Oh, the joy of people asking questions that they think are innocent, and entirely appropriate. They may want the person they’re asking to think they’re being selflessly interested. They may think they’re just being teasing. Or, maybe, they’re just a kid who really doesn’t have a clue. The problem is, their question absolutely crushes the person being asked. These Redditors share the innocent, but crushing questions they’ve been asked, and how the experience affected them in heartbreaking, awkward, or enlightening ways.
Just happened recently actually. A few years ago, I had a pretty awesome life, I was married. My husband and I were trying to have kids and when I needed a car, we just got me an SUV in anticipation for needing it for kids (he had two and we planned to have 2-3). Well things didn’t work out and he ended up dying from drinking too much in January. Between that and two miscarriages, an ectopic and an IVF cycle that failed I’m slowly coming to the realization that I’ll never be a mother.
It’s painful to say the least. The kid I nanny for was sitting in my car and we were discussing his day when he says, “Nanny, why do you have such a big car when it’s only you?” I wanted to cry right there on the spot. It just really stung. But instead I told him it was because I knew I would be watching him, and I needed a car big enough for him, which seemed to placate him. He then started discussing Batman with me.
“Table for how many?” the first time we went out for dinner after my dad took his own life. That one hit like a truck.
I lost my brother in 2007 and my father passed two years ago. I took my mom out for dinner one night and the host asked, “Just the two of you?” It took everything we had not to cry.
My four-year-old cousin once pointed at my acne and asked me, “Why do you have so many bee stings on your face?”
I went to get a haircut for my fiancé’s funeral. It was Friday. He had passed on Tuesday. My stylist, all bubbly, said, "It's been awhile!! The last time I saw you, you were just about to move in with your boyfriend! How's it going?" The words stuck and I kind of rasped it out. Honestly though, her reaction was so wonderful.
She was behind me, and just put her hands firmly on my shoulders and looked me in the eyes in the mirror. No shock, no stupid platitudes, just silent, genuine empathy. The rest of the haircut was pretty quiet, but she did everything so...like, lovingly. She also didn't make a big deal out of it when I cried a little.
I teach first grade and was talking about how I've been married for five years. One student asked, "How could you not have a baby by now?" Not wanting to explain multiple miscarriages and IVF to a classroom of six-year-olds I said, "Being around all of you makes my heart so full that I don't think I have room in my heart for a baby!!"
They all smiled. I smiled too. I've learned from my experience to never ask couples when/if they want to have a family.
We had been struggling to have kids until we finally saw a fertility specialist who immediately diagnosed the root cause and prescribed medication that helped. We didn't feel this was a topic we really needed to mention to anybody though. All the while, my wife's older sister had been telling everybody that she had no interest in having kids of her own. We took this at face value initially, but then on a whim, we decided to tell her my wife's medical history, as these things often run in the family.
And who would have thunk it...Two months later, my sister-in-law was pregnant too. She'd just been too shy to tell anybody about the real reason she didn't have kids. Sometimes, communication is a good thing.
A friend looked at me and said, “I know we’ve talked about it before, but how did you break your nose?” I’ve never broken my nose. This is just how it looks.
"When will you get better so you can play with us?" My niece who was too young to understand what disabled meant. She's older now and understands I will never get better. And we have adapted playtime to do things I can handle as well. But that broke my heart.
My son was undergoing chemo and radiation treatment for a bone marrow transplant. People, meaning well of course, would always ask, "How's your son doing?" I'd always have to fake a smile and give some shallow hopeful answer: "He's fine. He's a fighter". But deep inside the question crushed me every time. No, he was suffering. Teetering on the brink of dying.
He was not "fine," and every time I heard that question, I was reminded of it and had to swallow the pain. My son has since recovered, but it was a very tough time.
Not me but my husband. We worked at the same place. I had a miscarriage and had a week off work; my husband was at work when the manager and other workmates asked where I was and jokingly said, “Is she pregnant?” I had to tell the boss why I wasn’t at work just to get them to stop mentioning it because I could tell it hurt him WAY more then he led on.
