Monday, March 20, 2006

Weighty Stuff

(NOTE TO READERS: Those of you who are visiting here just to read this post are also cordially invited to read the two related posts above.)

MIM`s recent post about weight gain in a marriage really hit home.

In it, she says she "work(s) to maintain my figure for myself and my husband. If I had been 160 pounds when we married that would one thing. Then it would be totally unreasonable for him to want me to be 120 pounds. But it would be false advertising if he’d married his 120 pound girlfriend and ended up with a 160 pound wife."

That`s the title of her post: False Advertising.

My husband can relate to this. He married his 110-pound, extremely weight-conscious girlfriend, and now has a 155-pound wife, and he doesn`t like this one bit.

MIM, in her post, says to a group of other women, "Personally, I think it would be unfair to Husband if I gained a bunch of weight and did nothing about it."

MIM is one of my alltime favorite bloggers, and judging from what she writes on her blog, she seems to be very happily married. So I find absolutely nothing wrong with her statement, just as I find nothing wrong with statements like, "I don`t eat any animal flesh." I start having trouble when people continue the sentences, and say, "...so neither should you," and presume that what they have decided is truly right for them is truly right for everyone else, too.

Since MIM didn`t continue her sentence, I won`t continue it for her -- I will just say that never in my life have I thought about my body weight in terms of being "fair" to my husband.

Let it be known that Hub met me when I was a very skinny 19-year old. Before our wedding six years later, I starved myself for a long time and was probably underweight to an unhealthy extent. Without going into details, I`ll say that my body was sending me many signals that said, "eat more or else!" -- but damn, do I look great in my wedding photos.

I also gained a lot of weight during each pregnancy -- my prenatal weight peaked every time at a little over 180 -- but I managed to lose almost all of it within a year of each birth, and get back to my normal adult weight range, which was between 125 and 135. I did that without dieting -- all I did was exercise and breastfeed, and the weight slowly melted away.

In January of 2005, we found out that Hub was going to be transferred to San Francisco. I gained most of my extra weight in the six months that followed -- an average of five pounds a month, that crept onto my frame as I went out for farewell lunches and dinners, said goodbye to my favorite restaurants and enjoyed lots of good wine with friends I would be leaving shortly. We did not have a reliable scale, so I didn`t notice how much I was gaining.

Yeah, I did notice my clothes getting tighter, but since I walked 2 miles each way to work and back everyday, I knew I was still in good shape, and didn`t worry about -- on any given day, I had plenty of other things to worry about first.

To be sure, there was also some classic anxiety eating. I left my job just a week before we left Tokyo in July, and Hub had to transfer to SF in March, so I did all the moving preparations myself while working fulltime and dealing with the kids. So there were those Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars consumed at the end of a hard day`s packing, those brownies baked just to smell something cooking in my lonely, empty kitchen after the movers packed most of our stuff. You know -- those "I`ve-had-such-a-stressful-day-that-I-deserve-these-extra-calories" snacks.

Overall, I recognize that my eating habits were not in a healthy, sustainable pattern, but that ended once we settled into our new life -- and once we bought a new scale, so I could keep track again. Okay, and once I stopped eating rice pudding, which I have.

But here I am, half a year later, and I`m still carrying those extra 30 pounds. And you know what? They truly don`t bother me. But oh, do they ever bother Hub.

In the past, the extra weight certainly would have bothered me. I would have dieted and exercised and not given up until I had sweated and starved my way back into a size 4/6.

I grew up surrounded by very unhealthy food attitudes. My mother has been very overweight since I was a little girl -- not just an extra 30 pounds, but enough to raise health concerns. She hurt her knee playing tennis in the '70`s, stopped exercising, and inflated like a life boat when its release cord is pulled. She was clearly jealous of her skinny daughter, and every time I had an extra dessert, she would start her routine of, "You`re going to be so fat someday. You wait -- you`ll be just like me, if you keep eating like that. "

But this was balanced out by my grandmother, with her attitude of "I-show-my-love-for-you-by-cooking-for-you, now-show-me-you-love-me-by-eating-a-lot." She would say, "You`re too skinny! Here, have another chocolate chip cookie!" Even at a very young age, I recognized some possible theories on why my mother -- my grandmother`s daughter -- got into the "comfort eating" pattern.

