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Can we just answer the question?
January 19, 2013 11:02 PM   Subscribe

People not answering questions but instead trying to act as pseudo-psychologists as in this post. Can we not do this, please?

As a community you already answered how one would get rid of a dead body. Refusing to answer the actual question after -that- is just attempting to smother people with your pity and your own past.

It's also wasting the asker's time and one question a week quota to skip around their question and answer what you think they "should have asked." If the question is vague or a super-long punctuation-less rant, then I'd understand, but in this case the asker made sure to be rather specific...
posted by DisreputableDog to Etiquette/Policy at 11:02 PM (85 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Say someone asks the question "What are the most effective means of suicide?" They follow it up with a detailed rant about how much they hate themselves and their life and how depressed they are. I think it is a feature of AskMefi, not a bug, that most people would answer such a question with admonitions to get help and links to hotlines, rather than a listing of the most effective means of suicide. A more dramatic example than the post you referenced, but it's got the same mentality behind the answers.
posted by schroedinger at 11:19 PM on January 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


If the OP really just wanted to know the average lifestyle for the child of a single doctor in the mid-90's, he/she wouldn't have included eight paragraphs of detail.
posted by acidic at 11:33 PM on January 19, 2013 [82 favorites]


is just attempting to smother people with your pity and your own past.

You are talking about the OP of the question, right?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 11:36 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was just checking that thread out a few minutes ago, and it seems like most or all of the answers since lobster_mitten's note are answering the question of lifestyle and education, but if I'm missing something, go ahead and flag, and I'll have a look.

One thing I'll mention is that sometimes people post questions with a great deal of information that is background for why they are asking the question, but then they don't really want people to address that part of the post. This is understandable in one way, because sometimes people are working out in their heads how to feel or think about something, and a lot of that internal dialogue ends up included in their question, but it often becomes a problem because people absolutely will address that information in one way or another.

Also (and not necessarily talking about this instance), but sometimes the question is so hard to find or such a minimal part of the post that it becomes apparent that the poster is really asking more about the background than the nominal question ("I've been invited to a party by my father's girlfriend who is also my SO's Ex, and she once tried to kill me. Her son is also my boss and a total asshole, but I can't get another job because I signed a contract to work for him for 75 years. Should I go to the party? (PS: I'm a vegan.)")

Obviously, I'm wildly exaggerating, but I spend a lot of time looking at Ask Metafilter questions because I'm trying to figure out, for example, if a particular flagged comment is actually answering the question or not, and I notice a lot of commonalities in certain threads that are harder to keep on track. When the tone of a question is extremely angry / desperate / outraged / sad / offended / hopeless, etc. there is an understandable tendency to try to address the underlying emotion. When a post concentrates more on other issues than (even the very clearly stated) ultimate question, the other issues will pretty much always come into play in the answers.

So, one good rule of thumb is that if you are asking a question and don't want derails into the process you are going through, or your feelings about it, or any other specific aspect of the situation, minimize the air you give that part of the exposition. Try to pare the question down into the most reasonable, straightforward version you can muster. If you really don't want people to comment on your reasons for asking, concentrate on making that part of your question the least "exciting." One might say something like, "I'm trying to resolve some possible misconceptions I might have had growing up, and it would help me to understand X, Y, Z," for instance.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:44 PM on January 19, 2013 [31 favorites]


Oh, I also have a general tip for people posting questions that might potentially be complicated, complex, or confusing:

When you are looking at your question in the preview window, take a look at the related questions that will show up above your post preview. Do they seem to accurately reflect the essential substance of your question? In other words, if your question is about, say, how to dress for your new job, and the related posts that you see in the preview window are mostly about dating, self-esteem, exercise or whatever, you may not be presenting your actual question in the most direct way, and there's a chance that you will get advice that ranges beyond "office-appropriate wardrobe for X job."
posted by taz (staff) at 12:58 AM on January 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


Can we just answer the question?

Which one, DisreputableDog? This one? How badly did we get scammed?

This one? Guess what normal is

This one? What might my life and opportunities have been like if she hadn't been a narcissist?

This one? What could she really have afforded if she'd had our best interests at heart?

I count at least 5 question marks, and there are a bunch of other questions/requests in that post that don't have question marks on them.

In all honesty, I don't think the OP wanted people to restrict themselves to answering the question at the very end: TL;DR: Were you a doctor, or the child of a doctor, in a single-income household during the 1990s? What was your family's lifestyle and education like?

If the OP really and truly only wanted people to address that question then I do not think they would have included the other thousand-odd words in the post. I think that the OP wanted the opportunity to vent about their upbringing, wanted a bit of sympathy for the unfairness that they believe they experienced. I think the OP wanted people to address all of those questions in the post. I think the OP wanted people to talk about narcissism, about being raised by narcissists, etc. I think the OP wanted people to analyze the situation. I think the entire reason for including the backstory was so that people would analyze it.

However, I don't think the OP expected or liked the tenor of the initial answers that they got. After that, suddenly, people were only supposed to answer the final question in the last line and ignore the rest of it. Well, if the rest of it was to be ignored, isn't it a waste of people's time to have them read it? Just delete everything else in the post and keep that last line, then -- but it seems the OP didn't want to do that.

I think if you use AskMe to vent rather than strictly ask questions, you can't complain when answers take what you vented about into account. I think if you seek sympathy on AskMe or on the internet at large you don't have much of a leg to stand on if people tell you in their answers why they are not sympathetic.

Most importantly, whenever you ask a question, here or anywhere else, if there are assumptions in your question, a good answer may challenge those assumptions. If you ask a super long question with a truckload of assumptions in it, it is legitimate for people to challenge some of them when they reply.

Honestly, I really wish the question could be cut down to that last line if the OP has decided that's the only thing they want people to address.
posted by cairdeas at 1:37 AM on January 20, 2013 [52 favorites]


I think DisreputableDog is referring to the fact that the poster specifically asked to people to not ask like a therapist, because they already have one. That was the seventh answer in.

If the OP really and truly only wanted people to address that question then I do not think they would have included the other thousand-odd words in the post.

Unless one read the actual comments by the OP, sure.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:59 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not-answering-the-question doesn't lend itself to hard-and-fast rules, as there is a continuum of appropriateness. At one extreme there is 'How much ammonia and bleach should I mix to clean my garage?' or 'What's the best way to conceal the bruises I get after arguments with my boyfriend?' These are cases where it would actually be wrong to answer the question as asked.

