Saralee Perel

Award-winning columnist, Saralee Perel, can be reached at 

Her novel, Raw Nerves, is now available as a paperback and an e-book on

Note To Bob: Don't Tell Me I've Gained Weight

About a month ago, when I was taking a shower, I noticed that my thighs were in competition with the giant redwoods for one of the wonders of the world.  Apparently I’ve been taking this sandwich generation thing a bit too literally.  I said to myself, “Don’t ruin your life because of weight.  A few extra pounds is not a big deal.  This whole obsession with our bodies is crazy.”

I had thrown out my bathroom scale weeks ago just like the experts advised.  “And while we’re on the subject,” I continued my self-therapy, “we should never have let this pear-apple fruit business see the light of day.  My body falls more in the vegetable category, sort of a hybrid of an acorn squash and a turnip, but that’s still categorizing and I resent the hell out of it.  "Fight the fruit!” I say.  I finished my shower feeling so new age.
As I donned my million year old used-to-be-pink chenille bathrobe and headed toward the bedroom closet, my reverie was broken by my husband Bob.  He said that if I had a minute, we needed to talk.

Now Bob is such a nice guy that these really serious talks usually mean something like he caught me throwing out the celery ends instead of putting them in the kitchen compost container.  This issue comes up a lot because I hate his disgusting smelly compost.  We have the only kitchen that can boast of a fruit fly population than winters over.  But that’s another story.
“Sweetheart?”  He patted the bed so that I’d sit next to him.

“Yes, dear.”  I sat down.
“I know that this is not going to make you feel good, but, frankly, you’re putting on a little weight.  I know how important it is to you so I wanted to say something before you, well, . . . . ”
I stood up defiantly.
“Before I what, Bob?  Sink the Queen Mary with my girth?”
“No.  That’s not what I was going to say.”  He sighed.  “Please sit down.  I’m only telling you this because you’ve told me a thousand times to tell you if you’ve gained weight.”
“Well, you should have known I didn’t mean it!”  I was steaming.
He threw his hands up in the air.  “How was I supposed to know you didn’t mean it?  You can’t say one thing and mean another.”
“Oh,” I was still standing.  “Not only am I gaining weight faster than a speeding bullet, now I don’t communicate right?”
He put both hands over his face and shook his head.

I didn’t speak to him for three days.
He bought me roses, two novels and a white silk blouse.  Nothing was good enough.  He would pay for this for the rest of his life.
On the fourth day, I asked, “How bad is it, Bob?”
“How bad is what?”
“It’s not bad, really.  No one would even notice.  I just thought you wanted to know.  I’m very sorry I said anything at all.”
“Well, so am I.”  The thoughtless cad.

Bob could eat deep fried fat all day every day and not gain an ounce.  My doctor promised me it would catch up with him some day, and I planned on greeting that day with a vengeance.
That afternoon while he was rummaging through the compost just to make sure nobody had snuck in anything like fine china, I said, “When did you first notice it?”
“Notice what?”
I growled through clenched teeth, “My weight.”
“Sweetheart, please.”
“I want to know, Bob.”
“No, you don’t.”  He picked out a chicken bone and gave me a look.
“Yes, I do.  You started this whole mess.  Now tell me.”
“Well,” he took a deep breath, “when you were wearing your gray sweat pants, your rear end looked a little more spread out.”
“I’m not asking for details, Bob.”
“Oh God help me.”
“What is it, Bob, fifteen pounds?  Twenty?”  I was escalating.
“It couldn’t be more than five, really.”
“Oh yes it could.”  I went to the fridge and took out a leftover roasted chicken leg.  Slowly, I took a long drawn out bite of it before I went over to the compost container and dropped it in.  “I know it’s more than five.  How much is it?  Twenty-five?  Thirty?  You better tell me, Bob, now!”
“Okay, maybe it’s between ten and fifteen pounds.”
“You insensitive monster.  I suppose you think this whole thing is funny?”
“No, I really don’t.”  He picked the piece of chicken out of the compost and this time he knew enough not to give me any looks.
“You think I’m getting upset over nothing?”
“Well,” he said.  “You are going nuts over something that’s not all that earth shattering.”
I thought about the kitchen knife.  The serrated one.
“Now look,” he said.  “I just want you to be happy.  It’s time to get over this and stop being so mad at me.”
I thought it over and said, “Well, I want you to promise me that you will never, never tell me something like this again no matter how often I tell you to tell me.”
“I promise, sweetheart.  I really do.”
So far, Bob has kept his promise.  I was certain he would.
Every morning, when I’ve finished dressing for work, I walk into the kitchen to find him reading the newspaper, and I ask, “Does this make me look fat?”
He always says, “No.”
Sometimes, I don’t think he looks up.