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Skinny-Dipping, S.O. Weight Gain, and Walk[ing] Away [From] Renee

1. I have an awesome, kick-ass group of friends. We’ve managed to stand the test of time from university through different careers, relationships, etc.  We’ve remained important and valued in each others’ lives. Well, except for one friend.

Renee is the most difficult person I’ve ever met. She’s self-absorbed, needy, and exhausting to deal with. And, yes, “deal with” is the only phrase to describe any of our interactions. Talking to my other friends while they are upset never feels like they are just using me as free unqualified therapy. Renee acts emotionally unstable, and refuses to listen to me when I have repeatedly told her that I am not equipped to help her — she asks for more than a compassionate ear, but that’s all I have.

All our mutual friends feel that friendship with her is no longer something that we’re interested in. We’ve come to this conclusion independently (we’re not the Borg!), but I’m worried what the impact of losing at least three friends will be on Renee. Years ago, another friend “broke up” with her, ending their friendship in very clear terms. Renee obsessed over this girl for an entire year afterward, sobbing outside her house, writing long letters, calling/texting non-stop. For the rest of us, it was like being held emotionally hostage. It was an inappropriate reaction that none of us want to experience first hand by being direct with her.

Renee is paranoid about being phased out — she freaks out when you don’t respond to her, and invites herself to things. I need help! How do you phase out a person who is fighting tooth-and-nail not to be phased? I don’t want in this toxic friendship anymore, and neither do any of my other close friends. Are we bad people for abandoning her en-mass?

Oof, Renee. I know you just said you can’t be direct because of what happened the last time someone was, but you need to try that — with a twist. First, does Renee have a closer friend or family member who could sit with her and offer support during this discussion? I gather no, but it’s worth having someone there to diffuse the situation and you’ll also want a witness. Being honest and open with her about your feelings and the reason your friendship is failing will give her the opportunity to change in the future — though without you. Then, no matter what she does or says after that, if you are still committed to ending the friendship, you must ignore her completely. Your previous friend who dumped Renee didn’t truly do that or you wouldn’t know all the sordid, crazy details of The Year Renee Lingered. Ignore her to the maximum point of ultimate ignoration. She does not exist! Don’t talk behind her back, don’t pick up the phone, don’t respond to a text or email. Radio silence. If this does not cause her to leave you alone, she is officially a stalker and you have grounds to ask for a restraining order. 

And don’t feel guilty for letting her go. Difficult people are a fact of life and the great thing about Renee is that she isn’t a member of your family. (And even those need cutting-off sometimes.) No force in the universe is binding you to Renee’s life forever, so please walk away. It sounds tortuous and icky and life-force-depleting. Renee is responsible for Renee and she’ll figure it out, or she won’t, but her happiness is not yours to ensure. Just do promise me you’ll think about having an honest talk with her before you go. It’ll be tough, but good practice for when this happens again. And it will. Awful relationships lurk around every corner all the way through this place until the very end.

2. What is your advice for rebound dating? Not for the one that just got out of the relationship, but for the one on the other side. Recently (the past year) I’ve fallen into a pattern of dating guys that are fresh out of a relationship. It goes great for a month but then it all falls apart and they all give the same reasoning of “I’m just not ready to be serious right now.” I could really use some help on how to spot dudes who are actually into me instead of just into getting over an ex.

I think you might be confusing “rebound dating” with “dating.” Dating sucks! [Caveat: some people just love casual dating. They aren’t writing in for advice!] Okay, sometimes it’s fun in the beginning, sort of, but even that’s rare. Think about it: you’ve had an AWESOME TIME dating in what later turned out to be the beginning of a good relationship or friendship. For a lot of people, the next level stuff hasn’t even happened yet, so 100% of their dating experiences are mediocre/awkward/full of mistakes you get to work out. That’s what dating is! Constructive mediocrity while you wait for something great.

More helpful advice: ask questions in the beginning and be up front about what you want. Why don’t you ask dudes how long they’ve been single when you first meet them? If you don’t like that you are only attracted to men who long for their recent ex, and you want to change that about yourself, you need to help yourself do that by being assertive and gathering information. Don’t just go along quietly on these dates *hoping* that the guy won’t tell you he just got dumped and isn’t ready for a relationship. Ask him. Say, “So, have you been single for a while? Are you looking for a serious relationship anytime soon? Because I am.” If he runs, great!

Also, when you’re being dumped by these guys — or even after the fact — you could ask, “what is it about me that you found attractive despite the fact you’re not looking for a relationship and didn’t really like me that much?” The answer might be scary and hurtful, and it might help you become the kind of person who attracts more available people.

3. I’m a Married Lady and mother of a toddler and love being both. My issue is that Husband and I are not having much sex, and though being dead-exhausted much of the time is part of the reason, my diminished attraction toward him is the big problem.

You see, while I was pregnant Husband gained 40+ pounds (or for reference, over ten more pounds than me, the one who was physically growing a human). It was kind of a joke at the time (and, in fact, men gaining weight and mimicking other pregnancy symptoms is A Thing), but two years later, with breastfeeding, yoga, and chasing a tiny running person around I’m back to my pre-baby body. Husband has not lost a pound and does not seem to be interested in trying. I cook 2-3 healthy meals for us daily and we don’t buy processed food. I bake occasionally when we want sweet treats, but I’ve had to cut back because if there are cookies in the house Husband will eat them all in a sitting. He also sneaks candy, ice cream, and fast food regularly (and large amounts of all, not just an ice cream cone, for example, but a half gallon container that he will eat in a day). I voiced my concern about his health (he’s in his mid 40s), so he got a physical that showed he’s generally healthy.

