I’ve been through three big weight gains and losses in my life (about 50 pounds each time). Whenever I lose weight, I get tons of comments: “You look so great!” “I hardly recognized you!” I hate these remarks. I’d like to respond: “Thank God I’m not so fat and ugly and gross anymore, right?” Or: “My body is none of your business.” I’m losing weight again now, so I’m getting barraged with comments. So far, I’ve just been saying thanks. But I’d love to express how uncomfortable these remarks make me without offending anyone. Thoughts?


For starters, stop thanking people for making you feel bad. Saying “thanks” may be the fastest and easiest way past this subject. But it also reinforces other people’s right to talk about your body (and hurt you) every time it happens. Better to ignore the comments, or change the subject, than endorse them with gratitude.

I don’t think a reasonable person would be offended, though, if you said: “I know you mean well, but your comments about my body and weight bother me. I wish you wouldn’t make them.” Or even more directly: “Let’s skip my body as a subject for conversation. It makes me uncomfortable.” You’re allowed to be straight with people, Heather. And your feelings are justified.

Now, to the scores of letter writers who will complain that my ridiculous political correctness is getting in the way of giving simple compliments: Dudes, your “compliments” are hurting people’s feelings! So, maybe, back off your impulse and consider the unintended consequences of your so-called flattering remarks.

Before You Came Around

I am the oldest child in a warm and open family. My sister is 20 years younger than I am. We’re very close and typically group text with our mother every day. The problem? The year I left for college, my parents separated. My dad up and left us. It was an ugly time. My parents reconciled about a year later, and soon after, my baby sister was born. My parents are still together, but to this day, my sister doesn’t know about the separation or her origin story. I feel strongly that, as an adult, she deserves to hear it from our parents. I’ve asked them repeatedly, but they haven’t told her. What should I do?


Let me reframe this story slightly: As a late adolescent, you were understandably distraught when your parents separated. They reconciled fairly quickly, perhaps confusing you even further. It was a dramatic chapter in your young life. Then your baby sister was born.

I totally get why this story is charged for you. But it will probably be much less so for your sister. Do you often wonder, for instance, what your parents’ relationship was like in the year before you were born? (Me neither.)

Your discomfort at keeping this secret is also totally understandable. You can force the issue, I suppose, by saying to your parents: “You tell her, or I will.” Absent a compelling reason from them to keep this from her, spill the beans. I’ll be surprised, though, if it packs much of a wallop for her. Prehistory is rarely as fraught as coming-of-age.

Also, She’s Too Young

I am 24, and my best friend (also 24) got engaged last year. The guy adores my friend, but I can’t stand him. He’s inconsiderate and arrogant. I also think she’s too young to get married. (I’ve told her all this.) She texted me about their engagement, probably to thwart my unpleasant reaction, and we haven’t spoken about it since. She’s still warm to me, but it’s awkward being together. How do I address this?


Here’s an idea: If you think 24 is too young to tie the knot, don’t! But the sad truth (for us despots) is that other people are free to marry whom and when they like. You’ve already said your piece about her fiancé. (More tactfully than here, I hope.) So, why harp on it?

Focus now on how much he “adores” her. Try to be humble, too. You have no crystal ball into their future. Tell your friend: “You know I love you and really want your marriage to work out, right?” If you can’t learn to mean it, your relationship is probably destined to wither.

An Unwelcome Alarm Clock

My husband and I live on a quiet cul-de-sac and like to keep our windows open at night. Our neighbor has a ritual of walking his dog at 5 a.m. and coughing in a loud, prolonged and disgusting manner. He wakes us up, as well as our dogs — which adds to the problem. How do we let him know that his morning routine is disturbing us?


Try knocking on his door and explaining the problem nicely. (I add “nicely” here because, unfortunately, we have no constitutional right to sleep with our windows open.) Perhaps he can cough it out before he leaves home or walk in the other direction around the cul-de-sac? Otherwise, explore white-noise machines.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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