My roommate is stalking my sister.
December 11, 2007 5:35 AM   Subscribe

My roommate is stalking my sister.

A few months ago I started renting a room in a townhouse from a guy roughly my age (mid 20s). He owns the place, so he's also my landlord. While chatting when I stopped by to drop off the security deposit, I mentioned that I had a sister living in the same area, and he started asking questions about her. Politely, but as he showed me around the place, every pause in the conversation would be followed by, "So, when did your sister get out of school?", etc. I noticed it in retrospect after leaving that night, but didn't consider it a big deal (and still wouldn't, if that was where it stopped). The next time I came over to move in, that conversational pattern was repeated, and when I noted that she was currently living with two female roommates herself, he made a point of mentioning multiple times that they were welcome to come over and hang out whenever they'd like, and when I note that my family will be stopping by in a few days, he asks if she'll be coming. Still not a big deal. A few days later, she stops by with our parents, and he tries to talk her up, being a perfect gentleman (with the single exception of making a point of drawing attention to how much money he makes).

So now I've moved in, and two days later he says that he thought he saw my sister near where he works during lunch, which is completely impossible. For the next month, literally over 50% of his conversational gambits involve her; I answer, not trying to hide anything, but not bringing her up myself anymore. I actually don't see him that much, since his parents live in town and he spends a lot of nights at their place, which provides a pretext for him to email me asking me for emergency contact info, pointedly offering his brother's cellphone # when he does. I give him mine, without any info for her. He also suggests that we go see a movie, and when I say that sounds good, he suggests that I invite my sister too. I note that she'll be out of town that weekend (true), and he doesn't mention movies anymore.

For the next month, between him spending the night at his parents', and me spending more evenings out of the house, I don't see him much, though when I do he still asks how she's doing and keeps mentioning that she's welcome to do laundry here (I'd stupidly mentioned that she was having problems with it at her place). But I'd hoped that he'd finally got the hint that I don't want to set him up with her. Until yesterday, he mentions that he's located her on Facebook and has talked to her through it (I don't use Facebook, so don't know exactly what that entails).

So far, I've been trying to deal with this passively, hoping that it will fade with time, partly to avoid confrontation with my roommate/landlord, but mostly because I don't really think I have the right (and certainly don't have the desire) to interfere with my sister's romantic life. I still wouldn't really worry about any of this, except that he started becoming obsessed with her before he met her, which squicks me out a little. He's a smart, hard working guy, and between his demanding, impressive IT job, online MBA courses and the time he spends with his parents (his whole family moved here from China 10 years ago, so its a cultural thing), doesn't have much of a chance to go out and meet girls. He seems like a nice, responsible guy, who has latched onto this as his best opportunity to get a girlfriend. I just instinctively always thought that its not really appropriate for guys to expect other guys to help them have sex with their sister. But who knows, they're both young adults, and who am I to interfere with their dating efforts? Should I help him set something up? Should I continue being neutral? Or should I yield to my gut and ask him to cut this out?

One more note: I haven't mentioned any of this to my sister, and she's never mentioned or, until the Facebook incident, as far as I know, even noticed him.

Anonymous for their sake, not mine.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It sounds like he doesn't creep you out about anything other than your sister which leads me to think that maybe he's just lonely and, as you say, doesn't have much opportunity to meet girls. I would mention to your sister what you've said here and let her decide whether she wants to get to know him. If she'd rather not, you can simply tell your roommate that your sister has a boyfriend and is usually busy.
posted by gfrobe at 5:47 AM on December 11, 2007

Stalking is a bit harsh of a term to use for this situation. He seems to be obsessed with your sister for some reason (maybe he thinks the only way he can meet a girl is through friends or family). It all seems very harmless at this point.

Is there any reason why you haven't told your sister about this yet? You should warn her about it so that she doesn't end up getting stuck in an awkward situation with the guy. Other than that this just seems like your average annoying roommate problem rather than anything you should be worried about.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:56 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

Um. Pretty creepy. Can you, in a really nice way, confront him? And be like "Hey dude, I'm super protective of my sister and I get a little weirded out when my friends pursue her. I need you to lighten up a bit." Another tactic would be to just mention how she is dating someone (even if she isn't) and is really into that person.
posted by sneakin at 5:59 AM on December 11, 2007

"Dude, just stop." Be clear, be honest, don't do it angry and do it quickly.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:03 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Why not tell your sister that you think the dude is creepy and leave it to her to decide what to do. She's presumably an adult.
posted by chunking express at 6:09 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Next time he brings it up, say something like "hey man, woah, leave me out of it."