At the other extreme, there is the 'gotcha' phenomenon, where answerers jump on an ambiguously-worded or vague part of a question, assume the worst and throw lots of 'tough love' criticism at the OP, while neglecting the actual problem. This often goes hand-in-hand with people feeling the need to answer some, any aspect of the question, even if it isn't really what the OP is having problems with, a form of male answer syndrome which doesn't appear to be particularly gendered on Metafilter.

For example, the user who recently asked about stopping a period that was underway was wise not to specify why she wanted to halt her menses - there's a good chance that if she'd mentioned it was because her boyfriend was visiting, the thread would have been derailed by suggestions about towel colour, positions, diaphragms, tampons and implications that her boyfriend was over-squeamish. By keeping it simple, she got the answers she wanted, rather than dealing with people who don't know anything about halting periods, but have strong opinions about period sex that Must Be Shared.

I answered a question a couple of weeks ago which went something like 'I have life problem X and I am thinking of making life change Y. Any advice about life change Y?' I, and several of the other answerers, replied with practical advice about life change Y based on our own experience of making it and observing others make it, but also pointed out that life change Y doesn't generally solve life problem X and sometimes actually makes it worse. The OP responded rather grumpily that s/he hadn't asked for that, but I still think it was appropriate to point out the possibility that s/he was labouring under a false assumption.

So, as usual, it's a balancing act which doesn't have clear rules and works best when those answering try to step back and honestly ask themselves what the most helpful answer for the OP would be, not the most satisfying for them to give.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:28 AM on January 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't understand why the question wasn't deleted

TL;DR: Were you a doctor, or the child of a doctor, in a single-income household during the 1990s? What was your family's lifestyle and education like?

Let's forget about the attitude of the question or why one might be irritated by it. It is a question that is unanswerable. The lifesyle of one doctor's family has zero bearing on the lifestyle of another.
posted by 2manyusernames at 3:10 AM on January 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well, no, it's not unanswerable to ask what someone's lifestyle and education was like growing up. An unanswerable question would be more like, "what do women/men like to do for fun?" or "what's a good book for someone who's sick?"

People can definitely answer what their "normal" was as part of a single-income doctor's family, even though it may not resolve the problem underlying the question, or represent the most direct route to get to there.

Sometimes people are working things out and trying to put pieces together to understand something; sometimes they are trying to get the shape of that thing clear in their minds... and sometimes their Ask Metafilter question may be a part of that process but not the key to the whole solution. Sometimes asking questions like how typical / normal /abnormal / bizarre is X?, when you don't have anything else to compare X to, can clarify a small piece of the puzzle, and answers to that may suggest a new approach or avenue of examination or investigation.

In this case people are both describing their normal, and cautioning that both income and debt levels were likely to vary a great deal, so that is helpful information surrounding the question that may be useful to the OP.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:29 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know, some people here really ARE psychologists, and social workers, and therapists... not everyone is "pseudo".

If a question contains a lot of background information, pages of background information, then I assume that the OP wants me to consider that background information as I formulate an answer to the question. If that background information wanders into the realm of psychology, interpersonal relations, family dynamics, then I might refer to that in my answer.

For the OP, or someone wanting to rescue the OP (In the old Transactional Analysis victim/persecutor/rescuer sense), to then come back and be distressed that I referred to the information they gave me becomes pretty gamey.

That question could have been asked just as 2manyusernames stated "Were you a doctor, or the child of a doctor, in a single-income household during the 1990s? What was your family's lifestyle and education like?", but it wasn't.
posted by HuronBob at 4:51 AM on January 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


The more expansively the question is written (that is, the background info, tangents, etc.), the more expansive the answers will tend to be, including possibly going beyond the literal question to address issues that seem to be implicitly raised by the post. The specific post you link to happens to be written very expansively. That leads to certain types of answers. As people have suggested, the question could have been reworded more narrowly, and then the answers would have been narrower. So this is largely up to the OP.
posted by John Cohen at 6:25 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


All of the psychologists, social workers, therapists, and doctors I know avoid sites like this and especially avoid answering any questions which call on their occupational expertise because of two reasons: a) it's their day job, and therefore not particularly relaxing and b) omfg the malpractice liability.

I am not any of the above. I just happen to know three or four people who are on a social basis.
posted by saveyoursanity at 7:05 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


answer the actual question after -that- is just

I've never seen anyone hyphenate both ends of a word to add emphasis. Is this common? It's fascinating.
posted by heyho at 7:26 AM on January 20, 2013


Regardless of intent, you get out what you put in.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:50 AM on January 20, 2013


hehyo: it's probably a vestigial holdover from a forum/board/newsgroup etc that didn't have underline or italics. I've also seen it as "would you _really_ have thought that?" etc.
posted by Iteki at 8:34 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wrote a comment in a different MeTa thread about common ways that questions get asked badly. And by badly I don't mean "You did this wrong" but more like "The way you did this is unlikely to get the results that you say you are looking for and it might be a good idea to ask this question differently to get those results."

I tend to look towards the sentences with question marks at the end of them and figure that any of them might be the question the OP is asking. Every answerer, I think, does a bit of reality checking where they look at the question being asked and they look at the OPs stated problem to be solved and they see if they line up in a way that is sensemaking to them, the potential answerer. If they don't, a number of things can happen, not all of which are problematic.

I agree that once the OP and LM stepped in to that thread people should have tried to narrow their focus a bit and I think they mostly did. We delete a lot of "I know you are asking about your hot date but I have to PLEASE PLEASE beg you to have safe sex" sorts of answers where we know people have the best intentions but they're still projecting their own stuff on to the OP, whether it's baggage or just fyi type of stuff it's still usually unhelpful. That said I did comment early in that thread, as someone who had come from a similar background, because I thought the things I had learned as a result may have been useful. Hard to say.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:34 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't know, sometimes unsolicited advice is called for. There is no shittier feeling than finding out after you screwed up royally that there was someone who had knowledge or counsel that would have been helpful that wasn't given. Advice that we don't welcome is often rejected initially, but sits somewhere inside us giving us options as we go off careening towards the wrong goal.

I stopped myself twice yesterday from telling the OP no matter how she felt about it now, she was given a valuable gift. Frugality is a good place to come from. I grew up raised by people who had been dirt poor (not owning shoes poor) and we didn't have much when I was young. Knowing how to get myself and my family housed and fed thru lean times has been a boon, I tell ya.
posted by readery at 10:22 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Love how she equates not getting all the things she thinks she was entitled to as being scammed.