Between the two women, I ate like a horse, and exercised like one, too -- and stayed skinny.

Something changed, though -- and I`m not quite sure what. Why don`t I care about my weight as much anymore?

Part of it is that I`m not working fulltime anymore, so lots of my favorite size 6 work clothes would be on hangers in the back of my closet whether they fit me or not. My favorite casual clothes, my large T-shirts and sweaters, still fit me just fine. Maybe it`s because the pleasure I get from food has finally supassed any pleasure I would get from looking good in clothes -- and that I truly believe I look good enough in clothes? Maybe it`s because after a youth spent obsessing about my appearance, after I had 3 kids and turned 40, I finally started believing that looks aren`t as important as other things, like health?

And I am unquestionably healthy, according to my doctor. My blood pressure is fine, and I can climb stairs, chase my kids, even go running on the beach on nice days, and I don`t get out of breath. I don`t notice the extra weight at all -- except I catch guys staring at my boobs a lot, which rarely happened before.

As one of my American friends married to a Japanese guy in Tokyo once said to me, "It`s not about health. My husband wouldn`t care if I were tubercular -- he just wants me to be thinner."
Now, Hub is not an asshole -- or rather, he sometimes certainly IS an asshole, but not about the weight issue. He is never threatening me, or teasing in a disrespectful way. Mostly, he just sighs and shakes his head a lot, and sadly says things like, "I can`t believe you`re still hungry."

Hub didn`t want me to go to his office Christmas party, nor has he invited anyone from work to our house. When I joked that this was because I was "no longer a wife worth showing off," he got very quiet. Saying nothing at all was infinitely worse than anything he could have possibly said.

Before we left Tokyo, I talked about my weight with a few male friends of mine -- notice I say, "mine," and not Hub`s.

Their opinions were eerily unanimous: "You used to look really good before. You don`t look anywhere near as good with all this extra weight. It`s natural that this bothers your husband, because it`s really important to guys to have wives who look good -- so you really should go on a diet."

Damn. And these were my friends.

MIM says in the comments of her post, "I'm not suggesting someone becomes overweight due to lack of self-respect. Rather, I'm saying it's a symptom of it. "

I don`t seem to have any deficit in the self-respect department. I feel great, and I still truly like what I see when I look in the mirror.

I just wish my husband liked it, too.

27 Comments:

Blogger Val said...

Heavy sigh... (just popped over & skimmed MIM's comments)
I'm w/you 110%, Lisa -- it's almost a point of "honor" if that makes any sense! Our husbands are SUPPOSED to marry us "for better or for worse" etc etc & it's hard for me to put into words even now how deeply it hurt me when Ex would flash around the old pix, sarcastically asking, "Whatever happened to that skinny little girl I married?"
[A.: she GREW UP, got healthier, had a few pregnancies along the way, & last but not least, got CANCER so I had a few more important things to worry about rather than whether or not I could fit in those size 10 jeans!!!]
I won't be a complete hypocrite by saying I wouldn't like to be 30 lbs lighter (i.e. the same weight I was 3 yrs ago when I married #2 hubby), but it is deadening to think of all the years, all the time & effort wasted -- bcz of course when I WAS 50 lbs lighter (still married to #1), I thought life would be ever so much better if I could have peeled off another 20 lbs...

10:58 AM  
Blogger jw said...

From a man: yes, we do think about what used to be.

But I think that it goes both ways. From a comment that my wife made before the divorce I think that my extra 50 pounds affected her thoughts of me, along the lines mentioned that if I don't respect myself...

Oh, it is lunchtime. I have to sign off.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Granny said...

