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!

(Image via ShutterStock.)