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Enough with the fattie jokes
August 18, 2011 8:39 AM   Subscribe

How do I suggest to an elderly relative that he stop insulting me every time he sees me?

1. I have a nonagenarian uncle who is of a totally different generation than I (he is a World War II vet, was a businessman in the Mad Men era), while I was born in the sixties.

2. I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I was kind of a pudgy kid. On the day I got married, I was ten pounds overweight; twenty years later, it is more like 75.

3. Every time I have ever seen him in my life, he has felt the need to make a crack about my weight. At his wife's funeral, he was chuckling and nudging my wife and telling her "better not feed this guy so much." I mentioned once that I do not eat red meat for various reasons and he looked me up and down and said, "You don't get to look like that by eating chicken and fish."

He is generally a polite, pleasant guy, but every goddamn time we see each other, he feels the need to crack wise. Maybe it is part of his hearty back-slapping personality, but it is unavoidable. I see him maybe twice a year, but I know that every time he will openly insult me and laugh at his own wit.

How do I broach this with him and tell him that generally openly mocking people for their appearance is something that is frowned upon these days?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (67 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Simple. Just tell him to shut the hell up. There's no need to worry about the feelings of people who don't care about yours.
posted by dortmunder at 8:41 AM on August 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


"I really like you, Uncle X and appreciate your wit, but lay off the weight jokes or I will stuff your old ass in the freezer."
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:42 AM on August 18, 2011 [38 favorites]


Yeah, he sounds like the sort of person who only respects those who stand up to him. Stand up to him. Protip: he will probably find this approach wishywashy: "openly mocking people for their appearance is something that is frowned upon these days"
posted by tavegyl at 8:44 AM on August 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


How do I broach this with him and tell him that generally openly mocking people for their appearance is something that is frowned upon these days?

I doubt he is unaware that he is attacking you. He isn't lacking information, he's lacking behavioral incentive.

I think old people are cantankerous in part because social sanctions have less power over them. Harness your anger and blow up at him.
posted by grobstein at 8:44 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Crack wise back at him about how old he is.
posted by Jess the Mess at 8:44 AM on August 18, 2011 [17 favorites]


I'd guess that if he's been doing it all your life, the chances are just about nil. Either quietly seeth, or tell him to STFU and be willing to accept that he'll either get deeply offended or ignore you because it's "only a joke".

Honestly, I doubt there's a way for this to end well...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 8:45 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seriously, allow yourself to get angry. It's the Old Way of setting interpersonal boundaries. Don't settle for the milquetoast passive-aggressive route.
posted by grobstein at 8:45 AM on August 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


Yeah, he likely will not really change, but do yourself a favor and speak your mind to him. Go to "Lost" and look for models of beefy quips, if you're out of inspiration.
posted by Namlit at 8:46 AM on August 18, 2011


Horselover Phattie's approach will work because tavegyl is right. Any defensive posture just confirms for him that he's on top, which is what he wants to feel. Go on the offensive.
posted by jon1270 at 8:49 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would tell him to stuff it, old man, the war is over.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:49 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Openly mocking people was never considered good behavior.

I support the "go ahead and get angry" model. It's possible to express anger in a controlled way before you get blow-up out-of-control angry. Getting out-of-control angry suggests that you are irrational about "just a joke." Try looking him in the eye and saying, "Stop it about my weight. It's unfunny, unkind, and far less clever than you imagine. It's predictable, it's tiresome, and it's going to stop."
posted by endless_forms at 8:55 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Oh, hey! You're not dead yet?"
posted by mazola at 8:56 AM on August 18, 2011 [51 favorites]


openly mocking people for their appearance is something that is frowned upon these days?

This is something that has always been frowned upon, even in the dark ages of 70 years ago. He knows he's insulting you. Respond in kind.
posted by frobozz at 9:03 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why can't you just (respectfully) dish it back, without blowing up at him? Find a light ageist insult and lob it back at him and get on with your life. He's in his nineties, for Pete's sake and you see him once or twice a year? You could use this energy thickening up your skin to go with your waistline. (<--look! Practice!)
posted by pink candy floss at 9:04 AM on August 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


Make old jokes about him, I like mazolas idea but anything like that. . Honestly if you "fight" back like that he'll probably respect you more and lay off a bit.

