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kara97's avatar

What's an intelligent answer to give my stepmom when she puts me down in front of guests?

Asked by kara97 (181 points ) January 27th, 2013

First of all, hi fluther, newbie here posting my first question :)

Basically my stepmother and I have a really lousy relationship and I did everything I could to prevent the wedding and since then she’s doing everything she can to make my life miserable and get revenge. And a few days ago she started this big scandal…can’t help but think of Shawn Elliot’s song, “Shame and Scandal in the family :)…because the snow had melted and it was pretty slushy outside and I was in a hurry to get something from my room and didn’t take my shoes off at the door and left a bit of slush and water on the hardwood floor.

So after about 20 mins of yelling she announced that as a punishment my sister and I are no longer allowed to wear shoes in the house, not even indoors shoes that we never use outside which makes no sense to me. So I said fine, I’ll just wear socks then but she said we couldn’t do that either because we have tile and hardwood floors and apparently we could slip and break our neck if we walk on it in socks.I tried reminding her that we’re not 5 but 16 (me) and 14 (my sister) so I’m sure our sense of balance must have developed by now but she had none of it so for the last 4 days she’s been forcing us to walk around barefoot in the middle of the winter. Now this is not such a big deal to me as most of the time I would do the same on my own free will and I even realised I actually don’t own any socks because I mostly wear flats outside and the sports i do are artistic gymnastics and swimming neither of which require socks but somehow now that I know i have to stay like this not because I want to but because she’s making me do it I find it pretty frustrating and I’m aware of it all the time.

And what’s really bothering me, we had two families visiting us this weekend and she never failed to mention this to them (with me in the room) explaining what I did and how I’m now being punished and have to be barefoot inside and it created some pretty awkward moments and I definitely felt embarrassed by it while my dad just stood there like an idiot and said nothing to defend me. Then today I had some friends over earlier and again she made sure she told them the whole story again.

Two questions:
1. I would really like to come up with an intelligent remark next time she starts again embarrassing me in front of guests. Any idea what I could say to kind of embarrass her back but without being too direct cause that would piss my dad off and he’s head over heels into her…

2. Could this be considered in any way abusive? Like if I would call CPS would she get in trouble for it? This is more of a hypotethical question and I don’t think I would actually do it since it would hurt my dad and I don’t want that, but just for argument’s sake do you think I would have a case?

Many thanks,
Kara.

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80 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Welcome to Fluther.

Time for peacemaking. Your desire for the perfect remark will do nothing but widen the gap between you and your step mom, and make it harder to ever reconcile. And your father loves this woman enough to have chosen to marry her. Consider your father’s feelings.

Your step mom is not trying to replace your mom, but she sees you trying to thwart her every chance to integrate into the family. And you are doing anything you can. It’s her right to say don;t wear shoes in the house because you didn’t care if you damaged the floors!

And while telling the story over and over is not the wisest action, she is not making it up, she is defending why she punished you that way.

And NO, this not abuse and it is not something to call CPS about.

So, why not try to be cooperative, quit confronting her, and do what you are told. If you tried to stop the marriage, you owe her a huge apology and a bit of time to make amends, not a continuation of your negative behavior.

Sorry to be so blunt, but we on Fluther don’t accept unacceptable behavior.

CWOTUS's avatar

Welcome to Fluther.

The best thing you can do if your stepmother (or anyone else you’re not getting along with) makes uninformed, unintelligent or nonsensical statements or requirements (provided they aren’t actually illegal or unsafe, that is) ... is nothing at all.

As Napoleon said, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

@zenvelo‘s advice is good.

Lincoln also said, “Do I not destroy my enemy when I make him my friend?” That’s a damn fine way to destroy an enemy.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Blended families are seldom easy and harmonious.

You can’t win by escalating this war. No matter what you do or say to put your stepmother in her place, you won’t succeed. All you’ll do is make yourself, and stepmom, angrier and more resentful. As @CWOTUS wrote, the best response is none at all.

Also, as @zenvelo mentions, your stepmother’s behavior is annoying, not abusive. CPS can’t make her be sweet to you; no more than APS could have stopped you from being such a brat while your dad and stepmom planned their wedding.

You say that you’re age 16. In two years, you can leave home. I recommend working hard at school, getting good grades, and keeping busy with worthwhile activities, all for the purpose of being accepted by a nice college or university. Pick a school that’s far away, and you’ll encounter stepmom only during holidays.

Also, why don’t you wear bedroom slippers at home? They’d keep your feet warm and prevent you from sliding and falling.

wundayatta's avatar

Stepmothers and stepdaughters are key players in many a drama because this kind of thing is always happening. The new wife is competing for her husband’s attention and she is jealous of you. You think she has come between you and your Dad. Which she has. You are probably bitterly angry and looking for every opportunity to make your Dad’s new wife’s life hell. She, of course, is defending herself.

There is no easy way out of this. You can’t get your parents back together. They split for reasons that had nothing to do with your stepmom, even if your Dad had an affair with her before your parents split.

It is always hard on kids. What the others have said makes the most practical sense, even if it does not make you feel better. You want to survive the next two years, not make things worse. You want to get past it and forget it and move on with your life. If you fight your stepmom every step of the way, all your energy will be tied up with that, and you will do poorly in school and you won’t get into the college you want. You also may make it worse for your sister.

