Unwanted Attention from Other Adults

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  • Getting hit on at drop off

    (15 replies)

    So my wife is getting hit on by another father during drop-off of our kid at school.  It makes her feel uncomfortable.  She's 90% sure he's hitting on her.  Any ideas on what to do?

    Some details: What's complicated, to me, is that he's an ex-cop, and that doesn't sit well with me.  He does drop off, or the child's maternal grandmother. Never the mom.  It's making my wife uncomfortable during drop off, making her think twice about her outfit (she's on her way to work after drop off), because he's commented on her appearance.  I think he's creating an uncomfortable environment thus I think of it as a form of harassment.  I can't do drop off regularly b/c of my commute.  Through the school directory everyone knows where everyone lives; it's a neighborhood school where we live (but they don't).  The other child is nice, we'd like our kids to be friends- but right now? no way.  What to do? I'm thinking she or I should raise it to someone?  Grandmother?  a teacher?  Or, to him, "Sure, let's do coffee- I'll find a time my husband can join us and I'd love to meet your wife..." then never schedule anything?  Then escalate, if needed: she confronts him privately next time it happens: "Are you hitting on me?  Please stop."  Ideas?

    And I don't even feel comfortable leaving my username here. I feel the fact that we're not talking about it is precisely how this sort of thing is perpetuated.  She's quite bothered by it, and I fantasize her telling him to knock it off in front of his daughter; or telling the grandmother about her son-in-law.  Of course, trying to maintain a sense of propriety we don't.  And we don't want to rile him up.  But he's causing the problem, and it continues.  

    I think she should tell him precisely using "I statements" what he is doing that makes her uncomfortable and ask him to stop. " I feel very uncomfortable when you comment on my appearance. Please stop." She doesn't need to accuse him of hitting on her. He would likely deny it and then insult her in some way. Guys like that are on a power trip. It's all about him taking control and making her feel helpless. Of course, it's unpleasant to confront him. If I were her I'd practice in front of a mirror and with you or a friend. I think getting anyone else involved isn't necessary unless he is actually getting physical or saying overtly sexual things. But sounds like he's savvy, he's doing just as much as he thinks he can get away with, getting his thrill while not overstepping enough to get confronted. She needs to let him know clearly and calmly that it's not ok. If it progresses from there she can get other people involved. Sorry she is dealing with this unpleasant situation but think of all the other women she will be helping by calling this creep out. 

    If she had already confronted him several times and the guy's behavior continued, trying to figure out who else to tell might be appropriate but at this point I think it would create a whole bunch of drama where it might not be necessary.  The first place to start when a guy is behaving this way is to assume the best of him (ie—he's not meaning to harass or power-trip, he's just flirting) and then to address it directly.  "Hey, guy, I'm not interested. I'm happily married. Please stop talking to me."  And then ignore all further comments by him. Behave as if he does not exist.  I have been hit on my entire life (as have most women) and I can assure you this approach works the majority of the time.

    If it does not work and he continues to make inappropriate comments after this or if he escalates things, I'm less sure what to do (him being a cop does make it feel more tricky.) But maybe start with your wife just telling him to leave her alone.

    Keep it simple, keep it clear, set a firm boundary to back off. Should be relatively easy unless it's mutual or being entertained in some fashion. Doesn't seem like a good fit for play dates unless arranged with the mom or grandmother, wouldn't recommend; too many other kids to play.

    If your wife is that uncomfortable with his interactions or comments, best to shut down and stand clear or future actions could be misnterpreted. By the way, not saying something to him makes him thinks it's "Ok". With current climate and state of affairs surrounding Meetoo movement the silent must take responsibility and speak up, confront and smash any possible idea of harassment. Skirting around issue can lead to HUGE problems, drop the hammer now!

    I don't have to "play nice" if I am feeling uncomfortable or violated!!!

