Apology vs. Family Strife
March 3, 2008 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Should I apologize to my step-mother for a sarcastic response to a wacked out email she sent me. I don't feel like I should... also.. Can anyone offer ideas on how to write an apology letter that's not really an apology?

Here's the background... (sorry about the length)

First, my dad and his wife have been married for close to twenty years. Throughout this time we've enjoyed a friendly, respectful relationship. However that all changed recently.

Last fall my wife and I both received a very angry email at our work email accounts from my step mother. She had accidentally stepped in what may have been my dogs poop after we had visited their house (the dog and I were the only visitors). My wife felt the email was inappropriate for her work accounts and replied asking this stuff be sent to her personal email account.

I on the other hand, felt her rage she did not match the offense, and replied with sarcasm.

A week later she sent my wife and I a written apology. I can't remember the details but it was a short, terse message basically saying she was sorry for send the email to our work addresses and that she would no longer be communicating with us via email.

At this point I shrugged off the entire thing. My Dad and his wife flew south for the winter and that was the last I heard of it. Well, now they're back. I go over to visit and she (step-mom) is conspicuously missing. I asked Dad where she is, he says shes still sore about my response and HE wants me to write her an apology letter to smooth things out. Should I do it?

Here is her email:
"For all future visits please leave your dog at home. There is a REASON why we DO NOT have a dog! I do not wish to clean up after a dog....especially one that is not my own. I really do not enjoy mowing the lawn, not knowing a dog was here and hitting that SHIT. I am sorry if this upsets you, but you can surely understand how I am feeling at this present time?"

Here is my Response: (something like this... I didn't save the exact response)
"LOL, did you forget to take your meds? Stepping in dog poop irritates me too. I am constantly finding other peoples dog poop in our yard as several neighbor dogs use it as a toilet. But I don't get that upset about it. I just shrug it off. Maybe you should too. I am sorry if this upsets you, but you can surely understand how I am feeling at this present time?""
posted by purenitrous to Human Relations (74 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think you should apologize. Say, "I'm sorry I made you angry. I won't bring the dog anymore."
posted by RussHy at 4:15 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


It really sounds like she was upset and you basically told her to get over it. My question to you is do you want to solve the problem or do you still feel like she needs to "get over it" My opinion as a disinterested observer is that she overreacted and then instead of taking the high road and saying something like "whoops, sorry about that, we'll leave the dog at home" you made a joke out of it. Sometimes that works out okay, this time it didn't. If apologizing to her will help solve this problem, is that something youd like to do? If it were me, I totally would, even if I had throught I didn't do anything "wrong." She apologized already. Why not do it?
posted by jessamyn at 4:15 PM on March 3, 2008


I'm sorry your feelings were hurt... is what I use.
posted by maloon at 4:16 PM on March 3, 2008


Unless there's more friction here than you're letting on, I don't see how a semi-apologetic "we were both angry, sorry it got out of hand" note could hurt.
posted by Krrrlson at 4:16 PM on March 3, 2008


Yes. There are many reasons to, but the one I will use to appeal to you is: do it for your father's happiness and peace of mind.
posted by spec80 at 4:16 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pick your battles. If you've enjoyed a friendly, respectful relationship until now, just apologize.
posted by tepidmonkey at 4:17 PM on March 3, 2008


You were rude originally, rude in your response, and she already sent a letter of apology, though it was slightly terse.

For this you want to risk a 20-year-long relationship?!


Dear Stepmother,

I'm so sorry that you were hurt by our exchange in November. I will be more considerate with my dog in the future, and I agree that it is best that we communicate by phone. Sometimes the written word doesn't communicate our true feelings very well.

We are looking forward to seeing you at Easter--please let us know if we can bring anything (besides our dog...!)

Love,
Stepson
posted by sondrialiac at 4:17 PM on March 3, 2008 [16 favorites]


To be completely honest, her e-mail sounds very reasonable, and your appears to be the wacked out reply. A responsible owner should clean up after their pet, especially when they are a guest in some one else's home. Where you aware that you dog was crapping on their lawn? Did you bother to go out with a doggy bag and clean up after your dog?
posted by ShootTheMoon at 4:19 PM on March 3, 2008 [5 favorites]


you can surely understand how I am feeling at this present time?

I sure as hell can't understand it. Suck it up and write the apology. While her first e-mail was a little over-the-top, she has a valid concern which you flippantly—and insultingly, with that "take your meds" dig—dismissed. Your personal reaction to dogs crapping on your lawn is not at issue here; hers is, and you were a guest in her home. (Also, while you say that you "shrug off" the dog shit you find in your own yard, ask yourself whether you wouldn't confront someone if you saw them walking away after their dog dropped a load on your front walk.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:19 PM on March 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


There can be only one answer: Be a man and apologize for not cleaning up after your dog (and your shitty reply).

