I was flipping through one of my favorite magazines recently and came across an advice column that had me fuming. A young woman was bemoaning the fact that her guy had gotten fat. Worse, she tells the columnist, her once fit and fashionable man had grown "lazy and fat."
Our sad gal goes on to clarify that her mate of six years now spends his weekends and nights on the sofa, "drinking beer and watching TV." She adds that they both have demanding jobs, but she takes care of herself (working out daily), and he doesn't. Despite what we might surmise is declining (sex) appeal, she nonetheless describes her man as "intelligent, accomplished, emotionally mature, kind, loving, and funny."
"I'm sick, sick, sick of women beating up on tubby guys... Take him as he is! Love him for himself! Grant him the freedom to live as he wants."
There's more to the conversation of course, including a suggestion to incite jealousy and thus motivate Mr. Beer Belly to hightail it back to the gym. But you get the gist: stop complaining, and be grateful he's a good guy.
Cue my consternation. What if the roles were reversed? What if a man were seeking advice, expressing distaste for his widening woman?
I understand the peculiarities of sexual attraction, but why is "my wife got fat" a "Get Out of Jail Free" card for men, but "my husband got fat" elicits the equivalent of "what's your problem?"
Don't think that's the case? Here on the pages of HuffPost Divorce, readers have weighed in on the subject of divorce and, well... weight.
One gentleman equates a woman's appearance to a man's income, essentially positing that if a man must provide, a woman must stay thin. Perhaps he's lacking a "fat" wallet and is resentful of a stocky spouse, as he offers this bit of mythology:
"People have a lot more control over their weight than they do over their jobs. Yet, men who don't maximize their income are fair game for criticism as being lazy or lacking ambition, while women who gain weight are perceived as victims."
Another reader indicates it's a matter of degree:
"People "weigh in" who think 10 or 20 pounds are not grounds for divorce. They can't even imagine what some people have to live with every day, like a 5'8" spouse who has gone from 145lb to 235lb... Is that OK? What would YOU do?"
Well I know exactly what I would do in that instance, and it involves trying to get to the root of the problem -- which may not yield a solution as simple as this reader thinks.
Responding in no uncertain terms, one gentleman states:
"Gaining significant weight is a betrayal of marriage. It is grounds for divorce."
A betrayal of marriage -- yikes! Do these readers adhere to a different type of marriage vow? "I promise to love, honor, cherish -- as long as you don't fluctuate more than 10 pounds -- until death do us part?"
Apparently, when it comes to the fat wife, we admonish her for letting herself go and we secretly sympathize with the man in the picture. We excuse his nights out, his wandering eye, his slip-slide into infidelity -- and even his claim that weight gain justifies divorce.
We know why women put on weight after marriage: childbirth, poor eating habits, lack of exercise. Weight gain may also result from health conditions, hormones, medications and aging. Add the challenges of the work-life juggle, stress at the office, stress in the relationship, stress over the kids and unspoken resentments that accumulate with the years. And on that last point, when there's trouble in paradise -- poor communication, lack of sex -- some of us are vulnerable to emotional eating, though we'd be wiser to sup on a hearty plate of straight talk.
All of these explanations for extra heft -- except pregnancy -- are potentially applicable to both genders. Shouldn't we ask why there's been a change in weight, not to mention behavior?
What ticks me off is the double standard. Had a man written in for advice because his woman got fat, would the columnist have said "take her as she is" and "grant her the freedom to live as she wants?"
I'm not saying that any of us take weight gain lightly. On the contrary. Overweight and obesity are serious issues in this country. But a significant weight change signals problems that demand addressing -- physical, emotional, logistical, financial.
Why must we dismiss the matter for one sex and point an accusatory finger at the other? And do we really think that "she got fat" is a free pass to cheat or justification for divorce?