I grew up lower-middle class and my parents had been severely injured by an intoxicated driver at the end of my eighth-grade year and were disabled and no longer able to work. We basically had no money for school clothes, but my mother tried to get me a few cool shirts. I wasn’t a popular kid and most people didn’t really know much about me.
In my freshman year of high school, one of the popular girls in my class asked, “Don’t you have more than three shirts? I only ever see you in the same three shirts". High school in the 80s in the United States sucked.
"What's on her face, mom?"—Little girl. I used to be a cashier and had terrible acne at the time.
“Rough night last night?” Usually asked with a big smile. I was asked that all the time when I was younger because I had an obvious tremor. Thing is, I did not drink or do any substances at all. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I was eventually diagnosed with Graves’ Disease and treated for it, but I still have a bit of a tremor.
I had hyperthyroidism, then underwent radioactive iodine treatment and am now hypothyroid. My lips were often blue, and I was always pale and cold with sunken looking eyes until we got my medicine on track. People asked me all the time if I was sick because I looked like I was dying. Thyroid stuff really messes you up, and when you try to explain it, no one knows what a thyroid even is.
“I could never imagine getting cancer at such a young age. How are you this strong/brave/do you stay so positive?” I’ve stopped counting the amount of people (especially working at the hospital, I’d expect a bit more sensitivity from them) who have asked me that. Yes, I’m mid-20s, but it’s not a choice that I’m “staying strong,” it’s freaking survival.
Every time someone asks me that, it feels like getting punched.
Nonverbal, but the nurse at the flu shot station seemed unsure whether to give me the under-65 or over-65 consent form. If I'm going to be mistaken for being that much older than my actual age, at least it should be in the context of me getting a senior discount.
My grandma's hair has been stark white since she was 23, and she has been getting offered senior discounts since she was about 30. She used to get offended, but now sees it as a sorta life hack (she still hasn't hit 65).
I got asked why I wouldn’t stand up straight for a photo. I have kyphosis and am standing up as straight as I can.
"Why don't you ever go out?" Well, because I don't have anyone to go out with. Dang...
Specialist appointment and they did the normal thing of checking contact details. They asked if the contact number and details for my wife were still correct, and I just started crying. My wife passed on this time 12 months ago. Surprising how much one simple question asked in total innocence can bring you to your knees.
I had no friends in summer school and a girl asked me if I had any friends. Like straight up, “Do you have any friends?” She then became friends with me, but still.
I worked in retail when I was younger and people would always be like, "Oh, do you have any ideas for Father’s Day?" "What'd you get your dad?" My dad took his own life when I was 16. They had no way of knowing that, but man if it didn't hurt.
I was cashiering and we had some red roses that were pretty popular. I rang up some lad dressed quite nice purchasing the roses and I asked if they were for anyone special, you know. Well, no, they were for his recently passed dad’s grave. I apologized so hard. He said it was fine and he’s doing well, but it was time to change the flowers.
Shut me the frick up, really quick.
Part of the “young with a dead parent” club problems. No one assumes that we’ve already lost a parent, so the casual questions can just punch you in the gut. My mom passed on after being very sick for a very short amount of time when I was 19, and there were a lot of older people in my life who genuinely didn’t even consider someone my age losing a parent a possibility. “Where do your parents live?” “Oh, my dad lives in California". “And your mom?” “In a box in dad’s room". That is why I specified dad instead of saying parents, and that’s a hint you shouldn’t have ignored.
I'll always remember the worst one: A very well-meaning coworker stopping to tell me that she heard my mom had cancer and asked how everything was going. Three weeks after my mom passed on. And since I still hadn’t gotten used to saying the words “she died” out loud, I choked up immediately and almost burst into tears at work, making a sweet lady who just wanted to offer me some support very uncomfortable.