Parents are obligated to feed you, keep a roof over your head, get your ass to school, and try to love you. Anything else is gravy.

That's an effed up question. I'd say it should have been removed with a "try to be a bit more concise next time."

I agree with 2manyusernames. It is unanswerable, because the question isn't "How did you grow up as the child of a doctor," but rather "How should I have grown up if I hadn't been scammed out of what was so rightfully mine!" Talk about narcissistic.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:24 AM on January 20, 2013 [35 favorites]


As someone who mentioned therapy after the OP said she was in it, I just want to say that I was typing that as she posted. With the amount of focus she had on her terrible mother and how resentful she was over not being normal (and I think "normal" really isn't--many of the high income families I've known had odd money issues and grubby parents and I've known some poor families who were absolutely generous), I really think it should have been in the wall of text question. Because, having read the whole thing, it really seemed to me to be the most appropriate answer. Frankly, it still does. Maybe better therapy or different therapy, if it's not working. I don't know.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:38 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think people did ok in that thread, some good early answers addressed the background stuff (maybe you're not asking the right question) so that point was amply covered, and then people got around to answering the question OP had intended to ask. So, all's well that ends well in this case.

In general, posting to AskMe - even in an unfocused and button-pushing way - doesn't mean it's open season for everyone to comment on one's character or psychology or give "tough love" about whatever issues they feel like commenting on. Similarly, it would be great if people didn't use this MeTa thread as an pretext to give the OP a piece of their minds.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:43 AM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think if you use AskMe to vent rather than strictly ask questions, you can't complain when answers take what you vented about into account.

I do think this bears repeating, though. I've watched a few friends and loved ones use metafilter as a way to vent and seek sympathy and it always goes badly even when the advice is right. When it comes to human relations questions, Metafilter is a bad place for validation. It's a good place for practical problem solving.

(I suspect the OP didn't mean for the question to seem like a human relations question even if it was categorized that way, but rather thought she was asking for a simple concrete data in which case I think it would have been easier to ferret that out with less information.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:50 AM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I absolutely agree about venting/sympathy-seeking being a bad use of AskMe (in nearly all cases).
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:58 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a fascinating thread and I'm glad the OP asked (even with the wall of text). It touched on a lot of hot-button issues for AskMe: cost of higher education; class; parents with personality disorders. It seemed people were mostly respectful of the painful aspects of the OP's childhood. It's useful for people to learn about the choices other people make with their money, so they can make better choices for themselves.
posted by stowaway at 12:01 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I stayed out of that one because I grew up really poor, understand a whole bunch of the anxieties and neuroses that come from never having money and, say, feeling super guilty about needing new shoes or whatever, and couldn't get past the, "Yes, it's so terrible that you only had occasional Caribbean vacations. Who knew that they made violins so small?"
posted by klangklangston at 12:08 PM on January 20, 2013 [46 favorites]


I think that thread actually does give the OP a useful answer; there's a wide range of normal.

Parents make choices about how much to give their children and the level of wealth does not directly correlate to how much is provided. Some parents of little means struggle to provide their children with expensive private school educations, pricey vacations and lavish wardrobes. Some affluent parents choose to not provide for children beyond the basics.

The question asked what's normal. Beyond providing for children's basic needs, there's not a definable benchmark by which she can measure the amount her mother provided for her children.
posted by 26.2 at 12:36 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the question needed more than a specific answer to the question. While there is a specific question posed, there's a lot of additional information. I believe that answering only the question would be a dis-service to stuck on an island. I agree with Jessamyn's point that if the question is framed in a messy way, the answers are likely to be messy.
posted by theora55 at 12:51 PM on January 20, 2013


I thought the answers were very interesting because they had me nodding my head along, "oh yeah that was the norm in my circle, too! Good to know!" and I'm not even the asker.

That said, I don't think the asker was "scammed" out of the childhood they "deserved" because they weren't given luxuries; I do think that their mother's constant refrain that her children were a burden and a nuisance and the asker having to beg for necessities like a winter coat, is not normal and not something a child should have to go through. Even very poor parents somehow manage to avoid giving their kids the message that they are a burden and a financial drain and keep Mom and Dad from living the lifestyle they want.

That is what jumped out at me and that is why I didn't answer the question. I think that "How can I get over the message my mother gave me when I was a child that I was an albatross? Is it normal for a mother with a decent job to make her children beg for a winter coat and grudge them every penny she had to spend for their upkeep?" is a perfectly legitimate question, though the answer would be "therapy" or "I had the same childhood and I sympathize!" rather than an accounting of how doctors spend their money.

tl;dr: I felt bad for the poster because I thought the mom was cruel and abusive. But I don't know that a list of middle-class childhood accoutrements would be helpful.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:25 PM on January 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


That was a Rashomon-style question, maybe because of the shear wordiness. We all took away the parts that spoke to us. I saw the paying off the ex-husband's $100k in debts and expenses for three kids (perhaps without child support) while paying for live-in help as expensive. And who doesn't add water to shampoo and re-use hose with runs?

So knowing how other families lived or what her mother's potential salary might have been are again, as Jessamyn pointed out, not really the right question. What is crappy is that the OP did not feel loved, nothing else really matters.
posted by readery at 1:53 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Disreputable Dog, I disagree with your callout on this.

I stayed out of that thread for much the same reason klang did (I grew up in a very frugal-by-necessity household. It honestly would never occur to me that anyone was entitled to a swimming pool, Barbie Dream House, etc., even though I had friends that had that kind of stuff).

But I can understand wanting to weigh in, and also the way others chose to do so, suggesting the question itself is disingenuous. That post is paragraphs full of rage, bitterness and envy. The OP seems to have blinders on. She's not exactly favoring comments suggesting that an anesthesiologist in the 90s likely wasn't as well off as she thought. It's pretty clear that what she really wants is more ammunition for the war she's waging on her mother. People calling her out on that is not necessarily a bad thing; what you get out of therapy is very much in line with what you are willing to put into it.

Besides, we can ALL use an empathy check sometimes! I doubt the OP's ever really considered the hardships from the point of view of her Mom; paying off her ex-husband's student debt while working in a stressful field and raising three kids alone couldn't have been easy. I think it would be beneficial for the OP to hear others weigh in on that. My parents were loving and supportive, and I have been guilty of judging people who complained about theirs, assuming they were exaggerating how bad it was. When I read threads where specifics come up, though, I'm horrified to hear about the actual abuses that went on! It's good for me to realize I'm seeing the world through my own subjective lens. That kick in the pants reminds me that everyone is fighting their own battles.

