If You Love Me, Put a Sock In It!!

Guest Post from Naddin J "You need to get more exercise!" "You're looking chubby lately." "I like your hair cut short. When it's long it makes your face look fat." "Yeah, what a great kid," as I try to pacify my screaming six-month-old. "Why don't you have 12 more just like her?" I kid you not – these are real-life examples of the rudeness of my relatives. I have long tried to figure out the reason why family members feel the need to make unwanted observations about us, our bodies, our children, our homes, our lives. What exactly are they thinking? Is it a personality flaw? Are we hypersensitive? More important, how do some people simply let it roll off their backs while others hold on to every word forever? This weekend I was on the phone with my well-meaning but tactless grandmother and she said she wished I would start going to a gym. Completely from out of nowhere. This is not the first comment she's made about my size. I'm overweight, and yes, I should be doing more about it. I like to eat, and I don't like to exercise. I hate pictures of myself and I feel ugly. It's not a happy situation, and I'd like to get out of it, but hearing a remark that mean almost makes me want to go on a spiteful Twinkie-eating rampage. I hated the way I reacted to her comment. I first made sure she was talking about what I THOUGHT she was talking about - yes, she meant a gym, with the treadmills and the weight-lifting. She did not mean (as I hoped) a spa with facials and massages. Once I was sure I understood, I totally caved. I said something about how expensive gyms were and that instead, I ought to go outside and go walking - we have a nice park next door with lovely paved paths, but the bad winter weather has kept me indoors. I AGREED with her (I wish I could go back in time and slap myself silly). In my defense, rude comments always shock me, and I never know how to respond. I can always think of 100 things to say once I get my wits about me again - "Have you looked in the mirror lately, Grandma?" or "You wish I would join a gym? I wish you would buy a muzzle!" Later, my sister called and when I related this not-so-amusing anecdote, lo and behold, she had similar stories about our father saying the same things to HER. Again, this is a pot-calling-the-kettle-black situation. Dad was just diagnosed with diabetes and has been dealing with high blood pressure for years at the ripe old age of 63. The guy lives on Diet Rite soda and jalapeno poppers. He had me pegged as "hypersensitive" a long time ago, so that's probably why I've escaped his nasty remarks. Amazingly, family members will say things ruder than any stranger on the street could possibly think of. It's a sick, twisted comfort level - they think they can say anything, whether it's rude or not. It's a line some never cross that others not only march through, but seem blissfully unaware of. In some families, the lack of tact becomes a long-standing joke – “She came, she criticized, she left.” Try an experiment. Pick a name, any name, and casually mention to the nearest fellow bus rider or couple in the pew next to you in Sacrament meeting that you (or your wife, your daughter, your sister) are expecting a baby and trying to get ideas for names... how does Chlotilde sound? Most people will smile and congratulate you and say something polite like, "That's pretty," even though they loathe the name Chlotilde and think it should be abolished. Some less poker-faced folks might wince a little and say, "Wow, that's different," but most people will rein in their negativity. Strangers do that because most people want you to like them. Not so with family - they think you already love them (ha) and are therefore free game. When we told my husband's parents and sister we were naming our unborn daughter Isabella, they went off. "That's an old lady name!" "She'll get teased!" And my personal favorite - "You can name her that, but I'll NEVER call her that." After that, no matter how much they asked, we never again divulged our unborn baby's name until he/she was actually out of the womb and branded. How do we fix this? As the old saying goes, "You can't change anyone but yourself." We cannot, sadly, wave a magic wand and make these people into caring, sensitive, or at least polite individuals who think before they speak. No, we cannot tame them. We can only put them in their place. We must be brave and stand up for ourselves. If I'd said, "Why exactly do I need to join a gym, Grandma?" and let her continue to shove that foot farther inside her mouth, I'd probably have made her think twice about making rude comments in the future. Some will disagree with me and say I need to forget it. They're right. But my soul cries out for justice and some good old-fashioned Golden Rule. I can’t say how I’ll react to the next negative observation that comes – probably the same way. Take it, be polite, hurt, rant. But I hope that someday, I will be brave enough to say, in the words of Twisted Sister, "We're not gonna take it... anymoooooooore...."


