Was I being rude?
April 26, 2021 2:43 PM   Subscribe

Please help me to better understand an interaction/argument I had with my mom.

This happened over a year ago, but it exemplifies a continuing communication problem that I have with my mother.

Mom and I were attending a craft fair, along with one of my sisters and my aunt, who had been staying with us at the time. I wasn't super interested in the craft fair itself, but wanted to enjoy an outing with people I like - this was made clear from the outset. The rest of the group got to the craft fair first, so I met them inside after they had been there for about half an hour. The craft fair had been set up inside a local community center, with various rooms full of lots of different vendors.

When I arrived, I asked them which rooms they had already been in. They told me, and my aunt asked if I'd like her to go with me into the rooms they'd already been in. I said, "No thanks - if you guys have already been, I don't need to go." She offered a couple more times as we moved on to other parts of the craft fair, so I first asked if there was something in those rooms that she wanted to look at again and then, when she said no, explained that I had only been asking for information purposes and that I was happy to just hang out with them looking at stuff in the rooms they hadn't been to yet.

Once we entered the next room, my mom pulled me aside and told me that I had been very rude to say no to my aunt's offer "when she was only trying to do something nice." I was pretty confused at this - my aunt hadn't seemed hurt or offended, and it seemed silly for both of us to accompany one another into a part of the craft fair that neither of us had a reason to go into. I said so, but my mom insisted that the polite thing to do would have been to accept my aunt's offer. The conversation got pretty tense, and I had a lot of trouble figuring out where mom thought I had gone wrong.

Because this interaction was so baffling to me, it has remained in my thoughts and I keep poking at it, trying to figure it out. I think I didn't do anything wrong, but I also sometimes have trouble with interpersonal communication and sometimes come across as rude without knowing it or intending to. (Worth noting: I am probably some flavor of neurodivergent. I sometimes suspect that my mom is too.) If that's the case, I'd like to know about it so I can avoid being rude in this way in the future. Thus, I am asking metafilter about it as a neutral party:

Was I rude in this interaction with my aunt? If so, in what way? What should I have done differently?
posted by darchildre to Human Relations (35 answers total)
This seems extremely ask-vs-guess-y to me, honestly. Think about your interactions with your Mom and your Aunt - does it seem like they're more "ask"-y or more "guess"-y?

For me, no, this wasn't rude at all. But there are some people who would have asked this in a way that meant "I really want to show you these rooms and I wish you would allow me to do so." It's not always obvious which it is, which is difficult, especially but not only if you are neurodivergent. Assuming you were kind and polite the whole time (which it seems like you were), I'm not sure there's anything you could have done better.
posted by brainmouse at 2:49 PM on April 26 [18 favorites]

It seems that your aunt was hinting at something, and I’m guessing it’s something that’s missing from your side of the story. I can think of a few: maybe she wanted some time away from the rest of the group, maybe she saw something she’d have liked to buy you but wanted your opinion, etc. I personally wouldn’t have found your response rude, but one of the things I’ve learned is that different people are different.

Regardless of what actually happened, though, the fact that you’re still dwelling on this more than a year later indicates to me that there’s probably more to the relationship dynamics than you’re letting on, and that you should probably talk to a professional about this.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:53 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


But it seems like a classic Ask vs Guess conflict -- maybe your aunt wanted you to show you something she liked in one of the rooms she'd visited, but you were supposed to guess that's what she was actually offering, which was her expertise and interest, not the actual room. You, on the other hand, interpreted it as a literal question (as I would) and answered it as such.

For people who have trouble interpreting Guess people (raises hand), one rule is "always accept an offer" even if you don't fully understand it. Maybe that's what your mother was trying so hard to impart to you.