It works the other way round, too. In AskMe, questioners often make assumptions that the reason they don't 'just know' how to do something as an adult is because of their dysfunctional childhood. But really none of us 'just knows' a lot of that stuff--we had to learn, the same way they did. There's an assumption that everyone else had perfect, happy-TV-family lives, while really no one did. Most of us just find our way somehow.
posted by misha at 1:54 PM on January 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


People calling her out on that is not necessarily a bad thing; what you get out of therapy is very much in line with what you are willing to put into it.

This isn't therapy, it is AskMe. My mother is a doctor, and I grew up in the nineties (though we had my dad's salary too) so I thought it would help the poster if I answered the question as asked. I don't know exactly what she's going to use the answers for. Maybe it's just something she always wanted to know. When you're a child you think whatever your parents are telling you is The Final Authoritative Word On All Things but if you grow up and learn that your parents have been grossly unreliable in what they told you, other than just the regular protecting and glossing unncessary details that many parents do, I think you end up doing a lot of searching your history and trying to figure out what you might have gotten wrong.
posted by sweetkid at 2:18 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I meant that as the asker was in therapy, she might get more out of that therapy after getting a reality check here. Anyway, good for you for answering it; as I said, I didn't weigh in.
posted by misha at 2:25 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think if a person is bitter and twisted about something and they also know their perceptions might be warped by an unusual upbringing, it's reasonable to ask for a reality check.

It seems to be the case that the OP's experiences weren't that far outside the norm considering the mother's expenses of paying the father's student loans and hiring help for a household of three children while practising medicine.

But if you grow up surrounded by people who seem financially better off than you and your parent(s) are constantly poor mouthing you will get the impression that you were being wilfully deprived. It is hard to get a decent idea of what's realistic but I wish more people would try. When I was in the company of a lot of upper middle class people they would frequently make condescending judgements about the inferiority of my possessions (an old second-hand vinyl record player or a vintage typewriter), or how I spent too much money on this or that expense that they didn't prioritize. One friend was shocked that I spent a lot of my childhood in a one bedroom apartment sharing a bed with my mother while my shift-working father slept in the living room - she thought this were a result of a skewed belief system or symptomatic of some terrible family dysfunction; the idea that that was all we could afford was just not a thought she could entertain for even a second. Meanwhile, she had grown up in what she described as "just a normal five-bedroom house" in one of the most expensive parts of London, but continually chose to self-deprive, make economies, and recoil at any hint of extravagance. Only when she admitted that she had been about to set off on a 6-month mission to Kenya with no money at all, because money had always been a taboo subject in her home and she had been too ashamed to even answer when her mother asked if she had enough money for the trip, did I start to get a proportionate picture of the shame that I'd internalized because I believed the narrative that she was just so much *better* than me about all this. (I am hopeless with money, but that's another story.) I think a lot of people actually disbelieved that I'd lived in a one-bedroom for any length of time, but later, as my peers grew older, I started reading articles with my classmates' bylines, expressing genuine shock and disbelief at how the cost of living, and the selling-off of council housing (which as returners to the UK my family had never qualified for), meant that *actual people they knew* were living in one-bedroom flats even though they had *a baby* and how could they be punished like this, just because they had chosen not to take high paying jobs? It was as if they grew up believing in the Housing Fairy and were totally unprepared for a reality that I had known about all along.

I knew full well that my family's financial situation was never normal, but I never met anybody else who thought their own childhood lifestyle was anything other than an unquestionably universal norm. I can see why this question rubs people up the wrong way because it is very envious and does seem to retro-project an unrealistically lavish idea of what everyone else had that the OP did not. But at least she's asking the question. I wish more people would, because as much as people think they know what's normal, they often don't. This is what's missing from the pileon: it's not a rhetorical question which the OP is asking because she's wilfully ignoring reality. The OP is asking the question because she doesn't know the answer. I mean, yeah, therapy for the envy and all that, but it also might help to answer the bit where she asks for actual information.
posted by tel3path at 2:56 PM on January 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


she might get more out of that therapy after getting a reality check here

I don't think it's anyone's place to second-guess what the poster is or isn't getting out of her therapy, or to pass judgment on her therapeutic process. That falls well outside the domain of the question.
posted by nacho fries at 3:55 PM on January 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


she might get more out of that therapy after getting a reality check here

I must say, I really dislike how that kind of discourse often plays out on askme. God knows I'm guilty of it enough myself, but there does seem to be a significant cohort in the community that values being able to judge mefites and declaim with an absolutely false certainty how a person should feel, act, and what will happen in their lives based on the very imperfect and limited view we have from their questions (again, I do not exclude myself here).

I often think that - whether so-called "reality checks" are correct or not - they have little to do with the asker and a lot to do with the feelings of confidence and oft-times superiority the answerers feel from replying with such certainty and a deficit of empathy or compassion.

I acknowledge that there is a vocal "tough love" contigent on askme, but I actually feel that framing potential answers this way - or legitimising this way of thinking about people asking questions - is not helpful either for people asking, or for the community at large, to be honest.

This is not to say that answering to a broader context should avoided, but I think there is little harm in considering why you are answering that way, how you plan to do it, and whether you need to, before jumping in feet first.

Second-guessing a person's therapist and emotions is a fraught task, and when so many mefites are queuing up to say the same thing, I think it's a little rough on people.
posted by smoke at 6:15 PM on January 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Here's what has happened to me, more times than I can remember:

1) I write an AskMe question containing lots of backstory, reasons, venting, and desired outcomes.

2) I realize that it's too long and contains too much extraneous information.

3) I ruthlessly whittle the question down to its essence.

4) I no longer need to post it because the answer is obvious.

You guys are so great that just imagining what the answers will be is enough!
posted by The Deej at 7:32 PM on January 20, 2013 [35 favorites]


Well, no, it's not unanswerable to ask what someone's lifestyle and education was like growing up. An unanswerable question would be more like, "what do women/men like to do for fun?" or "what's a good book for someone who's sick?"

"What is the best book you read last year?" is an answerable question, but it's not a legitimate AskMe question, because it's a survey, not a question with a right answer.

