DAME’s Friendkeeper gets real about the emotional side of weight loss and helps a woman deal with the jerky way a married friend treats her hub.
I feel like kind of a jerk even writing this, but I guess that’s what anonymous advice queries are all about, huh? I have a rather close-knit group of girlfriends; we’ve known each other for years. Most of us met in our late 20s and now that we’re all in our 40s (when did that happen?), we still have a similarly tight circle. One of us has always been rather heavyset. Some would say fat. Recently this friend decided to get gastric bypass surgery and has since dropped a substantial amount of weight. I’m not gonna lie, she looks amazing. And she feels amazing too. At least, I think she does, ’cause to be honest, I don’t see her much anymore. She never joins us when we all go out to eat (she claims to be busy, but I think it has more to do with her dieting), plus she’s single and her social life is off the charts now. I’m single too, but when I’ve tried to go out on the town with her, I end up feeling like a second-class wingwoman, a role I have, embarrassingly, realized I’m used to her playing. I don’t want her newfound confidence to affect our dynamic, or that of our group, but I’m having trouble reconciling our past friendship with this newer, shinier, slimmed down version. Of course we all love her to death, no matter what her weight, but I think we’re trying to get used to what feels like a new friend among us. Obviously I can’t tell her this, I can’t believe I’m even telling you. What can I do?
I cannot for the life of me imagine what it must feel like for your friend to go through that kind of a physical change, and I’ve watched a shitload of interviews with Mr. Al Roker. Clearly it’s a huge change for her, but it’s also a change for those around her.
When I was in college, I was quite chunky. I think I felt like I needed that weight to protect me from the boy relationships I wasn’t quite ready for. (I had a lot of warped senses of what I was allowed to do and say so it was easier for me to make it a non-issue.) Of course none of this was conscious at the time. I believed I was trying to lose weight—unsuccessfully—and that was the focus, and then when I did lose weight, I’d find this illustrious boyfriend. The fact that I knew heavier girls with boyfriends mystified me (perhaps they hadn’t grown up with Playboys and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues plastered around their house). I continued to feel like I had no control; I also knew that there were a lot of people around me who wished I’d be thin, and I didn’t really want to make them happy (subconsciously, again). A few years and a lot of therapy later, it occurred to me that I was no longer comfortable in my body and that to heck with everyone, I would be however I wanted to be. I did a weight loss program and lost 40 pounds. And then I did what a lot of people do when they lose weight: I dressed like a Real Housewife of New Jersey. Tight clothes and giant metallic belts. It felt really good to be alone in my apartment and see what I had accomplished; the time when it got yucky for me was around other people. People were gushy and overly personal and said, “Aren’t you happy?” and “You look like a model!” And I also felt like some people were mad at me for losing weight. I didn’t want to eat dinner with certain people because I had this very strict plan and I remember someone saying, “You gotta live, you can’t eat by yourself for your whole life.” And I was like, Well, yes I can. But it was new to me and scary. And the whole experience threw me into a panic. I did not want people looking at my body so much. I mean I guess I would’ve felt bad if no one had noticed, but the constant comments weren’t good either. And I did not like the idea that my body had gone from hidden in a Where the Wild Things Are T-shirt to Sexual. (I did finally stop dressing like Teresa Giudice). It took a long time for me to be able to reconcile that my body belonged to me, exercise and eating well felt good, and that just because I was thinner didn’t mean I had to go to bars in a miniskirt. But it was VERY HARD for me to be around people and figure out who the hell I was, because I was dealing with their reactions.
This kind of thing happens in life and not just with weight loss. When a friend stops drinking, they change in relation to their old drinking buddies. Or when people go through a serious trauma. When you change internally or externally, there’s a road to finding what is comfortable. And it’s hardest among your closest friends, the ones who really know you.
This is all a way too long way to say that to some degree, I understand your friend. And if she had bariatric surgery, her weight loss must have been a lot more significant than mine. The feelings she is struggling with are plentiful, and it seems like a great thing would be for you to tell her that it feels weird for you and you can only imagine how it feels for her and that you are supportive and there no matter what. You miss her and would love to see her and perhaps you can ask her what might be helpful for you to do. And if she needs a break, that’s okay, too. You’re obviously a very sensitive friend and I believe you’ll all find a way back to each other if you can be a little bit patient.
I’ve got a problem with a newly close friend. We’ve known each other for a while—we met through mutual friends and solidified our friendship on the Internet, as you do these days, before hanging out IRL. She seems truly fantastic in every way. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve gotten to know her well enough that she’s invited me over to her house for brunch, for wine and a movie, for a last-minute dinner of take-out Thai. And we always have a good time. Until her husband shows up. And it’s not because he’s a jerk or anything, quite the opposite. From what I can tell he is also pretty fantastic, but my friend seems to disagree. She is so mean to him. Like, uncomfortably mean. She’ll make backhanded comments, she’ll poke fun at things he says, she’ll be incredibly dismissive—the list goes on. She’s never badmouthed him to me so this all came as a surprise. But the biggest surprise is that he seems to have no trouble taking it. It’s making me crazy though! Is this just their weird dynamic? Can I say something to her or is it none of my business? I don’t want it to affect the way I feel about her but I can’t help it. I’ve half a mind to avoid hanging out with them and pretend I never saw this side of her but that doesn’t feel right either. Please advise!
Blech! What an awful situation to be put in! There are many possibilities as to why your friend is behaving this way. Maybe she doesn’t want him to hang out with you guys and she’s not-so-subconsciously trying to get him to disappear, or maybe she’s trying to not make you feel bad about being the third wheel, or maybe she hates him! Hanging out with couples is so often impossible when you’re single—they very rarely act normal. Like, there’s some kind of performance they’re putting on—“Here’s how we are.” I find it much more harrowing to watch a couple be all handsy and gooey and referring to everything they like as “we,” than Loretta and Leroy Lockhorn. But the situation you’re talking about where one is abusing the other is not cool for anyone. I think that it is your business if hanging out with them is giving you hives. But I wouldn’t be all like, “Hey, looks like your relationship with Steve really blows!” I would, though, ask questions. Be the anthropologist. Ask about how they met, how they fell in love, and listen to her talk. She may reveal some things you don’t know about.
Being that you’re new friends, I would step cautiously. I don’t think you’re in a place to say, “Hey, you turn into Mr. Hyde when Steve’s around”…yet. At some point you may be. I remember a couple my parents were friends with; the wife was a tight-lipped, unpleasant woman and the husband was a funny, handsome, gregarious charm boat. No one could figure it out, till a couple of years later when he left her for a woman he’d been having an affair with almost as long as they were married. My mom became friends with the wife who told my mom that before they entered these dinners and parties that we’d observed them at, he’d be berating and putting her down. She’d get to these evenings in a terrible state and he, apparently somewhat of a sociopath, was fine. You just don’t know.
For now, though, I’d stop seeing them together. It’s not fun and it’s not like they’re your relatives and you have to put up with it. Hopefully in time and with talk, it should become clearer.
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.
It’s not just about the stories. Journalism is also about who is telling them.
Become a member at DAME today to help us support our independent, fearless reporting so we can continue to shine a light on the stories that need to be told, from perspectives that aren’t heard enough. Every dollar we receive from readers goes directly into funding our journalism. Become a supporter today.
AN INDEPENDENT FREE PRESS HAS
NEVER BEEN MORE IMPORTANT.
Your financial support helps us continue to cover the critical policies, politics and social changes impacting women and their allies.