As teens and young adults, there was likely something we all idolized that later became a cringey memory.
But as pointed out on the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit, even the most innocent idolizations can wind up hurting someone’s feelings.
Redditor wasabibean_ struggled recently with supporting someone’s aesthetic choices, while still feeling hurt by how that aesthetic minimized a difficult time in her life.
But after she received backlash, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she was wrong for trying to have a conversation about it.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for being honest about my life with my boyfriend’s sister, who glamourizes my childhood?”
The OP didn’t have the easiest time growing up.
“So I (18 [female]) didn’t have that great of a childhood.”
“When I was 14, I was dumped at my uncle’s house under the false promise that my mom would come back for me. I haven’t seen her since. It hurt, but at least I was with my uncle, right?”
“Well… I love him, but he had some severe mental health issues that he refused to acknowledge, and that made living with him extremely hard.”
“He was essentially this recluse who lived on the outskirts of a tiny town in the middle of the forest. He didn’t take care of the house at all, and it resulted in me adopting things that are seen as ‘aesthetic’ by kids today. I was essentially neglected.”
“I will admit, at first I would spin my circumstances as, ‘I’m living with my odd and eccentric uncle in the woods in a small town. You could make a movie out of this,’ but I would always stress that it hurt me a lot.”
“I stopped this line of phrasing and have fully embraced (is that the right word?) my childhood, because I realized I was only kidding myself and that helped no one.”
Unfortunately for the OP, where she lived is kind of an “in” thing now.
“This is where the issue lies: My boyfriend’s sister (16 [female]) is super into the whole ‘cottage core’ and general aesthetic thing and she seriously glamourizes my childhood (wearing hand-me-downs/thrifted items, being in the forest, etc).”
“Anyway, last night she came home from shopping and she was showing us the stuff she had gotten.”
“A lot of it aligned with her style but then she pulled out her phone and showed us this board she had made that was ‘inspired by your (my) life’.”
“As I expected, it was more glamorization of my life (she would constantly say stuff like ‘this is like x event’ and then show some super saturated, straight-from-Tumblr image.”
The OP finally couldn’t take any more of the glamourizing from her boyfriend’s sister.
“But this time I wasn’t in the mood to brush it off.”
“I turned to 16 and said, ‘Hey 16, I can tell you worked hard on the board and it’s great, I love it, but you should know that my childhood was nothing like this, and it really, REALLY sucked. It’s nothing like what you think it is.'”
“[I continued,] ‘I’m happy you found a style you like, but it really upsets me when you compare my trauma to your Tumblr-made style. You’ve been glamourizing it a lot, please stop. It hurts me.'”
The boyfriend’s family didn’t respond well to the OP’s feedback.
“Both my boyfriend and 16 looked stunned and 16 walked out, super upset.”
“My boyfriend went to check on her (which is fine). He came back and said 16 is really upset at me. I tried to apologize, but she didn’t want to listen.”
“My boyfriend is on my side (he said that sometimes being blunt means you’re an a**hole and that’s ok), but his parents are miffed with me now, too.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some pointed out there’s a difference between an aesthetic and someone’s life.
“NTA. Her love of cottage core is fine. But to try to directly relate it to your life and to glamorize a time you find traumatic isn’t ok.”
“I would hope she’s done it out of ignorance and not malice to you and that this was the first time you’ve told her how bad it makes you feel. Hopefully, she’ll stop now or at least relating it to your life.” – xeyexofxautumnx
“I think he more meant ‘blunt’ in the sense of ‘upfront’. OP wasn’t really sugarcoating anything specifically to spare bf’s sister’s feelings, but at the same time, they did a fantastic job of not being an AH overall, if that makes sense.”
“Like, cottage core is a lovely aesthetic, but OP’s experience wasn’t the Tumblr-ized romantic version that the sister seemed to assume it must’ve been.”
“Not everybody who lives the ‘cottage core’ lifestyle is actually living in a happy woodland fairy tale full of overgrown flower gardens and fairy lights and overalls.”
“That doesn’t cheapen or demean the aesthetic or the dream to be a herbal hermit in the woods one day, but at the same time, the sister is old enough to be told that Tumblr aesthetics don’t always align with individual people’s actual realities.” – thevonessence
“There’s a little town I go to for the summer, and there used to be a man who lived there who was the closest thing to a real wizard you could ever imagine. He lived in a completely wooden house that HE built himself, the heat came from the stove, the water was pumped, and bugs roamed the floor, which he kindly would always put outside.”
“I honestly can’t imagine any of the ‘cottage-core aesthetic’ people actually being able to handle any of what the life is really like.” – ChardonNAH
Others assured the OP explained this the best way she could.
“If what OP wrote is close to what she said, she was positively gentle about it. Sister’s upset, but unless she’s a truly awful little brat, she will get over it. She might just be upset because she was inadvertently hurting someone she respects.” – Halfsweep
“Ugh, I actually feel bad for 16. This is one of the really embarrassing and cringey moments in her life that when she becomes an adult, her brain will remind her of when she can’t sleep at 2 AM.”
“NTA OP, and you were not blunt, you were very respectful. It’s just a bitter pill to swallow for her.”
“Childhood trauma is never to be taken lightly, good on you for setting your boundaries! Now all you have to do is show that shiny backbone and stick with it. Do not apologize.” – Superlemonada
“It sounds as if you were honest, respected where she’s coming from with her ‘style’ but were clear that this shouldn’t involve romanticizing your abandonment and neglect.”
“That is a very appropriate way of drawing a boundary that respects her interests. No apology needed, from what I can see.” – Jazzlike_Humor3340
“NAH. It’s cool that’s her thing, but she needs to be aware that her treating it as some happy part of your childhood is hurtful. And you told her that.”
“Trust me, teenagers are always going to react poorly to something like this, regardless of whether or not it’s justified, regardless of whether or not it’s actually in their best interests. The fact that she reacted that way does not mean you screwed up.”
“I’m glad that you made it through a tough time, but I’m sorry that you had to make it through that, and no child should be forced to go through it.” – esme454
“It honestly sounds like 16F is trying to bond with OP, and going about it in the kind of clunky way that a teenager with hero-worship would.”
“OP, you did the right thing, but if I were you, I’d try reaching out to her and invite her to do something just the two of you. She’s probably embarrassed that the older girl she idolized was hurt by her attempted ‘I think you’re awesome!’ clunkiness.” – kendallybrown
It was easy for the subReddit to agree that it was not wrong of the OP to point out that her childhood was not the fantasy that “cottage core” often emulates.
However, the teenager in her life likely meant this as a kind, modeling gesture, rather than something to minimize the OP’s experiences.