This is an edge case -- OP clearly thought the question had a meaningful answer, and perhaps got a piece of information he/she needed, that people use money all kinds of ways. It would be as if someone asked "What was the best book of 2012?" because they sincerely thought there was going to be some kind of consensus right answer that they could learn by asking MeFi. (But we would delete that question, right?)

I think what people are responding to here is the strong sense that the question was not "What do people like my mother usually do," which is a question with an answer, but rather, "What should my mother have done?" which is not.
posted by escabeche at 8:05 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The mother wasn't supporting three kids for most of the time the OP was referencing. The older two had moved out.

Anyway, narcissists are masterful at the whole PR thing, and at making their kids look ungrateful. I always had brand name clothes, but I assure you that sweaters from the gap are a poor substitute for adequate food. Likewise,
I'm sure that the carribean cruises don't really make up for the ongoing fear of being made to go without adequate clothing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:26 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yes, this question was particularly challenging to answer because the OP was asking both "what was the salary/what was the lifestyle for a family like mine?" and "what did I deserve? what was I scammed out of?"

I tried to answer both halves of the question, but of course the answers to the former questions were more objective than the latter ones - those really are a matter of opinion as I read them. After reading many parenting questions on AskMe I have definitely concluded that this is an area where reasonable people may have wildly divergent, but similarly strongly held opinions, and that there can be more than one 'right' way to do things (though none of these involve making your children beg for warm clothes in winter)....
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:59 PM on January 20, 2013


It was a very difficult question to answer objectively because so much of it was the OP's rant. Personally, I was quite put off by the OP's attitude -- what was I entitled to? what did I deserve? Guess what? You deserved nothing. There are kids who are homeless, abandoned, sexually and physically abused, don't have enough to eat, etc. I have relatives who, as children, once at crackers with hot sauce for breakfast because their mom left them alone for the weekend with no food in the house (divorced). It was so hard not to shout at the OP "What the hell are you thinking? How damn narcissistic are you that you think every damn kid deserves to be spoiled rotten? I mean, for Christ sakes, you went on Caribbean cruises for vacation and had a nanny!"

I didn't say that, and it was hard. I could see that the OP's mother did was emotionally abused by a mother who didn't show love and made her guilty for being a kid. So I tried to give the most objective information about what middle/upper middle class "normal" is really like, and how skewed the ideas the OP had of it were, in hopes that she could stop obsessing about what she missed out on.

And I commend how many people answered objectively, despite how touchy the subject is, and the ranty and entitled tone of the post.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:32 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It perhaps is worth noting that it's quite possible the OP is reading this thread. Sneaking sidelong digs at her here, as if she were offstage and out of earshot when she probably is not, is unkind.
posted by nacho fries at 10:02 PM on January 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


I'm probably one of the commenters who was outside the pale here. All I can say is that sometimes questions are built on faulty assumptions. And sometimes it seems like the best possible answer to say "I understand you're asking X, but X is built on an assumption of Y, and here is why Y is a poor foundation for your question."

That certainly wanders into murky and subjective areas of the "answer the question" stipulation, but if it were a science, or math, or technology question, or even a cooking or travel question, it's basically considered a helpful answer to say "many of these answers may be wrong/unproductive/misleading, because a premise is wrong." Sometimes when it's a relationship question, a premise might be wrong too.
posted by Miko at 10:06 PM on January 20, 2013


Note 01 - For me, an 850 word Ask post is 70% longer than it needs to be or I care to read, just as a basic post-size thing for the type of site AskMe is.

tl;dr: see Note 01
posted by lampshade at 1:40 AM on January 21, 2013


Busy Old Fool said: Not-answering-the-question doesn't lend itself to hard-and-fast rules, as there is a continuum of appropriateness. ... These are cases where it would actually be wrong to answer the question as asked.

I come from a dysfunctional family background and still have lots of learning to do in regards to self-compassion, narcissistic 'fleas' and other unsavoury training. I have asked a few (anonymous) questions here on Metafilter about issues on which I was truly conflicted in regards to relationships with my close people. Some parts of those questions were details I wish, later, were not included as they resulted in responses that didn't address my distress at the time.

However. I thought a lot about the well-considered anti-answers I received from Mefites I respect. I though about them for longer than the on-topic sympathetic and immediately useful responses (I ignored everything else: see below*). As my brother used to say: truth hurts. Especially when you are showing it to the world but trying to hide it from yourself.

*BOF again: At the other extreme, there is the 'gotcha' phenomenon, where answerers jump on an ambiguously-worded or vague part of a question, assume the worst and throw lots of 'tough love' criticism at the OP, while neglecting the actual problem. This often goes hand-in-hand with people feeling the need to answer some, any aspect of the question, even if it isn't really what the OP is having problems with, a form of male answer syndrome which doesn't appear to be particularly gendered on Metafilter.

LobsterMitten: "I absolutely agree about venting/sympathy-seeking being a bad use of AskMe (in nearly all cases)."

LM, I think the problem is the answers BOF refers to, not the questions themselves.
posted by Kerasia at 2:49 AM on January 21, 2013


I think all the people claiming that the OP deserved nothing need to remember she had to beg for a winter coat. That is messed up.
posted by Area Man at 3:24 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, a person who deserves nothing, deserves nothing. Not even crackers with hot sauce, not to be left with a caregiver instead of being abandoned for the weekend, not to have a lavish home, not to have any home. If no kid deserves anything then all answers are meaningless, and anyway it's pointless to say that a child "deserves" food if that kid dies waiting for food to arrive because nobody has both the ability and the willingness to provide it.

So are we dwelling on unalterables here? The fact that no child has, in practice, the "right" to anything including food and shelter? Arguing that because the OP had, or wanted, more than I did, that she's just being spoiled? After you know how most people of her generation and class actually experienced their childhood, you go full circle back to the original problem, which is that she was deprived of something else that was important.
posted by tel3path at 3:39 AM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


After you know how most people of her generation and class actually experienced their childhood, you go full circle back to the original problem, which is that she was deprived of something else that was important.

But the OP wasn't just asking "What kind of things did I miss out on as a kid?" She already knows that and is seeking therapy to deal with it.

No, she was asking "What could my mother have afforded if she'd decided to and not been such a selfish bitch?" Which is not only a really unpleasant insinuation, but an unanswerable question. No one--not even the OP--has a sufficient grasp of the details of this family's financial situation to be able to even guess.

I can't recall if I flagged this question, but I should have. I'd have been pleased to see it deleted with "Is there an actual, non-survey question here?" as a reason.
posted by valkyryn at 3:55 AM on January 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm generally a big fan of answering questions without moral judgments, but there are limits. In this case, the question was limited by the OP's severe lack of self-awareness.

