Social Question

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Would you continue to take the blame in this situation?

Asked by Pied_Pfeffer (21971 points ) September 19th, 2011

I am back in my home town taking care of my mother who is in the hospital. Tonight, I contacted an old friend of Mom’s, whose daughter was my best friend since were were two. We are now in our late 40s.

Every time I talk to Mrs. M., she implies that I corrupted her daughter when we were in our teens. The fact is that her son bought us our first beer when we were underage, her daughter smoked cigarettes and pot while I didn’t, and the daughter and a few of our close friends completely cut another girl and me out of their lives one day when we were all 16.

It took many years to work through the pain of dropped by this close friend, and while we have built a bridge and gotten over it, her mother hasn’t because she doesn’t have her facts straight.

I so want to ask her what she thinks happened and why she still brings it up considering both her daughter and I have landed on our feet. For some reason, I’d really like to hear her point-of-view. I’m willing to shoulder the blame that she feels should be mine, despite it being untrue. It is just highly irritating to be continually judged for whatever it is that Mrs. M. thinks happened that I did.

So, do I just continue to take the blame, or can I ask her what she thinks happened for the sake of my curiosity after all of these years?

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35 Answers

FutureMemory's avatar

I can’t tolerate being accused of something that’s not true, so if it were me I’d sit her down and set her straight.

This person is a friend of your mother? Do you have to have contact with her?

bobbinhood's avatar

Asking her humbly might do more than assuage your curiosity; you might actually repair the damaged relationship there. I know I’m a bit of an idealist, but sometimes gracious communication makes a world of difference.

Kardamom's avatar

This sounds awful and oddly familiar to me, only me and my friend never did mend the bridge.

You have a couple of options, if you really are on good terms with the girlfriend (the one who snubbed you way back when) you could tell her exactly what you’ve told us and ask her to speak to her mom. But here’s what might happen. She will tell you that you’re just worrying about nothing and it’s no big deal, or she will have drastically different ideas (now that so many years have passed) about how things actually went down and she’ll get mad at you for even suggesting such a scenario. Do you think that your girfriend has a clear memory of what really happened, and would she be able to talk to her mom without having to embarrass herself by admitting to a whole bunch of naughty things that her mom may not have known that she did?

The other option is for you to write a heartfelt letter to the mom (and either let your friend know in advance or not, either option is tricky) and let her know that it’s been weighing heavily on your mind for years that she thinks that you corrupted her daughter, then remind her (even though this may be the first time she hears about any of this) that it was her son who bought the beers and her daughter who smoked, rather than you, and it was her daughter who abrubpty dropped you as a friend at age 16 (and give a few supporting details). Then point out to her that you and the friend have mended your bridge, but it has still continued to give you a lot of pain that she (the mother) seems to have blamed you for a lot of things, and is still blaming your for things, that you didn’t do and you’d like to set the record straight. And remind her that you are back in town to help and support your mother, but this situation is causing an un due amount of psychic strain on you that you’d like to work out and maybe you could get together with her (alone) or with the aid and comfort of your friend (if she’s willing) and have a talk.

The second scenario will only work if you girfriend doesn’t end up getting pissed off at your for “telling on her.” The mother may or may not believe you, but at least you could get it off your chest and let the chips fall where they may. If she does believe you, then great, problem solved. If she doesn’t believe you, then she may try to convince your girlfriend to abandon you again (which your friend may or may not do, depending upon how she feels about this whole situation).

Keep us in the loop. I hope it all goes well. These kinds of situations can mentally wear you down.

P.S. I hope your Mom is OK.

SavoirFaire's avatar

If you want her to know the truth, I like the conversation opener that you already suggested: “What do you think happened?” After you hear her version of past events, set her straight. Then end with your other question, “why does it matter to you now that we’ve both landed on our feet?” This will help dispel the impression that you are trying to shift blame.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@FutureMemory Thank you. Your comment is in sync with my sentiments. Enough time has passed that I would be willing to let the situation go, but Mrs. M. keeps bringing it up whenever we are in contact. It makes me want to set the record straight. Do I need to be in contact with Mrs. M.? No, and yet to a certain degree, yes. She isn’t a close friend of my mother’s, but a long-time friend, and they care about each other. I am not close to Mrs. M.‘s daughter, but just like our mothers, there is an indescribable bond that continues to exist due to how far back the friendships go.