I'm looking forward to learning from other answers here.
posted by Dashy at 2:53 PM on April 26 [15 favorites]

It's hard for any us to know because we weren't there, but my guess (as another neurodivergent person) is the thing your mom was reacting to was probably the way you said it to your aunt, instead of the thing you said. Sometimes saying you're doing something for information purposes (or similar) comes off as a bit cold because people go to things like this for social reasons. If your Aunt just wanted to spend time with you, rejecting her is mildly rude. If your mom is also a bit neurodivergent she could have been overreacting on behalf of your aunt, who legitimately didn't care. No way to know for sure.

So my guess is that you were mildly rude, your mom was mildly rude to you for pointing it out in a somewhat aggressive way, and that's all totally fine. "Normal" people are mildly rude to each other all the time (multiple times per day) and the expected thing to do is accept that there was some rudeness even if you don't see it yourself, apologize, and then move on. This has taken me a long time to realize, but 99.9% of the time it legitimately does not matter if people are mildly rude to each other, and the only reason I care is because of my social anxiety.
posted by JZig at 2:57 PM on April 26 [8 favorites]

Aside from the fact that "Guess culture" is pretty overwhelmingly hostile - by definition! - to the neurodivergent?

No. You were not rude.
posted by WaywardPlane at 2:59 PM on April 26 [7 favorites]

Yeah this sounds like a clear ask vs guess conflict as described above. If any kind of disagreement whatsoever is unacceptable then that means asking for anything outright also becomes unacceptable. So your aunt couldn't have just said "Come look at X with me", instead her only option would be to hint and your only option would be to accept & assume. It's fucked up but some people like it that way.

If you suspect your mom is also neurodivergent, then her reaction could have just been that she perceived this rule after years of painful & awkward trial & error and she wanted to make sure you were aware of it too without going through all of that.
posted by bleep at 2:59 PM on April 26

Your aunt didn't understand that your priority was enjoying being with them, and that you were neutral on the craft fair component. But I think it's really a boundary/ control issue. Does Aunt understand that you are an adult and that you are able to make choices for yourself; does Mom understand that? or do they think you should follow their suggestions? I certainly know people for whom Wouldn't you be more comfortable wearing a skirt to this event? means I want you to wear a skirt. Aunt's offer was kind and well-intentioned, but adults are allowed to decline offers.

As you define boundaries with parents and others, it may create stress. That's fine; change is difficult for some people. It's also natural, unavoidable, and with parents, a good thing. I'm not sure if this is really an issue of neurodivergence, or just Mom being a bit rigid. I'm a Mom, I was a daughter; you can say No and still be loving. You can push back a little Mom, I want to spend time with you and Aunt, declining her offer is not rude, I love you guys, let's have fun and part of the point is that as an adult, you can direct the flow of things more.
posted by theora55 at 3:06 PM on April 26 [9 favorites]

You were not rude. If what you said was literally, "No thanks - if you guys have already been, I don't need to go," then I could see somebody who is highly sensitive misconstruing it and taking offence. Maybe something like, "No thanks - I wouldn't want you to have to visit a room you have already seen just on my account. Plus I am so excited about room A, B, C etc" might have gone down better. I think this is partially a hangover from another era where older people (especially relatives) expected super-gracious acceptance every time they offered to put themselves out, whether that offering was appropriate or wanted or not.
posted by mani at 3:06 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]

I mean, I do wonder what your aunt wanted you to do when she kept offering to walk you around the other rooms. I don't think you were obligated to go with her, but in general if someone offers to do something for me/with me several times, I will interpret that more like, "Please come with me" than "Do you want to come with me?" (and in that case I will probably come with them unless I can't or really really don't want to).

But your aunt didn't say you were rude or act as though she thought you were rude, your mom did! So it could have been that your mom understands your aunt better and realized that your aunt was or would be upset/offended OR it could mean that your mother *thinks* she knows how your aunt is feeling but is maybe projecting some weird stuff of her own.
posted by mskyle at 3:28 PM on April 26 [17 favorites]

I could imagine your response implying that the craft fair was boring and that you didn’t really want to be there, which might sting a bit if I’d invited you.