There is a reason that E-mail is not recommended for sending things like this. Sarcasm does not travel the tubes very well.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 4:20 PM on March 3, 2008


you can surely understand how I am feeling at this present time?

I sure can understand how she was feeling. Maybe she should've waited until she was over it a bit, but you can tell (1) she didn't, (2) she's aware of that, with the 'you can surely understand...present time.'

And that was a snotty reply you gave her with no apology for something that should've been apologized for. Had I been her and received 'Oops! Sorry,' I would've forgotten about it, while thinking well of you for the apology. Had I received what she did I would've been pissed.

I don't know that I'd stay pissed, but. It's easy to see how she got that way. Suck it up and apologize.
posted by kmennie at 4:20 PM on March 3, 2008


no.

maybe i should expand on that. here's the deal. as a dog owner meself, i can honestly say that your cavalier attitude is deplorable. if you are not responsible for your dog's actions, you are a menace. you exhibit a pronounced sense of indifference and entitlement. entitilitis. that sucks. clean the shit up... you ass (drum roll)

also: you want help being a passive-aggressive schmuck? the woman hates dog shit. you bring dog shit and act like a prick when she steps in it. that's what's known as 'adding insult to injury'. i hardly think helping you craft a backhanded escalation to your jerk behavior is going to help anyone here. man up, apologize for your scumbag antics and leave the dog home from now on. sheesh.
posted by momocrome at 4:21 PM on March 3, 2008 [5 favorites]


Your note reads like one written by an arrogant, insensitive jackass. No wonder she doesn't want to be around you. Say you're sorry, and say it like you mean it with no qualifications or excuses. Water can flow under the bridge, but you'll have to knock down that dam first.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:22 PM on March 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


If you'd sent that e-mail to me, I'd be pissed, too. Regardless of whether you think she's overreacting, she doesn't have a dog for a reason, and she doesn't appreciate cleaning up after yours. Not only did you insult her with your opening, your response to the substance of her complaint was that it might not have even been your dog, and if it was, oh well. Oh, and by the way, mockity mock mock by repeating her phrasing.

She was hot when she wrote her letter, but she was reasonable. There was not one part of your reply that wasn't selfish or dickish. You shouldn't merely apologize to smooth things over. You should apologize because your response was childish and wrong. The correct response was, "I'm sorry; I didn't realize Fifi left a mess. Next time we'll leave her home."
posted by headspace at 4:23 PM on March 3, 2008


I can see why she'd be pissed off. Have you thought about actually making a genuine apology? And it seems like her original email was quite reasonable, except for the capitals (but you can make allowances for that - she might not know about "shouting" if she's older).

So here's how I see it. You brought your pet to visit (why?) and didn't supervise it, and it left a crap on her lawn (which you personally don't like when other people let their dogs do it on your lawn). She stepped in it. It made her angry. She had to clean poo off her shoe, because you didn't watch your dog. So she emailed you about the problem, politely and explained why she didn't want your dog coming back. She even said that she was sorry if it upset you, but that she was sure of your understanding.

And you go, hey crazy person, suck it up. Not my problem. Let me ditto you to show how angry I am that you asked me to leave my dog at home.

You're in the wrong. If you want a decent relationship with her, you should give her a genuine apology. "You know what, bringing my dog was pretty thoughtless, and that email was way out of line. I'm sorry that (not if) I hurt your feelings. "
posted by b33j at 4:23 PM on March 3, 2008


lol. snarky.

I would elaborate on this: "Stepmom, I apologize for my hostile response to your first email. I apologize also for unexpectedly leaving a shit in your yard. However, while feces itself is biologically offensive, it can only personally offend you as much as you let it. We and our dog did not intend for you to trample his leavings. Shit happens (to everyone), and I would hate to think that something so trivial could leave a skid mark on our relationship."

But that sounds kind of sarcastic, too.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 4:23 PM on March 3, 2008


Yikes, what you wrote your step mom was pretty harsh. In just a brief paragraph you managed to:

a) imply she requires medication
b) dismiss her (valid) complaint by comparing it to how you have it so much worse
c) show zero empathy toward her feelings but expect her to empathize with you

If you respect this person at all, write a real apology and leave the dog at home.
posted by jamaro at 4:24 PM on March 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


While she probably was blowing it out of proportion, your reply was really rude. That meds crack, that's actually pretty offensive. Not wanting dog shit on your lawn is a fairly reasonable request, even if it was framed kind of badly, whereas laughing at her and calling her crazy was just totally uncalled for.

