my mom says I’m not getting hired because of my weight, does messy handwriting matter, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My mom says I’m not getting hired because of my weight

Frankly put: my mom thinks I’m too fat, and she says that’s why I’m not getting offered jobs even after advancing through a few rounds of interviews.

I’ve been job searching for a couple months, and I’m still working at a place I like just fine but has virtually no upward mobility, so it’s not like she’s supporting me or I’m struggling to get hired absolutely anywhere. I’m confident in my skills, resume, and interviews, and I’ve been told I’m among the top two or three candidates more than once, only to come up second of those two. It’s been disappointing, but not shattering, and I’ve gotten good feedback from some interviewers and others have told me (sincerely, I’m pretty sure) they’ll reach out to me first if other positions come up.

But the last couple times I’ve called my mom to say “almost, but not quite,” instead of offering sympathy or anything constructive, she’s told me it’s probably because of my weight. I’m a 28-year-old woman, and I am overweight. I’m also gay and mixed race (my dad is Black and my mom is white), so trust me when I say I’ve experienced a whole lot of prejudice and I know how crappy people can be. I’m sure there are hiring managers out there who would choose a skinny person with a comparable resume to mine, or even a worse one, but I also think that the quality of my work and my professional credentials would matter much more to any employer I’d care to work for.

That doesn’t seem to hold much water with my mom though. Her biggest piece of job-seeking advice seems to be “lose 30 pounds,” and it’s just not helpful. Do you or your readers have any perspective or advice?

I’m sorry your mom is being awful here, and I’m glad she hasn’t shaken your confidence. Interviewers can be biased against people for all sorts of reasons, and there is research showing weight discrimination is a real thing, but it’s also highly unlikely that your weight is the dominant factor in your job search (and your mom would have no way of concluding it is). Interviewing for a couple of months without an offer isn’t unusual or worrisome, and it’s obnoxious that she’s implying there’s something wrong with you that’s keep you from getting hired.

The best thing you can do is to stop talking to her about your job search. She’s not contributing anything supportive or useful, and she’s actively tearing you down. She’s forfeited her right to hear about how it’s going. Let her know when you have a new job, but until then there’s no point in discussing your progress with her. If she directly asks, say, “I’ll let you know when there’s something interesting to share” … or better yet, “I don’t want to hear speculation about my weight, so let’s talk about something else.”

2. Is my messy handwriting a problem?

As I’m sitting here addressing holiday cards to a few clients, I’m cringing a little at my messy handwriting. It’s not chicken scratch, but it’s not very neat and professional looking either. I’m also left-handed, so as much as I may try to blot the page or avoid it, there can sometimes be smudges and things where my hand smears the ink. In addition to holiday cards, clients sometimes see my handwriting when I fill in contracts or jot notes, so this comes up from time to time.

Does this matter? Is there a way to develop handwriting that looks more professional? Is it worth worrying about it? I don’t think about it much from day to day, but sometimes I see another person’s perfectly crisp handwriting and think about what a strong impression it makes.

For the record, I spent more than a decade as a newspaper journalist, so there was a lot of fast-paced note scribbling involved. While I’ve never had great handwriting, I think this experience degraded it quite a bit.

When I was in ninth grade and spent many hours a week writing absurdly long notes to friends (for some reason we passed multi-page notes to each other between classes; I have no idea why), my handwriting was truly beautiful — even, perfectly rounded, entirely consistent, almost like a font. And sometimes I find samples of it now and marvel that I produced it, because my current handwriting is horrendous. I think that when we switched to keyboards and stopped writing by hand so often, a lot of us lost our penmanship skills.

All of which is to say that (a) loads of people have messy handwriting these days and (b) I think people care a lot less than they used to. As long as it’s reasonably legible and you’re not, like, a calligrapher, I wouldn’t worry about it.

3. Client’s employee talks all day long outside my office

I work at a relatively small company. We have about 60 employees, mostly warehouse employees. We have about 15 employees inside the office. I’m the inside sales manager and manage a small staff of four. We’re a small, quiet group.

About a year ago, one of our customers decided they’d like to have five of their employees work in our facility. Not the first time we’ve had this, and it’s quite common in our industry. They happened to choose the open cubicles right next to my office. I never thought it would have been a big deal. If anything, it would be great — if they had any problems, they could come and see me quickly to discuss.

Boy, was I wrong! One of their employees talks NON-STOP. I mean, non-stop. From the time I clock in until the time I leave, she’s talking. Whether it’s on the phone or to her coworkers, it never stops. She’s loud and obnoxious, and it’s ruining my productivity. At this point, I’ve gotten so frustrated that I just shut my door to drown out her noise … which I hate because I like having an open door policy.

How should I proceed? After all, she is my customer. However, it’s having negative effects on my work. Should I contact her boss? If so, I feel like I’m being cowardly, and being a “rat.” Should I just move offices? Should I continue to just keep the door shut? I’m desperate.

The obvious option isn’t on your list: talking to her directly! It’s not in any way rude to let her know that her voice carries and ask her to keep it down.

That said, since she’s talking non-stop all day long, her version of “keeping it down” might mean that talking 80% of the day instead of 100% of the day, which is still going to be disruptive. Given that, it might make sense to skip that conversation and just relocate her. It sounds like you gave this group their choice of where to sit, but there’s no reason you can’t decide it’s not working and you need to relocate them. You’re entitled to say, “This set-up isn’t working as well as I’d hoped because the sound really carries, so we’re going to move you into a space down the hall.” (Just make sure you don’t move her right next to someone else, of course — she/they need their own area where they won’t disturb anyone.)

If there’s nowhere they can move that won’t disrupt someone, you might need to decide how much of a stand you’re willing to take on it. It’s reasonable to speak with her about the noise, and then to her boss if that doesn’t solve it — but whether or not to do that will involve political calculations about how gingerly you need to treat this customer and this person’s particular role on their team.

4. Can I ask my manager to stop texting after hours?

My manager has taken to group texting outside of office hours. Initially it was a non-emergency matter after work hours that should have been an email that everyone could have read the next day. Then it was something as simple as “drive carefully” during bad weather. My manager is a wonderful person and manager, but I find this all unnecessary. When texted, I assume it’s important and I have to stop what I’m doing, find my phone, and find my glasses, only to see it’s nothing. Then I have to be bothered with others from the group responding. Am I overreacting or would it be okay to say something and what would I say?

You’re not overreacting. Texting is an immediate medium; it interrupts what you’re doing to push messages at you, whereas email waits for you to check it. There’s no reason your manager should be interrupting your evening with non-urgent messages that could wait until the next time you’re in your work email.

You could say it this way: “I try to disconnect from work after hours, and the group texts make it harder to do that. Would it be possible to switch back to email for things that aren’t an emergency and don’t need to be seen and responded to right away?”

5. What to say when a coworker’s family member is having surgery

What’s the best way to express sympathy (solidarity?I don’ have a good word for it) when a coworker or direct report tells you that they will be taking time off because a close family member is having surgery or the like? “Good luck!” seems like it could be taken the wrong way. “My thoughts are with you and your family” seems a bit serious for more minor things, and maybe a bit too personal? This is an area where I am not well calibrated, and I’d love to have a better mental script for it.

Some options, depending on the circumstances:

* “I hope everything goes smoothly!”
* “Please let me know if you need anything!”
* “Of course, just let me know if you need more time.” (for direct reports)

{ 444 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I’m really sorry your mom is being awful in this way. No one deserves to be treated the way she’s treating you.

    Given how bizarre her advice is (and more than likely irrelevant), it sounds like her comments may have more to do with problems she has with herself, and she’s taking them out on you. I co-sign Alison’s advice—I would stop sharing information with her. You deserve a safe place/person to confide in, and it sounds like your mom is not capable of fulfilling that role.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Reminds me of a certain scene in Brittany Runs a Marathon, in which she makes fun of an overweight woman due to her own deep insecurities.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yup, time to deploy an information diet and lots of changes off topic. People that want to rain negativity on others deserve getting to know nothing about what they want to grump about.

      1. Hope*

        This is exactly what I was coming here to say (I have had the exact same “conversations” with my own mother, and I know just how awful it can be). Don’t give your mom ammo for her unhelpful commentary. Talk to her about other stuff, but just don’t tell her about job stuff (or other stuff she might decide to blame your weight on) until you have definitive good news and it’s a fait accompli.

        It might suck to not be able to share this kind of stuff with her, but she’s proven that she can’t be trusted with it, and it’s not something she’s likely to get better about, unfortunately (I lost 90 pounds and my mother STILL harps about my weight). Save your sanity.

    2. Pony tailed wonder*

      My mom is a former beauty pageant winner. She would travel around and enter multiple contests and win. She does the same thing to me, harping on about weight, looks, outfits, etc. I find that I can stop her by remarking on her positive attitude toward life and tell her that she is such a joy to be around. She gets the message and stops. She revs up again every so often but the sarcasm does get her to think about what is leaving her mouth.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        As someone who was an awkward-looking teenager and grew up with a beautiful mother (not a pageant winner, but still), I feel you. I think the time when it finally dawned on me that mom wasn’t happy with my looks and it wasn’t going to change anytime soon, was in 9th grade, when I asked mom if I could change my haircut to a bob with the middle part. (Ya know, the early 80s.) And mom said “no, this hairstyle only looks good on people with really attractive faces.” So I came home from school the next day, gave myself really crooked bangs, started growing them and my short hair out, and never asked mom for beauty advice again. She’s mellowed down now and even compliments my work clothes when I come home and she’s there (which is bizarre, because half my work clothes come from thrift stores and a lot of the rest are old clothes I’ve had for years), but with us being in our early 50s and early 80s, that’s a bit too late, as I stopped caring what she thought of my looks 30-some years ago.

        It is so hard growing up in the shadow of a mother who is just naturally very attractive without having to make any effort to get there. It really helped me that I lived far enough away from her that she couldn’t see me often between ages 17 and 30, and neither of us had phones so we couldn’t have chats about my looks on the phone, either.

        1. selena81*

          I thought it went a bit overboard with the ‘you get applauded if you lecture beauty pageant audiences about being superficial’, but it did feel like a pretty realistic portrayal of the hot-mom-fat-daughter dynamic. Including the internalized fatshaming that so many of us fatties experience in some way or another.

          It made me feel sorry for my mom who grew up (with a thin mom) in a time when such a movie would typically have ended with the daughter losing all the weight: you were gross all along and everybody lied when they said they loved you anyway but now you can repay them by being the hot daughter/girlfriend they always wanted.

      2. emmelemm*

        My mom’s mom was quite beautiful (not a pageant winner, but still). Also, she was, to some degree, in the shadow of her own sister, who was “plain” but very, very smart. My grandmother could never be the smart one, so she decided that the highest order of being was being beautiful. Makes sense, right?

        And she never felt my mom’s looks measured up. And let her know. Constantly. This effect trickles down the generations. My mom tries, now, to work against it, to know that it’s unreasonable, but she just can’t get out from under it. I’ve done a lot better in consciously fighting it, but it is always there, in the back of the mind.

        1. Filosofickle*

          My brother was “the good looking one”. I was “the smart one”. Our parents didn’t say it, but other people did. We both grew up with major complexes.

          Currently, I’m grappling with how to stop projecting my own fat shame onto others. I don’t say those things out loud, but just having it in my head is terrible. (Thanks to Dad and his mom, who provided a lifetime of unhelpful feedback about my weight as well as Mom’s.)

          1. selena81*

            I don’t know wether it says more about society in general or about me, but i needed to make the conscious decisions to a: stop taking other women down, and b: stop taking down other fatties.

            A big eye opener was seeing my mom talk crap about other people’s looks and then jumping to the conclusion they were obviously criminals (while she is as far from a beauty queen as one can possible be).
            It made me realize how much i had internalized that same not-like-me attitude. The idea that *i* should be judged for my o-so-wonderful character while everybody else can be reliably judged by fairytale rules (the ugly witch and hot prince)

    3. Lucy*

      I’m also sorry your mom is like this. My mom was like this. I stopped telling her details and it got better (and I eventually got a job — it took two horribly long years but that’s a whole other story. Everybody is different and works on different timelines.)

      It also helped that my dad and my sister were visiting the city I was living in and saw me on an interview day and were both openly amazed at how fantastic I looked — and probably reported back to her about that. I’m 45 now and my mom still thinks she owns me. She’s weird. Your mom is is weird. You are not weird. You are going to kick ass!

      1. AKchic*

        Ugh. The mothers who think they “own” their daughters. My mom is *still* like that too. Because we “look alike” (in coloring, and slightly in features). She dressed us identically when I was tiny (I hate the 80’s, and pastels). Since my hair was straight and thin where hers is thick and curly, I spent the majority of my toddlerhood and young childhood sleeping in those horrid pink foam and plastic curlers. Because we just had to match.

        Now I am constantly critiqued on my clothing choices, and my lack of make-up and my hair. My mother still thinks the 70’s-80’s Farrah hair is the height of fashion, but my hair is inappropriate for work. She doesn’t understand blending or what colors work on her aging skin, but when I *do* wear make-up, it’s inappropriate for work (because it’s not the same color she would wear). My clothes are too tight, my clothes are too loose. My clothes are too low-cut. None of it is appropriate for work. Oh, and I’d better not ever say a single solitary cuss word, because it is unladylike. And don’t get me started on the undermining of my parenting.

        And she wonders why I absolutely hate her. I may work with her, but it’s only because the money is good. If I could find anything that paid as well elsewhere, I’d never speak to her again.

          1. AKchic*

            For now, I enjoy looking like an adult that isn’t her “style”. It irritates her to no end. We may have similar coloring and a few of the same features, but we are complete opposites.

            It also helps that I’m comfortable in my own skin.

    4. Lord Ye old*

      Feeling your pain too OP 1. My mom is also if the belief all my career woes can be solved by losing weight.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        There are very few jobs where weight/size may really matter (trapeze artist, astronaut, pipe inspector, maybe?) in that persons over a certain girth cannot physically perform the job. Unless you really crave crawling into creepy cramped crannies, though, it should not matter.

        1. selena81*

          Obviously the advice to loose weight is rarely about such obvious ‘this job really does not jive with your body-type’ situations: it is pretty much all based around fatshaming and expectations thereof.
          As someone who praises herself on being practically-minded i am amazed at all the (subconscious) prejudices still floating around the modern workplace, stuff like being hesitant at giving a wheelchair-bound person or little person an office-job, or not hiring shy people because they are ‘not motivated enough’

        2. Alexandra Lynch*

          There was a paleoanthropological dig that required small thin people to do it. Because it also required traversing a very tight passage in a cave system to get to where the fossil site was. (If you are interested, look up Homo naledi)

    5. Avasarala*

      Younger me would explode, “GREAT MOM I’ll just go get a boob job and botox while I’m at it, oh and dye my hair blonde and spend 3 hours on my makeup every day, maybe THEN someone will think I’m good at DESIGNING LLAMA PENS. Not everyone is as SHALLOW as you GOD UGH”

      Now I might say something like, “I hear that you’re concerned about my health, and I appreciate it, but when you bring it up when I’m talking about my career, it makes me feel like my success doesn’t count to you unless I’m skinny. It’s so hurtful. So instead of giving me advice, can you just encourage me?”
      I wouldn’t discuss job stuff with her again but if it came up again, “This is the kind of thing I was talking about. It hurts to hear this.” And maybe “I need to go now.”

      This worked for me because my mother was coming from a place of genuine concern and love, she just goes overboard or doesn’t express it well sometimes. If your mom is speaking from a place of deep insecurity that is disconnected from reality, or doesn’t really care about your best interest, then nothing you say or do matters. That can be kind of freeing in its own way, after lots of therapy.