I could also imagine that your aunt may have wanted you to go in that area for some reason that she couldn’t or didn’t want to articulate in front of your mom—to have a conversation more privately, to set you up with a friend’s child who was working at a booth, to show you a thing she thought would amuse you, to buy a present for your mom. It could’ve been Guess culture but she could have been laying a hint that you were missing and your mom was picking up enough to understand.

Another possibility is that your mom’s figured out ways of coping with socializing that play poorly with your ways of coping. Or your aunt’s kind of a jerk and your mom’s had a lifetime of pouting and has her hackles up. Lots of possibilities, and with the info we have, no guarantee of anyone having been rude.
posted by tchemgrrl at 3:30 PM on April 26 [7 favorites]

You weren't rude, but you were probably ignoring some social clues/cues. As I was typing this, mskyle's comment came in, and it seems spot on.

Consider - why would you ever gently ask someone to do something several times even after they initially declined?

Don't beat yourself up over it though.
posted by mistersix at 3:37 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]

Your mom is trying to manage your relationship with your Aunt, her sister. My advice to everybody is to not try to manage other people’s relationships. If your Aunt was hinting or thought it was rude then the two of you need to work it out in your own way. Your mom could’ve also been more specific–was it your tone? Was it something that she thought her sister was hinting at? As it stands, your mom got a little miffed and took it out on you and no one will ever know who is right because it’s been a year.

What would make me feel better would be to call up Aunt and check in on her and let her know that you have this weird thing that has been bugging you. And you want to apologize if she did think your response was rude as your mother, her sister has suggested. You were just trying to be accommodating, after all. Then have a laugh and bring up other fun things. If she does say she was upset then sincerely apologize and tell her you’d love to take her out next time she’s in town for apology cake.
posted by amanda at 3:46 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]

The way I interpret this is that your aunt thought you cared about the crafts, and wanted to give you a personal tour of all the cool crafts in those rooms, and you were showing no interest in them. She was not phrasing her invitations to you in a compatible communication style that would clue you in to what she really wanted, which was to bond with you over crafts. Imagine if she had said something like, "Hey, darchildre, I want to show you these really incredible woven golf club puppet heads. It'll just take a few minutes!" I'm guessing you would have marched right off with her.
posted by oxisos at 4:08 PM on April 26 [11 favorites]

Your mom might also have been nursing this general complaint for a while, or about something else, and then expressing her feelings via this minor thing. (Like, maybe she didn't like that you'd made it clear you weren't interested in the event, or she thought you didn't treat your aunt right in general, or she often feels that your tone (not words, necessarily) was rude.)

Maybe she thought you should have taken the "'no' means rejection, a counter-offer means interest" approach and suggested something else to your aunt ("no, but I'd love to ___. Shall we?")

Maybe it was something she herself had been scolded about at one point when younger and she absorbed the lesson. It's impossible to know at this point. Is your sister someone you can ask when these things happen? Or is there anyone else well-placed to understand the specific dynamic between you and your mother?

How does your mother usually say no to things? Is it different than your approach? Or does she always say yes, or maybe just always accept offers from certain people?

I'd like to know about it so I can avoid being rude in this way in the future

I think if you want to avoid being rude -- or more accurately, to actively cultivate positive relationship feelings rather than presenting as neutral-to-mildly-disengaged -- you can make it a point to express enthusiasm or warm feelings about the other person, the event, the offer, or possible counteroffers. See if there are people you find more gracious or more warm than average and pay attention to how they deal with this kind of thing.
posted by trig at 4:09 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]

Do you have a relationship with your aunt such that you could call and ask her about that interaction, maybe without mentioning your mom?

My first thought on this whole thing: sometimes when people love a place or hobby, they want other folks to love it just as much. It may have been that your mom (or aunt?) perceived your lack of interest in the rooms they had already visited as a rejection of their craft fair hobby. They might have wanted you to be just as enthusiastic as them and took your lack of interest in that room as a criticism or lack of interest.

