Every friendship has compromises.
No two people see the world in exactly the same way so it is often necessary to bend on one topic or another.
Maybe she likes country music and you hate it, or he is really into science fiction and you prefer Noir films but you go see Star Wars anyway because you love this person.
The trouble comes when a friend asks you to compromise on something that is personal to you, that is a part of how you define yourself.
When a friend asks this kind of favor of you, how do you respond?
That was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) BTS-X-ARMYLOVE when she came to the “Am I the A**hole” subReddit for outside opinions.
“AITA for not cutting my hair even though someone told me it was bringing back their trauma?”
OP began with the background.
“So for context, I have hair that is significantly longer than the average person.”
“I get compliments about it all the time and even though it’s a hassle looking after it, I really do like it.”
“My friend, who we’ll call Kate, lost her mother to cancer before we met. I don’t know the full story but apparently, she used to have hair as long as mine until she shaved it all off.”
“Kate and I haven’t been friends for long but I really thought things were good between us until Kate pulled me aside one day to ask me for a favour.”
Everything was fine, until…
“I asked her what favour it was and she said she wanted me to cut my hair to at least just past my shoulders because it looked so much like her moms.”
“I thought she was just making a really bad joke but it turned out she genuinely wanted me to do that.”
“She said it was bringing back her trauma to see my hair and that she didn’t know if she could keep being friends with me, as well as the fact that she really only asked because we were such close friends.”
“She said she wanted to ask from the moment our friendship began but wanted to wait since it would be weird if she asked then.”
“I told her that I was sorry but that I wouldn’t be doing that.”
OP did explain why she felt she might be in the wrong.
“I love my hair. Here’s where I might be TA.”
“I told her a few reasons as to why I loved having long hair and one of them was about how much I resembled my mother.”
“Immediately I felt bad because of the awkward timing of the comment and tried to tell her that I wasn’t making fun of her for not having a mom or anything but this seemed to make her more mad.”
“She started screaming and crying about how she thought she could trust me and how awful I was for gloating at the fact that my mother is still alive.”
“I tried diffusing the situation but it clearly wasn’t going to work out so I just ran out.”
“Recently I’ve been getting calls and texts from our friends about how disgusting I am and it turns out Kate told them that I keep reminding her of her mom and even once said I look more like Kate’s moms daughter than Kate.”
“I’ve tried explaining the truth and most of my friends have sided with me but a few don’t believe me and are saying I’m a b*tch and that I should just cut my hair anyway, along with a comment or two about how hopefully I get to experience not having a mother soon.”
Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for a ruling.
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 decided: NTA
Some responses broke down the question logically.
‘”You don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep others warm”‘
“Do not be pressured into doing this. Seriously do not cut your hair.”
“Things to consider”
“Is Kate going to expect every girl with long hair in your school to cut it?”
“You shouldn’t have to make physical changes to your appearance for a friend ever”
“Kate needs to come to terms with the fact that people have long hair.”
“If she can’t be friends with you because you have long hair then this is not a friendship you should be in”
“Re the friends the response is ‘are you cutting your hair?’ and report any death comments to a member of staff at school.”
“I suggest that you speak to your teacher about this anyway. It is inappropriate and there may need to be a discussion about bodily autonomy.” ~Whitestaunton
“Your trigger control stops where someone else’s bodily autonomy starts. NTA OP” ~ Lobster-mom
Others felt Kate could use some guidance.
“I understand that for Kate to spend a lot of time with someone with long hair is probably more triggering than seeing a random person on the street, but what happens if she ever has a co-worker with long hair?”
“A boss? A client (if it’s relevant to her profession)? She needs therapy to work through her trauma, not demand other people alter their appearance to soften the blow.” ~ JessicaFreakingP
“Jumping on the top comment to also say that this ‘friend’ is dismissing OP’s heritage by using the excuse that she lives around mostly white people… Okay. And?”
“That doesn’t mean she can demand OP do something that seems tied to her heritage.”
“Kate needs help asap.”
“My dad lost his mom when he was 5, and he’s 58 now.”
“He had no therapy and is a mess certain days of the year.”
“He doesn’t demand people don’t drive or anything, though, and never has (my grandma got hit by a drunk driver).” ~ QueenLlamaFace
Commenters were concerned for OP’s safety.
“Jumping on the top comment to say, please never fall asleep around this ‘friend’ or friends who side with her.”
“I’ve read too many posts on here about people assaulting other’s in their sleep by cutting their hair. Also NTA.” ~ sweetbreadcorgi
“Agree plus makes me worry for OP that she won’t just cut OPs hair and blame it on a ‘trauma’ reaction.”
“Or ‘accidentally’ get gum in her hair or glue or anything else that would need to be cut out.” ~
Personal responsibility was discussed.
“I have trauma and I have triggers.”
“My response to them is on me. It is MY job to manage my reactions.”
“I can’t handle a certain color of shirts, I won’t wear one, but I’m not gonna demand my friend take her shirt off to make me feel better. That’s not her responsibility.”
“I’m inclined to say that the friend can ask, but she also has to accept and respect the answer.” ~ LadyBloo
She did return to give some final insights.
“I thought this would be worth mentioning.”
“I did bring up the fact that I’m not the only long-haired person in the world and that many people in my culture have long hair and she countered it by saying that whilst that’s true, she lives in a predominantly white neighborhood.”
“And it’s rare to see hair as long as her mother’s or mine (she herself is white whereas I am not so I’m not sure exactly why that was brought into it.)”
“So should I just do it even though she went behind my back and changed the story?”
“I feel like if she wasn’t still grieving she wouldn’t have done that.”
“I kind of get it to an extent because I myself went through something quite traumatic and now I can’t look at a very popular drink without getting flashbacks just because I had it in my hand at the time.”
“But at the same time I don’t demand for store owners to stop selling them or anything so why should she demand for me to cut my hair?”
“If I was causing so much harm then why would she continue to get to know me?”
“And surely long hair isn’t the only thing that reminds her of her mother? It’s not like I share a striking resemblance to her; I don’t even look remotely like her mother, it’s just the hair length.”
“For those saying I should cut her and the people who sided with her off, I totally hear you.”
“Those friends had no right to act that way and make those comments about my mom, especially knowing that there was no way of definitely knowing who was telling the truth since they weren’t even there.”
“But to me, Kate is just someone who is handling the loss of her mother poorly. So now I’m not sure what to do with my hair and what to do with our friendship.”
“I’d just like to clear up a few misconceptions about me talking about my own mother.”
“My comment was in no way me bringing up the fact that my mother was still alive, I just got a bit nervous at how insistent she was being and started trying to justify why I wouldn’t be doing so.”
“I know it was a stupid comment to make but in no way was I ‘showing off’ the fact that my mother is still alive.”
Bodily Autonomy is the idea that the decisions that affect my body – appearance or otherwise – are mine alone to make.
Coercing someone to change themselves for your comfort is cruelty by definition and anyone trying to do that should be ignored.