For a lot of guys in my family teasing like that is done, believe it or not, out of affection. I have a family friend that gives me shit about being fat, so I give him shit about going bald and grey. Bonus points if you can make a comment so funny the other person laughs. Considering it a game might make it less painful for you too. Find some good "old man" one liners and play the game. If he's not doing it for fun at least you'll feel better than just sitting and taking it.
posted by wwax at 9:04 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you really want to put him in his place, tell him, "Y'know, every time I've ever seen you in my life, you make a pathetic crack about me that you find hilarious. Does anything intelligent or interesting ever come out of your mouth? Anything worth saying or hearing? Or are you too dumb and senile to do anything except repeat your sad little joke like a fucking broken record?" Then, before he has a chance to respond say, "Don't break your fucking hip thinking up a response, old man." Then walk away.

Or to be more gentle, say, "Wow, that's joke's almost as old as you are, and that's saying something!"?
posted by clockzero at 9:05 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I would just smile a lot. And when he asks you why you're smiling, say, "Remember when we went to your wife's funeral? I was just thinking that I'm going to get to go at least one more of those than you will." And then walk away.
posted by emelenjr at 9:12 AM on August 18, 2011


Crack up. I mean, seriously, give his jokes a huge belly laugh.

He's going to be taken aback, and may ask. You can turn to your wife and say, "Look honey, he made a joke! At his age! Isn't it cute?"

Continue to try and hold back your laughter every time he tries. Let a guffaw though every now and again. Chime in with "Well, bless your heart" and "Isn't that sweet?" when appropriate.
posted by juniperesque at 9:14 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's not uncommon as people get old to stop caring what people think. Sometimes it's endearing, sometimes infuriating. He's had a long and eventful life and he really doesn't care who he offends as long as he can provoke a reaction and get a few laughs.

Mazola's 'You're not dead yet?' is exactly the right response. It's equally offensive and shows that you're prepared to give as good as you get. You're not going to teach an old dog new tricks at this late stage, so meet him head-on and show him you understand the game. Believe it of not, it's exactly what he wants. Just don't push it too far in the direction of something that's likely to be genuinely painful.

My father-in-law is similar in a lot of ways. What he respects most is a quick comeback on the same level; what he doesn't respect is people acting hurt, offended or just trying to ignore him.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 9:19 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Say "Cut that out."
posted by tel3path at 9:19 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look at the other people there and say with a big smile, "The older he gets, the more of an asshole he becomes, doesn't he?"
posted by Rykey at 9:20 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do it in the form of a joke, in front of others. For instance: "Hey Uncle, when the doctor said he needed a urine and a stool sample, he didn't mean for you to just give him your underwear."
posted by jbickers at 9:21 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


"You're old and you drool. I can lose weight."
posted by mkultra at 9:25 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Fat is negotiable. Ugly (bald, etc) lasts forever." Give it right back.

What a jerk. Sorry you have to deal with it.
posted by stormpooper at 9:25 AM on August 18, 2011


Remember when we went to your wife's funeral?
You're old and you drool.


No. Just no. That's not sinking to his level, that's sinking below his level. He's not trying to hurt you. He probably thinks you'd think it's funny, even if you tell him that it isn't over and over. Insulting back would be a deliberate attempt to hurt him.

What my Mom used to do with my abrasive Grandpa: rise above. It sounds like you otherwise like him. Drop him an email once in a while or give him a call (if that side of the family matters enough to you to make it worth your while). He's less likely to be insulting when he's not face to face, and it's a low commitment way of making his life better. Old people are often lonely. If you really want a gold star, there might be ways you can help with practical issues in his life (e.g. trouble with the nursing home bureaucracy). That's what my Mom did.