So yeah, I think you probably could apologise and probably should feel sorry. But since you're not sorry don't bother. It's going to be obvious that you don't mean it and that will end up being even more insulting.

This could have been handled with a lot more class from both sides.
posted by shelleycat at 4:24 PM on March 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


when you got the email you should have put yourself in her shoes - literally. Maybe she was wearing a nice pair of shoes and was running late for an appointment. The only thing worse than stepping in shit is having to clean it off your shoes. She wrote the email in anger and wanted you to feel the same pain she was feeling. You felt embarrassed and violated so you responded with your own defense mechanism - sarcasm. You both had a right to be pissed off and you both responded in a way that would piss off the other individual. Now you could be reading this and saying to yourself - you don't know the half of it - and that's true I only know this one instance, but if you love your father and want him to be happy with his family all at once, you should apologize and be done with it.
posted by any major dude at 4:25 PM on March 3, 2008


I'd say no more letters but a talk in person. It's hard to convey tones in email (or on paper).

And yes, had I gotten the response you sent, I would still be upset.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:25 PM on March 3, 2008


Usually telling someone to just get over it is not especially graceful or helpful.

Her email was inappropriate, I agree - she could have worder her issue in a more civil tone. But dismissing her out of hand and telling her to suck it up was not cool either. For that, yes, you should apologize. Something along the lines of, "I didn't respond to your email about our dog properly, and for that I apologize. I will make sure to not bring Poopykins to your home anymore."

If you want to fight the "she started it" battle", it might be better for you to do so at a time when you know your own attitude was above reproach. Then you can calmly tell her you were a bit thrown off by her words.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 4:26 PM on March 3, 2008


Yeah, she kind of overreacted. But you truly sound like a dick - why not clean up the dog shit?
posted by ghastlyfop at 4:28 PM on March 3, 2008


Can anyone offer ideas on how to write an apology letter that's not really an apology?

Your "LOL" email is a perfect example of this. I think you've got the apology letter that's not an apology down.
posted by yohko at 4:30 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


You may be fine having a dog poop mine field for a backyard, but she obviously doesn't. And frankly she's not alone in that. Personally, I can't stand it when dog owners don't pick up after their dogs.

I actually don't even think her initial email was all that over the top. A bit harsh but damn she stepped in dog shit, and your dog shit. Then you just came back with immature snark. No wonder she's pissed.

You should come up with a real apology, and really mean it. She's your dad's wife, she deserves better than a fake half-assed apology -- hell she deserves better just because she's human.
posted by catcubed at 4:35 PM on March 3, 2008


I have to agree with ShootTheMoon. It is absolutely a dog-owner's responsibility to clean up poop!

You admit you find it annoying when other dogs leave a mess in your yard, so admit that it was inconsiderate of you to leave your dog's sh*t in her yard. If you're able to shrug off such an offense, good for you; when you offend someone else, you don't get to choose that person's response. Your stepmother may have overreacted, but since you caused the offense, it's on you to be gracious about her disapproval.

If you're not sorry, maybe you should research the area's laws about restraining pets; my guess is you will find that you are, in fact, in the wrong here.

If knowing you're in the wrong doesn't make you sorry enough for a sincere apology, try doing it for your father, as spec80 suggests.
posted by whoiam at 4:38 PM on March 3, 2008


Echoing others here who say you're a jerk. She stepped in dog shit and was pissed, and sent off an email in the heat of anger. But she had every right to be angry--she welcomed not only you and your wife into her home, but was gracious enough to accept your dog as well. I know dog lovers who would be loathe to do this. For a person who does not like, or at least is indifferent towards, dogs shows she cared very much about your feelings indeed.

You proceeded to give her a slap in the face. One, by not cleaning up after your dog. Two, through your incredibly rude, smart-ass response, where you essentially claim no control over your dog and tell her to get over your dog leaving its shit in her yard, instead of apologizing for your error.

I love dogs. I love dogs. And that is why I absolutely detest the behavior of owners like you, who feel their dog is entitled to do as it pleases and you should not be held responsible for its actions. It is people who don't take responsibility for their dogs--whether through poor training, leaving dog shit around, or allowing destructive behaviors--that give everyone else in the world a bad impression of dogs and dog owners.
posted by schroedinger at 4:41 PM on March 3, 2008 [6 favorites]


As someone who has hit dog crap on a lawnmower, I can understand how she feels. Also, it's polite to pick up your dog's poo if you're not at home. I would tell her you are sorry (like, for real). Or offer to mow the lawn next time. And leave your dog at home.
posted by jenlyn1123 at 4:41 PM on March 3, 2008


Seconding apologizing right away. I wouldn't right a letter. Call her up. Jane and I want to tell you how sorry we are about the dog poop incident. I didn't see Spot use the bathroom and I am very sorry that happened and I profusely apologize for the sarcastic email. That wasn't fair.

