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A Troll In the Family

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I’m having a problem with some family members and it’s really starting to wear on me and cause stress. Both of my parents come from large families, my mother is one of seven as is my father, which makes for lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. My husband also comes from a similar background, his father is one of four but his mother is one of nine… so the amount of family we could potentially be surrounded by is enormous. All of my father’s family lives 1,200 miles away, my mother’s family is scattered but most live a good 4-8 hr flight away as well. My husbands family, well… we don’t talk to them much, not because we don’t like them but they all seem to keep to themselves.

My problems lies in “my side” of the family, recently I was made aware of a voicemail from an aunt who spewed so much hatred into a 8 minute message I was shocked. The reason behind the hatred you ask, because I posted a Facebook picture of us putting Christmas lights up on my parents’ house and we didn’t have the decency to send a $5 gift card to the girlfriend of my cousin who was having a baby shower. A cousin I’m not anywhere near close to, a girlfriend I DON’T EVEN KNOW. The aunt went on about how I had to money to blow to go to a wedding for my best friend, one who I have been friends with for 18 years mind you and I think of as a sister, and how we spent an entire week there on vacation (which we had SAVED money from our taxes to be able to do). She yelled and screamed about how we didn’t send anything for this baby shower and only spend money on things/people we want to spend money on. She yelled at my mom who flew up at the end of the week to watch the kids so I could spend the entire day with this friend, helping her get dressed for her wedding. She complained that my mom had the nerve to make visits to her family but not to theirs, my mother did this to visit my grandmother who was dying from cancer. She sat at her bedside as she died, it was hardly a vacation. Did I mention that the aunt who called was NOT even the mother of the cousin who’s girlfriend is having the baby? Not to mention she broke every etiquette rule in the book by not only expecting a gift but then yelling at us for not sending a gift, for a baby who isn’t even born yet and we possibly would have sent something once that occurred.

Since this I have been told snippets about some of the things she has been saying anytime I put a picture on Facebook or say something in my blog about the activities we are doing leading up to Christmas. We are out shopping it up, wasting money. It’s beginning to wear on me because I am starting to feel like a horrible person, even though all the activities we’ve been doing are free, local events. I want to email or call her (which my dad, it’s his sister, has told me not to) and explain that look my family doesn’t have that much money, I’m taking advantage of FREE events. Heck, I barely pulled together presents for my children for Christmas. I saved money from our taxes and any extra money we had for an entire YEAR to go to that wedding. Yet this is making me sick, it’s ruining my holiday and making me think twice before I post anything anywhere. Please Amy, what do I do? Am I a horrible person for not sending a gift card to a person I don’t even know, who I’m sure I will never ever meet?

Family Troubles

Wow, your aunt sounds like a real piece of work, which is always what my mom calls someone when she’s trying to be polite and not use more specific words, like batsh*t crazy. Bless her heart!

A couple things I’m wondering here: First, who is “sharing” these delightful snippets with you and why? Why are they listening to this garbage in the first place, without telling this woman off or simply telling her they don’t want to hear about it — if she has a problem with you, she should take it up directly with you. And why is your dad telling you not to defend yourself against a slanderous family member? Why isn’t HE defending you against her?

And also, why haven’t you blocked this crazy woman on Facebook yet? Because seriously: She sounds crazy. An eight minute tirade over not sending a gift card to…hold up, I need to copy-and-paste this because I have already lost track…the pregnant girlfriend of a cousin, but the cousin isn’t even her son, and shrieking at your mom (who isn’t even her sister) over weddings and vacations that she’s creepily been tracking and counting and cyberstalking? What the hell?

If I may use a personal metaphor thing for a second, but as a pretty visible, decently-trafficked blogger, I’ve always had to deal with the fact that there are people and places out there who simply LOVE to jump all over things I post and rip them apart and over-analyze them in order to support their unshakable belief that I am a bad person or a bad mother or a liar or a bitch or whatever. I quickly learned that there was nothing I could do to appease these people — I could write something that literally flew in the face of their criticisms and mixed-up facts, explicitly explaining that such-and-such was a JOKE or SARCASM or I was QUOTING A MOVIE in that tweet that was being held up on some message board as an example of what an idiot I was — and they’d just find something else to get worked up over.