That won't take the sting of the insults away, but it will give you something to feel good about when you see him. He may still insult your weight, but "thank you so much for..." might be a good emotional counterweight.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:30 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


N'thing to crack wise right back. Some of the responses here are perfect but I'd caution you away from the nastier ones - the goal is to lob a joke at him, not a vicious insult. A joke shows you're in control and you can dish it out as well as take it. An insult shows you're letting him get under your skin and you're lashing out in earnest. The former is banter between equals, the latter makes you the loser in the exchange.
posted by Quietgal at 9:32 AM on August 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


I think the "go on the attack" approach might have worked 20 years ago, when both of you were much younger. But if he is a WWII vet, I assume he is in the vicinity of 90 years old? Being super aggressive now may make you look like a bully. I mean, are you looking to beat down a 90 year old? Sorry, but I think you missed your chance. And if his comments about your weight really bother you, it suggests that you are indeed bothered by your weight. Use your uncle's jibes to do something about health instead.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:45 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


This isn't an age thing, he's just always been a jerk who thinks it's okay to abuse people over their weight.

I was born in the sixties ... Every time I have ever seen him in my life, he has felt the need to make a crack about my weight

Personally I don't see a value in descending to his level so I'd go with "being rude to people isn't funny" as a response. Don't get wound up. Don't play his game. He may well think that it's funny to abuse other men over physical traits. Do you really want to fire back with "you're prune faced" and find out he thinks it's hysterical and laughs along?

The way to respond to rudeness is to say "that's rude and it's not okay" and refuse to be a part of it. Walk away when you can, respond with "that's rude" when you can't.
posted by phearlez at 9:46 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'd go after him with wisecracks, too. I mean, I wouldn't if I had to see him every day and I'd tell him that it's not nice and hurtful. But in this case, you'll see him infrequently...mock him for being old, going to die soon, that kind of thing. He was asking for it.
posted by inturnaround at 9:50 AM on August 18, 2011


I think you should crack wise back. Not in a mean way, though. I understand this is a touchy subject with you, but I think he's jibing you in a good-natured way. The best way to handle this might be play along and crack wise about how his bald head is blinding you.
posted by the jam at 9:54 AM on August 18, 2011


He's in his 90s and you see him once or twice a year? Just let it go.
posted by amro at 9:56 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's ABSOLUTELY an age thing, or, rather, a generational thing. I blame Groucho.

Really though, if you took it for your whole life, you can humour an old man and take it for a couple more. You'll probably see this guy five more times at the very most. I hate to say it, but, dude, suck it up.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:57 AM on August 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


"You know, I've thought about giving you piece of my mind about the fat jokes but you'll be dead soon so why bother."
posted by Foam Pants at 9:59 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I too have many relatives whose idea of camaraderie is the same sort of insult-comic banter, too. You cannot change people like this. The "go on the attack" approach won't work because he's elderly and therefore seen in a sentimental haze by most, and otherwise (according to your description) "a polite, pleasant guy." *You* will be seen as the bully (unfair perhaps, but true) if you play nasty as some here suggest.

For your own sake, consider that his cruel comments are likely a result of someone in his past having been cruel and insulting to him and emotionally damaging him, likely a parent. (This is the way people of his generation, and even the one following him who came of age in the 50s, handled pain and hurt and insecurity - bantering and "good natured" insults that carried a sting.) Think about such hurt being carried around inside him for many decades, festering away, year after year. He likely had almost no chance of understanding and resolving his own issues, and there's a zero chance he'll do so before he dies. That's pretty sad.

That said, forgive him for being a shit to you - and let it go. You can't control him - you can only control your reaction to him. He'll be dead within a single-digit number of years, and if you over-react now you'll almost certainly regret it.
posted by aught at 10:03 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


You see this guy twice a year? Yeah, I'm guessing he doesn't actually know you all that well, and is awkwardly trying to be friendly and failing badly.

The reason I say this:
I have an uncle I see/talk to about once every three years or so. Nice guy, stupid sense of humour.
Once, I picked up the ringing phone at my Mom's, and it was him. He was clearly surprised to get me on the other end of the line, and not my Mom. So, to be friendly, he said: "how's your love life?"
He knew I was single. I knew he's a Catholic priest. So I answered, "Nonexistent. How's yours?"

