After having two kids, being a full-time mom and a wife to a man who worked insane hours, I gained about 40 pounds. They crept on; I didn't hog out on anything, but there you go. I knew I should do something about it, but I just had other shit to do, you know? Then one day I was getting out of the shower and I saw my husband look at me when he didn't know I could see him. The look in his eye I will never, EVER forget. It was sad, regretful, unhappy, with a tinge of disgust. I hate to write that, because it makes him sound bad, but he isn't. He's a man who married a 22-year-old hottie only to wind up with a 35-year-old fattie.

I got my ass to Weight Watchers that afternoon.

I struck a deal with him: I found the babysitter; he paid. I went to water aerobics twice, sometimes three times a week; he paid the gas and class bills and cheered me on.

Within one year I lost 35 pounds.

It's been 10 years and I have lost a few more pounds, learned to belly dance, and we're celebrating our 25th anniversary on New Year's Eve.

Here's how I see it. If you marry someone and ask that person to refrain from ever fucking anyone else ever again, you'd better be the best possible fuck you can be. And that includes staying fit. It's a matter of respect. Respect for your partner. A partner who gets fat is saying, "I want to overeat more than I want to please you." That's the fact, jack. You can spin it any way you want, but an overweight person is indulging themselves rather than their partner. Fact. Also a fact is that dieting is even harder than not cheating on your spouse, and I mean that. But it can be done and if you wholeheartedly want to please your spouse, you value him more than Doritos with sour cream and Baskin Robbins Nutty Coconut ice cream and pizza with extra cheese. At least most of the time.

Mary

•••

HARD's e-mail reminded me of my very first relationship, in which my skinny vegan boyfriend of roughly three months wrote me a four-page, nonspellchecked, typewritten manifesto attempting to be "honest" about our relationship. He was "not as attracted to me" as he "felt a boyfriend should be." Hurt and confused I asked if he thought I had a weight problem. He said, and I quote, "Well, kind of." So I dumped him. I am 5-foot-6 and I always put on weight over the winter, when my grandma sends cookies and I can't be active outdoors. At the time he wrote the letter I was somewhere between 150 and 155 pounds, 10 pounds heavier than when we met. The only weight problem I had was the asshole vegan hanging on my back.

The difference is that HARD is married to his wife. In a marriage people should be able to be honest with each other and work through problems. I assume that HARD's wife knows her husband at least a little bit and knows that he is not a total motherfucking asshole. I also assume that she would prefer having her feelings hurt verbally and perhaps emotionally by a loving, still-faithful husband than having her feelings hurt and trust betrayed by a husband who has cheated on her, or worse, left her.

Keep the columns coming!

My New Boyfriend Thinks I'm Hot

•••

I was in a situation similar to HARD's. When I met my wife, she was a bit chubby, but still really hot. Years went by, and she gained a lot of weight, becoming less hot. And our sex life suffered, dwindling down to (at most) once a month of sometimes not-so-good sex. Anyway, I felt like a shallow asshole for being less attracted to her, but that's what was happening. Eventually I was completely honest with her. I told her I was less attracted to her than I used to be because of the weight gain. She was (understandably) upset, and I felt really bad for hurting her feelings, but at least I was honest with her.

Since then she's lost nearly 100 pounds, she's smoking hot again, we fuck like rabbits, our relationship has improved, and now we're married. There's a happy ending for you.

Her Honest Husband

•••

Re: HARD: I'm not really sure what the point of your recent exercise in audience manipulation was, Dan, except to point out how crazy we bitches are. OMG, different women have different ideas about how to talk to a woman?! What a fucking revelation!

We're not a single, irrational monster made out of pussies, Dan, although I'm sure you've had nightmares to that effect.

People have different perceptions about how to talk to a woman versus how to talk to a man about the same subject. Does that make them guilty of thought crime? Oh, yeah, I forgot. We're just irrational, insane pussy monsters. We have to have inconsistencies between us pointed out by a sane, rational man. Thank you, Dan. Thank you for setting us... straight. It's just like I've always said. Gay men are no less misogynistic than straight men. They just have no reason to pretend to be nice to us.

Fat Happy Bitch

•••

Yes, a fat person doesn't need to be told they're fat—they know. But they may not know the effect it has on their partner. And frankly, when you're married, sometimes you do things for yourself, and sometimes you do things for your partner. If HARD's wife has shown she doesn't want to do it for herself, then he has no choice but to lay it on the line. And the truth is going to hurt no matter how much whipped cream you put on it.

