My father really enjoys eating out at nice places and taking his family. That is great. What is not so great is that he also seems to enjoy bringing up who at the restaurant should lose weight, have ordered something else, etc.
He has been this way as long as I remember – always making remarks about people’s weight and pointing out heavy people and commenting on their lack of self control. He is fit and always has been so maybe he thinks it’s easy for everyone. Also, his mother was exactly the same way and lived to be 102.
Of some relevance, I am tall, but need to lose some forty MORE pounds. I have already lost some 40 pounds. Dad also makes the occasional remark about I should work hader at losing weight, etc. He is trying to inspire, it doesn’t work that well.
Dad is 89. I am 60. I’m tired of putting up with this although I’ve never said anything to him about it before. Your advice?
Your father suffers from a chronic case of foot-in-mouth disease, an illness that displays symptoms in the host but which only causes harm to those around him.
However, you are a willing co-host to your father’s illness and the remedy is located no further than at the end of your own tongue.
Someone once mused that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” and I surmise that just before coining that phrase the author dined with your father and had his hand slapped when he made a grab for the bread basket.
“Bread is for fatties, Fatty,” your father must have hissed. “Do you know how many carbs are in that baguette? And did you do your cardio today? Because you look bloated, if you ask me…”
While we all enjoy a nice meal paid for by someone else every now and again, your meals with your father are hardly free. Instead, you are responsible for the check each time: an astronomical bill that can only be paid in measurements of your self-esteem.
I don’t care how good the Kobe rib eye and mashed potatoes might be – there is no food that is worth being torn down and picked on by your dinner companion. That type of behavior makes him “persona non gratin” in my book. There’s a little cooking pun to cheer you up, and cheer you up I must because I am about to scold you.
You are 60 years old, woman. It’s time to stand up for yourself.
Your father is 89, and while I encourage you to have a very direct conversation with him about this problem (script to follow, and you’re welcome) it may be too late to change him. His mother was clearly an enormous influence on him and he has lived for close to 90 years thinking it’s OK to belittle those whose size does not comport with his ideal.
I don’t want to appear insensitive, but he kind of sounds like a jerk. Sorry.
However, you have played a huge role in this dilemma because you have let him be rude to you and scores of others without ever calling him out and demanding he either change his behavior or enjoy his meals with whomever he’s hired to change his diapers and keep track of the funerals he needs to attend in any given week.
Here’s my advice:
1. Go to dinner with your dad. Pick the most expensive restaurant in town because this could be the last time he picks up a check for you – you may as well make it worth your while.
2. Wait for the criticism. I’m guessing you won’t have to be patient, but to get things moving along quickly I suggest ordering a White Russian cocktail, a cream-based soup, a Cobb Salad and an order of fried whatever. Knowing that the lava cake takes some extra time, be sure to put in your order for that too and request an additional three servings of whipped cream.
3. When he starts in on you, deliver the following message:
“Dad, I’m going to tell you something shocking. I own a mirror. I also own a computer which spits out lots and lots of information on how to lose weight, which may explain why I recently lost 40 pounds.
“I know you love me, but you need to understand that your words are as hurtful and humiliating as if you reached across the table and slapped my face. I can’t imagine that you invite me to join you for the purpose of making me feel worthless and ugly.
“I have lived with your unabated berating on the subject of my weight for as long as I can remember, and I have watched you tear other people down for the same reason. While I may have stood by and done nothing in the past, I can no longer do that because a brilliant advice columnist told me to stand up to you and frankly, I don’t want to disappoint her.
“Unless you can stop this behavior, I don’t want to join you for meals any more. I love you but I love myself too, and though it will pain me not to spend as much time with you I need to surround myself with people who are loving, supportive, nonjudgmental and kind. I hope you can see your way to keeping your thoughts about weight and food to yourself when we are together, because if you can’t I can’t be around you.”
Be sure to print all this out and hand it to him after your speech, because old people are forgetful.
Give him another chance or two, react swiftly if he does it again and then stick to your guns and stop subjecting yourself to this abuse.*
*Caveat: if you stand to inherit a lot of money and you think he may write you out of the will if you fight back, suck it up, strap on an industrial-strength girdle, order a salad with no dressing and hope to hell he doesn’t live as long as your grandmother.