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Time for Psychological Warfare

Comment

Dear Margo: My roommate's mother commented about my weight — to the roommate, who is now giving me an ultimatum about Weight Watchers, or she will never do anything for me again. (I tried WW once, and it's not an experience I wish to repeat.) That she is issuing an ultimatum really hurt, but to make it worse, she said she won't hear any "excuses." All I get is defense of Weight Watchers, comments on my eating habits and reiterations of the ultimatum. Did I mention she says, "I'm not saying this to be mean" every time? And that she's called me fat, adding, "I'm sorry but you are."

I have nowhere else to go. I have a cat and can't afford my own place. I would also hate to lose a friendship over this. I'm not in the least proud of my weight, but the mother's butting in and the roommate's behavior as a result upset me greatly. I doubt either of them is concerned about my health, and in the mother's case, what should she care anyway? What can I do? — Beleaguered

Dear Be: I would throw the discomfort back her way. Tell the pushy roommate you resent being browbeaten, the subject is none of her business or her mother's, you're tired of the insults, and maybe she should see a counselor about her insensitivity, if not meanness. I suspect her financial situation is similar to yours, so maybe drop into the conversation that if she doesn't tone it down about your weight, one of you may have to consider alternative living arrangements. — Margo, tactically

"Female Trouble"

Dear Margo: I work for a small company on a team of four women in their late 20s.

There's a problem with one of my colleagues that might strike you as odd. "Mary" suffers from severe PMS. Several days before the onset of her menses, she turns into a nightmare. Moreover, she gets a leave of absence for a couple of days each month because she feels ill when she has her period. I'm not a freak who makes another lady's cycle her business, but after working so closely for two years, you just notice such things.

In the first months of working together, I sympathized, but it's getting to be too much now. She's not the easiest person to begin with, but during the week prior to her period, she becomes intolerable. I am getting fed up covering her workload when she is out. I gently suggested she consult a doctor. Her answer boils down to "no use seeing a doctor, that's the way I was born."

I brought this up to our boss, who told me he is aware of the behavior but is reluctant to let her go because of her knowledge of our company, which is true. Also, he is reluctant to deal with the whole subject. Should I start looking for another job? Should I start nagging our boss? — Feeling Stuck

Dear Feel: "I was born this way," ergo no need to see a doctor, is fallacious. Were that the case, there would be no need for orthodontists. While it is often true that PMS sufferers are stuck with this unfortunate periodic personality change (no pun intended) in addition to the pain, I would try to get your colleague to give her doctor a try. I asked a doc about this, and the first line of treatment for severe PMS is an SSRL, usually Prozac. Good luck with either fixing it or living with it. — Margo, hopefully

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers' daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dearmargo. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

COPYRIGHT 2012 MARGO HOWARD

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Comments

21 Comments | Post Comment
Beleaguered--What can you do? For one, grow a spine and tell her to bug off. Who is she anyway? She's not your mother or your boss, and if she never does anything for you again, so what? Who is she to tell you that she won't "hear any excuses"?

Forget trying to be "nice," because she isn't being nice to you. Sometimes you have to be rude, because there are people who are so obnoxious that rudeness is the only thing that will get their attention. Tell her to flat shut up about your weight.

Or, repeat what the kids like to say, "You're not the boss of me."

