Fat Facts

Fat Facts

Fat Facts

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 17 2000 11:30 PM

Fat Facts

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com.

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Dear Prudence,

I have been married for 13 1/2 years. My wife, 49, is an Ob-Gyn physician. She counsels women about their weight constantly. The problem is she is overweight and has been for our entire marriage. She is about 5 feet 3 inches and weighs 200 pounds. She is a great cook and loves to eat. Throughout our marriage I have tried to set an example by exercising regularly. She has joined several gyms with "good intentions" but never follows through. I have asked her to go walking with me, but she always has "reasons" why she can't. I am extremely worried about potential health risks such as diabetes and cardiac disease due to her obesity. Any attempt to discuss her weight problem is interpreted by her as my trying to control and change her. She lies to others about her weight whenever asked (like at the airport or for health insurance purposes). She ignores the warnings and advice of other physicians; she just buys bigger clothes. We recently attended a conference where obesity was discussed. That night at dinner she smeared a ton of butter on her rolls anyway. Nothing I can say or do makes any difference. Should I just give up on her? I love her and want to help, but she doesn't want my help.

—Concerned Husband

Dear Con,

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A smart psychiatrist once told Prudie something rather Zenlike that applies in spades to your dilemma: "All you can do is all you can do." Your suggestions and coaxing have fallen on deaf ears. This woman belongs in the chocolate cake wing of the Betty Ford Clinic—or a therapist's office—or a chapter of Overeaters Anonymous. Her choice to do nothing is a choice—for whatever reason. She may be, to paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, committing suicide by chocolate mousse. She may be packing on the blubber to use as armor in the bedroom. She may be compensating for some emptiness in her life. The best thing for you to do is nothing, since you have made your position known. A severe weight problem, like alcoholism or drug addiction, can only be tackled when the person with the problem decides to do something about it. This is a classic case of, "Doctor, heal thyself."

—Prudie, resignedly

Dear Prudence,

I've been dating this girl for a little over two years. For most of that time we've been boyfriend and girlfriend. However, a month ago she decided she couldn't "handle" a relationship right now—except that we still go out, spend the night together, and say "I love you." Recently I've been pressing her on exactly why I've become an "Ummm ..." (A week ago she introduced me to one of her new co-workers by saying, "This is my ... ummm, Chris.") What is this supposed to mean?

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—Confused in Dallas

Dear Con,

In twentysomething lingo, you are now a "special naked friend." For whatever reason, the woman formerly known as your girlfriend does not wish to be officially tied down or formally committed. Make of this what you will, then act as you see fit.

—Prudie, informationally

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Dear Prudence,

I have a simple enough question, I guess, but it's hard for me. I am a 24-year-old male. I'm just about finished with my studies and ready to begin my professional career. I have not been too successful with the ladies, romantically speaking, because I'm not only timid but also have spent a great deal of time studying. Now that I have more time, I find I am not sure how to approach women. For instance, if I see a nice girl in a subway station or a store, what is the best way to introduce myself without scaring her?

—Thanks,

Looking to Connect

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Dear Look,

Alas, even Prudie would be scared if a strange man introduced himself while waiting for public transportation. (Even the first-class lounge for the Concorde would be a little dicey. Unfortunate, maybe, but that's the way it is.) Prudie suggests you will do better—and seem less threatening—if you try out your introductions at events where it's more acceptable to strike up a conversation. These would include affinity groups, churches and temples, and volunteer activities. It is said that Habitat for Humanity attracts many single people—and they do good things in the bargain.

—Prudie, constructively

Dear Prudence,

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I find it beyond annoying that women/men think that after they and their ex-spouses have failed in their lifelong promise of marriage, that one or the other would have the outright gall to believe that they can be friends. Recently my wife and I saw our marriage crumble after some severe and not so severe issues arose. Shortly after I returned to Kentucky she informed me that she was confident that we would be great friends. MARRIAGES FAIL BECAUSE THE PEOPLE INVOLVED ARE NOT FRIENDS!!

—Out-Raged in Kentucky

Dear Out,

Prudie knows what you're saying and agrees in principle: Couples usually part because they cease being friends. There are divorced people, however, who do feel friendship for the decamped spouse. This usually hinges on what went wrong and who got hurt. The difficulty in your case is that your wife is a let's-stay-friends person, and you are not. Prudie would suggest you not stew about it, though. Just be like Frank Sinatra and do it your way.

—Prudie, individually