Dealing with a significant other’s mother can sometimes be hard—but it can be especially difficult if cultural differences prevent understanding.
However, one Redditor’s complaint about her boyfriend’s immigrant mother has pivoted from a narrative about being able to choose what you wear to a narrative about why white people always call “racism” when they get upset about something.
“I love my boyfriend but his immigrant South Asian mother is a really stubborn insular person. I knew her staying with us is not going to be pleasant for many reasons, but I think being polite and firm would be the way to go. For some reason, my bf thinks that I should be ‘more tactful, even if I’m not wrong.'”
“The straw that broke the camel’s back is her apparent hatred for me wearing shorts. Granted they’re pretty short but it’s 2021 and it’s summer. And I’ve got killer legs lady, don’t blame me for that. I’m pretty sure your son gets off on that. She told me that ‘it’s disrespectful to wear them around’ when she’s there and she knows ‘kids our age’ do ‘all sorts of crazy things’ but ‘to keep them out of sight as a sign of respect for parents.'”
The OP says that she believes her boyfriend’s mother doesn’t like her because the OP is white and has “non-traditional jobs (office admin, bartending)” unlike her boyfriend who is an engineer.
She asks, “should one always be tactful to racist insensitive elders? Or is it important to draw a line and draw it firmly and early in such messy relationships?”
Redditors had a lot to say—not so much about the shorts, but about the OP’s use of the word “racist.”
“It’s actually more disrespectful to assume that wearing shorts leads to ‘all sorts of crazy things’ as if she knows what’s in your head. The mother should keep her thought to herself, because she’s a guest. NTA. There is a limit to how tactful one can be. Your boyfriend didn’t meet you yesterday. He knew what you wear for a while. He can’t do 180 and turn this into a YOU problem when it’s his Mother’s problem. Boyfriend needs a new spine so he can stand up for you and deal with his Mother himself,” suggested ChewMyFudge.
“She isn’t racist for picking on you, she’s prejudiced and probably sexist, but NTA,” noted Especially-Tired.
“OP seems pretty antagonistic, with the ‘perfect little engineer’ and the ‘your son gets off on it.’ I have a mother exactly like the MIL described here. She’s a fucking asshole. I always support my (white) SIL wearing what she wants. But has enough tact and wisdom to know how far to push it so that my mother doesn’t get to ‘win,’ so to speak. These two seem hell bent on pissing each other off, which is a yikes,’ said petri_plays_music.
“You haven’t described any racist behaviour from her, which leaves me thinking that your insecurity is making you combative. You would have earned a YTA from me purely from the über-manipulative ‘Should one always be tactful to racist, insensitive elders.’ And yes, you should be courteous and tactful, and go out of your way to be respectful to your boyfriend’s parents, assuming this is a relationship you want to keep. Although, the ‘unlike her perfect little engineering son’ is making me think maybe you don’t actually like this guy all that much…She realized it was an imposition to ask you to dress more modestly, but she’s uncomfortable enough that she felt it was worth asking for anyway. And you haven’t mentioned any Asian mother tizzy fit, so she’s been nice to you about it,” said CinderellaRidvan.
“I’ll take the down votes but as a South Asian woman I understand why your boyfriend’s mother was upset. In South Asian culture respecting your elders is SO SO important. Part of that is dressing “respectfully” (this goes both ways if I had a white boyfriend who wore a tank top and shorts that go above the knee I’m sure my mother would be upset too). The fact that you weren’t willing to wear pants just this once to accommodate your boyfriends culture just this one time is a little strange to me. But All and All if we are looking at this from a Western perspective the mother is kinda an AH and shouldn’t be telling you what to wear. Idk man this all might be coming from a biased place because I grew up with the culture…Ya no the more I read your comments about thinking that your boyfriends mother is racist the more you become an Ass. The comments your boyfriends mom is making can be considered at the MOST prejudiced and a the least, judgmental. It’s not racist, and the way you are responding to comments calling you out makes you seem ignorant,” said browniebear05.