My SIL used to say things like "it's a sin to be fat." Well, you gotta love karma, because now she's struggling with her weight. As she talks about how hard it is to lose weight, I just smile, because I've been telling her that for years.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Joannakathryn
Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:45 PM
Re Beleaguered: I'm not sure we have enough information here. What does the LW mean by "or she will never do anything for me again"? Is the LW so obese that she needs help from her roommate with things like personal hygiene? If so, maybe it was time for an intervention. If not, and the concern is simply appearance, then I completely agree with Margo. Especially the bit about maybe she should see a counselor about her insensitivity.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Annie
Sat Mar 24, 2012 5:47 AM
LW1--"My roommate's mother commented about my weight — to the roommate, who is now giving me an ultimatum about Weight Watchers, or she will never do anything for me again." The intrusiveness of your roommate and her mother is beyond appalling, insensitive and rude. My response to such an ultimatum would have been simply "f*ck you!" That you're concerned about losing this "friendship" speaks to your (understandable) low self-esteem. This roommate is NOT your friend. Honey, roommates are a dime a dozen, especially in this economy. Get on-line and start looking for a new living situation pronto; trust me, there are plenty of apartment communities and landlords in general who will accept a cat! And with all the houses on the market, my guess is you'll find a rental well within your budget. If the apartment was originally yours and you wish to stay put, then make plans to locate a new roommate, one who will pull her own weight without worrying about yours. Don't bother informing your roommate of your intentions until all the 'i's are dotted and the 't's crossed. Once the new arrangements are in place, tell your roommate that she has 30 days to vacate the premises. Get a court order if necessary. If you're leaving, then simply pack up your belongings on moving day and leave. You don't have to be verbally harangued by anyone in your own home.

LW2--While Margo's advice is good as usual, she misses the point that you cannot control other people much less force someone to see a doctor against his or her will. Moreover, trying to persuade the boss to take action (what do you expect him to do, really?) is probably futile because as a man, he's probably uncomfortable confronting a female subordinate about her feminine troubles and isn't in a position to advise her. I'm sure he'd rather undergo a root canal than deal with a hormonal young woman. What you can do, however, is control your response to your colleague. You essentially have two choices: get a new job, or learn to completely tune out 'Mary' during her time of the month. Accept that picking up her slack for a few days every month is part and parcel of the job and then quit obsessing over it. If Mary gets nasty or is irritable with you directly during her period, you can simply smile and say "Mary I understand it's your time of the month so I'll pretend you didn't just say that..." etc. then brush her off and go about discharging your duties.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Chris
Sat Mar 24, 2012 7:23 AM
LW1: I am actually stunned that anyone would have te gall to address this at all, much less make an ultimatum. I think about all I can add here is that you should keep your eyes open for an alternative living situation. Yikes.

LW2: PMS is not covered under disabilities laws here in the US. What your coworker is doing is contributing to a hostile work environment. Your management needs to deal with her, she is not your responsibility. I would speak again to your management and use that language "hostile work environment". Nobody should be held hostage by a coworker's medical situation and that is what is happening here. She is responsible for her own well being, but your boss is responsible for your work environment.

Confidential to Lisa: thank you for your support last week.
Comment: #4
Posted by: nanchan
Sat Mar 24, 2012 8:42 AM
LW1 -
"I'm not trying to be mean" is coward's talk for "I want to be mean plenty, but I don't wanna have my nose rubbed in it nor do I wanna stop, so let's call it by another name so I can get away with it".

So you can't afford to have your own apartment. Get yourself on Kijiji, Craigslist, local student housing lists, in community newspapers and community boards at the grocery store and laundromat, and start looking for another room to rent somewhere. A lot of people won't have an objection to one single cat, it's not like you have three large barking dogs. You may also want to consider a rooming house, not all of them are seedy. It can at least be a temporary solution until you find something more permanent.

You say you don't want to lose a friendship over this, but I don't think there ever was one. Your roommate is not behaving like a friend, she's behaving like an controlling, intolerant bitch. Not to mention that she's weak - her helicopter mom seems to rule what she thinks and does. Moving away from them both is the best thing you can do for yourself. And Margo is right - chances are that she can't afford to lose the roommate - if not the friend - and that she'll put a clamp on it when she realises this is a deal-breaker.

P.S.: How much of an overweight situation are we talking about here? 150 pounds on a 5'3'' frame, or 350 pounds? "Normal weight" also varies depending on your age. You get heavier with added years, and not all of it is fat - thickening bones do weigh. Please be aware that Weight Watchers are not the only fish in the sea, precisely because it's not a perfect fit for everyone.