In short, it was a stupid question because it was predicated on false data. For example, the OP accuses his mother of being a "pathologically miserly narcissist" when it seems like the true narcissist in the question is the OP. Because the question was based on false data, it could not logically be answered in the way that the OP wanted.

To give you an analogy, it is as if the OP had mentioned in an AskMe that the sky is a brilliant shade of emerald, and then asked what quality about the air gave it that attractive green hue. There is no correct answer to such a question other than "You're very wrong; seek professional help."
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:57 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


In short, it was a stupid question because it was predicated on false data. For example, the OP accuses his mother of being a "pathologically miserly narcissist" when it seems like the true narcissist in the question is the OP.

Woah, dude. I stayed out of that thread, and out of this thread, but that is assuming a lot. I would say that the OP sounded like sort of a materialistic snob, but also the victim of an emotionally with-holding and abusive mother.

I didn't think it was a good question - pretty sure I flagged it - but having to beg for a winter coat is not normal. But envying Ivy League educations and fancy cars is, IMO, pretty lame. Life and people multifaceted.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 7:40 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


To give you an analogy

You need to work on your analogies.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:55 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


You need to work on your analogies.

Gosh, thanks for the therapy. Do you have any more completely advice or personal opinions to offer that I totally don't give a crap about? Should I submit an AskMe just to get your unasked-for feedback, or was this one a freebie?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:02 AM on January 21, 2013


unsubstantiated

Here's another severely flawed analogy of yours.

What I understood by your "sky is green" analogy is that you think the OP's description of his or her childhood is a perfectly reasonable, normal, acceptable and entirely unremarkable way to grow up. Is that the case?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:06 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


the man of twists wasn't offering therapy. He was offering his opinion, which of course you're free to consider or discard as you like. But if you don't want people commenting on your opinions, the grey is a really bad place to put them out there.
posted by rtha at 8:17 AM on January 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


unsubstantiated

Here's another severely flawed analogy of yours.

What I understood by your "sky is green" analogy is that you think the OP's description of his or her childhood is a perfectly reasonable, normal, acceptable and entirely unremarkable way to grown up. Is that the case?


Yes, it is. I grew up with a lot less than the OP, and Salvation army clothing was the norm in my childhood. Later on, my family became quite affluent, but they still taught me the value of independence and hard work. When I was unemployed in 2001, shortly after college (because the tech bubble popped, leading to a severe recession) I was in bad financial straits for a while and thought I might become homeless. I asked my family if I could move back home for a little while (either in the big house or the guest house) but my parents told me that they wanted me to "embrace my independance," and said that I should join the military instead. And you know what? It was a hard lesson, but they were absolutely right. Being forced to struggle for my survival taught me some valuable lessons that I never would have learned on my own. So seeing this spoiled OP complain about his "cold narcissistic mother" not buying him a car simply because she could afford it... I mean, how entitled can somebody be? Do you think it's normal to complain about "only" getting the occasional Caribbean vacation?

As for whether my analogies are flawed, that's a matter of opinion. Specifically, your opinion. Just because you disagree with the opinion that an analogy is expressing doesn't mean the analogy itself is flawed. You clearly understood exactly what the analogy was meant to convey, so evidently it worked rather well. Maybe you should stop trying to aspire to intellectual credentials by "correcting" perfectly valid analogies and instead simply be honest in saying that you disagree with the opinion expressed.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:25 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


One of the things about human relations questions on AskMeFi is that we get one side of the story - the asker's. So we don't always get the full, rounded picture.

While my sympathy is still with the asker in this question - because a mother grudging her children necessities is not normal or healthy - I'm wondering if there is another layer to the question because of this: It was, in my experience, extremely rare to have full-time, live-in household help and/or childcare in the 90's, at least among the people I know/knew (ranging from well-off working class to upper-middle class). Live-in grandmothers were not unknown - and very common amongst the Asian immigrant families I knew - but housekeeper/nannies were not. (Though grandmothers who didn't live-in, but did look after the kids were very common.) I know they've become much more common within the past 10 years or so, to the point where even middle-class households have full-time nannies (though not housekeepers).

The asker's mom apparently prioritized hiring expensive full-time household help over more mundane necessities. Now that I think about it, this is something to think about. The children of divorced parents that I knew all either had a grandmother or neighbor look after them after school or were "latchkey" kids. That the asker's mom thought that having someone around full-time was a priority makes me wonder if there were other things going on (dangerous neighborhood? dad possibly kidnapping the kids?) that she felt she had to scrimp in other areas in order to splash out on that.

Perhaps another, more appropriate question might have been, "Was it normal in the '90s among people you knew to scrimp and save in other areas in order to afford live-in household help?" Because for me it would not occur to me to prioritize that over, say, a winter coat.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:31 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since this is now a referendum on whether or not the OP is an entitled brat, I would point out that, apart from Barbie dream houses and cars, it is "normal" in American society for parents to want their children to do as well as they did. A specialist doctor who steers her high-achieving child away from even thinking about top schools -- not even encouraging her to apply to private universities that offer merit scholarships -- clearly departs from the norm here.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 8:32 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I disagree with your characterization of the OP's childhood. From the post:

"my mother was also very good at claiming the moral high ground as sole breadwinner and making us children feel like selfish, greedy, materialistic, lazy, sponging, expensive and bothersome drains on her hard-earned finances. Even basics like new clothes or warm winter coats had to be groveled for as special favors"

"I would have given a limb to go to an Ivy League, but my mother steered me firmly away from aspirations like these, depicting them as total pipe dreams"

Did your parents do that? It sounds like they valued you and nurtured your skills to foster independance, with a clear understanding of the limitations placed on them by finance. That sounds significantly different than what the OP describes. In my opinion, your analogy is flawed because it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the information in the post.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:32 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


A specialist doctor who steers her high-achieving child away from even thinking about top schools -- not even encouraging her to apply to private universities that offer merit scholarships -- clearly departs from the norm here.

That struck me as weird, too. Along with the "gotta have full-time live-in childcare and housekeeping even if we have to scrimp on necessities!" (I mean, that's just a verrrry strange priority, IMO) it makes me wonder that the OP is entirely accurate in their perception and that mom really did think the kids were burdens. That is sad, but it happens. Not all people want their kids, and many discover this unpleasant truth only after they've had the kids and they can't return them to the Kid Factory for a refund.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:36 AM on January 21, 2013


There are 2 very different aspects of the post, and really 2 different questions the OP was asking, that people are responding to.

