folks that I want to, which makes me feel like a dick).
So yeah, be distant, don't ask questions, don't volunteer much when asked, have other stuff to do, make light of his invasiveness. On the last point, that's where you're likely to get the litmus of whether he's really creepy or just a little inept. If he can be cool about a bit of razzing and backs off, well, sweet. Otherwise, you can be a little more blunt: "Dude, you're creepin' me out." He sounds like he's a decent guy, but hey. At least by feeling him out a little more like this, you can avoid having to follow all the you-should-buy-ninja-stars-and-use-them paranoia above. Because what's the use of being totally safe if it means you can't live your life decently?
posted by klangklangston at 5:03 AM on December 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Klang- I am sad that I need to point out that rape and physical violence toward women are in no way comparable to Security Theater. Some estimates place the number of women who will be raped or sexually assualted (in America) at 76%. I think you'd agree that the odds of an explosion on an airplane are far lower. Even if you prefer the estimates that put that number closer to 25%, that is still a lot of women. And the vast, overwhelming majority of rapes are perpetrated by acquaintances, not total strangers. Mintchip's apartment super is an acquaintance.

I don't suggest accusing him of anything he hasn't done. I don't suggest humiliating him. I suggest women be aware of their surroundings and not engage in conversations or activities that make them uncertain of their safety.

Listen, I've been violently raped. It stands out as one of the most painful, horrifying things that has ever happened to me. Far worse than someone rebuffing my attempts to help, or shutting down a conversation with me.

Indeed, if mintchip were a man there certainly wouldn't be "OMG RAPEXOR" hysteria, because men are not perceived as targets in the ways that women are perceived as targets. But unfortunately, women are still being "taken advantage of" in our country. Our being more trusting isn't going to stop that.

And that "totally safe" line, WTF, hoping to help other women make it through life without sexual assault is not asking for totally safe, it's asking for dignity.

I'll go have some breakfast and take a deep breath now.
posted by bilabial at 5:36 AM on December 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

"Some estimates place the number of women who will be raped or sexually assualted (in America) at 76%."

Right, and since the vast, vast majority of those happen on dates, women shouldn't date. Or ever be drunk. Or wear revealing clothes.

Viewing every man as a potential rapist hurts both men and women, and that seems to be what you're encouraging. I'm sorry you got raped, but that doesn't make every uncomfortable interaction between genders about rape.

And for the "totally safe," I'm not the one who recommended getting a gun and shooting the super over what sounds like a social misfire. That's what I was commenting on.
posted by klangklangston at 5:49 AM on December 22, 2006

My first thought in reading this was that this guy sounds like someone I would meet in my neighborhood. The older people in the neighborhood all know everything that goes on and keep their eyes peeled for anything suspcious. On the plus side, it's how they show they care about the neighborhood. On the minus side, it leads to some busybodyism. And to some silly jokes that are a non-PC.

Is it just that he seems to have a close eye on the place that's making you nervous? He likely considers this to be his job as super.

However: Is his behavior changing? Has he ever mentioned entering your apartment without cause? Does he seem to be pushing on the previously understood boundaries at all? If he seems to be taking greater interest in your private life, then yes, develop colder shoulder, quickly.
posted by desuetude at 6:23 AM on December 22, 2006

Klang, don't be obtuse. No one in this thread is advocating that mintchip or anyone else "view every man as a potential rapist." No one is talking about Mintchip altering the way she dress or shooting the super because he's behaving in a potentially socially maladjusted manner.

What the consensus seems to be is perfectly common sense. Regrettably, Mintchip hasn't given us much in the way of specifics, but the upshot is, there's a guy in the building who creeps her out and seems to be excessively friendly and unusually nosey and says some inappropriate things.

And this guy has the keys to her apartment. Think about that for a minute.

So if you really think it's silly for her to worry that someone with that kind of access is behaving with excessive friendliness and inappropriate remarks, I think I should call your attention to another situation that was in the news recently with some parallels to this one.

Also, though Bruce may have been a little blunt with his advice, I have to concur that if anyone not a law enforcement agent or family member enters your home without notice or permission, and refuses to leave when warned, and advances on you when you are clearly armed, then that IS an appropriate scenario for the use of deadly force. Of course, Mintchip has not said that the Creepy Super ever entered her flat.