@bobbinhood I don’t think Mrs. M. has ever talked to Mom about what she thinks corrupted her daughter, so Mom is obvivilous to the situation. This is a situation that only comes to surface when Mrs. M. talks to me in private. I wrote in her daughter’s yearbook about some of our antics, and my guess is that my friend lied about what they were in reference to that implicated me. This was over 25 years ago. Stupid me for doing so, but at the time, I was desperate to get back into the group.

@Kardamom You and I are singing from the same song page. Mrs. M. said that she would see if her daughter is available to go visit Mom tomorrow. I think that I need to talk through this with my friend and let her know that her mother’s judgement really bothers me. If she wants me to continue to carry the blame, then I will do so. It’s the least I can do since I caused her ear to bleed when I poked it with a q-tip when were five. :)

@SavoirFaire Thank you…this is what I really want to do. She now requests that I call her by her first name instead of Mrs. M., so I assume that she can now look at me as an adult and handle the truth. It really makes me feel bad that she continues to hold me accountable for the actions of her daughter that were not my fault, but we are all not close enough that it really matters. That is where I fall short in knowing what to do.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Similar to @SavoirFaire, I’d ask the mother what she believes happened. I’d listen and then go, “I see. You know, why don’t you talk to your daughter about this? Now, I’ve got to run.”

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer If her judgment makes you feel bad, then it matters—regardless of whether or not the two of you are close. These are the small things that come back to you at random moments and make you sigh with regret if you don’t deal with them.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Neizvestnaya and @SavoirFaire Yes, her judgement makes me feel bad, as it is incorrect. For all I know though, she is blaming me and not her daughter. The question for me is, after all of these years, do I continue shouldering the blame or open the door to the truth.

To all, thank you for your thoughts. If my old friend shows up tomorrow, I may ask her for her insight on how to deal with this. Maybe it is time for her to tell her mother to let go of what happened so long ago. It would be better coming from her than from me.

cockswain's avatar

Your friend’s mom is acting like a total idiot. What the hell. Her daughter is in her 40s, doing fine, and she thinks that she wouldn’t have ever done anything illegal as a teen if not for you?

I’d tell the mom exactly how I feel about her sentiments and wouldn’t sugar coat it. But I don’t think you and I have the same personality. Maybe you could just tell her, “look, every kid in high school did this stuff. If she didn’t do it with me, she’d have done it with somebody else or in college. And guess what? She didn’t do it with me, she did it with your son. Get over it, it’s been 30 years and everybody is fine.”

Why does she care? Does she think her daughter would have been president if she never smoked a joint?

SpatzieLover's avatar

I’m like @cockswain IRL.

I’m probably too blunt…

I’d just say “Who didn’t drink & do pot in HS during the 70’s?” “Your lucky your daughter wasn’t into the whole sexual revolution thing”...or if she was “You should count your blessings she didn’t get AIDS”.

Again, too blunt I’m sure. ;)

My mom knew my sis drank, did pot -etc…But she’d say “at least she’s smart enough to not get pregnant which was true.

Jeruba's avatar

I have an idea that it would be best to let it go, but I doubt that I’d take that advice myself. The moment would come and I would ask. Knowing that I’d do this, I would probably have chosen my words in advance rather than blurting something accusatory on the spur of the moment. Your question and your choice of words seem to me to be entirely fair.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@cockswain and @SpatzieLover Y’all are just too dear, and thank you for the good laugh. Trust me that I feel the same way that you do. My friend and her older brother used to skip Catholic Sunday School to go get high and were proud of it. I held my friend’s head when she threw up on the town bus after getting high with a couple of guys in the local park. That experience alone kept me from trying pot.

I’m trying to be a grown-up about this situation. This all occured years ago. Is the desire to set the record straight, which seems to be between the mother and me, silly? Or is it more of a ‘we are both now adults and you need to deal with reality and let it go’ an option?

@Jeruba Thank you for your insight. I really think that I need to let this go and let Mrs. M. live on in her delusions. The only person it seems to be hurting is me, and I know the truth. On the other hand, I prefer to deal with reality, no matter how much it stings. So it comes down to whether to treat others as they want to be treated (in this case lie) or treat them as I want to be treated (know the truth). There is a difference.

YARNLADY's avatar

Ask her what she thinks happened, and listen carefully.

I was accused of making my Aunt and Uncle stay in a motel room when they visited me, when the truth was, my mother told me they didn’t want to stay with my because they needed their privacy.

10 years later, my Grandmother said I made it clear they weren’t welcome in my house. I cried and cried. My husband at the time had to go out a 6 AM and wait in line to reserve the cheapest motel in town, just for them, plus we had to go out of our way to provide them transportation to an from out house.

Even after all these years, I still feel bad about the misunderstanding. (Parents deceased 25 years ago, and Grandmother deceased 15 years ago).