Hunker down. Avoid your stepmom. Do you work. Grit your teeth. Try to be nice (it makes it easier), and get out of there as soon as you can.

kara97's avatar

@zenvelo Thanks! I think your answer makes sense in normal circumstances. But in this particular case, I already do what she told me, she said I couldn’t wear shoes and I don’t so it’s not like I’m ignoring what she says. But it’s difficult to reach out to her since I’ve never seen her try to reach to me in any way since she moved in, it’s always been about turning my dad against me and punishing me for every little thing…this is just the latest in a long series of things she did to me, some worse than this. I did my best to do the same to her so I don’t consider myself a victim in this, but it’s true that being the kid puts me at a disadvantage and she has more power over me especially since she’s manipulating dad against me as well. So i’d really like to know how to make peace but i just don’t…

kara97's avatar

@CWOTUS Interesting…i can follow beating action with inaction and I definitely see her as the enemy, but about what Napoleon said, why do you think she is making a mistake? Because to me it looks like she is actually doing the right thing from her point of view, which is to humiliate me in front of others.

About Lincoln, well first of all I really like your answer because I really like history and always enjoy quotes from famous people;) But about making her my friend, see my reply to @zenvelo, I’m afraid that will be rather tough…

kara97's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul “why don’t you wear bedroom slippers at home? They’d keep your feet warm and prevent you from sliding and falling”

Because she won’t let me. We’re no longer allowed to wear any kind of shoes in the house, including slippers, flip flops etc. even if we’ve used them only inside and never outside in the past. That’s why I get pissed off, cause this doesn’t make any sense except to embarrass me.

marinelife's avatar

The one she is embarrassing is herself by repeating this story. The punishment seems way out of line for the crime and she comes off as a fool.

You have to get along with her as long as you are living under her roof. Have you tried apologizing for your actions from before the wedding?

kara97's avatar

@marinelife No, I didn’t apologize. My dad is 43 and she is 29. Need I say more? Good point about her coming of as a fool. I didn’t think of it but I think you’re right. Indeed probably those people left the house with a worse impression about her than before. I just wish my dad would see it soon enough!

kara97's avatar

@wundayatta Fully agree about not letting this affect my schoolwork. I like school and I always did good and she didn’t manage to change that so far even though she is now checking my schoolwork which I find ridiculous cause she used to be a secretary so not exactly Albert Einstein :)

“You are probably bitterly angry and looking for every opportunity to make your Dad’s new wife’s life hell. She, of course, is defending herself.”

I really don’t see her as a victim. She won, she got dad and even managed to turn him a bit against me, I mean he still loves me but she does believe her that I’m being manipulative etc. So now she has control and I have to go along with her stupid little punishments and rules. So I really don’t see why she has to defend herself and act like this. If she would try to reach out to me then maybe I could meet her half way (but I admit even then it would be hard) but she has never tried to do that.

ragingloli's avatar

You can remind her that she is not your mother. And that she will never be.

kara97's avatar

@ragingloli That’s too strong. I can’t say that. That would piss my dad off real bad and when the guests would leave I’d be in way more trouble than I am now.

kara97's avatar

One hour since asking the question and yet nobody seems to come up with that amazing answer that would shut her up for good in front of our guests :)

C’mon fluther, you can do it!!

ragingloli's avatar

You could refer to her as Eva Braun?

kara97's avatar

@ragingloli why? what would be the logic behind calling her eva braun?

ragingloli's avatar

@kara97
Eva Braun was the wife of Adolf Hitler.

ucme's avatar

I’d quote that Depeche Mode song “try walking in my shoes.”
Accompanied by a sarcastic grin aimed at your eager audience.

CWOTUS's avatar

No, @kara97, when she attempts to belittle, bully and humiliate you she is rationalizing, defending bad decisions, and trying to make herself right when objective observers (which you cannot be, in this case) can see that these are “bad acts” or misstatements. Just try to stay out of her way and avoid antagonizing her more than she already feels. And do try to get along, to the extent that that is possible.

It seems to me, from the little bit that you’ve described, that she feels like an outsider and that she needs to “turn things around” in some way. Try to overlook her petty power play.

EDIT: I just noticed what you said about the age difference between her and your dad, and (because I can do math), between you and her. She seems to be trying to fight above her weight class. I think if I were you I would definitely try to make peace with her without giving up your own honor and self-respect. You’re probably going to have to deal with her for some time, and – assuming she and your dad stay married long term – in decades ahead you two can be good friends, once you get over the initial awkwardness.

For that reason I would recommend strongly against the nuclear option, put-her-in-her-place, embarrass-her-for-all-time humiliating answer.

kara97's avatar

@ucme amazingly perfect!!! thanks!! that’s exactly the kind of answer i need. she definitely can’t punish me for saying that yet it would definitely be ironic and leave her searching for a reply. many many thanks! i’ll note this down and can’t wait to use it :)

YARNLADY's avatar

You need to see a counselor, or talk to a trusted adult. They can help you discover the best way to cope with the situation.

ucme's avatar

@kara97 You never know, it may even raise a smile & relieve some tension in the room.
Welcome aboard by the way :-)

wundayatta's avatar

@kara97 You don’t see her as a victim, but she is threatened by you, because you are his daughter. She is afraid if she doesn’t banish you from the house as soon as possible, she will lose him, because you’ll win. She may not think this consciously, but we’re talking about instincts built into humans for many eons.

She will push you out. The question is when. Your Dad is going to disappoint you and not come down on your side. He probably has no clue what is going on. He is thinking mostly about sex. She’s young and available and married to him. You’re just the daughter. In biological terms, you aren’t worth anything to him.

You might think that humans are above biology and that morality would mean something. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Biology wins out over morals most of the time. People tut tut and say how horrible it is and how wrong, and go on merrily doing the “wrong” thing because it feels better.

That is why your best strategy is to appease and try not to make her feel more threatened. The more you fight, the more she will fight and the more she will get. The more she will drive a wedge between you and your father. You can’t see this. You believe you can win. But you can’t. Not in a head to head battle. You have to fight a long term fight. For the day when she and you make peace or when she has split the scene.

That’s why no one is giving you lines. They might win a battle, but they won’t win the war. Are you in this for the whole war, or just for a battle? Right now you’re thinking only about the battle, and that is typical of someone who is 16. Can you think about the entire war? That is where @CWOTUS advice will come in handy.

