The subject of weight gain or excess fat is still considered taboo among husbands and wives. Only the bravest of couples would dare discuss the issue because obesity is one of the most unacceptable handicaps in human society.
Weight gain doesn’t have to mean trouble between spouses. It’s natural. Most of us never looked like Cindy Crawford, to begin with. So why do we get so down on each other?
I stand before the mirror, looking over my foxy ensemble for the evening to come. In my head, I am Cindy Crawford. In my mirror, I am Roseanne – pre-nips and tucks.
My crestfallen expression is sincere. “I look like a wreck,” I say sadly to my husband, imagining my body as the abandoned, rusting barnacled hulk of the Titanic. “Remember when I actually used to fit into stuff like this?”
“Don’t be silly, hon,” he says brightly. “You’re twice the woman I married!”
I laugh. I feel better. I will also get him back, in my own nefarious ways. My quips will mostly involve comments on his thinning hair and the gigantic mole I can see through it. But the fact remains: the issue of weight gain – mine or his – is not one that we discuss frankly. Fat between spouses is the last taboo. And after careful consideration, research and discussions with quite a few people of all shapes, sizes and locations, I’ve concluded that maybe it should stay that way.
The problem is, you might as well lash out at Mother Gravity and Father Time as at your mate if it’s weight gain you want to talk about. Of course, he or she isn’t the willowy person with the lustrous coiffure that you married. But probably neither are you. Plus, you can take some comfort in the fact that in addition to the pot belly and thunder thighs that you picked up over the years, you both have gained a few virtues and attributes.
Still, try convincing a woman (or man) who has vowed to start a diet every single morning of her adult life that she is more worthwhile and attractive with her unsightly avoirdupois than she was when she weighed 120 pounds. It won’t wash.
For one thing, we don’t use accurate measuring tools. Rather than comparing ourselves to our neighbors, colleagues, and friends, we look to examples such as Sandra Bullock, Gillian Anderson and Shania Twain. First, none of us ever looked like these women when we were 18, so how could we possibly look like them now? Second, plastic surgery and personal trainers are not within the budget of the average Canadian. With their assistance, Chef may indeed continue to look like a motorcycle mama. Whether this is a good thing in someone over 40 is fuel for another debate.
The rest of us flabby-Zoids shuffle along, trying desperately not to have to purchase queen-size pantyhose (which queen are they named after, anyway? RuPaul?) and feeling like failures when we do. (Don’t worry, your mate suffered the same dread when he first pulled a pair of relaxed-fit chinos off the rack.) Only a fool would ask hubby-dear or wifey-poo what he or she thinks of the fool’s waxing body. The clue to navigating the no man’s land of fat between spouses is “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” You can always close your eyes.
But why is the very subject so forbidden, even among chums? I’ve said a lot of extremely rude things in my day, to all sorts of people, by accident and on purpose. I would never, however, say to a friend with a supersized spouse, “Don’t you find all that fat a turnoff?” That’s because there is a tacit agreement among buddies that we don’t remark negatively on a friend’s partner’s appearance. To do so would suggest they have bad taste or couldn’t attract anyone better-looking. Also, we humans constantly try to convince ourselves that beauty is only skin-deep. Ergo, all those extra folds of skin shouldn’t get in the way of the lovely personality inside.
At the same time, we have a long memory for personal remarks. A casual compliment on our appearance is savored, fondled and squirreled away for future reference. But the slightest hint that we are harder than necessary forms a gigantic mental bruise. Despite being commonplace, excess fat is one of the least acceptable flaws in our society. Our intimate partner’s remarking on it would seem to mean that the, ahem, scales have fallen from his or her eyes.
The unhappiness inspired by these kinds of comments is apparent everywhere you look. Women especially are always either dieting or thinking about dieting, even though statistics remind us constantly that dieting is only a Band-Aid solution to weight gain. And guys are absolutely obsessed with their abs. Surf the Internet under the subject of weight and you’ll find all sorts of miserable souls looking for weight-loss buddies. But there are no chat areas on the Internet for people who want to grouse about their spouse’s weight gain. The subject is verboten on the Internet as elsewhere.
In Tara’s family, the matter is simply not discussed. Tara, who lives in a small town in southern Ontario, has always had problems with her weight. She gained 50 pounds after the birth of her first child 10 years ago and since then has put on another 30 pounds.
“My husband of 15 years really doesn’t say anything about my weight gain, although I know he would like to see me healthier,” she revealed to Chatelaine via E-mail. “We sort of have an unwritten rule. He smokes and I hate that; I’m overweight and I’m sure he’d rather I am thinner. Neither of us nags each other about our downfalls.”
Kudos to them both, I say. Oversight is 20/20.