Mintchip: as others have said, this guy may or may not be trouble. Keep him at an arm's length and ensure the management is aware of your discomfort with him.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 6:51 AM on December 22, 2006

Just to add another less hysterical voice to the thread...

We had a super a bit like that (he always seemed to snoop and knew way too much), but he certainly wasn't a rapist, he was just nosy. Supers tend to be like that, no? After all, they're responsible for the smooth running and security of the building... and they're stuck there day in and day out.

How about asking other tenants in the building if he's like that with them? (they'll likely say yes) That way at least you can rule out the "he's singled me out as his (next) rape victim" angle that people here seem to want to frighten you with.

As for anonymity... no real advice there if he's at all like our super. Don't be super-friendly with him, but you bet he'll still notice your comings and goings etc.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 7:52 AM on December 22, 2006

He likely considers this to be his job as super

Concur - as the de facto super he probably thinks its his job to know the comings and goings of everyone in the building. Have you talked to your other neighbors about him - i.e. do they feel the same way about him as you do?

Like others have already said, if all the neighbors are getting the same vibe from this guy - or hell even if its just YOU - talk to your landlord about it.
posted by matty at 7:55 AM on December 22, 2006

The issue is not that he's a rapist (he's most likely not). The issue is whether he can take no for an answer, in any situation. The issue is whether he can respect boundaries.

If he can, then mintchip backing off a bit should immediately lead him to back off as well, and the problem is solved.

If he cannot, then mintchip has every right to see him as someone who does not understand what no means -- and I don't meant that just sexually -- and to shut the guy down harder.

Mintchip learning to establish and enforce her boundaries does not mean that she thinks every man is a rapist; it's a good way to counteract the various training that women get that tell us that we have to be nice to anyone and everyone, regardless of how they're treating us. It's good practice for learning how to build healthy relationships in general -- you have every right to express your own preferences and assume they will be honored. You have every right NOT to feel uncomfortable in your own home. You have every right to put the brakes on a relationship or situation that seems to be veering out of control.

Nice guys probably don't realize that women do this, because they haven't had it done to them, because presumably you'd back off if a woman started indicating that she didn't want to talk to you. But it's worth keeping an eye on the guys who don't, and doing so does not make one paranoid or hysterical.
posted by occhiblu at 8:44 AM on December 22, 2006

Separate the issues. If he enters your apartment without authorization for anything but an emergency, i.e., water leak, complain in writing to the building owner.

If he's overly friendly/too familiar, be briskly courteous, but don't spend time with him.

If he is really watchful, that tends to increase your safety from burglary, car vandalism, etc. If you know his name you can Google him and do a google alert for news. If he has behaved badly in the past, it'll show up. (I have a creepy neighbor whose arrests show up in google alerts.) He is likely to be a lonely guy who lacks good social skills, so be cautious buut don't lose sleep.
posted by theora55 at 9:04 AM on December 22, 2006

I concur with bilabial, occhiblu, and so forth. Yes, this guy could just be nosey/friendly super, but mintchip has stated that she feels uncomfortable, and she feels her boundaries aren't being respected. I agree that she needs to shut him down. It doesn't matter if he's a potential rapist or just an overly careful guy.
posted by muddgirl at 9:09 AM on December 22, 2006

I have to side with Klang - I just don't see anything in mintchip's sparse description of the problem that indicates that this guy is anything other than a completely normal if somewhat awkward super.

Hell, I wish my building had a live in super who kept tabs on what was going on around the property.

I still think the onus is on mintchip to really evaluate her experiences with this guy with a clear and sober mind toward figuring out if he has indeed crossed some boundary. My feeling is that many women have been programed by Cosmo and Oprah to think that every goofy, overly friendly guy is in fact casing his next rape victim. I'm not saying that mintchip is a paranoid Cosmo girl... but what's more likely? That she's overreacting or that the guy is a potential rapist?
posted by wfrgms at 9:19 AM on December 22, 2006

But that's the point here. Start paying attention to establishing boundaries, and see how he reacts. If he's a goofy, overly friendly guy, he will back off. If he's worrisome, he won't.