You are not alone in this. Millions of young women face your situation. We had another question that was pretty much the same as yours around a month ago. This is a common situation and winning is difficult. The people who are advising you are generally in the 50s and 60s. They have seen a lot and know a lot. You may not like it, but they really are looking at this from your point of view. They want your happiness.

CWOTUS's avatar

What he ↑ said.

Except that some day your dad is going to come around, too, and appreciate you a lot more than he seems to now. You do not want to pursue a scorched earth policy unless it’s more like life or death. When it’s just occasional sniping and the power play that’s going on here, it’s best to “go along to get along”, and try to avoid making unnecessary enemies.

kara97's avatar

@CWOTUS she’s actually been with my dad for close to a year so i don’t think she’s as big an outsider as she used to. And I do try to stay out of her way and do what she says but she just can’t let go of the fact that i tried to stop them from being together and seems to just get satisfaction from making me miserable. it’s true that before they got married she had no power over me and i said lots of things to her face and in front of other people etc so i guess it’s payback time.

but the thing with the shoes it’s just the latest one, there are many more punishments including physical ones like, for example, she has a little bag full of plastic bottle caps from evian water bottles and sometimes she would make me stay with my back on a wall in the living room and i have to put two upturned bottle caps under the balls of each of my feet and 2 caps under each heel and i just have to stand there for 15–20 mins until she feels like I’m done with the caps painfully digging into my soles. Now that’s almost CPS stuff if you ask me and i kind of resent dad for letting her do that to me but i did stay in that position when she asked me to even though it hurt like hell so i really don’t know what i can do more to “meet her in the middle”. it’s true that even when she punishes me in painful ways like that i never give her the satisfaction to see me cry and i usually manage to find the power to make some ironic remark but that’s the least i can do since i do have my pride and i just can’t let her feel like she’s winning.

ragingloli's avatar

Refuse to subject yourself to that punishment. Just walk out of the room without a word.

CWOTUS's avatar

That kind of physical cruelty needs to be stopped. That’s a different issue entirely. This is one of the exceedingly rare times when I agree completely with @ragingloli.

kara97's avatar

@CWOTUS to be honest it only happened two times, last one few months ago when i lost my cool and told her to f* herself and refused to apologise. In the meantime i kind of learned to not say such things to her face and keep my irony in check and i’m ashamed that i lowered myself to that level and the standing on bottle caps didn’t happen since but various other things like writing lines, getting my phone taken away, this thing with the shoes now etc. do happen quite often and sometimes without clear reason if you ask me. but as you can see there’s a lot of hate and conflict in this story so kind of hard to make peace and forget everything…

kara97's avatar

@wundayatta i’m definitely in it for the war cause i’m already doing this for more than a year and still holding up…but i’d still like to win the next battle as well, and the line that @ucme gave me is exactly what i’m lookig for. a way to remain polite and civilized yet still manage to have an intelligent remark that would give me a quick victory in the short term battle… i agree that i’m young and inexperienced and i really mean no disrespect to the experienced people here with my insistence for a witty short term remark that will win me the next battle :)

CWOTUS's avatar

The other thing you have to learn at your age is to “pick your battles”.

Okay, you tried to prevent your dad from marrying her, and you lost that. Admit it. You might even consider apologizing to your stepmother about that. It doesn’t mean that you’ve changed your mind, that you think it was a bad idea, or that you were wrong to do it. But you can still feel all of those things and still say – and mean! (I’m not suggesting that you lie) – “I’m sorry.”

Since she is now married to your dad, and she is in a position of power over you, you may as well try to make the best of things. So I’d suggest, “I’m sorry I tried to come between you and my dad. Can we start with a clean slate?” or words to that effect.

There is no honor in continuing to fight a lost cause. There is no dishonor in surrendering to a superior force. And there is no reason that you have to change your mind, but you do have to change your tactics.

glacial's avatar

The bottle cap punishment is unacceptable. It could cause serious and lasting damage to your feet. Do not permit that again.

That being said, if you haven’t apologized for your actions before the wedding, you really should. She is never going to “let it go” otherwise – why should she? Your father has made a significant investment of time, money, emotion, and trust in marrying her. He is strongly motivated to support her, especially so soon after they’ve married. Try to build bridges if you can, instead of letting them burn.

And as others have said, don’t try to be clever about the barefoot issue. She already looks foolish for forbidding any footwear in the house. Trying to fight back with sarcasm will just make you look immature, and be a justification for the punishment in the minds of houseguests.

Oh, and one other thing… 29 to 43 is not really that big a deal when you reach those ages. I know it seems like a lot to you now, but later you’ll wonder why it was so upsetting.

kara97's avatar

@CWOTUS do you think it would make a difference if i apologize? my fear is that based on all she’s done so far it seems she really hates me so not so sure she will become nicer even if i apologize. also, you may think i’m biased (and you may be right), but she is quite pretty but not very smart, like she didn’t go to university and in my limited life experience i kind of think dumb people are way meaner than intelligent ones so i don’t know if she’s actually capable of forgiving me no matter what i do. and then is it worth losing face by apologizing and then have nothing change?

kara97's avatar

@glacial let me say this: i think 43yo men are pretty insecure about their how should i put this, “prince charming” abilities and whether they still “have it”, and i also think 29 yo women should not take advantage of that and should look for men their own age. am i wrong? :)

I will admit that it’s a free world (to a certain extent) and people can do what they want and so does my dad and it’s not up to me to make that decision so in that way i agree i went overboard trying to fight this, but at the same time i really don’t know what else i could have done when i now so well she is not the right woman for him and he’s making a fool of himself hanging out with her when she could be his daughter rather than his wife.