I've never been skinny but I looked pretty good until my sons' dad became ill. I managed to put on weight over 5 years without really knowing I was doing it.

Stress, depression, who knows. I thought I was doing okay but obviously there were things going on.

Fortunately to Ray it doesn't matter. We were friends when I was slimmer, he married me when I weighed considerably more, and he seems happy enough.

And why just the women? Men go bald or develop paunches (some of them anyway).

11:13 AM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

This is a gut-wrenching post, you know that? You are happy, but your husband is not. Thus you can't be entirely happy, being aware of his attitude.

I'm struck by the fact that he didn't want you at the Christmas party, and doesn't invite friends home. That's not just him wishing you were slimmer - that's him being ashamed of you. That's got to hurt to the core. And maritally, that's huge.

What do you do with that?

You could say, "I'm fine with myself. You need to grow up." Or, "You're ashamed of me for something as trivial as weight? YOU should be ashamed of YOURSELF." Which would be 100% reasonable, factual, and true.

But reason doesn't resolve the difficulty. He can - should! - try to get over this. But if he doesn't try? Or tries but can't?

What does that do to the marriage? What does that do to your perception of the marriage?

I'm really hoping you two can work this one out in a way that satisfies both of you.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous MIM said...

Oh, honey. First, let me clarify my comment: weight gain CAN be a symptom of self-respect. It isn't always the case.

One of the gals in my class also said during our discussion that she wouldn't want to be the weight she was when she met her husband because she was bulimic. Again, medical or other conditions aside, some people, like the woman I mentioned in my post who admitted to getting comfortable and "plumpin up" once in a relationship -- that's the person I'm talking about. I'm not talking about the cancer survivor who everyone should be happy to see with a weight gain since it's a sign of health, or the anorexic who might go back to starving herself.

With respect to your situation L, I am so sorry to hear that there is a divide between you and Hub. Feeling less physical attraction is one thing . . . but shame is quite another. Is there a cultural component to this? Perhaps there are other issues at work here. This sounds like a good situation for couples therapy. Would he be willing?

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Uncle Roger said...

If you're looking for a long-term relationship, appearance should not be a big part of your selection criteria. Y'know why? People get old. Period. Not just around the middle, but their hair can change color or even fall out, they get all wrinkly and stooped over, etc. You want good looks, you better be prepared to make a trade-in every few years for a newer model. You want to keep the same one for a long time, don't look at appearance, look for what will make a long-lasting relationship.

It should be someone who is intellectually stimulating for you, who shares your goals and values, and who respects you as much as you respect them. An equal partner in the areas that matter. (What turns me on, btw, way more than looks, is self-confidence.)

So, as they get older and change, physically, that shouldn't matter because you still enjoy spending time with them and they still turn you on intellectually.

Now, everyone enjoys the sight of an attractive man or woman. And that's fine. There are a lot of cars that I love to look at, but would hate to own. All the maintenance and care and costs simply wouldn't be worth it to own the car. But, I'm glad they're worth it to someone else so I can see them now and then driving around. Same with people -- I'm happy to have someone else buying the expensive jewellery and clothes and cars and such that it takes to support a supermodel-type, because I can check them out when they go by. At the end of the day, however, I'm thankful I have an intelligent, competent partner to go home to. (oh, and yes, I think she's hot too.)

12:54 PM  
Blogger Franny said...

Wow, this is such an interesting topic for me right now, as I read over @ MIM's it go me thinking. I agree that it makes me sad that Hub would not want to bring you out, and have people in, but I have a feeling this is his culture/upbringing isn't it.
I think I might blog about this issue soon as well.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Gawdessness said...

I thought at first that I wasn't going to get this post.
Near the beginning.
Worried because I have struggled for so long to like my body where ever it is at.
I ended up really liking it a lot and will be thinking about it a lot.

