Perspective and Permission
June 22, 2021 5:52 PM   Subscribe

35 year old always heavy but currently fat ciswoman here, looking for perspective and probably also some permission to cut my visit to my parents wayyyyy short after my father staged an intervention over my weight.

have been battling truly crippling depression since the start of the pandemic. Despite this, I managed to land a respectable position in my academic field, complete my graduate degree, publish writing, move cross country, adopt and care for a senior hospice dog, help said dog die; what I'm saying is there are things I am very proud of myself for managing to do despite my very real and pervasive mental illness. I continue to try to manage the depression and am seeing a therapist and psychiatrist, am on meds. I am doing the very best I can.

I was looking forward to spending my summer break away from school with my parents in Florida. I imagined it to be a healing experience. I drove two days to be here. The last time my parents saw me, my mother commented on my weight gain, I shut her down, she apologized, we moved on. But today, my father, with whom I have always tried to be close/approval I have craved, sat me down intervention style to tell me that he and my mom are very upset and concerned by my weight, that it means I'm terribly unhealthy, demanded to know whether or now I'm "working on it," etc. etc.

I was so shocked and just basically assured him that yes I'm working very hard on it, which he expressed disbelief over as I have gained weight since I saw them last in December.

I've been crying on and off for hours and really just want to go home. I am trying to heal and I don't see how I can if I feel uncomfortable in my skin. I am very proud of how hard I worked to get to a place where I love my body at any size. I don't want to feel guilty for one of the actually good things I have managed to do for my mental well being.

A friend suggested that I am being rash, and that their generation (early baby-boomers) was just raised to be fatphobic and they don't know any better. On an intellectual level I know this is valid, but I am just so so shaken up by this (I had a panic attack for the first time in years earlier) over this that I don't see how I can stay.

For context, I have gone from a size 16 to a size 18. I am noticeably bigger, but I like the way I look and am healthy.

So do I stay and try to get past it? Or is it okay to go? It's probably obvious, but there is a lot of trauma in my childhood history, which I have tried my best to get over as they are getting older. Going will cause a lot of drama and I don't even know how to approach that conversation. Staying will be really hard. How do I get unstuck here?
posted by nancynickerson to Human Relations (60 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Even if they don't know any better, that's not a reason they couldn't have learned better at some point in their lives, especially after you talked to your mother about it!

I'd get out of there, and find something fun to do for yourself on the way back.
posted by sagc at 5:59 PM on June 22, 2021 [47 favorites]


Best answer: I would leave. I don't give a shit about excuses made for and by boomers -- it's not appropriate to interrogate someone about their body and it doesn't sound like this came from a place of kindness or care, where I'd still think it's not appropriate but might stretch to try to move past it. I'm so sorry but I think staying will ruin your summer.
posted by sm1tten at 6:01 PM on June 22, 2021 [48 favorites]


(1) It's definitely okay to go. Your first responsibility is towards your own health and wellbeing.

(2) Might you be able to tell your parents, quite bluntly and directly,"Your actions have hurt me and that I don't want you to ever mention my size, my "health", or my weight to me ever again"...? One of the cornerstones of maintaining relationships with difficult people is to be direct with them, both in order to get this off your chest and to give them an opportunity to do better from now on. If you leave without saying anything, it's likely they will comment again on your weight someday, because even if they can guess why you're upset, they don't actually know your boundaries. They may think you're feeling sensitive *now* but it's ok to talk about your body maybe a year later, "after you have had time to cool down". So it makes sense to tell them very directly that this is a non-negotiable rule they need to follow if they want to be around you.
posted by MiraK at 6:01 PM on June 22, 2021 [79 favorites]


Sighs. I know leaving will cause a lot of drama but it's also a natural response to someone saying something shitty to you. Captain Awkward's archives are good for reframing social interactions in this way-like, it makes sense you want to leave!

I think you should leave and get a cheap AirBnB somewhere on the way home to chill for a few days. But regardless, truly it sounds like you did a lot this year, so good job, and I hope you get a break.
posted by clarinet at 6:04 PM on June 22, 2021 [10 favorites]


They can be clueless and well-meaning and love you and you still get to leave. Obviously protecting yourself is the highest priority.
posted by ldthomps at 6:07 PM on June 22, 2021 [31 favorites]


You absolutely can leave. I, a fellow fat person, wholeheartedly support you in not staying with people who make you feel badly about yourself. You do not have to justify how or if you are working to change your weight. You do not have to enumerate your (impressive!) accomplishments as a sort of balance against your current size. You do not have to be the person who takes the brunt of whatever it takes for them to unlearn their hurtful attitudes about weight. You can say that you won't be staying over again until they stop saying hurtful things about your appearance, and go.

