10:14 a.m. - 2005-01-30
The Original Article
SWELLING HERSELF SHORT
When a man buys a sports car, he doesn't expect it to morph into a cargo van.
After two years waiting patiently, your husband's itching for his sleek little street machine. Okay, so maybe he can't get that exact body style, but at the very least, he must be hoping for a sedan. Something's gotta give (something besides the elastic waistband on your size 14 pants). While your hub probably loves you, and is loath to seem the ingrate (since his baby-making participation was only in the fun part, not the fat part), he can't push a button and turn himself into a chunky-chaser. Unfortunately, attraction doesn't operate on the salad bar principle, where, one day, you simply decide to fill your plastic bowl with Jell-O cubes instead of mixed beans. In other words, the only malleable thing here is the diameter of your back end.
Have you known many men who flit off to department stores if they aren't forced at wifepoint, or if their last article of clothing has yet to disintegrate off their bodies? Your husband isn't really shopping, but engaging in a nonverbal form of begging. Male sexuality is all about the visuals. That's why men's magazines are filled with pictures of naked women with freakishly large breasts while women's magazines are filled with pictures of lip gloss. And that's why, according to "What Women Want -- What Men Want," by anthropologist John Townsend, studies show that a man's "marital satisfaction" (but not a woman's) directly correlates to how much of a babe he finds his spouse.
As lovely as it is that you've "accepted (your) new figure," you aren't the one who has to rappel to your erogenous zones. Luckily, putting the moan back in matrimony doesn't take rocket science, just eating right and daily exercise. See a Registered Dietitian (eatright.org) for help with what goes in, and take up walking with a baby backpack or a sports stroller for what should come off. Yes, yes, you're exhausted, overwhelmed, and your nipples look like something out of Olduvai Gorge. Tell your husband you need help in the baby-care and time off departments so you can stop "accepting" your new figure and start removing it, and watch how fast he gets an army of nannies marching in to pick up the slack.
Maybe you'll never again be able to wear those little rubber pencil protectors as skirts when all your clothes are in the laundry. But, perhaps the larger issue isn't that you're no longer a size 5, but that you no longer act like one. So, you have a little more stuff to strut these days. Maybe if you dress your stuff up, complete with a waistline, and actually strut it, you'll feel more like a sex kitten than a CAT tractor, and look more like your husband's hot wife than his fat friend.
My First E-Mail
I was absolutely appalled by your advice to the mother who went from a Size 3 or 5 to a 12 or 14. Perhaps you didn't look too closely at her height and weight. 5'8" and 118 pounds is UNDERWEIGHT. It translates to a BMI of 17.9, which is way under the 18.5 which is at the low end of normal. Her current weight, 163, translates to a BMI of 24.8...which, although close to the top of what the NIH considers healthy, is still not overweight. In other words, her being a size 12 or 14 is NORMAL. You can check these numbers for yourself at http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/.
In a world where eating disorders are prevalent and women already go to ridiculous lengths to get and keep men, while men assume less responsibility for their actions every day, the fact that you would tell this woman to diet and exercise to get back to her underweight state is ludicrous and insensitive...particularly since she is trying to accept herself as she is. (People pay for years of therapy to get to this point.)
Maybe the reason I feel so strongly about this is because I, too, am 5'8", and am in the process of losing roughly 150 pounds. To me, 163 sounds like a lovely number...almost my goal weight. I don't think, unless I suddenly were stricken with a wasting disease or internal parasite, I could ever be a size 5. And if some jerk who has unrealistic expectations doesn't see it that way, well, he should be kicked to the curb...not catered to. This woman's husband is the one that has the problem, not her.
Well, I suggest you read The Fat Fallacy and Diets Don't Work. It's not about whether she "should" be kicked to the curb -- I presented the facts so she knew she was endangering her marriage. As you are, if your husband likes thinner women, and most women do. I think it's sad how many women send me BMI charts. Look around. America is the land of the obese. I know better. I make myself as attractive as possible at all times (just as I cultivate my mind and the rest of me) -- because it optimizes my changes of having the best life. Reality. Reality again: A guy who marries a size three doesn't want a size fourteen. I guess women are angry because it hits too close to home. They want to be lazy and to believe that garbage about how somebody "should" love you only for what's inside. Ever hear a guy at a party say "Look at the girl with the huge ass -- bet she's a really good person"? No? Because it doesn't happen. You can choose to be lazy or not, but when you're in a marriage, it's not right to decide that without a thought for the other person who didn't sign on to be with a "larger lady." What, exactly, are you insulted about? Which FACT, exactly?
Her Second Reply to My First E-Mail:
PS Read the work of Gary Taubes -- his book should be out I don't know when -- the American diet is just terrible. I ordered a starbuck danish at the airport and ate one quarter of it. That's human portion size. French girls aren't fat. They eat fantastic food, small portions,a nd they get up off their asses. No junk food, and not a lot of starving to meet a weight there. I'm there every three months, and I have to get my clothes taken in every time I come home...after burying my head in plates of cream sauce. Again: The Fat Fallacy. Read it.
