Dan! I can’t believe you wrote that response to Hawt And Royally Depressed! He wrote because his wife of 10 years had “let herself go.” Men and women were hitting on him and he had to resort to stoning before he could be with her. And you told this asshole to “be honest with her.” Your version of “honest” was the verbal equivalent of hitting her with a sledgehammer! If what HARD says is true, it sounds like his wife is depressed or has health issues. HARD may have gotten his physical body into shape, but emotionally he is an out-of-shape, immature mess!
—Distressed & Disgusted
I didn’t write that response to HARD. Not one skinny word of it. You see, D&D, two weeks before HARD’s letter appeared in the column, I answered a letter from a gay guy with a fat boyfriend. Seeking A Solution, who described himself as outgoing and athletic, wasn’t attracted to his boyfriend of three years. After describing himself as “stuck,” “struggling,” and on medication for anxiety, SAS told me I wasn’t allowed to tell him to break up with or cheat on his fat boyfriend. So I advised SAS to drink heavily and warned him that sooner or later he would sabotage this relationship in order to be with someone he was actually attracted to.
Readers—mostly female readers—were outraged: Before breaking up, before cheating, before drinking heavily, couldn’t SAS try being honest? Why didn’t I tell SAS to tell his boyfriend that the weight was a turn-off and that SAS was seriously thinking about ending the relationship if the boyfriend didn’t lose those extra pounds? By not recommending a little honesty first—by pushing a breakup instead of a little heart-to-heart—I had revealed myself to be a cynical and heartless faggot.
HARD’s letter arrived when I was sorting through all this outraged e-mail about SAS and I thought, “Gee, I wonder what would happen if I cobbled together a response for this hetero HARD from all this advice these women sent in for this sissy SAS?” The advice you read in this space for HARD—all about being honest and open (including those now-infamous conversation starters like, “You have gotten fat and unattractive and my sex drive is nil, so can we do something about it before I bail on you?”)—was written by my female readers. All I did was change the pronouns from male to female.
And guess what? It turns out that honesty—at least when we’re talking about a woman’s fat ass—isn’t the best policy after all. Honesty about a partner’s premature and avoidable physical deterioration is only fit for faggots, it seems. So what should HARD tell his wife? My outraged readers weigh in:
Your advice to HARD was WAY off. I’m a firm believer in truthful, open communication, but not in this area. I have a close friend who dumped her boyfriend because he told her she had gotten too fat. We all hate him now for saying that. HARD needs to realize that being overweight lowers a woman’s self-esteem. He should approach her gently, say absolutely nothing about not being attracted to her, and play the “I’m concerned only about your health and well-being” card.
If he takes your advice and tells her she needs to shape up or he’s shipping out, hopefully she will muster the self-respect to dump him—just like my friend dumped her asshole ex-boyfriend who was “just being honest.” —An Angry Fat Girl
Gotcha, AAFG—HARD should play the “health and well-being” card and refrain from being honest. Righto. —Dan
I’m sure you’ve been slammed plenty for the advice you gave to HARD, so I’ll keep it short: Don’t EVER tell someone to “bring up the health thing,” as you did in your response.
Each and every one of us fatties soon learns that this is code for “I think you’re ugly and disgusting but I’m not allowed to say that so I’ll just pretend I’m concerned for you.” All kinds of people—distant aunts, strangers on the subway, siblings’ one-night-stands—who don’t bat an eyelash at your smoking like a fish or drinking like a chimney are suddenly so concerned about your well-being. Which is why most of us fatties react very badly to anyone bringing it up. Honesty is good, but “bringing up the health thing” is not really helping since a fat person equates it with dishonesty. —You’re No Health Guru
Gotcha, YNHG—don’t bring up the health thing. Righto. —Dan
A man should be honest with his wife, Dan, but telling a woman she is fat and unattractive and that if she doesn’t lose weight he will leave is NOT sound advice. It will only cause her to spiral out of control. Instead, HARD should talk to his wife about exercising together and make a healthy food plan. But he should do so without telling her that if she doesn’t lose weight he will never want to sleep with her again. —What Were You Thinking
Gotcha, WWYT—a man should be honest with his wife. Except about her premature and avoidable physical deterioration, the impact this is having on their sex life, about how miserable he feels, and about how he’s seriously contemplating adultery or divorce. About those trifles, a man should keep his counsel. Just encourage her to exercise and make a healthy food plan. Righto. —Dan
I speak from experience when I say that there is nothing HARD can tell his wife that she doesn’t already know. And while I’m all for honesty, there are times when it equates to cruelty. Moreover, offering to lift weights together or create a food plan, etc., will only humiliate his wife. Here’s what he can do: Since he loves his wife and since their relationship is more than skin deep, he can acknowledge that even though she’s lost her attractiveness, she still deserves to be treated with love, tenderness, and affection. He can support anything she tries to do about it without judging her if it doesn’t work. —PG
Gotcha, PG—love and support, no criticism or judgment, no offers to exercise together, no healthy food plan, and no griping if nothing changes. Righto. —Dan
I have to agree with what you said to HARD—and I’m speaking from the other side of the thin-fat relationship. While my wife is still at the weight she was when we married 10 years ago, I had packed on over 100 pounds. She finally brought up the effect this was having on our love life. It wasn’t a pleasant talk but I’m trying to lose weight and am having some success. I’m 25 pounds lighter now thanks to her honesty (and a heart scare). Being fat is a health and relationship problem, and our spouses need to speak up and be honest with us.
Yes, GT, but a spouse should only be honest when the fat spouse is male, the honest spouse is female, and—shit, we’re out of room. For tons more about HARD—including the actual advice I sent HARD privately—go to www.thestranger.com/savage/hard. —Dan Savage