Letter writer: "I like this guy, but he’s gained 20 pounds in the past year, and he doesn’t brush his teeth before bed. I’m in the health industry, so I’m very concerned. What do I do?"
Prudie: "I see you’re worried about fatty there croaking from diabetes and you raising your kids alone. So give him an ultimatum: A) No kisses till he starts brushing regularly. B) Either he gets his fat ass to the gym on a slimming program and stops stuffing cake in his piehole, or you’re outta there. P.S. People without teeth are hilarious. Also ugly."
This response, like last month’s, reveals Prudie’s hangups and preoccupations. In both cases, she assumes that the fat people in question will, if they continue their current behavior, become shamefully disabled and eventually die, probably from complications from diabetes. Then their poor wives will be alone, so tragically alone, forced to raise the kids by themselves.
It’s so multiply offensive. In no particular order, there’s the clueless assumptions that fat people are axiomatically unhealthy. There’s the nasty, cruel jokes at the expense of people with disabilities. And there’s the heterosexist idea that a single mother and kids is not a real family, but something pathetic, unnatural and inadequate.
If Prudie really wanted to give helpful advice, she should encourage the letter writer to talk to her boyfriend and find out more about his childhood relationships to dental hygiene, sugar, diabetes and food in general. She should also ask him how he’s been doing in the last year physically, mentally and emotionally. The first subject could shed some light on why he has poor dental hygiene; maybe he never had toothbrushing habits modeled, or he’s scared of the dentist, or there was that one time his uncle called him Buckteeth, so he has really ambivalent feelings about his mouth in general. The second subject could provide context for his weight gain; maybe he’s feeling lethargic, or he’s lost his appetite, or his tastes have changed, or he’s eating in part due to boredom, anxiety or depression. Heck, maybe his thyroid’s off!
With this information, the letter writer and her boyfriend can, if they feel so motivated, better figure out the actual contributing factors to his poor dental hygiene and his recent weight gain, instead of attacking the symptoms. They can then consult the appropriate health care providers or social supports and work from there.
I know, Prudie; I know…that’s too much work. Far easier to focus on the symptoms and use emotional bribery to combat the eeeeeeeeevil fats.
Didn’t anyone tell you that ultimatums never work?