Dear Madame:Wow you sure got fat and let yourself go What happened to you

I was a thin and happy 25-year-old working in retailing when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 15 years ago. I did what I was supposed to do and gave up alcohol and cigarettes, switched to a healthy diet and habits and took my medication religiously. I’m doing all the right things but I’ve ended up fat, twenty pounds heavier and I can’t seem to lose it. My doctor says it is because of my medication that I gained weight. The problem is people who knew me when I was slim are making comments to me about gaining weight or how I let myself go. When I say it’s because of the medication they make like I’m lying with some even laughing at me. What should I do when people comment on my getting fat?


Dear Samantha,

Weren’t we all happy 25-year old slim things at some point back them? But hold on a moment while Madame gains control of the reins before she shouts to the heavens your tale of disdain. Who are these people? Don’t answer that. How about saying: “My, look at those crow’s feet!” or, “Oh my, are you quite well?  You look as if you’ve walked into a wall!”  As tempting as that may be, Madame can’t allow you to one-up rude, disrespectful people. Telling someone they’ve gained weight is rude. Commenting that a person has “let themselves go” is insensitive and presumptuous.   Calling someone a liar when an explanation has been offered (but neither deserved nor warranted) is callous. Madame doesn’t know who these people are (and there are too many of them in this world), so let’s get to work on how to deal with them.

Madame is hoping that the medication you take has a long and complicated name so that you can learn how to pronounce it. Then, when one of these individuals gives you nonsense, you say the following in the most serious voice you can muster; and please note, since Madame doesn’t know what medication you take, for our purposes she is using the Latin name of a particularly wonderful flower from her garden.

What you say is: “I take Borago officinalis from the family Boraginaceae of the species B. officinalis which is an annual herb from the Mediterranean area. It has serious side-effects, which includes interfering with my metabolism. I have quite a bit of information about this drug.” At this point the offender has probably lost interest in any further discussion.  Since we’re on the topic of flowers, you might be interested to know that although borage leaves were enjoyed for their light, cucumber-like flavor and the beauty of their star-shaped flowers; the ancient Romans believed that borage could ward off sorrow. Isn’t that lovely?

Now back to your medication. If it turns out to be an easy-to-pronounce one you could use any complicated sounding term, or, our borage flower for your purposes. If beauty doesn’t cut the rudeness another technique you may employ is to respond to the rudeness as seriously as you can. Now you must promise that you will remove all traces of sarcasm from your voice, and reply with general alarm: “Oh no, do I really look that terrible?”  Madame hopes to shame them in the moment. But one never knows. Perhaps information overload could help. Read on.

These people sound like garden variety commentators with a twist; they don’t sound like people who truly care. If these are family members perhaps you can take one of them aside and tell them a succinct version of what you’ve written here: you’ve given up alcohol and cigarettes, you take medication, and the side effect is weight gain. Show them the paperwork, you know, those printed papers that come from the pharmacy which you would have highlighted with a marker or pencil the considerably long section known as side effects. Offer it to your offender as innocently as possible. “Look here Kimmy, I saved the medical fact sheet for you.”  Hopefully Kimmy will be silenced by reading.

If none of this does the trick Madame recommends ear plugs. Every pharmacy has them. They are little spongy objects that come in a small plastic package or box.  Tell yourself: I’m going away from these people, and put the ear plugs in! Or listen to music. Better yet, if it is possible for you,  go for a walk. A walk can do wonders. Madame has said it before.  It will not only take you physically away from rudeness but emotionally as well.  When you alter your physical atmosphere you alter your mental space as well. Fill your senses with new sights and sounds.

Samantha dear, twenty pounds, while not insignificant, can be dealt with. If you are serious about losing a few of the pounds, talk to your doctor and see what can be done.

Madame hopes you can shut down the commentary about your weight. She also hopes you live within easy distance of a park or garden where you can get out and experience the magnificent refreshments nature has to offer. She highly recommends it and wishes you all the best among the trees and the flowers! Enjoy yourself. It’s summer time. Pay attention to beauty rather than beasts! That’s how you conquer them.