mishka's avatar

just tell her in front of people “to stop making a fool out of herself and carry on eating” or “and now tell us about another of your hobbies”....
and bang battle won – war lost

EDIT: Just to clarify – if you do that, it WILL get worse.

kara97's avatar

@mishka yeah, definitely, it would go way worse :) i would definitely not even dream of saying that in the current situation. but do you think that me mentioning the Depeche Mode song “try walking in my shoes.” in a funny and not angry voice as suggested by @ucme would be bad? I think it’s just a pretty neutral remark that would not attack her directly and it would give me a graceful way out rather than just staying there and blushing as she tells all those people how and why i’m being punished.

mishka's avatar

well, let me put it like this. Any response you will bring, will cause friction – the question is: how much friction?
with the depeche mode quote you are on the safer side, as it is not offensive – rather funny, but any response to her will seem like a counter-attack.. especially if the other guests will laugh at her.

kara97's avatar

@mishka yeah ok, but you have to realize it was very embarrassing for me to be talked about like that while i was in the room. of course if i never say anything then she’ll be happier but i’m not sure if living without punishments but with no pride is better than taking some punishments for now but emerging with my pride intact. so i’m really looking for the middle way here, not fighting all the way but not capitulating all the way either…You are all probably right but i’m a pretty stubborn person so it’s not so easy for me to just give up fighting. but i’ll definitely think about what was said here so please don’t get mad at me for continuing to argue my point. you could say that there’s no point in me asking this question if i stick to my point no matter what but i’m definitely listening to what is being said and will think about it and i am by no means ignoring your and everyone else’s advice.

ucme's avatar

Funny you should mention prince charming @kara97, because. your situation reminds me of cinderella minus the ugly sisters ;-}

mishka's avatar

you are 16. the outside world pride doesn’t apply to you yet anyway. to the other guests at the table you are a child. no offense intended. and if your friends will think less of you because of that, you don’t want such friends.
it started when you tried to keep them apart, before the marriage (for what ever reason you had). so obviously because of that she will look down at you because to her you are the daughter of her husband, who has been trying everything to stop them getting together.
if you worsen your relationship with her, then in your “worst case scenario” she might give birth to a child and then you will be completely left out.
to your father it will seem ‘OK’ because he will think: “she hates this family, she tried everything to stop it, so if we leave her out she would prefer it”

submariner's avatar

I’m trying to say something useful but my judgment is clouded. I’m imagining myself at 16 (my mother remarried at about that time)—I never would have allowed my stepdad to impose any kind of discipline on me. I only allowed my mother to do that, and only within reason. But the overall family dynamic was very different from yours.

The thought of somebody trying to do that thing with the bottlecaps to me, or even just trying to tell me I can’t wear shoes in my own house, makes me so angry that I’m afraid any advice I give to you will only lead to counterproductive escalation if followed.

That said, here it is: this bitch is not your mother and doesn’t have the right to tell you what to do. She didn’t help raise you. She didn’t help buy the house you live in. She’s not the one who put food on the table or clothes on your back. (I’m making some unfounded assumptions here; if she does do those things, then that complicates matters.) Most importantly, she doesn’t particularly care about your welfare, as her stunts have made clear. So let your dad know that you will do your best to fulfill your responsibilities as a member of the household and as his daughter, and you will try not to antagonize his wife, but you do not and will not recognize her as a parent and will not submit to arbitrary punishments (and don’t). Interact with the wife as little as possible. Do not waste energy on verbal sparring with her. Focus on your future and getting through the next couple of years.

kara97's avatar

@ucme you’re funny! very well said, i’m definitely cinderella in this story and i even lost not one but both shoes :) maybe another interesting line along the line of the depeche mode one.

ragingloli's avatar

What might also be a fun thing to do is to treat her as the inferior she is. You have been much longer in that family than she has, therefore you have seniority.
When she wants to punish you, ignore her and walk away.
When she wants you to do chores or anything else, ignore her and walk away. Alternatively insist on getting paid for anything she wants you to do.
You need to put that dog in her place.

kara97's avatar

@mishka “you are 16. the outside world pride doesn’t apply to you yet anyway. to the other guests at the table you are a child”

i’m not sure i follow this part. does it mean that if i’m under 18 people can say whatever they want about me and i’m not supposed to take offense? that’s a bit last century isn’t it? i’m old enough to drive and have a job and i understand that as a kid i should not expect to be placed at the same level as adults but talking about a stupid punishment with guests with the specific purpose of humiliating me is not ok even in the case of 16 yo kids.

ucme's avatar

@kara97 You shall go to the ball goddammit…bippity, boppity, boo!

wundayatta's avatar

Pride is overrated. Which would you rather have, pride or food? Pride or shelter?

Your stepmom is an evil bitch. She is treating you wrong. But your father isn’t on your side. So if you stand up to her for pride, you could well end up on the streets. Or maybe somewhere else, like at your mom’s, if that is an option. Maybe that’s what you should do. Go to your Mom’s. And if that’s where you want to end up, then picking a fight with your stepmom would be a good way to get there. Maybe.

But pride is pretty stupid. It’s way down low on the charts for me. I’d prefer peace before pride. Your life, God willing, will be long, and you’ll have plenty of time to live well, which is the best revenge. But first you have to get out of that situation. Preferably with a ticket to college, instead of having to do it all on your own. But if you are willing to do it all on your own, then definitely burn your bridges and get out, and find a job and a place to stay and finish high school and put yourself through college and get a good life.

submariner's avatar

One more thing: the age difference is irrelevant. At their age, 14 years is not really a big deal. Let that go.

mishka's avatar

@kara97 , what I am saying is the simple fact that when you are 16 you are a child. Driving a car is something so irrelevant and doesn’t illustrate maturity or wisdom. Just the simple mentioning of that showed how immature you still (might) be. Same as me saying that I was allowed to drink at the age of 16.

