Dear Prudence

Can’t Stomach It

I was shamed for getting gastric bypass surgery. Should I keep the procedure a secret?

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
I’ve been dating a loving man named “Andy” for nearly three years, and we recently moved in together. We both had marriages that ended badly, and we feel truly compatible. The only problem is that I have a pretty big secret, and I don’t know how to tell him, or if I even should. In 2002, I underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost over 100 pounds. I felt like some people were judgmental about the surgery, and the most judgmental were those who’d lost a large amount of weight through more traditional means. On my first date with Andy, he told me that he had been heavy his whole life and had recently lost 75 pounds. I had just met this man, so I wasn’t about to tell him my secret. Fast forward three years, and now I’m tormented that I haven’t told him. On numerous occasions, I’ve almost blurted it out, but I always stop myself. Now I wouldn’t know how to explain to him why I didn’t tell him. I worry that a family member or close friend will say something in his presence, assuming that he knows. I’m worried he might be hurt that I didn’t trust that he loved me enough that I felt I could tell him. Or he might be disgusted. Of course, he might just say, “I’ve always wondered why you eat several small meals during the day and can’t seem to hold much. So what should we watch on TV?” Is this something he even needs to know? What should I do?

—In a Pickle

Dear Pickle,
It is not unusual, once a bariatric patient is two years out from gastric bypass surgery, to bypass the bypass and regain what can be a substantial amount of weight. The surgery is not magic; if people haven’t dealt with their underlying issues, they can slowly stretch their stomachs and the weight returns. Yes, you got a surgical assist, but you should be proud that you truly changed your relationship to food. Maintaining a 100-pound weight loss for more than a decade is a major accomplishment. It’s sad to think that not only are overweight people subject to fat shaming, but that if they lose weight, they can then be subject to thin shaming. Your history should not be a deep, dark secret from the man you love, especially since he is someone who has also lived this struggle. It isn’t completely clear, but it sounds to me that not only did you withhold from Andy your surgical history, you neglected to tell him you also went through a massive weight loss. It’s remarkable that no one in your circle has said anything so far, and the longer you go without telling Andy, the more likely he is to find out inadvertently from a casual comment. Presumably, you’ve never gone through the ritual with him of looking over youthful photos. Since you lost your weight before everyone started storing all their photos in their phones, maybe he’s never had access to those albums of the pre-2002 you. But if you have pictures, showing them will be the easiest way to convey the news. Hand him a few and say, “As you can see, there’s something I’ve never told you about myself.” Say you feel silly for keeping this from him, since you know he understands what it’s like to transform you body, and what it takes to sustain the transformation. Let’s hope he’s glad to know that not only does he have a partner in life, but that the two of you can be partners in health.


Dear Prudie,
My 2-year-old son is enrolled in a day care program run by a woman who works from her home, along with two assistant teachers. The head teacher is very warm, and I’m confident that my son’s emotional needs are being met. However, the program is very informal: The kids basically spend all day playing independently (though there are the usual stories and songs, etc.) and aren’t actively taught new skills. My mother is extremely concerned that this lack of a formal child-development-oriented program is holding my son back. The way she describes it, it seems like all the other 2-year-olds she meets are debating current events and solving algebra problems, while my son sits around all day with a chew toy and a ribbon of drool hanging from his chin. My parents have offered to help cover the costs of the “fancier” day care in the area that I can’t afford, but they can’t afford it either! Should I be investing more in my son’s development? And if I’m doing the right thing, how do I get my mother to back off?

—Tired of This Mommy War

Dear Tired,
How lucky your son is filling the job description of a 2-year-old, which involves some drooling, some playing with toys, some interacting with friends, some singing and listening to books, and most of all some exploring his little world. The day care sounds warm and nurturing, so you should feel confident in your choice. Your letter brings up my fear that in our madness to make sure even our youngest children get ahead, we are ruining both education and childhood. Read about this Florida kindergarten teacher who successfully took a stand against the insane, mandated testing regimen she is required to administer. The word kindergarten means “children’s garden,” and it was originally conceived of as a time of play, discovery, and socialization. Now we have pushed academics to the kindergarten level and below, making children sit still when they should be moving, and forcing them to master skills for which their minds and bodies are not ready. Your mother is right about one thing: Children are learning machines and it starts in infanthood. But if you were home full-time with your child you wouldn’t be drilling him on how to defeat ISIS or asking him to solve quadratic equations. Children learn by having a chance to figure out the qualities of sand, how swings feel, and what happen when you stack a really high tower of blocks. Sure you would be introducing letters and numbers to him, but in a low-key, natural way (“Can you bring me two sticks?” “Let’s sing the alphabet song!”). As for how you handle your mother, it’s easy to ignore her empty financial offers, and if she’s whiny and persistent, as the mother of a toddler you should know the benefits of a time out.  