If you want to give yourself intermediate options you could go for a short visit home (or to see a friend, or to a nearby hotel, or whatever), put a few days between you and the immediate hurt, and then make a longer term decision about whether to return.
posted by Stacey at 6:11 PM on June 22, 2021 [15 favorites]


Can you take a day or two where you don't necessarily go all the way home but you don't hang out with your parents? A long day trip or overnight trip to somewhere you love, ideally? And maybe you talk to friends who will be sympathetic about this and/or your therapist?

I think there's some truth to what your friend says about many boomers (including my own parents and, it sounds like, yours) being just pathologically fatphobic. But that doesn't mean you have to (or should) hang around and put up with it. If you're not in a place right now where you can deal with that, don't. Like, sharks can't help wanting to bite you, but that doesn't mean you have an obligation to swim with them.

It does sound like you have an otherwise good relationship with your parents, so if you want to take the tack MiraK mentions and just lay it on the line for them, I think that's a really good option too.
posted by mskyle at 6:13 PM on June 22, 2021 [3 favorites]


Best answer: You can leave and it will make a firm point that this is a subject on which you will not engage and that will be a condition of future engagement. This is how you enforce a boundary.

And I'm so sorry this happened to you. My mother did this to me 30 years ago, not particularly kindly (nor was I especially fat at the time), and it changed our relationship permanently.

I agree that you should treat yourself to a mini-vacation if you're able. If you want to stay within a couple of hours of your parents to leave a door open to their meaningful apology and acknowledgement their rights to talk to you about your body are revoked, you can do that, or you can go wherever the hell you want and find relaxing.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:15 PM on June 22, 2021 [34 favorites]


Very okay to leave and doing so might change the situation.

Hasta Manana, b*holes.
posted by firstdaffodils at 6:16 PM on June 22, 2021 [4 favorites]


Get out of there! Don't look back! Also you have extra permission from me, total stranger, to never ask your friend for advice on these matters again.

Caring for yourself is not punishing them. You are leaving as an act of self-love.

You can have compassion and empathy for their limited perspective and not have to expose yourself to it.

Go home, you do not have to defend yourself to them, or anybody. You should be proud of the work you've done to love yourself and your body.

I am so sorry you are going through this.
posted by pazazygeek at 6:16 PM on June 22, 2021 [16 favorites]


Sometimes it takes doing something fairly dramatic to get your parents to pay attention. I finally stood up my father 15 years ago, and while he didn't speak to me for 6 months and then tried to go back to our previous dynamic as if nothing had happened, the experience was incredibly empowering for me. I now feel confident that our relationship is defined by my terms, not his.

So, I guess I'm saying - leave, and tell them (either in person before you go, or by email or in a letter when you get home, whatever you feel you can handle) you're going because your dad crossed a line with you, and you won't be back until they understand that you won't tolerate it again. It can be scary as hell, but some people just don't get it otherwise.

It's great that you feel good about yourself. It's not easy! Your time is too valuable to spend with people who are trying, whether intentionally or through cluelessness, to make you feel otherwise.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:16 PM on June 22, 2021 [12 favorites]


I'm sorry and I think you should definitely leave. Whether it's to get out of there for a little bit or go all the way home is up to you. You might have to push to get them to respect your wishes in not talking about weight. I hope somewhere in there they offered their support in some way even if it was misguided.
posted by oneear at 6:20 PM on June 22, 2021


Best answer: Many, many, many boomers - whatever they think about weight - don't say things they know will hurt their children.

Also, since you're an academic and may care for this line of reasoning: the narrative about "boomers" is incredibly flattened and unrealistic. "Boomers" all have lots of money and vote conservative and are racist and homophobic and feel comfortable saying mean things and...you know, this is a large and various country, and there are huge absolute numbers of boomers who grew up in the counterculture, were HAES feminists in the eighties, are immigrants, are BIPOC, are gay, are left wing, are therapists who think carefully before they speak, etc etc etc. Most of the time, the "excuses" made for "Boomers" (since it's a generational category that falls apart if you press it) are deeply, deeply ahistorical and unfortunately devised by people who have not read or studied history.

Anyway. Nothing says, "don't harass me about my body, I'm serious" like withdrawing your presence. Leave now and maybe you'll be enjoying peaceful holidays with them for years to come.
posted by Frowner at 6:21 PM on June 22, 2021 [76 favorites]


It’s not ok to put a pretend concern for you above your actual wellbeing. If it was real concern it would be holistic and take into account your mental health and the serious negative consequences of fat shaming you.

I would leave as I think you need to set boundaries that your weight isn’t any of their business.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:23 PM on June 22, 2021 [7 favorites]


Uh, gotta disagree with your friend. Or maybe your friend is right, but that’s not germane here. At all. There’s fatphobia, which could be cultural, sure; and then there’s hurting your child, ruining her visit, and making someone’s weight and perceived flaws the focus of her visit.