I am 21 and I just ‘turned’ adult to any adult person around me, still not completely – if they have 20 more years of life experience, they will still look at me like a child – so in the situation with guests any remark of yours will show that, yes, your stepmom is a bitch, but also that you are a brat, and your father will look like the guy who doesn’t manage to keep his family in check/balance

What I was trying to say is that you have that ideology of pride which is, well, silly. You can prove whoever whatever you want – it will not change the situation.

Sometimes it’s just about biting the bullet and holding through. I’ve beaten up my mother’s boyfriend when I was 17 because I thought he was being a dick to me. A few years later I understood that I was the one being a dick to him, and so also ruined a possible relationship of my mother… which made her very very sad.

When you are younger, you wanna prove your pride to everybody around you, even though sometimes there is nothing to prove.

Sure the bottlecap thing is irrational, but so were your attempts to break them up before the wedding – probably started off shitty as soon as you met her… “nobody takes my father (in my case mother) mimimi..”

“The smarter one stops first…”

EDIT: The more I read what you write, the more I see you the way I look back at me now or at any other of my friends who come frome divorce.

EDIT #2: the irrational part – I don’t know what you did to get such a punishment or why you would wanna break them up, but from my perspective it all links up.
I had the same situations and I learned from them. You will have similar ones, which you will learn from.

kara97's avatar

@wundayatta there’s no question about me leaving or being kicked out or anything like that. and i’ll definitely go to college. my relationship with dad was a bit strained when i opposed this wedding a year ago but it’s gotten way better since and there was never a question for him to throw me out on the street or stuff like that. if it was like that then yes, i’d swallow my pride and choose to eat rather than be proud and starve. but it’s not like that. so what i do is keep my pride within certain limits which don’t cross certain lines which would piss off dad. making a witty but not very strong remark when she’s talking me down in front of others won’t cross those lines. directly disobeying her when she decides that i have to be punished by not wearing shoes for messing up the floor or even standing on those bottle caps would cross the lines which is why i accepted the punishment. it’s a balancing act which i actually think i’ve gotten quite good at with time and start to know the boundaries quite well.

kara97's avatar

@mishka and everyone: would you agree that many messages here can be resumed as: “you are just a 16yo kid, so being asked to stay without shoes/socks inside the house and having your stepmom discussing that with guests over lunch is not that big a deal and your sense of pride is overblown. you should just accept that the adults in your life have the power to do these things to you and you should accept it without any complaints while being grateful that you have food and shelter. also you are not equal to your stepmom but inferior to her as a kid, so it is you who should go and apologize to her and hope for her forgiveness even though she took advantage of the hormones of a man going through his mid-life crisis to score a marriage”. Maybe the above is true and that’s how i should look at things, but would you agree that this is what these messages are ultimately saying?

glacial's avatar

@kara97 I can’t speak for the others, but my response was meant to keep you from making a bad situation worse, and hopefully to turn it into a better one, so that your remaining years at home will be peaceful ones. I hope things work out for you.

kara97's avatar

@glacial thanks, i’m thinking about all this and to be honest i start to think you’re right even though i hate admitting it. it’s probably better for me to just keep quiet and try to make the situation less conflictual. but i still think that the fact that she can just choose to force me to do things such as go barefoot just because she has the power to do it is not fair and things should not be this way. but i guess life is not perfect nor fair…

mishka's avatar

men don’t have major hormone changes, unlike women – men have it on a psychological level.

no you shouldn’t take that sh*t from her – but the way you are trying to tackle the problem is rather immature.

what you should do is to sit down and have a talk. reflect on what you have done and what she has done. don’t appologize if you don’t mean it just tell her how you gonna act/behave at home. have your dad in that conversation so the said things can’t get twisted afterwards. maybe draw borders “you won’t command me around”

then do as people suggested, though ignoring her when she asks you to clean the dishes or tidy your room would be wrong again because that’s not a personal favour, but more a normal house hold thing (depending on the household), but if she comes up with punishments, ignore it and leave it to your dad to decide.

Best way to deal with her remarks in front of guests, is to make a gesture, implying something like “oh here we go again”, the guests will see that and think “how pathetic of her” automatically.

I am off to bed, gotta work tomorrow (actually that’s today already) – so no more from me for today. I hope you’ll find the right way to deal with this problem.

submariner's avatar

I’m not saying you should surrender. I’m saying you should stand up for yourself—but do so by acting like an adult, not by trying to one-up her in petty games.

I’m also saying you should recognize that you are not an expert on 43-year-old men or mid-life crises. There’s nothing wrong with a man that age marrying a woman that age. That’s not the issue.

I’m curious—does she contribute to the household financially? Does she have a career? If she is unemployed, is she trying to find work? If not, it is possible that she is some kind of gold-digger, but again, that has nothing to do with her age—a 44-year-old woman can be a gold-digger too. It is also possible that she and your dad genuinely love each other and that she makes him happy. But if she is after his money, that may be a problem if you are counting on your dad to put you through college.

Maybe it would be helpful to think about your priorities. What is the relative importance of
your relationship with your father, your pride, a stress-free home for you and your sister, your future, etc.?

wundayatta's avatar

I agree with your summary, but that doesn’t mean she is right. She is treating you wrongly and meanly, but unfortunately, due to the situation you are in, it’s diffucult to take action. If you are secure with your father, then you have more latitude. The punishment as wrong and inappropriate. It is not her job to discipline you. That is your father’s job.

If you can do it, I would get him to agree to that principle. Stepmom doesn’t have any authority over you. He does. He is not being a proper father by letting her treat you that way.