    Oh dear that sounds so uncomfortable. Still, I wouldn't be direct and say things like, "Stop hitting on me." Your children are going to be at the same school for a while, and possibly on the same sports teams, same extracurricular classes, so you don't want to create a very negative feeling with another parent if you might end up seeing them all the time for YEARS to come. Some things your wife might do: Drop off at a slightly different time, a little earlier, or really late so she can drop off and run. Drop off at a different location (kiss goodbye and ask your child to walk to the classroom by himself). Team up with another mom so they are always chatting busily with each other during drop off, with no room for someone to cut in on the conversation. Talk loudly on her phone during drop off and look busy. etc etc. Perhaps the other dad will get the hint, or just get bored and start talking to someone else. But if your wife feels it is progressing to the point of harassment or she might be in danger, then definitely talk to a school administrator about it. Oh, and please don't say things like "we'd like our kids to be friends." No no no. If the father makes your wife feel uncomfortable, then your kids cannot hang out. That's asking for trouble. Why make the situation worse? 

    Your wife needs to be direct with this guy. He knows exactly what he's doing, and he's testing to see if he'll get strong pushback or if he can take this farther. The next time it happens, she should say something like, "Please don't make those kinds of comments. You've made several comments that make me uncomfortable on several occasions. Please stop." No doubt he'll be a jerk about it but he might stop. If he doesn't, then it will be time to escalate. I would probably speak to the school administration to see if there's anything they can do. If they can't, then perhaps speak to the grandmother. 

    I'm sorry to say it, but I would avoid letting your kid develop a close friendship with the other child. I would never let my child have a play date at this man's house, for example. He sounds like a classic predator. 

    Some men flirt with every woman who they interact with. It's just their personality. Does she feel threatened? Is there more to this story than what you've put in your post? This happens to me all the time and I just smile and move on. I'm middle aged and overweight and men still flirt with me all the time. Most of the time I enjoy it. When they start touching is when I typically say something. Unfortunately many men are not receptive to hearing that women don't want to be touched. They're even less receptive to hearing that what they consider to be "playful banter" is perceived as sexual harassment.

    It's concerning to me that in the days of the me too movement that any interaction between men and women can be misconstrued. If the guy is scaring your wife then I'd do something about it. But if he's just flirting with her, I think that she could just not respond.

    I agree with Amomanon, except the phrase I'd use is: "I do not like you commenting on my appearance. Stop it now."  The " I feel very uncomfortable when you..." doesn't work among my tribe in Texas--too dadgum touchy feely-- and the 'please' is inappropriate: this isn't "Please bring me a cup of coffee" This is "Stop, you knucklehead!"   Also, what about walking away from him?  Ignoring him?  Yes, the kids...but are they standing there when he says these things? If yes, they need to see how she handles it & if no, then she can say/do whatever.  As Amomanon says: "...think of all the other women she will be helping...."

    I suffered in silence for so long over this sort of thing.  Thank you for allowing us to help you/her and even him.

    Nothing  you describe is particularly out-of-bounds, and yet your wife is clearly creeped out.  Maybe he's clueless, or a guy on the make, or maybe there's more.  But right now you don't know enough.

    First, I think you and she need to parse this out.  What is she sensing about him that is upping her anxiety meter?  Is there an underlying sense of something "not right", or violent, or stalker-like?  Or does she just feel he's a disgusting letch?  If she can name what it is about him that is bothering her, that's a step towards figuring out how to handle it. 

    Secondly, brainstorm some ideas.  Can she get another parent to come with her or to handle drop-offs for her?  Go a little earlier or later?  Not get out of the car so there's little chance to talk?  I realize all of these are inconvenient and put the burden on her to cope with his misbehavior, which isn't fair.

    Third, you say he's an ex-cop.  Do some research on him and his background.  What you describe sounds like a man who's divorced or widowed.  Any history of bad behavior on or off the job?  Restraining orders? Is he affiliated with your local police station? And carefully ask around, speaking with neighbors you trust to be discreet, to see if other women have gotten weird vibes from him.  And she should start keeping a log, detailing what happens day by day and her reactions.

