11

TL;DR

Meghan, a member of a close friend group, is pushing me to attend an event with her via repeated, public statements. I find these confusing, distracting, and would like them to stop, with minimum bridge-burning required.

The Problem

This year, I began to take a class at my college, the class in particular being a rather small one (about 20 people). The gender ratio in the class is fairly skewed, with 4 males, of which I am one, to 16 females of which... let’s call her Meghan... is one. We’ve become a fairly tightly knit group, as we’re in a very high level class in a minority major at our school.

Problems only began to emerge a couple weeks in. There is a social event toward the end of the year that is a highlight of most people’s school year. It is not mine. I find no enjoyment from these sort of social situations, as I am introverted and do my best to avoid this sort of situation. I consider my aversion to be fairly unimportant, just a facet of my personality, but my class does not agree, most of all Meghan. They feel like I am ‘missing out’ on something or other from these social events. I do not feel the same way, and I do not foresee that changing.

Meghan disagrees with me on that as well. About two weeks into the semester, I had to wear business attire for a meeting, and I was running late for class, so I showed up in the attire. Toward the end of class, Meghan asked in front of the class of that was what I would wear when I took her to the event. I was confused, but the entire class found it humorous, so I just responded I was not attending the event, and as such wasn’t taking anyone, and carried on. About a week and a half-ish later, she made a comment about her taking me. Yet again I was confused, and was wondering why she mentioned it in front of the class. I repeated my denial, and carried on. Two more weeks pass, and she takes the tact of texting me, asking if I would ever reconsider not going, and taking her instead. I responded that, should I change my mind and attend, I would consider taking her; after all, why not? If my opinion on something as fundamental as that shifted, my thoughts on who to take would likely have shifted as well. She found this answer quite satisfactory, and left me alone, for the most part. Now, several weeks passed following this without event, however she did make one more public comment, about a week ago, just something passing about the event. I also recently was accepted into a quite prestigious program for our subject, but it didn’t occur to me I should mention it to anyone other than the Professor. But when I made an off handed comment to it about the class, I got a rush of congratulations, and Meghan made a comment in a loud, nigh-mocking tone, asking why she didn’t receive some sort of heads-up. This I didn’t get at all, and responded truthfully- the only people I had told were relatives, those that helped me with my application, and someone I know in that program. She falls into none of those categories. She responded with an ‘Oh, alright,’ but obviously was not satisfied with the answer.

I’m not used to this sort of attention. I’ve never given much thought to my appearance, I’ve always considered myself fairly average in that regard. However, as a quite private and introverted person, I don’t appreciate these repeated public advances: they don’t really serve a purpose (from what I can see), I’m very unlikely to be swayed from my position, especially by arguments of this sort, and I’d appreciate it to stop. However, I have no idea how to broach the subject of halting these public displays.

Possible Answers?

I would not like to burn bridges, I would just like to stop these displays. An ideal answer would show an Interpersonal Solution that would

  • Result in the cessation of the public display, or at least encouraging a more private display
  • Effectively explain to Meghan I don’t want to attend the event, and that’s unlikely to change
  • Avoid burning bridges or forming a rift in my class- it’s a tight knit community, and I don’t want it to fall apart due to my action

Thank you, I appreciate any answer, and I hope to clear this situation up.

  • What was the result of this? Was the advice offered in the answers used, and was it useful? – Underverse Jan 27 at 8:50
11

Well, she's obviously interested in going with you at that event. High chances are, of the two bolded items in my previous sentence, it's you she's really interested in, and not (so much) the event.

Now, that's irrelevant to the answer of your question, but it may make easier to reconduce the situation depending on what do you want to do about her interest in you. In any case, you should talk to her and explain, in a simple way, that you are an introverted person and as such, it's unlikely that you are going to enjoy the event much (or at all), but also that she's mortifying you by making these public displays in the front of the class.

It seems she thinks she's just teasing you (and maybe she's trying to sexually tease you) but you are not enjoying this. I don't think she's a bully that likes to embarrass you in front of your classmates just for the laughs, but she just likes you instead. As long as you can make your point clear - you don't like her doing this - I believe she will be highly receptive to your feelings.

Now, if you don't mind being her romantic interest the situation is not different but probably way easier to handle. Just stating that you don't like nor attending that event neither her public displays about it but you're open to do other things and activities with her is going to work quickly and nicely.

