The saying goes curiosity killed the cat, which is about making risky or dangerous decisions out of a desire to get information.
Like leaping before you look.
But sometimes curiosity and the desire to satiate it isn’t hazardous. Does that make every “safe” pursuit of information acceptable?
Some people or situations might pique our interest, but there’s a line between harmless conversation and being rude.
If someone leaps over the line, what’s an appropriate response to a person who asks intimate or invasive questions? Especially in public when you don’t know the pushy person?
A woman found herself facing that dilemma after a trip to the fair, so she turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.
“AITA? A woman demanded info on my [medical] condition so I asked her extremely personal questions.”
The original poster (OP) explained:
“I (49, female) was at a state fair yesterday and this woman near me came over and demanded info about my medical condition. Long story short, I’m paralyzed from roughly the bra band down.”
“I use a power wheelchair and have a service dog.”
“I usually don’t mind educating people about paralysis, access issues and chatting about my dog but this woman… my dudes. She was rude, abrasive and demanding.”
“She acted like she was entitled to my personal medical history. She didn’t even ask politely, just demanded to know how it happened, what the results were, if I tried X, Y, Z treatments, you name it.”
“She even wanted to know about my sex life!”
“Just.. seriously? Who asks this stuff of a literal stranger unfortunate enough to be eating delicious fair food at the table area? I just stared at her in shock as my delicious deep fried BBQ got cold.”
“So I smiled as politely as I could manage and this is where I may have been the a**hole. I started to ask her about her last [gynecologist] visit.”
“Were the stirrups too high, did she have to do that awkward shimmy/scoot down the table, if the speculum was cold, if the PAP smear hurt, the usual. If she felt entitled to my answers, I should be entitled to her answers, right?”
“Well, she threw an absolute f’king fit.”
“Started screaming and yelling that I was gross and a pervert and on and on and on. Her group tried to calm her down and one of them told me I should’ve just been polite and answered her questions.”
“As far as I could tell this woman wasn’t impaired in any way. She didn’t have a carer or minder, she was with a group of friends and had been carrying on normally with them until she saw me.”
“I got to the table, asked it the space was free and set up at the end of the table because my chair fits neatly on the end of one piece picnic benches.”
“I told the group that if she wanted my personal and private medical information then she should trade info for info. Two of the people called me an a**hole when they left, trying to calm down their nearly ‘hysterical’ friend as they left.”
“She was still screaming and shouting how I was a perv/cruel/mean. People were staring at me and I hated it.”
“At the time I felt good for finally finding a shiny, new (but still broken) spine and standing up for myself. So to speak.”
“I was talking to friends last night and they said I was an a**hole, I could’ve politely told her I wasn’t going to tell her. I tried that when she came over and demanded answers—not even asked for them.”
“Some of my friends believe in manners above all.”
“Another is the sweetest person you’ve ever met. As a group they are some of the kindest, sweetest most compassionate people you could ever meet.”
“Pretty sure they thought I was an AH because of the way I stooped to the woman’s level. Normally I wouldn’t but I was tired and cranky and my amazing deep fried BBQ was getting cold.”
“So Reddit, I’m asking here.”
“Am I the a**hole for not divulging my medical info and asking her about hers?”
The OP summed up why they might be the a**hole.
“I think I might have been the a**hole for not just ignoring her.”
“Instead, I asked her intimate medical questions that were just as personal as the information she demanded from me.”
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors unanimously decided the OP was not the a**hole.
“NTA. I would have asked her friend ‘Are you her caregiver? Please explain to her that her questions are so invasive’.” ~ mslisath
“NTA. I greatly admire your shiny conversational spine.”
“Lots of folks with wheelchairs, service dogs, mobility aides of other types, and carers come through my workplace. Yet somehow we ALL manage to resist asking ridiculously invasive questions.”
“Yeah, the toddlers visiting might, but getting shut down and having proper behavior explained to them by their parents is part of their social learning curve.” ~ Meghanshadow
“Sure, OP could have done what the friends were suggesting.”
