Dear Carolyn: My girlfriend of two years could stand to lose about 20 pounds, which would result in increased energy (she spends a lot of time sitting around playing iPhone games), more confidence (she says she doesn't like the way her clothes fit her) and more attraction between us (I'm reluctant to admit it, but her added weight is a bit of a turnoff).
I suspect she'd have more energy and more confidence because I did when I lost about 60 pounds over the course of a few years. I'm not sure how to approach this because I don't want to sound shallow, but I'm also concerned for her health, and I'm not sure I want to be married to someone who puts on 10 pounds every two years and then sits around on her iPhone complaining her clothes make her look fat. Your thoughts?
Carolyn says: You're tiptoeing around this as if it's some delicate question about weight, and that even asking it makes you part of some superficial mob of fat-shamers.
Ask yourself: If your girlfriend carried an extra 10 or even 20 pounds and led you by the wrist to a weeknight salsa fest; or sent you e-mails about local shows or fairs or sporting events with a quick note, "Say the word and I'll buy us tickets," or used her home time to experiment with recipes or refinish old furniture, would we be having this (quasi-) conversation? Isn't the point where weight itself, as opposed to behavior, is seen as a problem the better measure of one's depth?
Your girlfriend could stand to lose … you call them "pounds," but I call them "the mind-blowingly life-squandering habits of phone staring and fat whining" — and if it makes me shallow to say this out loud, then pick another column.
I happen to believe it's sane, not shallow, for you to balk at marriage (!) with someone you apparently don't like as much as you used to. I also regard it as kind, not shallow, to let her know what you're seeing: "I find it hard to believe you're happy this way, sitting around on your iPhone and tearing yourself down. Are you?"
I suppose we could debate cause and effect, but let's tweak my original question to you: If she were 20 pounds lighter, sitting around on her iPhone complaining her clothes make her look fat, would you want to be married to that?
Dear Carolyn: Every year, my ex — who left me out of the blue for another man — contacts me to wish me a happy birthday. It always stuns me because we never communicate during the entire year, and she knows she's responsible for wrecking our relationship. I don't think she has a guilt complex as much as she wants to have her cake and eat it, too, since she's seriously seeing someone else.
For years, I've ignored her, hoping she'll get the hint. No luck there. If silence isn't working and I really don't want to change my number or my e-mail address, what's the most effective yet tactful way to tell her to get lost without opening up old wounds? Birthdays are supposed to be fun, and the last thing anyone needs on their birthday is for an unwanted ex to keep showing up.
Carolyn says: "Thank you for the call/e-mail. The best birthday gift you could give me, though, is to leave me in peace." Then block her phone number and e-mail address.
Or, skip straight to Step 2, and wish yourself a happy.
One quibble: She didn't "wreck" your relationship, she left it. Her leaving for someone else is a coward's move and hurts deeply, yes — it isn't radical to conclude, though, that someone who does that "out of the blue" already wasn't happy and merely hadn't communicated that to you. That suggests her departure was coming, even necessary, regardless.
So how about pairing your cake this year with a farewell toast to the specter of Ms. Bad-for-Me? And if you can't, then call it a pledge to find out why.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@wash post.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.