Please note that I am not saying these things are true. I'm just speculating wildly. They might have wanted you to pretend to be interested, like gushing over a birthday present you don't like as a way to be polite.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:21 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]

The counterpoint from my side of the ask/guess divide is that I find it rude when people repeatedly ask if I want to do something after I say no. After about three to five times of declining, my tone when I continue to say no thanks will start to reflect it. If you're like me, your mom may have picked up on that. Which isn't to say that you were necessarily rude.
posted by Candleman at 4:30 PM on April 26 [18 favorites]

Your aunt is a boundary stomper and your mother is an enabler. Essentially, your mother’s chiding translates to this: “You embarrassed me in front of Aunt. As my child, part of your job is to make me look good. Aunt is someone I want to impress and you should too.”

Without getting super duper armchair, I would guess Aunt is more outgoing, older, has more of a social circle, richer, or in some other way is more “high status” than your “possibly neurodivergent” mother. Your mother manages this by being compliant, submissive, and trying to impress Aunt. She expects you to toe the line because she feels your mother/child relationship is much like a boss/employee relationship in which your job is to make her look good.

If you’ll allow me to get even more armchair, this is huge sign of a narcissistic family dynamic. That’s a big word, but like all things it is really more of a spectrum than a black and white prognosis. Might be worth looking into.

Being an adult and making your own choices is worth the price of being rude and/or disappointing your mother. Being rude is underrated, actually. My best luck to you and try not to doubt or judge yourself too much or by your mother’s standards.
posted by stockpuppet at 4:49 PM on April 26 [7 favorites]

^ what stockpuppet said!
If someone’s a “guesser,” they’re wasting time. If they want a thing and don’t say so or ask for it, you shouldn’t be expected to be clairvoyant. I would not phone your Aunt a year later and agonize over this; I promise you, she’s forgotten all about it because there was *nothing* to remember.
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:07 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]

maybe your aunt wanted you to show you something she liked in one of the rooms she'd visited

and etc

I just want to respond with another interpretation from a Guess-er: Ask v Guess is one useful tool, but the common wisdom on MeFi that Guess means never asking a question to which the answer is "no" is a bit limited, and you might get more value thinking about high vs low context cultures. Maybe your aunt thought the crafts really were something you were (or would be) interested in but thought you felt an obligation to stay with the family. Because if you did feel that way and were also operating with high-context assumptions, you wouldn't feel able to say yes the first time, you would need to be asked multiple times to know the invitation was real and not obligatory. And in that case the repeated "no" isn't rude (depending on how it's expressed), it's clarifying that you are giving the answer you wanted to give, not the one you thought you had to.
posted by solotoro at 5:11 PM on April 26 [9 favorites]

I can't tell if it was rude, because I wasn't there, but I suspect the tone (yours or aunt's) had something to do with the interaction going poorly.

I am not neurodivergent and I have someone neurodivergent (diagnosed) in my life. Their plan of attack at a craft fair or similar experience is "I look at each booth exactly once with Kim and then we are finished because why look at something we've already looked at? " My take is "I want to spend a few hours just milling about, maybe I missed something the first time, maybe a booth was overly crowded the first time we went by and I want to take a closer look." Sometimes they are brusque with their "objectives met / quest complete" attitude, and sometimes I'm probably not very assertive with my people-loving "I just like the atmosphere and being out" attitude and it results in friction.

We meet halfway by my using my words and saying, "you cool if we make two laps around the booths - that other end was crowded and I missed some vendors" and they using their words and saying "yeah that's fine!" or "I'm a little overwhelmed by the crowd, can I wait in the car/outside/under that tree?" However, it took a long time for us to get to that point.

I will say that if someone isn't into the thing we're going to visit and tells me when we arrive "I'm not interested in this, but I'm here just to spend time with you," it does pre-color the experience for me. I'm already feeling like I'm imposing on them or dragging them around.

