Fat lot of good

Pub date October 28, 2009


Dear Andrea:

I have a feeling this is not the best way to get a sympathetic response from you, but it’ a real problem for me and I like your advice, so I thought I might as well give it a try. Here goes.

My boyfriend and I have been together eight years. I can’t say I’m as cute now as I used to be, but I’m OK. "Brian," on the other hand, has gained weight every year due to a desk job and, I guess, just normal metabolism stuff. By now, he’s actually fat. And I just don’t feel attracted the way I used to. I still love him, but I’m really not feeling it in the sex department. Do I try to get him to lose weight, or just put up with a no-sex partnership (forever?), or try to find someone I do have the hots for? Help!


Size Matters

Dear Size:

Before we even consider getting into the hopelessness of pinning your future on weight loss — yours or anyone else’s — let’s talk about relationships at the seven- or eight-year mark. This is not, generally speaking, a high point. So common is the "seven-year itch" that sociobiologists have attempted to explain it, alleging that it takes seven years for a man-cub to achieve enough independence to survive without two parents regularly provisioning it. Thus, the hormonal glue that holds a couple together need last no longer than that. And it doesn’t. There are several obvious holes in this theory (it takes longer than seven years to conceive and rear a child to the age of seven; couples historically would have had more than one child, etc.) Plus, the most compelling recent research makes a strong argument against the nuclear family as the essential unit of protohuman and early human society. (See Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s Mothers And Others [Belknap, 2009], where she demonstrates, very persuasively, that it takes a village — and always has.)

But we don’t need sociobiology to convince us that relationships often beach themselves on the rocky shoals of not-quite-a-decade together. Six or seven or eight years out, the very last of the initial biochemical rush we call "falling in love" has finally dissipated. Real life is in ascendance. And real life is nowhere near as much fun. Six-seven-eight years is also enough time for individual priorities to deviate from the original, couple-led mandate, which was basically "be together as much as possible and have lots and lots of sex." Careers, families or origin, children yea or nay or present, all conspire to pull you apart unless you make all possible effort to cleave unto each other. Have you done enough cleaving?

You can blame the wad of adipose tissue that has attached itself to your beloved’s abdomen (and I’m not saying the wad does not bear some responsibility here), but I don’t think it’s the whole story. Are you sure you do?

Now: his fat. I don’t have to tell you that he has probably noticed it himself, correct? That your pointing it out is not going to come as some great revelation? So either he does not wish to "do anything" about it; has tried, and, like nearly everyone who attempts to diet off excess poundage, has succeeded only in making himself miserable and possibly fatter; or he will take on the project in his own good time. In any event, nagging him, shaming him, even attempting to inspire him ("We’ll go running together!") are all pretty much doomed to fail. Fail you, that is. He may lose the weight. He may not. But it is his fat, his body, his life, and, well, your problem. Sorry.

I was recently reading over at Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose (kateharding.net) and if you, that is the collective "you," not, you know, you, haven’t read her, you probably should. She and her co-bloggers have the sharpest and funniest take out there on the "obesity epidemic," misogyny, feminism, and fat. Kate also recently answered this question, and she isn’t even an advice columnist. She was just fed up with the way people who are advice columnists have historically bungled it.

Dear Not Attracted to Your Spouse Anymore (writes Kate):

Get over it or get a fucking divorce. And I truly mean you should consider both options seriously. If you believe it is actually possible for you to get over it — by which I mean, you find a way to reframe the way you look at your fat partner, find him attractive again, and go back to whatever you both agree is a normal sex life — then by all means, work on that (provided everything else in the marriage is good and worth saving, which it probably isn’t if you’re not even a little bit attracted to him anymore).

If, however, you’re so hung up on your partner’s weight that you can’t even conceive of being attracted to him anymore? Get a fucking divorce already. (Writes Kate, who is not an advice columnist.)

Hear hear, say I, who am.