DEAR NATALIE: My friend and I were hanging out the other night and she told me that she has been in love with me for a long time. She was afraid to tell me because she knows I’m straight, but she couldn’t hold her feelings in anymore. Needless to say, things have been really awkward between us. I care about her as a person, but have no romantic interest in her. She’s reached out through text several times since to apologize, but I haven’t responded. I don’t know what to say. She’s awesome, but she never should have told me this. It is going to mess everything up now. What should I do? --NOT IN LOVE
DEAR NOT IN LOVE: I can understand that your initial reaction was shock, but it sounds like a little time has passed and now is the time to reassess the situation. I know you feel awkward. But let’s think about how she must feel right now. She was brave enough to tell you her feelings, most likely knowing how you would react. Clearly, she had been holding this in for so long, that she just couldn’t lie anymore to herself or to you. I wish we could choose who we fall in love with and I wish we could always fall for people who love us back, but that’s not the way of life. Instead of ignoring her, gather some strength and respond to her. The rejection she is experiencing is most likely being magnified by your silence. Explain to her that you felt caught off guard and needed space to process everything. Tell her that you care about her feelings and didn’t want to hurt her. Let her know that you think she is a wonderful person and wish her the best in finding love. If you still want to be her friend, and I think part of you does or you wouldn’t be writing me, let her know that in time you would like to reconnect as friends. Say that you need space right now and want to give her space to heal, as well. In time, you may find your way back to each other, and you may find that your friendship is even stronger.
DEAR NATALIE: I am having major anxiety around losing my baby weight. I had a baby in October and it’s been really hard to lose the weight, even with breastfeeding. My husband has made a few comments about me being lazy and fat, and I feel really badly about myself right now. I go on Instagram and that doesn’t help. Everyone loses the weight so fast and I feel depressed. I don’t even know why I’m reaching out. I just feel at a loss. --SAD NEW MOM
DEAR SAD NEW MOM: It infuriates me how we treat mothers and motherhood in our culture. Your body is amazing. It grew life, birthed life and now is nourishing a life. Wow! Talk about amazing and awe-inspiring. I wish that we showed reverence and respect to ourselves and each other for this incredible ability. But, our culture tries to erase the fact that our bodies create life and look differently after because of it. Instagram is guilty of this. All this nonsense around getting your “pre-baby” body back is absurd. First of all, you’ll never be what you were before being a mother. It’s a truly transformative experience and to negate that is a fault of our society. You can’t airbrush or photoshop the experience away. Delete your Instagram for a while. You need to surround yourself with positive images of love and strength. You also may be experiencing postpartum depression, which is totally normal for so many women. Feeling “baby blues” as it was once called, was a hidden secret and so many women suffered in silence. If you are feeling depressed or out of sorts in any way, it is okay to reach out to your doctor and get whatever support you need. Your mental health is intricately tied to your physical and emotional wellbeing. You deserve to feel loved and supported. You deserve to feel healthy. The fact that your husband is being such a jerk is disturbing to me. His behavior is abusive. You don’t deserve to be belittled now or at any time. You are valuable at any size and your size does not determine your worth. I recommend checking out the writings of Sonalee Rashatwar, a social worker who speaks to the issues of body image and self love in radical ways. Remember, you are valuable and worthy of love. I hope you can find a way to discover all of the power you have inside of you and pass that knowledge along to your new little one.
Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Brush off some of your old contacts. Sometimes, we blow by people and without giving them a second look, we can miss how valuable those connections could be.
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)