Not to mention that there is a chance you can do this on your own. Just changing your diet to a more balanced one, eliminating or greatly reducing pop drinks/beer and junk food, reducing portions by 1/3 and slightly increasing the level of exercise (sometimes just starting to walk or cycle to work or to classes and taking the stairs instead of the elevator) often will have slow but steady results. Crash diets and extreme exercise regimens never work well on a long-term basis, you have to get your metabolism used to the changes gradually.

Get started on all that and weight yourself again in a month. You might be pleasantly surprised! If that doesn't work, you can start Googling "weight loss programs". And stay away from promised miracles - if it looks too good to be true, it likely is, and possibly dangerous as well.

You did say you're not proud of your weight. There are plenty of alternatives to WW. Start working on it, not for her, but for yourself.

LW2-
You can go back to her boss and suggest HE suggests the doctor - what Margo said, "born this way" is yurunda, then nobody should get glasses, hearing aids or get cauliflower ears or a cleft palate corrected. Or perhaps you can suggest an office-wide intervention. 3-4 days of possibly paid sick leave a month seems a bit much of a burden to impose on the other employees because she was "born this way".

Everything else failing, yes, start looking for another job before this gets under your skin to such an extent that your performance starts to suffer.

Comment: #5
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:10 AM
@ nanchan

"I would speak again to your management and use that language "hostile work environment"."

A hostile work environment?!? Really!?! The LW isn't being sexually harassed by a lecherous boss. She merely has to put up with the occasional bitchiness of a woman having her period. By the LW's own admission, 'Mary' is an essential employee because of her extensive knowledge of the company, which is why her boss is hesitant to ruffle her feathers. If the LW starts throwing around words like "hostile work environment", her boss just might decide that she's the office troublemaker and dispense with her accordingly so as to avoid any liability. Many states here in the U.S. practice "at will" employment which means, the LW could be let go and the reasons given might be discrimination or for being hostile herself towards a co-worker with a documented medical condition. Then, not only will the LW be out of work, she'll also pretty much be unemployable as any reference check will reveal the reasons for her dismissal. The business world is full of difficult and nasty people and most of them don't have PMS to blame. It's best if the LW were to learn how to deal with such people professionally because she's likely to encounter them again and again throughout her career.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Chris
Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:12 AM
LW1- if you are healthy and the extra pounds do not cause you problems, tell your roommate to BUZZ OFF! People who are healthy are the weight they are supposed to be. If you are not healthy, make an effort to get healthy. You do not need Weight Watchers for that. But still tell her to mind her own business.

Comment: #7
Posted by: p
Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:14 AM
LW1- if you are healthy and the extra pounds do not cause you problems, tell your roommate to BUZZ OFF! People who are healthy are the weight they are supposed to be. If you are not healthy, make an effort to get healthy. You do not need Weight Watchers for that. But still tell her to mind her own business.

Comment: #8
Posted by: p
Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:16 AM
I had endometriosis, and the pain surrounding my period each month started out bad and only became more and more excruciating. PMS often was nearly unbearable. My gynecologist did not even think to check for this and just treated it like normal bad periods. Before this, for about my first decade of menses, I'd barely even had any cramps or PMS, so I didn't think it could possibly be normal. This went on for about 10 years, however, until I was virtually nonfunctional for about 2 weeks out of every month.

Finally I did some online research and found out all my symptoms sounded like endometriosis. I'd moved to a different state by then, so I tried going to two different gyns. Both also said it was probably normal--that a lot of women have bad cramps and PMS--but I insisted that this was way beyond normal and the pain was so intense I could barely stand it. Both wanted to try various medicines, but I kept pushing ,and the second one finally agreed to do a laparoscopy. Well guess what? She told me that it was the worst case of endometriosis she had ever seen, totally covering my ovaries and bladder, as well as parts of my colon by then, and she didn't know how I had managed to live with the amount of pain I must have been in. Well, duh! What had I been telling her and all the former gyns? By this time it was so extensive that I had to have a hysterectomy and also have the outer lining of my bladder removed. But after that, what a relief!