Several years later, saying that is just stating the facts, but back then having to say the words and acknowledge the truth of them was freaking awful.
"So, when are you going back for your master's degree?" I was so proud of getting my bachelor's and had no intention of going back because how rough school was for me.
My mom passed on a couple weeks before I got engaged. Went dress shopping with my bridesmaids a couple months later. I found the dress I liked and the sales girl goes "Did you want to buy it now, or did you want to bring your mom in to see it first?" Everyone just froze as I muttered, "I'll...buy it now...thanks..".
When I was 13, my mom got a divorce from a man who I can only refer to as a “step monster". I worked all summer to save up money since we didn’t have a lot and I was worried we wouldn’t have enough to pay the bills. I ended up having a few dollars left over and wanted to buy my mom a gift and she mentioned she needed a new watch for her birthday.
I went to the jeweler and got a $100 gold Citizen Evo Drive watch. It was functional and it looked really nice. When I gave it to her, her first response was, “Thanks honey, did it come in silver?” I was crushed. Insult to injury: she started dating a guy around the same time and he bought her a cruddy silver watch. She ended up wearing his over mine. 18 years later and it still hurts when I think about it.
If my girlfriend at the time was my daughter. We're only two years difference in age but I look super old. I was only 22...
My recently-divorced ex and I worked at the same place. Divorce was not my idea, but he'd found someone new and I was heartbroken. He ended up quitting at her insistence. Six months after the divorce was final, a coworker asked how ex-husband was doing, hadn’t seen him since he quit, yadda yadda. Behind my back, another coworker was trying to wave first coworker off... but it was too late.
I spent the rest of the shift crying on and off. Apparently, coworker #1 was oblivious and didn't know we'd divorced, just thought ex had quit.
I work at a pretty boring convenience store and my neighbor down the street, young maybe 12-year-old kid was there. Good kid usually hangs out there and talks to me. One day I was drawing cartoons for him by his request and he said, "Wow you're really good at making cartoons, why don't you just quit this job and become an animator or make comic books?!"
Really bummed me out because when I was his age that's ALL I wanted to do but was never financially given even the slightest opportunity to go to school for something like that and I'll never have the motivation for stuff like that when I'm working 50+ hour weeks in retail just to barely make ends meet. Plus, I remember being his age and thinking people could still, "Do whatever they want when they grow up"
My mom asked me, "Who are you?" when I visited her recently. She has dementia.
I used to work in a nursing home. This family came to visit their mother who had NO idea who they were, didn't even remember having children. They had their visit and as I helped her get back into her wheelchair (I had helped her on the couch so they could snuggle a bit to their mom), she had kinda paused mid-sentence, looked them in their faces and said, "Oh, my babies! I love you so much honey!" and then kinda "snapped back" into dementia and kept on talking about other things.
That one little glimpse of their mom had them sobbing so much.
My dad had early signs of dementia. I'll never forget the day I came home from watching football. I'd only left him a couple of hours earlier and he told me to enjoy the game, yet this time I walked in and he was terrified. He pushed back in his seat, mouth and eyes wide open. I asked if he was ok and he just froze. I asked him if he knew who I was, and he said, "No".
I explained I was his son and showed him a photo of me and him and he relaxed and smiled. That was the day I knew I'd lost my dad.
My grandma asked me once if I knew who she was (because she didn't). Absolutely heartbreaking.
I was visiting home for the first time in a while (I lived across the country at the time) and spent a weekend with my dad, who was in the early stages of frontotemporal dementia. I left him alone for a couple of minutes to grab something, came back, and saw him looking around. Me: "What are you looking for?"
Him (looking right into my face): "Oh, uh, I'm looking for my son". A moment passed where I felt a lot of emotions ripple through me, then the light went on in his eyes. Him: "Oh there you are! Come on, grab what you need and let's get going".
"Are you okay? You seem a little off". I've been diagnosed with chronic depression and paranoia disorders for years and I thought I was doing a decent job hiding it from all my friends, but apparently it wasn’t good enough I guess.