Thank you for writing so bravely about it.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Wow! I so want to hug you right now!!
I know how you feel and you feel and yet I dont.
I have gone down to the weight I was when I married my husband and I know he was unhappy with my weight when I had gained.
But I havent lost for him I lost it for me and a realization and a post that I have been working on for a few days now has me realized that I dont care what he, or his mother says, I am so happy about how I look and feel right now.
Never have I though to do it for him. It is a thought that never entered my brain, but I sooo understand what MIM is saying. I am now requiring much more thinking about all this.
My weight is so hard to control most of the time that I worrry only for me. Never have I worried for him.
hmmm
must think must think.

10:41 PM  
Anonymous rach said...

Hmmm. I think you are the exception to the rule. Most women who gain weight after marriage were at a healthy weight to begin with, not overly skinny. In your case, you were at an unhealthy weight to begin with. So MIM's post doesn't really apply to you. It applies to me - at 5 feet 11 I ballooned up to 220 from a 167 marriage weight. I am determined to get back to 167. 3 pounds to go. It's not only for my husband, whom I love dearly. It's for myself: self-respect. Who ENJOYS being fat, if they are honest with themselves?

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother's Korean and she spent quite a lot of my teen years telling me how ashamed she was of me. I can't think of anything she ever said that indicated she was proud of me. Everytime we spend a few days together, she has to offer to pay for my liposuction or boob job or nose job or something, because I'm not the thin pretty daughter that she wanted.

But...I know she loves me so much that she'd cut out her own liver if I needed it. From observing other Korean parents, I'm beginning to think it's a cultural thing. Shame has nothing to do with love. And having a child (or spouse, because she is similarly harsh with my dad) worth bragging about often means treating them more harshly because bragging/praising would spoil them.

That said, I'll be curious until the day she dies, to see if I miss her when she's gone. I can't imagine having a relationship like that with my husband. I'm so sorry to hear about yours.
- Auntie M

11:36 AM  
Blogger Tracy said...

This is my first time to read your blog. Thank you for your transparency. Even though I don't know you, I want to give you a big hug. You are wonderful just the way you are. It is so easy to fall into an approval trap--needing to feel the approval of important people in our lives to feel validated that we are okay. Just know that you are loved and wonderful just as you are!

11:37 AM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

I have been thinkin' what to say about all this and wow here is what I have come up with...nothing really just a ramble.... Enter -- mousepad psychologist.....

How is Hub really? I know you are homesick but how about him? Do you think he ever is 'afraid' you'd change living back on your turf.. so far away from his turf? Do you ever think he is nervous about ANY changes in YOU now that you are 'home'...?

Then again screw Hub.. let him get his own blog if he wants my sympathy.

Advocating for the devil...

ps.. I strongly disbelieve in ideal weight. I know a really hot ski patrol guy who got quite fat every March and then surfed it off all Summer. He made no bones about it.. now neither do I. I embrace weight fluctuations as a part of life and have been nothing but the better for it.

11:41 AM  
Blogger jennster said...

"As one of my American friends married to a Japanese guy in Tokyo once said to me, "It`s not about health. My husband wouldn`t care if I were tubercular -- he just wants me to be thinner.""

that breaks my heart.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Heather said...

I found your site through Suburban Bliss.

I can relate. My husband used to be so proud to introduce me to his business associates - "she so smart AND beautiful." Not so much anymore. It is not that he loves me less, I'm just not as attractive 50 pounds heavier. Ouch.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Mande's J-Life said...

This was good! I can totally relate to you. Even when I was in college and I was working out every day, and I looked GREAT, my best male friends used to say, "Yeah, you could stand to lose a few," when I asked them to honestly tell me what they thought of my weight.

And, yes, compared to all these skinny-minny Japanese women, of course, it seems that I should lose weight! But aside from looks, in my case, I have noticed that I am slowing down a bit, out of breath more, and my thighs are rubbing together in a really annoying way. That health check I went to last week - I got the results. I am 29 years old with a 36-year-old person's body. Now, I am not about to insult my friends, many of whom are in their late 30's, but it feels sad to me.