Something like, I am so sorry that happened. I must have missed that she went to the bathroom. It won't happen again. from the get-go, from both you and the wife, no matter if she was present or not, would have prevented all of this.

And how does she know both of your work emails if they are so off-limits for personal use? Gosh, I could see how she would have her feelings hurt if your wife fired back, don't email me with this kind of thing response. We all say things we regret, but it all sounds disrespectful and rude. She's your father's wife, your step-mother of twenty years for goodness sake.
posted by LoriFLA at 4:44 PM on March 3, 2008


write
posted by LoriFLA at 4:44 PM on March 3, 2008


You sound like a total ass in your email. My guess is the fact that you even come into their house with a dog, if they indeed choose not to own a dog, tags you as a boorish clod. The errant pile of dog shit is just further confirmation of your stepmom's desire not to have one in the house.
posted by docpops at 4:48 PM on March 3, 2008


Maybe you should just go shit in her yard yourself? It seems like the logical follow-up to your original response.

Or you could try to cultivate a real sense of remorse over the fact that you're risking your relationship with your stepmother (and, by proxy, your father) over something so asinine and issue a genuine apology.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:48 PM on March 3, 2008


Can anyone offer ideas on how to write an apology letter that's not really an apology?

Why wouldn't you want to genuinely apologize for leaving dog crap in someone's yard? Even if you don't find stepping in dog crap to be that big of a deal, I'm sure you can understand how other people would.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:51 PM on March 3, 2008


did you forget to take your meds

That's also the sort of rejoinder, right alongside, "are you on the rag?" that stands as a fairly reliable litmus test for what kind of protoplasm is on the production end. Are you twelve?
posted by docpops at 4:51 PM on March 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


Her tone in her first message was curt and maybe a little overly offended, but your reply was over the top. It would leave me thinking "what the hell?" and I routinely joke with friends about being on/off meds. I can easily see why she was offended, especially if she isn't accustomed to joking about meds, and if she took that as a crack about her age.

That, coupled with the "don't contact us at work" must have felt like a huge and insulting blow-off, when she was probably expecting a low-key apology. Stepping in dogshit is upsetting (especially if she's already a neatnik), and a little humiliating. So she wrote that first message already feeling humiliated and angry. Then your response was basically "you're upset and humiliated, maybe because of something I did, and rather than apologize or sympathize I'm going to make fun of you and tell you not to contact me at work."

So: not the kind of response one expects in a basically happy and respectful relationship.

I think you should suck it up and apologize genuinely for hurting her feelings. You didn't mean to hurt her feelings and didn't even realize that you had; your lighthearted sarcastic message came off much harsher than you intended; you don't think she's crazy or anything of the sort; you're sorry for the dog-poop incident in the first place; and you hope that the two of you can return to the good relationship you had before.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:51 PM on March 3, 2008


The art of the non-apology apology. You should apologize for making her feel badly. You don't have to apologize for the offense, but you do have to apologize for the tone. Do this in person, and bring her flowers. It's a drag having family angry at you. Get rid of this.

And, from now on, I'd leave the dog at home.
posted by nax at 4:53 PM on March 3, 2008


It sounds like you're being a jerk and overreacting. Her email and all subsequent communications have been perfectly appropriate.

Your dog pooped and you didn't clean it up: case closed.

She apologized for emailing you at the wrong address, but that is hardly as major an offense as your dog taking a shit in her house/yard and you not cleaning it up!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with how she's handled it. However, your responses - including this thread - are inappropriate and cruel.
posted by luriete at 4:58 PM on March 3, 2008


This is quite probably redundant at this point, but your step-mother did have grounds to complain and all you had to do is apologize. You didn't and decided to belittle her ("LOL, did you forget to take your meds"). If I were you I would learn an apology is and then apologize. I'm not being sarcastic here, sometimes you have to be the better person and apologize for things that you don't think warrant such a response, in fact sometimes that's what a real apology is. In this case you should have apologized and didn't. Now you owe your step-mother two apologies.
posted by ob at 5:08 PM on March 3, 2008


Just to add to my point. Your step-mother sent you an apology after you complained that the email should not have been sent to your respective email accounts. I'm willing to bet that she didn't want to apologize but she felt that one was warranted by your feelings. That's the kind of apology that I'm talking about. It's hard to do, but in many ways that's what a real apology is. You should do the same.
posted by ob at 5:13 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


"If I were you I would learn WHAT an apology is..."
posted by ob at 5:15 PM on March 3, 2008


Your step-mother shouldn't have written to your wife, let alone at work.