Someone once asked me, "Don't you want to be a mom?" Yes, I do. But as I'm single, over 40, and not rich, that's probably not going to happen. It devastated me. I had to say "Yes, I'd love that," and then excuse myself to go home and cry.
Someone jokingly asked me if I was high because my eyes were red. I had just been diagnosed with an eye disease and told I would go blind before 50. My eyes were red from my medicated eye drops and partially from crying. I was only sixteen and having a hard time coming to terms with it.
"Why are you so weird?" I never really fit in, but I'm not sure why this question crushed me so much.
When I surprised my girlfriend with a gift. I told her I got a gift for her. I gave it to her...and later she asked when she was gonna get her gift.
My five-year-old cousin asked me where Grandpa was when we were getting ready to head to his funeral. Everyone went silent and we just kind of stared at each other until my dad managed to distract her. It was brutal.
My five-year-old nephew did this to my grandma at my grandpa’s funeral. Asked her, “Did grandpa die?” It was an innocent question and he was genuinely curious, and I guess no one had talked to him about it. My grandma hugged him and said, “Yes, sweetie, he died".
"When will we dig up dad?" Asked by my almost five-year-old son. He's never met him, as dad passed on three months before birth. This goes along the question "When will dad stop being dead?"
So, years ago, a guy I went to high school with was in a really bad car accident. He passed on a few weeks later. His sister lived but was in a coma for close to a year. When she came to, she had no long-term memory. Every day, she would ask for her brother and her parents would have to tell her every day that he was gone. It must have been a nightmare.
Recently, the father and daughter were found lifeless, ruled a murder-suicide. Beyond this point, it’s all speculation, but I can't say I wouldn’t be tempted to do it so I wouldn’t have to break my daughter’s heart like that every single day.
I lost a baby boy in the third trimester last year. We just got it through to my four-year-old that his baby brother’s soul is in heaven and his body is buried we cannot visit him. And now my 2.5-year-old is starting to ask questions and we have to start all over with her. I told her the other day that Peter had to go to heaven because when he was in my tummy his heart stopped beating.
Then at dinner, she announced she wanted to go to heaven now, but her heart was still beating. My husband just stopped eating and looked at me horrified.
Co-worker innocently asked, "Who does the cooking at your house?" I had very recently separated from my wife and was living alone.
“When are you due?" I wasn't pregnant. I have since lost over 60 pounds though.
Speaking to my coach the other day, she asked me "How are you feeling?" and I honestly did my best not to cry my eyes out. I just got out of school and have to figure out what I wanna study next year while balancing three jobs that barely give me enough for rent...so... I feel bad, to be honest.
One time a girl I had a crush on asked me, “Oh wait...aren’t you gay?”
"Why don't you ever talk, are you unsociable?" By a classmate when I was in high school. As someone with severe social phobia who was struggling to hide it at all costs and to be normal at the time, I died a little inside.
My manager asked me what the last book I read was the other day and I realized the last time I read a book was around four years ago. I used to read a ton but now working and worrying about money and my future have made it difficult to sit down and read a book.
I was a freshman in high school in 1992-93. My high school science teacher asked me if I was ever jealous of my older brother (he was a senior). I was kind of confused. She said, "You know, since he is so smart, popular, and just has everything going for him..". It was the first time I had ever, in my entire life, considered that people viewed my brother as better than me.
It has honestly kind of stuck with me. That was 26 or 27 years ago.
When my dad and my sister and I were driving to another town to get away from my mom so we could eat without getting yelled at/stuff thrown at us, my sister asked why mommy was so mean. My dad had to simplify to her level that her mom was an alcoholic. She was six.
I always wanted to study psychology in college, but my overbearing mother wouldn’t have that, so I studied chemistry. In my last semester I took an abnormal psychology class just for fun and I crushed it, ending with a 99% average. After the final, my professor took me outside the classroom and said, “Why didn’t you major in psychology? You would have made a great psychologist".