      1. JSPA*

        I found it got worse when my mother could no longer understand anything about what I did / what the workplace was like / what the job market was like in my field, and therefore commented on the few things she did understand (those being hair, weight, clothing and attitude).

        1. selena81*

          i kinda wish my mom would try to change the subject to something we still share: instead she just goes of on her own string-of-consciousness ramblings (she is like Loud Girl from the other letter: always talking talking talking at the top of her lungs)

          Searching for that last bit of mutual interest is something i do with my siblings. At least i know we can always connect over ‘mom *eyeroll*’. lol.

      2. Hope*

        OMG, I wish I would have done that with my mom. Then again, my mom probably would’ve cheered and offered to pay for some of it, so…

        Anyways, major props to younger you!

      3. TootsNYC*

        instead of giving me advice, can you just encourage me?

        I want to applaud this. Tell people very directly what you want from them, especially when they’re giving you something that’s counterproductive.

        1. Working Mom*

          Yes! Absolutely. Throughout my HS/college years – I would routinely call my Mom when something exciting/wonderful/happy happened. Every single time – she would respond with hesitancy that bordered on negativity – as in, “are you sure that’s a good idea?” and “but why?” and so on. I learned over time… that while I love my Mom dearly – she is NOT my hype gal. I cannot expect her to play that role. When I want the immediate “OMG that’s so exciting!!” response I know who my go-to friends and family are. When I need advice or want to talk through something tough – that’s where my Mom’s sweet spot is.

          It takes so much time to learn these things and so much pain. OP, I’m sorry you’re Mom is being so weird and that she’s planting this bizarre idea in your head. I am a hiring manager, and I was actually just talking with someone about hiring… and I joked about how I so adamantly do not care what a person looks like. I want/need someone who is RIGHT for the job. Meaning they have the skills. Period. End of discussion. I don’t care if the candidate can check every single box in the “unique look” category – if they are the best candidate – I Want them!!!

          1. Filosofickle*

            Mom is not a hype gal, either. I was a late bloomer and had gone on my very first real date in college. I called to tell her “I went out to dinner with a guy!” She was like “Oh.” I’m all, “ON A DATE.” “Hm.” “WITH A CUTE GUY.” “Ok.”

            No questions, no excitement for me. But, like yours, she’s good with the hard stuff.

      4. soon*

        Coming from a place of love doesn’t mean a person can’t still be toxic. Not an excuse for saying assholish things.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think Ava is saying to tolerate or excuse asshole things. She’s pointing it out because it may change OP’s tactics. If OP’s mom is coming from a place of love, it’s possible that she can be retrained to treat OP the way OP needs. But if she’s not coming from a place of love, OP is better off cutting mom out completely from this part of her life.

    6. Sun Tzu*

      Absolutely. Alison’s advice is top notch here — your mom is boycotting your job search by instilling insecurity in you. You already know that your job interviews went very well (2nd top candidate) so your mom is wrong.

    7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Seriously! If this is the sum total of her advice, her mom is adding nothing good to this experience. She’s suggesting that the LW change herself to work somewhere that discriminates in its hiring practices and thus doesn’t hire on merit.

      LW1 has been job searching for a couple of months while working full time. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that has been maybe 3-5 interviews where she made it to the final round, given that she can’t be taking that much time off work to do this search. Odds are she is just having the incredibly normal, and incredibly frustrating, experience of being a great candidate who is being turned down in favor of someone who is a slightly better fit because they have more time doing A, experience B, or skill C that LW1 doesn’t have. And if some sort of discrimination, be it for race, weight, or orientation, is happening, would the LW1 really want to work there?

        1. TootsNYC*

          as a hiring manager, I can’t tell you the number of times I had 6 candidates who would all have been good.

          At least once it came down to a coin toss.

      1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Ditto. I am also a plus-size woman who was working full time (in temp jobs) and applying, applying, applying and hit a run of getting to the final round and not landing the job. It was incredibly frustrating but you do come out with a job in the end.

        Tell mom the diet is not happening and keep on trying.

        1. Alabama shakes*

          Like OP1, i’m black, female, 28, and plus sized and have gotten similar comments from my mom. I also make more money than she does and have multiple degrees. Those things don’t matter, I love my mom, but when she starts harping on what diets I should be on, I change the subject or end the conversation.

          Weight has nothing to do with your employment (and if it did, trust me, you wouldn’t want to work there anyway). You’re on the right track, OP1. Stop feeding your mom information about your job search, she lost the right to know when she started disparaging you. Keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll land the right job in due time.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            I’ve worked in the past with a Sharepoint designer who is seriously overweight. Her weight is irrelevant to her job. She’s one of the most professional people I’ve ever worked with. 10/10 would work with again in a heartbeat. I would work -for- her, not just with her. This “mom” needs to have several seats.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Odds are she is just having the incredibly normal, and incredibly frustrating, experience of being a great candidate who is being turned down in favor of someone who is a slightly better fit because they have more time doing A, experience B, or skill C that LW1 doesn’t have. And if some sort of discrimination, be it for race, weight, or orientation, is happening, would the LW1 really want to work there?

        YES to both of these things.

    8. Schnookums Von Fancypants, Naughty Basic Horse*

      See, not that it would be helpful (and I do have the luxury of being able to be this because I do have a good relationship with my mother) but I’d make up ludicrous scenarios where weight loss would end up costing me the opportunity. “Mom, I followed your advice and lost 30 lbs and now they won’t hire me as a sumo wrestler! *sob*”

    9. Trek*

      Just for the record we just hired a supervisor who is black, does not dress mainstream but has her own style, and is overweight. We hired her because of her management background and we are thrilled she is here. If you are making it into the top 2-3 multiple times you will find a job.
      I recommend you ask for feedback from the companies who had you in the final-. Is there any feedback they can provide that would help you in your job search? Even if they share a few pointers with you take what they say with a grain of salt. You do not have to substitute their opinion for your own judgment. Same goes for your mom.

      1. soon*

        My former manager, who I am still very good friends with, is overweight and wears braids. She has a position in the federal senior executive service making just about 200 grand a year. That’s because she is one of the smartest and hardworking people I have ever known. I’m overweight too and have done pretty well myself.

        The only physical problem that might affect getting a job is very poor grooming, or perhaps body odor. Size discrimination may still happen in certain looks conscious fields that subscribe to limited and outdated standards of beauty, but in professions where competence is prized? Nah.

        OP, Mom is toxic and off base. Ignore her and keep slaying it in your career.

    10. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I think this is waaaaay more about your mother than about you.

      I don’t want to claim that employers don’t discriminate based on appearance, but if “30 pounds” is as far as it goes, you’re in the company of most of the American populace. Most of whom are employed. That’s not a stand-out amount of weight unless maybe your industry is at the end of the bell curve on appearance focus.

      A couple of months is not really that long, I’m afraid. It took me a year to find a permanent position, and it was the kind of job you’re in now (bad pay, no advancement). It took me three more years to find a better one. And I’m in a big city (one of the top 10 biggest in the US) where jobs are probably more plentiful than they are in a lot of places.

      So . . . I suspect your mother is genuinely trying to sympathize and help, but her context for doing it is terrible. I hope you can find another job-search support system here because you really don’t need all this drama.

    11. Smithy*

      Agree with everyone else for all the reasons – but I have sadly heard peers of mine say “I’m too fat to interview now – maybe when I lose X pounds”. For all the reasons women struggle in the workplace – letting our weight impact our self esteem and serve as an obstacle I find so disheartening.

      So OP – huge kudos for doing everything you need to in order for this messaging to be as far away from you as possible.

      1. Filosofickle*

        The first time I heard someone say “Don’t wait on the weight” it blew my mind. I spent a whole adult lifetime thinking I could only date / promote my business / do stuff / buy new clothes / travel (i>if I lost 20 pounds. It’s incredibly destructive thinking. I’m still working on it, but recognizing how much I was not living because of that thinking has changed my life.

    12. Donkey Hotey*

      First up, I’m sorry your mom is behaving so poorly. Job search is hard enough without all that crap.

      I think the second line of Alison’s advice bears repeating in a 72 point all caps sort of way. “[Her behavior has] forfeited her right to hear about it.” If she isn’t going to support you as the awesome, talented person you are, she doesn’t get to hear about the ins and outs of the job search, only the BOO-YAH when you land the new one that showers you in money and trips to Tahiti and all that.

      Fight the good fight.

    13. TootsNYC*

      I’m a parent of a job-hunting-age child, and this is a particularly difficult time for me as a mom.
      I have NO control, even less than I’ve ever had. Of course no one can control the employer, but I am acutely aware that a few years ago, I could boss my child around and do things for them; I felt like I had control.
      (That’s a bit of an exaggeration, so please don’t waste time on my hyperbolic phrasing.)

      Now I have none. It’s a tough transition sometimes.

      I also am still having trouble with setting down the responsibility to FIX things for my kid. Back in the day, it was my job to intercede, to arrange things, etc. Now, not only is it not my job, it would be incredibly wrong (and counterproductive) for me to do so. But the PRESSURE is still there. And when our kid shares their difficulties with us, that amps up that pressure, and it can be hard to resist.

      And I am a mom who is aware that this is not my life, not my job hunt, not my tasks. I actively work on this issue; I give myself pep talks, I observe myself carefully when I interact with my kid, etc.

      So if it’s hard for me out of sheer habit, it must be really hard for other parents who don’t have that same sense of obligation. Or how hard it is on the adult child when the parent isn’t able to actually be supportive (for whatever reason–from habit to toxicity).

      One solution is to actively talk about the effect on you. Politely but firmly. I often think that people have a right to know what kind of damage they are risking (or doing) for the relationship. How else will they realize what it is they should stop doing?

      That doesn’t always work.

      The solution? The information diet.
      Sometimes that will reset things, and will retrain the parent.

      Best of luck to OP.

      1. PNWdweller*

        TootsNYC wow, what a lucky adult child you have! I’m 47 and my mom is on the toxic end of the spectrum. If I try to change the subject, she will insist on going back to her unanswered question. On behalf of your child, thank you for recognizing your job is over. That being said, recently my car battery died and I was incredibly thankful my dad and stepmom dropped what they were doing to bring their battery charger over to help me out. Which turned into driving to get a new battery and having Dad install it. I do have roadside assistance but it was the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I thought a quick jump and I’d be on the road to Les Schwab for a new battery. So it’s more of a I can do it myself unless I ask you for your help – ah, life. No easy answer. OP 1 what everyone else has said – I highly recommend the information diet. Since redirecting does not work with my mom, I find it best to tell her almost nothing about my life. Makes her mad, but helps me out tremendously. Also makes me edit whatever I would post on Facebook because she’s my FB ‘friend’ and will post inappropriate comments – Who is that guy? if I am pictured with a man for one. anger embarrassment is a real thing! So everyone gets to see lots of cat pictures. it’s a win/win as she’s adorable.

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        Ugh, yes. I know what you mean. I want to fix EVERYTHING for my child, and yet I know that he needs to fix his own stuff.

    14. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      I wonder if OP #1’s mother couches her statements in a “it’s not me, it’s those other shallow people who stereotype.”

      “People tend to perceive fat people as lazy, and even though they are wrong, they’ll still think it, so you should try to lose weight.”

      “Of course your hair looks lovely, but lots of employers might think you’re too youthful or unprofessional because of it, therefore you should cut it.”

      “I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but many employers think not wearing makeup is unprofessional, so you should put some on before you go interview.”

    15. Jessica Fletcher*

      Not a comment on this person’s experience, but weight-based discrimination absolutely does exist, and does affect fat people in employment. For example, fat people, especially fat women, are often paid less than their thin peers. I encourage everyone who is interested in saying they “disagree” to research it for themselves. There’s a lot of evidence.

      I think it’s also important to acknowledge that OP may experience intersectional discrimination in hiring, as a person who is fat, queer, and a person of color. We don’t know what’s in the minds or subconscious of hiring managers, but this discrimination is real. I don’t think it’s super helpful to blow over it, especially as an opportunity to tell others it exists.

  2. TexasThunder*

    “All of which is to say that (a) loads of people have messy handwriting these days and (b) I think people care a lot less than they used to. As long as it’s reasonably legible and you’re not, like, a calligrapher, I wouldn’t worry about it.”

    That said, there are many people who seem to fetishize cursive.
    They are of course, loons, and best ignored.

    1. TL -*

      My handwriting has actually gotten better as I’ve gotten older (and I love cursive!)

      No lefty-specific advice, but for the way to neater handwriting is to consciously slow down and spare a tiny bit of brain space for what the next letter will look like. This doesn’t work for taking notes or anything thought-intensive like editing but for cards and postcards it works well.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I can have nice handwriting if I’m doing nothing but slowly thinking about how the letters will look and what I need to do to achieve that. I use this if I need to handwrite signs or short messages on greeting cards. (If what I need to write is complicated, I’ll draft it on scratch paper and then copy it so I’m not trying to compose while writing.) Weirdly, my handwriting grows a bunch of serifs when I do this while printing. (I’m usually printing when I’m doing this since I want other people to be able to read it and some people struggle to read cursive.)

        Otherwise, my handwriting is kind of a disaster. I’m not consistent about print versus cursive, things can get hard to read, and I’m not consistent about how I make some of the letters from use to use. (I also struggle to remember which way b/d/p/q go sometimes and have to stop and consciously think about it, which you’d think I’d have down solidly by now given that I have a master’s degree, but apparently not.) It’s less noticeable than when I was younger, as my handwriting has improved slightly and everyone else’s has also gotten worse. For just-for-me notes and such, I don’t worry about it (and tend to buy wide-ruled paper, which helps). It’s tricky when it’s something that needs to be written quickly and shared, but I do my best to split the difference between legibility and getting it written down before I forget it.

        1. Just J.*

          Are you me? I am exactly the same. Especially the switching between print and cursive when I am writing quickly.

        2. Door Guy*

          Something I found improved my handwriting was having pens that write with a very thick line. I always used the finest points I could and my handwriting was scrunched up and chicken scratchy. Once I started with the wider point I had to spread out my writing and slow down or I’d just have a smeared blob of ink.

          Now, when I do use a pen with a fine tip, my handwriting looks much neater and easier to read.

        3. Two Whales*

          I always get my B’s and P’s confused! I have since I was kid. I’ll do it when typing as well, though not as often. I think for me it’s because they sound so similar, so I have to focus specifically on which letter to write.

          I’ll echo the advice to slow down when writing on cards and the like. My printing isn’t too bad when I do that. I don’t typically care how my notes look, unless they’re edits that need to be given to another person to read. In that case, I slow way down to make sure I’m writing as legible as possible.

          As a funny aside, my partner and I have nearly identical handwriting even though we grew up on different sides of the country with different educational systems!

        4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          Cards are hard because the paper is often weird textures. Half the Christmas cards I sent out this year were glossy and the other half were heavyweight textured cardstock. The glossy ones, the pen slid everywhere and the cardstock ones the pen sank in and gripped all of the texturing while the paper absorbed the ink. It was a huge pain.

      2. Avasarala*

        Personally I have a rare(?) condition I’m calling Nervous Pen Syndrome, where I can write beautifully or messily as I please, but as soon as I have to handwrite an important form, or something I know others will read, I seize up and make mistakes. It’s even worse when someone is watching me write. I’ve messed up my name and date of birth before. So I would recommend practicing alone with an erasable pen, or pencil, extensively before taking your skills to the yearly holiday cards for important clients.

        1. Kendra*

          If it’s any consolation, not too long ago I misspelled my own name while signing a car title in front of a DMV employee; that was fun! So it happens to other people, too.