I’m upset for you! After the year you had. I propose leaving would feel EXCELLENT. It may be rash but doing something rash can be a real pick-me-up. Loving the suggestions to go somewhere fun and return if and only if it feels right to you. I do advise leaving without a lot of fanfare—I feel like a big scene would be frustrating and wind up making you feel worse.
posted by kapers at 6:35 PM on June 22, 2021 [6 favorites]


Best answer: The easy thing for a parent to do is ignore what they see as an issue. Confronting someone you love is difficult. I think your dad is doing this out of love for you. Right or wrong I hope you consider that.

You are lucky to have someone who cares for you enough to ask. A great many people would give about anything for this. Give him a break just as you have given yourself one.


I completely disagree with this. Many, many, many parents/family members find it quite easy to harangue their children/relatives about their weight, and many do it not out of love but because of fatphobia and being controlling. Also, framing it as the OP's dad "asking" about her weight is disingenuous given the description: she said her dad "sat me down intervention style to tell me that he and my mom are very upset and concerned by my weight, that it means I'm terribly unhealthy, demanded to know whether or now I'm "working on it," etc. etc." That is not "asking" about someone's health. Plus, OP's dad kept going when he could tell she was upset. That is not a loving thing to do.

OP, I'm very sorry your visit with your parents has been so stressful. If you want another internet stranger's permission to leave early, you've got it. I like the suggestions to stop somewhere and spend a little time on your own or with a friend, where you can feel supported and enjoy some calm time in a nice holiday setting.

It's OK to set boundaries with your parents. Hopefully they will learn from this that it's not all right to treat you that way. It doesn't have to be the end of your relationship if you don't want it to be. But it really helps people learn where a boundary is when there are consequences to their actions.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:36 PM on June 22, 2021 [46 favorites]


Best answer: If you stay will you feel better? Will staying help you recover your equilibrium? Will staying help you feel loved and cared for, relaxed and recognized and affirmed? Probably not.

Your father has screwed up big time, and there's no point trying to hide that from him. You won't laugh this off by Wednesday night. Might as well take your bags out to the car and see if getting home will help. Chances are you're going to feel really crappy any time you see him or think about him for the next little while. You'll likely start to feel better sooner if you leave.

As for what you tell them - just say that you don't think you can stop crying if you stick around.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:38 PM on June 22, 2021 [9 favorites]


FWIW, you can leave without having a conversation about it.

(imho)

You can just go.
posted by aramaic at 6:39 PM on June 22, 2021 [11 favorites]


Response by poster: Thank you all so much for being kind, thoughtful, and validating. Boundaries are something I’m still working on so I appreciate the encouragement to set them.

I very much like the idea of stopping at an Airbnb someplace, and my half-sister (raised by different parents) has invited me to come spend time with her and her family. I really appreciate the reality check about boomers, thanks Frowner. In fact I am close friends with many people around their age who would never do this to me, and that perspective is helpful.
posted by nancynickerson at 6:40 PM on June 22, 2021 [64 favorites]


I am so sorry, I have been there, and what worked for me was telling my parents that either they don't bring up my weight again or they don't see me again (and being clear that I did NOT want that to happen). In your current situation, I would leave and tell them that you would love to visit them again when they are willing to not discuss your weight or health with you. And perhaps also tell them that you are working with medical professionals on this issue, even if you are not. This has also helped me before.
posted by echo0720 at 6:41 PM on June 22, 2021 [4 favorites]


Best answer: I managed to land a respectable position in my academic field, complete my graduate degree, publish writing, move cross country, adopt and care for a senior hospice dog, help said dog die;

AND THEY SAT YOU DOWN FOR AN INTERVENTION ON YOUR WEIGHT?

You can either leave with no further discussion or pack everything, tell them you are leaving and then go. If you allow them to treat you this way they will keep treating you this way. Seriously. You are a ROCK STAR. You did the IMPOSSIBLE. You should be cherished and celebrated.
posted by kate blank at 6:44 PM on June 22, 2021 [117 favorites]


Whatever parents have been raised to think, whatever generation they are, they can learn to keep their comments about your body and your health to themselves. I think you have every right to leave, and I think that before you visit again you should set some firm boundaries about mentioning either your weight or your health.

My dad was a total ass about my weight my whole life, from childhood. I had to put him in his place a couple of times, but he hasn't mentioned my weight in years. I'm sure he has opinions and "worries" but he knows better than to bring them up.

