My good friend Sarah got divorced two years ago. My husband and I were friends with her and her husband for the past 15 years but he left her for someone he met at work. The divorce went on for what seemed like forever, and she is still dealing with it. Her three kids live with her most of the time, but lately they have been making noises about wanting to live with their dad. He is pretty wealthy and has promised them basically whatever they want if they can get Sarah to agree to the move.
That’s the background. She has been going through some tough times for several years, but now she wants to get back into dating. The other day she drove me to an eye appointment because I was having my eyes dilated and needed someone to drive me home. We had the radio on, and heard an ad for either match.com or something like that.
Sarah had seemed a little down that morning, but the ad kind of perked her up. She says she wants to try online dating now, and she asked my opinion about it. The problem is, Sarah has gained about 20-30 pounds in the last few years. I know this sounds bad, but I want to tell her that she should lose the weight before she starts online dating. I just think she will attract a higher level of man if she gets back to her normal weight. We live in Florida and the weather is generally good all the time, but she stopped our morning walks a couple years ago and as far as I can tell, she isn’t doing any exercise.
Robin, how do I bring up this subject with my friend? I care for her a lot and I want her to meet someone, but I feel like when she goes out into the dating world, she should be looking and feeling her best. She has never complained about the weight so it’s not like I can just discuss it when it comes up.
-Bothered in Boca
Ouch. OK, I’m back.
Most shocking about your letter is that apparently Sarah owns a car, a computer, and a home (or perhaps she rents) but she hasn’t gotten around to purchasing a mirror or a new pair of pants for the past two years. How odd.
Yes, that is me being snarky. Let’s start with the obvious: Sarah knows she has gained weight, and since she hasn’t been bitching about it to you, it seems not to be bothering her. I know women who complain about their weight incessantly, even if they are average or thin. I am that woman, and it is one of the things I hate most about myself. That, and my fat upper arms. How do you get rid of bat wings, anyway?
It is spectacular that Sarah has emerged from the cocoon of sadness that is a difficult divorce and decided to embark upon the online dating scene. The fact that she is considering doing so when she is still dealing with custody issues and an ex that sounds like a scheming manipulative shithead is even more remarkable.
Your girlfriend is about to take a giant leap that could eventually bring her a new love and the chance to start over, and you want to advise her to wait until her ass is your version of acceptable? Bothered, you need to do two things:
1. figure out why you would be “bothered” by your friend’s recently-more-ample figure; and
2. keep your big mouth shut.
Legions of fans, I know you are thinking that I usually implore people to be honest with their friends. Honesty is great, most of the time. Unsolicited body shaming? Never OK. Let’s get back to Bothered, shall we?
Bothered, I sometimes engage in an email back-and-forth to get more information from those who write to me for advice but in this case it wasn’t necessary. All the data I needed was right there in the letter. Specifically:
1. you have been friends for a long time and while you are still married, she is not;
2. she is a good friend to you (drives you to appointments because you are too cheap to take a cab);
3. she has suffered tremendous loss, betrayal and stress over the past several years and some of that continues;
4. she has gained some weight, though probably not enough to impact her health;
5. she has apparently given up her fitness routine (or maybe she didn’t like walking with you because you are so judge-y); and
6. she is ready to get her groove back and find a frisky friend.
First, the advice: say nothing about her weight. It doesn’t sound like it’s bothering her; just you. Which brings me to my second point of advice: ask yourself what your question says about YOU. What is it about your friend’s weight gain that bothers you? I’m going to guess: nothing. That’s not really what’s getting under your skin right now, is it?
You say she has gained the weight over the past couple of years, and yet it is only now, when she says she wants to start dating, that you are suddenly filled with the urge to critique her figure and deem her unworthy of the best of men until she loses weight. Bothered, I smell a little Girly Jealousy™ wafting from Boca to Portland.
You are in a long-term marriage and your good friend is about to start dating. This can be a very difficult transition in a friendship: you are accustomed to spending time with Sarah and her husband, and now she is living the single life while you are stuck with Mr. Bothered playing Pitch and drinking sherry with the other judge-y people in your circle of friends.
Or Bridge. You sounds like the Bridge type.
Ask yourself: are you secretly envious that Sarah is going to be dating? You have been married a long time, and if your marriage is like most, the passion may have waned over the years. Maybe you aren’t in love with your husband anymore, or maybe you just fantasize about having hot New Dude sex again. Whatever is going on with you, I highly doubt that your concern about Sarah dating at her current weight is legitimate. Look deep inside yourself (perhaps you could use a mirror and then loan it to Sarah?) and be honest about what you are really feeling and why.
Of course, as I specifically spelled out in the Limitation of Liability Language in the “About” section of this blog, I am not a shrink. I could be totally wrong, and you may actually really feel exactly as you described. In that case, please send me Sarah’s email so I can encourage her to find a new friend to replace you. Just last week I wept 12 tears of joy when my blog hit 1,000 page views, and that little puddle had more depth than you.
This may come as some surprise to you, but not all men insist upon dating only women who are aesthetically ideal. The really good men out there, the ones you profess you hope Sarah finds, are interested in the more important characteristics: intelligence, wit, ability to be supportive yet somewhat independent, kindness, a full and realized life, talent in the kitchen and a willingness to keep the spark alive over time. Please see earlier blog re: the importance of sex in a long-term relationship. Sex and Marriage
If you want to be supportive, encourage Sarah in her dating adventure and ask her if she wants to start walking with you again or maybe you both start a new fitness routine. I hear Zumba is fun but I can’t do it because I fall down when I dance. Maybe you don’t have that problem. Regardless, be gentle in your suggestions regarding exercise and do whatever you can to build up her self-esteem.
Dating, especially on-line dating, is scary.
There are all sorts of freaks out there. If you have time, click on this link: Post-Darwinian Hubris: Great first date. Profoundly bad third date. This is a blog I wrote about the most disturbing experience I had while I was on match.com as well as the best. It’s funny and every word of it is true.
So, Bothered, stop being bothered and start being supportive. Sarah is going to have to kiss several frogs before she finds Prince Charming, or as I call him, Tom. Your job as a friend is to lift her up, not put her down.