          1. Sled dog mama*

            I have to sign and date a bunch of items at my job most days. Usually no big deal. For some reason this year on my birthday I dated everything with my actual birthdate instead of the current date (wrong year). So embarrassing.

            1. Zephy*

              I imagine it’s because your birth year starts with 19, so if you wrote “12/13/19,” your brain just keeps going and you fill in the last two digits like you do every time you have to give your DOB. Same thing happened to a coworker of mine this year.

            2. SarahTheEntwife*

              I do that too! Or on medical intake stuff where I have to put my birthdate and the current date in a bunch of places I’ll switch the years.

          2. Environmental Compliance*

            Yup. It’s a little embarrassing how many compliance reports I’ve needed to reprint to resign with the right name. My favorite blooper has been when someone was talking to me about something and I managed to sign what they were saying.

            1. Miso*

              Ohh, I have that, too!
              I can’t write and listen to someone at the same time – I always end up writing what the person is saying. That was actually kinda useful in university, but bad when I was lagging behind on my notes…

        2. Shhhh*

          I do that too. Just-for-me notes or notes I’m going to type up before sharing with others? Fine.

          Filling out a form? Disaster.

          And don’t even get me started on what happens when I try to write on a whiteboard.

        3. Turquoisecow*

          My hands tend to shake when I’m under pressure, so otherwise neat handwriting comes out terrible on Christmas cards because I’m afraid my judgmental aunts or mom will comment on how they could barely read the address and are astonished the mailman found them. I have to make a conscious effort to be calm and chill about it.

        4. nonprofit writer*

          yes! this happens to me every time I go to vote. We don’t have to show ID but we have to sign our name next to the signature we’ve already provided when registering to vote. Every time I do it, I mess up and it looks like I’m not the same person! No one has ever called me out on it but I’ve definitely seen the poll workers eyeing it like, “hmmm…”

          1. londonedit*

            I once had to go through a whole rigmarole with the bank where I keep my savings accounts, because I signed something or other and the bank rejected it because the signature didn’t match the one I’d used when I opened the account. Well, I opened the account when I was 16, and by that point 16 was probably half my lifetime ago, so it wasn’t surprising! I had to sign a whole thing to officially update the signature they kept on file for me.

        5. Quill*

          I’m better at writing than speaking, but if any word based information tries to get into my head while I’m doing either it collapses like an inarticulate house of cards.

          (Hyperlexia, home of the “all information must be delivered or sent out in writing because the ears and the mouth take vacations halfway through conversations” has met “thought she could be a linguist at one point, discovered that studying two new languages at the same time lead to her taking her latin quizzes in what the professor thought was ‘very bad italian’ because spanish and latin should not be studied back to back.”)

      3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        My handwriting got somewhat ruined by writing lots of notes while standing up, to the point where I have a hard time reading them myself!
        What helps is a fountain pen – I now use one for 80% of my handwriting, and even my ballpoint scribbles are reasonably legible again.
        For practicality, I love my Namiki Pilot fountain pen: It has a real pen tip writing with real ink from a bottle or cartridges but opens and closes like a ballpoint pen – no cap, just push the button on the back to extend the tip. A very ingenious Japanese invention from the 1950s that really appeals to the engineer in me. Not cheap but very well made.

        1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          While I love a good fountain pen, they can be tough for lefties who already smear pages.

          OP, are you the kind of lefty who hooks your hand but keeps your paper upright? I’ve found I can avoid smears by holding my hand in the standard fashion but turning my PAPER about 45 degrees clockwise. It keeps my handwriting unslanted and unsmeared. (It’s still not legible but it looks neat until you try to read it.)

          1. joss*

            turning the paper has been my go-to method as well. Never a smeared message and no special pens, that I need to “defend with my life” needed

            1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

              Really annoying in the days of signing for things via square and other tablets, though! People look at me a little weird when I have to take and turn their tablet… or else turn myself.

          2. tink*

            Turning my paper is also my go-to method, especially since it’s easier on my wrist than hooking my hand.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Yes! Left hander here: My preferred pen is a Zebra Sarasa. The ink dries quickly enough that I hardly get any ink on my hand.

          I will also say that penmanship is a skill, and like any other skill in the world it needs to be practiced if you want to improve. Take up journaling, make your grocery lists by hand, and use any boring meeting time to practice your writing. If you really do want your writing to look neater, you can make that happen with practice.

        2. Library Guy*

          In addition to Zebra Sarasa, you might try the BIC Atlantis Comfort – my secretary bought a box of these, and I immediately “liberated” 5 to sit in my desk pan holder. It’s one of the smoothest pens I’ve ever used, and it dries … almost quickly enough. I’m awaiting a shipment of Uni-Ball BLX Infusion pens, which are reputed to dry almost instantly, while also being exceptionally smooth. (I’m supplying some lefty staff.)

          And while the tech change will make it easier, nothing will replace slowing down.

          1. Lexi Lynn*

            I adore the Pentel EnerGel pens. They have both thin and thick tips and don’t smear. I find the thicker ones easier to write with. I recommend them for all fellow lefties. And they have purple!

      4. Red 5*

        Yeah, this is the main way to do it I’ve found. My handwriting is pretty bad because of an injury to my wrist, so for me there are two things that really matter: time/attention to the actual task of writing and a good pen.

        Seriously OP, a good pen will do wonders in a way that I really didn’t expect. I was always the “whatever is the cheapest” type of person because I hate spending money on something like pens. But once a really nice pen was in the clearance bin and I realized that not only did it help my wrist feel better, it also made my writing look neater and more legible, and didn’t smear as much (I’m not a lefty, but I have to move and stabilize the paper a lot because of the wrist thing). So could be something to look at.

        That said, unless it’s important in the moment that the note be very legible (addresses on envelopes is the main one I worry about) then generally I think everybody is used to bad handwriting. I think a lot of it starts to come with age, as I’ve gotten older I know my handwriting has become so much more horrible, but again, wrist injury. I’m not the only one of my friends that’s noticed this though, so I think maybe we just get in more of a hurry. Slowing down when I need to fixes most of that.

      5. JSPA*

        There are a few types of pens that don’t smear even if you immediately pass your hand over them. If you are a non hooking left-hander it’s worth keeping a few on hand. Less glossy cards also help.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I will only say – make sure it’s legible handwriting. It is never a bad idea to have a fallback for when technology fails.

      Additionally, at least in my area the schools are tracing both handwriting and typing. My oldest is actually really proud of her handwriting. However, cursive is definitely not a point of emphasis at the schools.

    3. Ms. D*

      I rarely write things down for others, but I have, occasionally, had someone I was helping see the notes I write for myself. I spent 10 years in Catholic school, and write mostly in Palmer method cursive. It IS fun when a young staffer asks me what the heck the cursive, capital letters I just wrote are (I am a programmer, so I’m writing down variable names, and one of our common ones is “QTY” which is a high score for things people who don’t know formal cursive will look at like “WHAT IS THAT?!).

        1. ellex42*

          For the last 10 years I’ve been in a field where I regularly read old legal documents, so I’ve gotten really good at reading different styles and types of cursive (along with crumbling and faded pages and poor photocopies/scanns/scans of poor photocopies). Being able to read cursive is definitely becoming a specialized skill. I suppose I should be glad that I’m old enough that I didn’t have to turn in typed assignments until I was in college. Although my handwriting never been terribly neat and constant typing over the last 20+ years has only made it worse.

          1. What was I doing SQUIRREL!*

            I do genealogy. There is nothing like wading through US census records to build your ability to read cursive, and some of the census takers had worse handwriting than mine (which is really saying something).

        2. Door Guy*

          I’m the unofficial handwriting interpreter at my office. A few of our guys have atrocious handwriting and we have to input what they wrote in the field and if they aren’t in the office when the input is going on (they usually aren’t as they’re in the field working) it gets brought to me to figure out what they wrote. I hear “HOW DID YOU READ THAT?” at least twice a week.

        3. JustaTech*

          This is part of why my “color commentary” meeting notes are in cursive. It helps me practice and it’s less likely that anyone will read my notes saying things like “how many professionals does it take to start the web meeting?”

      1. Quill*

        Q, T, and Y are also some of the LEAST comprehensible uppercase cursive forms, edged out only by the dreaded Palmer G.

        The Palmer G is a sigil of doom.

        1. Rexasaurus Tea*

          I was today years old when I figured out what’s up with that uppercase Q, which looks more like the number 2 than a letter. Part of the circle is missing. Look up images for Palmer/D’Nealian/Modern cursive and then mentally connect the top left endpoint of the Q down to the loopy bit directly below (curve out slightly if it helps.) On a clock face, it would be the arc between 7 and 11.

          Speculating off that, maaaaybe the lower loop of the Z is there to distinguish it from the Q, because they’d look almost the same without Z’s descender?

          But yeah, no idea what’s going on with that G. If I were stretching I might guess that if you flip it left-to-right you get something sort of roundish with a crosspiece… but then that pointy upper corner… and I need to stop making excuses for a handwriting system that’s been around for 200 years and shows its age.

    4. Daisy*

      I find mildly interesting how often I see Americans online talking about ‘cursive’ as though it’s some particular arcane field – it comes up a weird amount! I’ve rarely heard the word used in the UK, but it’s also just how basically every adult writes (certainly based on the Christmas cards I’m getting). I would associate careful printing with being a child and writing notes, like Alison describes.

      1. Gen*

        As a Brit I thought for years that joined-up handwriting and cursive were entirely different things, like it was some fancy kind of calligraphy. My class actually missed the year we switched from kids printing to joined-up (teacher went to prison, sub assumed we knew it already, weird times) so we all pretty much winged it which led to some strange but still legible habits. Really legible is all that matters these days.

        OP there are writing exercises you can do if you’re interested in improving what you’re already doing. Depending on when you first learned you might find that you’ve been using methods that aren’t ideal, especially if you’re having trouble with smearing. There are workbooks online that you could try out and some groups on sites like Reddit dedicated to penmanship. I do agree with Alison that you’re probably fine though

        1. londonedit*

          I had an American pen pal as a child and she was taught in school to write in this incredible complicated cursive style – she still does, it’s amazing whenever I get a Christmas card from her! That’s what I always assumed ‘cursive’ was. I remember being taught ‘joined-up writing’ in primary school – when I was in secondary and doing my exams, my handwriting was incredible, really neat and tidy and it looked beautiful, but now I mainly scribble notes at work for myself and my writing is a whole jumble of joined-up/not-joined-up/squiggly not-even-proper-letters. I can write nicely if I concentrate on writing in a card, but not in everyday life.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          There is/was a special thing about cursive. Palmer Method was a really big deal before office automation became real. My mom was WWII generation, won a handwriting prize in college, and was appalled at my chicken scratch. (And there’s an ironic link to LW1.) Her insistence that I redo cards & notes to make them tidy as well as actually getting out the door is probably one reason I long ago gave up on Christmas cards. And thank you are email whenever possible.
          (Hm. She’s gone, do you think anyone else would be offended if I typed cards?)

          1. Red 5*

            I get more than one card every year with a typed up note in it where just the signature is in pen.

            And these days I’d say I get about two or three where the entire thing is just a photo card of a few snaps of the family from the year in a collage that says “Happy Holidays from the Smiths” and isn’t even signed with a pen or a personal touch at all.* So if you wanted to send people mail (and I encourage it because I really love getting cards myself) the I think however you want to make it work for you should work for the people who love you and want to get a card from you.

            *I don’t have a problem with this habit, the people sending them usually have multiple small children and pets, they don’t have time for a lot around the holidays and getting a card at all is impressive. It’s just a trend I’ve noticed.

            1. Koala dreams*

              I love the photo card trend, but I find it difficult sometimes if it’s only the children and no names attached. The children can be hard to recognize when I haven’t seen them in a while.

              1. Door Guy*

                I get those from my extended family and I don’t know ANY of their kids. I’m not particularly close to the majority of my cousins, but we all have the giant family directory my aunt made up, so they just print labels and stuff envelopes. I can barely recognize my cousins, much less their children. My Christmas card holder is usually full of pictures of kids in front of holiday themed backgrounds and I’ve not a clue who any of them are or what relative they belong to, and I’m sure the kids in the pictures have no idea who I am either. (Approximate count of great-grandkids on my mothers side is 66, and I can name 5 confidently (not including my own), another 5 or 6 I would at least recognize the name and be able to pin to a parent, and the rest are up in the air.)

              2. Red 5*

                Oh yeah, I could see that being a problem! Right now I’m kind of lucky because the people who are doing these either only have one kid, or I know them well enough to be able to keep track pretty well. But if suddenly some of my cousins started sending me cards with their kids on them I’d have no idea. People really should do something to help identify who is who on those kinds of cards!

        3. PhyllisB*

          I also missed the formal lesson for cursive. (Changed schools that year and I guess teacher assumed I had already learned it?) I have also heard it referred to as script, and mine is awful. I generally print anything I want someone else to be able to read, but sign legal documents in script. My grandchildren don’t have a clue about this, none of them have had formal instruction in handwriting. I guess eventually folks will be signing documents in print because no one is learning how to script anymore.

          1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

            For most of the people I know, their signature is totally divorced from knowing cursive/script or not. My signature has never been a neat cursive writing of my name. It’s not even definitively my name, lol.
            (I decided when I was younger that I wanted an “artsy” signature, and just never changed it.)

        4. Daisy*

          That’s so bizarre that you could ‘miss it’! But yeah, one term of ‘joined-up writing’ in Year 4, never mentioned again, and 25 years later I’m hearing more about it than I ever did online.

          My writing is terrible, but I am also left-handed. It’s hard not to smudge with certain pens.

        5. Media Monkey*

          some kids in the UK are now taught to write directly in cursive – apparently it is particularly of benefit to boys who find it hard to switch.

        6. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

          I … I was today years old when I learned that “joined-up writing” isn’t a kiddie neologism, like when toddlers call their mittens “hand socks.”

      2. Spencer Hastings*

        I’m in the US, and I wrote exclusively in cursive in elementary school because that was what the teachers wanted us to do. Then I got to middle school, and my teachers there told me to stop writing in cursive because “print is easier to read”. (This was in the early aughts.)

        Nowadays, my handwriting is a kind of hybrid between print and cursive: the letters are often joined together (because it’s faster), but the shapes are certainly very print-influenced. I can still write in cursive easily, but I don’t often have occasion to. When I’m filling out forms, I often write in all caps (my mom does that, so I think I picked it up from her).

        Also, as a left-handed person, I rotate the paper so that my hand is moving towards myself as I write, rather than left to right from my perspective. This gets rid of the smudging issue, but I don’t know if I’d recommend it or not: my posture and hand position when writing aren’t the best.

        1. PhyllisB*

          Side note to Spencer: If my memory serves, there is a version of cursive called Spencer. I don’t remember anything about it because I think the Palmer method is the most popular. Mine would be classified as Early Chicken Scratch.

          1. Media Monkey*

            it is spencerian. it’s not really cursive (in the way i would use the word in the uK). more a formal business hand that predates printing.

        2. just trying to help*

          Same here with the hybrid. My signature leans to the left, while the majority of my printing leans to the right for speed sake. However, I have instances where in the same document I have produced both left leaning and right leaning printing. People must think there is brain damage or some form of mental disorder with me. Maybe there is.

        3. Quill*

          Pretty much same timing, elementary school wanted us to go cursive exclusively in 4th and 5th grade, middle school said “if it isn’t typed you’re printing it because it takes me twice as long to read you gremlins’ botched cursive,” except for the one teacher at the school who could only read cursive because of some Dyslexia related thing.

