Wednesday, October 6, 2010

For as Long as You Keep in Shape

Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Mark 10:10-12

When I read the morning paper, I almost always read the advice columns. My interest is a variatioin on Mr. Bennet’s pronouncement in “Pride and Prejudice” that the purpose of neighbors is to provide us with entertainment by their foibles, and our purpose is to provide entertainment for them in return.

Few things are more amusing than the folly of others.

Not long ago, a young woman wrote to Carolyn Hax.

Dear Carolyn:
My father dumped my mother after 24 years of marriage because she let herself go. I saw the entire thing as it happened: She tried to lose weight but gained it instead, she never worked again after losing the job she loved, and spent way too much time watching TV instead. They tried therapy but my dad had already checked out.
Now that I'm in a serious relationship, I keep thinking of these things and how they all happened despite my mom's every effort to prevent them. I'm in shape and employed now, but I'm terrified that someday I might wind up overweight and idle and become a different person from the one I am today, whose boyfriend loves her. I believe these anxieties are causing me to stall on the progression of the relationship. Please help!

Two things struck me.

First, all of the blame is assigned to the mother, who “let herself go.”

As a society we have an oddly split personality and lifestyle. Obesity is an epidemic, yet we are obsessed with thin. Depression is commonplace, yet we continue to believe that if everyone would just pull themselves together, it would all be okay. By this logic, it is her own fault that she gained weight and could not recover emotionally from “losing the job she loved.” And the husband is given a free pass.

Twenty-four years ago he married a young, thin, energetic woman. If she can’t continue to be that person, then he is free to go. He was willing to “have and to hold” as long as there was health and not sickness. What sort of person thinks that way?

Second, the young woman says that she is “terrified that some day I might wind up overweight and idle” and unloved. What a sad commentary. She believes (maybe correctly?) that she is loved because she is in shape and employed.

In her response, Carolyn Hax focused on the mom’s choices, not about gaining weight, but about not getting herself screened for depression and not getting counseling until it was too late. Loved ones, she said, can only do so much. “At some point the victim has to save himself/herself.”

If you’re depressed, and feel unloved (because you actually ARE unloved) that thought is probably not going to get you up off the couch.

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