Dear Carolyn: My sister and her wife, “Sue,” will be visiting soon. I’m looking forward to seeing my sister, but feeling anxiety about Sue’s visit.
Sue has a habit of making comments about my weight and what I’m eating — commenting on my portion size, how many helpings, my weight, how often I exercise, etc. I’m not interested in getting in a fight about it and really want to see my sister.
Any suggestions on an effective, short statement or comeback after the first comment to try to cut her off at the pass? I’m really happy with my weight but always end up feeling disappointed, fat and unhealthy by the end of a visit.
— Weight Shaming Shutdown
Weight Shaming Shutdown: "My weight is not interesting to me. Let's talk about something else." Repeat verbatim as needed.
I also like reflecting it back on her. “You have a lot to say about my body.”
There’s also liberation in the whole truth, when you’re ready: “I look forward to these visits, but I also dread them because I know you’re going to make comments on my weight, appearance, portion sizes and food choices. These are no one’s business but my own, so please respect that by choosing a different conversation topic. Thank you.”
Regardless of your approach, you might feel better about it if you talk to your sister first. Just a “Hey, she brings this up a lot and I’d appreciate it if she didn’t, so any suggestions?” Sue might not realize she’s pressing on a sore spot, and she might respond better to hearing it privately from her wife.
Re: Weight Shaming: Anyone who has been enduring ongoing comments about her weight, eating habits, exercise regiment, ad nauseam, and didn’t shut that down immediately with a firm “No comments about my weight. If I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it,” and is afraid of “getting in a fight about it,” needs a solid lesson in boundaries. If she’s putting up with these outrageous boundary violations in this area, she’s almost certainly doing it in lots of other areas, too. Time to consider one of Carolyn’s favorite books, “Lifeskills for Adult Children” [Woititz/Garner].
Anonymous: Can't argue with that, thank you.
Hi, Carolyn! I kept my last name when I got married, and my husband has a hyphenated last name (his parents’ surnames). We’re discussing starting a family, and this last name issue is tripping us up. There are many valid answers here: using his full hyphenated last name, hyphenating my last name with one of his last names, using my last name, trying to combine names into one unholy hybrid, etc. Each of these options has its pros and cons, and each packs a distinct emotional punch in some way. How do we navigate something like this?
— Tripped Up
Tripped Up: What does each of you want? You can't honor your own and each other's priorities without knowing what they are. Simplicity? His family? Your family? Your family unit? Feminism? Tradition? Yourselves? Each other? Decide what matters and work from there.
Consider what you’re foisting on the future little Smith-Jones-Jonze-Smythes, too, please.
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