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Fat Chance

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 6/9/2004

My wife and I are both in our mid-30s and we have good jobs that we like. When I married her a little more than a year ago she was attractively curvy in all the right places. Since then, however, she's been putting on weight at the rate of three or four pounds a month--she's gained 40 pounds since our wedding day. I've tried everything I can think of to get her to start taking care of herself, but she's totally not interested. I gave her a gym membership, but she wouldn't go. Before we were married we used to take long walks together, but now when I ask her to go for a walk she doesn't want to. I've told her I'm concerned, and she says she'll start exercising or dieting, but she doesn't. I love her, and I don't need her to be skinny. I know she's a real woman with a real woman's body, but I'm worried about her health. I'm also starting to get angry and, even though I'm ashamed to admit it and try not to let her see it, I'm finding her less and less attractive. I hate this. What can I do?

Love Her Hate It

Dear LHHI:

Watching someone you love go from normal-size to obese is like watching a casual social drinker turn into a drunk--all the love and understanding in the world don't make it pretty or easy to deal with. The main difference is that now we accept alcoholism as a disease and there are resources everywhere, not only for alcoholics but also for their families. With obesity, however, we're still caught between blaming fat people for their problem and denouncing anyone who dares say it's a problem as "thinist" or "sizeist," or responsible for an epidemic of anorexic kindergartners. While no one should be judged by weight alone, fat isn't merely a matter of who gets to wear a tube top; it's a health issue we're only starting to recognize. Also, while there are about a million diets and exercise programs and support groups for the overweight, sadly there's no fatty-in-the-family equivalent of Al-Anon, at least that I could find.

Whether your wife's problem is purely physical or deeply emotional, she needs help. She also needs to know you love her and want to keep her around for a long time, so make an appointment with a good weight-loss specialist and go with her. You won't be the first conflicted spouse the doctor has met, so be honest about your feelings and ask how you can be supportive without becoming an enabler.

 

For more than four months I've been getting to know a man I met through an online dating club. At first we only e-mailed, but we got along so well we started talking on the phone, too. We have so much in common, and he makes me feel really special. When he joined the club he'd recently separated from his wife--he said so up front--and he told me they'd be starting divorce proceedings as soon as they wound up some financial business. Then a couple of weeks ago he told me he was moving back in with her and they were going to try again. I was disappointed, because I really liked him. I was even beginning to think I was in love with him, which I know was foolish because I hadn't met him in person yet, but we just felt so connected. I told him I understood and wished him well, and I didn't let him know how sad I was. Now he's calling me all the time and wants to meet me. He says that since the pressure's off for us to fall in love, we can be friends. I think it's OK to stay in touch with him by e-mail and phone, but I'm not sure meeting him would be such a good idea right now.

E-mail Encounter

Dear EE:

What he really means is, now that he's off the commitment hook, it's safe for him to meet you; your emotional safety is irrelevant. He did warn you--any guy fresh out of a marriage gone bad should automatically be considered damaged goods and at least temporarily unavailable. On the other hand, by joining the dating club in the first place, and keeping up the correspondence with you, he encouraged you to believe he might be looking for more than a salve for his bruised ego. And, since he wants to meet you, apparently he does really like you. So what? What's he going to do? Introduce you to his wife as the woman who kept his spirits up until she was ready for another try? Whether or not he decides to keep you a secret, the question is whether or not you feel like being some other woman's husband's gal pal. If so, do what you want. If not, wish him well again, but tell him that you won't be taking his calls or answering his e-mails because you wouldn't feel right getting to know him better at a time when he should be putting that energy into his marriage. H

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