    If she feels that he could present a threat, you or she can then contact some experts on stalking and rape .  
    Here are places to start:

    Fourth, she needs to check in with her "good girl" training and see if she wants to or needs to modify her behavior.  It's generally ingrained into women that we should be "nice" in social settings and not make other people uncomfortable, so perhaps up to now she has not felt comfortable with "go away" body signals.  Can she find ways to politely freeze him out?  I'm not suggesting direct rudeness, but putting up an emotional wall, avoiding smiling and eye contact, answering tersely or not at all, declining coffee invites without excuses, etc.  The idea is to be appropriate but distant, not to let him feed off her emotions.

    What I DON'T recommend is pretending to agree to do coffee, and then "not following up." If he has stalker tendencies, you do not want to give any indication that his attentions are welcome.  I can't think that grandma or teachers might be any help, although possibly the principal might be (but do your homework first.) 

     I also think that you directly accusing him of hitting on her might not be the right move, because handling direct confrontation is a cop's specialty.  It's better to ask him to stop a specific unwelcome behavior than to accuse him of intentions that can easily be denied, and which certainly aren't illegal.

    The previous poster is spot on with advice and what’s going on with that father. He knows exactly what he’s doing (controlling and preying on those that will not speak up) and enjoys making your wife uncomfortable. Your wife needs to confront him, be assertive, and say what previous poster suggested using “I”, “I feel uncomfortable when you comment on my appearance. Please stop.” His response will be to deny it and insult your wife in some way. He will think he’s not the problem but that your wife is the problem. However, by having your wife be assertive and standing up to him, he will get the message that she will stand up for herself and that he can’t prey on her. If it makes her more comfortable, perhaps she can make that statement within hearing distance of an adult witness. 

    For jerks like him, your wife should not bother being nice and talk about getting coffee with the spouses. That just opens more doors and opportunities for him to harass and bully her. I would recommend minimizing contact, don’t involve his mother (she’s probably an enabler), and steer clear of him.

    Is your wife a nice, happy, friendly person? I ask because I'm not, and unlike some of the other posters here, I don't get hit on.  You have to be willing to stare coldly without smiling when a man talks to you, and either say NOTHING in response to what they are saying, or say things like "I'm busy right now," or "I don't want to talk."  Or look past him, and take out your phone and do something with it.  Without smiling, without apologizing. He'll mutter "bitch" but guess what, he'll give up and go elsewhere. 

    Yes, this borders on "rude." Personally, I think it is totally fine to be rude. His attentions -- which he knows perfectly well are unwanted - - are extremely rude.  He's just taking advantage of her politeness to gratify himself. &K*# that.  

    This guy could be hitting on her, he may be trying to be nice, or he may be a creep. Since it sounds like your wife hasn't ever told him she doesn't like his compliments, I'd hold off on the creep judgement until she's up front about that. The next time this happens, SHE should say to him "Your comments about my appearance (or other description of his behavior that she doesn't like) make me uncomfortable and I don't like it. Please stop." She can absolutely - even preferably! - do this in front of his and your child. Respectfully, politely, firmly, and directly advocating for herself would be a great example to the children on how to handle things that may seem ok/borderline but that you still don't like. IF the behavior continues, then SHE should escalate (not you)- directly and firmly tell him that his comment is inappropriate and she will not tolerate any more, and she can add whatever her next step will be, such as reporting the behavior to the school or police. She has the power and the right to stand up for herself .

    I think it's a great idea to model these conversations in front of your children (and talk to them later about why you did what you did- What made you uncomfortable, how you chose to handle it, and how your child can handle it when someone does something to make her uncomfortable, etc.). This is a great learning experience/teachable moment for your and his child. Think of it that way. One day, when someone says something that makes her uncomfortable, which will absolutely happen many times, how should she respond? And keep in mind, the person making her uncomfortable could be a major creep or predator, or the super sweet but maybe a little nerdy or shy kid in class who just worked up the courage to say something nice to his crush. Either way, she has the right and should respectfully and directly call out what makes her uncomfortable, then escalate and get help if that doesn't work.