If he only sees you irregularly, he probably doesn't know how to relate to you. He's basing his interaction on what he thinks might be the right way, and since you've never really called him out on it, he's assuming that you're OK with it.

If it were me, I'd take him out for a coffee, or buy him a drink, and get him chatting about something he's interested in. Give him something to connect you with, other than the awkward fat joke.
posted by LN at 10:04 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Think about how you want to remember this in the future. What action will make you feel best about how you handled it? If you're polite, will you look back and regret that you allowed your bully to get away with it, just like he always did for your whole life? If you're rude (which you'll probably need to be) will you look back and feel that you didn't act well to an old man and should have stayed above the fray? Only you can really answer which one is better in this instance.
posted by Frowner at 10:05 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Being mean in response to this man's meanness may feel good in the short term. In the long term, however, it cheapens you.

Ten years from now, when this fellow is (in all likelihood) dead, will you really feel better for having told him off? Odds are low.

Speaking as a fellow who is also significantly overweight and who has endured fat jokes: forget about it. This issue will cease to have power over you as soon as you stop devoting time and mental energy to it.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:06 AM on August 18, 2011


We're always programmed to be kind to our elders, but I don't think that's what this guy wants. I think he wants you to stick up for yourself.

I had an unfortunate incident about 10 years ago where an elderly relative of a friend whacked me in the ass with an umbrella just because. I told him in no uncertain terms that he was never to do that to me again. He got a little defensive, but damned if he never did it to me again.

You need to stand up for yourself and tell him to stuff it. No need, though, to insult him back. That's just childish.
posted by Leezie at 10:10 AM on August 18, 2011


Just make a joke about him being older than dirt, or being a contemporary of Moses or something, and let it go. Some of the answers on this thread are absolutely vicious, and not something I would want to say to a family member.
posted by Slinga at 10:12 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can stand up for yourself without lecturing to him about kindness, which will not go over well. I have a cousin who is always going on about my baldness. Whatever, I'm bald. But, like, jesus, can you shut up about it for two minutes? once, instead of just listening and chuckling, trying to be a good sport, I literally said, "Whatever, I'm bald. But, like, Jesus, can you shut up about it for two minutes?" Then the next three times I saw him I said, "Remember when you were good looking in high school? You look like shit now." Equilibrium has been reached. He's done. And we get along fine.

In your case, wait till the old bastard dies, because he will not change. If you go the "kinder, gentler" route, it will completely bounce off him. You need to "Give as good as you get it..." if you want to (in his eyes) rise to his level. On the other hand f*** him. good luck.

Old jokes:

Hey, don't start any long books...

You know ,my wife has a mirror in her purse. i'll let you break it so you can at least get seven more years.

that's a nice suit. I'll make sure they bury you in it.
posted by Buffaload at 10:32 AM on August 18, 2011


There's been some advice that you should make wise-ass comments back at him.

I'd invite those who made that suggestion to consider the following: Is that giong to make him stop? Because that's what the OP wanted. Personally, I don't think it's going to accomplish that.

If the goal is to get him to stop, tell him to stop.

"Hey, every time you see me you make some crack about my weight. It's rude. It's insulting. It's juvenile. I don't appreciate it. Stop it".

If he complains that that's rude

"I'm rude? I think we can see where I get it"
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:35 AM on August 18, 2011


So many possible snarky responses...so little time ... so I'll have to give you a straight answer. When people get older they get less flexible... less able to adapt and change behaviors. Of course this various fro person to person but at the best of times most people are only borderline sentient - full of canned responses to already experienced situations. By 75... well... change happens all too rarely so what I am trying to convey is that there may be no way here to change your relative's behavior without the verbal equivalent of a Skinner box and that usually ends up making most good people feel worse than the original behavior. So I think the best that you can do is avoid the man as much as possible or else try to short circuit the behavior by some response such as "Hi Uncle so-and-so ! Yeah, I'm still fat, how are you doing? " as soon as you first meet the guy.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:36 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Get yourself one of those clickers people use to train dogs, and any time uncle pops off, stick it in his face and click it 5 or 6 times. Guaranteed to have an effect of one sort or another.