The first is "I didn't have stuff. What kind of stuff could I have had if my mom wasn't such a ____?"

The second is "my mom consistently told me how undeserving I was and made me feel that things I now realize were necessities, I felt were privileges that I didn't deserve and couldn't ask for." I'm not really sure what the OPs question was here, it seemed more like "because of this fact, question #1." OP clearly stated therapy is already addressing this part.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:40 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gosh, thanks for the therapy.

You are being a pill here and it is not clear why you think that's a good idea. Either cut it out or walk away from this conversation; attendance in Metatalk is not mandatory.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:45 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Although I will point out that many middle-class households have someone to do housekeeping and childcare full-time, but since that person is a stay-at-home wife, it's considered a noble sacrifice rather than a crazy extravagance.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 8:46 AM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't know if the OP is an entitled brat or not, but if so she might still benefit from being an entitled brat with answers.
posted by tel3path at 8:46 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I disagree with your characterization of the OP's childhood.

Thank you. That is a much nicer way to express yourself than by victimizing my poor analogies, and I appreciate the effort. :-)

"I would have given a limb to go to an Ivy League, but my mother steered me firmly away from aspirations like these, depicting them as total pipe dreams"

Did your parents do that? It sounds like they valued you and nurtured your skills to foster independance, with a clear understanding of the limitations placed on them by finance. That sounds significantly different than what the OP describes.
In my opinion, your analogy is flawed because it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the information in the post.


And who's to say you're not the one misunderstanding the information presented? If anybody is being misrepresented in that AskMe, I think it's the mother. Based on how entitled the OP seems in some of his other comments, I don't think it's unreasonable to give some benefit of the doubt to his mom (who can't represent herself in his one-sided rant), and take the OP's victimization claims with a healthy dose of skepticism. In my personal experience, people who complain with such bitterness about First-World Problems like the quality of their childhood vacations are generally not the most objective narrators.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:48 AM on January 21, 2013


I thought it was a very provocative post about an interesting question. Not that being provocative should be a goal on the green; another term for doing that deliberately is "trolling." But the subject of material expectations doesn't come up that much, or that honestly. I felt some shock at the way it was framed but, honestly, I heard so many classmates in high school and college expressing similar sentiments. For whatever reason, most of them were from rich or at least well off families. "Poor little rich girl" was coined for a reason.

Anyway, I have been quite fascinated by the discussion. It reminds me of a conversation between two characters in a Margaret Drabble novel. They are talking about how infuriating a friend is, with her high-powered career and material expectations. One of them says, "Oh, but I expect too. One a different scale, but I expect."
posted by BibiRose at 8:49 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


she might still benefit from being an entitled brat with answers.

Agreed and maybe we need to remember that the OP is also a community member and gratuitous digs at them which would not be okay on AskMe are probably not that great here either (not directed towards you tel3path, just leaving a note at this point in the conversation) and not super helpful. The fact that a question makes you angry does not mean that you need to respond angrily to the OP there or here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:51 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the word "provocative" is actually a helpful one here. The more people can be mindful of the possibly provocative phrasing of their posts (and responses), the more they can maybe tone it down or at least understand why they were getting some of the responses they received.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:53 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


And more to the general issue, it'd be good to have this be more a discussion of what works-or-doesn't on Ask Metafilter in terms of best practices than just a free-for-all jam on whether or how much any given person feels like the asker of that question is a brat or entitled or whatever. It's totally fine to have opinions on that but it's not really something where we need a running poll or a public dissection there; the asker is a member of this site as well and it'd be good to keep that in mind and act accordingly.

If folks could rein it in a little bit on that front, I think that'd be a good thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:53 AM on January 21, 2013


I don't think it's unreasonable to give some benefit of the doubt to his mom (who can't represent herself in his one-sided rant), and take the OP's victimization claims with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Obviously we can't guarantee that an AskMe poster isn't misrepresenting the situation they're asking about. But we can only answer the question as it's been asked, with the information we've been given, and we're not going to serve any higher goal of skepticism by demanding that askers prove the details of their situation to our satisfaction before deigning to believe them, in this question or in elsewhere (and I've seen this happen in other questions too).

If the asker's obviously contradicting themselves, or if their question sounds totally irrational or paranoid in some deeply flawed way, then okay, there are useful ways to question that. "I don't like your attitude so therefore I don't believe you about X", or "X seems unlikely to me therefore I will answer your question from the viewpoint that X didn't happen", does not seem to me to be the same thing.
posted by Catseye at 9:32 AM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


the man of twists and turns: "I disagree with your characterization of the OP's childhood.

wolfdreams01: "Thank you. That is a much nicer way to express yourself than by victimizing my poor analogies, and I appreciate the effort. :-)
"

If you consider "You need to work on your analogies" to be victimizing, you seriously need to recalibrate your standards for discussion. "You need to work on your analogies" says that your analogies are flawed. It is not an ad hominem attack and it doesn't make you a victim.
posted by Lexica at 10:50 AM on January 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


But my analogies weren't flawed. They expressed exactly what I wanted them to express, and since they seem to have been understood perfectly, by definition they were good analogies. You may have disagreed with the opinion that the analogy helped express, but that's a different ball of yarn.

I initially took umbrage at the way the man of twist and turns expressed that my analogy was flawed. It came off to me as pedagogic, as though he were trying to convey a more erudite air by critiquing my (completely appropriate) use of analogy instead of the opinion that he took issue with. However, when I called him out on that, he rephrased it in a way that seemed much more accurate, so it's quite possible I misinterpreted his tone. Subtleties like "tone" are sometimes hard to interpret in written form.

Also, to clarify, I never said I was victimized - that would be crazy. I'm way too aggressive to ever be a victim. It was my poor analogies that were victimized. They are such delicate flowers, and I'm ever so protective of them. ;-) Anyway, now that we're clear, let's please take a hint from the mods and move on.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:11 AM on January 21, 2013


Based on how entitled the OP seems in some of his other comments, I don't think it's unreasonable to give some benefit of the doubt to his mom (who can't represent herself in his one-sided rant), and take the OP's victimization claims with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The poster is female.

