Dear Carolyn: For Christmas, my friend gave me a best-selling weight-loss book.
But I am doing the work to eliminate that weight gain and am increasing my exercise.
I was broadsided. What do I say to someone who assumes I would appreciate a weight-loss book? It doesn’t feel like a gift; it feels like an insult. I want to know why, and I want this friend to know her gift was hurtful. Do you have suggestions?
A.: Yes. Tell her that the gift was hurtful and that you’d like to understand why she thought you would appreciate it.
None of the rest matters, and nothing beats clear communication.
I’m sorry you got called fat for Christmas, and extra sorry for the tough years preceding that. I hope your friend makes it up to you the best way possible: by taking the news of your hurt feelings with remorse and compassion instead of getting defensive.
When I say “none of the rest matters,” by the way, I mean the reasons you gained weight and whether you’re doing the work to manage your weight are both irrelevant to how you deal with your friend. Your body is no more or less her business based on how many processed snack foods you put into it and why or how legitimately worried she is. She overstepped hard regardless.
Dear Carolyn: My sister has said some hurtful things to me over the years and has yelled at me and my family in my own house. Now, as we’re in our 50s, I have finally gotten strong enough to ask her not to stay at my house when she visits. I told her I will still meet her for dinner out, visiting our mom, etc. Her response is that I am being selfish and inhospitable. I do not know how to move forward.
Anonymous: Yes, you do. You’ve already started the forward movement by deciding on what terms you are and aren’t willing to see your sister, then communicating them to her.
The next step is to live by those terms. Fortunately, her calling you selfish or inhospitable or a poopyhead or whatever else doesn’t materially affect the living-by-your-decision stage. You will meet her for dinners out. You will see her when you visit your mom. You will not host her in your home.
She can either accept these terms or reject them, but that’s up to her. When you’re doing what you believe is right or necessary — vs. what you think will achieve a specific practical outcome — then the results are secondary, even when they don’t feel that way. The primary goal is the necessary rightness of refusing to be mistreated.
Good work standing up for yourself. It’s never too late to tell a yeller to take her stuff somewhere else.
More from Carolyn Hax
From the archive:
Delete a friend’s confession about having an affair
A husband’s put off by his wife’s procrastination
A widower’s request to his child is a lot to unpack
Saying ‘I do’ for all the wrong reasons
Mother-in-law wants you to apologize for something your husband did. Heck no!
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