Part 1 can be read here.
Names have been changed to protect real people’s identities (and for dramatic effect!).
It is probably obvious to most that Doorstep Guy’s behavior was inappropriate. However, there are still lots of people who go around doing things just like this thinking there’s no way anyone should be bothered by it. Some of them would even agree that Doorstep Guy in particular was acting creepy.
Plain and simple, Doorstep Guy was a stalker. Watering it down with gentler words than “stalker” just because his behavior probably didn’t involve twisting his mustache thinking evil thoughts is a distraction from the still-real negative effects of his behavior. He may or may not have meant any harm (We don’t really know.) but lots of stalkers don’t mean any harm in their own minds. Most would probably tell you they believe their intentions are good. After all, many only want to “drop in to say hi” or “have a talk”. These things of course, have far more significance to them than they would to most people which is one reason why they go to such great lengths for them.
“But somebody else did it and it was okay!!”
Even a few people who aren’t movie-grade obsessive stalkers-in-denial might get hung up on the fact that neither I nor SG were alarmed at the idea of Jay Mudgett showing up but that Jay McMahon seemed like trouble from the moment he rang the doorbell. Apparently when we thought that other guy did it, it was fine, so why is it an issue with Doorstep Guy? I didn’t add the part about Jay Mudgett just because it serves as a nifty plot twist. I could have left it out and simply focused on Doorstep Guy’s behavior. However, the contrast here is a perfect example of how people can have different boundaries for different people. It’s telling that of all the Jays we knew (and there are many more), it was Mudgett for whom this behavior made the most sense to us and that even with the strange behavior in mind, we were more concerned about Mudgett’s health than anything else. After all, he’s a good friend who we know well and trust. Contrast this to Jay “Doorstep Guy” McMahon who SG had only hung out with a few times some years before with no contact since. Think of those counterparts in your life. Who would you rather have randomly appear at your front door?
Speaking of front doors, it must be added that showing up at a person’s house uninvited and unannounced can be a major invasion of personal space. Home is where we ought to feel safest, especially from things coming from outside. It ideally gives us a sense of privacy where we decide who has access to us on our own terms. That’s not something you often get anywhere else. Therefore, if a person cannot feel safe at home, they won’t be catching a break out in public either, and when the thing that’s bothering you at home can also go out to find you in public, nowhere feels safe.
“But we’re friends!”
Some people tend to overestimate the closeness of their relationships to others. Some start making long term plans for a relationship that’s merely a fling. Others overshare with friends who aren’t as close as they think they are. In its extreme, someone might consider a random store clerk or someone they met on the bus a “friend” even though they might not even know their name or only spoke to them once or twice. Mostly this just leads to disappointment for the mistaken person and annoyance and discomfort for the other. It’s true that Doorstep Guy didn’t have a bad history with SG, but he didn’t have what you might call a good history either. There wasn’t much history period. So even if you have some reason to believe that a strangely friendly person means no harm, this does not obligate you to go “Well, this nice stranger is convinced we’re best friends. I guess that means I have to start lending him money and listening to his personal problems now.”
Another important point here, is that in addition to the socially awkward types, there is another subset of people who tend to presume relationships where there are none and go to great lengths to enact them. They’re called delusional people. Which of these you are dealing with is not always apparent and often, the conditions don’t exactly make you want to stick around and find out.
Loss of control
Doorstep Guy being a relative stranger and inviting himself to SG’s house basically forced SG to interact with him on his terms. Over other media like text messaging, phone calls, or e-mail, a person has a choice in how to respond or whether to respond at all. When someone is suddenly at your door, your basic options are either to respond immediately or pretend not to be home, each of which may motivate the person to keep coming back. When someone shows up right in front of your face outside, your options are limited even further. This guy set the situation up to give himself a guarantee of some form of direct, face-to-face contact with SG. The combination of having your personal space invaded and feeling like someone else is trying to control how or whether you interact with them tends to be very uncomfortable and often frightening.
Creepy Letters and Miscellaneous Bullcrap
A small note is necessary on the sketchy typewritten letter he suspiciously left on SG’s doorstep the third time he was known to have been there. I cannot ignore how full of red flags that letter is. Here we have a letter that unless this guy drives around with a typewriter, was pre-made in case SG wasn’t home. From there he did not mail it but instead drove the 30 miles again(!) in case she was home and left it there on her doorstep when no one answered. And to say what?
Specifically, what this says to me is:
“Hi, I’m totally acting very stalkery right now but some inexplicable, unnamed thing tells me this is totally okay so I’m gonna keep doing it anyway. I know you have about 0 reasons to talk to or hang out with me, so here’s some poorly crafted bait to bring us into a situation together. This is the part where I try to hide the fact that I want you to feel obligated. Also I made up this bullshit requirement that means I need to take people, most preferably you to this event. Also apparently, I can’t find two people so I had to trudge brief acquaintances from years ago to find people who will go with me. Please remember that according to the bullshit I made up, without you I probably won’t be able to perform and the night will be ruined. No pressure.”
The Unanswered Questions
You don’t need to have indisputable evidence of intent to harm to be freaked out by any of the above things. That situation can make you a lot more vulnerable than normal and when you aren’t sure of whether there might be intent to harm, it can leave you fearing the possibility. As with all forms of creepage, the most troubling parts of this story were the parts we still don’t know much about. Such as why Doorstep Guy felt the need to drive 30 miles to get in touch with someone he only talked to a few times years ago and has no way to contact. Why would someone go to those lengths for a specific person who they barely know? What did he want? Why would seemingly no one else suffice? How did he know SG had started living at home again? How many times was he actually there? The more you try to come up with answers for those, the creepier it gets.
When all was said and done, even this guy didn’t receive the life-ending creep-shaming of legends told by frightened nerds. SG simply used the address on his toasted card and sent him a polite letter saying to cease contact and stop showing up. It took a few edits, as recovering from being caught off guard by the sudden appearances and then piecing more troubling things together later quickly changed how the situation looked. First, there was a stipulation where SG would allow hanging out together with mutual friends. However, they no longer had any. There was another where she had written that if he only has someone’s address and wants to reestablish contact, he should just send a letter in the mail instead of showing up at houses and leaving things. At that point, I asked “Well do you want mail?” She still seemed fine with it for a few seconds until I said “I don’t mean ‘Would you be able to tolerate a few letters in the mail?’. I mean “Do you desire and cheerfully look forward to LOTS AND LOTS OF MAIL?”. If she gave an inch, he’d take a mile and if she allowed for letters, well, what she would get is ALL THE LETTERS. What SG really wanted was for Doorstep Guy to just go back into her past where he belongs and not bother her again, and niceties and negotiations weren’t going to bring her anything close to that. She realized she didn’t owe him anything whatsoever and had every right to bring her life back to the way it was before there was a weirdo on her doorstep. So in the end, what he got was this:
“So here’s where I stand, stated plainly: It was nice catching up with you and I’m happy for the changes you’ve made in your life, but I don’t think you’re someone I’m going to want sustained contact with. I’m not saying you’re a horrible person and should die in a fire. I’m just observing that we’re into two very different scenes and it’s probably best just to leave it at that. In other words, let’s just go our separate ways. Please stope showing up at my house and please don’t send me any more letters.”
And he was never seen on SG’s doorstep again.