I'm don't understand why someone's mother that you've never met is somehow more worthy of sympathy than another metaFilter user. Why not give the person asking the question the benefit of the doubt? You have zero evidence other than your own, personal, biased impressions of the poster. Logically, feelings about a particular person tell us nothing about their relatives. People answering that question have managed to point out that we know very little about the mother's actual financial situation at the time without accusing stuck on an island of being entitled.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:16 AM on January 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm don't understand why someone's mother that you've never met is somehow more worthy of sympathy than another metaFilter user.

OK, sure. Personally I don't understand why you feel the narrator in a particular story is more reliable or worthy of sympathy than a different character in that story simply because the narrator happens to use the same website as you, but we can agree to disagree. We're each entitled to our own opinions on that score.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:28 AM on January 21, 2013


let's please take a hint from the mods and move on.

This. And it is no longer a hint but a polite request.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:30 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ultimately we'll never be able to divine two entire lives and a childhood from the minimal information we have. We should keep in mind the mother and daughter are much more than an 804 word askmetafilter question.
posted by OsoMeaty at 11:41 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


And more to the general issue, it'd be good to have this be more a discussion of what works-or-doesn't on Ask Metafilter

I thought about this a little bit more, and I think my view is this: "Is behavior X typical or is it unusual?" can be a good Ask MeFi question, though there is a danger of ending up as a survey. "Do I have the right to be angry about X?" is always a bad Ask MeFi question.

This particular question was carefully phrased as the former but the 800 lead-up words made it read as the latter. Maybe the right way to deal with things like this is to leave the question up, but to have a strong community norm of answering the good question and not the implied bad question. In that spirit, I would say that any answer to the original question that contained the word "narcissist" was not a good answer.
posted by escabeche at 11:55 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've known a few people in the same income range as the poster's mother who are completely irrationally obsessed with scrimping and saving. If you spend your 20s and 30s completely broke and working insanely hard, then are suddenly wealthy in your 40s and 50s, you're going to have a weird attitude about personal finances -- some days buying the $100 lobster dinner, other days parking illegally to save $5. People are strange, but I wouldn't say the poster's mother is stranger than average. I didn't write that on Ask though because I thought it wasn't relevant.
posted by miyabo at 12:02 PM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


On the contrary, I think that's the only kind of answer that was relevant!
posted by escabeche at 12:16 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Given that the OP of that question cast a very wide net as part of the closing of her post: How badly did we get scammed?, I think that the discussion that ensued was within bounds. I was more surprised that the mods tried to tighten up on people who answered one of the questions that was asked by the OP rather than identifying the question(s) as the problem.
posted by artdesk at 4:23 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


TL;DR: Were you a doctor, or the child of a doctor, in a single-income household during the 1990s? What was your family's lifestyle and education like?

This question, all by itself, is perfectly answerable. The OP might have been asking as research for a novel, or because they were trying to get their head around a character in a film, or because they have a friend from this background who maintains it was perfectly normal to own a Barbie's Dream House and can't understand that people grew up without one. We wouldn't have anythign to project onto the question.

However, the detail - and lots of it - means people are going to pull their own interpretations out of it and what the question is really about. I've known people from happy low-income households and people who were taken on frequent holidays and bought toys and gadgets but still grew up resentful and screwed-up and angry with their parents. I've asked myself questions about things like this over the past couple of years, as I've been reexamining my own attitude to money and whether it is normal to be broke for the last two weeks of the month as it always seemed to be growing up, and whether someone on a regular income can buy a house if they only eat reduced-price or budget food for the next 10 years (answer, yes, but they'd have to have bought it in 1998). And there'll be people from poorer backgrounds than the OP who couldn't afford to go to university at all and wonder if she doesn't sound a bit ungrateful at being able to graduate without debt at a time when student debt is getting higher and higher.

I've known a few people in the same income range as the poster's mother who are completely irrationally obsessed with scrimping and saving.
My landlord is like this - lives very frugally, never goes out, never holidays or buys clothing or eats out or spends more than a couple of quid on a meal even when guests are over, doesn't do Christmas, rents out the larger rooms to lodgers and sleeps on a mattress on the floor in a room too small to fit a bedframe. He was long-term unemployed when I moved in, and now is on about twice my salary and has paid off his mortgage - rent being the biggest expense in my monthly budget, in his position I'd be tempted to start travelling or taking up something I can't afford to now or get really into cheese. However, he seems to like being frugal, even though there's less impetus to do so.
posted by mippy at 7:53 AM on January 22, 2013


So now someone asks a similar question without all the grar—and it's deleted as chatfilter.

I swear cortex is just messing with us now.
posted by misha at 10:57 AM on January 22, 2013


Asking a ten part open-ended question about what your parents could have done better is really just a "let's talk about parenting" chatty question. I appreciate what Dansaman was going for but that question was not the way to do that here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:59 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there's flawed-but-specific and then there's just-tell-some-stories-go-crazy. The first is tricky, the second isn't really what Ask Metafilter is meant for at all and needs reworking if there's actually a concrete thing at the core.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:05 AM on January 22, 2013


I was intrigued by this, because I had lovely prosperous parents and still managed to go through my teenage life convinced that I was being shortchanged. Teenagers are always going to be shortsighted about the cost of living and what tradeoffs have to be made. But it was fine for me because I had a chat with my mum the other day and, in the context of what my parents could do for my siblings' children, we discussed the sensible and generous tradeoffs they made.

And it was nice for me to calibrate my entitlement sensors even though I already knew I was an ungrateful sod of a teenager. How much more would I have appreciated that calibration opportunity if I was wanting to assess how properly to mourn (and thus forget) the lost opportunities of an emotionally difficult adolescent family life? I can certainly empathise with asking the question, and if there's one thing Ask Mefi's good for, it's "what is normal?" type questions.
posted by ambrosen at 12:38 PM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think the awful and disturbing thing about that question is the way the OP has confused getting money and things from her mother with being loved by her mother-- for all the world as if she's never been loved enough by her mother or anyone else to know what love is, and only knows about getting material things so that's what she goes on about.

I trust that's merely a defense mechanism, and that she will ultimately be able to see what she really needs, and that she may never get it from her mother, but that her mother isn't the only possible source of it.
posted by jamjam at 5:05 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I knew when I read the question that it was one thread I wasn't going to answer, because the poster's legitimate grievances were so wrapped up in entitlement issues and the direction she's taking to try to deal with it is not going to help her at all — even if she can make a fair estimate of what her mother made back in the day, how would that help her? She needs to print out the question and take it to her therapist and they can unpack it together.
posted by orange swan at 6:04 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


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