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'What do I do about my aunt freaking out because I didn’t wear makeup at a family hangout?' UPDATED

'What do I do about my aunt freaking out because I didn’t wear makeup at a family hangout?' UPDATED


Getting into a conflict at a family outing is never fun.

"What do i do about our aunt (58F) freaking out because I (26F) didn’t wear makeup?"

This weekend the family met up for memorial day. Just a casual family hangout for the holiday, nothing formal or any big event to celebrate. Even though I used to when I was younger, I pretty much never wear makeup anymore except on formal special occasions because it damaged my skin when I wore it every day.

My aunt semi-recently moved back to the states after spending over 6 years living in various places in Europe and this is the third time we’ve had a family gathering with her since she got back. The previous two times the family got together it was a more formal occasion and I wore makeup and a dress both times.

This time I wore my normal clothes: shorts, a button-down, sandals and no makeup. the rest of my family was more or less as casual as I was, but all the women wear makeup on a daily basis except for me. I noticed my aunt was acting really strangely around me and when i asked her if everything was okay she turned it around on me and asked if I was sick. I said no I’m fine.

She said “so why do you look like that?” and I didn’t know what she meant at first but she kept pressing until I realized she meant I wasn’t wearing makeup. I was kind of annoyed at her being so bothered by this but I tried to stay calm and explained that I only wear makeup on special occasions. I REALLY should not have said this because this apparently ruined her whole weekend.

She started freaking out about how I don’t consider seeing her to be a special occasion and ended up leaving the family gathering early and in tears. The next day was the memorial day parade and it was my nephew’s first time marching in the marching band, so kind of a special occasion but still casual.

My aunt however, still angry from my “special occasion” comment, showed up in stained pajamas with her hair unbrushed. when my mom asked her to explain herself she just said “well [me] doesn’t think it’s a special occasion, so why should i bother?”

She attended the parade like that and repeated that line every time someone asked if she was okay or why she was dressed like that. The rest of my family thinks she’s being unreasonable but that it’s also on me to talk her down from this grudge she’s holding or else she’s going to keep acting out. What do I do???

People have a lot to say in response.

Far-Response7551 wrote:

Just ignore her. She’s being an attention seeking jerk. You don’t have to engage with that.

OP responded:

I’d love to agree with you but a lot of my family (esp. my mom’s side) is going to be really upset with me if I don’t at least attempt to defuse this situation. I know I’m not the one in the wrong here but I think I can only start ignoring her after I’ve done something to cool her down to avoid turning this into a worse situation than it already is. I love my family and I want to keep the peace.

piecesMAD wrote:

She is looking for attention. You do not need to give her attention for this.

Is she normally dramatic?

OP responded:

I honestly don’t know. She hasn’t been a major presence in my life even before she left the country. My mom has described her as a drama queen but I mostly just chalked that up to a typical sister dynamic. I hadn’t heard of her having any outbursts like this before.

GoodGrief9317 wrote:

What in the "how do you describe a narcissist without actually calling them a narcissist" hell did I just read????? The rational side of me thinks that you should ignore unhinged behavior because no one should negotiate with emotional terrorists.

Then there is the FAFO side that says next time you are going to see her, wear full clown makeup due to the special occasion. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Qualityhams wrote:

I think every time someone asks you about it you should act really concerned and ask about her mental wellbeing. Has auntie always been this way? Did something happen? Do you think she’s feeling well? Apparently, this is gaslighting, but I have aunties like this and it works.

ProtozoaPatriot wrote:

She sounds unwell. Has she always been this irrational, controlling, and dramatic? Serious question for you & your mom: could aunt be struggling with early onset dementia of some other cognitive issue? Her behavior is so bizarre. Obviously, don't take it personally and don't engage with her drama. I hope your family isn't expecting you to do as she demands to end her little tantrum?

Two days later, OP shared an update.

Hi all, there have been some unexpected developments in this situation that i wanted to share. Despite that most of you suggested that I just ignore her, I felt a sense of obligation (and was under a lot of familial pressure) to try to get her one on one and attempt to communicate.

Yesterday I brought her a fresh baked loaf of bread as a gesture of goodwill and called and told my uncle to warn her that I was coming over to talk. He had been off visiting his own parents over memorial day weekend so he’d only heard about her freak-out. It did NOT go well.

I tried to gently explain to her that when I said special occasion I meant FORMAL occasion and that I always think it’s special to see her and the rest of the family. She completely rejected my explanation and said i “can’t tell someone they’re not special and just turn around and say nevermind” and said some nasty things about my appearance since I again was not wearing makeup.

She finished out by taking the loaf I made for her and making sure I watched as she threw it in the garbage. At this point i said “I tried, I’m done, i can’t help you” and left. My uncle stopped me as I was leaving the house looking really upset. i assumed he was just embarrassed over my aunt’s outburst but he asked me to take a walk with him so he could talk.

We walked around the neighborhood and he apologized for how my aunt has been acting but started to cry. when he was able to talk again he admitted that the reason they had come home from traveling in Europe is that my aunt had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. A lot of people were making jokes about that in the responses but it turned out to be the actual explanation.

She had never been on a hair trigger like that before she started showing signs. he wanted to keep it private until they weren’t able to keep it private anymore and he was having a hard time accepting that that time had already arrived. We cried together for a while and he agreed that he needs to start the process of telling the family about her condition and looking in to getting her some extra help.

I talked to my mom about it afterwards and she’s really upset. She was scared that something like this might be the case because the way she showed up to the parade looking like a mess was so out of character, and that’s why she wanted me to try to resolve it; she assumed that such a reaction meant i must have done something for it to at least partially be my fault.

A lot of people had assumed she was just a lifelong narcissist who always acted out to get her way, but this is new behavior for her. Ultimately I’m glad that I tried to make amends if it led to the truth. I quickly went from resenting my aunt to feeling extremely bad for her.

Dementia runs in my family but it usually takes til the late 80s or early 90s to set in. To deal with a disease that attacks her mind and personality so young is so awful for her, for my uncle, and for their kids. So yeah. If your older loved ones suddenly start acting nasty in a way that they’ve never been before, maybe that’s not nothing. Watch out for yourselves and your loved ones y’all.

People were glad to hear an update.

Complete_Entry wrote:

Your mom was still grossly unfair to you.

OP responded:

I’m not going to blame her. We don’t always act rationally when faced with stressful situations that we’ve never experienced before. No one except for me and my aunt witnessed the initial interaction that led to her freaking out, people only saw when she started yelling and crying. My mom probably thought I wasn’t telling the whole story.

citrushibiscus wrote:

I’m very sorry to hear that. Dementia is hard on everyone. I hope you all can support each other through this. 🫂

throwRA_idkwhat2doo wrote:

My stomach dropped when I read the words, “diagnosed with early onset dementia.” My mom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at 52 and these past 5 years have been horrible. Your uncle needs to get the ball rolling with a care facility and if insurance will cover it as she’s already far along. This disease progresses very quickly. I’m so sorry your family is going through this💔

Sources: Reddit
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