Blogger Cheryl said...

I feel really bad for you and then at the same time, you are really lucky.

I deal with a family (in-laws) that walk on eggshells ALL THE TIME. They NEVER confront anything, they NEVER rock the boat, they DENY and IGNORE everything and in the end we all have ulcers, depression, and psychiatrists.

Yes, rudeness amongst family members is hard. And it sounds like some of your family members are somewhat ruder than most (I didn't mean to be rude by saying that!!!), but at least they are honest.

Because of my above mentioned in-laws, I'm grateful for a few honest and blunt words that I get on my side of the family. False flattery and lies don't exist, and so therefore, we can be ourselves with each other.

But there should be a line, and with my family there is ---and it's called RESPECT. I say the next time your family says rude things to you, tell them that "It's more important to be nice than it is to be right" or "Why can't you just show respect?"

Good luck with it all!

3/29/2006 11:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Wendy said...

I was the first in a long line of women on my in-laws side to breastfeed my baby. My mother-in-law said right out loud for everyone to hear that only poor women who could not afford formula nursed their children. Then when my baby developed jaundice I was also branded a bad mother by her, because she attributed my breastfeeding as the sole cause of my baby's jaundice. I was all hormones and emotions from just giving birth for the first time and I nearly had a nervous breakdown due to that woman's cruel and uninformed words. Ten years later and I'm still trying to forgive her.

Yes indeed, people ought to put a sock in it! Words hurt.

3/29/2006 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

My inlaws can also be pretty rude. They have no problems telling each other how fat they think they are. They also never tell each other when they look nice. Another thing they do is complain about each others cooking.

This sort of thing irratates me to no end.

We too have ran into the "that's a stupid name" issue with my inlaws. When they found out we were naming our little girl Ginevra, there were almost heart attacks to be had.

My single piece of advice is to confront them... nicely.

3/29/2006 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve said...

What about the next time someone makes a comment about your need to join a gym you respond with "You know, that's a great idea Grandma. I've been worried about you too, why don't we join together?"

Turnabout is fair play and best of all, you can do it without being rude back. *g*

3/29/2006 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger FrogLegs said...

I'm not as nice as you. I do say the comments that roll in my head. :)

I'm OW as well, and once had a old lady at church ask when I was expecting (double wound, as we've been trying for 2 yrs and probably will never be able to have a baby). I smiled, said I wasn't expecting, but "was so excited that she was." She obviously was just OW, like me... but it made me feel great!

As for my family-- they get the same. I should be nicer, but I blame it all on the doctor who told me I would have a nervous breakdown at 24 because of the road I was travelling. I loved her. She was wonderful- and I took her to heart. ;)

Now, I don't advise everyone running at the mouth as I do. Or even that what I do is right. But for me, it is right. :)

3/29/2006 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger mindy said...

Memorize this (or a similar) phrase:
"Wow, did you mean to be rude or did that just come out wrong?"

Guaranteed to at least make them stop & think, plus you aren't actually saying anything rude yourself, you're just calling them on their rudeness.

Happily, noone has said anything rude to me recently, but I sure wish I'd had that phrase tucked away a few years ago....

3/29/2006 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Trivial Mom said...

I totally understand where you are coming from. My in-laws are mostly really nice people. It's just my sister in-law (who also married into the family) that I struggle with.