That really crushed my soul. I think about that day a lot.
A waiter asked me if my wife was pregnant once. She was just bloated from chemo side effects. It crushed me, so glad she didn't hear. She couldn't have had kids and she passed two years back.
"Who died?" It was a common question my friends and I asked each other when we were sitting there looking mopey. Usually we were just staring off and nothing was wrong. On this day, I'd lost one of my army buddies after he took his own life. It was only a year after we came home from overseas. I looked at him and broke right down.
“How do I ask out (guy name that isn’t me)?”
“Since when do you have a stutter?”—my mom. When I get extremely anxious, I stutter a lot. My dad had been incredibly hard on me that day and I was holding back tears. It hurt me that my mom had never noticed it before, and she seemed annoyed by it rather than concerned.
"Where do you work?" Disabled combat veteran struggling with PTSD and Bipolar 2. It's a blow every time someone reminds me that I barely contribute financially to our family.
"Are you sure it’s not twins?"
“What game do you kids want to play now?” My dad, after my sister and I helped him sit up. He was on his deathbed, dying of cancer.
A couple of years ago I had a miscarriage. Was working behind the bar helping my mum at a wedding. My mum organizes the weddings at this particular venue and the bride, hadn't got the memo, asked me when I was due. Didn't want to ruin her day, so just told her my due date.
“Why do we do things we know will kill us?” A homeless man.
"Why are you so stuck up and never talk to anyone?" I was cripplingly shy all through school. This was asked by a girl I didn't even recognize, at the end of summer school after my senior year (last credit I needed to graduate). At the time it was shocking and crushing, but later it helped me reevaluate things I was doing (like body language) that I realized made people think I was antisocial.
I'd always wondered why people reacted so badly to me when I really wanted to make friends. I managed to change a few small things that led to small positive interactions, that led to more and more. I still feel really shy, but I've learned how to fake it until I actually get comfortable with people, and now nobody even believes me when I say I'm shy.
On my see-through braces: "Why didn't you just get yellow ones?"
At a restaurant with my wife. The server walks up from behind and says, “Ladies, how are we this evening?” I’m a guy.
Worked for years as a professional musician, mostly doing cruise ship gigs, but also live shows and a bit of studio work. "Why aren't you doing music anymore?" Cause my passion got crushed by the industry, that's why.
A veteran actor on set two days into production asked me who the heck the director was. It was me.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" "No". "Oh. Why not?" Because I'm a loser, lady, and nobody wants me.
Went to get my eyebrows waxed today and the lady said, “Lip too?”
I’m 20 and no one’s ever been interested in me. My friends make jokes about virgins and they don’t know I’ve never even had a first kiss.
"Dad, can we come live with you?"
"You're a girl, right?" He proceeded to ask me to proofread a love note to his cheerleader crush. I crushed on him hard but was firmly in the friend zone. He WAS in my league for heaven's sake!
Age 13, in front of three male friends, a toddler came up to me, pointed at my chest (I was/am fairly well endowed) and asked, "Do you have milk in those?" I was very taken aback and utterly mortified, but come to think of it, it was a reasonable question from a kid who's only experience of bosoms was from breastfeeding.
Me: "Babe, do I have a good singing voice?" Babe: "I don’t know, have you ever sang around me?"......I sing almost every day.
"How's married life going?" It was a good six months that acquaintances kept asking me the question after my fiancé broke up with me days before the wedding after a two-year engagement. It made it so much harder to get over it. What made it worse was that he was cheating on me, and on the same weekend of our wedding, he married the other chick in Vegas.
So, he didn't have to deal with the same awkward questions I did.
"Does it bother you that your sister is so much prettier than you?" Yes, yes it does. Also, eff you, Danielle.
People asking if you are pregnant because your belly is slightly protruding. No, Karen I have to go. It’s been three days.
"Where are you really from?"
