A reader asked:
There’s a boy at school who makes me uncomfortable. He seems to appear wherever I am. My 504 plan allows me to eat in a small back room in the library, and he’s even found me there and joins me for lunch. I’ve told him several times “I prefer to eat alone” but he responds with “That’s no fun! Come meet my friends!” I’ve tried ignoring him, but he just asks me lots of questions. My mom and therapist are happy I’ve “made a friend and stopped isolating!” and won’t help. How do I make him go away?
I’m sorry this is happening to you.
He shouldn’t harass you like that, and your school shouldn’t let him. You’ve made it clear that you want to be left alone, and he’s following you and insisting on bothering you anyway. That’s not friendly. That’s harassment.
I’m not sure how to get him to stop. That depends a lot on the situation, and particularly whether or not there are any adults willing to help you. One thing that helps is to keep straight in your mind what’s going on. It’s perfectly ok that you don’t want to eat with this guy. He should leave you alone. You’re not doing anything wrong; he is being mean.
Since you mention that you’re eating in the library, I wonder if the librarian might be able to help you. Sometimes librarians care about protecting kids from harassment. It might help to frame it in terms of “This guy won’t leave me alone, and it’s making me really uncomfortable. He keeps following me in here. Can you please help me to get away from him?”
Another thing to consider: Who put the room in your 504 plan? Was anyone involved in that decision besides your mom and your therapist? Might someone else who was involved understand what’s going on and why you need help?
Another possibility: telling him to go away more forcefully, eg:
- “I don’t want to eat with you. Please leave me alone.” might work better than “I prefer to eat alone.”
- “Stop following me.”
- “I don’t want to talk to you.”
- “Stop asking me questions; I don’t want to have this conversation.”
If you’re more forceful in saying no, it’s likely that he’ll act all hurt and like you’re doing something terrible to him. It might also eventually work if you are firm and explicit about saying no, and don’t back down when he acts all hurt about it.
That’s a standard way that people who are willfully violating boundaries react when someone says no. (I wrote about this in the context of ways creepy guys make it impossible for women to say no politely.)
It’s okay not to care that your boundaries hurt his feelings. It’s okay not to care if he’s upset that you don’t want to be his friend or eat lunch with him. That is not actually your problem. You’re not obligated to provide him with attention, company, or validation, no matter how friendly he thinks he’s being.
Eating alone is not something you’re doing to him. Harassing you is something mean he’s doing to you.
Your parents and therapists should be supporting you. It’s terrible that they’re not (but unfortunately, this is not an unusual situation.)
Short version: If someone follows you around and keeps trying to interact over your objections, that’s not friendly, that’s creepy. You don’t have to be someone’s friend or hang out with them if you don’t want to. Therapists shouldn’t try to convince you that being harassed is a positive development in your life. It’s okay to have boundaries. You get to decide who your friends are and aren’t.