I hope this was of at least a little help.
posted by kimberussell at 5:15 PM on April 26 [10 favorites]

I would not phone your Aunt a year later and agonize over this; I promise you, she’s forgotten all about it

[Guess culture person]

That's exactly why I would. To show myself I was being silly to worry about it (or maybe find out differently.) But that's not really why, that's how I would explain it to an ask-type person. Ask!

I would have had to be there, I think, to have an opinion. There's certainly a way of asking that means more like "let's go to the powder room" or "oh I've forgotten a thing, will you walk back with me?" = I want to talk to you one on one. In that case, declining the invitation can seem like "well I don't want to talk to YOU, so no thanks." Or, she could literally have been worried you missed something, and just wanted to be polite by asking pro forma, expecting the answer no. BOTH of those, despite being opposites, are "guess"-type strategies; you're supposed to know which it is.

I would not discount the possibility that Mom, being Aunt's sister, DID know which, and maybe assumed you did too and were rebuffing Aunt on purpose. But if you've had an otherwise non-frosty relationship with Aunt since then, must be no harm done. If you don't see her that often, that's the real reason I'd call with the "weird question that's been bothering me". She will of course say she doesn't remember either way, but if she does, it's a chance to be apologetic even while both sides pretend nothing happened. And will be appreciated.
posted by ctmf at 5:23 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]

Uh, why don't we ask your aunt and find out for sure, rather than your mom's interpretation? Maybe she's outraged over nothing.

"Dear auntie, remember that time at the craft fair? My mom thinks I was rude in refusing your offer to go back to the rooms you all had been to already. I was thinking I will enjoy company of you all more going forward. Was I rude in declining your offer? Please don't spare my feelings. "
posted by kschang at 5:25 PM on April 26

Response by poster: In defense of my aunt, I'm pretty sure her asking multiple times is due to her being an older Southern woman of the "obviously, you demur a few times before accepting a drink/an invitation/a favor to be polite" school. That's not the culture or communication style I'm most comfortable in - hence this question - but many of my older relatives do that. I wasn't raised in the South but my parents were, so there may also be something of a cultural communication gap along with the ask/guess stuff.
posted by darchildre at 5:40 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]

Your aunt didn't realize or understand that you weren't there to look at the booths, but to hang out with them. That's why your aunt offered. Your mom is sorta out of line.

If you'd like to ensure things are good with your aunt, ask her yourself, don't allow your mother to triangulate. Explain that you were there for the company, not the exhibits, and make sure she wasn't offended in any way. Beyond that, stop allowing your mother to take up rent in your head.
posted by stormyteal at 5:42 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]

I don't personally consider your response rude, but I am also a person would say the same thing, and has encountered pushback from people who think it's impolite to ever refuse an offer for...anything. There are some folks who have been conditioned to feel like if someone offers you something you must accept it under any circumstances. It doesn't really make sense, but it's definitely a maxim some people live by.

When I encounter this, I find it helps to go out of my way to infuse warmth into my response, or redirect the conversation to an alternative suggestion that is related and meets my requirements. For instance, if I genuinely didn't care and could take it or leave it, instead of saying I don't want to go unless you specifically need something, I might say - Auntie, crafts aren't really my thing so no need to go on my my account, but I'm excited to spend the day with you and I'm happy to accompany you to wherever you want to go. If I did care, I might say - actually, I was hoping to check out that booth/get a snack/see what you bought - can we do that? Goal here is to give the person a way to still give.
posted by amycup at 6:42 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]

I am from the South, and in my general experience communications there are much more similar to improv in that they demand a "yes, and." In other words, whether a person is being polite is evaluated through the lens of whether the person is moving the social interaction forward.

This means that if you just say no without offering your host or the person you are engaging with the opportunity to do something, you are often considered to have been rude. For instance, here you could have said, "I would actually love to see the next booth. What do you think of this approach to crafting?" This would have let the two of you engage, given her the chance to show off her skills/expertise, and allowed you to control what you saw next.