If he looks confused, just say "I don't get involved in my sister's social life." Repeat as often as necessary until he seems to understand.

Look at his expression and body language for cues. He'll probably look a bit deflated once he understands that you're not going to help him out. Say "Got it? Great. Thanks, man, I knew you'd understand" and move on.

If he brings it up again, throw your hands up and say: "Woah, woah, not going there." Be a bit lighthearted, but 100% consistent about the fact that you Will. Not. Talk. About. Your. Sister.

End of story.

If she complains or asks about him, it is an entirely different situation, but until then, it seems best to limit your involvement.
posted by sondrialiac at 6:14 AM on December 11, 2007

Ask your sister. Do what she wants.
posted by modernnomad at 6:26 AM on December 11, 2007

"Hey dude, I'm super protective of my sister and I get a little weirded out when my friends pursue her. I need you to lighten up a bit."

I don't recommend this route -- personally, I've never understood this instinct and I'm sure my two younger sisters would find it creepy and invasive. I'm seconding the idea that while this guy is taking a pretty unusual approach to finding a girl (to the point of being a bit disconcerting), this behaviour is not the same thing as stalking. If it worries you then drop your sister a note saying that this guy seems to have gotten pretty focussed on the idea of meeting her just on the basis of her being your sister, and if she has any problems with him, then to let you know. Beyond that, I'd let her make the decision for herself.
posted by Drexen at 6:27 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

I do see this as a form of stalking. Warn your sister that this man is obsessing about her. Tell him that her personal life is private. Stop answering his questions about her. Move as soon as you can.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:37 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think the critical issue is that this guy just moved here from China and the cultural expectations may be VERY different there. In China, you would likely be involved with your family and possibly with fixing your sister up. However, your mother and your father's grandmother would have the final say in who your sister was allowed to be involved with.

Check with your sister; does she like the guy? Frankly, he has expressed a lot of interest in her, but its not technically stalking till he starts to call her all the time and "track" her. If she is into him, perhaps let it be.

I would also invoke your mother's and paternal grandmother's authority in this (just lay groundwork). If you really want him to back off say that your mother has already picked someone for your sister. The other issue is that he will likely be very sensitive to what his mother and paternal grandmother may think of him being involved with your sister. They may be urging him to pursue it based on liking you and your family. Or they may not be aware. If you get an invitation to his family's house, accept it so you can suss out the situation.
posted by zia at 6:51 AM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]

The only "stalking" here is the facebook communication. Go hop on facebook and you'll see what that entails. Basically you can send emails, and also post public messages to people. There isn't much else you can do.

It sounds like he's not a total creep, just socially awkward (IT job stereotype). Just get him to stop talking to you about it, but don't worry about your sister with this guy. Sounds like she can handle herself.
posted by cschneid at 6:58 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hook him up with someone else, or take him out on the town to meet some girls.
posted by kaizen at 7:00 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

So far, I've been trying to deal with this passively, hoping that it will fade with time, partly to avoid confrontation with my roommate/landlord, but mostly because I don't really think I have the right (and certainly don't have the desire) to interfere with my sister's romantic life.

I don't see where this is interfering in your sister's romantic life. From the original post, it seems to be that she barely knows this guy exists, or cares.

It does seem like this is interfering in your life, though -- his constant questioning and interest is making you uncomfortable. Unfortunately, you have some culpability too: you've taken zero action to communicate that you don't like the situation. You answer his questions about her... you "hope he gets the hint" because you haven't set him up yet... it's not fair of you to expect him to read your mind, especially when you know he comes from a different cultural background and might not be aware of the same social cues that someone from your exact background could pick up on instantly.

I agree that the guy seems harmless (right now) and clueless. I would go with a two-pronged approach: first, tell your sister that this guy is interested in a way that seems a bit obsessive to you, and that-- unless she thinks she's interested in return -- as a favor to you she should try to mostly eliminate contact so as not to encourage him, because it's grown weird and is now affecting your home life. I don't know Facebook but I'm assuming it's like every other social networking site where she can just ignore him, or block him if he escalates.

