Dear Prudence

Big Joke

My fiancé loves to laugh at a website shaming fat people.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
The man I’m about to marry is smart, successful, and affectionate. He has also always been fit and active. However, he has one serious habit that I cannot stand. Almost every day for the past year or so he has frequented an online forum dedicated to hating fat people. This forum features candid photos of the obese with cruel commentary, and members of this forum often gang up to bully overweight people on social media. It’s really a cesspool. My fiancé never actually comments on these postings or posts his own content, so he is not “actively” bullying anyone. I still believe visiting this site is repugnant and I don’t understand his attraction to it. I have asked him to stop reading these forums, but after abstaining for a couple of days he’s right back on them. He seems to think it’s harmless fluff and that the pictures are funny. How big a deal is his habit and am I right to object to it?

—Paranoid About Every Donut I Eat

Dear Paranoid,
Your fiancé sounds like a pig. You’re right that the site is repugnant, and the behavior of the people who frequent it is horrifying. But there is a difference between watching and doing, and the question of your fiancé’s obsession with this forum would be of a different order if he were actively shaming and bullying individuals. You are rightly disturbed, but I also think that instead of trying to ban his looking—which hasn’t worked—you should try to understand his attraction to this forum. Maybe there’s just an ugly, juvenile side to your fiancé, and here’s where he indulges it. Perhaps there’s a sexual component to his need to look. Before the Internet, people had to really work to explore the more furtive aspect of their psyche; now in a few key strokes you can enter a world that consists of people who share your fixation. When you initiate this conversation with him do so truly in a spirit of trying to understand. Tell him that this forum deeply bothers you and explain why his constant lurking on it disturbs you. Then say you want to know why this site is so important to him—while conceding that he is an adult who is free to decide his own browsing habits. After a candid discussion, you should have a better idea of how big a deal his hobby is for both of you.


Dear Prudence,
At age 66, I believe I have met the person I have been looking for all of my life. I am twice divorced and “Art’s” first marriage also ended in divorce. His second wife of 15 years, Lucy, died a year before we met after a long illness. He is 75, and I consider myself unbelievably lucky to have met him—it was love at first sight and we are talking about marriage. But I can’t get past my concern over burial arrangements. There is a double headstone for him and his second wife with his name already engraved on it. We both are very healthy considering our ages, so we could be together for 20 years. The subject of burial actually came up early in our relationship when he was describing their headstone. When I voiced concern about where I would be buried, he said he has another space available there. I’m upset when I think about being buried alone, and I don’t know if I could bring myself to bury him beside Lucy if we end up having a longer marriage than theirs. I don’t want to do anything to mess up this chance at happiness for both of us, but I also don’t want to put myself in a situation I can’t handle. This could at least be partly affected by my horror at the thought of making another mistake in marriage. Since my last divorce, I have come close three times to remarrying but have been the one to run for the hills. What’s your advice?


Dear Worrywart,
I’m going to interrupt my answer to you to give some advice to Art: “Run for the hills!” Worrywart, you have had two divorces and three more almost-walks down the aisle. You apparently just met this widower, and already you are freaking out that you’re going to have to share your final resting place with the woman who came before you. Given your track record, and the fact that you are perseverating about headstones before you’ve even headed off to get a marriage license, indicates to me that if you actually do marry Art, your concerns will eventually be nullified by divorce. You seem to believe that if you have a longer run with Art than he had with Lucy, then he should cancel his underground rendezvous with her. Let’s set aside the fact that this would be in defiance of the actuarial tables. You should spend less time worrying about how alone you’ll be after you die because, well, you’ll be dead. Keep fixating on this and the thing you end up killing will be your relationship.


Dear Prudence,
My husband and I have been together for almost a decade, and last year was rough. He had an affair with my now ex–best friend; we’ve been going to counseling and our relationship has been the strongest it’s been in a very long time. I stopped wearing my wedding ring about a month after I found out about the affair, as looking at it just made me depressed. He told me for this year’s anniversary that he wants us to renew our vows, and I mentioned something about getting new rings while at it. He thought it was a great idea. I’m having second thoughts, though. This is the ring he proposed to me with years ago, I wore it on our wedding day, and we brought two children into the world while I wore it. But I also wore it while he was with another woman. I’m afraid I’ll miss the ring if I let it go, but I also don’t know if I can wear it and look at it with the same love I used to.

—With This Ring

Dear With,
I know we imbue objects with profound meaning—archaeological discoveries show that having physical totems has always been part of being human. Your wedding ring is a powerful symbol, but it’s also just a band of metal and doesn’t control your emotions or the future of your marriage. You don’t want to entirely abandon the old ring, but right now it has too many painful associations for you. So I think you should put it away for the time being, and that you and your husband should get new bands to represent the healing of your breach. I suggest doing this in lieu of an official vow renewal. I personally don’t like the idea of vow renewals because, unlike driver’s licenses, wedding vows don’t come with an expiration date. Also, too many vow renewals seem to be the prelude to divorce. After you put on the new band, see how you feel about it. If it helps remind you of a fresh start, stick with it. But if not, put it in the drawer and put back on the ring that saw you through worse, and now better.


Dear Prudence,
My sisters and I have been invited for the first time ever to the first three days of the annual “family vacation” our father and stepmother take each year with our three stepsisters, their spouses, and children. We’ve been excluded from this event for the past 20 years. Our father married our stepmother when we were in our teens; she was in her mid-20s. He allowed this jealous, materialistic, and emotionally abusive person to dictate the smallest details of life during our visits with him. Her own daughters were terrorized by her exacting demands and constant monitoring of their weight. Our father is a distant person, was barely involved in our lives growing up, and my memories of our childhood visits are unpleasant. Now that our dad has several grandchildren, he seems to long for more contact with us. My sisters think we should all make an effort to go on the trip to show we appreciate the invitation, but I’m not inclined to do so. It involves activities I don’t enjoy due to my very pale skin (swimming, jet-skiing, sunbathing), it takes place at an inconvenient time, and while some casual time with my dad would be nice I don’t relish the thought of enduring my stepmother’s binge-drinking, rude questions, and general pestering of everyone to do what she wants when she wants. Should I suck it up and go even though I know I won’t enjoy myself? 

—Not So Inclined

Dear Inclined,
Ah, summer vacation, and a wretched, abusive, sunburned time was had by all! For many people it turns out that it’s a fortunate fact that childhood doesn’t last forever. You finally got free of visiting this miserable stepmother, and the father who didn’t do anything to protect you from her. Being excluded for the past 20 years from their annual not-fun times was a blessing. It’s too bad your father’s desire to make up for decades of distance doesn’t involve actually spending time alone with his first family and their offspring. But clearly, the hellion he married wouldn’t allow that. I say you take a pass. You don’t have to make any excuses; just say you appreciate the invitation, but unfortunately you can’t make it. You know that no matter how much sunscreen you use, it cannot block the radiation emitting from this woman, and the miserable childhood she forces you to recapitulate.


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