The Heatley Cliff "Why Are You In Such A Bad Mood?" Amy Foster

There are few phrases in the English language that can take me from 0 to 60 in under 2 seconds.

Luckily, I have rarely, if ever, had these words hurled directly at me. Usually I am forced to endure them in a rap song or some gritty indie movie. But my God, when I hear “Why are you in such a bad mood?”, a seemingly harmless enough question on the surface, I lose my mind.

My husband tried to ask me this question. Once. One time. He never asked again.

No, it’s my teenage daughter who can’t seem to knock this phrase out of her vocabulary. If I ask her to put her dishes away, make her bed, stop rifling through my make up drawer or tell her I can’t drive her over to a friend’s, she opens her mouth, sighs and asks, “Why are you in such a bad mood?”

Do I really need to tell her that I am not a maid? That there are no magical house elves that put stray dishes in the dishwasher? That having a messy room with clothes (that I bought!) strewn across the floor does not make me want to do her any favours?  My drawers are private, my things are mine. I don’t like sharing my gajillion dollar concealer with her, especially since she has lost the last four tubes of cover up I bought her. Should I really go into the fact that yes, I am often in a bad mood because I have a five bedroom house that I keep on my own, with no help and three kids and a career and a husband who for last six months has been gone for three of them for work? If I go into these things, I’m on a tirade. If I remain silent, it’s white flag parenting. If I explain myself, I AM EXPLAINING MYSELF TO MY CHILD. Lose-lose.

Why are you in such a bad mood?

It’s the worst, right? It’s the ultimate passive-aggressive stick it to ya. Maybe you don’t have kids, maybe you are a kid yourself. However old you are, it does not matter.  Honestly I would prefer someone to tell me to eff off or shut up.  It may be not as polite, but certainly there’s a clear path as to how to deal with such obvious meanness. “Why are you in such a bad mood?” is an indefensible question. The more you try to explain that you aren’t in a bad mood or why you are in a bad mood, the more crazy you look and the more victimized the questioner looks. You cannot win. The very question is enough to take you to a place that you might not have been before it was asked. It’s a wordy booby trap.

There is only one way to deal with it. Smile and ignore it. Pretend like you never heard it. Shrug and walk away. DO NOT, under any circumstances, try to state your case. YOU WILL LOSE. Anything that comes out of your mouth after the person has asked  it will sound, on some level, unreasonable. When the situation has calmed down, you can go back and say, “You know, I really don’t like to be asked if I’m in a bad mood. Can you try a different approach?” A loving partner or friend will respect this and the phrase will be off the table

A teenager, however, is likely to use this against you, so be warned. Then again, my daughter knows that if she asks me that question one more time, she will be grounded, without access to the internet until she leaves for college.

This week at the Heatley Cliff, we are talking about something far more civilized – William Morris and the birth of The Arts and Crafts movement (as in design style, not macrame). Come on over and join us, it will put you in a great mood!

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  1. When people ask this question they generally don’t use a very positive tone and what they’re trying to say might be closer to “why are you acting this way?”. While the question can sound accusatory, the other person might feel unfairly treated (I know, that’s enraging) because they either don’t understand why you’re upset at all or don’t understand why you’re as upset as you are. Talking things over can help fix this, and this question can be a chance to open a dialogue about the issue, how it makes you feel and what you both can do to change it. If people don’t resolve these things it can lead to self-feeding loops by both parties and then the whole thing becomes a terrible abstract resentment monster which is the worst and a whole lot harder to fix.

  2. OMG! I just had a huge fight about exactly that stupid question with a co-worker of mine…
    every day he would come in, look at me and say something like “why are you in such a bad mood” or “you look like you are in a bad mood again today” even tough we haven’t even said a single word to each other!!
    He made me crazy with that stupid question, even when I was actually in a pretty good mood!
    Now he knows that I hate him asking me that question every day… and what does he do?
    Asks the co-worker sitting just next to me why she is in such a bad mood -.-

  3. You are so right. This phrase is right up there with “I’m sorry you feel that way.” But it’s so hard to just walk away! At home we try to say–in a calm, reasonable voice–what the issue is without losing it. You catch more flies with honey, as it were. But then again I don’t have kids yet.

  4. I feel just like you except I do not have kids, nor am I married. But I do share a 1 bedroom apartment with my boyfriend, 2 cats, and dog and neither of them do anything to make my day a little easier. Of course the animals can’t do much except stare at me like I am a crazy person when I cry out of frustration that I have to be the only one to do anything and everything in the house. My boyfriend ignores me for a while until the only thing that comes out of his mouth is…. “Why are you in such a bad mood?” And of course I can’t help myself but go even crazier because isn’t it so obvious why? Doesn’t he see it’s his lack of doing anything and everything piling up that gets me to this point? Why must he ask? Why must I answer? You are so right. I will smile and walk away from now on. How come everyone always has a way to make a fed up woman look like a crazy person? That’s not fair at all. How about people (boyfriends, husbands, kids, etc) realize that they are the problem and that we are not superhuman? Am I the only one? I am terrified to get married someday and have children because of this. Is there any way we can avoid this? or is it yet another wonderful female burden we have to learn to live with? I feel we get enough with raging hormones, menstrual cycles, child birth, heartbreaks, being maids, etc. Sorry, i loved your post and had to vent too :)

  5. I know if I had ever used this on my mom, she would have told me exactly why she was in a bad mood (like you did in your article) and made me feel like I was being a horrible daughter, which I probably was.

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