To be clear, this "yes and" approach doesn't mean that you have to do what others suggest all the time. But it does mean you have to couch your no in a positive so instead of saying what you don't want to happen, you are saying what you do pick.
posted by ASlackerPestersMums at 6:53 PM on April 26 [13 favorites]

Some moms think any “no” in response to any offer is rude even if you didn’t say it rudely. If they never say no then it may sound wrong. (It’s not.)
posted by kapers at 6:58 PM on April 26

FWIW, my elderly, southern mother uses the repeatedly asking approach to pick fights where she can play the victim ("I was only trying to be nice.."), which is undoubtedly where a good part of my dislike for it comes from.
posted by Candleman at 7:14 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]

well, I do think that you were rebuffing your aunt.

It's not the same kind of rudeness as, like, insulting someone, far from it: but... look, I've been on the other side of this, and it just feels bad. It feels bad when someone you're spending time with expresses that they're not interested in seeing the thing that you like. And conversely, it is a really affirming feeling when the person you're with is actively interested in the thing you're both there to see/do (especially if you, not they, were the one who chose the activity.)

It's not a crime not to be interested in the craft rooms; but it is a rebuff, and your mom wasn't wrong to point that out to you. All the people here insisting on how it is your right not to tour craft rooms are correct in that you have every right not to; but standing on that right isn't going to create a feeling of warm fellowship in the folks you're with.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:08 PM on April 26 [4 favorites]

You thought it was nice and thoughtful to come and see them even though you didn't care about the interest they were there to pursue, and extra polite not to drag them around places they'd already seen when you weren't personally interested; one or both of them might have thought it was rude or baffling for you to come all the way out to an event they cared about just to keep underlining (in their perception) how uninteresting it all was to you. And/or it can be a little stressful to know that someone is just present at an event for your company when you yourself are there to direct your attention elsewhere; you can feel like you're failing to make it worthwhile for them, since they're only there for you. And/or your aunt wanted to have a little personal side excursion with just the two of you, and got turned down repeatedly. You didn't do anything wrong but your aunt didn't either.

your mother is less clear. she might be anxious about your behavior reflecting on her as a mother, and be hyper-vigilant for anything that could be interpreted as rudeness, even if your aunt didn't actually find it rude, and therefore hypercritical. Or your aunt might have really been hurt at a perceived rejection and your mother knows her so well that she noticed without being told. Whatever it was, it isn't unreasonable for you to ask for and get a clear explanation from your mother in private, and if she won't provide one, there is nothing more you can reasonably be expected to do.

If you have any independent reason to think your aunt was actually offended or hurt (you may not!) you could probably mend it by asking her questions sometime about whatever crafts she's most interested in. there is a fine line between not sharing someone's niche hobbies and overtly dismissing them; she might have thought you crossed over the line even if you didn't. Or just your mother might have thought so.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:16 PM on April 26 [6 favorites]

Aside from the fact that "Guess culture" is pretty overwhelmingly hostile - by definition! - to the neurodivergent?

this is untrue. a number of conditions that involve extreme aversion to contradiction or conflict are well served by indirection. "neurodivergent" is not code for one very specific set of tastes. there are more ways than one to be different in the brain from an imagined norm. if only one very particular condition is meant by "neurodivergent," communication would be best served by naming it instead of hoping for people to guess which one it is.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:28 PM on April 26 [17 favorites]

It could well be that your companions were already on edge about the outing before you arrived. You had no interest in the crafts and only went to spend time with the people...who wanted to focus on the crafts. Then you arrived later than everyone else so they had to coordinate their wandering through the fair to accommodate you. Then even though you didn't care about the crafts, you declined multiple offers from your aunt to double-back through the first rooms with you, so you could see what they saw, maybe give your mother/sister some time alone, maybe bond with you a little, maybe point out a craft your mother liked so you could get it for her...who knows her reason; the point is that it became about you, not about the crafts or the people whose experience you said you wanted to share.

I do not know if this is what happened, but overall the outing reads like they wanted to get out of the house and escape the day-to-day by losing a few hours immersed in a shared experience at a craft fair, and instead they spent time focused on you.