Pandora's avatar

I dont think she will believe the truth any way so what would be the point. But out of curiosity I would ask her what is it she thinks you did and then explain to her that she heard it all wrong or misunderstood. Provided you are innocent of what it is she thinks. But let her know that it was all in the past and you hope she can accept that you are not that young girl any more. More than likely her daughter sold you down the river to save her own skin and she will take her daughters word over yours any day. I had a friend who’s family I completely adored. Things were not the same with me after she and her boyfriend split, got back together and split again. All I did was tell her what he was really like and the secrets he was keeping from her. I thought I was being a good friend. Apparently, someone must’ve twisted the story because they started to look at me like I would roast her over a bon fire. (Well except her mom. She probably never felt he was right for her anyway.)

SpatzieLover's avatar

Or is it more of a ‘we are both now adults and you need to deal with reality and let it go’ an option? Yep, I live in reality.
@Pied_Pfeffer,
I’d want her to know that as an adult looking back on my teen years I think I turned into a fine, responsible adult, as did her daughter. It wouldn’t be about “being right” or even needing to set the record straight for me.

Glad you got a chuckle.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

If it really bothers you, I’d ask her what she thinks really happened. To me, it appears it still aggravates you, so I’d confront her if I were you. But of course confront her in a nice way. If she continues to blame you for her daughter’s corruption, tell her the truth. The worse response you’ll get is the same thing you’ve known for years. If she refuses to believe you, tell her that you’re sorry that she thinks and feels that way about you, and that there’s nothing else you can do to convince her of the truth. Then move on. From that point on, don’t let it bother you anymore. You did your best to convince her, and that’s all you could do. Besides, your relationship with her daughter is more important than your relationship with her.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I say open the door to truth. If you can get the daughter to do it, great. If not, do it yourself. Truth can hurt, but not as much as lies. Plus, it will ease your mind. I hope this works out for you!

plethora's avatar

Speak to her the next time she brings it up, but do it face to face (at least I would). Be very soft, curious, and non accusatory. I would then say to her that I respect her perception, but that the fact of the matter is that none of those things went down the way she believes they went down…and here is the true story…....Finally, “you do not have to believe me, but I do want you to know that I do not care to hear about it again:.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I would not take the blame for it in the first place. Since most parents believe, their children are angels, unless they are frustrated with them because un-denying facts point to their shortcomings, you won’t get her to stop blaming you. If she even fathoms that you were right, that would mean her daughter was not as perfect as she thought. Worse, that her parenting style was ineffective and the cause for her daughter going south. Better, you take the blame than she admitting it was her or her daughter does.

FutureMemory's avatar

(Undeniable…it’s an actual word.)

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I have to keep your dictionary warm, don’t I? LOL LOL

They have ”Where’s Waldo?” games, for you I create ”Where is Typo?” games. :) :)

FutureMemory's avatar

hahaha :)

Hibernate's avatar

NO I wouldn’t. She is bothered by the fact that her daughter doesn’t keep close contact with her and she wants someone to blame. She considers you to be the fault.
Listen to what she has to say and feel her pain but in the end ask her what’s up with it. Okay .. most people get over these things after a FEW years. What’s wrong with her? After three decades and she stills acts like a… [I’d rather not say]

augustlan's avatar

I think it depends on how she’s bringing it up. Is she doing it in a joking way, or is it in an obviously accusatory way? If she’s joking about it, I’d probably let it go, or joke back and say “Hey, she did her fair share of corrupting me, too, you know!” If she’s being mean about it, though… I think I’d have to talk to her about it. I wouldn’t necessarily give her all the dirty details, but I’d make it known that what she thinks happened isn’t really so.

Good luck with all this, and best wishes to your mom, too.

JilltheTooth's avatar

How she’s bringing it up and why she’s bringing it up are both important here, as is the basic fact that she’s disrespecting her daughter by making the assumption that you had that much influence, and her daughter blindly followed. I agree with the “What do you think happened?” approach as long as you are aware that denying may be pointless after all this time and only sound like defensive back-pedaling to her.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Update: While hanging out at the hospital with Mom today, Mrs. M. and her daughter (my old friend) came in for a visit. It was very nice until the end, when Mrs. M. made another comment about our misbehavior. I would have asked her what she thinks happened, but one of the therapists was in the room. And typical for a small town, the therapist went to school with one of Mrs. M’s sons, so it didn’t seem like an appropriate time to bring it up. My friend did say, “Mom, I’m sure you also got in trouble at that age, and we just don’t know about it.”