My five-year-old daughter asked me the other day, "When do humans expire?" Followed by, "We're gonna be together forever right? Until you're 100?"
"That's not great, is it?" When told my ASD daughter's reading level (second grade as a 16-year-old). They didn't know she was on the spectrum. It still hurt.
"Is that as big as it gets?"
I was living in Las Vegas for a while and I was asked by my local booze store clerk if I was albino. I'm just Irish.
I’m an actor and I work in a restaurant. One of the girls got an acting job, and my manager turned to me and half-joking said, “Why can’t you do that?!” I brushed it off, but later that night I got completely hammered.
I was going through immigration. The officer took my passport and made fun of it. Asked if it had been through a washing machine. I told him it was in a tsunami.
I work in mobile gaming. A young relative found out I make games and said: "Oh, cool, did you make StarCraft?" I didn't make StarCraft, but I did work on Paris Hilton's Diamond Quest, so...
In seventh grade, a girl I became friends with asked me: "Did you get made fun of because of your nose?" I had never seen a problem with my nose until this moment. 11 years, I still haven't forgotten and am incredibly self-conscious about my nose.
"Have you tried this medicine?" I have adult acne and have had acne since puberty. I HAVE LITERALLY TRIED EVERY MEDICINE AND NATURAL THING IN THE UNIVERSE, please stop reminding me that my face is horrifying to you.
"Hey, so who's this new guy your ex is talking to?" Didn't know that was happening, thanks...
Audience member after a performance: “Were you wearing a fat suit under your costume?” I was not.
Daughter, seven, to me (the father), while my wife was pregnant: "You have a big tummy like mommy. *suspiciously* Do you have a baby in there too?" And that's the origin story of my 50 lb. weight loss.
We keep our home clean and neat, but a dinner guest said: "You have such a nice home. How often do you dust it?" (as she looked with disdain at the furniture).
My third-grade teacher asked me why I don't sit with my friends at lunch. I told her it was because I didn't have any. From then on out, she became very adamant about me never changing for anyone and encouraged me to pursue the things I was interested in, like music. I really wish she knew the kind of lifelong impact she's had on me.
"Why don't you and mommy get along? I want to go on a trip with you guys!"—my son. I still cry.
I wear no makeup the day before I plan to call in sick. Hurts a little when my boss says, “Yeah you looked like [heck], don’t blame you".
I used to work at a tutoring place and at the time my skin was filled with acne and I had a very pointy nose. A little girl I was helping with homework asked me if I was a witch because of all my pimples and big nose. It absolutely broke my heart since I was already extremely insecure. Fortunately, one nose job and many acne treatments later, I’m no longer insecure.
Once, I was running a tray of food to a seat at a dine-in movie theatre. There was A LOT of food on the tray and when I brought it to the single person, not thinking, I asked, “Is this all for you?” She responded “Yeah” in a depressing tone. She was overweight. I still feel bad about it.
“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?” I’m a firefighter/EMT. People don’t really realize what it is they’re asking for. They’re asking me to intentionally relive the worst things I have seen on the job. They also don’t realize that they really don’t want to hear what I have to say. They expect cool car crashes or fires.
What they get are stories of infant cardiac arrests, overdoses with the family screaming for them to come back, and older people who have just lost the person they’ve spent the last 50+ years with. Stop asking.
"So, this thing happened at [insert Friend's name here]'s party/bonfire last week". My friend had a party/bonfire last week? Nobody told me...
"What are you all dressed up for?" It was a funeral.
“I had a dream that you had lost a lot of weight and we were getting married!”—best friend I had a crush on who was dating someone else. Like, bruh, why even say anything.
"We're just friends, right?"…"Uh, yeah..".
My mom accidentally called me after about 10 years of not talking. I answered, all ready for a serious conversation. When I answered, she was like, "Wait who's this?" I say, "Hey mom, it's me". Her reply is what hurt: "Who? Why are you calling me mom?" She was so messed up she didn’t recognize her own daughter's name.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
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