Keeping It Off


Q. Fat history: From the ages of around 7 to after college, my beautiful, loving wife of 20 years was morbidly obese. By the time we met when we were nearly 30, she had lost a huge amount of weight, and since then has been a very healthy fitness geek. While she was obese, she suffered from social anxiety and depression, and regaining her health gave her a huge amount of self-confidence. I’m very proud of her, but the issue is she has entirely erased any part of her life that took place when she was overweight. She has no pictures, yearbooks, or mementos, and when our athletic preteen daughters ask what she was like at their age, or about any event that took place before she lost weight (like her 16th birthday party), she deflects the question. I understand the desire to forget about what was a very traumatizing portion of her life (and she has gone to some therapy), but I don’t think it’s right to hide her entire childhood and the journey that shaped her so much from our children. Who’s right?

(Article by Mallory Ortberg, republished from

A: This is not a situation where being “right” is very important. It would be good for your wife if she could consider her past as part of what made her who she is today, rather than a dark history she needs to keep buried, but you can’t argue someone into making peace with their former selves. If she’s asking you to lie to your children on her behalf, that’s something else entirely; you’re under no obligation to preserve a fiction or present an altered history to your daughters. I hope you can make the gentle suggestion to your wife that she has always been a person of worth and value, regardless of her size or mental state, and that therapy specifically addressing her self-image might be of great use to her. She will be a better mother to your children if she can be more loving toward herself. You cannot believe this on her behalf, of course, but it sounds like she spends a great deal of emotional energy trying to hate the person she used to be out of existence. This is an impossible task, and I hope very much that she gives it up.

Q. My gynecologist has opinions about my pubes: I’ve been happy with the care I’ve received from my gynecologist, with one exception: She comments on my downstairs landscaping. One time I went in for an annual appointment a few days after a Brazilian wax and got a lecture about how hair is “supposed to be there” and that razor burn and ingrown hairs are an infection risk. She doesn’t seem to make the same comments when I’ve only shaved my inner thighs, bikini line, armpits, or legs, even though presumably hair is “supposed to be there” as well, and I’ve certainly had ingrown hairs and razor burn on those body parts the past. Should this be a doctor-patient relationship deal-breaker?

A: I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker, but then again, she’s not my doctor. She wasn’t cruel or overly antagonistic about your grooming choices (it sounds like she only brought it up once, but you say she “comments” on your hair removal, so I’m not sure if this is a frequent topic of discussion), but it seems that scorched-earth waxing is a bit of a bugbear of hers. If it comes up again, feel free to let her know you’re aware of the risks but you prefer getting Brazilians and don’t want another lecture. But if it makes you deeply uncomfortable to be in the same room as her, find someone else. You’re the one getting naked and vulnerable, so your comfort is the real priority here.

Q. Political Difference: I have many things in common with my boyfriend, except for one key difference: We have very different political views. I’ve always been liberal/Democratic whereas he is very libertarian/Republican. He says he votes for whoever will lower his taxes the most (he does well for himself financially) and that he sees nothing wrong with voting only with complete self-interest. He otherwise is a kind and caring person to me, family, and friends, so I’m having trouble reconciling these two things in my mind. I worry that his self-interest in politics will spread to self-interest in other aspects of his life later down the line. Is that a legitimate worry? I don’t want to marry and have children with someone who turns out to be just plain selfish, but I also don’t want to lose someone great over political differences (you can’t agree about everything, after all).

A: If he doesn’t behave selfishly toward you now, I don’t think you should extrapolate anything from his political views. If you can’t imagine yourself long term with someone who doesn’t share your basic views about what constitutes a good and healthy society, then by all means break up, but if you’re just worried that he’s going to take as laissez-faire an approach to your feelings as he currently does to capitalism, I think you can set those fears aside.

Q. Feminist dating nonfeminist: My boyfriend is a well-educated, successful doctor who does not consider himself a feminist. I am an equally educated and successful woman who feels like I finally met someone who is my match in life. On this one topic, he has painted it as a linguistic distinction rather than a belief about women’s rights—he is South Asian. I know feminist is still a loaded term, and he is very supportive of my career and my ambitions. Over time, unfortunately, some misogynistic attitudes seem to be creeping into our relationship. Although in general he treats me well, he doesn’t seem to respect women as a group and I hear him call other women “crazy bitches” and rant about women’s hormones, etc. He loves to hate on Hillary Clinton for the sheer fact that she is a woman. He is quick to describe my attempts to discuss relationship issues as “drama.” He feels no qualms about going to strip clubs. He also habitually befriends attractive women and flirts with them in front of me and via text—he thinks there is nothing wrong with that as long as he doesn’t sleep with them. Also, when he leads other women on, they are often rude to me, but if I speak up about this, he tends to classify it as my being a hysterical illogical woman. This is all a problem maybe 5 percent of the time, while 95 percent of our interactions are happy. I know he cares about me deeply. He is a very smart and compassionate man and these attitudes do not line up with who he is in most other contexts—it is truly baffling to me and seems to have very little to do with me, personally, but it is hard not to feel upset by it, nonetheless. Would I be out of line to ask him to work on these behaviors, perhaps in the context of couples therapy, or is this the type of situation where I should accept that this is just how he is and cut my losses and run?

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