But the principle is different from reality. Just because it’s wrong, doesn’t mean you can do anything about it. Sometimes it’s better to grin and bear it than to fight it. But it’s your call. Can you fight it without making it worse? If so, do it. But if you don’t have the right skills, then it is better to make nice.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@kara97 You mention that your house’s floors are tile and hardwood. I don’t know where you live, but, in most places, such floors get very cold during January. If your stepmonster won’t let you wear socks, you should be allowed to wear slippers. You shouldn’t be forced to walk around in your bare feet. You should really consider getting your father involved in this matter; he might intervene and help you.

You haven’t mentioned your mother. May I ask where she is? Did she pass away? If not, why don’t you live with her? If she’s alive and nearby, do you get to spend at least part of your time with her?

There are usually 3 sides to every story—Side A, Side B, and the truth that’s somewhere in the middle. Your pain speaks loudly and clearly, so I don’t doubt that you have an unhealthy relationship with stepmonster. I also know that S.M. has her own take on things—marrying into an existing family, and always being the unwelcomed outsider. Between all this, your father loves you both and doesn’t know what to do.

I wish I could buy you a nice restaurant meal and spend hours listening to you and talking with you. I really do.

kara97's avatar

@wundayatta the problem with having my father discipline me is that he is away for his work around 4 days per week so it’s her who is in charge during those days and he agrees with it. About her making me stand on the bottle caps, as i said both times she had me do it, it was an exceptional situation where i said really bad things and i didn’t even dare to talk to my dad about it given what i said. so to be honest if there was a time where i deserved to be punished that was it and I was way over the line so i’m not actually complaining that much about that punishment. I feel that was more deserved than the punishment i have to do now which is not as bad but a lot longer and for a very small ‘infraction’.

kara97's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul absolutely no slippers, rule is no shoes of any kind as a punishment for messing the floor and no socks as a ‘security’ rule to prevent us from slipping. hardwood is not that cold because the house is well heated but tile in the kitchen and bathrooms is pretty cold. I did complained to both of them about it but dad said that if i could wear slippers than it wouldn’t be a punishment anymore and that a punishment is not supposed to be pleasant and all this should toughen us up and when i said it to her she just pointed to the bottlecaps which are still in the kitchen asking if i think some time on those would warm my feet up…so i said no thanks and stopped arguing but then she started telling all our guests about it so i got pissed off again. What i should maybe also mention is that dad who raised us on his own since i was 4 is pretty severe as well and it’s not like it was all milk and honey before she moved in. he’s basicaly the kind of parent who when he tells you to do something you don’t argue, don’t talk back but just do what you’re told…

diavolobella's avatar

I haven’t seen you answer the question about where your mother is. Is living with her an option?

If I were you, I would ask your father to speak with him privately about the situation. When you do so, it’s important that you act as maturely as possible and talk to him rationally and as unemotionally as possible. Remind him that you were against this marriage, but it has taken place despite your wishes and you are having a hard time adjusting. Explain that your stepmother is pushing herself on you too much and too soon and that adjusting to her being in your life at all is hard enough, but worse when she is trying to usurp the authority that you feel only belongs to him and your mother – remind him that to you, this woman is a virtual stranger who has no bonds of affection for you that temper her behavior when it comes to punishing you or treating you fairly. Her checking your homework is not insulting because she was a secretary (secretaries are quite intelligent, so I don’t know where you got the idea they aren’t), but because you don’t have that sort of closeness with her yet. Her acting like an authoritarian/warden is not going to win her any points. Explain that you understand that there must be rules and that you must show her respect, but that you feel she must do the same toward you. Tell him about the bottle cap incidents (which are abusive and should not be tolerated – next time she tries to force that on you, refuse) and insist he throw them away and tell her that is unacceptable. Tell him that you understand you were careless about the floor, but that the punishment about not wearing shoes has gone on long enough and she has made her point. If she really thinks it is a safety issue (which I don’t believe she does – she is just being cruel and controlling) you should be able to wear slippers or slipper socks with treads on them that are easily purchased. You might ask your father that HE be the person who enforces discipline, not your stepmother. There seems to be some idea that just because he married her, she immediately takes on all the rights of a mother, but that is NOT true. She is NOT your mother. If she wants to become a figure of authority and respect in your life, she needs to EARN that position and your father needs to respect the fact that he forced this woman on you against your wishes and cannot expect you to form a pleasant relationship with her overnight. Stepparent relationships take a long time to grow and become established even under the best of circumstances. You should also discuss (again calmly) with him her repeatedly embarrassing you in front of guests. You already were punished, you got the point and there was no need for her to do that except to be cruel. Your father created this situation and I think it’s important that he be asked to moderate it and act as a go-between until you can come to some sort of understanding. Talk to him privately first and then the three (or four, if you include your sister) need to sit down and establish some guidelines of respect that go BOTH ways and apply to everyone. Ask for a clean slate and agree to treat her with respect and ask that she do the same and try to respect that there are boundaries in your relationship that she should not try to cross just now, until you have a chance to get to know her better. Your dad needs to step up. He created this situation and he’s left both of you foundering around on your own, trying to get by when he needs to step in the middle and mediate.

If you can’t work that out, perhaps you should go live with your mother for a while and just make short visits to your father’s house.

kara97's avatar

@diavolobella “Is living with her an option?”—> short answer is no (without going into details).

“Tell him about the bottle cap incidents and insist he throw them away and tell her that is unacceptable”—> he knows about them as she did threaten me a couple of times with them while he was there. Even two days ago when i complained about my feet being cold from the tiles and she actually made me take 8 bottle caps out of the plastic bag and put them on the floor he didn’t say she should stop and it was her decision to let me off the hook after i said that i’m no longer cold. but if she wanted to go ahead and have me stand on them I think he would have supported her. so to be pragmatic, i think my best bet is to not give her reason to use them but i doubt they’ll be thrown away any time soon especially since they now both know that’s the one punishment we are really afraid of. As i said, dad has been pretty tough on us as well when we were growing up (and i don’t necessarily blame him because it gave us a lot of structure) so i don’t think he finds the bottle caps so unacceptable.