Or, you could do like my brother did after one too many "good-natured" fat jokes from a distant uncle: refuse to go to any more family reunions until the guy is dead.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:38 AM on August 18, 2011


I have a weird feeling that he's trying to be friendly. He's saying he remembers you, and even though you only see each other twice a year, he has had this relationship with you from way back when. Maybe he feels like it's a safe thing to tease about, like red hair used to be.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:50 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah...my earlier response was maybe a little too mean. I think mazola's Oh, hey! You're not dead yet! would be a pretty good way to go.
posted by clockzero at 11:17 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why would responding-in-kind make him stop? He'd probably get a kick out of being joshed by you.

I say do what you've always done. Nothing.

He'll stop soon enough on his own.
posted by General Tonic at 11:53 AM on August 18, 2011


Wow. Rarely has the ease of telling anonymous strangers to DTMFA surfaced in such an ugly fashion on the green. So far as I can see, we're not talking about Uncle So-and-So fondling the kiddies or something, we're talking about somebody misjudging what is an appropriate level of joshing someone. It demands (in my view) taking him aside and telling him firmly to cool it, not threatening and insulting a ninety-something war vet.

For the record, I have an eighty-six-year-old grandmother in a nursing home with mild dementia. She is occasionally confused and frightened and now and again says harsh things to family members. It would never occur to me to tell her, "Go fuck yourself, Gram -- you'll be dead soon." Maybe I just grew up in a different sort of family than a lot of you did.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:13 PM on August 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


Laugh at his joke and make a good-natured joke back about him. And keep smiling. That's the only cool way to handle it. You can write a list in advance.
E.g - "Hey you're losing height faster than I'm gaining width, old man."
posted by w0mbat at 12:38 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Knock it off or I'll sit on you."
posted by bunji at 12:50 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Chances are you aren't his sole target. Another relative may have deflected him in the past, so you might want to ask around in the other branches of your family.

You could also reply with a mirroring question: "Have you put on a few pounds lately?" Be polite about it & he might end up baffled. Good luck.
posted by dragonplayer at 12:52 PM on August 18, 2011


To clarify, a smart line back will only work if:

a) the other person is game;
b) the delivery is right

Else, you're just being a jerk. If you're not sure both those points line up, don't do it.

To answer your question more directly:

How do I broach this with him and tell him that generally openly mocking people for their appearance is something that is frowned upon these days?

You don't tell him how to talk to other people. Tell him how his comments make you feel:

"Uncle XXX, I know you mean well, but it hurts me when you make jokes about my weight in front of everybody".

Perhaps he doesn't realize it's upsetting to you.
posted by mazola at 12:55 PM on August 18, 2011


I'll go along with the misplaced camaradery thing. Where I come from, two men who haven't seen each other in a while will often comment on each other's unflattering changes, and balding and weight are the two biggest ones. This kind of ribbing goes on for a few minutes, almost as part of the mutual re-integration ritual.

Personally, I always found it a bit annoying, particularly since, being a woman, I was never part of it (as a woman you tend to end up just standing about until this part of the greeting is over, or openly fawn over the other female standing around, if there is one handy).

The way I see it, it is a bonding thing, and actually a weird way of paying compliments: to the teased guy himself - cause look, you must be doing really well, if you put on weight, your life must go swimmingly, since you can afford all the food, and the leisure etc., but also to the spouse (or parents), as in, wow, aren't you a good cook, aren't you taking good care of your guy, etc. You mentioning your uncle's comment re. your wife's cooking and your food goes really nicely with what I have observed with this kind of behaviour. So yeah, in my experience from my own culture, this is the exact opposite of passive-aggressive, it is passive-flattering/admiring, as it were, however objectinable it is in many ways (not least via the assumption that it is inevitably your wife who does the cooking). And it is frequently used by people of both genders for kids of both gender, a strange attempt at bonding by treating them to this grown-up ritual.