Second, in order to keep the peace, and preserve the landlord/tenant + roommate civility balance (yikes, what a minefield on its own anyway), if it were me I would tell the guy that my sister is seeing someone that my family really likes, and oh, by the way, she really prefers that I stay out of her personal life so I never have the opportunity to set her up with anyone. You can drop both these into a pointed conversation without actually having to accuse him of an inappropriate interest. (Lord knows you'll have the opportunity since he brings her up constantly.)

You'll get folks here saying "You shouldn't have to lie!" and "The only way to handle this is to turn the entire problem over to your sister to solve, or else you're marginalizing her, etc." No offense if that's your take; I just happen to disagree. First of all, telling a white lie to a roommate in order to preserve the peace and make a weird living situation manageable is much more sensible than maintaining the highest level of principle at all costs by telling the whole truth, which is "I think you're stalking my sister and it's creeping me out" -- which could land the OP on the street.

And second of all, if a person in a position of authority over me seems to be making unwanted advances toward or harboring an unusual interest in a family member of mine, the last thing I'm going to do is tell that family member that it's her problem to solve, not mine. In a workplace, that would be sexual harassment -- why would we alter the standards in a private situation? I would handle it myself and try to keep the family member at arm's length, as long as she wasn't interested in the relationship.
posted by pineapple at 7:08 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

What zia said. Before getting too worried about it, maybe you should talk with your roommate about his expectations and what is culturally appropriate. From his standpoint, it might be that inquiring about your sister through you is the honorable approach, and that his intentions are all above board. Clearly that's not appropriate in your setting or from your experience, but it may be an opportunity for mutual education.

Anyhow, stop waiting for him to "get the hint." Talk it over, find out what he wants, explain how it comes across to you. You might both be surprised.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:13 AM on December 11, 2007

You should just tell him, "Trust me, I already had sex with my sister and it wasn't that great." Maybe then he will just think your whole family is weird and not just avoid your sister, but also conversation with you at all costs. It's a win-win!

In all seriousness, a friend of mine is obsessed with my sister. It's awkward and he is always asking questions about her, and I just tell him to shut up and keep his obsession to himself. My feeling is that if anything did ever happen that's (circumstances notwithstanding) OK by me (at least he has good taste?)--I'm just not going to facilitate it. You should just tell him you're not going to facilitate sex with your sister when you'd rather not think about it and like to pretend it never happens. He should understand that well enough.
posted by fusinski at 7:22 AM on December 11, 2007

A lot of the above advice is overly confrontational and inappropriate for how I read the situation.

Alright, you need to consider the Chinese cultural aspect of this, in that what he is doing is considered perfectly acceptable over there, and as his friend you would be happy to help him out with this as it fits nicely within the concentric circles that make up Chinese society.

That being said he is a loser, presumably your sister is smart and will figure that out on her own without you accruing cockblocking karma. Just brush it off and ignore this unless he does something to upset her. If he keeps bringing it up just change the topic of conversation and talk about something else, as far as you are concerned around him your sister doesn't exist.

Remember there is no need to talk to either one of them unless he does something stupid (which is unlikely because if he wasnt a pussy he would find girls on his own).
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:46 AM on December 11, 2007

i think zia is right, too. he's going about it in the way he thinks is appropriate. he needs a bit of a lesson, but not a harsh one. are you/your sister also of chinese? that would also explain some of his behavior.

don't let his cross cultural creepiness affect your relationship. he's probably a nice guy, but just doesn't have the chance to do things the way we expect.
posted by lester at 7:49 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Has he dated any girls since moving to the US? That would provide some information, but I have the feeling that being from a different culture, coming to the US and working an IT job is a fairly lonely existence. So desperation coupled with the alienation of a different culture and the social awkwardness of a nerd is sort of the trifecta of uncomfortable behavior.

I think you need to establish that your sister is out of the question (if she indeed is) from the outset and offer to take him out with your friends when you go prowling. Perhaps he'll realize being a 19th c. male suitor doesn't work anymore. But before you start to help him, make it clear your sister is off limits.
posted by geoff. at 7:50 AM on December 11, 2007

Like others have said, sounds like he's just very interested in meeting a woman - perhaps ANY woman, given that he wanted to know a lot about your sister before meeting her. Any other women in your circle you could introduce him to? Rather than a specific introduction or having a confrontation about your sister, could you invite him out to meet women (bar, book club, dance club, bowling league...whatever you're into)?
posted by GPF at 8:05 AM on December 11, 2007

You should mention it to your sister, just so she's aware of the situation. He probably is a nice guy, but if he's not then you want your sister to have some advanced warning of a potential problem. There's no need to overstate it; just give her the facts. Something along the lines of, "Sis, my landlord was interested in you before you two even met. He seems nice but maybe a little hard up for women. If he becomes a problem or a pest let me know."