If I am wrong and it's embarrasing you what she's after, then you'll have to do a second, harsher talk with her, one where you tell her she's bordering molestation and reminding her she would not like the situation at all if a man she's not interested in would display the same behaviour towards her. But with the information you have provided, I find this possibility unlikely.

  • 1
    'bordering molestation'. Isn't that exaggerating things a bit? She's just hinting that she would like to attend an event with him. – Orbit Dec 29 '18 at 16:40
  • 1
    @Orbit As I said, I consider this possibility highly improbable. It would be bordering molestation if her only purpose is constantly embarrasing him in front of the class with suggestions of dating. And even then, it would be only "bordering" since there's no evident sexual component in it; however, a man constantly insisting in dating a woman, publicly or privately, despite her constant rejections would be considered a jerk at best and a creepy stalker at worst. – Rekesoft Jan 2 at 8:48
3

I think in your method for dealing with this there is one key issue you should decide for yourself:

  • Meghan is clearly interesting in spending time with you. Are you interested in spending time with her.

Firstly I will say you should not do this in a very public setting. This is something that is personal to you, and you need Meghan to understand this as a nuanced issue, which is harder to achieve in a group setting.

So regarding the first issue.

You are interested in spending more time with her (either romantically or not): Approach her in a one on one situation and explain all of this to her. Invite her out for something like coffee or a drink. You could do this via msg/email but in general you will be better able to communicate via a face-to-face discussion. This way you really have a chance to explain to her why you find social gatherings of that nature difficult etc. You can also take this oppurtunity to say you would like to spend more time with her, but perhaps you can find an alternative setting to do so. If she really does appreciate you she will at the very least consider this.

You are not interested in spending time with her one on one (but want to keep the social group setting): In this case, I think you should discuss this with another member of the group first. Pick whoever you trust the most/are most intimate with. Explain to them the situation and ask them to discuss the issue with Meghan themselves. Make it clear that you don't dislike Meghan, and that you do want to remain friends, but that you are uncomfortable in these situations. If maintining the friendship is important to you, it is important that you frame the issue as being a problem with yourself, rather than a problem with Meghan (note: I'm not trying to say you have a problem, I just couldn't come up with a better word in this case. Being introverted is fine).

The only further problem with that situation is picking someone you are comfortable with asking her. A few suggestions are someone you are close with, someone Meghan is close with, or the coordinator of the class.

Finally, if you feel comfortable, explain to your proxy that you are happy to discuss it with her in person if she wants, but you felt bad and didn't know how to approach the situation.

Do both of these options seem bad: If you don't feel like you can talk to her or via proxy, then it is going to be more difficult to achieve your two goals (displays stop and group remains unscathed). Your best option I think in that case is to broach it in a social setting. If you explain your introverted-ness to the group, you may garner some sympathy and support from other members. However this requires being quite honest with a number of people you don't necessarily feel comfortable around. It could be worth considering the attitudes of people in your class before making this move (ie, if you are studying a counselling degree, you may find people more receptive and understanding of your issues with socialising.)

2

First of all, I think it is very important for you to know that this problem is not a product of your "introversion", but some kind of parataxic distortion on the part of Meghan. She seems to be living out a fantasy that you and she have some kind of close relationship when in fact you don't regard her any differently to any other member of your class.

The way she has spoken about you taking her to the event in front of the rest of your class could be written off as an attempt at humour - some people's idea of humour is to embarrass others, especially those who are easily embarrassed, and your introversion makes you a target for that kind of person. But the occasion you described when she seemed surprised you had not told her about your acceptance into a study program sounded genuine. There is a good chance she imagines your relationship to be more than it is.

As these "advances" are public it is probably a lot easier to deflect them than if they were private. In private you would know for certain that the advances were real and you would have to be more direct in rebuffing them. I would say that the way you have dealt with them so far is the best way - you have dismissed them publically, which is the same manner in which they have been posed. Anybody present will know your position and either think Meghan is joking, or think she is crazy.

Stopping them altogether will require you say something more direct and final to Meghan. You could speak to her in private, or in public. The advantage of speaking to her in private is that you may avoid embarrassing her, and as you are trying to avoid "bridge burning" that may seem the best way. Shutting her down in public might hurt or embarrass her, and may even divide others if they think you have been "cruel". However, there is an inherent danger in singling her out in private if she really does have some kind of distorted perception or fantasy about you. Getting you alone might be exactly what she wants. She might feel that she has got your attention at last, which would be almost like rewarding her behaviour. In the very worst case scenario, if she is really crazy she could even tell a fantasised version of what was said/done in private that makes you sound bad.