The thing is that my husband, who often makes fatty comments about my body, constantly complains about his own weight - he looks about 5 months pregnant - but he continues to eat junk food like a maniac and he blames the bloated stomach on his liver problems. Not so sure about that one but we are getting off subject here.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Misfit Hausfrau said...

These posts over the past couple of days over at MIM's site and yours have been such a kick in my (huge) stomach for me.

Methinks I have some issues I need to sort out.

That was really well written

7:43 PM  
Blogger Mande's J-Life said...

There is a theory out there that men have a tendency to hope their wife is un-attractive in other mens' eyes, so they subconsciously encourage the weight-gain, even though they make comments about it at the same time.

It seems like bullshit at first glance, but when my brother sees my parents' relationship, he swears by this theory. My mom used to look like Twiggy and now...she doesn't.

Any thoughts on this?

6:01 AM  
Blogger zeldafitz said...

"Maybe it`s because after a youth spent obsessing about my appearance, after I had 3 kids and turned 40, I finally started believing that looks aren`t as important as other things, like health?"--that is the crux of the matter--or it should be. This is an agonizing topic and I'm not sure there's a resolution. Are we supposed to be "trophies" fit for showing like dogs in a dog show? Or life partners?

I'm going with the life partners.

Which is not to say I don't agonize every day over the fact that I am not the wraith-like sylph my husband married 12 years ago...alas...but he says I'm beautiful...must love him even more now that I realize how judgemental so many men are...

9:11 AM  
Anonymous UK Male visitor said...

My wife's weight has varied significantly since we met. She is indeed heavier now (so am I for that matter). I do not care one jot. I am more attracted to her now than when I married her. She's still the person I fell in love with.

I'm very glad you are happy with your appearance. I'm not sure if it was your intention to portray him this way but your husband appears to me to be an immature and insensitive pig.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous lavonne said...

I left my first husband because of his constant criticism about my extra twenty pounds, but the damage had already been done. I have felt unattractive and insecure ever since, and have made some terrible life mistakes because of it. Your post made me understand why he was so angry with me. It wasn't about my failure to be hot enough for him to enjoy sexually; it was about failing to be man's ultimate status symbol--a knockout wife. I'm so glad I left.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Dr. Beads said...

I think it is very much a "guy thing" to expect a real, live woman to change her appearance (incl. the size/proportions/color of her body parts) on demand -- on demand of the male, that is.

I have never disparaged a boyfriend's or spouse's weight, muscle tone, general body type, hair loss, etc.

On the other hand, boyfriends (in the remote past) and my spouse (for the last umpty-ump years) have never seemed to feel awkward about suggesting (sometimes strongly) that I look "like that" (gen. like a tall, skinny blonde woman with no hips), that I lose weight, that I exercise more (specifically to lose weight), that I grow my hair longer, that I cut my hair short again for chrissake because now it's so huge...

True, I wouldn't mind being taller, but Godsdamnit, a short, mesomorphic brunette with curly hair, whose remote antecedents were most likely peasants, is never going to be a tall, skinny, ectomorphic blonde with long, straight hair.

I blame the patriarchy.

11:53 AM  
Blogger belledame222 said...

Heya,

Found your site via Bitch/Lab (http://blog.pulpculture.org/2006/03/22/feminism-its-a-process-not-a-product/), read through the previous posts at MM's. I'm pretty familiar with the two sites in the loosely defined feminist blogosphere that touched on this. One I read more than the other these days.

anyway, just wanted to say that I thought this:

MIM, in her post, says to a group of other women, "Personally, I think it would be unfair to Husband if I gained a bunch of weight and did nothing about it."

MIM is one of my alltime favorite bloggers, and judging from what she writes on her blog, she seems to be very happily married. So I find absolutely nothing wrong with her statement, just as I find nothing wrong with statements like, "I don`t eat any animal flesh." I start having trouble when people continue the sentences, and say, "...so neither should you," and presume that what they have decided is truly right for them is truly right for everyone else, too.

