Advice column by Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC.
Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.
I am a man, late 40’s with a very successful career and married to a wonderful guy for 12 years. I am fit and healthy now, and I have aged pretty well but only after some hard work. High school was not a good time for me. I did a lot of emotional eating after being terrorized in lower grades for being effeminate and soft-spoken. I became quite overweight, and along with still being effeminate you can imagine that the kids never passed up an opportunity to ridicule or embarrass me and make me feel like less than nothing. It got bad enough that I was assaulted twice and had to visit the ER. I came out in my 20’s and got very health-conscious in my 30’s, lost all the extra weight and I have maintained my weight for over 15 years now.
My 30 year high school reunion is coming up, and just talking on the phone with a couple of my tormentors and hearing their voices has triggered all kinds of anxiety, even temptation to overeat again which I have resisted. I never attended before but I want so badly to show up and flaunt my success in their faces, I think it would be such a confidence-builder for me. But how do I muster the confidence to just walk in the door?
- Reeling Over Reunion
Congratulations on taking care of your health and staying fit! You did not mention an eating disorder from your youth so I am not certain this applies directly to you, but hopefully with the recent recognition of binge eating disorder, more children and teens can get help before they face serious health risks.
It might be fulfilling to land at your upcoming reunion in a helicopter or a limo, strut your stuff on the dance floor to the sounds of the 80’s, and flaunt your success in the faces of your tormentors. Romy and Michelle and even Peggy Sue were able to pull it off. But I cannot shake the question, “Why?” You did not need any of these goons to conquer an eating disorder, maintain your weight or find a career and love. Why do you need them now? Presumably to prove something, but you may be disappointed. Your reunion will reveal to you what most people discover; rounder, grayer and more wrinkled versions of people you vaguely remember save the trauma they inflicted. Some of those folks will still be mean, no matter what you look like. Some may see you and feel badly for how they treated you, but do you care? None of you bothered to keep in touch with each other over the years, and there was a very good reason for that. If it pleases you to attend, you may want to seek counseling in preparation since mere telephone conversations with these charmers have your anxiety heightened to the point of threatening your recovery. You mentioned the reunion being a “confidence-builder” for you. It sounds like you already have plenty, and living well is the best revenge. Slogging through the past to impress a bunch of people you do not even like sounds like a waste of time. School reunions are overrated; successful, happy lives are where it’s at.
I am a woman, 32 and recently divorced from a bigoted, small-minded man, “Bill,” after 10 years of marriage. The only good thing to come from our marriage is our 5 year old son I will call “Duncan.” Bill has Duncan on every other weekend. My son likes to help me pick out clothes, fix my hair, and other harmless things like paint his nails the same color when I paint mine. Of course, I know this is harmless and has nothing to do with sexual orientation. No surprise, my husband saw his toes and went berserk, claims I am making his son gay, etc. I will not quit playing with my son and letting him play pretend because his father happens to be an ignorant bully, but the idiot thinks he is in some kind of pissing contest with me and he has enrolled him in weekend sports, he has been let him watch violent action movies that are rated R, and now he wants to take him deer hunting at 5? How do I stop this Neanderthal from traumatizing my son while still not backing down?
- Mother Bear
Hi Mother Bear,
Of course sexual orientation has nothing to do with the harmless pretend play of a five-year-old. But that is not going to stop your husband from continuing to be an idiot. Please agree to cancel all revenge activities and call a truce on using your unfortunate son for the one-upping, sniping and attacking each other; adults should hash things out away from innocent children. Seek counseling immediately, through your custody agreement if you must make it mandatory, in order to put your child in his rightful place as his parents’ first priority again.
I am a woman, 40s, married with two teenagers and I started a community group that patrols the neighborhood for safety, but also picks up litter and recycles it. My family donates time and effort. We even pick up old magazines and books and donate them to a little community library near the park. Our neighbors two houses down, an overall rude family of five. Ever since I began this project to simply make my neighborhood a safer and more beautiful place and give back to the community, this group has been calling us “tree-huggers,” snickering at us and other volunteers, and recently began purposely throwing trash on their lawn, not picking up after their dogs in the front yard, stringing Christmas lights in the trees and placing neon beer signs on their front porch. Their yard is overgrown, perhaps because they dump entire bags of fertilizer on the lawn to make a statement; chemical run-off kills wildlife, I distributed fliers a year ago, you get the idea. Their home and yard is an eyesore that brings all our property values down, but we have no homeowner’s association. How do we deal with these rude people?
The great thing about immaturity is that it is quite often paired with a short attention span. If you do not react to the childish littering and poisoning of the earth by your numbskull neighbors, they will lose interest and move on because there is nothing entertaining about being ignored. There are plenty of horror stories about homeowner’s associations to affirm your choice to forego them; I have always made the same choice and never regretted it. Focus on the other dozens of neighbors who are positive and supportive of each other, and let time provide those troublemakers with another amusement. However, you may want to start brief documentation of the events unfolding, in case things escalate and the actual local authorities must be consulted.
Editor's Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.
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