Dear Prudence,
I finished nursing school in May and just passed my boards (yay!). I have been lucky to get an interview at my dream unit at one of the top hospitals in my area. However, three years ago I was trying to become a physician assistant. The programs all required direct patient care before applying, and I got a job as a medical assistant for a clinic. I was let go after six months. I took on way more than I could handle, I was not qualified, and I did not have the proper training. After I was let go, I decided to improve myself by applying to nursing school. My dilemma is that I was just sent a supplemental application to be filled out before my interview. It asks if I was ever discharged or asked to resign from a job. How do I answer this? If asked in the interview, I can explain honestly. But I don’t know if I’m going to hurt my chances by answering “yes” on the form prior to the interview. I really want this job and I know I am much smarter and more capable than I was before.

—Perplexed Aspiring Nurse

Dear Perplexed,
Your patients will greatly benefit from your serious self-scrutiny and your dedication to learning your profession. I talked to employment attorney Philip Gordon and he said one of the most common questions he gets asked is just how much people can lie on their résumé. (He’s against it.) Sure, he acknowledges there are a lot of not-quite-true and even blatantly false résumés out there and not all of them catch up to people. But he says if a falsehood is discovered, that’s grounds for termination. He says such things can be a deadly spiral. You want this job so badly, that you’d like to fudge why you lost the last job. But let’s say you answer “No,” get hired, then someone decides to check on what happened in your last position. If you’re let go again, you now have two terminations to explain away. But it’s true that simply checking “Yes,” to this question might leave a misleading impression and prompt the reviewers to go to the next candidate. So Gordon advises that because you have a more nuanced answer, you do this: Put an asterisk in the box, and then on the bottom of the application, explain in a sentence or two what happened. You can say that in your previous position you lacked the medical education necessary for that job. The experience motivated you to get more training, and that’s why you went to nursing school. This is an honest answer that might even turn a negative into a positive. Let’s hope the employers at your dream job can see that you now have the skills to be a dream employee.


Dear Prudence,
A few weeks ago I was on a multicity business trip that was extremely tiring. The bright spot was that my last stop was at a five-star resort and I only had one quick and enjoyable work task to do there. However, when I got there I found noisy construction workers in my hallway, spotty Wi-Fi, underwhelming meals, and blurry television reception. I got increasingly angry about each of these inconveniences. Eventually, I threw a fit and demanded to see the manager. Everyone I spoke with at the hotel was exceedingly nice, but I was incensed. They ended up comping the entire bill, providing free transportation to the airport, and giving me a voucher for a two-night stay in a suite. The problem is that now I feel guilty about the way I acted and that I shouldn’t use the voucher. Since it was a business trip, I’m afraid my behavior may have reflected poorly on my company, and I may have received special treatment because the name badge I was wearing said “Speaker—VIP” (eye roll). I hate people who act like big shots and make life harder for people who are just doing their jobs! Should I book the return trip, and if so, should I do anything to convey that I’m not a persnickety shrew?

—Hopefully a Nice Person

Dear Hopefully,
People who are in the hospitality business are prepared to deal with guests like you, and it sounds as if their training paid off with you and for you. Upon realizing there was construction in your hall, you should have immediately tried to change rooms. As for the rest of your list of outrages, you know that they were at worst annoyances. Sure, five-star service is supposed to be without annoyances, but you also weren’t paying the five-star freight. Your flip-out certainly got you generous recompense, but I agree that a free stay—in addition to the other comps—seems excessive in relation to the “offenses.” I think you should write a letter to the manager apologizing for your anger—you can explain you were at the end of a long and exhausting business trip—and praising how the entire staff handled your concerns. You have to weigh your own misbehavior and guilt in order to decide whether to return the voucher with your note, or whether upon your return as a guest, you vow to act like a sweetheart.


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