          Everyone coped different ways with widely weird adaptations such as “more or less forgot lowercase print, writes in all caps but tall caps/small caps” varying print/cursive hybrids, cursive but all capital letters are print…

        4. Elenna*

          Born in ’96, I had a few lessons in cursive and then nobody mentioned it ever again. On the semi-rare occasions when I hand-write stuff, it’s almost all separated – when it’s not, it’s more because I didn’t lift the pen enough than any deliberate action on my part.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        These must be very young Americans. I’m 42 and cursive was a standard part of an elementary school education in the US when I was in (ordinary public) school, but is just meant “the joined-together writing that you learned after print”. It wasn’t special, it was simply descriptive to differentiate the styles. Does it have a different connotation in the UK?

        1. londonedit*

          We don’t call it cursive. It’s usually just referred to as ‘joined-up writing’, or ‘handwriting’. Cursive sounds like some archaic writing method (I think our minds automatically go to what I believe is the Palmer method, which I don’t believe was ever taught in UK schools, or certainly not in mine or my parents’ lifetimes).

          1. Kirsten*

            Strangely enough my children, who are in the cohort that are learning to write joined-up from the start, call it “cursive” and so does the school – and we’re in the UK.

            I am a convert. My older child’s writing is far more legible than mine was at his age. I remember crying bitterly over having to switch to a new way of writing and it took years for my writing to neaten up.

            Now I read bad writing professionally – I work with medical archives!

        2. Door Guy*

          I’m 35 and had cursive taught in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade, was told everything would be required in cursive throughout school, submitted an essay that was typed in 7th grade and got teased by my peers, and by 10th grade the only handwritten assignments I turned in were for ones that were finished entirely in class and were most definitely NOT required to be cursive. In fact, I had points taken off once in 10th grade because I hand wrote my paper when our computer hard drive crashed. He took 2 full grade points off, went from an A- to a C-. I had asked permission since I wasn’t going to be able to use a school computer and my notes were at home anyways. He said yes. Got the paper back and big red across the top “NEEDS TO BE TYPED”. Spoke to him after class and reminded him he said I could hand write it. His answer? “Yes, but I never said you’d get a good grade.” He and I had issues throughout the 4 years I had classes with him.

      4. epi*

        Many Americans are taught a joined style of penmanship in school, then gradually develop their own hybrid style that allows them to write faster. We are saying that we don’t use all the letter forms of the formal style we were taught, not that we block print everything. It’s common for us to develop a style that allows for some letters in a word to be joined and others not joined, depending what we find most legible and efficient.

        It’s also generational, varying with what writing systems were being taught when we were young and how important penmanship was at the time we were working. I’m in my 30s and was taught D’Nealian method at multiple schools. My adult handwriting is a hybrid style that I designed.

        1. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

          Right, like I was taught to join out of lowercase q at some point and I never, never do that.

          1. Quill*

            I can mimic and read many, many methods of cursive just based on exposure to handwriting within my family. But my mom was a watercolor artist as her first career and designed her own pair of fonts (one was just a fancied version of the other) and a decent amount of my handwriting is based on the easiest parts of that.

    5. T3k*

      lol, I can concur with that. I’m also a lefty, was taught cursive for 1 year just over 20 years ago, and switched right back to print after that year. The way I’ve worked around smudging is to buy quick dry pens (hard to find but they’re out there) or write by keeping my hand lifted off the paper. I’ve also seen some lefties curve their hand so it’s almosting pointing back at them, but that looked too painful to me to try. But ideally I far prefer typing.

      1. Traveling Teacher*

        My child is a lefty and going to learn writing next year–thanks for the tip! I will look in to these pens for her.

      2. Just delurking to say...*

        I came up with a different solution: trained myself to keep my hand below the line when I write. It was a painstaking exercise in frustration at first but ended up becoming automatic. Goodbye smudges!

        1. UKDancer*

          As a fellow left hander I agree. My parents were keen that I learnt to write clearly without smudging with a fountain pen. So as a child I was given a fountain pen and a lot of handwriting worksheets by their next door neighbour who was an academic specialising in children and education. I was made to do them I suppose but I was a fairly biddable child and don’t appear to have minded too much.

          So by dint of training I learnt to write with my hand slightly below the line and never smudge my ink (on the rare occasion I use a proper ink pen, usually I use a biro which doesn’t smudge). It’s become automatic now so I don’t even think about it.

          1. Antilles*

            FWIW, that’s actually how left-handers are supposed to learn to write.
            The problem is that everybody usually learns to write the same way (both due to conscious teaching in schools and unconscious ‘mimicking how you see others do it’), so most left-handers never actually learn the proper way for a lefty to hold the pen/write.

        2. CoffeeforLife*

          I do the hand under the line trick. I don’t smudge and have recieved *shocked* comments about being a lefty, because my writing is legible.

          Side note, I’ve been practicing calligraphy and brush lettering (easier) and there are few resources for lefties. Regardless of the hand, all the advice given is to take your time and be intentional. Beautiful script doesn’t just flow -we use our natural writing for that- but is planned and each letter is placed.

          1. Joielle*

            Agreed – I also do calligraphy as a hobby/side gig and I think of it more as “drawing letters” than “neat penmanship.” It really has nothing to do with how you write naturally!

      3. Half-Caf Latte*

        Yes! I can here to say – experiment with pen type. The cheap ballpoints that get goopy are terrible, and I found gel (the *it* accessory in HS) terribly messy.

      4. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yeah, I’m a lefty and all my elementary school teachers were right handed. When we did handwriting exercises they would all tell me how messy my writing was, but none of them had any meaningful tips on what I could do to make it better. The minute my teachers stopped requiring assignments written in cursive, I stopped doing it. I’ve trained myself into a very neat and legible style of printing, and I actually get compliments on it from time to time.

      5. just trying to help*

        There are services out there which can take your handwriting, either print or cursive (joined up), and produce a type font. I have been thinking about getting one of each, left leaning and right leaning and cursive. That way, I can put my own little spin on electronic documents.

      6. What was I doing SQUIRREL!*

        Lefty who holds the pen above the line so it points back at me. But I also don’t grip the pen between my index finger and thumb like most people do; the pen rests between my index and middle finger, and the bottom joint of my thumb secures it on top. So my wrist is pretty close to straight instead of hooked around.

    6. I hate cursive*

      That said, there are many people who seem to fetishize cursive.
      They are of course, loons, and best ignored.

      +1. And a pox on the stupid New Jersey state legislator who wants to mandate the teaching of cursive.

      1. Mom of Cursive Writer*

        I’m not in favor of a mandate, but learning cursive is what turned my kid who hated writing to a kid who writes stories for fun. It was something about the way the letters flowed continuously that made it work better for her.

        1. Quill*

          My middle school contained one dyslexic teacher who had everyone either write in cursive or type assignments and print them out in cursive fonts so he could read them better.kro

          Suddenly a *bunch* of slightly dyslexic students who hadn’t been diagnosed in elementary turned up with “what the heck, why is this so much easier to read?”

      2. JSPA*

        there’s also hooking, which angles the paper and curves the wrist and arm in such a way that the letters drop in from above. All of the variance can cause hand shoulder and arm problems in your later years so it’s best not to be dogmatic about any one method.

      3. Half-Caf Latte*

        In looking through my old blue books from undergrad, I learned that when I knew what I was talking about, I tended to print, and when it was BS, I’d switch to cursive. My hypothesis is that something about the loopy flowy-ness of the style helped with the flow of getting some …creative… answers flowing.

    7. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Note taking in Uni wrecked my cursive to a point people thought I was in med school. I had no alternative to switch to print.

    8. Staja*

      I went through 6 years of occupational therapy in school – at nearly 30 years later, I still write neater than most people I know (and only use pens with rubber grips on them). Still can’t catch a ball or jump rope, so not all was successful!

    9. Asenath*

      I do like handwriting. My own – and I’m with OP in that I blame spending far too long writing far too fast, in my case taking notes in classes, is so bad that often I can’t read it. It is certainly possible to learn better handwriting, even as an adult, but I have never tried them. I type just about everything except for notes in cards sent to very close friends in special circumstances (sympathy, Christmas, maybe birthday). And then I try to write slowly and clearly, sometimes remembering the days when I could write perfectly legible 3-hour exams without my hand cramping. If you’re interested in improving your handwriting, go for it, but no one else is going to worry about it much unless you leave them completely illegible notes (I’m looking at a few of my co-workers here).

      1. Amy Sly*

        One of the ways I keep my handwriting skills fresh between inscribing cards is to doodle the letters when bored in meetings and such.

    10. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

      My oldest son has dyspraxia and I was likely undiagnosed with the same issues as a child. My handwriting is AWFUL.

      Keyboard culture of course is a godsend for me, but when I have to hand write now it is even worse than it was.

      It does impact that I pretty much can’t. Sometime you have to hand write! If I can use a Sharpie for (whatever it is), you can read it. Sort of.

    11. What’s with Today, today?*

      I definitely notice handwriting. We have an employee who writes so sloppily, notes with instructions to the next employee coming in van get muddled and it’s caused issues. We have him type everything now, even if it’s just ”Play XYZ at 5:15 p.m.”

    12. New Job So Much Better*

      I also had great handwriting back in high school, even came up with own font. Now, it’s terrible, but no one cares.

    13. Ama*

      I don’t mind messy handwriting for cards, even ones sent in a professional context. So many of the cards I receive from professional contacts are printed with a font designed to look handwritten — I don’t blame the companies that do this, but I really appreciate the extra effort that’s been taken when I can tell the card was handwritten, no matter what the handwriting itself looks like.

    14. Tammy*

      I love cursive (and fountain pens) because I’ve found that, as a person with ADHD, handwriting in cursive with a fountain pen takes just enough attention and concentration to slow my brain down a bit and help me focus. I also like that fountain pens are refillable, which is environmentally friendly, and that you can get all sorts of colorful ink and stuff. My cursive is somewhat more legible than my printing, but I’d starve to death if I had to make a living as a calligrapher.

      My handwriting habits and tools are sometimes a good conversation starter, especially since both fountain pens and cursive writing are making something of a comeback in the US. But my own personal quirks aside, I agree that as long as your handwriting is legible to whomever has to read it – whether that’s you or other people – it doesn’t particularly make a difference. The last time someone actually cared much about my penmanship was in elementary school.

    15. Donkey Hotey*

      Reads: “fetishize cursive”
      Thinks: Oh yeah, this topic is going to explode.

      Right there with you, TT. I’m all in favor of nice handwriting but the way people have had the vapors to handwriting classes being eliminated is downright pearl-clasping and silly.

    16. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      Hello fellow lefty! I am pretty sure no one gives a flying crap what your handwriting looks like. They can read it. It’s all good.
      I smear the odd bit of ink too but it doesn’t obscure the word, so again, no one cares. (In 2019 this would be a strange thing to care about.) (I get the side of my left hand covered in ink, which I like to call the lefty tattoo.)
      I bet your writing is just fine and dandy, so try to think of it as an art form, personalized by you. This is how I view my own handwriting, which ranges in neatness from hot garbage to extremely tidy depending on what I’m doing.
      If you really dislike it though, like any medium you can express yourself in different ways. Practice different styles until you find one you like, then practice it a lot.
      I still think you can learn to love your perfectly good writing though. Perfection isn’t required for artistic beauty.
      Lefties rule!!

    1. Violet Fox*

      Indeed, a lot of ball point pens can be pretty bad for lefties because of the way they draw ink out. Using pretty much anything but a cheap ballpoint will help a lot.

      At least for me, none of my teachers in school knew anything about how to teach a leftie to write, so I pretty much figured it out on my own. I actually ended up with the pen more like a paintbrush hold, with my hand raised above the paper and the pen at a bit of an angle. This works best with fountain pens though, which have very much become my preferred implement.

      That being said, I would think in the work world the most important thing is that people can actually read and understand the information that you are trying to convey.

      1. FCJ*

        Another leftie seconding Uniball Signo. My coworkers sometimes think it’s weird how protective I am about my pens, but I seriously spent an entire semester once blotting my class notes like a 19th-century secretary because I’d bought the wrong kind of pens. The struggle is real.

    2. KC*

      Yet another lefty chiming in on pens! The Inkjoys are fabulous and my current favorite. Also great are Sharpie fine points and Staedler finelines (they write great but had a triangle shape I couldn’t get used to.

      The other thing I’d suggest is just working on particular letters or short words that give you trouble. My 9s and 4s looked really similar, as did my Is and Es. My “of” was also really illegible, so I focused on finding and practicing better ways to write those particular things. Most people nowadays don’t have great writing, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it unless you enjoy writing and want to improve it as a fun hobby!

  3. Mike C.*

    Why don’t people just put their group texts on “do not disturb” or “mute” instead of treating it like a phone call that has to be answered now?

      1. DO NOT DISTURB*

        I want to imagine its a setting youre overlooking and that your phone (and most current smart phones) can do this.

        1. Ms. D*

          Android (I have an S7, using the default messaging app): select message, tap on the three dots at the top. At the bottom of that menu, there’s a notification icon. Click on that to mute notifications for that conversation. You can also create custom rules for notifications by clicking on “Notifications” at the top of that menu under the 3 dots, selecting custom, and defining the rule.

          1. Ms. D*

            For those who are worried about missing a text during normal business hours…would setting it to vibrate only (for the conversation) work? It will still buzz you, and light up your notification icon, but probably not wake you up at 2 AM…

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              I was going to suggest a separate notification tone for the boss. In Android you can set custom notifications for texts from each contact, although I haven’t tested that, so I don’t know if it would work in a group chat. That would still require a conversation about how they are texting about non-critical things during the OP’s off hours, and that if there really was a work emergency, the OP would need to tell the boss they will need to call. Luckily for me, my coworkers know how to use different channels….my direct report texts me only when there’s an issue, and that’s only during work hours (we have about 3 hours a day where we don’t overlap), and my peer who can back up many of my functions will Gchat or text if they need my help or input, or Facebook message if it’s personal rather than professional.

              1. LunaLena*

                Yes, this was what I was thinking too. I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and currently have three ringtones for my text messages – one for family and friends, one for important notifications (things like weather alerts, doctor appointments, etc), and one for not-so-important notifications (like coupons from businesses I follow). The last one is a naturally low sound, so even when it does go off, it’s not as noticeable as the other two and I can easily ignore it.

                If I had to text at work often I would probably get a separate ringtone for that too, but I don’t and so I haven’t.

        2. Ama*

          When I had an earlier version of a Galaxy (I think it was the 3), you could not opt out of group texts without blocking every person on the message — I checked extensively on the internet at the time and this was a known issue many people complained about. It was particularly aggravating when my parents’ group of friends added me into their very long chain when they were passing through my town and arranging a dinner meet up, and then forgot to remove me.

          I will note Samsung did fix this issue and I think since at least the 7 you can now mute conversations without muting the recipient.

      2. epi*

        If you have a smartphone, you are not limited to using only the text app that came with your phone.

        You probably do have access to a setting like this, but it may be hidden and it may not be powerful or customizable enough for your needs. Try a Google search for what you want to do + your specific phone model to find people talking about the default app that came with the phone.

        If you don’t find anything or don’t like what you find out, those same conversations will probably include recommendations for other text apps. Never settle for being disturbed all the time on your own device, just because the company that made it treated the interface like an afterthought!

    1. Anonariffic*

      I could see that working for a mostly social chat, but my work team’s group chat is frequently the quickest and easiest way to distribute urgent information to everybody since we tend to be scattered all over the place. I don’t need to be updated for every message that goes it after my shift ends, but muting and unmuting it every day would be too much hassle and I’d probably forget and leave it silenced the day something really important happened. (The useless all-staff employee notification texts, on the other hand, got muted as soon as I figured out there was no unsubscribe option.)