    I would be polite and quiet but direct.  "Perhaps you don't mean anything by it when you say such things, but it makes me uncomfortable.  Please stop."  Any kind person with good intentions will probably be taken back but respond with an immediate behavior change.  If he gets rude or ups his game, then you know better what you are dealing with.  I definitely would not lead him on with the promise of coffee even if spouses are mentioned.  Write a detailed account of what has happened thus far.  Document when she confronts him and exactly what interaction takes place.  Document anything the occurs later.

    You said it in your own question - this perpetuates when we don't talk.  Many responses have said that she should explicitly tell him to back off.  That is sometimes easier said than done.  If she can, great.  If not, another strategy would be to talk to some of the other moms there about what is going on and enlist their help.  Does she have some other mom friends?  Could she ask some other moms if this has ever happened to them, or if they would be willing to hang with her at drop off sometimes, even just to observe the interaction with this dad and see what they think.  Sort of as a witness.  One thing we learned from "me too"  is that many women think they are the ONLY one and that stops them from talking, but often, there are several people receiving the same treatment.  It can be empowering to find you aren't alone - and other women often are willing to help, as we have all been there.  Just another suggestion.

    I am extremely disheartened by the number of replies I see excusing this behavior. One person actually blamed the #metoo movement for making people misconstrue simple flirting. Listen, I'm going to say this here, and I'm going to keep saying it until the patriarchy crumbles: There is a gap the size of the Grand Canyon between flirting and harassment, and when you conflate the two, you are part of the problem. 

    In addition, blaming this woman because she might be "friendly and nice," and saying that a woman only need to respond with a firm "stop it, I don't like it" is an absolutely false and dangerous assertion. If you do this with the wrong guy, you will absolutely get followed home as he screams at you for being such a b* and not having a sense of humor, etc etc etc. I'm so glad you PERSONALLY have had the experience of your firmness being enough, but that is not true across the board. This woman is already second-guessing her work outfits. Then she's told "oh, it's because you're a pleasant person, stop being so pleasant." Please understand that being more rude, more pleasant, more ANYTHING does not change the outcome. 

    To the OP: I would suggest arranging with your work that you do the commute for a month. Do not confront this person directly. Do not ask directly if he is hitting on her - he will just deny it and act aggrieved, and then bring it up next time he sees her: "I heard you thought I was hitting on you!" Just get out of his purview. A discussion at school will blow up. 

    I just listened to the episode of This American Life about five women connected to the guy who runs Alternet. His wife/partner said she knew he was "a flirt," and that he needed that kind of interaction to puff up his ego, and that she would smile at women he was flirting with as a "oh well, boys will be boys" kind of salute. She regrets it now. Because the flirting was just the top layer. I recommend a listen. 

    I LOVE to flirt. I HATE to be harassed. There is so much difference between the two. Please, spend some time thinking about this. 

    Just to clarify--most of the posters who suggested being "less pleasant" or even "rude" were not excusing this man's behavior and were not even remotely suggesting that the OP's wife is somehow responsible for being harassed. We're all just spit-balling options that may change the situation.

    Harassment is like bullying--the victim doesn't cause it, but needs to find a safe way to stop it.  You suggest de-escalating by changing her schedule.  That may or may not work but it's a major inconvenience for her. OTOH, if she can make social interactions a dead end, he's more likely to move on.  If she can be "rude" enough to ignore his social cues and compliments, she takes energy away from the interaction.  Freezing the harasser out is a good way to communicate that he's not the one who sets the agenda. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

How to get this guy to leave me alone on my 30-minute walk commute?