I'm sorry your dad did that to you. I know how much it sucks. I hope you can establish the kind of boundaries with him that will allow you to have a better relationship going forward.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:44 PM on June 22, 2021 [3 favorites]


Best answer: Age is no excuse. You are not the one causing the drama, you are simply leaving, any drama is on them you're response is a perfectly natural and understandable response to what happened. If they expected any other outcome then that's not on you either. Don't make excuses, don't apologize, quietly pack and load your car, say a polite good bye, give them both a hug and leave. Drive toward home for an hour or 2 then have a cry in the car, find a nice coffee shop and treat yourself to a nice coffee while you take out your phone and find a nice google Air BnBs or a nice beach or whatever you like to do on the way home.
posted by wwax at 6:45 PM on June 22, 2021 [3 favorites]


Another vote for getting the @#$%* out of this toxic situation asap.
posted by 10ch at 6:53 PM on June 22, 2021 [1 favorite]


Bounce, take a night at a nice AirBnb, and once you get to your half sister's write an email/post/text to your mom and dad stating why you left. Then block them for at least the rest of the time that you're at your half sister's.

They'll come around after that if they're worth your time.

I've done this with family members and frankly, simply walking away from disrespectful behavior has improved THEIR behavior immensely--they still ain't great, but we can connect better as adults.
posted by kingdead at 6:56 PM on June 22, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Good gracious, you've been doing spectacularly well while suffering from a serious illness during a global pandemic! I'm sure it hasn't been easy. Truly you deserve a summer of healing recuperation among people who genuinely nurture and restore you. Unfortunately, those people are not your parents. What they did is not only totally inappropriate but also spectacularly cruel and ignorant.

Please feel free to go and have the summer you should have instead of being forced to share space with people who are very misguided about how to show love and respect to a fellow adult. If you feel like telling them why, I think making an announcement and not taking questions/comments is the way to go. If you want to leave and hand them a letter, also good. If you want to leave and simply tell them that you've made changes to your summer plans and will contact them when you're ready and not before, totally great. Whenever you feel ready, whether that's tomorrow or a year from now, it's absolutely fine to tell them that if you ever hear anything from them that refers to your health or weight, you'll leave/hang up. Then do it.

As a fellow fat who was raised with toxic ideas and practices around food/body shape/health/weight, I can tell you it's possible to have a relationship with parents who no longer make any comments about my body. Zero comments. If my 80+ year old parents can do it, so can yours.
posted by quince at 6:58 PM on June 22, 2021 [5 favorites]


Response by poster: I am guessing this will get better with time, but at the moment I’m not sure how to move past this even when they do, and I bet they will, get the memo (I’ve had to set lots of boundaries with these people, but mostly my mom and so this has thrown me) that they can’t comment on my body. That’s what’s made me so upset; I feel like I can’t be around them anymore because I’ll know that every time they look at me they’re judging who I am.

Sorry, no more thread sitting from me, and I’m so touched and helped by your responses.
posted by nancynickerson at 7:01 PM on June 22, 2021 [10 favorites]


Please don't discount your own pain. It's real and devastating that you thought you'd be entering a safe zone with your parents, and instead they focused on your weight. In a way they ignored all the other accomplishments you've achieved in a dreadful, terrible year. I'm so sorry for what happened and the pain it caused you.

Whatever you decide to do, please be kind to yourself. I know lots of people who struggle and agonize over the awfulness of academia, the cutthroat competitiveness. You've published! Soul sucking and not for the faint of heart. If you can survive, much less thrive in academia you have something your parents would be proud of, if only they could understand the accomplishment. Unfortunately, most people (including parents) do not have a clue about the toxicity of much of academia and think it's a gentle landing pad that is protected from most of life's challenges rather than the snake pit it is.

I think this episode with your parents is partly because of the amount of time you've been apart because of covid, as well as everyone's expectations of the "perfect" visit you all anticipated. I think they will eventually understand how hurtful their inadvertently were to you, even if they believe they came from a place of love.
posted by citygirl at 7:04 PM on June 22, 2021 [8 favorites]


I would be inclined to print these responses out and leave them, in case they think you're being a delicate flower by leaving. There are a lot of people chiming in to say that they need to knock this shit off RFN.
posted by kate4914 at 7:07 PM on June 22, 2021 [3 favorites]


I don’t think anyone here would refuse to give you permission to leave. That’s a pretty core principle, that you aren’t obligated to do stuff you don’t want to do. That said, I’ll say that I’d probably stay, because I’m kind of a contrarian asshole sometimes. (Not contrarian to other commenters; contrarian, in this case, to your parents.) I recognize that I’m unusual in that I have an ability to ignore shit like your parents are pulling. In my mind, I’m thinking “fuck them, they’re not ruining your vacation!” But you’re the one who decides what counts as ruining your vacation. If staying there would ruin it, you’re free to go.