“We all could be the biggest person, taking the highest road, showing unending compassion and empathy at all times to anyone being an a**hole to us.”
“But that doesn’t mean we have to do that. And doesn’t mean we’re a**holes when we respond with anger or outrage or even snark.”
“Nosey-McRude started it with her incredibly inappropriate behaviour and I firmly believe that it’s not other people’s responsibility to keep the peace or protect the perpetrator’s feelings when they are the ones acting in an antisocial manner.”
“There’s something to be said for protecting your own calm and I strive to be the kind and unflappable person my mother wishes I’d grow into being.”
“But lofty goals don’t make other responses a**holery, and there’s nothing wrong with getting angry when you’re being treated poorly and, as in this case, giving someone a taste of their own medicine isn’t out of line.” ~ RavenWood_9
Some commiserated with the OP’s experience.
“NTA I walk with a pronounced limp and I can’t believe the questions people ask me.” ~ Used_Anywhere379
“My former neighbor was paralyzed from the chest down and people felt they had a right to know if he had a catheter, did he use diapers, who wiped him. Omg I can’t even believe the stuff he got asked.”
“Same goes with folks thinking they have a right to know what a trans person’s genitals look like.”
“Like damn it’s one thing to have a curious thought, and it’s quite another to make anyone whose different than you bare the responsibility of explaining the most intimate details of their lives. NTA.” ~ Rideak
“I also walk with a pronounced limp and sometimes use a cane. I don’t ‘look old enough’ to be feeble.”
“My condition is neurological, incurable and rare. Hardly anybody has heard of it.”
“Mostly people will say ‘how did you hurt yourself?’ I hate it because I don’t want to go through a long explanation that I didn’t ‘hurt myself’ it’s a medical condition, then they want to know about that.”
“It is so tiresome. I just say ‘it’s a neurological thing’ and continue whatever we’re talking about. Most people get the hint. Some don’t.” ~ DahQueen19
“I have a limp, too, and it’s incredible how many people ask about it. I don’t have a witty answer. Sometimes I just stare at them.”
“OP is so 100% NTA. I can’t believe that others at the table were defending their horrible friend.”
“Were these people born yesterday in an a**hole tank? I mean good God.” ~ ClonePants
“NTA. It’s usually very easy to tell if it’s a ‘I’m not great with social skills so I’m asking questions that mean well but are really invasive even as an adult’ versus ‘I clearly feel entitled to other people’s personal information’.”
“Usually the former will not react as the woman did.”
“Abled people need to learn that they don’t get to treat disabled people like objects for their amusement, and they’re not going to learn if they’re treated with kid gloves every time they do it.”
“Ironically, it sounds like OP’s spine was less fragile than that woman’s feelings, even before the shiny new version 2.0.” ~ NatchWon
Many remarked on the societal pressure to make nice, keep the peace or be unfailingly polite to rude people.
“NTA, not even close, and I truly don’t understand how your friends could have thought you were. Your response was perfectly reasonable and also demonstrated the absurdity of her initial behaviour.”
“Sure, it’s nice to be polite. But politeness isn’t owed to someone who disregards it themselves.”
“That lady was rude and obnoxious and deserved to have her own sh*t thrown back in her face. Even funnier that she threw a fit for it—I guess she’s not used to people not tolerating her awful personality.” ~ gamblingGenocider
“I so agree with this, but I can tell you from experience interminably rude people do NOT.”
“They just do their rudeness non-stop, expect the world to revolve around them and call out anyone who dares call out or reciprocate their rudeness, then deny ever being rude.” ~ Radhruin-123
“It seems like there is a significant portion of people who think everyone is obligated to be a sweet lil’ polite doormat regardless of the situation or else they’re an a**hole.”
“It’s so wild to me. There’s a middle ground between being polite/kind and being a jerk, it isn’t one or the other.” ~ Pollowollo
OP’s friends may not have had her back, but Reddit did.
If someone feels entitled to demand intimate details from a stranger, they should be prepared to offer the same.
And as another saying goes, MYOB (Minding Your Own Business) is free.