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Ask Amy: How do I interfere when my friends are being fatphobic?

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Dear Amy: Recently I have been out with a couple of different “gal pals” who openly and loudly ridiculed people in public who were significantly overweight/obese.

With several family members who fight weight problems, it really galls me. In the first instance, I was so taken aback I could not reply; in the second situation, I briefly talked about eating disorders.

My pal “Marlene” didn't get it. Her point of pride: “If that were me, I would lock myself in a room until I lost the weight. That's all that man has to do.”

Please suggest how I might respond in the future; I will not sit back and listen to rude comments and lack of understanding again.

Finding the right assertive words to support people is so needed in our world where people look, speak or behave differently. I don’t want to make enemies; I would rather help others understand.

Your ideas?

— From the Heartland

Heartland: People of all sizes have the right to live in their bodies and walk around in public unremarked upon. They have the right to live among other humans without being judged and sneered at. These rights are pretty basic.

Don't bother lecturing these women about eating disorders. Not all obese people have eating disorders, and not all obese people hate their bodies or long to be thin.

When it comes to genius “comebacks” to this sort of bullying, I'm reminded of a legendary moment on the old Johnny Carson show.

Larger-than-life maverick genius film director Orson Welles (a man of many adjectives) was a guest on the show, along with the troubled and famously loudmouth actor Robert Blake.

Robert Blake enters, looks Welles up and down and says to him: “You make Wimpy look skimpy!”

Welles immediately shoots back: “I'm fat and you're ugly … but I can diet.”

There is a range for how you could respond.

You could say, “How about we don't slam and shame other human beings who are just out having their own kind of day, and whose only crime was to leave the house? These comments are 'not a good look' on you.”

Idea 2 (which might convert these friends into frenemies): “Maybe we should rethink who really needs to be put in the closet, 'Marlene. “'

There's also a response that might inspire these women to reflect on their own behavior, without you directing them to: You pack up your stuff and simply say, “I don't like to witness you two behaving this way. I've decided to go.”

Dear Amy: I am the youngest of many siblings.

I found out two years ago that we have a half brother. I reached out to him, but never heard back.

Only two of my siblings know. One is very upset and angry (I think he just wants to protect our deceased father's reputation). The other sibling seems indifferent.

I’m very passionate about meeting our brother. Finally, last week I reached out to his wife. She responded and told me that he has only a couple of weeks (perhaps a month) to live.

I believe all of my siblings have a right to know and decide whether they want contact with him before he dies, but I’m confused about what to do.

Shortly before his own death, our father met this son and told him that neither my mom nor his other children knew about him — and he wanted to keep it that way.

Should I tell them and risk the emotional issues it will cause for them — or not tell them and deny them the knowledge of another brother?

— Desperate and Confused

Desperate: It says a lot about how tightly your family holds onto secrets that some siblings have known about this half brother for a long time but haven’t disclosed it to the others.

At this point, all of your concern should be directed toward the dying man, who presumably lacks the strength to cope with your family's drama.

You should reach out to his wife, see him right away (if he wants) and offer him the option of further contact with you and other siblings. Bring family photos from your shared parentage, and deal with your siblings afterward.

Dear Amy: “Dreamer” had persistent thoughts and dreams about her first love.

I appreciated your interpretation for how her subconscious might be using these dreams to repair events from her past.

I’m wrestling with something similar. I’m inspired to take a fresh look at what’s behind my own ruminations.

— Grateful

Grateful: Dreams can deliver longed-for answers.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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