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Don’t those usually require 3rd party apps? I can’t find anything like that on my Android G6 native texting, and when I google, all I find is 3rd party apps.

          1. EH*

            My Android phone has some pretty sophisticated rules around priority contacts and what gets silenced when. It’s worth doing some digging in the settings and doing a bit of Googling. Other people will have this situation as well.

            For example, if you set your phone to always ring for everyone during the day and then at a particular time, go to priority-only (and don’t set the group chat to be priority), it might get the results you want.

    2. Beth*

      For texts from work specifically, there’s always the possibility that it WILL be something that needs immediate attention someday.

      1. DO NOT DISTURB*

        Do not disturb doesn’t remove the text (at least on iphone) from your main list, so you will see it as an unread chat, it just won’t interrupt you if it’s not necessary, so if you periodically check your phone, you will see it has new texts in it and can open and review on your time. I think thats a reasonable compromise especially with a boss who group chats “drive safely” at random hours.

        1. EinJungerLudendorff*

          It depends on how urgent and important the messages can get.

          If it now takes hours instead of minutes to respond, that’s going to have a noticable effect on whatever needed your attention. And having a quick reaction is often why people use texts instead of email.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              But we don’t know if there are OTHER texts in LW’s life that ARE urgent that shouldn’t be blocked. (Young child & elderly relative come to mind.)
              It might be her personal phone not a second company phone.

              1. Myrin*

                That’s only really relevant if OP doesn’t have a smartphone, though (which is possible, of course). With a smartphone – I imagine; I have a relatively old one from 2013 and it has this feature – it’s no trouble at all to just mute individual threads so that you’d still get alerts from every other, non-muted person/group.

                1. BT*

                  Are we talking Apple or Android here? features aren’t the same between the two, so I don’t think the assumption holds.

                2. Myrin*

                  @BT, I’m personally talking about Android but I’m fairly sure I’ve heard iPhone users talk about this feature before on here.

              2. Yorick*

                We’re not talking about muting the phone. We’re talking about muting the group thread that the boss is texting “drive carefully” on. You’d still get notifications for messages about your kid or whatever.

    3. Colette*

      Because some texts could be important? Because you still have to look at the first text to know whether it’s critical or not?

      That might reduce the OP’s irritation, but it’s still going to be annoying.

    4. Miso*

      Yeah, I was very surprised to see texting referred to as an immediate medium. To me it isn’t at all, either with friends nor for work.
      If it’s really urgent, I’ll call…

      1. Invictus*

        Miso, thanks for your comment. I was starting to think I was the only one … I don’t treat my smartphone as if I am on call 24/7. If a text pings or the phone rings, I only respond if I want to.

        During work hours, I pick up or check the text right away, because my boss is paying me to be available when she is trying to reach me. If she’s texting me about something non-urgent during the work day, that’s fine.

        When I’m not working, I only answer my phone or look at a text if I feel like it. Don’t assume that I am always available and ready to let the phone rule my day.

      2. Joielle*

        Agreed! To me, calling is the only immediate medium. I see every text as it comes in (I get notifications on my watch) but I definitely don’t feel like I need to reply right away. Nothing wrong with muting the conversation or making the boss’ text ringtone silent.

        1. Elenna*

          Oh good, it’s not just me! For me the only thing I feel I have to respond to immediately are phone calls. Although my parents definitely want me to treat our Facebook group chat as immediate, so YMMV.

          OP, it might be worth asking your boss what she expects with these after-hours texts? Maybe she would be 100% fine with you waiting till a convenient time to check them!

      3. Mike C.*

        That didn’t make sense to me either. It’s only immediate if I’m texted while holding my phone.

      4. Allypopx*

        I’m more likely to check a text than answer a call.

        I have texts set to ping on my watch which I actually find less disturbing because I can glance quickly and disregard.

      5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Shoot. Half the time if I am off work my phone is in one room and I am in another. People have learned that if it is really, really urgent to call, because I may not check it for a couple of hours

      6. fhqwhgads*

        I don’t think of it as an immediate medium in general, but for work it is. This is primarily because for work, if I’m working, there are alllllllllll sorts of work-based mediums for communicating with me: email, slack, call my office phone. If work is texting my personal cell phone, it suggests they A: need to reach me and B: do not expect me to have those work-specific mediums readily at hand. In that context, it’s pretty much gotta be urgent or else it doesn’t make sense to not have gone through all the work-specific channels instead. I realize this may vary based on industry or even the nature of the job. I’m sure some jobs do extensively use texting for folks who are frequently away-from-desk as a normal part of work, but especially now that most work-channels can be accessed on a phone, there’s a divide there where, to me, if you’re going to something that hits my personal device and only my personal device, it better be important.

      7. Robin*

        Yeah, I leave my phone on do-not-disturb basically 24/7. I’m a person that checks my phone every 30min – 1hr unless I get really wrapped up in something, and I prefer to see a notification when I look rather than be interrupted. I’ve also trained everyone in my life not to expect quick responses from me, even for phone calls.

        Once upon a time the only way to get ahold of someone was calling their home and leaving a voice message. Or reaching their pager if they REALLY wanted to be interrupted. If you don’t work in an industry where lives are at stake, I feel like there’s no reason (outside of industry norms) that colleagues should be able to have instantaneous access to you outside of work hours.

    5. Epsilon Delta*

      We had a similar “group chat” between former Bossman and his reports. Usually non-work stuff, sometimes not. One of the reports said she was putting the conversation on mute, and rarely (if ever) replied to the group chat. It was understood that if you needed to contact her you should text her directly or, you know, pick up the phone and call :) It worked out well for our team.

    6. nuclear texter*

      I am in group chats for a few not-work-but-not-entirely-social groups I am in, like a political group for which I am a board member and a book club for which I am the community events planner. They honestly drive me insane. I feel like texting anything to a group that doesn’t need an immediate response outside of work hours is inconsiderate, especially when you get into the after-8 PM or before 8 AM territory. Also, if it becomes a back and forth between two people in the group, then they should sidebar. I mute my group texts, but even seeing the red notification bubble drives me crazy, so I usually check the text just to clear it. I also hate groups that request you use a specific app like GroupMe or Voxer. I don’t want an app I exclusively use to speak to 4 people when a normal text or email would do.

      Don’t get me started on “happy holiday” group texts to your 30 closest friends–OMG.

  4. Observer*

    #1 – Yeesh!

    Put your mother on an information diet. Also, think about your overall interaction with her, because that kind of lack of confidence sounds like it could spill into other stuff. Beyond that, please don’t let he attitude mess with your perception of your weight or how you relate to food. Whether you need to lose weight or not, it really sounds like your mother has a fairly strong and unreasonable hang up about the matter.

    As for interviews – just make sure you are well dressed.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Seconding the information diet. I have used it in the past with pessimistic family, but it can so help when dealing with the negative nellies – because they can’t grump on something they don’t know about.

    2. Mookie*

      I’m going to push back on the unsolicited advice about “just” dressing well in response to someone sharing that they are confident in themselves, good at what they do, have a track record to support that, and that they are also overweight. Dressing appropriate for interviews is a universal rule, not one that needs special emphasis when speaking to a fat person (who didn’t ask us for help with respect to her job search), as though it will Make Up For Fatness. There’s nothing to compensate for here. I well understand the differing appearance-compliant standards all us are held to: if you’re a person of color, a woman, fat, disabled, “foreign,” read as working class, you can be perceived as sloppy and less put together than a white candidate or a man looking the same as you, dressed similarly, with an identical or better set of skills and experience. But there’s no good reason to actively perpetuate these stereotypes, where someone in a marked category needs to be reminded that they are subject to unfair standards. The LW knows this already.

      1. Anon Y. Mouse*

        the dressing well thing is additionally complicated by the fact that larger sizes have been…. neglected for so so long. Vastly better these days depending on the size you wear, but just ‘dressing better’ isn’t always a simple option.

        1. soon*

          Having been large my entire life, I can say that this is the golden age of plus size fashion and clothing. So many retailers sell business appropriate attire in larger sizes, I am inundated with their catalogs almost daily. Dressing better is indeed an option at any price bracket. A simple google sear will also yield many results.

        2. Observer*

          As a plus size woman myself, I’m well aware of the issue. But, that’s still the one basic thing that people need to think about. And it’s true – it’s gotten much easier over time as more options become available.

          1. Mookie*

            The fact of the matter is, there are body-specific, gendered, racialist components to “dressing better.” The literal availability of extended sizing and expanded styles doesn’t change the fact that fat can be discerned, and judged, underneath clothing. For some people, fat people read as sloppy no matter how exquisite the tailoring, forgiving the textile, flattering the cut and color. Likewise, what counts as business casual clothing and informal styling, hair, and make-up on a white body is a demerit on a person of color. And then there are WASP aesthetics, incorrectly identified as a neutral and universal standard.

            The motto to dress well is, unfortunately, a dilemma for many people because it says a lot about culture but provides virtually no useful instruction.

      2. sunny-dee*

        I think what Observer was saying was “just follow the basics (dress well / present well)” and that’s all you need to do — not saying the OP needs to do something extra because fat.

        1. Marthooh*

          “Just make sure you’re prepared to answer the interviewer’s questions!”

          “Just make sure that your resumé is up to date!”

          “Just make sure to be polite to everyone at the interview site!”

          These are some more examples of perfectly true things the OP clearly doesn’t need to be told. And, not coincidentally, wasn’t told. Because the comment was unnecessarily focussed on the OP’s looks.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Because the letter was about the OP’s looks.

            But it’s much better to go through life assuming the worst about people.

            1. Mookie*

              Nope. This was about fatness, both a subclass of “looks” and a category unto itself.

              This is an example of someone claiming that being accused of unintended bigotry is worse than being on the receiving end of it. I didn’t question anyone’s character; I reminded them of the consequences of perpetuating fatphobic tropes and, yeah, there are worst things you can do. So what? Why settle for less-than-absolutely-terrible? People who genuinely want to help are more than capable of accepting when they unintentionally reinforce a negative and unhelpful stereotype.

          2. Observer*

            Yes, because unfortunately, the OP is dealing with someone who doesn’t think that any of that matters, but her LOOKS are the be all and end all. And that’s what I’m pushing back on.

      3. Observer*

        Good heavens you are reading A LOT into what I said. None of which is there.

        Yes, “dress well” is standard advice. That’s why I used the word “just” – because that’s the baseline you need to do whatever size you’re at. In other words, “just dress well, like anyone else and don’t obsess about your appearance.” I was saying that in the context of pushing back on someone who thinks that if her appearance is not “perfect”, that is going to tank her job prospects.

        I’m not a POC, but I am overweight. So I know about the stereotypes quite well, than you very much. And nothing I said was based in those stereotypes.

        1. Mookie*

          Of course, I am “reading into” your bland and biased advice. That’s the point of belowthread discussions. There are no pat answers or universal maxims. “Than you” means nothing to me; you have no insight into my experiences.

          Again, recommending a fat woman “just” do this, like it’s a Buzzfeed worthy One! Weird! Trick! to solving fatphobia while job-seeking is asinine and divorced from reality. I don’t apologize for introducing complexity into a complicated situation.

          Your advice is predicated on a lot of assumptions that are not borne out by close and careful reading of the LW’s inquiry. She didn’t ask about how to mask or overcome fatness. You just assumed she needed reminding. And I repeat: that is unhelpful and harmful. Conformity doesn’t actually work for fat women here, nor for others. The idea that if only fat people would just dress like their leaner counterparts (but in larger sizes! or in shapeless one-pieces!) in order to cancel out fatphobia is, in fact, ludicrous. The onus for actually overcoming prejudice never just rests on the shoulders of the recipients of bias, whose only task is to simply parrot thin people; if it were that easy, we would have solved our own problems years ago. It’s a wee bit more complicated than that, and it’s dishonest to pretend that a simple wardrobe transformation is the key to changing minds steeped in a belief, readily reinforced by our culture, that fatness signifies physical disease, mental illness, emotional weakness, sloth, poverty, ignorance, greed, a flawed character, a psyche motivated by immediate gratification and incapable of strategic, long-term thinking.

          Just as the LW’s mother is guilty of ascribing a simple solution to a more complicated problem, so is pretending one’s clothing is all that it takes to combat fatphobia.

        2. Mookie*

          And, again, no: the recommendation to “dress well” is a non-sequitur. The LW did not ask us for tips for job-seeking, she is confident in her eventual ability to land a job commensurate with her experience and skills (which she rates highly and intimates that others do, as well). This is about her mother’s own ignorance and unsolicited advice as she herself seeks out a role at an organization that meets her needs for promotion, advancement, an upwardly-mobile career track. I don’t speak for her, but sneaking in a “don’t forget to dress well” under these circumstances would feel insulting and belittling to me. At any rate, I think she’s got that covered.

  5. Observer*

    #4 – DND is you friend. If you have a smart from and it’s relatively recent you can even set which numbers will alert and which not, if you want to take the trouble.

    1. Princesa Zelda*

      It took a moment to realize you did not mean Dungeons and Dragons, and I was trying to figure out how you got your phone to alert to different rolls.

      1. Kendra*

        Can you roll to save against Random Texts During Dinner Time? (Sounds much more fun than “do not disturb” to me!)

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            You rolled a one: Three people at the table have the same ring tone and all dive for the phones and answer each other’s.

            1. Quill*

              “Oh, that text didn’t go through to me right away, I couldn’t have responded to it that night.”
              “Make a deception check.”

              1. Pebbles*

                I would just like to comment that I love everything about this thread.

                When my boss tells me that I need to work on an emergency job over the weekend, do I need to roll against Constitution?

                1. Dragoning*

                  Attacks on mental resources are always will saves.

                  But the ability to work for several days straight with no breaks might be Fortitude!

    2. Bilateralrope*

      Could I get some instructions on how to set them ?

      I’ve currently got one number texting me that I want to set so that the notification shows on my lock screen, but no sound plays when a text from that number arrives.

      1. Joielle*

        Set the number’s ringtone to silent. You’ll need to Google instructions for your exact phone, but if you use that phrase you should be able to find it easily.

        1. Shoes On My Cat*

          I do this with repeat robo calls and my dad’s texts. Somehow if he is awake, we all must be too and I can’t tell you the number of times his texts have woken me up at midnight. Grrr! Luckily I have a kickass millennial co-worker with the same phone and she showed me how to set text tone to silent but ring tone to my normal ring (for an emergency). Just google ‘[your phone] silent tone individual text’

      2. BethDH*

        Definitely depends on your phone, but if you want to have this setting for all texts from a person, and only that person, you usually set this in the contact entry for that person – just like you would set a custom ring tone.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I would talk to the manager first as Alison suggested. OP shouldn’t have to a change a settings on her phone because her manager doesn’t know how to handle non-emergency information with her team. And yes, I realize that setting up the DND isn’t difficult, but it doesn’t solve the actual issue.

  6. Stephen!*

    I have recently been the person whose family member was having important but relatively routine surgery! My supervisor responded to me telling him that I was taking time off for the surgery was, “No problem, let me know if you need anything.” And his response to me telling him the recovery was taking longer than anticipated and I needed more time off was “I hope your family member’s recovery goes well, take all the time you need.” Part of that is the office culture, where people actually can take time off for these things (looking at you, my family member’s shitty job where they gave her grief for, you know, having the audacity to need surgery and recovery time). My supervisor making it clear that I had nothing to worry about job wise was all the support I needed and a simple “hope it goes well” is plenty.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Same here. I’m actually sitting on the couch at my parent’s house right now, been working remotely all week as mom had surgery Monday. And I literally have 4 bosses. Every single one told me they hoped all went well, asked if I needed to move anything off my plate, etc.