CWOTUS's avatar

Look, as we tell many other young people in situations much worse than yours (really, you should look at some of the questions from other young people in the “Family” topic), that their job right now is to survive, to get through this part of their life, to succeed and to move away if that’s their desire.

If you insist on debating every order that your dad or stepmother wants to give you in the same way that you debate every piece of advice that’s given to you, then you may not make that goal. It’s okay to question what we’re telling you here; it’s what Fluther is all about, after all. But you really have to take to heart what we’re telling you about choosing your battles wisely. Your dad is allied with your stepmother now, and since he’s gone so often, as you say, he has given her the authority to “run the house” in his absence. If he’s smart, he’s not going to second-guess minor corrective actions that she chooses to enforce discipline in the house, even if he doesn’t particularly like them or agree with them all.

So if you’re going to be smart, and you seem like you can be, then you’ll choose to adapt to the new rules, the new boss, and go along, at least until you can move out on your own. You don’t have to sacrifice dignity, and you won’t if you just follow the “legal and safe” rules. You don’t have to ingratiate or debase yourself to her, and you won’t do that if you just try to be pleasant and non-confrontational.

On the other hand, if it is your intent to turn your house into a war zone where no mercy is requested or given, and come back in a few months with tales of real abuse and dysfunctional family, including CPS, the juvenile court system and all the rest of that, then you can do that, too. Personally, I’d just back off a little, let her have her way and try to be – if “agreeable” and “pleasant” are beyond you – at least not-surly and not-defiant.

diavolobella's avatar

@kara97 The bottle caps are unacceptable. Period. If you don’t think your father thinks so, that’s something I’d tell another person (a teacher, a relative, your mom, a school counselor) about. That crosses the line into abuse. My suggestion is actually that you tell both him and her no in regard to the bottle caps and you throw them away. If they have a problem with that, tell an authority figure. The bottle cap thing crosses the line from punishment into simple sadism. There are plenty of ways to punish someone that do not involve pain and possible injury.

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

Perhaps you should just remind her that you didn’t want her to marry into your family to begin with, because you knew she would be too perfect to handle you and all your flaws.~ (Sarcasm)

Secondly you should tell her that while she enjoys getting a laugh at your expense, it’s nothing compared to how you and your friends laugh at how she looks when she’s not around.

Third of all you could tell her if she has such a big problem with you, she should of thought about that before she married into the family. Tell her next time she’s sleeping with your dad that you want her to think about the fact that half the DNA you have came from the semen of the man she’s trying to extract it from, so if she gets pregnant and lucky, she’ll have another daughter just like you. Then wink at her and tell her you love her.

Ela's avatar

Sorry I haven’t read all the replies. Has someone suggested moving in with a relative?

It never ceases to amaze me how a person can marry or even date someone that doesn’t get along with their at home children. This isn’t even an option for me.

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

You should also just ask how dumb someone has to be to marry into a household she obviously doesn’t want to be a part of.

majorrich's avatar

A completely heinous nuclear option is to have a male friend come to visit and act like a complete D-bag, Even a little controlling (hinting that he may get abusive) Then announce that he has told you that you are moving in together. Best to clear it with friends parents and let them know about the whole trainwreck thing you got going there. (Hint, gay friends make better actors) See how Dad reacts to that one. Stepmonster reaction will tell if she really has your best interests at heart.

gailcalled's avatar

@kara97: Have you asked a similar question about this family dynamic and the war between you and your step-mother under another user name?

Wine's avatar

They’re just socks/slippers. If it isn’t a life threatening factor, let it go. Obviously your bickering with her isn’t going to make her go away and it doesn’t seem as if your dad is planning on taking action anytime soon. There’s always two sides to a story and I really wish I could hear your step moms, who knows, you may actually be the disrespectful one and maybe she feels as if she’s being attacked. Either way if you’re stuck with her you might as well be on “ok” terms. If you actually want to try to do something, go talk to her and your father individually in a mature manner. Someone suggested talking to a counselor earlier, I think that would be beneficial to the situation as well.

majorrich's avatar

Please note I DO NOT recomment using any kind of nuclear option.
makes more trouble than it helps.

submariner's avatar

So… dad is gone for 4 days a week, and this woman is in charge. Dad knows about the bottlecaps and accepts it. This all raises so many more questions that I don’t know where to begin. You really need to find an adult you can talk to. School counselor? Pastor? Coach? Teacher? Grandparent? Best friend’s mom? I hope there is someone who can help you sort this out.

wundayatta's avatar

These parenting practices are not generally accepted in the US. They verge on abuse. You are used to a tough father. Is he very religious? Is he military?

You seem to know what you are up to and up against. Do you feel your childhood has been unusual? Or is it just normal and acceptable to you? If you are used to being strictly controlled by your father, then I guess it is the shock of having a new mom that made you go off track. But now you see that she is your father’s deputy. She acts in his place. He fully supports that. To go against her is to go against him.

It seems like your pride has been hurt. Probably because you made a mistake in overestimating the power you had. You thought you could stop the marriage, but you couldn’t. Now she is taking revenge, which is a big mistake on her part and shows her immaturity. Her revenge may be sweet now, but in the long run, when you have more power—and you will have more power when you live on your own and support yourself—you will have the upper hand.

Be generous when that happens. And be generous now. Seek to get on her good side so she will be nicer to you. This humiliation will pass. Tell her you are sorry. You love her. Whatever you need to say to make her feel like she can ease up on you. Just make it through to college, and through college, and until you are on your own. Then, if necessary, you can seek to give her a taste of her own medicine. If you still think it necessary. Hopefully, by then, you will be so beyond that. She will be irrelevant to your life.