People don't realize that when they just want to spend time with another person, but aren't interested in anything but the other person, it places the burden of entertainment on the other person instead of on the [art/game/movie/hike/crafts]. And it makes those little escapes from daily life less fun and less restorative.
posted by headnsouth at 3:45 AM on April 27 [8 favorites]

FWIW I don't think you were being rude no matter if your aunt was ask vs guess, very southern, your tone was misinterpreted, you missed a high context offer, etc. NONE of these things means you were being rude. Not one!

It means there was a miscommunication. Did you act with your family's best interests at heart? Did you reply with your stated boundary repeatedly and repsectfully? Did you use crude or insulting language? Did you say "no aunt I hate your crafts" and push her down? No? Then you did nothing wrong!

Neurodivergent people (myself included) aren't required to play Mastermind everytime they misunderstand opaque social cues. If your aunt or mother wanted more from you then it is on them to communicate it. It's not your fault if they feel bound by social rules that are neither universal nor take NDs into consideration.

My point is you don't need to call your aunt, keep on it a year later, or change your behavior in this case. Be kinder to yourself and your differences. I spent the past 30 years masking and being the most socially aware autist you'll ever meet and all I got for it was low self worth and depression.

If anything, use this as a reminder you care about your aunt so much you'd hate to be rude to her, and give her a call just to catch up. That "furthers social interaction" more than trying to Sherlock this perceived rudeness.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 4:47 AM on April 27 [10 favorites]

Sometimes people offer to do things for us for us, and sometimes people offer to do things for us for them, when it would be rude to outright ask for what they need (time away from the group, for example). I'm guessing your aunt was asking to escort you so that you would both benefit, or so that it would be an out for her, and your mom caught on to this.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:15 AM on April 27 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I can't know any more than other responders can, but this sounds more like a mom thing than a you thing. If she knows your aunt better and was trying to get you to do your aunt a sort of kindness after you didn't pick up on that aspect of your aunt's request, your mom doesn't need to be so damn oblique about it. You seem like, from your framing here, if you had sensed your aunt's offer was more of a request, you would have just gone with her. After all, it was all just rooms you hadn't seen yet, to you. If your mom wanted to help you understand the nuances of interpersonal communication she felt you were missing, she could have explained. Instead, she criticized you. I'm a simple man, so seems to me like that probably was her main aim.

If I can do the thing we AskMefites sometimes do and offer a personal anecdote that might seem to have only a tenuous connection to the question, I was on vacation once with my wife and kid and some of my wife's family. There was a cool cultural thing happening, and I guess we were not all together right before it started, because I got there first. I leaned up against a tree and had a good view. Everyone else arrived after the thing had started, and went to a place they could sit waaaaaaay in the back. Then my wife came to tell me that by her culture's standards, I was being rude for not joining them. So I went and joined them. Within minutes, members of the group started wandering off. I never got an answer why it was rude for me not to join them instead of it being rude for them not to join me.

Always seemed like my wife's problem was less with what I did than it was with me. Where you say this is a continuing problem with communicating with your mom, seems to me like your mom's problem was less about what you did than it was about you (which probably means her real problem is her). But that's just based on the information you've given us.

I also disagree with someone upthread who seemed to fault you for saying out loud that you were there more for your family than for the craft thing itself. I would agree in a different situation, like you wanted to do something else with them but got outvoted by the craft people; might seem like a complaint then. And maybe it's a tricky needle to thread without others feeling sort of guilty, like they dragged you somewhere. But you're essentially telling them you wanted to spend time with them so much, you would go figuratively anywhere with them. It's not considered rude to say that some thing was fine but it was the company that made the outing/whatever great. I can see where it'd be hard to choose the right words to get that across without someone thinking you sound like a martyr or something, but if you're expected to read your aunt's mind for intent, maybe you guys aren't the We Say Everything Totally Clearly family, in which case maybe the same courtesy should be extended to you.
posted by troywestfield at 1:42 PM on April 29

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