    2. Ama*

      Yeah, my direct report recently took a day so she could help care for a family member having surgery and I basically said “I hope everything goes okay, if it looks like you’re going to need an extra day just give me a heads up.”


    #4 – I’m not sure about android, but on iphone, you can mute or put on do not disturb / silence individual texts. So you can mute the group chat if it doesn’t stop after requesting it to stop. That’s at least one way that it won’t disturb you. I’d like to imagine other phones have this capability as well.

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      That’s what I was just thinking – either mute it or what I’ve done is mute everyone and then put the precious few people I will drop everything for and put them as favorites so their messages will come through immediately.

      Of course this all depends on whether or not the manager ever texts something truly important.

  8. Beth*

    #1: What you’re experiencing sounds like a very normal job search, so I think you can rest assured that your mom’s nonsense isn’t based on anything substantial. From the professional side of things, it sounds like you’re doing everything right; you’re getting to final rounds and getting very positive feedback. You just need to keep at it until something works out.

    The problem is the interpersonal side of things with your mom. I think you have a couple options here. One is, as others have said, to stop giving her opportunities to pull this on you; you know she’s going to respond to bad job hunt news with criticism about your weight, so stop calling her to share bad news. Call someone who will actually support you instead.

    Another option could be telling her explicitly to drop the weight talk. That could sound something like “Mom, you’ve brought this up a few times, and I’m getting sick of hearing it. I want to be able to call you to share news and get advice, but when your response is always harping on my weight, it gets super repetitive and kind of hurtful and it’s making me want to stay away. Drop it, okay? Let’s talk about literally anything else.” Maybe she’ll be receptive, maybe she won’t, but if you feel like there’s a chance she might then at least giving her the opportunity to change her behavior might feel good. (If you want a less weight-focused script, “I’m not looking for advice right now, I’m just sad this didn’t work out and hoping for some sympathy/commiseration. Are you up for that or should I call someone else?” might work.)

    No matter what you do, hold onto the good sense that’s telling you that your mom’s advice is nonsense. You’re supporting yourself just fine, so there’s no rush. You’re getting interviews and making a good impression at them, so there’s nothing wrong with you as a candidate. It’s really normal to go through a series of misses before you get a hit when it comes to job searching, so there’s no real sign here that there’s anything to be concerned about. And you’re absolutely right that you don’t want to work for the kind of employer that would make a decision based on weight! It sounds to me like you’re doing just fine as is, and I hope you land on that hit soon.

    1. Kendra*

      Your first paragraph is just what I thought – if the OP is getting to final rounds at multiple places, she’s doing something right! OP, keep plugging along, incorporate any useful feedback you get, and ignore your mother as best you can. There’s always the open threads here if you need a sympathetic or supportive ear (or a dozen!) to talk through your job search woes.

  9. Anon govt workerbee*

    #1: I’m an overweight interracial woman (black dad, white mom too). Just giving you support and seconding what Allison said. Ignore your mom as best you can ignore your mom. It’s hard because it’s your mom, I know. Based on what she’s said she just isn’t someone you should be talking about your job search with. Stay strong and all the best!

  10. Maria Lopez*

    OP1- Don’t talk to your mother about anything important, inside or outside of work. She will never change and is probably negative about many other parts of your life. Talk about the weather, or celebrity gossip or whatever other meaningless topic you can think of, and if she starts in on the job search just speak in vagaries.
    She will never be the “best friend” mother that some of your friends may have, so understand this now and good luck with your job search!

  11. many bells down*

    As a lefty myself, I’ve mostly given up on cursive unless I’m taking notes just for me. I do have nice, round, clear “teacher” printing, though. I just did about 80 holiday cards for work with printing and my boss loved it… but most of our clients are elderly and probably can read that better anyway.


    RE: Alison’s response to #2 – we also passed absurdly long notes between class, but it was in middle school for me. We also had a really neat way of folding the notes in these special little triangles that tucked into themselves. We didn’t have texting Alison, that’s why we did it and it’s why it doesn’t happen anymore! lol. I have found a few of these notes years later and am thoroughly amused by it. I agree my handwriting was better back then too, unless I really take my time now — and it depends on the pen I’m using and the paper… and my mood etc these days. But we definitely took a lot care with our between class notes… different pen colors, special signatures.. and we used code names to address and sign our letters just in case we lost them and someone found them or we got caught during class or something. LOL. The memories!

    1. Blarg*

      My best friend and I kept notebooks we passed back and forth. Made it look like we were taking copious notes of lectures. We still have them and perform occasional dramatic readings for each other. They are amazing and funny and sad and also very, very clearly us. We’ve grown and evolved in 25 years but we are still both essentially the same — including the handwriting (me, cursive; him, print).

      1. DO NOT DISTURB*

        I feel like this is a vague memory that I we also participated in this, at least for a spell. I miss these things! such fun things to find and look over again decades later. And my kids know nothing of it, they snapchat and facetime and text and dm and instant message each other instead lol.

      2. Traveling Teacher*

        You should look in to the Mortified show! That’s exactly what they do–read old diaries and notes aloud from childhood. If you’re interested, you should totally pitch them to perform during a live show!

        1. Blarg*

          We have actually discussed applying. I adore the episodes on Netflix. I’m wary of performing/being recorded, even in the local shows. But who knows? There is some pretty amazing stuff in there. I peppered it with song lyrics and doodles. He numbered the pages and references prior entries (he’s now an attorney, obviously). It’s a reminder that being a teenager really is hard and confusing and nothing feels small. Every hurt is so profound, every furtive glance from a crush so intense, every decision so profound. I am so, so glad to be an adult.

          1. Marzinnia*

            Have you watched Pen15? They have so exactly nailed that “being a teenager really is hard and nothing feels small” vibe, the show feels like a gutpunch of adolescence to me.

            1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

              My partner showed me Pen15, and after the first episode I said, “That’s a very good show. Please let’s never watch it again.” Even the most beautifully accurate art about middle school brings up some things I’d rather not revisit.

      3. Mary*

        My friend and I had a long conversation in mirror writing in the back of one of our exercise books. Our teacher wrote, “Don’t do this. I can read mirror writing too.” — also in mirror writing. We were utterly amazed that she’d cracked our code!

        1. Quill*

          lol I love that, and also remember the teacher who informed us all “I-ay eekspay igpay atinlay dnay ouyay reay ittingsay touay foay ecessray.”

        2. Elenna*

          Lol, slightly off-topic but I remember when the girls of my 6th grade class made up a secret (spoken) language… fun times. Not pig latin, but something similar involving adding extra syllables to words.
          (I wasn’t particularly close to most of them, but I also wasn’t really disliked or anything, so nobody taught me the language but when I figured it out by hearing someone way (what I knew to be) “good-bye” in it, they all probably just assumed someone else told me.)

      4. Quill*

        Even into college in the early 10’s I was doing this because professors had anti laptop rules, or laptops were a terrible idea on tiny desks, or there weren’t enough plugs and my beast of a Windows Vista ACER didn’t last through two hour and a half lectures…

        When I finally marie kondo’d my horde of old notebooks I spent a lot of time tearing out good examples of notes passed in middle and high school – round robin stories, challenges to make the other person laugh out loud during a lecture, extremely involved games of Paper God that included such things as “teleported into a pit filled with lava, flying monkeys, and a venom spitting cobra” or “your poison shoes have been superglued on.”

        I think we mostly played Paper Gods during lockdowns, tornado drills, or advisory…

          1. Quill*

            You’ve never played paper god?

            Maybe it was a regional or a camp based thing, everyone in my town knew how to play Paper God

            Basically, everyone gets a stick figure of them. It’s turn based: on your turn you can either add one item or circumstance to endanger another player or players, or an article to protect your stick figure. Endangering items cannot kill your opponents immediately, it will kill them if they don’t fix it on their next turn. (Examples: sinking in quicksand)

            You write down on another page what items endanger / help each player and cross them out when neutralized, but most importantly, there are NO REPEATS. The first person to teleport out of a situation has claimed the only teleport, whether the next person down tries to call it apparating or not. Mafaioso with gun is the only “bad guy about to shoot your stick figure” allowed, but “I break open the glass ball I’m drowning in with a hammer,” is different from “a spaceship crashes into my prison, cracking open the wall and freeing me.”

            You also have to draw on all the conditions for your stick figure, but you can move your stick figure to a different page if you neutralize all of the perils they’ve been drawn into and start adding the stuff all over again.

            1. What was I doing SQUIRREL!*

              I have a tween in my life who would adore this game. Mind if I copy your comment to send them?

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We learned hieroglyphics for the really ‘important ‘ stuff like crushes and meeting after school. (I’m sure that the author of that Egyptian art history text didn’t have us in mind when she documented how to pronounce the things written in cartouches.)

      1. snowglobe*

        Hieroglyphics is a great idea, I’m sorry we didn’t think of that. We did have secret nicknames for certain people (teachers, boys we liked), and other codes in case any of our notes fell into the wrong hands!

      2. Quill*

        Nope, did that. Did Pig Pen code, 13 shift cypher, a webding cypher that we pasted into the backs of our assignment notebooks so teachers or classmates who stole the notebook we were writing in wouldn’t have the cheat sheet.

        I did phonecian for a while too, by memory, but I forgot that at some point. I could also read D’ni because I was an enormous Myst nerd.

        I guarantee you anyone who makes a book on hieroglyphics knows they’re contributing to some child’s secret code phase. :)

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m guessing all the people in this thread are Xennials!

      My best friend and I were super savvy and passed an actual notebook back and forth between classes. We didn’t get to fold the notes into fun shapes, but there was a 99% less chance of the wrong person getting their hands on said note.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, kids are always, always going to find that one of the fastest and least suspicious routes to communication while in class is based on paper and possibly ciphers.

          (Also: if you were a child as opposed to a late teen when people around you started having laptops and smartphones, you’re gen Z. If you weren’t taught cursive and have never seen a VHS or a tape instead of a CD, you’re gen Z. If you don’t remember any political event before 9/11, you’re gen Z.) :)

          Source: born in 92, therefore within the last 5 year cluster of people who remember anything in the 90’s.

          1. Elenna*

            But… I was born in 96 and 1.3 of those apply to me? Not sure what generation that counts as… :P

            I didn’t start seeing laptops and smartphones till high school, I was briefly taught cursive (my vague memories of elementary school suggest I may have been in the last year or two to learn it), I haven’t seen VHS but I had a tape about bears that I used to listen to as a kid (I also learned Word/Excel from a textbook paired with a floppy disk, which was inherited from my dad’s computer classes), and I don’t even remember 9/11 let alone anything before it.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Generational borders are squishy, since different areas / groups experience most phenomena at different times. They’re generally ‘truest’ for white middle/upper class males.

              I’d actually use ‘mobile phones’ rather than ‘smart phones’ as the tech indicator, but that’s because I think of smart phones exploding in 2007 with the iPhone, and mobiles’ big growth being ‘late 90s’ with Blackberries in ’99 and Nokia in ’00 .

              Can’t speak to the cursive thing, they still did a (thankfully brief!) section on it in my kid’s school around 2015.

      1. Blarg*

        ‘80 baby here! Def an xennial.

        I once got caught passing a note between myself, a boy, and another girl. It was … very inappropriate. Like, I still cringe thinking about it. History teacher grabbed it. Told us to stay after class. He was much beloved and also a yeller. We were bracing ourselves. And instead … he whispered. I don’t even remember what he said. But we were terrified while also having to lean in to hear him. He was a phenomenal teacher. He passed away a couple years back and the sadness was real!

    4. My Brain Is Exploding*

      Boomer here … We used to have “free-typing” time in typing class. It was just practice time and the teacher didn’t care what we typed. My best friend and I typed very long letters to each other and swapped them after class.

  13. Lobsterman*

    Op1: I’m a skinny guy and it took me 3 grueling months to find work after I graduated (I started looking 6 weeks before finals). It’s just hard. Best of luck and keep your chin up. You’ll make it happen.

    1. Lilo*

      I am a skinny woman and it also took me months to find a fit out of school. But the job I ended up in was so, so worth the wait.

  14. Equeerestrian*

    27 overweight and queer here, I went on several interviews between January and May and it took until May for a decent job that didn’t work out and I got hired for another I interviewed in that same time frame that I got and started in July and resigned in August because that didn’t work out either! Now I’m back where I was at lower pay and with lost seniority. Things happen. It isn’t always because of weight, sexuality or race sometimes we just don’t come out on top other times we do and realize it isn’t for us or something better is out there. That said, I was fired from my first job for kissing my s/o goodbye so these things do happen. Keep pushing forward for yourself and do your best to ignore your mom like Alison said because her advice is not useful. Utilize this blog and others I’m sure you’ll get the offer somewhere along the way!

  15. Koala dreams*

    For Christmas cards, there is the option to get printed cards. If you want a more personal message, you can write and print it on the computer. It’s very popular, I guess because many people get tired writing by hand. If you only write by hand once or twice a year it’s easy to get tired.

    If you prefer handwriting, it’s fine too. Many people find handwritten cards charming, and don’t expect beautiful calligraphy.

    Personally my writing gets messier when I write a lot by hand. When I haven’t written in a while, I have to focus more and the result is clearer text. When I write out of habit, the letters look sloppy.

  16. Ashraiel*

    #2 I have similar handwriting issues to you and picking up fountain pens was a huge help! (Yes, even as a lefty). They’re just much easier to write with than ball point pens, and if you get something like a stub nib, always look a little fancy. :) There’s also an entire array of fun inks to play with–even office-friendly ones (lots of near blacks still have lovely character).

    1. IntoTheSarchasm*

      Agree, I write with much more care when using a fountain pen. Or consider a nice fine line gel pen to prevent smearing. Ballpoints are the worst for lefties.

      1. Dragoning*

        My pen of choice as a lefty is a Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball Extra Fine. The tip is basically a needle that liquid ink flows from instead of the half-dried stuff from normal ball points.

        Yeah, I smear sometimes, but I do that with anything.

      2. irene adler*

        Lefty here.
        Never thought about fountain pens being an option.
        I HAVE to look into this.
        So glad you both posted! Thank you.

  17. a passerby*

    as awful as #1’s mom is being, there’s some truth to that. Personally, in 2/3 of the jobs I’ve held so far, that would have absolutely been a reason the bosses would discriminate. Reality is cruel like that sometimes, and many hiring managers deeply suck.

    1. WS*

      Yes! But her mother isn’t telling her “don’t be multi-racial” or “don’t be gay” or “don’t be female”, all of which can also be major factors in hiring. Her mother is telling her to lose a specific amount of weight. This is a very clear indicator that her mother is taking the opportunity of her daughter being vulnerable (a job search) to impose her personal preferences on her. And, as a fat daughter of a thin mother, I bet this isn’t the first time.

      1. a passerby*

        For sure, the mother is being a complete git in this situation. I bet it’s not really about helping her daughter find a job either, just a cheap opportunity to get some manipulation or degradation in.

        It’s saddening though that she has the semblance of a point.

      2. sunny-dee*

        Well, weight is something she can control, though. You can’t change your race or your sex, but you can change your weight (up and down). It’s possible that the mom is constantly harping on her weight, anyway, and then this is just another excuse to complain. But it sounded like it started after a couple of months, not right away, and it may be that she is trying to offer sincere advice here.

        That doesn’t mean that she’s right or that the OP should keep her involved in the details of her job search.

        1. Hope*

          Losing (or gaining) weight is not like deciding whether or not to wear a scarf. Without knowing someone’s medical background, you have no idea whether or not their weight is something they can control or change as desired. It’s not the calories in/out/burned equation people mistakenly think it is. There are many, many scientific studies that back this up, and many more that emphasize that even if you are someone who can lose/gain weight easily, it can destroy your metabolism and can ultimately be more harmful.

