Dear Take Two:
How can I tell a sort-of-uncomfortable, borderline creepy guy friend to back down?
—I Don't Wanna Hold Your Hand
Says Jacki: This is one of those super-awkward advising moments, because if there is someone who has uniformly handled situations like this poorly that would be me. So I'll say based on experience you owe it to yourself not to let this just drag on or go around asking other people if they have noticed the behavior and what should you do! That will only make you kind of a private joke with mutual friends, and if he's not ashamed to make you uncomfortable, no way he's going to notice that now as everyone kind of laughs when you two are interacting. Talking to him is the only way; if you talk to other people he will not magically start behaving properly. I would also say if at all possible stay out of situations where you'll be alone, or maybe even avoid him altogether for a few weeks if that is feasible.
Says Jill: At first I was going to ask for more details about whether you were involved with someone else or what age the participants were and all that, but then I decided that really doesn't matter. It's not fair to inflict even the most lovable, awkward nerd on the rest of the female population evermore if you have a chance to correct him and set him on the right path. Basically, this involves demanding that he face how inappropriate his remarks, pats, and knowing glances are each and every time. A great standard is a blank look and the statement, "Why would you do such a thing?"—no mirth, uncomfortable smile or squirming away involved.
If at any time he tries the old, "But I was just joking," or "Wow, don't flatter yourself" routine, don't fall for it. Just say, "We both know that's not true." And if you can find a way to talk to him more comprehensively—"Your remarks and sudden interest in pressing up against me are not welcome"—that would be good. Just choose a time when you're within earshot of a prearranged ally, so it doesn't come across as encouragement. And don't ever give him an opening by blaming your reaction on some extraneous factor—a boyfriend, the semester ending soon, wanting to be just friends. While that seems like a good idea, basically it just gives him something to react against and hope that whatever situation is preventing you from reciprocating will end soon—and he'll be there, waiting.
I Don't Wanna writes: I really wish it had been an option to take Jacki's advice and avoid him altogether, but we're in both a large group of kind of geeky friends (that includes my boyfriend, I think that's why he thinks he's safe to semi-hit on me) and a college group together and I didn't think that would be fair to either one of us. So I did basically tell him no, that makes me uncomfortable the last few times he tried to grab me as I went by, and broke right into his last set of innuendo remarks, and he kind of blinked. At least it is getting less frequent so I'm going to keep that up.
Need confidential yet public advice from Take Two? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.