Dear Carolyn: My wife and five of her female high-school friends (from several decades ago) have, in recent years, held a reunion, rotating among the ladies' homes around the country. One of the friends, "Angie," is dangerously obese. She has attended past reunions, but has groused, grumbled and been a severe drag on the activities of the others.
This year, the hostess has said she will not invite Angie. The ladies all basically like Angie, but no one is eager to have her be a damper on the get-together. (One or two of them live near Angie and see her once a year or so. My wife keeps in touch with her by phone every month.) Angie is putting not-so-subtle feelers out about this year's reunion, and the hot topic among the others is how to tell Angie she's not invited.
She will almost certainly find out, and no one wants to lie to her, least of all my wife. In my opinion, the burden is on the hostess. Any suggestions for my wife and the others? They can't dance around this forever.
Carolyn says: Maybe Angie's grousing put a damper on past reunions, but I find it hard to believe that a conspiracy to commit cruelty will get this year's festivities off to a lively start.
I also find it hard to believe that none of these "ladies" has thought for a moment what it must feel like to be Angie. Imagine if your wife, for example, knew that it was reunion-planning time, but wasn't hearing from any of her friends? Imagine if her questions about the reunion were pointedly not getting answered? What if your wife were obese, and therefore most likely the target of a shame campaign every time she stepped out in the world? What if her safe havens -- friends who genuinely liked her -- suddenly became hostile? What if the only reason for that were her weight?
Granted, negativity is a buzzkill from the sveltest of sources, and if these friends just don't like Angie and her agita roadshow anymore, then, sad as the story will be, they're certainly entitled to start leaving her out -- preferably by blowing up the annual reunion entirely, and reconstituting in some other, less formal way after a decent amount of time has passed.
But the way you lay it out, these friends don't dislike her heart, they merely resent that her bulk limits her, and consequently their, ability to enjoy many activities.
If true, that absolutely screams for a more compassionate solution. Certainly the friend closest to Angie -- your wife, it seems? -- can make herself known to the hostess as a conscientious objector to the exclusion in progress.
That friend can also mention to Angie that she seems to spend more time complaining at these reunions than she does enjoying them, and gently draw her out on ways to secure her contentment. Even if it involves asking Angie, in the nicest possible way, to put up or shut up, a tweak to the agenda has to be better than a high-school-style, girl-group slap to the face.