From what you are saying in your post, your relative might well be somewhere in the spectrum described above, especially since he started when you were a kid, and if otherwise your relationship with him is OK. As you said, you are from different generations, and, in some ways, this means completely different cultures, so to speak. Is he doing anything similar with other relatives who are in a parallel position to yours? Maybe your male cousins? Also, given the different cultures aspect: remember that thinness, or the entire weight obsession, is a relatively recent development; and for a lot of people of the older generation thin is nothing to aspire to. In my own country, we have tons of expressions which essentially mean "fat and beautiful"; fat means good-lucking, prosperous, someone who has made it, who has arrived, whose life is on track. Thin is scrawny, badly organised, sick. Normal weight means you are almost there, but you could put some flesh on your bones. Go back to old films, and see what many of the beautiful people looked like; watch, for instance, Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot. SHe was the height of sex-appeal in her day, today, she would be a niche taste.

Going back to the ribbing: if your uncle is anything like the people I know who indulge in this kind of behaviour, he will be receptive to your telling him to just stop. Maybe not entirely - it might come like a bolt from the blue to him that you are hurt, and he might be completely disconcerted by the fact that his pallyness insulted you. But if he is a polite and decent and pleasant guy, he will react - even if to vociferously apologize right before or right after doing his usual (he is probably by this age slightly set in his ways, so if he has decades of visual stimulus you - ribbing bonding ritual going on, it might be real difficult to change it - maybe you initiate another bonding exercise? Introduce him to one of those cool handshakes which go on for five minutes as "your thing"?).

I would definitely stay away from trying to joke-attack him back, since you would play right into the mutual ribbing, so instead of suffering one or two jokes in silence, you'd start a ritual in which you have to keep up your own side. Tiresome.

And definitely do NOT touch on anything that hints at his future demise. The cruelty of doing that is staggering, and I hope that the people suggesting it haven't thought it through much. Imagine, for instance, you have just had a biopsy and are waiting for the results - what would you say about someone who, knowing this, would retaliate to your (tactless) joke about their haircut by quipping about your funeral? Or, if you, in all likelihood, were to have both legs amputated, and they made a "joke" about how you win the next Olympic sprinting trials? This is one of the things which need to be kept in perspective - and joking about death to someone for whom it is a bedside companion, pretty much, is beyond cruel.
posted by miorita at 12:57 PM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


And definitely do NOT touch on anything that hints at his future demise. The cruelty of doing that is staggering, and I hope that the people suggesting it haven't thought it through much. Imagine, for instance, you have just had a biopsy and are waiting for the results - what would you say about someone who, knowing this, would retaliate to your (tactless) joke about their haircut by quipping about your funeral?

Different people have different senses of humor and it's better to err on the side of caution if you don't know the person well, but sometimes joking about how a person is different (in a non-mean way) is a way to be inclusive. For instance, I know a lot of people with a certain disability and they love to joke about it both among themselves as well as with non-disabled friends.

By making a non-hateful joke about how old the guy is (I'm pretty sure my late grandpa, god rest his soul, would've loved the "Don't start any long books! one) you're saying, hey, I'm acknowledging that this is how you're different from me but I'm also showing that I realize that in all the important ways you're just another guy like me with a great sense of humor.

Of course, the trick is, you have to know a person well enough to know which of their idiosyncracies is fair game and which they're sensitive about. That is where the uncle has failed.

My guess is that if you took him aside and told him it hurts your feelings when he jokes that way, he will probably stop. It's probably just his bumbling, ill-considered way of bestowing affection, not that that makes it sting any less.
posted by Jess the Mess at 1:38 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Anyway! Moving right along, did anybody see the latest movie/tv show/great baseball game last weekend?"

Ignore what can't be changed, take the high road, and move the conversation to happier common ground. You'll be able to live with the choice of being the better person.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:55 PM on August 18, 2011


By making a non-hateful joke about how old the guy is (I'm pretty sure my late grandpa, god rest his soul, would've loved the "Don't start any long books! one) you're saying, hey, I'm acknowledging that this is how you're different from me but I'm also showing that I realize that in all the important ways you're just another guy like me with a great sense of humor.