My new wife and I have a series of premarital agreements: one of them is the "no schlubs" rule. We're both fit and attractive, but if one of us gets fat or out of shape, the other has the right to demand immediate corrective action. No arguments, no whining.

Matthew in Los Angeles

•••

I'm a 24-year-old woman, and about a year and a half into my relationship with my wonderful boyfriend, I got a desk job that is stressful and keeps me sedentary for 45–50 hours a week. I started gaining weight, and couldn't get it together enough to take control of the situation and start eating better and exercising. After I had gained almost 20 pounds, my boyfriend (who has the metabolism of, I don't know, a Brazilian supermodel) had a sweet yet frank talk with me, and offered to help me get back my previous hotness, because while he loves me for who I am, he didn't want to lose the additional perk of having a girlfriend who is not only cool and funny, but also hot.

It was hard to hear, but it actually felt good to talk and be open—it sure beat my inner monologue, in which I told myself that I was completely undesirable and probably going to get dumped any day. It of course felt great to know that he loved me enough to talk to me about it and help me do something about it, and every time I felt like skipping a workout or going to Dairy Queen, I just thought of how difficult it must have been for him to have that conversation with me, and how I couldn't let him down.

He helped me by also starting to eat healthier food and bringing me a healthy lunch when I didn't have time to take a real lunch break, and doing household stuff that I usually do, like laundry and vacuuming, so I could take the time to go for a long walk or run after work (he is pretty much perfect, seriously). I've lost almost all the weight I gained, and I'm actually in better shape than I was before. Sex is great again, we eat better, and I feel WAY better about myself. My boyfriend is certainly not an asshole for telling me that my weight gain was a problem, and neither is HARD.

HARD's wife is probably feeling as bad about herself as I was, and just needs a nudge to get herself on the right track. I think it would really help her out if HARD also committed to make the same changes that she makes, like eating better, so she doesn't feel like she is the fat one who has to eat lettuce while he gets to eat pizza with ice cream sundaes for dessert. He also needs to support her in terms of helping with things like housecleaning, bill paying, poop scooping, making dinner, etc. Part of the problem could be that she feels like she has to deal with all of the day-to-day stuff and therefore doesn't have time to take good care of herself.

Hotter and Happier

•••

My husband of 30 years stopped initiating sexual contact with me and virtually all physical contact. After a year or so of celibacy I asked why. He told me that I'm too fat. The fact that he is well past his prime wasn't part of the conversation. Now I've found a lover who thinks I'm beautiful, exciting, fascinating, and the sexiest damn woman who has ever walked god's green earth. We have spectacular, cosmic, mind-blowing sex as well as an enormous amount of fun. If my husband ever finds out and disapproves he can move his skinny white ass out of the house or take a thin lover himself. At 55, I'm not spending the next 30 years of my life without sex and intimacy.

My Husband Is A Skinny Jerk

•••

This might not work in HARD's case, but it's always worth a shot.

I used to be fairly fat and I was fat because I was depressed. My husband sat me down and said, "Sweetie, you aren't happy. I'm worried about you. When a beautiful person like you stops taking care of herself, it means that there is something wrong."

And I started crying, and said that I was trying but I just couldn't seem to make myself do anything. He said that it was okay. He took me to the doctor and got me put on meds for the depression. He also had my primary care physician look at me, and discovered that I had polycystic ovaries. I still had trouble making myself exercise, so he didn't give me a choice. "Exercising helps depression. I'm working out, and you are working out with me." When I'd grumble or call him names, he'd usually make me laugh so I didn't kill him.

Now I exercise without his prompting, and I watch my own diet. I'm skinny again, and our sex life is much better because he's actually attracted to me again. He didn't tell me he wasn't attracted to me when I was heavy, because he knew that telling me that wouldn't help. Frankly, if he'd told me that while I was sick, I'd probably have killed myself.

Now, I'll admit that my husband put in a whole lot more work than most human beings are willing to put into their spouse. My husband deserves sainthood, if living atheists can get such a thing.

Former Fatty

•••

Looks fade over the years. Losing your good looks is one thing, but losing a lifetime of love and companionship is gonna be a lot harder to deal with in your golden years. HARD should remember the words "for better or for worse."

