Just like yesterday, today’s letter could have been used for Friday Feedback but I thought I’d try to address the writer’s issues and attempt to help her instead.
You write about two subjects that are very serious for many women but you handle them in a way that isn’t consistent with reality: losing weight and post-divorce financial matters. These two problems often coincide with each other making each one even worse when they happen at the same time.
I was divorced 7 years ago in my mid 40s after 20 years of taking care of my family and creating a perfect home for my husband and 2 children. My husband decided I wasn’t good enough for him after 2 decades of marriage and left when our oldest child went to college. He later told me he had been waiting until she left to finally end the marriage.
After gaining weight steadily for about ten years, the divorce made it worse and I ended up where I am now: about 75 pounds heavier than I should be. I also have no job and live on the spousal support (NOT ALIMONY, AS YOU CALL IT) that you so often claim is unfair. How could I find a job after being out of the workforce for so long?
Often I find your writing witty and fun, but on these two subjects you come across as over-simplifying things and being too hard on women. Thanks for listening.
Dear Frustrated Fan:
I really appreciate your letter even though you take me to task for being glib and without empathy. Ordinarily your criticism would have hurt my feelings, but I’ve been cultivating a thick skin in anticipation of becoming world-famous.
Let’s talk about me first (duh), then let’s talk about you.
I certainly do care about and understand the challenges women face regarding weight gain and divorce. I know a thing or two about both subjects and I suppose that’s why I think I’m qualified to opine on them. Perhaps my delivery could use some tweaking.
My devotion to the alimony (sorry, it isn’t “spousal support” because you are no longer “spousal”) reform movement is based upon my love of both genders.
1. I love men and I don’t think it’s fair they should have to support an ex-wife (or ex-husband, depending on where you live and how you roll) into perpetuity when the relationship ends; and
2. I love women and I hate seeing them overwhelmed by a divorce because they were so dependent on a man (or woman, see above) during a marriage. You may have created a “perfect home” for your husband, but let’s be honest: he can hire that shit out. What you actually created was a black hole of child-like dependency for yourself.
When a couple in a “traditional” marriage like yours gets divorced, the woman is often left with no career or life skills that translate into a job that will enable them to support themselves after a period of transitional alimony (note: According to the IRS, women account for 97% of alimony recipients, hence my choice of gender identifiers).
Do I think it will be “easy” for you to support yourself? No. Do I think you should? Yes. I also think you may want to take a look at everything that contributed to the end of your marriage, because I sense you place all the blame at your ex-husband’s feet. Perhaps once you own your own piece of the marital failure you will have a breakthrough of sorts and a subsequent surge of motivation to do something remarkable with the rest of your life.
Regarding the weight loss portion of your critique:
I certainly know how hard it is to lose weight. When I graduated from college I was 187 pounds. I’ll never forget the day I stepped on the scale and made that discovery. At that point in my life I was aimless, depressed and living with my parents. Being fat was the icing on the cake of fuckery that was my life at the time.
Looking back, you know when I started to shed the weight?
The day I started law school: my misguided attempt to do something important, make my parents proud, go into an insane amount of debt and be able to say “I’m a lawyer” in a bar to a cute guy without lying. Yes, I pretended to be a lawyer for a while. With a paralegal mom and a lawyer dad, I knew enough to pass.
My point is that in the 2 years between college and law school I was a drifter: working at shitty jobs and feeling terrible about myself. The reason I lost weight when I started law school is because I was taking my life in a new and (ostensibly) positive direction, and I wanted the health and aesthetic benefits of losing weight to go along with my new life.
I was up and at the gym at 5:00 a.m. every day before class and I made it happen. You can’t possibly tell me that with your, ahem, “open” schedule you can’t make a similar commitment to your health. That’s a crock of shit and you know it. Everyone has time to exercise and make a smart food plan, most especially you.
If you get on this problem right away, you could be back at your fighting weight in less than a year. That may sound like an awfully long time, but the alternative is another year goes by and you add another ten or twenty pounds to your problem, making it seem infinitely more insurmountable.
It’s time for you to get your head in the game. You told me you haven’t worked out regularly in several years. Starting today, not tomorrow, you will take yourself on a 30-minute brisk walk, followed by as many push-ups and sit-ups as you can muster. Lather, rinse, repeat every day for the next 30 days and challenge yourself to add time and sprints to your walks and reps to your push-ups and sit-ups.
Watch what you eat and see what happens. I hereby offer you a money-back guarantee that you will see results in a month if you do the work, and those results will motivate you to keep going. Even if you think my thoughts on alimony are utter bullshit, you can benefit from my advice on how to get back in shape.
Look at it this way: if you get fit you can probably land yourself another husband to pay your bills.
I’ll be emailing you once a week to check in. Please let me know if I can share your story along the way with the readers, because this would be a great regular follow-up piece. Good luck and get on out there!