Saturday, September 6, 2008

Romper stomper bomper Pru.

Dear Prudence (real name: Emily Yoffe),

I read your advice column every Thursday on I'm an avid reader of advice columns, in fact, from Dear Abby to Carolyn Hax to Miss Conduct. I'm always curious to see if they're presented with situations similar to any I may have (or may be) going through at any given time, and I like to see the responses to fat-related scenarios as well. It's not often that an advice columnist surprises me. More often than not, when someone writes in with some sort of fat-related query, it turns into a polite screed about The Evils of Fat: while it's not okay to haterate against fat people, well, they sure do need some fixing is the usual tone. Basically, save the delightful Miss Conduct (a.k.a. Robin Abrahams, who is a friend of Fat Acceptance), advice columnists generally demonstrate Concern Trollesque behavior.

And this week, I knew I was in for a doozy when the video question was titled "Heavier and Hard Up" (a transcript follows after the cut):

Dear Prudence,

I've been living with my boyfriend for a year. I'm 23, and he's 35. He's usually a very gentle and caring man, but two weeks ago he dropped a bomb on me. When I asked him why we don't have sex as often as we used to, he told me he no longer finds me as physically attractive because of my recent weight gain.

I know I've gained weight - I went from a size 16 to a size 20, and I'm not happy about it either. But it didn't bother me much until I found out about his true feelings. He swears up and down that he still loves the person inside just as much as ever. But I can't help but feel that if he won't accept me physically, he doesn't really love me. Now I feel like if I want this to work, I need to change. But I haven't tried to change him. So how is that fair?

Signed, Confused in the Country

Now, Prudence, if I had been presented with this question, I would be dying for more details. What was her activity level like prior to moving in with her boyfriend? Had she been ill? Any major life changes besides moving in with the boyfriend? What is the general relationship like, since there is a sizable age difference? Basically, I'd be hard-pressed to fire off a response without having more information. But we don't want to let human curiosity or the natural inclination to have more facts to go on get in our way of doling out some terribly "fine" advice, do we.

Dear Confused,

You're only 23 and you've gone up two dress sizes in a year, to a size that by any measure puts you in the plus category. (oh god OH GOD NO NOT THE PLUS CATEGORY) It's not unreasonable for your boyfriend to be concerned about this trajectory (sweet mother of Christ YOU ARE GOING TO END UP 500 POUNDS AND BEING TAKEN OUT OF YOUR HOUSE BY A CRANE). Of course we all want to be loved for who we are regardless of what we look like. But hey, people care about what they look like and what their partners look like (so SHAPE THE FUCK UP, FATTY!). Try to separate this issue out from your relationship and instead take a look at your relationship with food (I CAN SENSE YOU SIT ON THE COUCH ALL DAY AND WATCH TV AND EAT DONUTS BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT ALL FAT PEOPLE DO). For the sake of your future health (YOU ARE GOING TO DIE, CHUBS), join Weight Watchers (it's not a diet, it's a LIFESTYLE!), get into an exercise program, try to do something to get this problem under control (BECAUSE YOU ARE OUT OF CONTROL FAT FATTERSON).

I strongly suggest watching the video, because my transcript (or even my, uh, editorial whimsy) cannot possibly communicate the kind of...pompous disdain that drips out of Emily's mouth. Of COURSE if you're fat, you've got a fucked up relationship with food. What made my jaw drop a bit more was the "tough shit, people are superficial so get with the program if you want to be loved" tone.'s not cool to be superficial, right? So...why on earth would you endorse asshole behavior? Oh wait, of course, we're talking about OMG KILLER FAT KILLING KILLING KILLING RUN AWAY. And that point's nailed home with the deathly serious "For the sake of your future health". For the SAKE of your FUTURE HEALTH, Confused, JOIN WEIGHT WATCHERS.

*record scratch*

Yeah, that'd be the last thing I'd prescribe anybody, really. If I wanted to teach someone how to be neurotic about what he/she puts into his/her mouth even more so than just regular old-fashioned no-cost dieting does, then yeah, I'd tell them to hop on the Weight Watchers train.

As for the "my boyfriend doesn't want to fuck me because I've gained the weight" thing...well, I'd be inclined to say "then he can go find someone else to fuck and you find someone who wants to fuck you", personally. But of course, let me add on the disclaimer of never having been in a relationship, blah blah blee blah blah. So I've been lucky enough never to be on the receiving end of such a proclamation. I can only imagine what I, at my frostiest and best, would do. Most likely, I would crawl into the nearest liquor cabinet and not come out for a few weeks. Shit, I've crawled into the liquor cabinet for far less emotionally devastating things. And I would be hunting down the nearest Weight Watchers meeting if I wasn't in the mindset that I'm in now, which is "I am who I am and I look the way I look, and it's not my problem if you can't dig on it".

