5. “Did you gain some weight?”
It doesn’t get much ruder than this. The close cousin (and passive-aggressive version) of this question is: “Are you sure you should eat that?” This is, of course, asked just as you’re about to dig into your second helping of apple pie a la mode and within earshot of everyone at the party. Ugh.
How to handle it: Your first instinct may be to deck the person instead of decking the halls or say a cutting remark in return (“Why don’t you have another cocktail, Aunt Sarah—or is the Betty Ford Center picking you up soon?”). But do you really want to create a scene that only makes matters worse and incredibly uncomfortable? We don’t think so. Instead, if you have a healthy dose of self-confidence, laugh it off. “Humor is always a good way to diffuse the situation, such as ‘Ah, that explains why I was having trouble fitting into my dress!’” says Kubiak. And then walk away with your tasty slice of pie. Adds Wallin: “When you deflect with humor you are taking control of the situation and cooling it down. It means you don’t have to feel backed into a corner.”
But it’s hard to laugh it off after being hit with a question that’s a weapon of self-esteem destruction, especially if it was said in front of others. “You can say, ‘That’s not a very nice thing to say,’” says Sbarra. “On one level it’s important not to let anyone get away with treating us poorly or putting us down, but those discussions have to happen offline.” In other words, later on, take the person aside and talk about it in private. “Come back and say, ‘Mom, I want to talk to you. Here’s the issue: I’m struggling with my weight, but today is my day off. I appreciate your concern about me, but you need to lay off.”
Navigating these questions with grace—the verbal equivalent to walking across a field laden with landmines—isn’t easy, but by coming prepared, taking a deep breath before you answer and knowing when to just walk away, you can get through the holidays in one piece—and in peace.
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