Finally, I just began ignoring them. And I mean, ignoring with a VENGEANCE. I stopped checking my referral stats so I wouldn’t have to see the traffic coming from those places. I resisted the urge to click over and see what they were saying, and ABOVE ALL: My friends were given a strict order not to tell me about any of it. No, I don’t care what you just “happened” to read about me on some blog or message board somewhere. No, I don’t want the link. Eventually, I stopped mentally composing endless responses to the crap they were saying, or letting them get in my headspace when I was writing, worrying about what they’d find to say about me THIS TIME.

Every once in awhile I get emails from…well, let’s just call them Concern Trolls, who are people who claim that they are Huge Fans and Love Me but OMG, They Saw This Link Where I Am Being Made Fun Of And Ripped To Shreds And It Just HURT THEM SO MUCH To Read It And So They Wanted To Make Sure I Saw It Too So My Feelings Could Be Hurt And Maybe I Would Write About It Or Respond In Some Way And Mwa Ha Ha MAXIMUM DRAMAZ ACHIEVED.

Tl;Dr version: You need to block this aunt out like the troll she is, sweet lady. It really sounds like she might be a bit…unwell (maybe that’s why your dad doesn’t want you contacting her directly?), but that’s really not your problem to solve. Tell your mom and dad and whoever else might be the source of “OMG guess what Auntie Crazypants is saying about you NOW” that you no longer want to hear about it. Full stop. Post whatever you freaking want on Facebook and your blog — let me ASSURE you that you probably aren’t going to change a mind as irrational as hers is, even if you were to post your household budget as “proof” that you aren’t dripping with cash or specifically mention that an activity was free. Because: GAS! YOU SPENT MONEY ON GAS! HOW DARE YOU!

Personally, because she IS family and not some random Internet stranger, I probably would call her and confront her and ask her why you’re hearing all these things second- or third-hand. “If I’ve done something to offend you, I believe I should be hearing about it from you directly.” Of course, it sounds like (unlike the Internet trolls who almost always burst into spontaneous flames when actually, directly confronted) she’s the sort who delights in face-to-face or over-the-phone screaming matches (see: your mother)…so maybe not. You really don’t owe this woman anything, because you’ve done NOTHING to earn this level of venomous backstabbing, gift card or no gift card.

If you do decide to honor your dad’s wishes not to confront her, I do think HE owes you more of an explanation as to why he’s against it, and also a promise to defend you to her on your behalf. Why is this woman allowed to trash talk his daughter to him, or to your mom, or whoever else she’s talking to? SOMEONE needs to put their foot down and say, “Auntie Crazypants, these are things that have nothing to do with me, and if you have such a problem with Family Troubles, you should be talking to her and working to clear this misunderstanding up instead of gossiping to everybody else.”

But above all, block her from your brain. I know it can be incredibly difficult when you feel unfairly attacked. I know it’s hard not to keep composing rational rebuttals to completely irrational criticisms. (A baby shower invite is NOT an obligation to give a gift, whether you attend or not! What if you WERE planning to send a gift once the baby arrives? Also, it’s nobody’s freaking business what you do with your own freaking money, I don’t care how much of it you have or how much you choose to blow on vacations or Christmas gifts, it’s NOT. HER. BUSINESS.) I just don’t think this woman sounds like she’s in a good place right now. You don’t mention any history or pattern of this behavior, and it’s possible that someone in the family needs to sack up and figure out if there’s something seriously wrong that’s causing her to lash out with so much petty vitriol…or she might just be an awful, toxic person. Either way, family or not, you deserved to not have your holidays ruined because of this woman. Just…let her go. Block it out. Shut it down when it tries to seep in around the edges.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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