General Etiquette > Life...in general

When answering honestly would be awkward

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Allyson:
Ack! So I had an encounter yesterday that for some reason totally threw me off, and I completely froze, even though I should really be used to this by now.

So, my mother died when I was a kid. I am an adult now. Usually I forget Mother's Day is even a thing until I read everyone's Facebook posts about it. It doesn't actually emotionally get to me at all anymore--other things do, but not this (we were never really a 'holiday' family, which is probably why.)

I went to the corner store next to my house yesterday and the clerk there is someone I frequently chat to. He's a little bit socially awkward and overfriendly; is one of those people who genuinely "means well". This interaction occured:

Clerk: Did you visit your mother today?
Me: (deer in headlights!) "Uh...no"
Clerk: Did you at least text her, or call her?
Me: Uhh...*starts frantically pretending I can't remember my PIN and seeming very absorbed in the machine*

I pretty much just gave him silence, not for any reason other than I literally could not figure out what to say! I felt like suddenly coming out with the actual answer would have made it incredibly uncomfortable--I'm sure he would've apologized like crazy and then I would have been having to answer that. I get that he was rude to ask that, especially repeatedly--a lot of people might be in my situation, or be estranged, etc. So perhaps he "deserved" the honest answer and dealing with the discomfort he felt. But *I* didn't want to have that interaction. He didn't upset me emotionally by asking; I just didn't want to have that conversation with him.

I used to be much better at dealing with questions of that nature because it happened far more often when I was a teenager, but I felt really unprepared today. Can anyone think of a better way to answer him than staring at him blankly like I did today? Maybe "No, but did you?" and turn it around to him? Which I didn't think about til right now...

So...yeah, what to do when somebody asks an innocent question, but the honest answer is something that will suddenly turn the conversation into something you don't want to have?

Daquiri40:
"My mother passed away".  That's what I say.  "I lost my mother many years ago" is also something else I sometimes say.  And then smile.

TurtleDove:
First, I am sorry you lost your mother so young.  For a stranger, I might just lie and say, "Yep!" and go about my way.  For people I have a relationship with I think it is all in the delivery.  One of my two sisters died young, and occasionally I will get, "So is it just you and Older Sister?" For strangers, I would answer, "Yep!" If it is someone I like and have a relationship with I will be honest but it is all in the delivery: "We had a younger sister who died, so growing up we were three - fun times!  How about you?  Any siblings?" (all said with a smiling conversational tone, so it's clear I am neither offended nor about to dissolve into tears).

TootsNYC:
I'm sorry you lost your mom young.

I think it's reasonable to say, "Oh, my mom passed away." Sure, the other person is going to feel awkward, but the truth is, that's what they get.
   They're really sort of overstepping; if they don't know you personally, they really shouldn't be poking into that.


My dad posted on Facebook:


--- Quote ---Clerk: Aren't you going to buy a flower for your wife?
Clerk: Oh, uh, I'm sorry, sir!
--- End quote ---

You're not alone. And I'm w/ TurtleDove--it's completely not necessary to tell the truth everywhere. My dad could have simply said, "no, thanks." and left it at that. The store clerk doesn't need to know for future reference that my mom is dead.

Though, it's probably a decent lesson for them to learn in the natural course of things.

JenJay:
I'd be honest and don't worry about the other person feeling bad, it's an awkward situation.

Something similar happened to me. I said "Actually he's passed" and the cashier stumbled around trying to apologize. I gave her a smile and said "That's okay, I like remembering him. Have a good day!" Maybe that would work?

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