My advice is, yes, be honest, but be tactful, loving, and reassuring. Even a little white lie of saying you think she's still attractive to preserve her self-esteem is advisable. I'm sure she knows she has a problem, and I'm sure she's heard it from her doctor. The health card is also important because she's gonna pay for that extra weight down the road with high blood pressure, joint problems, and all the other problems that come with obesity. So play that health card. Join a karate class, or something you both enjoy, and make it fun.

Now comes the harder part, HARD: Concentrate on what made you love her in the first place, and fantasize! Smoke a little weed, watch some porn, and put that brain into action! Enjoy her beautiful skin, hair, and scent and think about what turns you on, too. If HARD cannot do this for her, she deserves better.

Further Along The Trail

•••

I thought your advice to HARD was sound—and I wish I had received the same advice years ago.

My wife experienced a profound weight gain soon after we married. I tried to pretend that her weight wasn't an issue for me, that I loved her no matter what, and so I avoided the topic. Sometimes she would admit her weight problems during self-deprecating outbursts, and I did play the "health" card a few times amid my usual comforting statements, but to no effect.

What I never did, on this as well as other issues, was be direct and honest. I didn't want to hurt her feelings. And so my attraction to her waned to the point that I fell out of love with her. Now I've left her and we're headed for divorce, and I've crushed a very good person.

Maybe HARD is headed for the same fate, and maybe even the direct approach won't work. Maybe it wouldn't have helped me either, but I sure wish I gave it a shot.

Another Male Asshole

•••

Good luck sorting out the weight/honesty shitstorm. I got into a relationship a year or so back where I was totally smitten with this girl. Shortly into getting involved, she told me that she didn't find me physically appealing. It was no surprise, I was 50 pounds overweight. I suppose I could have been hurt about it, but shit—she was laying naked in bed next to me when she said it, and I loved her so much that if it meant losing weight to keep her, then I'd fucking do it.

I started exercising, started eating a healthier diet, and she was encouraging and supporting and positive toward all the steps I was making. I worked to lose 40 of those 50 pounds and I'm on my way to losing those last 10. That relationship didn't work out for reasons besides the weight, but I'm grateful to her for her honesty and the result it's had on my health and my energy, and when I feel ready to date again I know it won't be that hard to find someone interested.

Her honesty, painful as it was, was one of the best things to happen to me in the last few years.

Not Fat No More

•••

So the whole HARD thing was... what? A sting to expose your female readers as double-standard-using harridans? Your comparison of the reaction to the two columns is just facile—maybe the advice you gave both was bad? But I guess that wasn't the point, was it—you just wanted to write a column about how your female readers suck.

You counsel a lot of people to DTMFA, which I usually think is kind of harsh, but for once I'll follow it, and take your site out of my bookmarks.

Toff Toff

•••

I was reading over what you wrote and received regarding the should-he-or-shouldn't-he-tell-his-fat-wife-to-become-less-fat question. You mentioned the fact that women who want men and gay men both suffer from being under the eyes of men. But women have the added baggage of being under the eyes of men pretty much from birth while gay men start having to worry about it when they start wanting men, which doesn't occur till puberty.

The importance of a good physical appearance is drummed into little girls from day one. Beauty in little boys is probably not considered a bad thing, but, unless a little boy is unusually ugly, I doubt he is going to have to worry much about whether his parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, bus drivers, or peers find him pretty. It's what makes my little 3-year-old niece dress up like a princess and refer to anything she thinks of as good as "the pretty thing."

Does that mean that honesty isn't good or that all women should be allowed to get chunky, zitty, and gassy while their spouses close their eyes and plug their noses? I would say no. But it does explain things a bit.

My Imagination Failed Me

•••

My parents were happily married for 29 years, but my mother was greatly overweight—she liked eating. My father wanted her to lose weight but knew that you can't say "you're fat" to someone you love and who you won't leave.

One day she dropped dead. She had just passed her 50th birthday.

I'm not a doctor and I can't say that her pulmonary thromboembolism was caused by her obesity. But I can't help thinking so.

We all miss her. And all I can say is that I wish someone had had the courage to tell her to lose a few dozen pounds.

Now can we get back to the freaks?

There Is No Excuse For Obesity

•••

I’m a lady who lost a relationship because I got too fat, and I have to say that your original “cobbled together” advice for HARD is, unfortunately, probably pretty right on for most people. The sad fact is that most men are frozen in their tracks by a fat woman. Another sad fact is that some of the time—more often than people like to admit—health issues that are out of a person’s (immediate) control are behind a midlife weight gain.