She is pregnant and we are both due within ten days of each other. We are both having our second child. Her first is 3, my first is 18 mo. So when she found out I was pregnant it was "way to soon for me to be having another kid" and I "just got pregnant because I was jealous of the attention she was getting." Hello the kids are due ten days apart! I didn't even know she was pregnant by the time I had gotten pregnant. Not to mention the fact that I didn't even want to be pregnant yet, we got pregnant on the pill! I was already depressed about being pregnant, didn't want the baby, and was overwhelmed with having two so close together. You would think that knowing our situation she could be supportive of me and that us being due at the same time, and going through the same things would bring us closer together, but when she has that kind of attitude and says those kinds of things it's not going to happen. This isn't the first time there have been issues between us. It's just the most recent. My husband tells me just not to worry about it, to be the bigger person, but like you said, it is so hard to just let things roll off even if it is the right thing to do.

3/29/2006 02:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

There's this great song by Low called "Step" that always reminds me to be careful of what I say--especially to my kids. The chorus says,

Hey, keep an eye on what you say
You think the words just walk away
But they creep into my brain
Sinking deep into my step
My step

My family is more like Cheryl's in-laws.

3/29/2006 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Ah, In-Laws. Anyone who knows me knows I've got the Imperial Crown on this one, so I won't even go there. (Who else has had thier mother-in-law FAKE a heart attack to keep from having to talk to you? Uh-huh, like I said...)

Anyway, the suggestion of "Wow, did you mean to be rude, or did that just come out wrong" is a GEM and should be memorized by all of us! My family is blunt and I tend to be as well- but you can be forthright and still know when your opinion is uncalled for or unwanted.

Regarding the Name thing- we too learned that with our first child- we don't discuss names with our families until the baby is born and the paperwork is filled out- folks tend to bite their tongues a little better then.

Sorry your grandma made you feel bad. Grandparents day is in June- maybe you could get her that muzzle! ;)

Susan- those are good lyrics to remember.

3/29/2006 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth-W said...

I love Mindy's mantra!
Things I've said when I could've used her comment instead:

At 28, single, and living in BYU valley, in response to a virtual stranger's comment about why I wasn't married yet: "Well, actually Jake's next parole review is in 18 months, so I'm guessing the wedding will be a couple weeks after he gets out."

To my uncle who is 60ish and asks me when we are going to have another baby: "My husband had a vasectomy so I think we're done. When are you going to have your next baby?" The look on his face was priceless.

3/29/2006 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Mo Mommy said...

My father has come into our home, on a military base, during a party filled with military members, and said how stupid people are to join the military. I guess he thought he was doing us all a favor.
Sometimes you just have to lay down the law. I don't allow my father to come into our home, in fact, I don't even think he knows our new address. If he's going to say something horrible, he's going to have to do it in a place where we can get up and leave. I don't want my sons to end up with atittudes like his ("JFK's asassination was the best thing to happen to this country")and if he is allowed to run his mouth whenever he wants ("just telling it like it is!")than I am allowed to leave when ever I want.
I have friends whose families have them convinced they are selfish and worthless people, though they truly are not. Sometimes you really DO have to look out for number one.
Mindy, brilliant! and much better than the time I said "Wow, that was the rudest thing I've ever heard! You should be proud too, cause I've heard some doozies" I think I'll just use yours from now on.
Tracy, you win. And I KNOW.
elizabeth w, I wish I could be smart like you ;)

3/29/2006 05:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Nicki said...

Something to think about:
My grandmother can be one of the rudest, most negative people I've ever met - to my mother. She loves to criticize my mom to her and behind her back. I guess she feels it's her right or something. One day my mom told me that she hoped she never acted like that. I hated to inform her that there had been times when she had done the exact same thing to me and that it was really hurtful. She was completely shocked and asked my forgiveness. Unfortunately it's happened again since then.

That experience really made me take a look at myself. I realized that not only are bad habits hard to break, they're also passed down to your children. I'm guilty of being overly critical of my husband and maybe someday of my children. I'm realizing that when I'm offended it should be a learning experience on how not to treat others - especially the ones I love. I do not want to be my crotchety, overly-critical grandmother!

3/29/2006 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Heidi M said...