The friend and I plan to get together again while I am here. I’ll ask her about it and let her know how it makes me feel. If she wants to address it with her mother, it seems like it would be the best path to take. If the opportunity arises again where Mrs. M. mentions it and the conditions are right, I will ask. The curiosity of why she feels the need to hold on to 30+ year old memories or falsehoods that generated no ill effect is just too much to let pass.

Thank you all for your insights. Several perspectives have been mentioned that didn’t cross my mind. It makes me glad that I asked y’all.

Kardamom's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer By the way, how is your Mom doing? Even though she doesn’t know us, and probably doesn’t even know about us, please let her know in some little way that we are thinking about her and hope that she is doing OK and that we really love her daughter!

FutureMemory's avatar

The curiosity of why she feels the need to hold on to 30+ year old memories or falsehoods that generated no ill effect is just too much to let pass.

Some people are just weird that way. There’s often no good explanation.

jca's avatar

I would be consoling myself with the thought “this woman must not have much of a life if all she can continue to focus on is this 30 year old event.”

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@jca Thank you for another possible viewpoint. This could be the case. Or maybe she is just living in the past when it comes to how she views me. When Mrs. M’s daughter (my old friend) told me that her two sons are now in college, all I can think about is how one of them came over for a visit when he was probably five, and he spit on the carpet when we didn’t give him attention. That’s my memory of this child, yet I get that it’s been 14 years since I’ve seen him, and he has obviously grown up. If I were to see him again, I wouldn’t bring up that incident, nor would I with his mother (my friend).

@Kardamom Thank you for inquiring about Mom’s health. She broke her femur in a fall while dashing to answer the phone. She’s mending quite well, but the physical therapy is a challenge, since she is not allowed to use this leg to stand on. She’s a fighter, and we’ll get through this one way or another.

Kardamom's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Oh, poor Mom! Tell her we’re all standing right behind her spiritually or virtually, and we hope she gets some good pain meds.

Hibernate's avatar

Sometimes holding a grudge is all they have.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

It sounds like this issue would be better dropped. She appears to want to blame you for what she feels her daughter has done wrong so that she doesn’t have to feel like her “precious and innocent little baby” daughter is responsible for her choices.

This type of response is actually quite normal from a mother, which is one of the reasons why a mother’s high opinions about her children or a child of hers aren’t always taken seriously. Mothers aren’t always known for being logical when it comes to their children. Often, mothers view their children as innocent little angels. If their children do something they’re not supposed to be doing, they will often blame whoever else was around instead of whoever is actually responsible for the wrong.

I suppose blaming you is easier than admitting to herself that her own daughter has made mistakes. She doesn’t want to seem to accept that her daughter made her choices all on her own. This would make you a convenient scapegoat. You can defend yourself all you want to her if you do, but if she’s too blinded by her love for her daughter to see the truth, then you might as well be speaking to deaf ears.

No matter what she says, take comfort in the fact that you know the truth… and that words will never make her false assumptions true. No matter how much she lies to herself and tries to convince herself she’s in the right, you know what really happened. She cannot take that away from you.

Make your peace with yourself and don’t blame yourself for anything you did not do and are not responsible for. Don’t let her words get to you and don’t let her hurt you anymore. You don’t have to defend yourself just because another person can’t seem to let go of a lie and/or a grudge.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Update for anyone still tethered to this thread:

Mrs. M. and her daughter (my old friend) did show up to visit with Mom in the hospital the next day. There was no surprise when another snide comment about the past was tossed in the conversation. It just didn’t seem the time or place to address it.

Fast forward two years…Once again, I went to visit Mom and met up with Mrs. D. and her daughter. We had a nice long chat at Mrs.D’s house, and no mention was made about the past.. It was a very comfortable environment.

When I mentioned that I saw them to Mom, she told me that Mrs. M. had spent some time with her as well a few months before. Apparently, Mrs. M’s son (now in his mid-50s) confessed to her that he was the bad influence, bought the beer, etc. Mom finished with, “I always knew you weren’t responsible for this.” I just about fell out of the chair from this banal burden lifted off of my shoulders.

Thank you all for being a sounding board and providing insight and advice. It is truly appreciated.

Kardamom's avatar

It’s not banal when it YOU that’s being hurt. That’s why we’re here, to help you carry the burden until you are able to unload it, or it gets unloaded for you. Glad to hear that the brother finally confessed. It would have been nice if the lady had apologized to you, but she probably won’t because she feels embarrassed. Just be happy that things are pretty much back to normal.

Now go pamper yourself : )

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