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CAROLYN HAX

Tell Me About It
(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)

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By Carolyn Hax
Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Carolyn:

My husband and I are overweight. We both consider our weight issues genetic, and neither of us is especially serious about losing weight.

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We're trying to get pregnant, and my sister and two friends have all suggested to me that it would be "irresponsible" or maybe even "cruel" to produce a child probably doomed to be fat.

We would, of course, love our child either way, but they're starting to get to me. Since we don't have an especially healthy lifestyle, would it be irresponsible of us to make a baby who would probably inherit our weight issues? I'd love to hear your brutally honest opinion on that, rather than a suggestion as to what I can say to the meddlers. (I've got that under control.)

Fatville

Of the many ways to approach the issue, I'm most fond of this one: realizing what your nearest and dearest have just said to your face, and sitting here speechless.

Less appealing is the righteous outrage approach -- underscoring the perversity of the whole premise of judging life on one trait, by substituting "fat" with "female" or "male" or "deaf" or "gay" or "left-handed" or "of color." No, wait: "My husband and I both have fair skin, meaning our kids will likely be all pale and speckly, meaning they'll not only be ridiculed, but also at risk for skin cancer!"

Less appealing still is the slap-on-the-wrist angle. Clearly you're asking for one, by breezing past your unhealthy lifestyle as if that'll be in your kid's genes, too, when you could stop making excuses and be healthier in anticipation of both pregnancy and parenthood. However, I can't be the only one ready to intern the entire horde of whole-grainier-than-thou proselytizers and force-feed them Twinkies.

So. Since my favorite option clearly wouldn't do you much good, and since hand-wringing apparently doesn't float in either of our gene pools, and since there's no devastating certitude like there is with, say, Tay-Sachs, let's try this:

Life is hard. It's hard for everyone.

Somehow, despite this, miraculously, it's not in our nature to stand up at our own retirement parties and declare, "Being me has been torture from my earliest flickers of self-awareness." Instead, it's "I feel so fortunate."

Maybe you feel your life really has been torture, and you've been vocal about it; maybe that would explain friends' alarm at your having a baby.

Even so, only you know, in the private, unflinching, deepest recesses of your soul, whether you can claim a life of good fortune and mean it. Whatever that truth is, that is your baby's birthright. Whether DNA says it or not.

Dear Carolyn:

My mom recently gave my fiance and me an expensive (more than $400) gift for our wedding. She has been unemployed for four months, and I'm worried about how she'll pay for it. Should I ask that she return it out of consideration for her finances? Or do I accept it, knowing that would make her happy?

Vancouver, Wash.

Put yourself in Mom's place. When I do, I imagine appreciating a daughter who is sensitive to my finances, but not appreciating one who imposes herself on them. Keep and enjoy the gift. You can "return" it by returning the favor, quietly absorbing expenses for her as you can.


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