While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On jockeying for wedding dates, venues, baby names: I’m a single 44-year-old woman and am horrified by bridezillas and their equivalent mommy monsters. I don’t recall ever seeing a man write in to complain about his best friend getting engaged first or scheduling his wedding the same summer or his wife thoughtlessly getting pregnant so he couldn’t attend a wedding or having a baby first or stealing his favorite baby name. Being fortunate enough to find a partner and sharing the joy of children should be appreciated on their own terms, not done to win a perceived competition with friends or family members. In a world where many women just hope to stay safe and have children survive infancy, I’d like to think American women could celebrate their friends’ special life events with pure joy and selflessness.
Singleton for Sisterhood
Decades ago when travel wasn’t what it is now, at the same time my boyfriend from Oregon proposed to me, an East Coast girl, his younger brother proposed to his California girl. Because of various career-related circumstances, they planned a large wedding for about a month before we planned to marry, which meant not even his family would be able to attend ours. My very wise husband-to-be took an incredibly kind and long-range view. We talked about the kind of people we wanted to be and what we wanted our marriage to stand for – generosity toward others, support for their happiness, not just ours. We went ahead with a small wedding and never looked back. My husband is gone now, but we had a very happy marriage and nothing but the best relationships between his family and mine.
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On people who comment constantly on your weight: My mother and brother do this obsessively, and I tried everything, over many years, to place appropriate boundaries. Smiles, brush-offs, polite requests – nothing worked. They knew about my decades of weight struggles, but never stopped going on about it. They also added in comments about my father and grandmother, who were both heavy.
Assertiveness is the skill of using adult, confident, polite, logical and clear communication. I finally said, “I am tired of your apparent assumption that you have the right to comment on my weight, or to grill me on what I eat, how much I exercise or anything else related to the topic. You cross a line into my space in doing do, and I want this to end. I cannot change your behavior, but if this happens again, I will leave immediately.”
It solved the problem partially.
They continue to comment on other people’s weight and exercise – rather like the way people with drinking problems notice everything people drink. I’m trying to work on an oblique approach, too. I’ve tried: “I find myself counting the number of times you mention weight and exercise in a negative way in any conversation, when it has nothing to do with the topic. Why is this such an overwhelmingly important yardstick in so many situations?” Or: “Is this story about how fat everyone is and about their bad food choices, or is it a story about your Seniors outing?”
Some people need boundaries. Sometimes you have to give them some.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.