But LOL? For realz? WTF?
posted by desuetude at 5:18 PM on March 3, 2008


Looks to me like you're one of the dog owners this New York Times article was written for.

I'm a dog owner myself, but I'm also mindful of how non-owners see canines: smelly, dirty, slobbery, bacteria-coated animals. Maybe you should try to see it from her point of view before deciding on a course of action?

In answer to your question, YES, apologize. Don't make a non-apology apology. You were wrong, and there's no way around it. Sit her down, apologize to her face, and never assume your dog is welcome in other people's homes, ever again.
posted by micketymoc at 5:24 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Apologize to your step-mother, and forward her the URL to this thread so she can see your ass getting publicly raked over the coals for being such a jerk.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 5:26 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd give up on the idea of an apology that's not really an apology. Those never work. Unless your stepmother is really dumb or extremely passive, it's just going to make her angrier.

You have to decide which is worth more: insisting that you were right to shit (by proxy) on her lawn or having a good peaceable relationship with your stepmother.
posted by ignignokt at 5:31 PM on March 3, 2008


I asked Dad where she is, he says shes still sore about my response and HE wants me to write her an apology letter to smooth things out. Should I do it?

In an effort to answer your question: I think you should write a very short note to your step mom saying something along the lines of "I think that our notes to each other may not have conveyed the tone of our thoughts. I'm sorry about the dog poop, I would really like to talk to you about the situation"

You could add something about verbal dialog being a better way to work something like this out.
posted by jonah at 5:32 PM on March 3, 2008


I find your reply especially callous. You should have picked up after your dog - it's certainly not their responsibility to pick up after your pets! She had a right to be upset. She deserves a genuine apology.
posted by Ostara at 5:41 PM on March 3, 2008


Send flowers and call her. Even if you still feel you're right, after reading all these responses, you can still be a classy guy, no?
posted by desjardins at 5:42 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


LOL, did you forget to take your meds?

Wow. What's it like being in junior high at your age?

Seriously, you should apologize sincerely and without reservation, because it's abundantly clear that you've you've behaved badly and hurt your stepmother's feelings unneccesarily. However, if you genuinely lack the empathy and remorse to understand this, at least apologize (as someone else said upthread) for your dad's sake. He's now been put in the position of being between his wife and his child, and that sucks. Man up and make it right.

And leave the childish taunts to, you know, children.
posted by scody at 5:43 PM on March 3, 2008


I suppose I should learn from your stepmother's misadventure and be careful where I'm putting my feet, but I'm completely off the path beaten out by your other answerers.

If I had received that email, I'd have to be convinced by a detailed and patently sincere explanation by your stepmother and your father that she wasn't using the dog simply as an excuse to try to discourage you from visiting your own father:

For all future visits please leave your dog at home. There is a REASON why we DO NOT have a dog! I do not wish to clean up after a dog....especially one that is not my own....

I'd have been very tempted to reply something like 'I'm very sorry to hear my dog is no longer welcome at your house; even though he's not related to us by blood, we've come to regard him as a member of the family-- and the kids are deeply attached to him. Our family has a tradition of accepting and loving those who are not our blood relatives, in fact, but maybe we should have learned better from your example over these last twenty years. I find it interesting you wouldn't have been as upset if had been your own dog; I can't help reflecting that I'm not your own, and neither are my children. No doubt you're tired of having to clean up after us, too. Oh well... perhaps it's good to have your true feelings come out now rather than letting it fester for another twenty years.'

You wouldn't send an email like that except as a declaration of open war, of course, but I will tell you no stepmother of my acquaintance or even my reading would have sent that email except as part of a campaign to put more distance between her husband and his children.

