Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
I have been dating my partner, “J,” for a little over two years. J is what I would call pretty fat and has gained a pretty significant amount of weight since we’ve been together. This is the opposite of an issue for me, as it is actually a kink of mine for a partner to gain weight. J is aware of this and has consented enthusiastically since I initially broached the idea with him. We have had many, many conversations about practicing this kink safely and ethically.
The real issue is that my parents, while otherwise great people, have a lot of internalized fatphobia. Although it was rarely stated outright, the implications of those feelings were a pervasive part of my childhood and ended up giving me an eating disorder, for which I am now in remission. However, my parents have started to make comments about J’s increasing weight—not to his face, at least, but to me. They definitely think they are acting from a place of concern—lots of emphasis on his health, asking if he does any kind of exercise, suggesting healthy recipes we could make—and it feels like they’re trying to pinpoint the reason that he gained this weight so they can offer ways to “fix” it. I DO NOT want to have the kink conversation with my parents. I’ve tried to defuse their efforts by maintaining that I love J as he is and specifically love his body as it is to try to shut those conversations down right there. If they said something to him outright I would absolutely defend him, but what is the best way to handle it between us without having to come completely clean?
— Some It Like Fat
Dear Some It Like Fat,
The part about the kink makes your situation unique, but it’s also causing you to overcomplicate this. You do not have to reveal a single thing about the details of your attraction to your partner to say “Mom, Dad, could you do me a favor and stop with the comments about J’s weight? I know you’re coming from a palace of concern but it makes me uncomfortable to discuss his body behind his back, and it feels invasive. He has a doctor who I’m sure will let him know if there are any issues with his health.”
New Year, Same Problems
For an upcoming special edition of Dear Prudence, we want to hear about the messy situations plaguing you that you’d like to shed in the new year. A mother-in-law who is slowly poisoning you? An underground diaper operation that’s driving you mad? A poorly named horse? Submit your questions anonymously here. (Questions may be edited for publication.)
“Gigi” is my brother’s second wife. She has two adult daughters and my brother has two adult sons. I met Gigi’s daughters at the wedding. That was my sole interaction with them, other than the odd social media post.
Recently, my older nephew announced his engagement, but they have practically no budget since they are both teachers and her family comes from a working class background. My own daughter died young, and I never got to see her do so many things. I wrote my nephew a check for $25,000 as a wedding gift. I didn’t think a single act of generosity would blow up in my face like this.
Gigi found out because my nephew’s wife posted about the check on social media (she and my nephew thanked me enthusiastically). My brother called me up telling me how hurt and offended she was because I didn’t do the same for her daughter, who had recently gotten engaged as well. I told my brother that I didn’t even hear that news and why exactly did his wife expect me to give her daughter money? Shouldn’t her parents be expected to pay? And where the hell did he think he could dictate how I spend my own money?
My brother brushed it off as it was a matter of principle and Gigi felt like she was being treated as “lesser” than his first wife. (She and I were friends in college. We occasionally talk. My brother’s divorce was amicable and he met Gigi well after. I like Gigi fine.) I don’t know where this all was coming from, but I told my brother he and his wife were better off getting some therapy and to drop the subject. Only Gigi didn’t drop the subject. She complained to my nephew and his bride. They got extremely upset and now everything is a mess. Help!
— Money Troubles
Dear Money Troubles,
You already see this situation perfectly clearly. It’s your money, and your choice to give it to a nephew who you actually know rather than a niece who you met once as an adult is an extremely normal one. So, the situation is not in fact a mess. All you need to do is to reassure your nephew and his bride that the situation has been resolved and they did nothing wrong and that Gigi’s (irrational) anger is about your choices, not theirs. She can stay mad and that’s her business. The vendors will still be paid. And it seems like there may be a bonus life lesson here about how cash gifts do not need to be announced to the world on social media. Paper thank-you notes still exist!
To make a very long story short, my asshole, narcissist father divorced my mother in an extremely contentious divorce just before the pandemic. He was cheating with multiple women, and the way things went down I was repeatedly thrown in the middle of their divorce (I’m in my thirties and my mother completely broke down, she hasn’t really recovered). My father and I had a huge falling out because he blamed me for everything, and the last time I saw him in person was in a family therapy session where he screamed at me to shut up and stormed out. Lots of therapy has made me realize how awful he was to me my entire life and how much better off I am without him. Since then, he has repeatedly contacted me on holidays and birthdays with guilt trips and “just letting me know (he) cares.” I repeatedly asked him to stop—I told him it was unwelcome and jarring to receive that kind of contact given the way we’d left things, but he refused and became hostile every time we engaged. The last time we exchanged emails over a year ago I told him I was blocking him, but I actually just set up an email filter so all his messages just went into a different folder I could check at my leisure. The emails continued but have slowly tapered off, and this Christmas was the first major holiday I didn’t get a dreaded email from him.
Should be great, right? He’s finally doing what I asked and leaving me alone. My problem is, I feel devastated. My father has money and is extremely charming when he wants to be, and from what I can tell he has rebuilt his life in a spectacular fashion. It’s hard not to feel like he got rid of his old “malfunctioning” family, traded up, and got away scot-free. How can I stop stewing on this? I feel like he never actually cared about me. We fought constantly in my teenage years and were mostly distantly polite in my twenties until everything blew up. He only “liked” me when I was a young child and he controlled everything. I’m back in therapy but just feel angry and stuck.
— Orphaned With Two Living Parents
If it makes you feel better, I don’t think a person can truly be living a “spectacular” life if he treats his daughter horribly for years, email-stalks her to stay in touch, and finally gives up. I don’t think a person has gotten away “scott-free” if he can only deal with people he can control. I don’t think money fixes these things. Forget this guy. Turn your attention back toward your mom. You’re not orphaned on both sides—your dad is out of your life but she is still very much here. You’ve both been hurt by the same person, you love each other, and you can recover together. Start trying to have experiences with her that would make an outsider think “They got rid of that asshole and rebuilt their lives in a spectacular fashion.” It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant—a nice walk paired with a long talk, a fun lunch, a cozy movie night together. At first, do it because you want to win—because you don’t want your dad to get to do whatever he wants while leaving you miserable. Before long, I bet he’ll take up much less room in both of your heads.
More Advice From Slate
I recently met a guy on Tinder, where I usually don’t have much luck because I’m not conventionally attractive and I want to date, not just hook up. But after talking to this guy for a few days, I think we seem practically perfect for each other! Same hobbies, similar taste in music, kink-compatible, he’s funny and self-aware, and I think he’s hot as hell. But in the middle of a conversation he dropped that he’s poly. I don’t usually date poly people because I know I’m “needy” emotionally and also not great at sex, so they’d have more reason to focus on another partner. But I don’t know how to figure out whether I should give it a try just to be with someone I seem so compatible with, or whether I’m just kicking future problems down the road?