A couple points here: The woman could be suffering from endometriosis or some other disorder that causes much more extreme symptoms than ordinarily. And going to a doctor doesn't necessarily mean things will improve. I went to three, and it wasn't until I got really insistent with the third one that any gyn was even willing to consider that something out of the ordinary was going on.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Joyce
Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:42 AM
I had endometriosis, and the pain surrounding my period each month started out bad and only became more and more excruciating. PMS often was nearly unbearable. My gynecologist did not even think to check for this and just treated it like normal bad periods. Before this, for about my first decade of menses, I'd barely even had any cramps or PMS, so I didn't think it could possibly be normal. This went on for about 10 years, however, until I was virtually nonfunctional for about 2 weeks out of every month.

Finally I did some online research and found out all my symptoms sounded like endometriosis. I'd moved to a different state by then, so I tried going to two different gyns. Both also said it was probably normal--that a lot of women have bad cramps and PMS--but I insisted that this was way beyond normal and the pain was so intense I could barely stand it. Both wanted to try various medicines, but I kept pushing ,and the second one finally agreed to do a laparoscopy. Well guess what? She told me that it was the worst case of endometriosis she had ever seen, totally covering my ovaries and bladder, as well as parts of my colon by then, and she didn't know how I had managed to live with the amount of pain I must have been in. Well, duh! What had I been telling her and all the former gyns? By this time it was so extensive that I had to have a hysterectomy and also have the outer lining of my bladder removed. But after that, what a relief!

A couple points here: The woman could be suffering from endometriosis or some other disorder that causes much more extreme symptoms than ordinarily. And going to a doctor doesn't necessarily mean things will improve. I went to three, and it wasn't until I got really insistent with the third one that any gyn was even willing to consider that something out of the ordinary was going on.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Joyce
Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:49 AM
chris: please reread the letter:

"She's not the easiest person to begin with, but during the week prior to her period, she becomes intolerable. I am getting fed up covering her workload when she is out."

When an employee's medical condition becomes so disruptive that it affects workload distribution, and the environment in which the work is done, that employee (the one with the PMS) is in fact contributing to a hostile work environment.

Comment: #11
Posted by: nanchan
Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:41 AM
LW1: you have my complete and total sympathy. Weight is a personal issue and I tried weight watchers and didn't like it either. I have gained weight and I have NEVER commented on someone else's weight other than to say something about how the person looks like they are feeling good.

Curtail what you tell this roommate. Do not tell her when you are on a special meal plan or consuming smaller portions. The more information you give her, the more she will use against you. Do not share anything your doctor/counselor/coach has told you.

The roommate is not your friend, she is a person who shares your personal living space and expenses with. A friend doesn't gang up on you with someone else to nag and badger you.

If you are going to have a treat, don't have it at home or leave any evidence of it at home. I am not telling you to sneak around, but when you have a treat every once in a while, you don't need someone ruining it for you.

Look into a YMCA. I joined a class called metabolic makeover and it was fantastic. Very supportive and whipped my rear end. One of the women in the class said her doctor said she need to lose 50 pounds. She lost half of it in this class, which was three months long. Look into the YMCA, I personally think they are the best deal going. I only lost a few inches and a few pounds, but my arms and legs were rock hard after 90 days.