One thing that has worked for me when someone has said something rude is . . .

If on the phone, I quietly say, "Oh, okay, I have to go. Can I call you back later?" That makes me feel good because I don't have to continue to listen to the unsolicited advice. Also, almost every time, it immediately solicits an apology/clarification which almost always makes me feel better. If the apology doesn't come immediately, it invariably comes up with the next conversation because the other person is left with that rude thing being the last thing they said. Most people don't want to end a talk that way.

If it's in person, I'll often do the same thing - "Will you excuse me? I'll be back in a minute." Or if I say something to change the subject, people usually get it.

I KNOW these things wouldn't work for everyone, but I've found them pretty effective. I, too, have been labeled "hypersensitive/oversensitive" by my parents. Those labels almost hurt more than the comments. It's too bad that family members don't always seem to understand that when they say negative things it often hurts much, much more than if a stranger said them. Family's words hold more weight because we typically care more about what they think about us.

3/29/2006 07:12:00 PM  
Blogger No Cool Story said...

Heidi m Family's words hold more weight
Here's how I have dealt with rude comments within extended family:

1) 2 years ago we had a talk as a family, about our extended family: we will not sit and listen to anymore gossip and/or rude comments about other family members. We'll tell them to stop or we just leave, or call back later (like Heidi m also adviced). Period.
And then, we talked to them, and they all said they understood.
We have a saying in Spanish: "sobre advertencia no hay engaño" ("under warning there is no deceit"...so it's like "Fair warning!").

2)There are other extended family members that (as MO Mommy's father) are not allowed into our house.

I'm just like Naddin, rude comments always shock me. I get rude comments from stepkids, and those are hard. I'll keep Mindy's mantra in mind.
I know I'll never be cool and unshocked enough to say fun things like elizabeth-w, oh well.

3/29/2006 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

Hola Hermana!

Proud: Hubby thinks I should have said to her, "I'll go if you pay for it!" and gotten a free membership to the Y out of her.

Mindy & Mo Mommy: Absolute genius. I also liked Heidi's. I was just picturing how that would go:
Grandma: "Start going to a gym!"
Me: "OK, bye!" :click: :)

Off to Petco to buy a muzzle now....

3/30/2006 01:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel ya Naddin J aka cita. When the very people that were considered your "safety net" as a child say things that tear you down, it hits something much deeper within than when a stranger says it. It's not that they think I'm fat, it's that they feel it is more important to say something about my weight than to consider my feelings. And in their mind that is truely where it stops. In their thought processes they didn't go that normal step further and think, "boy, maybe that would really hurt her feelings if I told her she's fat."

I think it is that betrayal that hurts more that the actual comment. I know I am overweight, I can deal with it. I choose it by what I eat and what I do. But someone whom I thought loved me and would never hurt me is calling me and saying something so rude is destructive of that deep childhood love and comfort that they once provided. And it is shocking. It throws you right off your train of thought and isolates you. All of a sudden you are left with a terrible choice. I can either say something rude back or just take it. And being Naddin's sister, I know saying something back to "Grandma" is hard because she is also the queen of guilt. She will act like the comment only had good intensions, she was just worried about you, and for pity sakes why are you so darned sensitive honey?

I love Mindy's mantra b/c it is tactful and defensive all at once. It will probably work against most people. Unfortunately, with "Grandma", she is too stuck in her ways. I always tell Naddin, "the old bat is going to die soon, just let her say what she has to say and try not to listen."

It may not be nice, but it is how I see it. Let her die thinking she was helpful and loving, and forgive her later. She's not going to get it anyway, the woman is going to just act like a wild animal that has been cornered. No matter what is said, you are either too sensitive, rude yourself, or just not getting that she means well. Which I think she does but is bad at communicating.

It is a good lesson. Knowing how much comments tear at your self esteem and heart, maybe all of the negative thoughts I have about my children will stop at just thoughts. Knowing what sort of pain I can put them through is enough to make me try harder to give my children more love and less grief.