I think you should at the very least point that out to your father, and suggest to him that he should consider some kind of counseling with a professional competent in step-family issues if he doesn't want to find himself forced to be choosing between his wife and his children and grandchildren in the near future.
posted by jamjam at 5:45 PM on March 3, 2008


Anything I could say would be redundant at this point, but I think there's some value in seeing the sheer number of people who think you were wrong. You owe your stepmother a sincere apology, not an apology that's not really an apology. I used to be a non-dog-person and if you are not accustomed to cleaning up dog shit, it is truly, grievously offensive. Even though I am now a crazy dog person, I still rank stepping in dog shit (and having to wash it off my shoe) as one of life's most vile experiences. So for your non-dog-loving stepmother to receive you as a guest in her home, then have to step in your dog's shit, then have you belittle her for being upset about it--well, it's going to take a big sorry to cover this one. Anything less than a totally sincere apology is going to leave you in an even deeper hole.
posted by Enroute at 5:47 PM on March 3, 2008


Check this apology form from the Bureau of communication. I suspect it might meet your technical needs while not being sincere.
posted by maxpower at 5:51 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think you should ask your wife what to do - from your posting history, I assume you've used her account to post this Q, or she's got a long history of using your account on AskMeFi?

Regardless, from her previous replies I get the impression she's the sensible & reasonable one. She's probably already been telling you exactly what everybody else here is telling you.
posted by Pinback at 5:54 PM on March 3, 2008


You behaved like a brat, and I'm somewhat horrified and astounded that you're not only married but responsible for the life of a dog.

I hope you not only apologize sincerely and profusely but spend a good, long time making it up to her with random acts of kindness.
posted by bettafish at 6:02 PM on March 3, 2008


Do you know how hard it is to get mefites to agree on anything?

Apologize, and do it sincerely, and do it in person. Don't wreck a relationship with your stepmom and your dad over this. You can be right, or you can be happy - and in this case, in fact, you don't even get to be right. So just apologize already.
posted by rtha at 6:05 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even when a relative is completely in the wrong, it's a good idea to apologize. It's a small price to pay for harmony. A brief apology isn't just a formality; it actually can make a person feel a lot better, and it puts an end to the dispute and the tension.
posted by wryly at 6:15 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't know the full extent of your relationship, but from reading what you provided, you came across as the one who was off the meds. She sent you an e-mail--albeit an angry one--asking you to pick up after your dog, at least when you're at her house. You responded by suggesting that she was off her rocker.

I recommend a, "In hindsight, my e-mail was really brash and insensitive. At the time, I felt that [explain your side of things--"I felt that your e-mail was rude, especially given that it was sent to my work account."] However, I've come to see [her side of things--"that my e-mail was even more rude..."]. I hope you'll accept my apologies so that we can put this behind us."

Sometimes you don't even want to explain your side of things, as it can trigger a defensive reaction even when you're trying to apologize. It's good if she misunderstood your side of things, but I think she already conceded that she was wrong to send it to you at work.

A less-meaningful apology would be something like, "I'm sorry that I offended you. I hope we can put this behind us..." Note that you're not really apologizing for your actions, as much as how she construed it. This is really hollow, and I really hope you won't use it, even though it's what you're looking for.

I've come to be a fan of apologizing for things, whether they were really my fault or not. People get so caught up in being too cocky to apologize, and instead insist on defending their position. This is how people hold grudges for decades over trivial matters. Don't be one of them. Just apologize. Even if her e-mail was totally over the top, and yours was incredibly polite, the fact is that she was offended by it. So apologize, and "say it like you mean it"--a hollow apology is almost more offensive than not apologizing at all. No one here is going to think less of you if you "concede" and apologize--in fact, everyone involved will think more highly of you for putting this thing to rest.

I guess a good analogy is that people view apologizing for something as if it's admitting to a crime that you're on trial for. In actuality, it's more like pulling out your get-out-of-jail-free card. And whether you committed the crime you're on trial for or not, you should exercise that card.
posted by fogster at 7:07 PM on March 3, 2008


>I think there's some value in seeing the sheer number of people who think you were wrong.

On that basis, yet one more vote for "you were very rude and you should really apologise". I'm amazed you thought people would agree with your viewpoint.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:08 PM on March 3, 2008


I guess I'm the only one who thought she was rude and you were just rude back. I wish the two of you could have just laughed off the exchange of emails. Both of you sounded mean. Can't you all just call it even? I don't see why you have to apologize. You are a guest and she should have been gracious. Of course, I hate dog poop, too, but I don't think I would have ever sent such an email to a stepson.
posted by onepapertiger at 7:26 PM on March 3, 2008


I have a dog. I love dogs. And I agree with the 12 million previous posters. You should not bring your dog to a non-dog-lover's house. Don't even bring your dog to my house, since you apparently think I'm supposed to clean up after it. And if your dog could even remotely have produced the shit, you should apologize. Not only should you apologize for the dog mess, you should also apologize for your immature response to her email. In spades. In person. Without the dog.
posted by PatoPata at 7:35 PM on March 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


"I guess I'm the only one who thought she was rude and you were just rude back."