          No matter how sincere weight-related advice might be, it is pretty much never helpful unless it’s coming from a medical professional consulted for that specific concern.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            + a gazillion! We are regularly finding that weight is much more complex than people assumed, and even medical professionals are not always up on the current research.

        2. Observer*

          Maybe it is and maybe it’s not. Even if the OP needs to lose weight and it’s reasonably doable, it’s absolutely NOT actionable advice in the context of a job hunt. Because no one loses 30lb in a few weeks. (Unless they are ill!)

          Also, unless you are desperate for a job, ANY job, the response to employers that would make such hiring decisions is to say “bullet dodged” and walk away. Not “Well, contort yourself to meet their standards.” So, even if were true that one or more employer discriminated because of her weight, Mom is still wrong. It’s NOT why OP isn’t getting a job – it’s why she’s not getting a job with STUPID people.

      3. Goliath Corp.*

        You’re very right. The problem is her mother’s biases, not the potential employers’. And as I’m sure OP is aware, there are of course employers who discriminate against POC/LGBTQ+/fat women. But speaking as someone who has found myself in one of those workplaces — it’s probably a lot better for you to find that out at the interview stage and concentrate your efforts on employers who will value you.

    2. Batgirl*

      It’s good that the LW is confident that she doesn’t want to work for that sort of person though. It’s impressive she’s resisting her mother’s conform messages and the right employer will be lucky to have her. (Besides it’s only been a few months!)

      1. Allypopx*

        This is what I was going to say as well. These people are self-selecting out, OP knows she doesn’t want to work for them. So the advice to make herself more attractive to those people is still useless and hurtful.

    3. Clisby*

      Absolutely there are people who would discriminate because of weight, sexual orientation, race, whatever. But how likely are they to keep bringing such a candidate back for more interviews, ultimately forwarding them to the final round? If they were going to discriminate, seems like they’d cut the candidate loose sooner than that, if only to save themselves time.

      Similarly, the OP says, “… I’ve gotten good feedback from some interviewers and others have told me (sincerely, I’m pretty sure) they’ll reach out to me first if other positions come up.” Seeing that interviewers have no obligation to give candidates any feedback at all, when they go to the trouble to say something encouraging, I tend to think they mean it. Not that they mean there’s any sort of assurance – but if I were inclined to discriminate against someone, about the last thing I’d to is to make them think I want them to come around again.

    4. soon*

      Maybe health clubs would discriminate against the overweight? I’ve held many jobs in my 64 years and can truthfully say that being overweight would not have been a clear discriminatory factor in getting selected for any of them.

  18. Lena Clare*

    As an aside to writing cards, which I know OP didn’t say was their problem as such, but if you tell people you’re donating to a charity this year instead of writing cards, then handwriting problem solved!
    Alternatively, using a nice fountain pen can make a difference as can practising handwriting, and printing or stamping repeat messages can avoid that too (although you do lose the personal touch that way).
    Personally, I don’t think it matters as long as it’s legible!

  19. Fikly*

    LW1: I think you’ve hit upon something really important here. It’s not that it’s impossible for anyone to be biased against you based on weight (or anything else). It’s that you wouldn’t want to work for anyone who is basing hiring decisions on those factors, and happily, you are not in a position where not being hired for that reason is a huge problem!

    If you took your mother’s advice, and lost the weight for interviewing, and then put it back on, you could find out that your new employer treats people of your weight terribly, then you’d be in a much worse position than you are now.

    I completely agree with Alison that if you want someone to vent to about job searching, it needs to not be your mother. She can’t do it.

  20. Rose*

    I’m also in the “my handwriting was amazing in high school and isn’t nearly so nice now” group — we actually had a group of girls who essentially competed to see who could keep their handwriting the smallest but also neatest. And handwriting notes all the time…I got practice.

    Now, I tend to scrawl my words a bit, especially if I’m trying to write quickly, and I definitely scrawl my signature. If I want things to be super legible and pretty, well, the best advice I have is to slow down and think only about the writing. I don’t do it often — it actually makes my hand hurt after a while — but for thank you notes and anything else that needs to look neat, that’s what I do.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My husband has tiny super precise handwriting (if it’s still called handwriting if he’s printing everything he writes in all caps?) from thirty years of playing tabletop RPGs and having to fill in all the info on a D&D or Pathfinder character sheet. But the all-caps part screws him up if he tries to use a writing-to-text feature on his tablet.

      1. Dragoning*

        I have incredibly small handwriting from years and years of writing fiction by hand because my parents never let me use the computer, so I tried to fit as many words on a piece of a looseleaf as possible, as fast as possible.

        So now I have minuscule, spiky handwriting with zero flourishes.

        The things that change our handwriting is so weird!

        1. Quill*

          Oooh, yes. College ruled and you had to squeeze your print in alongside your sketches of the character.

          Also writing from the back of your school notebooks upside down so no one would know you weren’t taking notes…

          1. Dragoning*

            I wrote in my school notebooks.

            In 9th grade one of my teachers came over and ripped what I was writing out of the notebook.

    2. Spencer Hastings*

      we actually had a group of girls who essentially competed to see who could keep their handwriting the smallest but also neatest

      Oh man, we did too. Handwriting was one of the biggest ways I performed femininity as a teenager. A couple of years ago, about 10 years out of high school, I realized just how much my current handwriting still owes to two particular girls I had crushes on, whose writing I tried to imitate at the time. Past Me was kind of strange.

      1. Dragoning*

        Everyone always told me my handwriting looked like a boy’s or assumed it was one when they saw it on a chalkboard or something independent of me writing it!

        I still don’t know why!

      2. Quill*

        My best friend has won the writing tiny competition and never actually left it…

        Me, I always wanted swirls. Never got good at doing circles with teeny tiny sticks on them because I didn’t want it to be EXACTLY like anybody else, but boy howdy did I want my handwriting to be impressive.

        These days I have relatively neat and unremarkable print, and a weird hybrid cursive that essentially avoids creating unnecessary loops that change the shape of a letter too far off it’s print version. (so most cursive capitals have been replaced with versions easier to recognize, if a letter ends halfway up the page like a b I don’t try to connect the r down from it and risk it looking like a scribble… stuff joins to the crossbar of the t instead of its loop…

    3. Nanani*

      I used to have tiny and super-neat handwriting.

      Now I don’t think my eyes can read that size of writing anymore, and paper lacks zoom support.

    4. Elenna*

      My handwriting was honestly not great in high school (my friends didn’t really do notes, but I took class notes by hand back then), but after 5 years of typing everything for university except exams, it’s gotten significantly worse. I can read it, but if I want anyone else to read it I either write very slowly or write particularly large. Fortunately, math exams usually leave plenty of room for you to write however you like, and these days I just don’t write for anyone else, except maybe the occasional short note that can be done slowly.
      (That being said, my apologies to the prof for my Cognitive Science elective, who got to read my 10+ pages of essays/short answers written for a 2.5 hour exam in a lined notebook :P )

  21. Betty*

    #2 I am complimented on my handwriting. It’s something I put a lot of active effort into in my late teens. I have my fancy handwriting and my everyday handwriting but both are neat and legible with just a few flourishes.

    I would never judge anyone for bad handwriting as long as it’s legible, but it has been nice to be the person with the good handwriting. People do notice. If you want to practice, I would say it is really worth it. My best advice is to find samples of a handwriting you like and copy them. You’ll be agonizingly slow at first but you’ll get quicker and end up with a hybrid that you feel comfortable with. It’s really minor, but it has been a pleasant thing in my life and I am glad I decided to do it all those years ago as I’ve been reaping the benefits ever since.

    1. Beth*

      I feel like I did the opposite! I spent a while in late elementary/early middle school practicing handwriting to get that pretty style that I admired in other people…and then as I aged, it started feeling like a burden rather than a perk. When you’re known to have nice handwriting, people want you to be the one to write signs and posters, take notes, all that good stuff–or at least that’s how it was when I was in high school. I didn’t like being singled out like that, especially as we started having more group projects and presentations with posters and such in class. So I let my writing get sloppier. Nowadays my ‘notes’ handwriting is legible basically only to me, and my ‘nice’ handwriting is more of a legible scrawl than anything attractive.

      1. Quill*

        I didn’t get a role in my high school’s production of Hamlet, but was the person who created all the prop letters with my fancy “found at a rummage sale” calligraphy set.

        The director said “write anything, but it has to fill the page and look fancy enough that people in the front row can tell the paper’s been written on.

        So I did.

        Cue an entire tech week of people breaking when they opened their prop letters for the first time, since I’d written such things as “Roses are red, Ophelia’s blue, Hamlet insists his suspicions are true, Horatio just doesn’t know what to do,” and then when the letters inevitably got mixed up, breaking again when they read OTHER people’s letters…

    2. PhyllisB*

      My oldest grandson has beautiful handwriting. I remember when he was in Kindergarten he won a school award for best handwriting. I remember my daughter and I thinking, “If his is the best, what must the other kids’ look like?” But as he matured, he really developed very nice handwriting.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        As somebody who works with kids and has learned to decrypt kindergarten handwriting, this had me cracking up!

    3. JustaTech*

      My 7th grade art class had a section on calligraphy and wow did everyone’s handwriting improve that year! It wasn’t great for everyone (there were some arguments about what quote or poem was “appropriate” for our displays) and at least one of the left-handed girls had to use marker-style calligraphy pens rather than ink-dip pens because of the way she held her hand, but even if you don’t write *in* calligraphy it teaches you to slow down and think about how the letters are shaped.

  22. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

    LW2, no tips but fellow left hander here who just finished handwriting her holiday cards so I can commiserate! I have a slightly ridiculous set up of several different pieces of paper to put under my hand/over what I’ve written etc to avoid smearing at all costs, but it’s a pain.

    1. June First*

      Yes, lefty here. Dreading my Christmas cards. (Should probably get on that…) Was also going to suggest putting paper under your hand while writing. Using a better quality pen vs regular ballpoint helps, too.

    2. Dragoning*

      I accidentally shoved my *right* thumb into the signature on one of them this year because I was holding it open to write with my left hand, and—augh!


    3. Jack Russell Terrier*

      Am I the only lefty who instinctively tilted the left corner of the paper hight than the right so ended up with my hand under the line of writing?

      1. Dragoning*

        No, that’s actually really common for lefties because it keeps us from bending our wrists too far.

  23. The Other Alice*

    #1: I’m a skinny white woman* and my job search took 5 months. Hang in there! It looks like your mum is just using this as an excuse to pressure you into losing weight.
    (* I’m also bisexual but it’s an ‘invisible’ trait since I’m dating a man and everyone assumes I’m straight, so I don’t think it was ever a factor when I interviewed.)

    #2: I also have messy handwriting. Literal chicken scratches. It helps a little if I write slowly. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s a professional big deal in the age of computers!

    1. Bunny Girl*

      #2 – Yeah I have pretty bad handwriting, but hardly anyone’s commented on it. If I need someone to read what I’ve been saying clearly, I use a computer. My handwriting has improved slightly because I broke my thumb a few years ago and I set it wrong and now it’s slightly crooked so I have to hold my pen/pencil differently, but I really don’t recommend that as a means of improvement. Slowing down when you need to is definitely the answer.

  24. Space engineer*

    OP#1, parents have odd ideas about what is affecting your job search. The reasons my parents were convinced I was not going to ever get a job were things like I bit my nails and I didn’t wear make up (I’m a cis woman). Once I got a job (shock!), those moved to be the reasons I was never going to get a promotion, never mind my actual skills. Several raises later, they have finally stopped, thank goodness.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yeah that sounds totally legit. “Let’s hire someone who we would never promote! But who to choose instead? ”
      “What’s the name of the lady with the nice makeup and immaculate nails?”

    2. Lilo*

      I just always ignore stuff my mom says about jobs. Maybe some of it was true when she got hired as a teacher in the 70s, but it’s not true now.

  25. Birch*

    4. I have a similar problem, colleagues using the group chat to mix emergency work stuff, non emergency work stuff, and non work stuff. The solution is easy. Mute. The. Chat. And let people know that you draw that boundary so in the case of an actual emergency they need to use a different route to get a hold of you. You control when you look at the chat.

  26. Project Manager*

    LW2 – I’m not a southpaw so I can’t help you with smudging, but here is a tip that made a huge difference in my handwriting: it’s the muscles in your shoulder girdle you should be using, not your hand. If your hand cramps up when writing, you’re doing it wrong. Your hand basically shouldn’t move at all – it should merely hold the pen while all the movement of creating letters comes from your shoulder (sort of like in archery or following in swing dancing where all the control comes from your back muscles and your wrist is just along for the ride). It sounds crazy at first, but after a little practice, you’ll find that those shoulder muscles are very capable of the fine control needed to have attractive handwriting. My handwriting improved dramatically when I learned this, and I actually switched to cursive of my own accord (having always hated cursive) because it was so much easier and even *enjoyable* to write smoothly, legibly, and rapidly with my shoulder doing the work.

    (I was actually angry when I found this out. I took a lot of crap for my handwriting when I was in school, but none of the people hassling me ever bothered to teach me proper writing technique. The main offender was my 4th and 5th grade teacher, who hated me and used my writing to mark me down because I was a straight 100 student otherwise. So of course she wouldn’t have told me how to actually write neatly as that would have ruined her day (if you’re wondering if the boys ever got marked down for their handwriting, that was the right question). But you would think my mom, the next most frequent complainer, would have said something.)

    1. Poppy the Flower*

      Oh that’s really interesting. I have limited range of motion in my wrists and do a lot of “hand” motion with my shoulders anyway but I didn’t realise handwriting was SUPPOSED to be that way! Due to my wrist problems, I got in a lot of trouble for holding my pen the “wrong” way in elementary school (the “correct” way is kind of contortionist for my anatomy — this is why, much as I love fountain pens, I don’t use them that often because they require that position to work). Nevertheless I always prided myself on my handwriting, but my handwriting for myself now is much less legible. I’ll pull out the nice writing for cards and such, but it takes too much time otherwise. I’ll have to test how much my shoulder is being used the next time I write!

      1. Poppy the Flower*

        Also, anyone else practice different “styles” of handwriting in school? My friends and I all had different types of writing for different moods, characters we created, etc. lol

        1. Asenath*

          Not me, but my father’s handwriting was unusual. He taught himself a kind of italic script when he was young, and stayed with it throughout his life although I think his original intention was to develop something that was small and clear for drawing maps. It was surprisingly legible – more so than my own these days.

          My grandparents had lovely legible handwriting all their lives, in the clear rounded style that was taught when they were young. I was taught a somewhat similar style, but, well, I’ve fallen away from the skill that resulted from all that practice in our “writing books” in school. Teenagers today don’t write much by hand and haven’t spent much time in school learning to do so, and some of them already have really hard-to-read writing.

          1. College Career Counselor*

            I’ve spent some time with Fraktur (German “gothic” script) that is brutally difficult to read, even if you speak the language. The hand-written version was taught in German schools into the 1930s (as a result, my 88 year old aunt is the only one in the family who can read it with any facility). It’s also my (admittedly limited) observation from the correspondence from the German side of my family, that there is a certain stylized “incompleteness” to the letters such that, unless you grew up reading it every day, you often have to infer the words from the context of the rest of the sentence/letter.

        2. Mary*

          Yes! We also did the thing where we’d have trends, where someone would change the way they did i’s or q’s or f’s and we’d all copy. (Or around half of us would–about half of us had the same handwriting no matter what, and the other half would change depend on mood, pen, paper, trend, etc.) I think there’s something fascinating about the way teenage girls do that and I’d love to see a study of it.