Hmmmm. . . I wonder if people ever make non-hateful jokes about others' weight with the same friendly intention.

It's possible.
posted by General Tonic at 2:00 PM on August 18, 2011


It's definitely possible, especially men with men. I have seen it with my own eyes.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:38 PM on August 18, 2011


Take age out of the equation. The guy is an asshole, treat him accordingly.
posted by LarryC at 4:14 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a weird feeling that he's trying to be friendly. He's saying he remembers you, and even though you only see each other twice a year, he has had this relationship with you from way back when. Maybe he feels like it's a safe thing to tease about, like red hair used to be.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:50 AM on August 18 [3 favorites +] [!]


It still is. Until you shave it off.

Anyway, I think this is it. Older folks do sometimes retreat into rote as they slow down, so maybe he's doing a little of that too. But I think it is just a (perhaps arcane or misguided) attempt to relate to you as a peer. Just give him a gentle ribbing back. By no means should you escalate, that IS rude, no matter what. Just something like "hey, you're getting a little paunchy yourself, pops. Good to see you, what's new?"
posted by gjc at 4:14 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It may be something that was more accepted by his generation, but people telling you that you shouldn't make fun of his age or that you should just "suck it up" are allowing him to make it accepted now. And I don't think it's okay.

Honestly, I'm amazed that your wife hasn't said anything to him (or any of your other relatives). I would be all up in that: "Wow, uncle Joe, did that come out the way you meant it to? Because it sounded like you were making some kind of snide remark about his weight, and that's just so inappropriate...you know anonymous has always struggled with that, right? I'm sure you just didn't think, but if you don't want to make him feel bad, you really need to not go there."
posted by misha at 4:52 PM on August 18, 2011


I am with the majority in this thread and advocate hitting him right back with some attitude. Guys like this LOVE me because I have a mouth on me and give as good as I get. This is (probably) the way this guy interacts with the world in general. He expects a jab right back.
posted by thebrokedown at 5:59 PM on August 18, 2011


Yeah I'd try a feigned shock look and a "Wow, I had no idea I was overweight! Thanks for the tip uncle." followed by a stage whisper "by the way, your jokes suck" and then a knowing look like you are reciprocating a favour.
posted by Admira at 8:14 PM on August 18, 2011


If you can move past this--just smile and ignore it-- and begin to ask him in a respectful, friendly and serious way to tell you about some things he remembers from the thirties or the forties. he might be able to tell you things firsthand that few people have a chance to hear anymore. He was likely a child in the twenties. He might have some very interesting stories to tell. If you are successful, this will change how he thinks of you and it will (more important) give you a different something to remember about him. You have the ability to make an astonishing transformation in this relationship for both of you. I think you could make this happen.
posted by Anitanola at 8:31 PM on August 18, 2011


I'm going to go with the party pooper minority here. If you respond with witty comebacks ("More fat jokes, unc? Those are getting even older than you!"), there will be two possible responses:
1) He will think it's funny, and that you are game for an insult war. He will not stop.
2) He, and possibly others, will think you are a mean bully. Then he will die in a few years, and you'll regret being mean to him instead of forging a meaningful relationship in his laat days.

Just let it go. Seriously. Being mean to old people is not cool, even if they are jerks.
posted by RobotNinja at 8:42 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dang, his *last* days.

Also, I'm with Anitanola. Ask him about the past. I've only just realized that my grandparents were already into adulthood during the space race, which is fascinating to me. I want to hear what it was like to see the dawn of television and rocketships. Don't miss out on your opportunities.
posted by RobotNinja at 8:47 PM on August 18, 2011


I wouldn't mock him just for being old, strictly speaking. Better to compare apples to apples and make some sort of crack about his shape. He's gotta either have a paunch or love handles or a case of the disappearing ass, etc.
posted by desuetude at 10:50 PM on August 18, 2011


"Thanks for the tip, Methuselah!"
posted by RedEmma at 11:14 AM on August 19, 2011


"Don't be a jerk, Uncle John, come on."
posted by tristeza at 9:14 PM on August 23, 2011


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