What's worse, that a guy who's acting inappropriately gets a rude response, or that mintchip always assumes her instincts are wrong and that she's not allowed to expect her wishes to be honored?

Again, if he's a good guy, her changed behavior should not particularly affect him. If her cooling off does affect him gravely, then something's not right.
posted by occhiblu at 9:26 AM on December 22, 2006

(And if he's just a harmless guy who doesn't understand social cues, well it's damn well acceptable for him to learn. There's no reason mintchip has to be the only one who's understanding and accommodating in this situation.)
posted by occhiblu at 9:29 AM on December 22, 2006

"is very nice"
"He had gone out of his way to help me when I was first moving in"
"has a good sense of humor"
"I *believe* that he is harmless"

I do not see a lot of reason to talk to his boss or coworkers and maybe get him fired for this, it really sounds like the only thing he has done is be freindly and look out for the comings and goings of people in this building. Would you rather live in a place where the super let strangers walk around unchallenged, lurking in the hallways? If he was hitting on you I would feel different but I just do not see this in your post. I think you should be polite but a little distant.
posted by Iron Rat at 9:40 AM on December 22, 2006

Sorry for the serial posting, but I just thought of an example that might help, from my dealings with the neighbor I mentioned.

I live in a ground-floor apartment facing the street, and the front windows are right over the sidewalk. Occasionally delivery people or friends will decide that ringing the doorbell is too much trouble, and will knock on the windows or even peer into the windows to see if I am home.

I *really* do not like this.

So I have said to many people, since I've lived here, "Hey, it makes me uncomfortable when you look in the windows like that, it tends to startle me. Can you ring the doorbell instead, please?"

Most people apologize, maybe make a little joke, and then start using the doorbell.

My neighbor, when given this little speech, started spluttering and frowning and gesticulating. "Why should it make you nervous!?! You are too nervous in general!!! You need to calm down! Relax! I'm not going to do anything to you! My eyesight isn't even very good!" When I calmly insisted that it made me uncomfortable and I needed him to use the doorbell, he continued mocking me and telling me I was being unreasonable.

When someone acts unreasonably to a reasonable response, you have every right to keep an eye on them (and since he kept trying to tell me that I was wrong every time I explained that X made me uncomfortable, could he do Y instead, I no longer felt comfortable around him at all).

That's what I mean be setting and enforcing boundaries. Normally socialized people won't even notice, really, or will be apologetic for having intruded, and it probably won't alter the relationship much. Pushy aggressive guys may tell you you're being unreasonable, or get sulky, or do something else to indicate that they think they have a right to act any way they want around you, your feelings be damned. And those guys are the ones to watch out for.

On preview: My neighbor was really "nice," too, but still creeped me out. I agree that it may be a little early to try to get this guy fired, but I also think it's important to trust your own feelings about people.
posted by occhiblu at 9:42 AM on December 22, 2006

Wow. This thread went downhill fast. I suppose there's just something about sex and violence that speaks to people.

Anyways, your best bet for dealing with people like this is to establish clear boundaries and routines with them. This is called being a good neighbor. You make a habit to speak with him every, say, Wednesday when you take out the trash. If he bothers you during any other time you firmly say you can't talk and then let him know you'll talk to him later and he'll know that you mean it. The key is simply to be firm about what's not acceptable and to make a some effort to be friendly in specific ways. Don't give him any personal information (phone number etc) but do give him a nice Christmas card. Take some time to introduce him to your boyfriend and make it clear that you're not available and your boyfriend loves you very much.

This isn't a big deal. Being a good neighbor is a lost art but it's the sort of thing which is really effortless. I'll go ahead and say that you're being overly paranoid. Instead of alienating somebody who you may really need someday the prudent thing to do would be to accept his behavior (really, I've never met a super who wasn't a bit too nosey -- these guys are very invested in their buildings) and try to make the best of it.
posted by nixerman at 9:43 AM on December 22, 2006

You're not clear about what the problem is.

Is it that he talks to you and makes jokes about monsters in the basement, and you don't like that? Then follow klangklangston's lead and treat him like a retarded shitstain.