Considering the pros and cons of the last paragraph, I would suggest shutting her down publically the next time she passes comment by saying something like:

Meghan, if these constant suggestions that you and I have something going on outside of class are meant to be a joke, I don't find them funny. Please stop.

This is because if she is just joking around with you, then you have said precisely the right thing to stop it. Other people will witness what you said and if she does persist then you will have other people on your side. On the other hand, if she isn't joking and does have some kind of distorted perception of you then you have still put her right in the safest environment.

  • 2
    Really no critique about the answer at all. A minor consideration though: to avoid burning the bridges, the only thing I'd be wary of is shutting someone down publicly by saying Please stop without first having an in-person chat with them. Since that person is from a fairly closely knit group, it could be perceived as insulting (or if they're somewhat sensitive, then perhaps even hurtful). If I've had an in-person chat with them, explaining why the jokes are tasteless and made a request to stop such jokes, and still not found success, then a gentle public retort would be apt. – Lost Soul Dec 28 '18 at 12:45
2

What Meghan is doing is another form of social awkwardness, in her case, trying to date you. She's putting her pick-up line in front of a crowd so that social norms prevent you from being as forceful as you otherwise might be in your rejection and thus avoid hurting her feelings too badly. For all you know, she could be just as introverted as you. At the least, she sounds a little emotionally immature for a college-aged person. I know that (as an introvert) when I'm forced into social situations where I'm uncomfortable, I often 'put on' a cloak of bravado to mask my insecurities. She very well may be doing this too.

If you have interest in dating her, let her know and set a setting and activity where you're comfortable. If you don't, gently let her know that you don't have those sorts of feelings for her, and you're sorry if you've given her mixed signals (the if-I-was-going-I'd-go-with-you).

1

I would escalate the situation in the following two steps:

1. Private talk

No need to crush her in front of other people. She might have "embarrassed" you in the same way, but there is no place for retaliation or anything petty like that. It is likely she didn't mean to harass you. Take her aside and clarify these points:

  • you have noticed her advances
  • is she interested in a romantic relationship?
    • Yes
      • you are not interested at the moment
      • you do not hate her, everything is fine and appreciate her as a friend
    • No
      • Oops, guessed wrong, no big deal
  • ask her to please stop with the "relationship-suggesting" comments, as it is uncomfortable for you
  • you are not going to attend the event
  • it is not because of her but other reasons (no need to name those "other reasons" if you do not want to)

For any reasonable person this should be enough to stop the advances without destroying the relationship.

2. Calling her out in front of the class

This wont be comfortable, but it is the only way to stop this if she hasn't taken the hint after you spoke to her.

Next time she makes these "public advances" straight up call her out in front of everyone:

  • "Come on Meghan, I already told you I don't appreciate these comments, please stop!"
  • "Meghan, stop with this, this makes me really uncomfortable!"

Formulate these "call-outs" with these properties in mind:

  • other people hear it
  • it is clear that you do not appreciate the advances
  • it is not a joke to you
  • you are always polite
  • they are implicit calls for external help

Reasoning

From you text I do not have the feeling that you communicated your problems very well. Because of this I would definitely look for a one-on-one talk where you clearly state your problems. No interruptions, no social pressure - just you two and honesty.

If she doesn't take the hint, I think it is fair to say she is insane and harder measures are fine. Calling her out in front of others comes with multiple benefits:

  • the behaviour is clearly documented
  • now many people besides you two are involved
  • it is likely that many people have not even noticed that this is an issue for you
  • it is a clear call for help

Staying clear, precise and polite in you messaging will bring people to your side. So stay calm but express yourself in a concerned manner.

Potential problems

While I would give the same advice if the sexes were reversed, there is a distinct problem with your situation. Depending on the social demographic of people you hang out with, you might encounter, that a lot of them hold the unjust view, that men must always be looking for relationships/hook-ups or basically "fuck anything that moves".

If this is the case in you class, people might start questioning you sexuality or try to mock you in other petty ways. If the roles were reversed, the man would easily be called a "creep" or "rapist" and rightfully scalded.

If you find yourself in a situation like this you are lost. There is pretty much nothing you can do.

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