Once upon a time when I was younger and less physically broken, one of my jobs was befriending the lonely ones, the ones left outside the circle, the ones no one wanted. I would protect them, the pasty and overweight ones, the socially awkward, the prickly, the unattractive. Since I did not need friends or popularity or fitting in, I was free to be friends with those who needed friends but, for whatever reason, couldn't seem to make it with the regular people. I felt like it was some sort of gifting or calling, a way to use my comfortable introversion to love people like Christ commands us to. Now I am older, more physically broken and exhausted, and I don't have the energy to use this freedom any more, which is unfortunate because there's a guy at the anime club this semester who is starting to really creep me out.
In the anime club, I have always been there for the anime. I have never been there to make friends, be part of the community, or fit in. I don't live on campus; I'm not a student. I do not need any friends in the club to have a nice time. This has always worked out well (once the super-friendly folks have learned to leave me alone each semester) because it's good for these kids to make friends with their peers. I have not needed to actually reach out and show kindness to an outcast when I have pretty much nothing to give. With one notable exception, I have made no friends there, and it has been lovely.
Many of the folks in the anime club are a bit socially awkward. This stereotype exists because it is based in observable fact. Many of them are bad at eye contact and reading body language and understanding personal space, but they usually figure things out by the time they graduate. Most of them find their tribes, even the ones who are incredibly annoying and awkward. As a sort of maiden aunt, I watch all of this at a distance and am glad things work out, even if I am sometimes mystified.
This semester has been different. This semester has been incredibly uncomfortable. This semester there is a guy who hasn't found his tribe, and he seems to want me to be his tribe because all the other natives flee screaming at his approach.
I have never met anyone so terrible at understanding body language and personal space. He seems to take me scrunching up, leaning and moving away, refusing eye contact, and reluctantly talking brusquely in short answers when absolutely necessary as amazing encouragement to sit down, move cloers, be friends and talk and talk and talk about the same things 4 over and over and over again. (At least he hasn't used the words "scrotum" and "anus" since the first time he opened his mouth to talk to me several weeks ago.) He talks about his anime that he will make some day and its badass, junior-high-school-boy-humor-liking female main character and what he doesn't like about X, Y, and Z anime and about why he likes the Devil May Cry anime but hates Black Lagoon, etc., ad nauseum. (If you're an anime fan, this will seem even more annoying to you than if you aren't.) He does this to anyone who has a pulse and doesn't actually get up and just walk away.
Recently, because no one else will even talk to him, he has taken to following me out to my car, chattering all the way, and ignoring my LEAVE ME ALONE PLEASE body language and really fast pace because he is that desperate to connect.
I know that if I want him to leave me alone, I need to just completely ignore him and not respond at all. However, he is so lonely and sad that my old reflexes kick in, and I talk sometimes, un-encouragingly and grudgingly, because I don't want him to be completely alone in silence. He is so young and so awkward, and I think he may not ever find any friends if he doesn't come across the college student equivalent of the old me soon.
I probably don't have to tell you that the following me to my car thing makes me really nervous. Men I don't know in general make me wary and having to be trailed by one as I walk half a mile away to my car where there might not be anyone else around does not help. I think that I probably need to just have the creeper talk with him or ask the club admins to intervene, but maybe I've been living in Minnesota too long (land of 10,000 ways to passive-aggressively indicate things instead of just saying them) or maybe I'm trying in a sort of half-assed way to be Jesus to this poor kid. I mean, everyone avoids him, and that's really sad (even if I totally understand why they avoid him). I was hoping someone would take him under their wing and help him understand the basics of body language, but they haven't even this far in to the semester.
As maybe one of the few believers who attend the club, do I have some sort of responsibility toward him? Because I'm sure acting like I do. And as long as I sub-consciously feel responsible, I won't be able to just tell him leave me alone or ask the folks in charge of the club to intervene. Thus far, the best I've been able to do is drag my poor friend to the club to try to act as a buffer and escort to my car, and that's not fair to him.
So, Christians, your thoughts? Everyone, your strategies?