Is it that he watches you, and presumably others, as they come and go? I don't see how you can reasonably expect him to not watch your comings and goings if he understands that sort of monitoring to be part of his job. There's no way he can not watch just you, since in order to know that it's you and he shouldn't watch you he has to first see that it's you. Which entails, you guessed it, watching.

I'd suggest just moving to a place without a watchful super and certainly without a doorman.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:52 AM on December 22, 2006

I understand where bilabial is coming from, I just don't agree.

Of course, I've never been raped, so I admit openly have very little perspective.

However, I have been a male my entire life, and what klang touches on really is a problem. I've never raped anyone. In fact, due to my particular sexual preferences/kinks, as well as fears of being accused a rapist, I won't even have sex with a new woman unless she practically begs me.

You sometimes meet women who, at the slightest hint of kindness, take an overly aggressive approach, like bilabial and the guy offering to help her with her groceries. Yes, there is a 0.01% chance he's a rapist. But there's a 99.99% chance he's just some guy who might ask you out for coffee after he delivers your groceries to your car, or at worst say "so, you wanna cook me dinner?".

And you'll also notice that people like bilabial feel no need to be even so much as polite to strangers, and that the entirety of the social contract falls on the other person, not her. For instance, she expects a "polite apology" from the guy making an offer of assistance, and then still not regretting being hateful and curt with him. I don't like that.

I have been yelled at, loudly, by a woman for simply holding the door open for them. That is not a problem with me, or a problem with society, or a problem with rape statistics, it is a problem with the person.

Be cautious, of course. Listen to your "spidey senses" when they tingle, and things don't seem right. Try to maintain awareness of your surroundings, etc etc etc.

But yelling "fuck off, rapist!" to someone offering to carry your groceries is a sure way to live a miserable life, and be a miserable person. In matters like this, the person who has been violated can't let go, and they continue to be assaulted long after the attack. You can't live your life, at least not happily, looking for a boogeyman around every corner.

But, again, I'm just a middle aged white dude, and I sometimes do ridiculous things like carry packages out to a woman's car or stop to help with a flat tire. I guess I had it coming.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:15 AM on December 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

For god's sake, she's not advocating yelling "Fuck off, rapist!" She's saying that if she declines an offer of help and the guy insists on "helping" anyway, it's a red flag and she will step up her insistence that he back off.

I assume that the women for whom you've carried packages and fixed tires did not object to your presence? That you didn't force them to accept your help?

You're imagining an over-the-top response because you're ignoring the lead-up to that response.
posted by occhiblu at 10:25 AM on December 22, 2006


You are treating this like a combat situation where there's really no danger at all.

Your reaction is completely irrational. How long has this guy been super? How long as she been living there? Has he done anything but be a nice guy to her? How much sway does he have with the building management? Are they related? Have you ever heard of a super being fired for being too attentive to his tenants and his building?

See where I'm going?

Let's be realistic. There's no there there. I'm sure mintchip feels creeped out but these are just feelings. They don't matter. This guy has done nothing wrong. The problem exists completely within mintchip's head. You're telling her to go to war with this guy -- for what? Satisfaction? She can solve the problem by adjusting her own attitude. Instead of treating this situation like a battle, the mature person would treat this for what it is: making the best of a done deal.

If her boundaries are being violated and there's a war going on then sure mintchip should make a heroic last stand and draw a line in the sand or whatever. But it would be pretty dumb to alienate your super for being too friendly. When the day comes that she really needs him and he's not there she's going to feel very silly.

Your assumption that mintchip's feelings are a priori valid and the system should bend to accomodate her feelings is flawed. That's not the way the world works. In the real world good supers are hard to find, bad supers are the common case, and irritating tenants are a dime a dozen.
posted by nixerman at 10:49 AM on December 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

How am I advocating battle???? I'm saying that she should make it explicitly clear when his behavior bothers her, or when she doesn't want to talk to him. This is a normal, healthy way of conducting any sort of relationship.

"I don't have time to talk right now, have a good day!"
"Um, sorry, that's not really funny."
"It makes me uncomfortable when you stand that close, can you back up a bit? Thanks."

