Dear Carolyn • Our daughter, 25, has gained a lot of weight and consequently looks like two pounds of baloney in a one-pound bag in the clothes she wears. Any advice on how to address this? Do we parents keep our mouths shut? — T.
Answer • Oh my goodness, (b). Mouths shut.
I say this in part because the chances aren’t very good your words will come out well when your thoughts involve lunch meat.
It’s also in part because about two in three U.S. adults are overweight or obese (bit.ly/BigNos) and about zero in three don’t know this about themselves.
But the biggest part is that speaking up is not your job.
It’s all too easy to notice when somebody needs something. It’s tougher to navigate what someone needs from us. Your daughter may well need better habits — I’m just taking your word for it here, since perception does not equal fact — but that need applies to you only if it shows up in the answer to the following question: “What does my daughter need from me?”
I repeat, she does not need from you what she already gets nonjudgmentally from her own mirror.
What she does need from you is more universal than we parents tend to realize when we’re worried about our kids: to be treated as inherently valuable. As-is. All kids. Not for what they do, not for how they look, but for who they are.
This gets complicated when a child harms others on purpose, say, or flirts with life-threatening degrees of self-harm. But it’s still on parents to try, at least, to find ways to love and support a child in trouble that don’t involve condoning malice or recklessness.
I’m just dotting the “i” with this disclaimer, though; putting on a few pounds and/or squishing them into small clothes is not even close to that threshold.
Your daughter needs you to see her as the daughter you love, and to trust waistbands, stairs and doctors to tell her if her habits need changing. It’s not much of a leap; in my experience, there’s no shortage of messengers here.
Especially if weight gain is either the cause or effect of a bout of diminished self-worth, then your daughter will need steady love and acceptance from you — now more than ever before.
Dear Carolyn • OK, so I went on a few dates with this woman over a year ago. Before we met up for a third time, she told me she had a good time with me but was not in a place for anything serious (first-year graduate student). We have not spoken since, but I still see her once a month or so — we live in the same community — and still find myself attracted to her.
Was she turning me down for just that moment or forever? Would there be any value in reaching out to her to let her know I am still interested, or would she make the initial move if her life or outlook has changed? — Still Interested
Answer •If she hasn’t spoken to you once despite monthly crossings of paths? I’d guess “forever.” I’m sorry. At minimum, I suggest leaving her be unless she clearly engages with you.