If you choose to either stay or address this at a later time, one thing I’d suggest is to make them aware that health isn’t just physical. Not long ago I went through a bout of depression, and one of the ways I dealt with it was by eating a lot of what is commonly called “comfort food”, for precisely the reason that it’s called that. Apparently my in-laws expressed concerned about my “unhealthy eating habits” to my wife. I advised her that she should remind them that I am eating with my health in mind, it’s just that I’m eating with my mental health in mind rather than my physical. This is the tack I’d advise you to take as well. If they express concern about your “health”, remind them that, in some aspects, you’re the healthiest you’ve ever been.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:41 PM on June 22, 2021 [5 favorites]


This kind of thing is why I stopped speaking to or spending time with my grandmother. I choose myself and my mental health. I give you permission to do that for yourself.
posted by limeonaire at 7:49 PM on June 22, 2021 [1 favorite]


I told my father point blank several years ago that my weight was NOT a topic for discussion, any mention I would leave/hang up and he's pretty much respected it.

Captain awkward has discussed this several times on her site
posted by brujita at 7:59 PM on June 22, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Once when I moved house I forgot to give my parents the new phone number. When I called, my mother was panicked, thinking I'd cut contact forever.

And she knew why I might have done that.

Your parents 100% know what they did and that it sucked and why, and they're banking on you being unwilling to call them on it. Walk out with your head high.
posted by humbug at 8:06 PM on June 22, 2021 [20 favorites]


Hey, as a fellow fat ciswoman, I understand. If my parents said anything like that to me, I'd have walked out. Not out of spite or any intent to punish them, but because I would be so hurt by such a thing.

I think you should stay nearby in a hotel or AirBnB for a night or two, to give yourself some time to calm down and focus on how you want to respond to this.

Make it clear to your parents that you are deeply hurt by their words about your weight. Tell them that you love them, and that you want to have a good relationship with them. In order for that to be possible, they are absolutely not allowed to ever say anything about your weight ever again. Ever.

I lost both my parents during the pandemic, and I don't think you should write them off because of this. It sounds like there is a lot of love there, on both sides. However, I DO think you should set some clear boundaries. If they're good parents, they will respect those boundaries.
posted by cleverevans at 8:17 PM on June 22, 2021 [3 favorites]


Best answer: Hahahahahaha NO NO NO NO NO. Get out of there. Make yourself safe, immediately. The fallout will come and you'll deal with it if/when you want to, but for now, make yourself safe.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:18 PM on June 22, 2021 [4 favorites]


In case reading things helps you feel better, I really like Virginia Sole-Smith’s writing about diet culture and fatphobia. Your parents should be ashamed of themselves.

Solidarity and love and admiration to you!
posted by stellaluna at 8:22 PM on June 22, 2021 [4 favorites]


I've rewritten my response several times, so bear with me.
"Too late" are the two hardest words for a parent to hear.
Here's the deal: remind your parents that they raised a strong, intelligent, beautiful, fiercely independent adult who is fully capable of making her own decisions. You make mistakes, you fix them yourself. You don't need your parents to charge in and fix them for you anymore.
You have a support system. You have cherished friends who can listen as you unload. You have professionals that you trust to deal with the technical stuff.

What you need are your mom and dad.
What you need from them now is the parenting stuff: sightseeing trips and funny stories and catching up on all the family gossip. And they need to remind you that they have your back, no questions asked.
It's a hiccup. Part of adulting is picking your battles.
Your parents are getting worried. You are far from (their) home and they want some reassurances that the stuff under the surface is being looked after. The weight gain is just one thing to worry about.

They brought up the weight gain (with a pause to hear what else you had to disclose). You listened.
Now you are ready to drop this topic of conversation. And unless you need to discuss it with them, that's enough.

Face this head on. Get it out in the open. Set some boundaries.
Let them know you care, but they need to stop. Just stop. And let you handle this as an adult.

You've got this. Tie a knot in your patience and let them see that you are not helpless. They didn't raise you to be helpless. Give them permission to relax and stop worrying.
posted by TrishaU at 8:31 PM on June 22, 2021 [4 favorites]


Best answer: You can either leave with no further discussion or pack everything, tell them you are leaving and then go. If you allow them to treat you this way they will keep treating you this way. Seriously. You are a ROCK STAR. You did the IMPOSSIBLE. You should be cherished and celebrated.

I came in to say basically this: you finished your degree, got a job, published - and all while managing a serious chronic illness? You are amazing.

I come from a family where weight is an issue for just about everyone (including myself) and it has caused various health issues. I can understand being concerned about a loved one's weight gain when it has a serious impact on their health; I have expressed that concern to loved ones and had it expressed to me. But the big difference - and the reason that I accepted it - was that the person expressing it to me was absolutely clear that my body is my body, and that they only have concern because they love me, want me to be healthy so that I live longer, and don't care about my size so long as I'm healthy and able to be active.

In terms of what to do: the suggestions above - to go to a hotel or somewhere else restful - are good. Give yourself a bit of space and time to rest.
posted by jb at 8:38 PM on June 22, 2021 [4 favorites]


Maaaaybe you could get away for the moment -- which should let them know that what they did is a serious issue -- and give them one chance to set up a family therapy appointment with one of three professional whom you choose. That person can then explain to them how weight gain, depression, and family dynamics really works. Then, you can decide if this message really gets through to them.

