Friday, March 1, 2019

The Case of the Morbidly Obese Girlfriend

Another day, another example of how our therapy culture messes up peoples’ lives. This one comes from Carolyn Hax, the Washington Post advice columnist who ought to cease pretending to understand shame and who ought also to cease hawking therapy culture values.

The issue is simple: what do you do when your girlfriend keeps putting on weight? If you are a denizen of our culture you say nothing about it… because you don’t want to hurt her feelings. But, what do you do when she has reached a stage of morbid obesity and you do not want to be seen in public with her, with friends, with family, with colleagues.

Neither the boyfriend nor Hax seems to notice that if said man does not go out in public with her, she has surely noticed. And she surely knows the reason why. And yet, the shame does not motivate her to lose weight. This is a bad sign. He does not really have to make an issue of it, because many people have surely done so.

Now, the man might want to marry the girl, because she is beautiful and has a wonderful personality. Think about that one: what really matters is looks and personality. The fact that she seems incapable of controlling her appetite does not count against her, because he is not allowed by our therapy culture to count this manifest character flaw against her. If she were an alcoholic or a drug addict and hid the habit from her boyfriend, what would our friendly advice columnist have to say about that?

We should note a point that Hax does mention: she might be suffering from an undiagnosed illness. In that case she should certainly be encouraged to see a physician. Being overweight is not necessarily a psychological problem.

Without further ado, here is the letter:

I am in a relationship with a beautiful girl who has a wonderful personality. I think we would be able to get along together forever, and she would be a great mom.

The problem is, although I never see her overeat, she has continued to gain weight throughout our relationship. Although my attraction has drifted slightly, I never really talk about it to avoid hurting her feelings.

I'm at the point in my life that I want to be married, but I am self-conscious of her weight, keeping her away from my family and friends and questioning whether she is the one for me. I feel guilty about doing this.

I'm caught between belief we could make it and disappointment that she has not been able to tackle the situation. I've tried to help, but anything I do turns out wrong.

Should I move on and be heartbroken or try to fix something out of my control? Am I a bad person? Are my feelings of shame unjustified, or is the expectation of good health valid?

Sometimes I think I need to move on and be with someone thin, but I never want to lose this woman — I want to have kids with her.

— Confused Guy

Yes, indeed, bunky. It’s time to move on. 

The man does not tell us how he has tried to help, but apparently she does not want help. He does not tell us how other people have reacted to her, but apparently they do not react well to her appearance and to her character flaw. What if he is losing work opportunities because other people do not want to socialize with him because they do not respect his choice of a girlfriend? Surely, he should expect that a prospective spouse have good health. It isn’t a lot to expect. And it isn’t an issue that he should have to take charge of.

Now, you might have guessed that Hax thinks that he is a fool for not being willing to overlook her morbid obesity. Which is, dare we say, a significant health hazard. She thinks that he should ignore the feelings of everyone around him and should forge ahead on wings of love.

For the record, here are her words:

So, essentially, you’re ashamed to be with her and ashamed to break up with her.

That’s really where you’re caught. Shamed if you do, shamed if you don’t, by a culture too warped to allow all kinds to exist in peace.

And the answer is not — ever — to “fix something out of my control.” Your girlfriend is worthy and whole, which explains why “anything I do turns out wrong”: The very premise of changing her into someone more to your tastes is wrong. (Though, at the risk of negating my answer — unexplained weight gain/loss = doctor.)

This is not to pile on shame, but instead to start your process of freeing yourself from it. To make lucid decisions, you need to stop attaching value judgments and merely accept what is present and real. That would simplify your choices as follows:

●If you can’t envision spending your life with any other woman than this one, then propose marriage to her. People who judge you because she is fat are begging to be tuned out. What you find attractive is no one’s business but yours.

●If this is not the woman you want to marry, then break up. People who judge you because they don’t like your reasons are begging to be tuned out. What you don’t find attractive is no one’s business but yours.

Plus, she deserves someone proud to love her. Come on. There’s nothing she’d change about you?

●If you’re still not sure whether she’s for you, or you for her, then keep dating — but not stalling, and not in secret!! — till answers emerge. Weight and health and attraction are legitimately complicated, each unto themselves, even without society’s thumb on the scale.

●If you can’t disentangle others’ opinions from your own feelings, then that’s not about anyone’s weight. That’s about your maturity.

You see, it's the culture's fault. The culture will not allow him to see her as a whole person... and to let her live in peace. For the record, the culture has taught us all not to smoke. It has shamed smokers. Do you want to blame the culture for not allowing smokers to live in peace?

