Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My in-laws always seem to feel the need to comment on people’s weight, either right to their faces at a family function or gossiping about it behind their backs. Ironically, they are not exactly thin. My brother-in-law and his wife are quite heavy (my brother-in-law much more so), but his parents (my in-laws) only comment about his wife, exaggerating her weight over his. My mother-in-law has said to my daughter, in front of everyone at Thanksgiving, “You were pretty heavy there for a while, but you look pretty good now.” My daughter is the recipient of at least one insult per visit. These comments are usually made during holidays, and with these zingers being hurled on a regular basis, people are not eager to be with them. My husband will never stand up to them, and he’s in his 60s. Also, they never seem interested in anything we do, be it trips we’ve taken, movies or concerts we’ve seen or our jobs. Whatever we’ve done, they’ve either seen it, done it or put it down as something or somewhere they would never go or do. We continue to inquire about their lives, but they just aren’t interested in ours. I’ve known them for more than 30 years, and they’ve always been this way. I hope they see themselves in this letter and think about how hurtful their actions are.
Weight Does Not Equal Worth
DEAR WEIGHT DOES NOT EQUAL: When I was a child, my own grandparents lived across the country. We rarely saw them. But whenever we did see them, my grandmother’s only comments to her grandchildren involved our weight, our looks and our relative standing (in attractiveness) to our cousins.
Realistically, my grandmother might have had much more extensive conversations with my siblings and me, but once she called me a little fatty, my ears started ringing and I didn’t hear anything else.
As a parent, when a similar dynamic surfaced, I privately asked the in-law not to comment on weight, and they were very receptive to this correction.
If your mother-in-law casually hurls one of these comments your way, in the moment you should say, “Please, let’s not discuss our weight today.” Your husband will never push back, possibly because he doesn’t want to land in their crosshairs.
Otherwise, concerning their behavior — gasbagging on about themselves, hurling insults across the table, demonstrating a lack of interest in others — all of this simply means that family members will do their best to avoid spending time with them.
This is too bad for all of you, and it is probably not the way they want to be remembered.
DEAR AMY: I love my guy, but at times he can be as cold as ice. Here is the scenario: I am busy making a delicious dinner in the kitchen. I ask him, “Honey will you feed the dog?” His answer? “No.” No further comment. I ask him why, even though I am pretty sure I know why. It is because this very sweet little rescue dog belongs to my son, who left her at our house without consulting us. I fell in love with this dog as soon as I saw her. My husband knows how I feel about her, but he sticks to his guns. His reasoning is, “It’s not my problem. It’s not my dog.” He knows this makes me very sad. Isn’t there something creepy about a man who won’t feed a dog — the one that lives in our house that his wife is crazy about?
What the Heck in Denver
DEAR WHAT THE HECK: I think there is “something creepy” about abandoning an animal and imposing it on a household without asking first. I assume your husband is reacting to this lack of respect on your son’s part, as well as your own choice to immediately claim kinship — also (presumably) without asking him.
Swallow your self-righteous sadness and ask your husband to forgive you for imposing this animal onto your household. And, yes, because of the way you have handled this — this is your dog, so you need to feed and take care of her.
DEAR AMY: I’d like to add to your advice to “Working Hard, Hardly Working,” from the person who had trouble concentrating while working at his local coffee shop. He needs to go to the library! We allow laptops and drinks, have free Wi-Fi and offer an overall quiet and peaceful environment. We librarians love to see people working within our walls.
DEAR LIBRARIAN: Public libraries are adjusting to serve the public, while staying true to their mission. Great suggestion.