I thought the step-mom's original e-mail was slightly pushing the edge of civility, but wasn't really crossing the line. She had a legitimate complaint. She didn't give any kind of insult. She didn't demand any sort of unreasonable recompense - just asked for different behavior in the future. She was seemingly more annoyed about stepping in the dog poop than I would have been, but then I tend towards general mellowness.

The original poster's response, on the other hand, was clearly way over the line. He started out with an insult, then proceeded to completely dismiss his step-mother's complaint.

To the original poster:

1) If someone presents you with an honest complaint about your behavior, and your immediate response is an insult, then you're acting like an asshole. It doesn't matter if you think they're blowing it out of proportion, you're still acting like an asshole.

2) Everyone acts like an asshole from time to time. If you're a responsible adult, you admit it and offer apologies and/or recompense as necessary. If not ... well then I guess it's not an act.
posted by tdismukes at 8:07 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah. You're totally in the wrong here, and you owe her a huge apology. Partly for the dog shit, but mostly for your emails.

Did you seriously write "did you forget to take your meds?" to your stepmother?? Words fail me.
posted by ook at 8:28 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I am sorry that I hurt your feeling."
posted by Rumple at 9:23 PM on March 3, 2008


Whew! Almost unanimous responses here-I think that's almost unheard of on mefi! :) This is Mrs. Purenitrous here, and the Mr. and I have been laughing about your responses. The Mr. is a genuinely nice guy, and has been listening nondefensively to the suggestions. I did want to add a couple of points that he left out of the original question, as they do make him seem like less of an ass.
1. The email stepmom sent, which was sent to both of us on our government email accounts, had the subject line "Dog Shit". My email back to her, sent before the Mr. responded, was that I was sorry she was upset, and I was sure that the Mr. hadn't intended to have poop left at her house, ( I wasn't there during said visit) but I would prefer in the future she not send emails with a subject line with a profanity in it to my work account. She immediately responded that she would never email us again. It's not a problem that she email us at work-it was the content of the email.
2. We are very conscientious about picking up the poop. We almost never take our dog over there, just because it's simpler to leave her at home (they live in the same town we do)-but they've never asked us not to. We always have the plastic bag with us on the walks-you know the drill. That's why the Mr. said he wasn't sure it was really our dog's poop.
3. The Mr. and his dad have a relationship that consists largely, and happily, of flipping each other shit (the verbal, not the dog, kind). You know, yelling at each other about politics over dinner. "Are you crazy?!?! I can't believe you think that!" sort of stuff. The stepmom has always engaged in this kind of banter, too. The Mr. does admit that he meant the "did you take your meds" to be mean.
4. I think the thing that confused us both was that this happened months ago, and the Mr. has seen her several times since then. We had no idea she was still angry, and now feel extra bad. We had no idea that she, as father in law said, had been expecting a written apology for all these months.

And yes, as someone previously pointed out, part of the reason we're having a hard time sucking it up and doing the right thing is that there is a sense that, although the mister is the only one of their kids who helps out a lot at the house (his dad is in a wheelchair) we are less welcome there than her kids are. But yeah, he'll do the right thing.
posted by purenitrous at 10:09 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


"This is Mrs. Purenitrous here, and the Mr. and I have been laughing about your responses." So... a matched pair I would say?

1. The email address thing is a scapegoat, it really doesn't matter, she wanted to reach you and if she did send it to the wrong address it was likely an honest mistake, I don't understand either of you making an issue out of it at all.

2. Perhaps you are not, if you were that careful you would KNOW if the dog shit was your dogs or not.

3. "The Mr. does admit that he meant the "did you take your meds" to be mean. " umm... ok... that doesn't really help your case out here...

4. I doubt she was expecting anything more that better behaviour and a more balanced response to her points.

5. The argument presented in your final paragraph is also spurious, the logical conclusion to what you are saying is that because you treat your Father In Law well you have the right to be assholes.
posted by Cosine at 11:21 PM on March 3, 2008


purenitrous, I think your response puts this in a much more understandable light. Maybe the Mr can frame things that way to stepmom, "dad and I always joke around in that rough way, and I've always thought of you as part of that fun. I apologize for doing that with something that clearly hurt your feelings".

Obviously, if she is trying to create distance for whatever reason, for his dad's sake it's even more important to try to keep the bridges in good repair by apologizing and not giving her any basis for getting into a snit. I know it's frustrating to walk that line with someone who's not always reasonable, but even so he should at least try to avoid being mean to her. (Sounds like he sees that, from your response.) Anyway, good luck.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:31 PM on March 3, 2008


Ms purenitrous, thanks for the updated information. I think what you are witnessing is an attack of the Metafilter morality brigade, catlovin' division, sanctimony corps. I think the whole thing is blown way out of proportion -- the Stepmom sent an obnoxious email with a profane subject line to a work address -- in my mind, that is the modern equivalent of, say, a dog shitting on someone else's lawn. Your hubbie could have responded more civilly, to be sure, but the Stepmom in could have reacted more civilly as well. And yes, the dog could have not shat on the lawn, but then the Stepmom could have not been holding a secret and immature grudge for months.