The possible upside to this is large, as is, of course, the risk to your time and your peace of mind; it sounds like having a good relationship with your parents could be a wonderful gift, so maybe it's worth the risk. Just have very clear, firm boundaries, and your emotional risk won't go away, but it will be managed.
posted by amtho at 8:40 PM on June 22, 2021 [2 favorites]


Your merit as a human being has nothing whatever to do with your weight. Imagine how fucked-up your priorities would have to be to "intervene" with a family member over weighing too much when you wouldn't dream of doing so for being insufficiently charitable or community-minded or kind. You certainly have this Internet stranger's permission to leave for the night, or altogether if you want. You may want to take the night to see how you feel before making a final decision.

Quite a while ago, I used to be heavier and I told my mom (a well-meaning person, but saddled with diet programming of an earlier period) I would not talk to her at all about my weight, ever, whether it was up or down. Fortunately, she got the message, but I would've hung up on her every time she broke that rule.
posted by praemunire at 8:55 PM on June 22, 2021 [8 favorites]


Best answer: I'd like to express a different view. If your relationship with your parents is important to you and you'd like it to improve, I think there's a role you can play in that dynamic. You could sit down with them and explain to them that you understand they love you and care about you, but they need to understand that you are feeling fat shamed by the way they are talking to you, that it hurts, and do they, the parents who love you and raised you, really want to be hurting you like that. I think some approach like that could potentially open up some discussions that might be meaningful to all involved and could help lead to a more productive relationship in the future. I realize it might not feel like it should be your job to make this effort, and in fact it's not. But if the relationship is important to you, then sometimes it's worth making the effort even if you correctly feel that you shouldn't be the one that has to do that. You could even play a mental trick and think of yourself as the bigger and wiser person in this relationship, i.e., the parent, and feel sympathy for their unenlightened backwardness or however you want to perceive their shortcomings.
posted by Dansaman at 9:07 PM on June 22, 2021 [14 favorites]


Best answer: they need to understand that you are feeling fat shamed by the way they are talking to you, that it hurts, and do they, the parents who love you and raised you, really want to be hurting you like that

It's one thing if a person lets an occasional fatphobic comment slip; in this culture, that doesn't necessarily imply much beyond thoughtlessness. But people staging an intervention know that it's hurtful to the subject. They just think it's "for their own good."
posted by praemunire at 10:05 PM on June 22, 2021 [5 favorites]


Best answer: Boomers have lived through the Civil Rights Movement, 2nd Wave Feminism, LGBTQI Liberation, and more. They don't get a pass on fatphobia and should know better.
posted by brookeb at 10:13 PM on June 22, 2021 [16 favorites]


Best answer: Just as a contrast, I'm 36, afab, female-presenting, struggled with depression and mental health all my life, etc. I've always been a little heavier than my parents and recently have had to lose weight for health reasons because in my family our genetics mean that people at my weight get strokes and heart attacks at 50 and people at my parents' weight don't. When talking to my parents about this, who are in their late sixties, they both were surprised I called myself fat (I was using it in a neutral way, I'm very pro-fat as a descriptor for people who choose it themselves), and explained that they'd noticed but had never said anything about my weight because they knew it wouldn't do any good, and might upset me. I've regularly talked about my body with them, I look like a chubbier version of my mom and we talk about bras, clothes for special family occasions, my height and hairstyles and all that stuff over the years. They have only ever talked about my weight in a neutral way, as part of me along with like, my conveniently small feet or my brown eyes. They expressed happiness that I was going for good sustainable habits and aiming for muscle gain more than weight loss, and concern that I might need a pro to help me learn good forms without hurting myself. They said they figured I'd always be somewhat fatter than my mom but were hoping I could fix my cardiac health and stress levels and were surprised I was choosing exercise and potential weight loss as a route for that goal.

So like, no. Your parents don't get to use the boomer excuse. And you don't need anybody's permission to GTFO, but you've got mine anyway. An intervention??? When you've gained all of one clothing size and you're barely in the plus sizes to begin with??? Not that it would be acceptable if you were entirely spherical, either. If they think that's okay to do to you, what else do they think is okay?

If you think you need to, you could make up a lie about a friend emergency back home (maybe a foster dog emergency that conveniently gets resolved before you arrive?) You could tell them the truth, but I think it's probably smarter to either lie or say nothing, and leave in the early morning when everyone is barely awake. Then after you've had some time and distance and feel safe again, you can figure out how to communicate what you'd like them to know.
posted by Mizu at 10:34 PM on June 22, 2021 [10 favorites]


Best answer: A friend suggested that I am being rash, and that their generation (early baby-boomers) was just raised to be fatphobic and they don't know any better.