There is a great deal of truth in a bumper sticker I read on another car years ago. "I may be fat but you're a jerk. I can go on a diet"
Comment: #12
Posted by: Chelle
Sat Mar 24, 2012 11:05 AM
@ nanchan

Um, I did read the letter; maybe you need to re-read my original post which addressed the redistribution of workload which happens for ONLY A COUPLE OF DAYS for crying out loud. You should, perhaps re-read the letter and note the sentence "I work for a small company on a team of four women in their late 20s." Starting to get the picture now? This LW is clearly just out of college and now she's having a little tantrum because she's faced, probably for the first time in her life, with a difficult colleague. Instead of running to the boss and demanding that an obviously valued employee is creating a hostile workplace as you suggest, which by the way I can almost guarantee will end the LW's employment one way or the other, she needs to instead take this opportunity to learn to deal professionally with difficult people. There's even several fantastic books on this very subject. Let's face reality. We're not talking about something that's happening every day; it's a week during which a colleague gets cranky and bitchy during her period and takes a couple of days off each month. The LW needs to deal or get another job where I can absolutely guarantee she'll encounter a new end-of-world situation with one or more different colleagues. Perhaps one who clips his/her nails in the office, chews with his/her mouth open, steals food from the break room, flosses teeth at his/her desk or, god forbid, clicks his/her throat or leaves a damn cabinet door open!
Comment: #13
Posted by: Chris
Sat Mar 24, 2012 2:41 PM
Re: Chris

Exactly right Chris, exactly right, I LIKE YOU. I am in corporate on the most senior level in a fortune 200 company, mention a hostile work environment and you will definitely be out the door. And you will never know the reason why. Real easy to lay someone off, them magically need more staff a short time later. Sorry, that's real life. Either this woman should deal with it, or quietly find a new job, on their dime. That is the real world, no employer wants a hint of a discrimination, workers comp, or any legal problem. Corporatins are not stupid, you will be out the door. With only four employees in a small ofice there will always be aggravations, that's life. Deal with it or leave, just like a marriage. Nanchan is naive to think you can run around asserting your legal rights and still be a favorable employee. It ain't gonna happen.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Bloom Hilda
Sat Mar 24, 2012 2:55 PM
Re: nanchan
While it is true that what she describes does technically constitute a hostile work environment, Chris is right in pointing out that she might be the one ending up with the short end of the stick. Her boss has already make it clear that he finds the woman indispensable, which is a suble way of informing the LW that she will not be the one to win a war of attrition. Even what I suggested is threading on thin ice considering this, which only leaves her with two real choices: start viewing the extra workload from Miss PMS as part of her working conditions or find another job. Considering the present economy, I suggest the former.

And Chris is right about another thing: If she thinks this woman is "not the easiest person to begin with", she ain't seen nothin' yet. Better to turn this into a learning opportunity than into a pink slip.

@Joyce
I'm glad you finally got some relief, sad for you that it took so long and exactled such a price. There are so many people for whom pain only matters when it's their own - when it's someone else's, it's like it doesn't exist.

The LW might want to bring up the possibility of endometriosis in a friendly way and see if Miss PMS responds. But I have a feeling that, even if that is the problem, it is not to the extent you suffered and that she has a long way to go before it gets there - oyherwise she would already be going to the doctor on her own and wouldn't be stating glibly that "this is the way she was born".

Comment: #15
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Sat Mar 24, 2012 3:05 PM
LW2
Like Joyce mentioned, there are worse things out there than PMS - I suspect the LW's co-worker may have Pre-Menstrual Dysmorphic Disorder. After suffering for years, I accidentally found something that worked for my PMDD - Depo-Provera. Do your co-worker a favour, and print out some information on PMDD, along with my letter. Good luck!
Comment: #16
Posted by: Barbara B.
Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:29 AM
LW1 -- Find a new roommate and apartment. As others have noted, it can be done. If you're not happy with your weight, talk to your doctor about healthy ways to lose weight -- but you're doing this for yourself, not your roommate, because even if you were suddenly thin as a rail tomorrow, you should still find a new roommate.

