DEAR HARRIETTE: We had an embarrassing moment during the holidays. My mother-in-law made horrible comments to a family member, her other son’s wife. She made jokes about her weight in front of her face. It was ridiculously rude and made everyone feel awkward. To be honest, my sister-in-law has gained a lot of weight over the years. She is huge, but who are we to judge her? My mother-in-law talked about how big her butt is and how she really should use two chairs. It was awful. When her son (the woman in question’s husband) asked her to stop, she just got even louder. She can be kind of crass, but this was just awful. I felt so bad for my sister-in-law. How can we get my mother-in-law to chill out? — Beyond Embarrassed, Syracuse, N.Y.
DEAR BEYOND EMBARRASSED: Sadly, many families have one person who can be crude and rude. People who don’t naturally have a filter to keep them from saying certain things can prove to be hurtful on a regular basis. This is because they usually do not realize how their comments are affecting others.
What one of you may be able to do is to talk to her privately, recount what she has said that was hurtful, and ask her directly to curb such comments. Ask her if she intends to hurt this woman. Chances are the answer is no. If she acknowledges that this is not her intention, you may be able to impress upon her that making such comments about this woman’s body is hurtful, regardless of what she meant by saying it. Perhaps her son can ask her to stop. In the moment next time, somebody can change the subject to deflect the negative commentary.