3/30/2006 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you heard the joke: What is the difference between in-laws and out-laws? Out -laws are wanted. I know , I know, just feeds into the whole unpleasantness! : ) My mother-in-law once told me she "just wanted her grandchildren to be safe and loved.With Jane Doe(sister-in-law)they are loved and with you they are safe" Hmmm, I guess together we would be a good mom. I am always told she doesn`t mean to be offensive. Just wish she would think a bit before speaking.

3/30/2006 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

Ha - outlaws wanted.

My friend Autumn and I were talking today - she's "hypersensitive" like me - and the thing we figured is that we were given these obtuse family members because we are such caring, sensitive people. It serves two purposes: someday they will learn to bite their tongues (hopefully) and we'll grow a backbone (hopefully).

LOL at "old bat." Sorry. I shouldn't laugh at that but my sister is just too funny (and too dead-on).

3/30/2006 05:10:00 PM  
Anonymous alli b. said...

Your post could have been describing my relentless family. I was actually rolling in my chair laughing.

When I was 19, I met this guy who has remained one of my very best friends. He has two brothers, and they are so close and respectful, and my friend told me (this utterly shocked me) that he'd rather hang out with his brothers than anyone else, given the choice.

After growing up in a big, boisterous, teasing, sometimes viciously mean family, I couldn't figure out what it was with them. Then my friend told me that his mom used to tell them that in families we have two big choices about how we look at each other.

Since family relationships are our most permanent, we have can either treat our families worse than we'd treat strangers because they have to forgive us, or we can treat them better than we'd treat anyone else, because we want our closest relationships to be our best.

I try to do this with my husband and kids, and with my brothers and sisters. When my dad makes a comment about my "soccer legs" I smile and say, "it's so nice that I got good nutrition as a child and don't have to worry about osteoporosis." When someone notices I've gained a couple of pounds, I joke, "more to love."

By setting my own boundaries, I've reached a point where I get along really well with my siblings, and I am so happy with the respect my children have for each other. I don't think I can change my parents, who are unnecessarily critical and (I think) often hurtful and manipulative. So, I do my very best to limit my interaction with them to something I can deal with. I'll talk to my dad on the phone until he asks about my little brother, who lives with my family. Then I tell him I have toddlers running around and I need to get off the phone. Talk of my brother is the opening for criticism, most of the time. If my mom ambushes me, I tell her how much I wanted to talk, but it's not a good time and I'll have to call her back in a few days.

Sometimes I feel so upset that I sulk for hours after talking to my parents. But I have to be able to be in charge of the atmosphere in the home where my children live. The most important thing for me right now is making sure that my daughters are supportive and loving friends to one another, instead of chief critics and competitors.

Of course, my dad's always been sort of a bully. When I was a kid if we walked by him when he was watering the garden or washing the car he'd soak us with the hose. He'd splash cyclists and pedestrians on rainy days. On road trips, he'd pull the car around to the side of the gas station when someone was in the bathroom and think it was HILARIOUS when they'd come out, bewildered, afraid they'd been left. This isn't teasing, in my book. It's torture.

4/01/2006 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

"Since family relationships are our most permanent, we can either treat our families worse than we'd treat strangers because they have to forgive us, or we can treat them better than we'd treat anyone else, because we want our closest relationships to be our best."

Alli, THANK YOU. That is perfect!

My aunt, who married into the family, and her family (parents and sibs) are that way. They are all about EACH OTHER. She and my uncle raised their kids the same way, and my sister and I have commented about how loyal, loving, and safe-with-each-other our cousins are... it inspires the ultimate feeling of confidence. It's so refreshing to be with them because you come away feeling great about yourself (what a shock).

Now to go and hug the life out of my kids! And I am SO cross-stitching your quote. :)

4/01/2006 11:06:00 PM  

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