The Advice Goddess
in over 100 papers
My Next E-Mail:
Actually, I said she should kick him to the curb, not the other way around.
I am not married...and that is, in fact, by choice, not because I can't get any due to my weight. I am trying to change my lifestyle and be healthy, and I have lost 60 pounds over the last 10 months. I certainly think people should take care of themselves.
I am not saying that it's okay to be fat. I am not saying it's okay for her not to take care of herself. I am saying that you telling her it's all her fault that her husband doesn't like her is just buying into the tenet that in order to be beautiful, you must be stick thin. Some people are, some people aren't. I think that, if the advice-seeker is doing everything healthy to lose weight, and her husband is still implying that he will not find her attractive until she regains her former, too-low weight, then the problem is his, not hers.
No one is perfect. No one can be perfect all the time. But there is a huge variance in body sizes...height, weight, bone structure, weight distribution...and there is no reason why only one small part of that should be considered beautiful. Further, the traditional marriage vows imply that you are taking your partner for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, etc. Taking a lifetime vow means that things change, and you SHOULD look at what is inside, and what is out....and should love your partner through the struggle, not make her feel worse. I know that, as someone who has had a lifetime weight problem, people buying you clothes that are too small or saying "you'd be pretty if you lost weight" makes you feel worse about yourself. It's not encouraging...it's demeaning, and degrading, and humiliating. How lucky that you don't really struggle.
I don't know why I bothered to write this reply, because I'm sure you're not really going to read it. You're going to see me as this fat whiny bitch making excuses for the way she looks. Ms. Alkon, I am not making excuses. For the first time in my life, I am feeling empowered and good about what I am doing for myself. One of the things that has always made me feel like there was no hope for me was attitudes like yours: "Oh my god, my size 1 jeans don't fit, I'm so fat." No, you're not. The mother in your article is not. Her husband is just an asshole.
As to which "fact" insulted me: the fact that she had borne his child (which she certainly did not conceive on her own), had made an effort to lose the weight from the pregnancy, and was struggling with the remainder...and you insulted her, called her fat, and basically told her that in order for her husband (and other men) to find her attractive, she would have to "get to the gym" and "work harder". Nothing was said about compromise. Nothing was said about him being unrealistic. Nothing was said about the fact that buying clothes in smaller sizes demoralizes her (which is basically what she was saying in her letter to you.) Instead, you completely look at it like it's all her fault, and that he has the right to expect absolute perfection. No one has that right.
I don't fault you for what you perceive as honesty, but your column really, really rubbed me the wrong way. I'm certainly not one to sugarcoat the issues, but when you're basically telling someone who is considered to be a NORMAL WEIGHT FOR HER HEIGHT that she needs to get back to her previous, never pregnant, too-low for health weight, I take issue with that.
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my letter, despite the fact that I don't agree. I will investigate the book.
Her Response, Quoting Me:
No, you're not. The mother in your article is not. Her husband is just an asshole.
Americans are enormously fat. All of them. She is fat. People just want to say a woman with a thin frame who is size fourteen is gorgeous. She is not. Fat people don't think fat people are beautiful. I used to be a chunker. It's not attractive. I read up on science and got my ass exercising, and lost weight. Before I did, I realized it was compromising my chances to meet a man and in many other areas. The. Facts.
Her Next E-Mail:
I am saying that you telling her it's all her fault that her husband doesn't like her is just buying into the tenet that in order to be beautiful, you must be stick thin.
To be beautiful to a guy who likes stick-thin women, you must be stick thin. Sorry that that doesn't fit everybody's wishful thinking, but I'm about telling the truth, not people pleasing.
Her NEXT E-Mail:
I'm certainly not one to sugarcoat the issues, but when you're basically telling someone who is considered to be a NORMAL WEIGHT FOR HER HEIGHT that she needs to get back to her previous, never pregnant, too-low for health weight, I take issue with that.
Please. I'm 5'9 and of "normal weight," if you look at me, and increasingly, in America, I can't even find clothes small enough. If I wore a fourteen, they'd have to send a search party to find me.
My Response to Her Previous Three E-Mails:
Her First Reply:
is that you have to be a stick for men to love you.
Well, they might love you if you're not -- but a guy who likes thin women isn't going to want to have sex with you -- which may lead him to either just be dissatisfied with your relationship or look somewhere else.
Her Second Reply:
What's that saying about a peg for every hole?
Yeah, but that's idealistic. And if a woman has to limit herself to men who fetishize heavier women -- she's going to make it even harder on herself. Her choice. But I present the facts so she can make an informed one. -A
This was certainly an amusing diversion for a Friday afternoon. I finally quit replying because she was only taking what I said out of context and not making any sense. I just found it very interesting that she got that defensive about someone disagreeing with her. Temper, temper.