This is true in a sense - most people of all ages have been raised to think that fatphobia is just fine, and telling fat people off about their weight is a Good Thing. The thing is, that's not the point. It shouldn't stop your parents from recognising that they have hurt, not helped, you - it sounds like you made that clear enough - and wanting to not do that.
Of course you feel awful - your dad ignored the fact that you've achieved some super impressive stuff in really difficult circumstances and instead chose to have a big drama about your weight. That's silly and hurtful. You were hoping for support, comfort and rest, and instead you got this.

Go. Be with people who will give you what you hoped for from your parents. Take care of yourself. Talk to your parents about it again when you feel stronger, try again when you feel like they're ready to do better, but leave now. If nothing else, that may help them realise how serious this is and how much it matters that they do better, or at least that they will need to drop this if they want to enjoy your company.

You might find it helpful to have a look through the Captain Awkward archives, she has some very sound stuff about dealing with fat phobia and misbehaving parents.

And well done. Really. You sound like you've been an absolute star this year, you deserve recognition for that.
posted by BlueNorther at 3:21 AM on June 23, 2021 [4 favorites]


Best answer: Adding to the chorus here that it is totally one hundred per cent okay to go and also WOW you have accomplished so much that is seriously impressive full stop let alone when having to manage your mental health to the extend that you’ve been having to do. It looks like you’ve got a lot going on right now so it’s fine if you don’t want to engage with your parents further on this. As someone dealing with their own childhood trauma, I know that sometimes I’ve been in a position to put in the emotional labour to manage and/or improve my relationship with my parents and sometimes, I just haven’t. The deciding point has always been how much energy I had left that I felt I could spare and then giving myself permission to feel comfortable and oh-so-not-guilty about it. Big big hugs and good thoughts coming your way.
posted by mkdirusername at 4:09 AM on June 23, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: As tempting as it might be to stage an intervention with your father about his dramatics -- stress kills! -- I am really glad to hear that you know that this "concern" was ridiculous and inappropriate. Being a Boomer does not make it okay to treat a small weight gain as if you're using Fentanyl every day, yeeeeeeeesh.

Also, your accomplishments are amazing. I am so sorry that for whatever reasons (I suspect misogyny and fatphobia!) your parents chose to hurtfully focus on the one thing they could find "wrong"? (Gaining weight during a pandemic is not wrong, it's a cortisol response, but also gaining weight NOT in a pandemic is also just - a thing bodies do.) Is this common for them? I am guessing from the childhood trauma it might be.

Anyways, I'm with the crowd. I would definitely go.

I think I personally would say on my way out "Dad, Mum, after the conversation I had with Dad the other day I've decided to [plan]. I found our conversation the other day disrespectful and hurtful, and after reflection I am just not comfortable staying with you as planned. I'm going to head out before it has even more impact on our relationship."

I hope they will come to their everlasting senses, but as a child of dramatic Boomers who are endowed with a side of narcissism, I just wanted to steel you for the possibility that they will take this as "proof" that you are "addicted to food," "self-destructive," and whatever other tortured stuff they make up at 3 pm instead of having a nap. (And just to reiterate, they make it up. Your assessment of your health and your mental health sounds bang on.)

I feel like I've posted it eleventy million times but the way the Maintenance Phase podcast examines the cultural influences around weight has given me a lot of language and thinking to bring to bear when people are being stupid, so it might be nice to listen to from your new, respectful, peaceful holiday locale if you haven't already. OR NOT, enjoy your break!!
posted by warriorqueen at 4:16 AM on June 23, 2021 [14 favorites]


Best answer: Leave a copy of Health at Every Size as you walk out that door.

And congratulations on your achievements this year. I admire you.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:48 AM on June 23, 2021 [4 favorites]


Best answer: No advice to add, I just wanted to say that I am seriously impressed at what you have managed to achieve during the pandemic.
posted by mydonkeybenjamin at 4:57 AM on June 23, 2021 [8 favorites]


Best answer: You are doing an amazing job. If I had accomplished even like two of the many things you accomplished during the pandemic I'd consider that a win. Don't stay with them and continue to let your parents' fatphobia erode all of the hard and important work you have done on yourself. Leave, take a mini-vacay somewhere on your way home, and go back to kicking ass at your real life.

Also, speaking as a fellow chubby ciswoman - going from a 16 to an 18 is barely noticeable. I fluctuate between the two constantly. It's only a noticeable weight gain if they are LOOKING FOR IT, which obviously they are, because fatphobia. And according to many sources the average size of an American woman is between a 16 and an 18 at this point. So this concern trolling about your weight is ridiculous and insulting on it's face, Boomer or no Boomer.
posted by nayantara at 5:57 AM on June 23, 2021 [2 favorites]


Best answer: You've gotten a lot of good advice here. You have done some truly awesome things, and you have every right to protect yourself from this bullshit (and that would be true even if you spent all your time sitting on the couch watching Netflix and eating Oreos). I actually stopped visiting my uncle because I couldn't stand the comments on my weight anymore. In retrospect, I wish I'd told him that was why I no longer visited, as he died not long after, but I think it's often easier to be straight with parents than with more distant relatives. I hope that you can get the relief you need now and that your parents will listen to you so that you can eventually have a better relationship with them.

