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My wife asked me the other day if she was looking fat, so I said yeah, I'd noticed she'd packed on about 20 pounds. Now she's sulking, calling me "Baldy," and saying I'm heartless. Hey -- she asked! Why can't women handle the truth?
She Says: Let me do a little role-playing for you. When she asks, "Does this ______ make me look fat?" your answer is no! In fact, the answer to any question with the word fat in it is no. Do not ask me to explain. Do not ask me to justify. At some point she will decide for herself she is unhappy about the extra pounds and she alone will do something about it. Until that time, just shut up and take my advice. You will lead a happier life.
He Says: Come on, guy, answers to a wife's questions about weight and age call for subtlety (if not outright lying), especially if you're a poster boy for the Sy Sperling Hair Club for Men. Instead, call to your addled mind all the women who are curvy yet extremely foxy. I'm talking Catherine Zeta-Jones, Nigella Lawson, and Pamela Anderson. Then tell your wife they remind you of her. If that doesn't work, shave your head. It's your only hope.
My husband's teenage niece acted like a feral cat to me at the family get-together. Not only did he not come to my defense, but he says I'm overreacting because I said I wouldn't speak to her again till I get a proper apology!
She Says: Stick to your guns. Rude is rude, and you deserve an apology. (Be sure she knows exactly what you're mad about, though. Random teenage sulking doesn't count as an affront.) A kid who's allowed to be offensive is a kid whose family never bothers to confront her. If you're cast as the meanie, so be it. In a few years she'll be grateful that someone expected her to act like a civilized human being.
He Says: Let's face it: The response time to a teenage girl's social infraction is as quick as her hair check in a mall window. And you gotta realize that your husband is very unlikely to make any waves with his relatives, no matter how inappropriate their behavior. So just pick up the horn and say that you won't be coming to their next bash until Ms. Hormonal-Rage-in-a-Belly-Shirt says she's sorry -- and means it!
My husband and I have socialized with this other couple for years, and now they're divorcing. I intend to remain great friends with the wife. My husband says to steer clear of both of them. He's really angry about this -- what gives?
She Says: You're not taking sides. It always irritates me when men accuse women of being catty with each other and then, when we behave as true friends should, we're labeled as being anti-male. So tell your husband you and your friend don't engage in slag-fests about her ex (uh, you don't, right?); you have lives, and interests, beyond that. And if, after a while, you help her compose that perfect Match.com ad that gets her back in the game, well, that's what friends are for, right?
He Says: I say respect your husband's wishes. Continuing to socialize with the ex-wife is taking sides. Besides, do you really want to hear about Sir Scummy's lack of sensitivity and his adventures with his woe-begotten group of Scotch-soaked buddies? No, you don't, and neither does your husband, which is why he's telling you to stay far away. You'd be better off spending your time watching Divorce Court than taking part in their real-life version of it.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, March 2006.