Anyone who actually is interested in having a functioning relationship will want to make his conversational partner comfortable, and will take her feelings into account. So it's mintchip's responsibility to make those feelings explicit (in a polite way), and it's the super's responsibility as a decent human being to do what he can to find a middle ground in which each of them is comfortable. This is how normal healthy relationships work -- one person does not get to dictate how both people feel or behave.

IF he does not respect her feelings once she has explicitly, kindly expressed them, then why should she want to spend much time around him? He's shown himself to be someone who doesn't respect her, and I see no real reason to have those sorts of people in my life.

There is every possibility that he will respond appropriately to her requests or changed behavior. In which case, the problem is solved, no "battle" of any sort required.

Yes, women should learn to stick up for themselves and make sure that others respect their feelings. But they certainly should not be made to feel that doing so is some sort of "battle," and that's certainly not what I'm advocating.
posted by occhiblu at 10:59 AM on December 22, 2006

"There is every possibility that he will respond appropriately to her requests or changed behavior. In which case, the problem is solved, no "battle" of any sort required."

Until the follow up AskMe: My toilet's broken and my super's been putting me off, what can I do?
posted by klangklangston at 11:15 AM on December 22, 2006

Is he coming into your apartment without prior notice? What sort of "favors" has he done? When he made an inappropriate joke, did you say something about it, or just giggle nervously? You need to be more specific about the ways he's invading your space, because as you can see above, people are creating all kinds of wild scenarios.

It could have something to do with where you live, too - occhiblu's suggestions would backfire miserably in my old neighborhood.
posted by Liosliath at 2:10 PM on December 22, 2006

To give you guys an example, he helped me put some furniture into my apartment and then stayed until almost midnight making small talk and "fixing" a thing or two that could have been fixed in two minutes time.

Also, he has my phone number (I gave it to him for a good reason) and has called me and kept me on the phone chatting for about 20 minutes at a time. This happened when I was first coordinating moving in and needed to work out how and when I would get my keys and when the apt. would be ready. He has also called me since then, ostensibly to help me with x or y. However, if I need his help, I will call him, right? I don't feel that he should call me.

Sorry if I didn't give enough info. from the get go. I really appreciate all of the different perspectives on this.
posted by mintchip at 2:25 PM on December 22, 2006

It could have something to do with where you live, too - occhiblu's suggestions would backfire miserably in my old neighborhood.

Re: the "he should learn social cues" suggestion, which I don't feel is always clear cut. For example, my neighborhood tends to be a bit old-fashioned -- enough so that many men take it as their duty to look out for women, particularly those living alone. This leads to situations at times that come off as condescending to me, which I don't love. But trying to explain my fiercely independent and feminist self-suffiency would just come off as rude. So I expect a little tolerance from my old-fashioned neighbors when I refuse their "help" and in return try not to visibly wince at some of their well-meaning but incredibly tone-deaf comments.
posted by desuetude at 2:31 PM on December 22, 2006

Right, and that's what I meant by "finding a middle ground," that both parties should give a little and both parties should respect where the other is coming from. When it gets one-sided from either direction, then it can be a problem.

mintchip, is the guy just rambly? Or have you specifically said that he has to leave / you have to go / you don't have time to talk, and he's ignoring you?
posted by occhiblu at 2:59 PM on December 22, 2006

To all the people in the thread thinking that occhiblu and others are over-reacting, I just want to point out that rapists don't have some giant R emblazoned on their forehead. Hell, most of them don't even act any different than your average Joe. All women often have to go off of is their gut feeling, and in this case, mintchip's gut isn't sitting comfortably with this guy. And it may not be about rape, either.

There was an article in Comso (I know, not perhaps the scientific journal some of you would prefer) a while back detailing a study that found an extraordinarily high percent of women had had a "bad feeling" about their rapists prior to their rape, but written it off as over-reacting, or not taken any action to end the aquaintenceship/relationship/what-have-you for the very same reason most of you are so upset--being accused of being impolite or unfriendly or something else to that degree.

Women (or hell, people in general) don't have these feelings of unease about every person they meet. And Mintchip's situaton, where this is a guy who lives close to her, can observe her, and has access to her place of residence, means that there is a lot more on the line than if this were some guy she as stuck talking to at a party or something.

