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Am I Shallow Hal?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  August 25, 2010 09:04 AM

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Q: Hey Meredith,

I am a long time reader but first time submitter.

I recently met an unbelievable girl. The natural chemistry is something special, we share a great sense of humor and many shared interests, and I find myself inventing ways to make her smile every day. She does the same for me. We are both divorced 30-somethings who have dated a bunch since our respective divorces. The catch is that while I care for her deeply, she is the heaviest girl I have dated by a fair margin. She is extremely pretty, but doesn't take care of her body much at all, despite mentioning here and there that she'd like to lose some weight. Part of the reason is that she has kids, so with all of the demands on the shoulders of a single mom, the gym is hardly a top priority. But every other weekend the kids are with their dad. Aside from exercise, she has also demonstrated a poor diet as she chooses pizza and nachos over more moderate choices when we go out. This is a little hard for me because while I am no gym rat, I work hard on my fitness and diet and take pride in my appearance. She does take pride in all other respects ... she dresses nice and looks great when we go out, except for the extra weight she carries.

I don't need to be with a size 2 or anything. It is actually less about the size and more about the attitude. For example, I find myself more attracted to the size 10 busting her butt at the gym than the inactive size 2 who eats chocolate all day because her metabolism allows her to do so without consequence. It is less about the result, and more about the attitude for me. And right now, it is a turn off.

Sometimes I feel guilty and stupid because everything else about this girl is amazing. The physical attraction just isn't quite there, but it could be. And that is the torturous part. Am I wrong to want a girl who makes me weak in the knees at the very sight of her? She is really pretty, and I think if she slimmed down via a more sensible diet and reasonable amount of exercise, my knees would be giving out regularly. I really want to find her as physically attractive as I find the rest of her, but right now it isn't happening. At this point I should note that I am not a rookie when it comes to dealing with women and image issues ... my ex had an eating disorder and struggled with related depression for years.

So how do I even begin to approach this subject without a) hurting her feelings, b) creating a body image issue that she currently doesn't have? This girl is pretty thick skinned, but after experiencing what my ex went through, I may be a little hypersensitive to subjecting her to what my ex endured. I couldn't forgive myself if I was responsible for bringing that into someone's life ... it is truly horrible. But at the same time, there could be something special here if I could just get past this hurdle. Is it worth it to address it? If so, how do I do it? Or am I being Shallow Hal?

– Wishing For Weak Knees, Massachusetts

A: You're not Shallow Hal. You're just ... Honest Hal. Shallow Hal wouldn't even approach this woman. You're wishing and hoping that you'll suddenly be attracted to her. You're feeling guilty about a pretty honest, natural thing.

You're also not wrong for wanting to feel weak in the knees at the sight of your significant other. Usually, the more we get to know and adore someone's personality, the more their physical flaws become things that make them unique. A big gut starts to look like the perfect place to rest one's head. A limp becomes a swagger.

For that reason, I think you should give this some time. You said you met her recently, which means you haven't had much context. You haven't seen her running around with her kids for two hours before she has that plate of nachos with you.

If her lifestyle is still a turn-off after you've seen more, you can tell her that you fear your health priorities just don't match up. Because at that point, they don't. If you're constantly wishing that you could change the person you're with, it just doesn't work.

But for now, see if she grows on you.

Readers? Should he tell her that her weight is an issue for him? Is it unfair to expect a single mom to order salad after a long day? What’s going on here? Work it out.


– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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