I get the impression you brought up their being boomers in an effort to understand them by pegging this as generational. As a fat boomer, I've got to say age has nothing to do with it. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance was started in 1969, and Health at Ever Size was started in the 60s. This is a very old fight, and your parents have had plenty of time to learn that this is not an OK way to treat you. (Not to mention there are plenty of fat-phobic younger people.)
posted by FencingGal at 6:23 AM on June 23, 2021 [2 favorites]


I'm so sorry this happened to you.

I don't know if your parents used the word "intervention" to you, or to themselves when cooking up this plan. It does sound like that's the model they were thinking of, and using to justify what was frankly their power trip. I want to emphasize: this was a total power trip by them. It's just the old, old story of trying to frame their feelings about your weight as concern about your health, but with this added "intervention" bullshit to (in their minds) give it more leverage. In your place, I would tell them what I think they are really doing and what bullshit it is.
posted by BibiRose at 6:51 AM on June 23, 2021


The only thing that I have to add is that I set the "do not mention my weight, ever" boundary with my mother about ten years ago, with no expectation that it would would - and it did! Ok, she occasionally tries to rules-lawyer her way around this (like with comments about clothes being "flattering"), but most of the time she really sticks with it. So this can work, go for it!
posted by Vortisaur at 7:29 AM on June 23, 2021


One more thought: if this is the first time your father has ever talked about this, or the first time he has ever heard that this is hurtful, then I wouldn't necessarily cut off contact with him. I am not in favor of punishing people because they "should have known better". People take in information in different ways, from different sources, and some people really can and do avoid all the information -- especially information about emotions and cultural shifts.

What I'm saying is: he should get one chance to learn from this.

It may be your Mom behind this ultimately; she may not have understood that he would repeat her concerns (she doesn't get a pass for talking about you to him either, though).

It would be painful for you to teach them about this, which is why I suggested having a professional (therapist) do this.
posted by amtho at 7:47 AM on June 23, 2021 [2 favorites]


You have this Internet stranger's permission to leave that house. Your parents are totally in the wrong here.
posted by Gelatin at 7:55 AM on June 23, 2021 [2 favorites]


By all means leave immediately! That is absolutely inexcusable behavior on your parents part! Sure, many people in their generation continue to behave abominably, but that does not mean that anyone past the age of 60, is incapable of changing their ways and deserves a free pass to be a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, body shamming asshole.

I'd have no problem saying to them, "Mom, Dad, it absolutely boggles my mind that you would say such things to me, when, as my parents, I Iook to you for comfort and support. Since you so grossly let me down in that area, I have no choice but to change my plans and spend my summer elsewhere. I will not be putting my very valuable self esteem at risk again. If I am to stay with you ever again, I'll need a very solid apology and I'll need to know that you fully understand how wrong this type of behavior is. Nothing less will do. Ta!"

(I'm so angry on your behalf! That must have been absolutely awful. Please know that if I, an internet stranger, had been there when this happened, I would have given your parents a big, not so pleasent and containing swear words, piece of my mind!)
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:57 AM on June 23, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I hope you're headed home or to some other fun thing now. I also just wanted to say you're an amazing incredible strong woman.
posted by kathrynm at 3:52 PM on June 23, 2021 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: You all helped me so much and I am extremely grateful. I packed and was ready to leave today, and when I explained why my father was very apologetic, really listened and understood what I was saying (which many of you helped me put into words), and implored me not to leave on bad terms. My mother was...less understanding in terms of truly internalizing the idea that you can be happy and healthy at any size, but does understand my boundary there.

I still don’t want to be here for as long as I had planned, but I feel okay staying for a few more days and leaving on good terms. I am booking a little cottage on the beach for next weekend, just for me and my many senior animals which was a great suggestion. Then up to see my sister.

I appreciate everyone’s comments more than you can know.
posted by nancynickerson at 4:02 PM on June 23, 2021 [51 favorites]


I'd leave only if its out of the realm of possibility for the parent's "intervention" to be also perceived and understood as genuine parental concern.
posted by xm at 3:47 PM on July 8, 2021


I found this article interesting in terms of giving a very broad perspective on family separation issues:

https://aeon.co/essays/modern-culture-blames-parents-for-forces-beyond-their-control
posted by Dansaman at 11:06 PM on July 29, 2021


« Older What careers might hire a history PhD and what...   |   Windows 10 no longer recognizes PIN to login Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.