Oct 2014

I'm an Oakland mom in my mid-30s and my commute to work is a 30-minute walk along Broadway from my home near Pill Hill to my office downtown. I love my walk but recently have been getting some unwanted attention that's making me contemplate taking the bus (ugh) and would love some advice from BPN.

About a month ago, I was on my way home when a guy who was also clearly commuting home asked me about the free Broadway shuttle schedule. I told him that it comes about every ten minutes but it's usually faster to just walk and then went on my way. The next day, the same guy caught up to me and introduced himself and politely chatted for a few blocks - long enough for me to drop that I am married with two small children (so, hence, unavailable). I was pretty businesslike, and I figured that would be the end of that.

It turns out that he lives two blocks away from me (he doesn't know exactly where I live) and works three blocks south of me, and in the weeks that have followed it's happened several times that he catches up to me at some point on my walk and chats until we get to where he turns off. I wouldn't mind this at all if he were interesting to talk to, but he is dumb as a brick (and also not at all cute--I think I'd be flattered and appreciate the attention from someone more attractive). I don't feel at all threatened or even like he is being inappropriate since he clearly just wants to talk and seems a little lonely - I just don't really like him in any way and don't get anything out of talking to him. He's younger and childless and definitely not someone I'd be friends with.

Obviously there are some avoidance strategies like pretending I'm on the phone every single time, but does anyone have any better suggestions for how to get this guy to leave me alone? Taking side streets would add enough time to my commute that I'd feel really resentful doing it, and I'm loathe to deal with the extra expense and pointless waiting of taking a bus for only 15 blocks. Want my walk back

Hopefully this can be an easy fix. If you were a public transit commuter you'd know this trick, but wear headphones every day. Maybe even get some big ones (vs the kind that go in your ear). Then, if he tries to talk to you, just purely say that your commute is your chance to relax, gear up for your day, and have a break from work and the kids and you really just want to listen to to your music. Unless he's very inappropriate, that should solve things and I'd hope he'd stop trying to catch up to you. Good luck

Ugh. What a tough situation. Have you tried using headphones? Perhaps the big, obvious ones will be enough of a sign to leave you alone, or you can at least ignore him. If he insists on talking anyway, perhaps a polite ''I'm sorry but I don't feel like talking right now'' will suffice? Feel your pain

Whenever I can't get things done at work because people are bothering me about trivial crap, I wear large headphones (not earbuds). I plug them in to my pocket not even bothering listening to music much of the time. I think walking in Oakland with loud music playing on headphones is actually a little dangerous - you need to keep your senses unimpeded, so I recommend quiet music or faking it. Works like a charm for me. Maybe add sunglasses so you can pretend you didn't see him. Or leave 10 minutes earlier. Good luck headphone faker

I tend to be very non-confrontational, so maybe just start wearing earbuds like you're listening to something? And then when he tries to chat you up, you can say something like, ''oh, sorry, I just started this great book on tape, I can't stop listening, it's so good. See ya later.'' And then do this all the time and hope he takes the hint. I'm sure you'll get lots of people telling you to be direct, but maybe this can be a good first attempt at getting your nice walk back. Maybe he'll find someone else to bother. Passive Agressive

It seems like you have contemplated every strategy except the obvious -- telling him clearly what you want.

''Hi. I know we walk the same route sometimes, and talking to you is lovely, but I need to use my commute to work to plan the many tasks of my work day, and on the way home to review the day and plan for the next, so I'd really prefer to walk alone. Nothing personal, but I've found that if I spend the time talking, I end up arriving to work unprepared. Also, with a busy work day and two kids at home, it's really the only time I have to be alone with my thoughts. I'm sure you understand.'' You can say what you want without being hurtful

What a bummer! I get what you mean! You don't want to be rude but... I would bring music to listen to. Or you can just put on head phones and make believe that you are on a call and put 1 finger up and point at the head phones when he walks up. Let him know you have extra work to do; conference calls, meetings, must listen to reports from boss every morning now. You can also go to an earlier bus? Lastly, you can say your husband does not feel comfortable with you walking with a man, he's the jealous type!! Ha! I don't know! Good Luck! j.