Of course that is a relief, but now I don’t know what to do. I know he is aware of the weight gain, and I don’t want to cause him pain, but the fact is that I am less attracted to his changed body, and the way he binges on sweets and unhealthy food is becoming repulsive to me. He claims it is because he wasn’t allowed to have much sugar as a child, but this feels like a weak excuse to me. He has worked with a dietician in the past and when we met he seemed to have a healthy relationship toward food — normal meal portions, occasional desserts, nothing extreme. I’m sure the stress of parenting/working is part of the issue and I want to be compassionate and supportive. Is it even possible to do that while telling him his fatter body is turning me off? I feel like a completely shallow jerk.

You’re not a jerk and you obviously love your husband. Please, take those concerns off the table. I think your husband is depressed. Eating a whole gallon of ice cream in one sitting and saying it’s because he was sugar-deprived as a kid are two clues. (That is not a excuse to eat ice cream 30 years later, but also was he deprived? Could be! Poor guy.)

Another clue? You guys aren’t fucking. Instead of looking at that as a result of his weight gain, it might be one of many symptoms that he’s got depression — and though it’s been two years, it might even be postpartum depression. For real! It’s a thing! In the dudes! I’d look into that if I were you guys, especially since he’s got a clean bill of health otherwise. (Which is great!)

Honesty in your relationship is another thing to work on: it creates intimacy and romantic feelings. You should be able to tell your husband all of this, and you’re not. That builds up bad karma. Sure, he may be a sensitive person and it’ll hurt his feelings a little bit, but he’s making choices that affect other people in the house and he should have to answer to that. No, I’m not talking about him gaining weight, I’m talking about him not delivering to his child a promise he made to you. Stay with me here: when you were courting, he presented a version of himself that you decided you would like as a partner and role model to your children. Then you went, together, and MADE THOSE PEOPLE OUT OF THIN AIR. And now he’s being the kind of person who doesn’t make the food-ordering choices you wanted your baby to mirror. Hold him accountable for the bait and switch. But also, he’s depressed, so change might come slowly. Be patient, kind, and all the things you promised when you married.

And finally, I kind of don’t believe that you’re simply repulsed by his body. It’s probably a combination of that and the other stuff that comes along with being depressed that are such a turn off. Just consider that possibility in case his body doesn’t really change much but everything else does, okay? (Sidenote: there is a serious dearth of “hot fat guys” Tumblrs.)

4. My boyfriend, who I love and is awesome, has a smallish penis but it’s big enough for me and satisfies me in every way. It’s a good, average size when hard but looks very small when soft. The thing is, I want to go skinny dipping with friends, or do random naked-related things, and I just can’t help but feel embarrassed for my friends to see his wang! Even if they know I’m satisfied sexually, maybe they’ll think I’m lying, or feel bad for me, or judge him, or judge me… It gets to the point where I will avoid day-time skinny dipping with friends if he’s there because I’m embarrassed. I know, this is stupid. Can you give me a good mantra or something to help me feel better about this?

Mantra: It’s a grower, not a show-er.

Other Mantra: Quit showing your friends your man’s dick! What!? How is this even happening? Tell him to buy a swimsuit and then just stop being naked around your friends all the time if you’re so worried about it.

5. On the advice of an endocrinologist, I’ve been gluten-free for just over three months. I’m doing it properly (separate butter, separate cutting boards, etc.). I was worried about missing certain foods, but happily it’s not a big deal.

How do I handle this with my in-laws? We stayed with them last weekend and I brought gluten free bread and a homemade cake (to share) for dessert. My mother-in-law thinks everyone should eat everything and disapproves of food-faddiness (she still doesn’t seem convinced that I’m allergic to shellfish), so I didn’t want to dwell on it and only mentioned it in passing.

It was awkward. She made a big deal about serving her home-grown potatoes, but prepared them (unwittingly, I’m sure) in a way that meant I couldn’t eat them, then seemed upset that I hadn’t.

My husband has suggested that we offer to cook next time we visit. This is fine with me (I love to cook! I want to be helpful!) but there is an elaborate and stringent kitchen protocol (plus supervision) which makes it difficult.

The current frequency of visits is about once every few weeks, for the whole weekend. Should I just limit my visits and continue to bring my own food? It is SO AWKWARD. I shrink from her disapproval (and my bowels already refuse to move whenever I stay there).

(Another perspective!)

Yes, you should limit your visits. Absolutely. That is more and longer visits than I’ve ever heard of a married couple with their own car and home — not to mention a conflict with one of the parent hosts — ever making. No need! Once a month, and get a hotel.

Before I got to that last paragraph, my only advice was going to be to stop worrying about how your diet affects your mother-in-law’s feelings. She might be the sort of person who’s been able to manipulate her entire family over the years, but that is what makes you special: you aren’t them! And that is also why your partner chose you. So, if she gets upset, that’s on her. It’s a ridiculous thing to be upset about, you and I and every other reasonable person knows that. Let her stew in her own neuroses and you just stay healthy, okay? Which includes mental and emotional health, so limit the stress you’re willing to put on yourself.

I have a grandmother who is never happy and judges every single thing everyone does. So, even though she is a humorless person, I just razz her in a funny way about whatever it is she is being difficult about and at least that puts the whole issue right out in the open. She usually just smacks me on the ass and walks away rolling her eyes. Even, Steven. No one has to be scared of anyone’s feelings when you proclaim something like, “I’m going to eat this bread that doesn’t make me constipated instead of the poison you keep trying to force into me, okay MOM? Which bathroom should I poop in later?” And then smile and kiss her. And then kiss her child. Or, you know, a version of that.

Previously: “Tens,” Office Racism, and a Molehill.

A Lady is one of several rotating ladies who know everything. Do you have any questions for A Lady?

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