LW2 -- Find a new job or learn to put up with it. Those really are your only choices. Nagging your boss -- whether you bring up hostile work environment or anything else -- is more likely to affect YOUR employment, not hers.
I am not honestly suggesting you do the following unless you are prepared to seek work elsewhere, but I can't help wondering what would happen if you were diagnosed with a medical issue that also required you to be given a couple of days off every month, and it just so happened that those days coincided with Mary's "intolerable" days. You would still be available to cover for Mary while she's gone, but you wouldn't have to put up with her on her worst days. Again, I wouldn't actually try this -- you'd have to find a doctor willing to vouch for you, and even if you did, it's unlikely your boss wouldn't know exactly what was going on and find some other reason to can you, unless, of course, you have managed to make yourself as indispensable as Mary has.
Comment: #17
Posted by: Lisa
Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:07 AM
I feel for LW1, because being in an uncomfortable, even hostile roommate situation can just spill anxiety into so many other areas of life. Home should be where you can go to feel safe and comfortable, but the roommate and her mother have turned it into a place that LW1 dreads.

Certainly, confront the roommate and ask that this fixation end, because the only person responsible for LW1's health is LW1. "I appreciate your concern but you really are coming on too strong and I'm starting to really resent it, to the point where we might need to stop being roommates and friends. Just drop it for now, okay?"

If the roommate and mom can't drop it, then find another living situation. There are places to look, I'm sure you can find something, even if it's only for a few months while you search for another solution.

Alternatively, if it takes you some time to find a new place, you could just pull the "depressed Goth roommate" act, and simply stay in your own room most of the time you are home, barely speak to her when you are in the public areas of the apartment, and just disconnect from this person as much as possible. If she really IS a friend, she'll catch on and back off to save the friendship. If she doesn't back off, she's not a friend worth keeping.

LW2: There may be a lot more going on than you realize. Even in a small company, employee health concerns and any "reasonable accommodations" to them are (or should be) private. Whatever you think about this person taking time off or how she manages her work, it's something that is between this person and this person's manager. The boss's reluctance when you spoke to him may also include the fact that he is aware of confidential information he is not allowed to share.

If you aren't a friend, any suggestions of how she deal with this will probably not be well received. If you cannot live with this situation, then simply start looking for another job -- as is your right. I wouldn't "nag" your boss, as that will be counter-productive. I would just mention it to him, privately, that the situation is just untenable for you, that you cannot continue to work like this, and so that you may have to decide to look for another job.

If the boss realizes he's going to lose a valued employee over the situation, he may reconsider his "hands off" approach. Although that's only IF he has room to maneuver -- if, however, there's more to this other woman's situation than you know because of confidentiality issues, he may still not budge.

Please make sure you document all of this, though, just to be sure that you protect yourself in case of any repercussions.
Comment: #18
Posted by: Mike H
Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:34 AM
LW1: Why are you such a victim? It's your choice to be one because it would be way too easy to shut her up. She knows your sore spot and she's poking the heck out of it. Find hers and do the same. Make it cost her something everytime she opens her ugly mouth and then she'll learn to shut it. A real easy one is tell her she's ugly. She says, You're fat," and then you respond, "You're ugly." Simple.
Comment: #19
Posted by: Diana
Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:33 PM
LW 1 GET A BACKBONE TELL her AND her mom to mind there own effen business.
LW2 If you are doing her work as well you should be paid for it..Or does she also take her 2 weeks vacation as well as these few days a month..
Comment: #20
Posted by: Joy
Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:13 AM
Re: nanchan

Totally agree with going to management and saying those three magic words: "hostile work environment."

I used to have severe mood swings right before I had my period and would have to get morphine to deal with the pain from it every month. Fortunately, I was smart enough to know that although I may have been "born that way," I didn't have to LIVE that way. Although I ended up with other issues due to treatment, I now have no problems with mood swings (which was incorrectly diagnosed as bipolar type II) or having to be absent from work due to a very painful period.
Comment: #21
Posted by: Janie
Thu Mar 29, 2012 6:57 AM
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