Carolyn Hax: Readers on the burdens of beauty and other life issues

Carolyn Hax
Columnist March 6

While I’m away, readers give the advice.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

On the agony of the bombshell:

My mother was movie-star gorgeous and let me know she was disappointed that I didn’t measure up.

Eventually, I realized she was indeed both blessed and cursed. I had good female friends where she did not. When she turned about 50, she decided she was losing her looks (she wasn’t). Although she was smart, funny, capable and talented, she saw herself only as beautiful and pined away. Her life was lived in one dimension.


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Bombshell’s Daughter

A long-ago subordinate (a woman; I’m a guy) was an ex-model. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

The comments, back-biting and sabotage by envious women were disturbing. And unstoppable, at least by me.

Female peers reported that the ex-model spent a remarkable amount of time prior to every meeting in front of a mirror prepping herself, fixing hair and reapplying makeup. While some men viewed her as beautiful, an equal number didn’t seem to notice.

In retrospect, I think her life was awful. She must have assumed her career success was dependent on looks, something non-sustainable.

C.

On going to reunions despite a painful school experience (or: Bombshell agony, cont’d):

I have been to all of my reunions. The tenth was awful — very competitive, still playing the old games. By 20, everyone had seen some hardship and tragedy and was much more forgiving and willing to share the people they had become. By 25, the mellowness was just delicious.

Keep in mind that “it’s not over until it’s over.” One of our “Senior Beauties” came up to me, the class nerd, at a reunion and said, “I always envied you in school.” (ME?) “You were admired for your brain, and I was just a pretty face.”

Healing is possible, but you have to decide to be a part of it.

R.

On showing concern without dwelling on difficult topics:

Over the years, various members of my extended family have been in counseling for one reason or another. Our code is simple. All parties are in on it ahead of time. The caring family member says to the counselee, “How did it go?” This is code for: “I care about you. I know you are doing something difficult and challenging. If you want to talk about it I’m here.” Any answer is acceptable, from a one-word “fine” or “terrible” to a blow-by-blow account of the whole session and the issues addressed.

C.

On complaining about your weight around others:

I struggled with eating disorders for a really long time and I still kind of do. However, I learned real fast at a young age not to comment on weight outside of the therapist’s office. Not my own, not anyone else’s, and certainly not children’s.

I want to write a book called “How to Have an Eating Disorder Without Being a Total Jerk,” because, judging from the Internet, a lot of people don’t know how. It’s the height of insensitivity to say, “Ughhh, I’m so fat,” because people ultimately compare themselves to you and then you’re dragging them down with you and everyone feels bad.

K.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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