Since MIM didn`t continue her sentence, I won`t continue it for her --

**
...was right on, and is a standard I wish like hell more people would use when it comes to talking about hot button stuff.

Personally I'm a gay woman, but I'm hardly immune to the body image stuff we all get beamed at us...or indeed the urge to people-please (which isn't limited to husbands!)

3:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope this isn't a generational thing. I'm 40, and I can say that my husband (and every other man I've ever slept with) has always loved my body, which was 130 and size 8ish when I was younger and 170 post my twin pregnancy and size 12 now. It might help that I'm very busty, but I have never heard anything but "you're so sexy" "I love your breasts" etc from men, and my husband tells me how wonderful he thinks I look whenever he catches me naked (with three kids, not as often as it used to be. It's amazing, too, after that twin pregnancy my stomach does not have that smooth skin of old, and i personally don't like the way it looks. Thank God he is wonderful enough not to see it that way, because I would not have surgery with its attendent health risks in order to remain appealing to him).

I think you all might be with men who have been overly exposed to the skinny-hungry media, or something. In all honesty, I always thought it was women who were this critical, not men. I have found men to be more interested in women being proportioned and rounded, rather than skinny per se. But maybe I've been lucky. That doesn't make me any less angry at the men that are being described here!

And Rath, I read your posts on MIM's blog, and I think you're right that obesity is a health problem, and very physically unpleasant for the person who is obese, and it's hard to be attracted to it, and all that, but we're not talking about obesity here. The discussion was about a women who are around 140 and a doublt digit size--gasp! size 10! which is lower than the average weight for women. I guess we all have low self-esteem. Obesity for a woman of average height stars where--around 200? 140 is high average weight for the woman of average height, and not considered a health risk or overweight. For men to be disappointed that women are not super-skinny, which is rather difficult to be and by itself not a matter of health, is disappointing. I would say it's just an idiosyncracy, like preferring women with large breasts or dimples or whatever, except that it's clearly based on the judgments of a rather messed up, diet obsessed society, and it's not good for women, so instead I will say it's messed up.

I assume you all know that in past eras when being chubby was a sign of wealth (and probably health--when infectious disease was more of a problem, and food shortages occurred), weight was not disdained as it is now. So it needn't be this way, it may be rather snobby and "I am the skinniest person in the room--how great I am" obnoxious, and not all of us are this way even now--some of us prefer the 140ish woman and the 170ish man with solid, warm bodies rather than the bony, skinny, boyish woman and the girlyman. We are not all upset that we are not size 2s, and many of our men do not want us to be that size.

8:15 AM  
Anonymous louiseculmer said...

I can't believe there are so many women with shallow, selfish husband who only value them for their weight! My husband and I have been together 24 years now, and both of us have put on weight. My husband never ceases to tell me how gorgeous I am, and can't keep his hands off me. The shallowness of some men astounds me. And how is being obsessed with your weight a sign of high self-esteem? Surely it is rather a sign of arrested adolescence, if you can't get beyond a purile obsession with your size that is more appropriate to a neurotic teenager?

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Hattie said...

Well, I married a 22 year old Greek god with golden hair and a perfect body. Now he's a bald pot-bellied old guy in his 60's. I still love him through all the changes, and he returns the compliment, although I'm not the sylph of yore.
BTW: looking up the spelling of "sylph" in the dictionary, I find that sylphs are said not to have souls. Maybe a soul is what you get after you're not a sylph any more!

1:03 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

"As one of my American friends married to a Japanese guy in Tokyo once said to me, "It`s not about health. My husband wouldn`t care if I were tubercular -- he just wants me to be thinner.""

that breaks my heart.


That turns my stomach.
As does the behaviour of the poster's husband. Keeping ones spouse in/away from social gatherings because he's ashamed of her weight (and we're not talking about grotesque, morbidly obese fat here):

Abuse, pure and simple.

1:31 PM  

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