Your sister will know the score. She'll also know she can come talk to you if the guy is a problem.

Oh, and if it escalates you'll need to be more vigilant. That's when you go into protective brother mode.
posted by 26.2 at 8:09 AM on December 11, 2007

talk to your sister first, she's the one being stalked
posted by matteo at 8:32 AM on December 11, 2007

This isn't stalking. As someone who volunteers with victims of stalking and domestic violence (helping to get them Protective Orders), I can tell you that this situation is not even in the same zip code as stalking. Although I'm probably just over-sensitive to use of the term.

There's lots of good advice above, though. Basically: chill out, talk to your sister, talk to this guy, and quit using words, like "stalking", that immediately vilify the person you're talking about.

One point of advice from me: don't lie about your sister's dating status. For one thing, it's not really necessary, for another Facebook makes that sort of thing extremely easy to discern on one's own.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:02 AM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]

This really does sound at least in part like it's an issue of cultural norms. I was much more down on this guy until I read that he was a relatively recent immigrant from China; something about that makes me think that this is more loneliness, awkwardness, and not knowing about the appropriate boundaries. You may want to have a frank conversation about this with him, in which you explain politely that his constant discussion of your sister is bothering you, and that he should chill out. I think you should take pains to point out that you think he's cool, and do your best not to embarrass him. At the same time, because this behaviour is a little weird, tell your sister about it so she can decide whether to continue contact with him. Also, offer to take this guy out to a bar or something so he can meet girls who aren't related to you.
posted by Dasein at 10:00 AM on December 11, 2007

it sounds like he's lonely and doesn't know how to meet people. i would invent a boyfriend for her immediately (and let her know, so she can play along).
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:47 AM on December 11, 2007

Completely improper assertion of stalking. He's just asking about her a lot. Stalking is like, waiting outside her apartment for her to arrive and taking photos, sending her unwanted gifts all the time despite expressed disapproval, incessantly calling her at work despite company policy for personal calls, and not getting the hint, stuff like that. You have given no hints, nor apparently has she. For all we know, you could actually be the roommate asking the question posing as the renter, in preparation of what to expect from him =P

Just ask him what the deal is. Communicate. You're going very Cosmo-girl here. It's like you're wanting to fill out a questionnaire to see what you should do. Just say words.
posted by Quarter Pincher at 11:23 AM on December 11, 2007

You should absolutely tell your sister. Not "omg he's stalking you", but just as 26.2 suggests. What if she did start dating him, and he turned out to be obsessive? Wouldn't she be pissed if you hadn't mentioned it to her in advance? You don't have to be all dramatic about it, just let her know that this guy seems interested but he seemed interested before you met which feels a little odd to you. Just a friendly siblings looking out for each other FYI. Then depending what she says, plan your next move (which may be nothing at all).
posted by Joh at 11:43 AM on December 11, 2007

He sounds like a normal, lonely guy who maybe has nothing else to talk to you about and no clue how to otherwise meet women. He's not doing anything criminal, just being completely awkward. You need to let him know that you don't hook your sister up with guys and that who she dates is entirely up to her.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:54 AM on December 11, 2007

Totally 2nd zia.
posted by kmennie at 1:51 PM on December 11, 2007

i assume that (a) you don't want your sister to date him, and (b) she wouldn't want to anyway, right?

in which case, i'd jokingly meet his next Q with, "why, are you interested or something? because my sister and i have a no-dating-your-siblings'-friends policy".

and tell your sister to casually mention a fictional boyfriend next time she comes over.
posted by twistofrhyme at 4:56 PM on December 11, 2007

Email your sister the link to this page. Then leave it up to her. When he says she's welcome to visit/use the laundry/etc., say "She knows. I've told her. If she wants to, she will." It can't hurt to drop the "new boyfriend" bomb.

Don't get too involved unless you want to jeopardize your apartment and future recommendations for other living arrangements.
posted by s77v at 5:18 PM on December 12, 2007

Have you asked her about it?
posted by tomw at 5:14 AM on December 14, 2007

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