One form of revenge is that when you have kids, you can refuse to let her in your house. You can refuse to let her ever even see them. Of course, if she has kids of her own, this may not be important to her. And if she does have kids, things will change again in your house, but she will have a lot less time to watch out over you.

Sunny2's avatar

Next time she does this kind of thing, try laughing and saying, “Oh (her name), there you go airing my dirty linen again.” She is not wise to complain about you in front of others and they will recognize it. I’d also suggest you talk to your dad about it. He’s the one who could make a difference.

LostInParadise's avatar

Somebody needs to act maturely, and since neither your father nor step-mother are up to the task, the responsibility falls on you. Start by speaking to your father about how you are being treated and ask him to speak to your step-mother about it. If that fails, speak directly to your step-mother. Tell her that you recognize there has been some friction and that you wish that everyone would just get along. I would let the bottle cap incident slide unless she does something similar. Tell her that it hurts you to be insulted in front of others and that you would prefer that she not do it any more. If she continues to humiliate you in front of others, just respond by stating your case. Say that what you did was accident and that you apologized and you feel that it is not necessary to continue to be punished. Then see who feels embarrassed.

submariner's avatar

Here’s a possible comeback: if she talks about your punishment in front of guests in a way that seems intended to humiliate you, say, “Tell them about the bottlecaps while you’re at it.”

Do you like kids? Maybe you could get a job at a summer camp this summer. It might be good to get out of the house for a while. It might be a way to hit the “reset” button on the whole situation. Now (Jan.) would be a good time to look into that and maybe see about getting your CPR, first aid, and WSI certification.

tinyfaery's avatar

What you are describing is abuse, not punishment.

I was an abused child (Though, I’m talking about getting my head bashed into walls and getting punched by a rather large man.) and once I was at an age (14) where I felt confident to get the hell away from him, I left. It wasn’t easy. I had great friends and their parents were sympathetic towards me. It only took a few years and then I came back home and I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. (My therapist said I played chicken and won.) There’s an option for you.

I get that you want to put her in her place, and the rest of the collective is correct in saying that doing or saying anything might make it worse and it’s an immature solution, but you are 16, and by definition immature.

Do what you have to in order to survive mentally, emotionally and physically. Nothing lasts forever.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Welcome to fluther!!

Kill her with kindness, it works every time and will irritate her the most. And the added benefit is your dad will totally see you trying really hard to be friends.

snowberry's avatar

I agree with @KNOWITALL, but it won’t work unless your attitude is right. You can’t “kill her with kindness” unless you really mean it. Love cannot be faked, and it will backfire if you do fake it.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@snowberry Actually I think it will work if @kara97 can keep herself under control and not lose her temper. Acting like a good little girl who takes orders and does everything step-mama says will probably endear her to step-mom.

After all, it sounds like a classic jealousy power struggle over dad and control over the household. Been there, more with a step-dad type figure, but that was easier, he just wanted to be adored. Not too much to ask to get your way…lol

gailcalled's avatar

Just where is @kara97?

kara97's avatar

Thanks everyone for all the answers.

@CWOTUS ” if it is your intent to turn your house into a war zone where no mercy is requested or given, and come back in a few months with tales of real abuse and dysfunctional family, including CPS, the juvenile court system and all the rest of that, then you can do that, too.”

Definitely no intention of heading that way. My initial question was just because i was curious about how other people would see this but as i said i wasn’t seriously considering it.

“Personally, I’d just back off a little, let her have her way and try to be – if “agreeable” and “pleasant” are beyond you – at least not-surly and not-defiant.”

I think this is the most common sense advice and many of the answers mention it in one way or another. Probably the best thing to try to do.

CWOTUS's avatar

Thanks. I hope you can do it. I mostly got along great with both of my parents (never divorced or separated), and even so it was difficult for me at times when I was your age. I’m under no illusions about how difficult it is for you to swallow your pride sometimes, because I think I understand that you have certain feelings about what you perceive as the failings of both your father and his new wife. But if you can give them some space to develop a relationship with each other – and a common relationship with you – then things really can work out. By “space” I mean non-critical and non-judgmental acceptance of “what is” even if it doesn’t appeal to you for various reasons.

You’ll be a better person – and a lot easier for others to be around, too! – if you can do it.

Good luck widdat. (I know it’ll be difficult, and you’ll probably slip from time to time, but keep at it.)

Supacase's avatar

You are understandably angry, but it sounds like you are all-in-all a good teenager. You are obedient, if nothing else.

Do chores without being asked so she has no grounds to tell you to do anything. “I wish I could help with the dishes right now, but I really need to get to my homework now. I’ve taken care of the laundry, mopping and vacuuming – I hope that will at least help you out some.”

Wear the slippers. How long is a ‘punishment’ supposed to last anyway? If she and/or your dad wear them in the house, there is no valid reason to keep you from doing the same. It is just stupid at this point.

Flat refuse to stand on the bottle caps. Simply don’t do it. Don’t fight about it, just say no calmly and repeat as necessary.

Avoid her. Remain aloof, but don’t ignore her as that would give her cause to complain of rudeness. Do not let her get to you. Leave the room if you feel yourself getting heated. Don’t huff your way out, just walk away. She isn’t worth it. Leave her standing alone in her fury.

Get some feetie pajamas.

Learn how to sing the Depeche Mode lyrics. It will be more amusing that way but no more out of line.

When she proudly tells people about her clever punishment, just nod and agree that freezing cold feet are indeed an excellent reminder of your transgression. If she gets mad at you in front of them, ask her if she’d like you to get the bottle caps now or wait until company has gone.

Pick and choose from above. There are several approaches – defiant, passive-aggressive, sarcastic, flippant, removing yourself from the situation, etc. (Why get tyypecast?). :)

The main thing is to not let her know she is successfully getting to you. Btw, is she like this to your sister?

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