Personally, I would rather hurt a few guys' feelings than be raped. There's no reason a woman should be asked to potentially sacrifice herself so as not to tread on someone else's toes.

Anyways, if this guy isn't someone who can honor a request to respect some basic boundaries (and as far as I can tell, what she asks for is well within reason) then he's not worth having as an aquaintance anyways, now is he?
posted by internet!Hannah at 6:31 PM on December 22, 2006

I'll leave the absolutely ridiculous "OMG rapist" thread alone, and tell the OP this: "This guy notices EVERYTHING" - in this day & age, this might not be that bad of a thing. Ever live in a place with actual creepy people (like, drug dealing ex cons casing the place) out? I have, and having the quirky superintendent that noticed everything living there was a good thing. The guy noticed those folks that *were* out of place and meant harm, and made sure that the police department did too.

If he really creeps you out and this is bothering you, then go find a new place to live.
posted by drstein at 10:02 PM on December 22, 2006

it sounds like he's angling for a tip at Christmas.
My big worry: does he have a key? If so, I'd set up a 'tell-tale' th show if he enters w/o permission.
posted by tristanshout at 4:34 AM on December 23, 2006

[a few comments removed, please take the rape derail either to metatalk or email, this is not helping the OP answer her question]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:45 AM on December 23, 2006

If you want a real eye opener, pick up a couple of books on clicker training for pets and try applying those techniques to the people around you (don't let them know you're doing it). I think I first heard of this in "Dont Shoot The Dog". What the author said is: "We train people how to treat us."
Positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement.
When he starts droning on, cut him off, say "Gee, I have to throw you out/hang up now. I have a bunch of phone calls to make/errands/chores to do. No smile.
When he's behaving well, spend 30 seconds to 3 minutes or so talking to him. Smile, pleasantly. Don't flirt, not even a little. Don't stay more than a few minutes. You're training him to be happy with just those few minutes.
It's not manipulation. You're already doing it. You've trained this guy by being nice when he's being creepy. You've done it because you've been trained to be nice and polite, I was trained the same way.
What else are you training people to do? What are you being trained to do?
Seriously, go to the library and pick up some books. When I remember to do this my life goes so much more smoothly. (Here, take my advice, I'm not using it.)
Just to be safe, brush up on your self defense skills. Be sure you will be able to kick, scream, stomp, bite and gouge when you need to.
posted by BoscosMom at 8:55 PM on December 23, 2006

I suggest you add a lock to your door and "forget" to give him a key. It should be a deadbolt with a key that requires a registered card or serial number in order to copy it. When you need him in the apartment, unlock it. When you don't - when you are out or when you are home - Keep it locked. This will enhance your personal security and since he watches everything, he will see you are taking steps that increase your privacy and control.

As far as lingering in your apartment and the phone conversations go, I've found even with very agressive, obiviously mentally ill people a little firmness goes a long way.

"You need to leave now" said firmly and without any hestitation will get him out of your apartment.

"I'm busy right now, I will call you later" or "Is there anything else? Thank you for calling, I need to get off the phone" will get him off the phone.

I agree wholeheartedly his jokes are inappropriate, and you should simply say, "That's kind of creepy, I don't find it funny".

I would document anything that seem untoward.

Violent behavior of any kind is usually headed off by sending the right kind of signals - couteous, but not vunerable. It sounds like you are sending all the wrong signals and I suggest you change that. Regardless of this guy, you need to learn to establish better boundaries.
posted by zia at 12:13 AM on December 26, 2006

OP, on preview I see you have been a mode of being nice while he is being creepy, and in your question you are essentially asking how you can continue to be the nice person and get him *not* to be so creepy. I'm not sure you can, and I think, as others have suggested, you need to start by giving up the idea that you need to be the nice one.

That doesn't mean you need to be rude or mean but you do need to get over the idea that you are obligated to treat this man as your friend. He is not your friend, he is your maintenance worker, and you are well within your rights to be establish boundaries with him. As for his reactions and how to read them others have commented very wisely above.
posted by zia at 12:20 AM on December 26, 2006

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