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Carolyn Hax: Parents ‘vocal’ on how their kids’ partners should look

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Dear Carolyn: Ever since we started dating, our parents have been very opinionated about what the people my brother and I date should look like. They’ve completely alienated my brother and his wife because they were so vocal about her being all wrong for him. They wanted him to marry a petite woman because he is short, and they insisted he didn’t “look right” with a tall woman. But my brother loves tall, curvy women, and he married one. They were distraught, as if he married an ax murderer or something. She is an awesome person. They came around, but my sister-in-law never warmed to them.

They insist my boyfriends must be tall and blond with blue eyes because I am tall and blond, and that way we would look right together, and so would our children. They hate my not-tall, Greek-immigrant boyfriend. We are getting engaged soon, and I just know they will carry on like they did when my brother got engaged.

Other than this quirk, they’re not bad people. Any ideas how I can head them off?

Anonymous: They’re eugenics-curious, but lovely people otherwise! Okey-doke.

Just say the thing out loud to them: “I watched you alienate [brother’s] awesome wife only because she’s tall and he’s short.

“So here’s your chance not to blow it again: Please don’t choose blond hair over a relationship with your future son-in-law and possible olive-skinned grandkids.

If they put up even a squeak of resistance:

“I can’t save you from yourselves. But I had to try.”

On the surface, this will look like a simplistic answer: Just tell them the truth!!

But here’s the thing. There’s only one way your parents could have been “very opinionated” and “so vocal” and “distraught,” and done all that insisting — enough for you to “just know” they’ll “carry on” about you. They did that by having you as their steady audience for their toxic superficiality.

I wish you both had cut them off on this topic years ago, sending them a clear message: “Your opinions about our dates’ bodies are unacceptable.” [Both walk away.]

But better late than never. First you say what you mean, unequivocally, as I already advised. Then you prove you mean it by leaving — cold — whenever they start “insisting.” Let them “insist” into an echoing void.

Or, to co-opt a new classic: Let them jerk you around, and find out.

Dear Carolyn: When I ask people, “How are you doing?,” many times they respond, “Not too bad.” I always respond with, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

After all, they said they were doing bad — just not *too* bad.

My wife is not happy with my saying that to people.

Should I just accept what they say and let them continue with their “bad” lives, or continue with my comment in hopes they realize what they’re subconsciously saying and get out of their bad zone?

K.: Of the people receiving your “I’m sorry to hear that” response, how many do you think understand what you mean by it? Sixty percent? Twenty percent? Two?

Even if it’s 100, how many — in your opinion — intended “not too bad” to be taken 100 percent literally?

How many see it as your job to “get” them “out of their bad zone”?

In all, who are you helping?

Meanwhile: We know you’re annoying your wife. One hundred percent.

Time to put your quip away for good. Both senses intended.

Suggested replacements: “Okay, then!” “Good enough!” or other kind words that acknowledge their effort to answer an impossible question asked on friendly reflex whenever we say “hello.”



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