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Dear Robin: I’m Concerned About My Friend’s Weight Gain

Monday, November 17, 2014


Photo Credit: iStock

Dear Robin,

My good friend Penny went through a very ugly and protracted divorce two years ago and though she went through tough times for a while she’s ready to start dating. She says she wants to try online dating and she asked my opinion about it.  The problem is, she has gained about 15 pounds in the last few years.

We used to work out together but she stopped doing that when the divorce got bad. Call me shallow and I know you will but I want to be really honest with her and suggest she lose the weight before she starts online dating. I think she will attract a higher level of man if she gets back to her normal weight.  My husband and I miss socializing with her and can’t wait for her to meet someone new but we want him to be the right guy.

Robin, how do I bring up this subject with Penny? 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.


Concerned Friend


Dear Concerned Friend,

Poor Penny.

It’s obvious from your letter that she doesn’t own a mirror and hasn’t gone shopping for new clothes in the past few years. How else to explain your belief that she needs you to alert her to this weight gain before she dare show her big round face to prospective dates?

Penny knows she has gained weight, and since she hasn’t been complaining about it to you it may not to be bothering her all that much. I like her and I’d like to be more like her: she is apparently one of the 27 women in the world who don’t whine incessantly about their bodies.

It is spectacular that Penny 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 isn’t looking your best is even more remarkable.

See what I did there?

Penny 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? Concerned, you need to do two things:

1. Figure out why you would be “concerned” by your friend’s recently-more-ample figure; and

2. Keep your big mouth shut.

It’s not like she’s facing health problems due to this weight gain – we are talking about 15 pounds according to your arch assessment.  You should join the circus if you nailed it on the head, by the way, so be sure to ask Penny to step on a scale for verification.

While I usually implore people to be honest with their friends, unsolicited body shaming and implying that one is not date-worthy unless they are in perfect shape is never OK.  After all, it doesn’t sound like it’s bothering her; just you.

Dig deep and ask yourself what your question says about YOU. What is it about Penny’s weight gain that you find so irksome?  I’m going to guess those few extra pounds are not really what drive your concern. That’s not truly what’s getting under your skin right now, is it?

I smell a little envy wafting from your neighborhood to mine.

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 Penny and her husband but now she is living the single life while you are stuck with Mr. Concerned, playing Pitch and drinking sherry with the other judge-y people in your circle of friends.

Or Bridge. You sounds like the Bridge type.

I think you are envious that Penny is going to be dating and you are trying to sabotage her.  You have been married a long time and maybe the passion has waned over the years.  Maybe you aren’t in love with your husband anymore, or maybe you just fantasize about having hot “New Guy” sex again: the kind that makes your knees weak and gets the neighbors talking.

Whatever is going on with you, your concern about Penny dating at her current weight is utterly illegitimate. Look deep inside yourself (perhaps you could use a mirror and then loan it to Penny?) 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 my http://www.askdescamp.com blog, I am not a shrink. I could be completely wrong, and you may actually really feel exactly as you described. It’s possible. Anything is possible.

In that case, please send me Penny’s email so I can encourage her to find a new friend to replace you. Happily, that will give her an immediate weight loss of over 100 pounds!  Just yesterday I wept 19 tears of joy when my Chihuahua Archie went a week without pooping in the house, and that little puddle of saline had more depth than you.

This may come as a surprise, but not all men insist upon dating only women who meet your aesthetic ideal. The really good men out there, the ones you profess you hope Penny finds, are interested in the more important human characteristics such as intelligence, wit, independence, supportiveness, kindness, talent in the kitchen, and enthusiasm for keeping the spark alive.

I know dozens of men who would be thrilled to have sex with a woman carrying extra weight rather than receiving the stiff arm every night from their razor-thin wives. Is your husband one of them?

If you want to be supportive, encourage Penny in her dating adventure and ask her if she wants to start working out with you again.  Perhaps you can both start a new fitness routine. I hear Zumba is fun but I can’t do it because I fall down when I dance.

Be gentle in your suggestions regarding exercise and do whatever you can to build up her self-esteem rather than tearing her down by making her feel unattractive and self-conscious.  Stop being concerned about something that doesn’t merit concern and start being supportive.

She will need your support, because online dating can be scary stuff (but very worth it!). Penny is going to have to kiss several frogs before she finds Prince Charming, or as I call him, Mr. Patience and Understanding.

Former Portland lawyer and current Portland big mouth Robin DesCamp is the Velvet Sledgehammer of Truth, smashing through socially acceptable niceties to tell you how to live your life, and why. She blogs at www.askdescamp.com. Write to her at [email protected].


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