I think about the woman who wrote this letter in the first place. You have to figure she must be a fairly avid reader of ole Prudence, and must think that most of the advice Prudie's dispensing is sound and fair. She must have been thrilled to see that her letter was going to be published AND to discover it was a featured video--! That is ZOMG level of excitement right there. I'd wager she hoped Prudence might assure her that she's not being unreasonable to WTF her boyfriend a little bit for his stance. I'd wager that once Prudence was done informing her she was an out-of-control, lazy sack of unlovable shit, she had a full-snot cry, maybe a few shots, and immediately got rid of any "bad" food in the house. She's probably started "cutting back" and "behaving herself", tracking every single bit of food that goes into her mouth, counting every calorie, every fat gram, every second spent on the treadmill or the walking track.

She is going to be good and worthy of love just as soon as those 20 pounds, those 30 pounds, those 50 pounds come off. You'll see.


Meowser said...

Right. And you know that if the tables were turned -- that if HE had been the one who gained the weight and SHE was the one who didn't want to do the do with HIM anymore, she'd get an earful of, "You have to accept people the way they are, not everyone looks like their prom picture forever!"

And yeah, of course Pru doesn't bother asking how quickly the LW gained the weight, or whether there are any other symptoms, or whether she's had any new prescriptions around that time, since the answer to that could indicate some sort of medical issue. (Ovarian cancer, PCOS, and hypothyroidism, to name three possibilities, often present initially with only weight gain as a symptom.) Nor is there any question of whether HE might have some kind of issue, physical or psychological, that has nothing to do with her. (Because ALL men want to fuckfuckfuck 24/7 and if he doesn't want to do it, that means there's something wrong with the woman -- geez, what if it was a same-sex relationship, what would these misogynistic shitbags do with themselves?) It's all about shaming the woman for her greedy appetite. AfuckingGAIN.

Scattered Marbles said...

OMG that is one piece of work... the disdain in her voice was downright offensive to be honest. Not once did she mention going to see a doctor, which was my first thought, if she went up two sizes just recently I immediately thought I wonder if there is a medical cause for that. No of course dear prudie jumped right to the stereotype of the fattie scarfing donuts on the couch and tells her to go to the good old WW and move her ass. Cause yeah losing weight is just THAT easy and she should put her life on hold to lose that weight for that man so she will be worthy of love.

I also had to stop reading the comments... my sanity points are waaaaay low. One brilliant piece of work says and I quote "If you are obese for any length of time, you will die." Ummm hello genius..... if you are ALIVE for any length of time.. you WILL die

Gah ... Morons... the whole lot of them :P

Jane said...

Oooh shit, I probably should have posted a SW warning. I generally don't read the comments at Slate because I have trouble finding them...which is a good thing, I wager.

The whole "if you're obese for any length of time, you will die" argument...I've been obese for probably...30 of my 36 years, if not longer. Still upright!

nuckingfutz said...

I can't even bear to go watch that video. What you've transcribed here is enough to break my heart.

amethystrose said...

I too read "Dear Prudence" every week. I could not believe the advice she gave this poor woman. I wrote her and told her the more logical thing to do was advise her to go see a doctor. Maybe if we all tell her what we think, she'll issue an apology, she has done it before.

Piffle said...

Oh, I'm right with Meowser here; my mind jumped to health problems right away.

I think I'll skip the video.

I don't like Yoffe's Dear Prudence, I've found Dear Margo, who used to be Dear Prudence much better.

Patricia said...

I, too, was shocked at what Prudence was saying. The person in question went from a size 16 to a size 20. That's not a big size change -- not like she went from a size 6 to size 20. Also, she underwent some kind of lifestyle change when she moved in with her boyfriend, right? The first year of a change like that it's quite "normal" to gain weight -- all those little dinners a deux, sitting at home watching the tube instead of going out, etc. etc. And the weight can come off, if you want to get back into your pre-BF wardrobe, or if you are uncomfortable at your new size, or IF YOU ARE UNHEALTHY BECAUSE OF YOUR WEIGHT GAIN (which is rare). Or if you just want some alone time so you join a gym or a dance class or a yoga class.
But I found her answer to be the knee-jerk reaction to what was wrong with the problem -- and I was shocked that she didn't think of sending her to the doc to see if there was a medical reason for the weight game.
And I also think that the problem (with the lack of sex) is not what he told her, but something else.

spacedcowgirl said...

This is really well-written--I love the advice column style in your responses to Yoffe. As far as what you wrote, suffice it to say ITA and everyone else has made all the substantive points I would have and more, so I'll shut up now. :)

Still laughing at scattered marbles. "Ummm hello genius..... if you are ALIVE for any length of time.. you WILL die" hahahahahahahah!!

Potterchik said...

Just wanted to say, it's great to find another advice column addict. I read'em all -- evn started to write one, until I got a scary creepy stalker and had to close the email address.