One suspects that he is staying with her because the same culture, like Hax, has taught him not to be judgmental. Keep in mind, she was not overweight when they met. So, beyond the distinct chance that she is suffering from an illness, we are justified in concluding that this relationship is not doing her a world of good.

Hax recommends that he accept what is present and real. That is, dare I say, perfectly vapid. The man is a social being. He lives in the world. He lives in a world that contains family, friends and colleagues. If he cannot accept the value of what they think of him and if he ignores the fact that they all think less of him for being involved with a woman who is morbidly obese, that they might even be shunning him, then he is not functioning like an adult.

He seems clearly to understand that being out in public with her will cause him to lose face, to lose prestige, to lose standing and status… and eventually to lose business. Does the woman not understand this herself? We cannot imagine that she does not. If she does see that her condition, which has changed significantly from what it was when they started dating, has had repercussions on their relationship, then she is not very bright. Or she is addicted to food. If she does not care enough about him to consult with a physician, to go on a diet and to undertake an exercise program… why is he still with her?

It could be because he is listening to people like Hax, who tells him that if he dumps her he will be a bad person. Whatever Hax means when she invites him to attain a higher level of maturity, she is clearly suggesting that he disengage from his social world in order to be trapped with a woman who will alienate him from friends and family and will undermine his social standing. One appreciates that he wants to have children with her, but how will her obesity help her when taking care of active little children.

Making such a sacrifice for love is normally a very bad bet.


UbuMaccabee said...

My wife and I have a contract. I stay fit in order to ensure she stays attracted to me, and she stays fit to ensure that I stay attracted to her. We work out together three days per week. I don't want a fat wife, it's unappealing socially and a deal-breaker sexually. I don't like thin either, I like fit. I enjoy it when we are out and she looks fantastic--like when she wears a spectacular dress at the opera. I know she feels the same about me and I take pride in my appearance.

To be fair, any man with a good looking, fit wife, walking around looking like a fat slob is asking for trouble. Same goes for a obese wife with a fit man. Any woman who says that a man shouldn't allow a woman's weight determine her suitability is a fool; aside from a small subset of outliers, men do not like fatties. And we will not be manipulated into liking fatties either.

There is nothing virtuous that I can see about being a jelly doughnut. Diet and exercise are the immutable laws of sexual attraction; people are attracted to healthy people, and not even money or fame can paper over those inescapable facts entirely.

Assuming she does not have a genuine physiological issue (and almost no real fatties do, they overwhelmingly lie to themselves about the iron laws of intake and expenditure) give her a deadline and expect results--or else. Else means move on. Maybe she'll be happier with another fatty and they can eat themselves into a diabetic coma. Keep in mind that she will always be prone to being heavy, and unless she is a natural gym rat, she will revert to form as fast as you can say "Ben & Jerry." You are going to deal with this issue for the entire marriage. Maybe it's best to move on now.

Gotta run, the ex-Army Ranger I hired as a trainer doesn't entertain tardiness anymore than he indulges lard-asses.

Anonymous said...

To me, this story is strange. Assuming that the girlfriend was not morbidly obese when they started to go out, why didn't they meet the parents, friends and family, colleagues, the rest of the world at that time? Does she have parents, family and what do they think? Can they help? Are they obese and happy too? Questions, questions.

Loveembig said...

Anyone who is alright with treating a person like they less than human or thinks it's perfectly fine putting relationship qualifications on a persons appearance, is really someone you don't want to be associated with anyway. Assigning a virtue to appetite or ones inability to conform to arbitrary societal rules regarding weight or appearance is right out of the religious dogma of the middle ages. Get a clue...this kind of thinking is frighteningly shallow and shows off a level of narcissism that is unfortunately rampant in our society.

Unknown said...

Loveembig - are you kidding? There's nothing arbitrary about it. Obesity is unhealthy, and unhealthy is unattractive. Do you start looking for love in Hospice Care? Nope!

Loveembig said...

No I'm not kidding, every thing about this situation is ARBITRARY. Weight and appearance are personal situations. They are controlled by personal responsibility not society. Society has no right to place rules or restrictions on someone's weight. Applying some kind of value on a person's relationship worth based upon the numbers on a scale is a shallow, arrogant, presumption and worthless as a qualifier in which a relationship should be based upon. Furthermore attraction between two people is also a personal situation based upon more than physical attraction. There is much more to people than their physical appearance or their weight. The sooner little plebs like you "Unknown" learn this, the better off we will all be. Unfortunately you and millions like you, neither have the open mindedness nor the strength character to even begin to accept this simple truth.

BTW, comparing an obese person to an individual in hospice care is nothing more than a straw man argument and total bullshit. Nice try but you fail.