Sometimes telling the truth is the best way to deal with something. As a friend of mine said, ''just deliver it gently''. You might let him know that you are doing a version of walking meditation and that you value your time to reflect and set your day. Appreciate his kindness, and request a quiet walk to work. If delivered with compassion, this should do the trick. Julie G

You could explain to him that as a wife and a mom, this is your ''me'' time and you need it to relax and just be with yourself. Maybe use your earbuds and listen to some music or meditation, at least til he gets it. It might take him a while, however, he should eventually get the point. Or you could just tell your husband and he could speak to him, that should get the point across with no doubt in the guys mind and I'm certain he will never bother you again. I know if I told my fiance, he would be more than happy to have a word with the guy if he didn't leave me alone. Ecla

How about an I-pod and some REALLY big Bose earphones? I have to say as someone whose commute takes 1.5 hours down the 880 and 2 hours back up the 880, that your commute sounds HEAVENLY to me, unwanted attention or no. wishing I could walk

I suggest varying the time you leave for work and leave for home so it is harder for him to find you on your walk. But I also suggest compassion. If you don't like him, probably no one else does either. His time spent with you may be precious to him. It could be the only time he spends with a friendly human. Perhaps you can teach him to read the news, watch current movies or develop a hobby so that he has something interesting to say. Consider it your good deed for the day to help this man become a better person. Anon

I had a similar experience with a guy who took the same bike commute route as me. It wasn't quite as bad because he would only talk to me when we were stopped at lights, but it was irritating. I never figured out how to get him to leave me alone. If I were walking, I'd just put on headphones. You don't even have to listen to anything. If he still tries to talk to you, you could say that you're listening to a book on tape, or trying to learn another language or something and your walk is the only time you have to listen. anonymous

You don't seem to have any reservations about dismissing this person as a non-entity, so why not have the courage of your convictions and just tell the guy not to bother you? I don't get the problem

Based on what you have written, I'd suspect that this situation would not lend itself to a direct approach. In a similar situation, I once told the guy: ''I don't want to interact with you.'' That made him mad. Fortunately, I never saw him again. But weird guys who can't get a date are more likely to be armed these days...

So there are a number of strategies that you might employ, one at a time or in combination.
- You could vary your time of departure every day.
- You could take different routes in random sequence - another evasion technique, but the situation you are trying to avoid.
- You could borrow a large, hairy young man to walk along with you. I am thinking of my 25-year old unemployed son, who is always willing to do urban walkabout for exercise. Ask the moderator for my contact info if you want to take me up on this. A few glimpses of my son should scare off your Lothario.

It cannot be ruled out that this man who is working his way up to hitting on you has some sort of Asperger's-like social deficit. But it is still not your problem to have your privacy intruded on in this manner. Amelia

you are probably right, he sounds lonely. you have a couple of options. You can take pity on him and let him chatter at you on the way home and try to get used to it. You can change your schedule and head home 30 minutes later (probably not realistic given your family's needs) You can explain to him nicely that between your job, the kids and the hubby; walk home is the only time you get a chance to hear yourself think and you really would rather walk alone with your thoughts, your music, by yourself. probably honesty would be best for everyone involved anon

Ugh. What a tough situation. Have you tried using headphones? Perhaps the big, obvious ones will be enough of a sign to leave you alone, or you can at least ignore him. If he insists on talking anyway, perhaps a polite ''I'm sorry but I don't feel like talking right now'' will suffice? Feel your pain

Why don't you just tell him, straight up, that you prefer to walk alone? You can give any sort of excuse you like -- you need the time to relax from work, you need it to get ready for what needs to be done at home, whatever works for you. Since you clearly don't think much of him, it's best to let him know early on that you do not want to be friends. Karen