Her mother-in-law is a fat-shamer

"Opt out of spending time with this Hydra. And please, for your own well-being, explain to your husband exactly why."



March 10, 2021 - 9:56 AM

Dear Carolyn: My mother-in-law is 75 and in great shape, yay. She’s also a fat-shamer, harping endlessly on diet and exercise — at least once a day, every day when we visit — and saying things like fat kids are better off dead than living with their health problems. At her brother’s funeral she marveled out loud at the weight gain of the sister-in-law. We were told to pack workout clothes because forced gym workouts on their guest pass are a thing now.

My husband writes all of this off as harmless because she never insults anyone directly to their face. I am at a loss for what to do. I can’t even leave the room, because I just know she’s inwardly criticizing the size of my butt as I walk away. Any advice?

— At a Loss

Carolyn HaxCourtesy photo

At a Loss: Which is worse:

1. Saying, “Fat kids are better off dead than living with their health problems”?! (Omg.)


2. Declaring her “harmless” because her insults aren’t “to their face.”

Please, please tell him it is not harmless to you: It upsets and disgusts you and ruins visits because it’s pathologically cruel.

Then opt out of spending time with this Hydra. Please, for your own well-being, explaining to your husband exactly why. Unless he has some other way to address it that he’s willing to take on.

You can leave the room, too, by the way. Anything she says about your butt only proves she is one herself, in addition to proving your point.

Re: Fat-shamer: It’s a two-step plan: 1.”Wow.” 2. Walk away. P.S. Your butt looks great.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Thanks! Oh, wait.

Dear Carolyn: My sister is expecting her first baby. The father is only marginally involved, though he lives nearby. Commitment issues. For the whole two years they’ve been together, including the time she’s been pregnant, they have a routine going where:

1. They share some blissful experience, leaving her sure they’re going to get married;

2. He chickens out and announces he isn’t sure about the relationship and needs time to himself;

3. She starts moving on with her life and like clockwork he starts missing her:

4. Repeat.

We’re somewhere between phases 2 and 3 right now, so I (veteran mom) am attending her birth classes with her. There is a good chance I will also be her birth partner when the day comes.

It’s madness; the daddy is local and perfectly capable. A couple of times now, he has reached out to me to shower me with gratitude for supporting her at these classes. No addressing why he did not come himself. No indication that he plans to try to come to the next one. Just lame “Thank you soooo much” nonsense, and an Amazon gift card. I am thisclose to telling him off, which I would have to do behind my sister’s back and without her blessing.

What’s stopping me is how much harder it could make things for her. Am I correct about that — not worth it, right?

— Thisclose

Thisclose: Next time he showers you with thanks and plastic, just say, calmly, “Showing up is not hard. I suggest you try it.”

You don’t have to tell him off, but you also don’t have to play along with anyone’s bull.

Write to Carolyn Hax at [email protected]. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.