In my case, it was a misdiagnosed and undertreated thyroid condition that took several years to get under control. The result was a big, fat weight gain and the end of a relationship that I thought would last a lifetime. I’m still having a hard time losing the weight, but it’s coming off slowly with medication and exercise. I expect to work at it another couple of years before I can get back to anything like I was at 29.

So, that’s my sob story. And, of course, I wish that I had been with the kind of man who could have had compassion and understanding when my formerly healthy, strong, athletic body seemed to disappear overnight. Unfortunately, he did what a lot of guys do in this situation: First he ignored it, then he was patronizing, then he was frigid, then he was cruel, then we broke up.

Most men would never consider such a course if I’d had cancer, but because I had an autoimmune disease that was hard to see, hard to diagnose, and hard to treat, I’m now 37, unmarried, childless, fat, and, as far as I can tell, virtually undateable as far as most men are concerned. My standards have lowered quite a bit from my past days of hotness. I’d be happy to date ANYONE. But, no matter who the guy is, he just seems to want some thin hotty. (Leaving aside guys who just love fat chicks, who I’m reluctant to date because I still don’t really identify as a “fat chick” and wouldn’t want to get stuck in that role for life, either. Oddly, I would like to be able to be in a relationship with someone who is into me regardless of my body size! Go figure!)

My take on your advice to HARD and the whole controversy, then, might surprise you. Men dating women who get fat and can’t deal with it because their compassion and depth are lacking, yes, yes, by all means, bail. And tell her why you’re bailing—or else she might think it’s for something meaningful, like her words or deeds. Do her the favor of getting the hell out and take your condescension and contempt out of her life. She’ll be upset; everyone hates getting dumped. But losing a guy like HARD—who has no ability to see past the moral panic of dating a fat girl, someone who is too much of a coward to face the fact that things change, bodies change, and life is complicated—is probably the best thing that could ever happen to her, even if she ends up fat, single, childless, and 40.

Or, if you don’t want to be the world’s biggest dick, why don’t you dig in, explore the health issues, explore the psychological issues, sympathize, empathize, rebond with your now-fat love, and try to move toward the future and to health together in a way that works for you both and is realistic. Nobody gets fat in a vacuum; if it’s a hormone issue, an eating issue, a slovenliness issue, a self-care issue… those are all real, treatable health conditions like depression, anxiety, or maybe something that just makes you fat, like my thyroid thing. And try to remember: You’re not going to be healthy and beautiful forever, either.

Fat And Truthful

•••

Thanks to your totally honest advice to SAS and HARD, I now have a chance to have in my life permanently my beautiful (unhappily married) lover of two years. He made the final decision to leave his marriage after reading your response to SAS. He finally found the courage to leave a wife who does not turn him on and has not done so for years. She also let the sex decline to about five times a year shortly after they married 13 years ago, and then let herself totally go. Any attempts by him to address the low-sex issue in honest conversation over the years were vigorously discouraged.

This guy is a stunning lover, beautifully endowed, handsome, funny, kind, charming, witty, a gifted musician, and a great dad. He started his affair with me after 11 years of this nonsense.

He and I now have the prospect of a life filled with fun, lots of delicious sex, connection, communication, celebration, sharing, and honesty. And we are not going to waste it. People who are seriously overweight, or seriously not interested in sex, who crack a sad when their partners vote with their feet—wake up. I am not slim, but I sure as hell make an effort to stay in a size 16 zone, despite postnatal depression in my 20s, some serious illnesses in my 30s, and a first unhappy marriage. I have self-esteem issues, but I took them by the balls and worked on them (still do) till they became manageable. There is no excuse.

Dan, you give the most honest, no-bullshit advice I have read anywhere, and if people do not want to hear the truth about themselves, they need to grow up. I LOVED that you turned the tables on the bleeding-heart whiney-arse fatty sympathizers, whose sappy advice was subsequently rejected and vilified by other readers.

To all the dutiful and frustrated spouses out there: Be honest and leave, compassionately, and get your lives back. To the overweight and boring whiners: Get up, turn off the TV, go outside, walk around the block. Think about the gift of life, your body, what it means to have one, and start to value it. Get in touch with it again. Get gastric banding. Don’t drink shitty, sugary soft drinks. Buy less stuff. Eat less food. Weight is a health issue—a potentially lethal health issue—and a mental-health issue. Deal with it.

Thanks again, Dan, and never stop being honest!

R. M.