So it's all a sawoff really, of somewhat grouchy action and reaction. Being a grumpy sort myself, I would probably issue a curt apology then let the Stepmom stew in her own juices for a while, and if his dad doesn't like that then he can tell her to grow up.
posted by Rumple at 12:34 AM on March 4, 2008


the Metafilter morality brigade, catlovin' division, sanctimony corps

Nope, my dog thought the OP was incredibly rude, too. Of course, her breed's known for its sanctimony, so take that for what you will.
posted by scody at 12:45 AM on March 4, 2008


Well your response puts things into a slightly different light. I quite understand step-mother issues (I married into mine) and I really wouldn't want to receive an email entitled "DOG SHIT" to my work email address, but still you should apologize. In the future it's much better to write an email expressing your true emotions at the time and then not send it until the next day, then you have time to look at the situation with some perspective and tone down the sarcasm/anger. This has proved quite useful in a few situations for me...
posted by ob at 2:17 AM on March 4, 2008


I think the whole thing is blown way out of proportion -- the Stepmom sent an obnoxious email with a profane subject line to a work address -- in my mind, that is the modern equivalent of, say, a dog shitting on someone else's lawn.

And yet, when you run over that email with a lawnmower, you don't get a faceful of dog shit. I've probably cleaned up more shit than anyone else in this thread - don't ask, this is not an exaggeration - and I'd rather receive a thousand emails with the subject "dog shit" than have to pick up one more pile.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:25 AM on March 4, 2008


What we should all take away from this is that if you receive an upsetting, angry or even just slightly "off" email, the proper response is to pick up the phone and ask what's going on. Never send an angry email in response to an angry email.

And Mrs. P, regarding the "her kid more welcome than us". Lots of baggage here. If you want any contact you are going to have to just suppress that kind of stuff. I didn't suppress it and as a consequence haven't talked to my dad in more than 12 years. And yes, it was originally something stupid like dog shit.
posted by nax at 6:36 AM on March 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


oh my god. talk in person about this. you're all adults.

also, note to dog owners: unless whomever you're visiting has explicitly said that you can bring your dog into their home DO NOT BRING YOUR DOG. if we wanted a dog in our home, we would get a dog.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:32 AM on March 4, 2008


I just have to say I strongly disagree with maloon and Rumple and their "I'm sorry your feelings were hurt" apology. That is NOT an apology. That is basically saying, "I'm sorry for how you felt, but not for what I did".

If you're sorry for something you did/said, say so. If not, well, at least have the guts to say that, and accept the consequences.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:13 AM on March 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


ORM -- I said "feeling" not "feelings". You owe me an apology.
posted by Rumple at 9:59 AM on March 4, 2008


Gee whiz, let it go. Write her a note, say you're sorry, talk about it in person and move on. Don't be confused why she is or isn't doing something like avoiding you or making you feel unwelcome or whatever. "Forgot to take your meds?" COLLECTIVE GROAN.

what you are witnessing is an attack of the Metafilter morality brigade

Hmm, not really, though. These all seem like pretty much legitimate and objective comments to me. Suck it up and say you're sorry and mean it, and try not to be such a dick in the future--especially in writing, where people can actually refer back to it and stay pissed at you forever.

By the way the fact that you were asking for help on how to be even more immature and "win" this battle strikes me as even more immature than your original actions, since it implies you think you're the better person even though you were the one who (maybe, but really it doesn't matter at this point) "started" the whole thing with your irresponsible behavior. If anything you confirmed it with your shitty (ho ho!) attitude.

Maybe you should just go shit in her yard yourself? It seems like the logical follow-up to your original response

LOL!! "What's your encore? Do you, like, anally rape my mother while pouring sugar in my gas tank?"

Oh, and nth'ing send her this thread to read. It may not change her opinion of you but at least it's interesting.
posted by ostranenie at 3:56 PM on March 4, 2008


You're completely in the wrong here. Not even close. Apologize to your stepmother, and leave the pooing dog at home next time. And feel lucky your father is still talking to you.
posted by commander_cool at 4:58 PM on March 4, 2008


« Older Where can I find useful (and free)...   |   Should I join the Army? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.