          1. Quill*

            It was the tweens for me, I’d branched out into more formal calligraphy artistically (and stopped having the time to write anything fancy while taking notes, beyond using cursive instead of italic for headers) by high school.

        3. Quill*

          Oh yessss.

          So I learned three types of cursive because of school switching / parent influence: A very curled old style at my first school, my mom’s catholic school cursive because I copied her handwriting, and a pretty standard public school no frills cursive.

          We did not use these for anything (no teacher wants to read an essay in a third grader’s cursive, even if it is only three paragraphs) so all the other girls developed varieties of bubble letters… except me and my friends, who would switch instantaneously from “cutesy rounded” to TALL CAPS small caps, to block letters… then I picked up a calligraphy set.

          I also fondly remember being eleven, and a Budding Author who thought that assigning a different font and font color to the internal monologue of twenty or more characters was an amazing innovation! Even when the stuff in hot pink Lucinda Sans refused to print clearly and could barely be read on screen. :)

  27. NYWeasel*

    OP#1: I’m not overweight, but I’m a relatively unattractive woman and I’m in my 40’s. During my last job search (9 months total) I was facing a lot of immediate rejection, and it was very easy to slip into a dark line of thinking about everything that may have been working against me. What I did instead was that I focused on things that were within my control—specifically clarifying the “story” I was telling potential employers.

    What I realized was that I was casting too wide a net—I left some older positions on my resume bc they showed some skills I was still promoting “just in case”, but instead of making me seem more versatile, it made me seem like I wasn’t 100% committed to the work I was really trying to get. Once I focused my job search into a clear elevator pitch (“I’m looking for a position where I can focus on creative Llama Management”) and aligned my resume with that pitch, I started getting more…and more productive…interviews. It’s not that there weren’t still employers who were going to discriminate against me bc of my age or lack of attractiveness—discrimination is definitely is a very real factor for far too many job candidates—but rather that I was increasing the percentage of good leads in the mix. As I said earlier, focusing on what I could control, instead of what I was unable to change.

    I’ve also been on the other side of the fence, and I’ve often had a situation where I have multiple excellent candidates for a single position. It really does happen quite frequently, and if you’ve gotten to the second round or further, I would take it at face value when they say you did great—if they were going to reject you bc of your ethnicity or appearance or any other factor that has zero bearing on your ability to oversee widget production, they wouldn’t have kept you in the running that long.

    1. Mary*

      I think this is a really useful comment and I agree with nearly all of it, but in response to the last paragraph, I just want to point out that gender, race and weight discrimination aren’t always as blatant as “we are eliminating this candidate because we don’t like that they are X”. It can also be, “these two final candidates are both very good and closely matched but we are going to go with (the white/male/skinny/non-disabled) candidate because we subconsciously perceive them as more [professional / civil / a better fit / likely to progress / hardworking/ some other subjective quality].”

      There isn’t much you can control about this as a candidate, so your advice is still bang on. I just think we need to be real about the ways that bias and bigotry can play out in the workplace.

      1. NYWeasel*

        Very fair point–and even if there’s a specific tangible skill (vs. characteristic), if a candidate has experienced discrimination in the past, it might have affected their level of experience in comparison to other candidates.

    2. Quill*

      Most of the studies on hiring descrimination (calculating the number of interviews that John Doe vs. Jane Doe vs. Jesus Doe’s identitcal resumes get) have focused on the interview offer / callback stage, probably because it’s easier to measure.

      But it’s also way easier to chuck a resume in the “nope” inbox than it is to make it all the way into the finalists and then pick between them, so in addition to getting better numbers it’s pretty much impossible to quantify what goes on in the heads of someone weighing the difference between two equal candidates. It’s often not “we’ll go with the white guy,” it’s “this person looks like a fit for the company culture” (shares demographics with the majority of us) or “this person presents themselves like the role,” because your subconscious default for the role of, say, engineer, is a white man.

    3. Koala dreams*

      I think your last point is very important. If there are several great candidates, the employer aren’t going to hire all of them, just the one. It can be annoying to go to the final round again and again and not get hired, but it have nothing to do with you or your skills. It’s mostly about the personal preferances of those who do the hiring.

    4. Shoes On My Cat*

      Excellent point on that last sentence!! And good luck on your own search-hopefully landing a good position soon!!

  28. Batgirl*

    LW1, Captain Awkward has a ton of advice on this topic; there are two that stick in my mind. The first is “Why don’t you try talking me like a fellow adult, one you like and don’t want to offend?” The second is responding in a very bored way whenever the general topic of weight is raised like it’s a fun girly topic. “Uh huh” her to death like she’s talking about paint drying.

    1. Nervous Nellie*

      Seconding Batgirl! Captain Awkward immediately came to mind. OP, check her out – captainawkward dot com. She affirms that judgmental people lose the privilege of accessing your news, and makes very clear that their access is a privilege and NOT a right. I know for me it was a very new idea. She calls it ‘putting them on an information diet’. Using those terms in the search field and reading her subject page about boundaries might reassure you. And good luck with the job search! You be you, and don’t worry about keeping your Mum current.

  29. LKW*

    #3 – My first thought was that your client took the opportunity to get some peace and quiet in their own office by moving the noise to yours.

    1. CL Cox*

      So they relocated five people to get away from one of them? That’s seems….extreme. It’s more likely that it’s just something that they do in LW’s industry, as they said in their letter.

      1. Abogado Avocado*

        #3, if for some reason you can’t move or persuade Ms. Loud Talker to quiet down, I highly recommend a white noise machine for your desk. You can get one from a certain online retailer for under $30 and it works wonders at keeping distracting noise outside your office at bay. In fact, I’m using one now since my private office is surrounded by walls that seem to have no insulation whatsoever and the people in the neighboring offices never engage in any interesting gossip (the nerve of them!).

  30. University Minion*

    So, random handwriting weirdness. I have extremely regular handwriting, particularly when it’s something others will see. I scanned something to a .pdf for a class a few months ago and when I pulled it up on my desktop, Adobe Pro not only read my writing as text, I was able to edit it… in my own handwriting! It was both neat and very creepy at the same time.

  31. Alex*

    OP2, I had wrist surgery years ago that destroyed my handwriting. When I was able to write painlessly again, I subscribed to the Handwriting Subreddit, got some good pens, and practiced daily. Now I have a reputation for beautiful handwriting at my current job and last job. So it is possible to improve handwriting, with lots and lots of practice, practice, practice, if that’s important to you.

    But Allison is right: no one will judge your professionalism or skills by your handwriting (doctors, anyone??). My current supervisor is a lefty, and another coworker most knowledgeable in my department has chicken scratch handwriting, and I respect and appreciate them more than anyone I’ve ever worked with. Handwriting doesn’t factor into that.

    So don’t sweat it, unless you want to sweat it!

  32. WellRed*

    oP 3, I feel like you think you can’t do anything because this is a customer. Which is why this arrangement seems so problematic to me. But, if this is common in your industry, you should have a plan going forward, including directing them to where to sit and being clear on things like insurance should one get hurt on the property.

  33. Just J.*

    OP2 – Having gone through architecture / engineering at university 25+ years ago, before the invention of AutoCAD and Revit, and hand-drafting was all we had, I learned how to Letter. (Google Architectural Lettering or How to Write like an Architect.) I have crazy neat handwritting as a result as when I write anything, it’s a form of lettering. (One caveat: when I have to write fast, it all goes to heck and its chicken scratch.)

    If you want to improve your handwriting look into lettering. It’s not hard to pick up and it becomes a habit fairly quickly.

    1. Seifer*

      I took architectural drafting in high school (around 2008) and my teacher insisted on the first semester being hand-drafting! So yeah, my handwriting is also almost obsessively neat. My uncle took classes like that too and I always thought it was funny because when we letter, we have almost identical handwriting.

      I learned better cursive in college when I took classes with professors that didn’t have visual aids and would just… orate. The entire class. Cursive is much faster to take notes. And then because my handwriting is a mix of cursive from a Jane Austen movie and architectural lettering, I picked up wedding calligraphy as a side job. Good handwriting pays off!

  34. MCMonkeyBean*

    For the loud talker, you say your close your door to drown out the noise–does that work? If so that seems like a good enough solution to me unless other people also have a problem with her. An open door policy doesn’t have to literally mean that your door is open–it just means you make sure everyone knows they are welcome to come to you with questions at any time! That can still happen even if you close your door to keep your office quiet.

    1. Jack Russell Terrier*

      This is what I came here to say – you can have a note on the door saying ‘please knock – I’m available’ or something like that.

      1. valentine*

        If OP3’s staff is then left to suffer, it’s best for all for OP3 to advocate for the team by removing or reducing the noise, especially if an open door would benefit their reports.

  35. MicroManagered*

    OP1 When it comes to weight discrimination/bias, I’m not sure that “30 pounds” is what they mean. To me that’s a couple clothing sizes.

    I think it’s time for your mom to go on a diet. An information diet.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Depending on the OP’s frame, it might not even be a whole clothing size. Her mother is being awful.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yup. It’s just her mom being crappy. Mine is the same way, though I am thankful she has never blamed my career woes on my weight, at least not to my face. I do think she’s been surprised that I’ve been successful in certain elements of my career because she thinks I’m a fat-ass.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        Also depends on the clothing style. I never had to get new clothes throughout my entire pregnancy because I wear a lot of elastic waist skirts with blouses tucked in. The only thing I had to watch out for was a rising hemline as the baby grew. Some styles and fabrics are very forgiving.

  36. CL Cox*

    LW3, is this something that bothers other people on your team or is it just you that’s having an issue? If this client’s truly being loud and obnoxious, I’m surprised no one else on your team has said anything yet. Framing your discussion with her/her company as an issue your team is having as opposed to an issue just you is having is more likely to get action, I would think.

    1. valentine*

      I’m surprised no one else on your team has said anything yet.
      As nothing’s changed, they may believe closing the door is as much as OP3 is willing to do and, given that OP3 is considering moving themselves instead of the loud person, I’m wondering if they respond to other issues similarly.

  37. Prof Ma'am*

    OP2 – As a fellow southpaw, I feel your pain! Some of us has adapted crazy ways to try to avoid the smudges. I turn my page horizontal and basically write top-down instead of left-right… but that’s a habit I created when I was young. I get a LOT of weird looks but eh, it works for me!

    I’d say there’s not much you can do to change how you write but the best thing you can do is try to slow down and take your time when writing out the cards.

    1. Anax*

      As a kid, I actually taught myself to write right-to-left in code, specifically to avoid “silver surfer syndrome”… but there are easier solutions!

      I swear by Paper Mate’s InkJoy gel pens, which really do dry fast enough to prevent smearing. They don’t work on “glossy” cards – the ink can’t sink in, so it continues to smear – but for ordinary paper, I adore them.

      1. Dragoning*

        write left-to-right in code….AKA the Da Vinci solution.

        I believe there are studies showing its more natural to pull a pen along than push it, so it should be easier for lefties to write that way…but man that seems like a lot of effort to get there.

  38. Llama Face!*

    OP 1, a lot of people here have given you good encouragement and advice already and I’ll second what they said. The two cents I’d like to add is this: If the way your mom has started talking about your weight is out of character for her (ie. she’s normally supportive and kind and doesn’t generally make cruel, judgey, or manipulative comments) then perhaps she’s getting stuck in a mental rut of being frustrated about all the unchangeable things that people may unfairly judge you for- race, sexuality, etc- and is latching onto something she thinks she/you have a little control over: your weight*. I’m NOT saying you have to allow her to keep saying these things, but it may help your approach if you do decide to have a conversation with her about what she is doing.

    *And, yes, I realize that weight is also something that not everyone has a lot of control over because of complex factors and that skinny doesn’t = healthy or beautiful. But mom may not be thinking of that.

  39. Going anon for body talk*

    #1 – I’ve been overweight my entire life. The closest I ever came to “normal” was a few years ago and I was still about 60 pounds over the highest recommended weight for my height. (I was in a US 14/16, for reference). Before that, I was right at 300 pounds for all of my adult life. I’ve since put back on all of the weight plus more. No one is rejecting you for 30 pounds. At least it’s unbelievably unlikely. I don’t think I ever had an issue at 300 pounds either (US size 26w). I have had someone come *thisclose* to stating outright that they weren’t hiring me for my current weight (size 32/34w) and a few other comments in other interviews that I thought that’s what they were saying but it was couched in enough vague talk that it could be my own paranoia.

    Trust your own instincts and ignore your mom on this one. It sounds like just regular job searching struggles that everyone has. I’d maybe stop giving her any info until you have a success to share. I’ve had to do this to my own mother for almost everything because she is a horrible gossip and I don’t need my 3rd cousin twice removed to know that I didn’t get a job.

    1. Quill*

      Anon, this may be me having made progress on my own body image, but as a barely 5’4″ woman who is currently a size 14 to 16, I’m having trouble with the concept that someone close to my size could be sixty whole pounds lighter as a MAXIMUM weight. There are plenty of people my height who do weigh less than 130 pounds but the difference in bone structure is stark enough to make it pretty obvious that their healthy weight is not mine. If I lost 60 pounds I’d have cut into my muscle mass after the first ten to twenty.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        I’m also 5’4, also a size 14-16, and no denying it, I’m overweight. But yeah, according to weight charts, at this height I should be under 145 or so, which I briefly achieved in university – when I was ill for six weeks straight and barely eating. I actually hit 144 pounds! And felt miserable! In the present-day, I’m over 200 pounds, still a size 14-16 (perhaps it’s vanity sizing, as I was around 160 for most of high school and uni and usually wore size 14 then). I feel like if I actually got down under 145 at this point, I’d be a complete beanpole.

        1. Quill*

          I know companies mess with the sizing on clothes for women especially… I’m something like 180 to 190 pounds and a 36 in men’s pants.

          Last time I was below 150 pounds, my alleged ideal weight, I was thirteen. Pretty sure that at 130 pounds on me these days would mean that I was too underweight to menstruate.

          Also muscle and bone are far denser than fat…

      2. Going anon for body talk*

        I’m 5’3″ and was right at 200 in a 14/16. Most charts that I saw recommended 140. It might have been that I was in some vanity sized 14/16s and my true size was bigger. Or I could have had more muscle weight than I realized and was never going to get to 140 (and be healthy).

      3. Third or Nothing!*

        I’m apparently supposed to be 120 lbs. I’m a runner and weightlifter. Hard pass. I like my muscles.

        1. Quill*

          I too enjoy the ability to carry things and get places!

          Two semesters of consistent rock climbing gave me muscles in places that I didn’t know I had, multiple years of yoga made sure I kept them.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Isn’t exercise great? So empowering. Screw society’s expectations that women should be as small as possible!

  40. just trying to help*

    #2 – I am also left handed and have had issues all my life with some of the things mentioned. Earlier on, I was chastised by my teachers for my cursive writing leaning to the left instead of the right, having smudges on the paper from where the side of my hand rubbed over the writing, and also having ink and pencil smudges on the side of my hand. I have learned to slow down. That has been the key for me as well as practice. I take copious notes in both pencil and pen, and have found some very good ink pens which dry almost instantly, so fewer smudges. Taking your time helps immensely.

    1. Anax*

      ….. well, darn, you’ve explained for me why I wrap my hand all the way around the pen – that’s the only way to make it slant correctly. I always wondered about that!

  41. Crystal*

    #2 if you want to improve your handwriting, search out an old-fashioned elementary-school level instruction book for lefties. My mother did that and it was a world of help. However, keep in mind that a few imperfections make any holiday item charming and personal!

  42. MissPieish*

    LW1, your mom wants you to lose weight, and she thinks that if you think your weight is affecting your job search, it will make you lose weight. Maybe she thinks it is affecting her job search. Maybe she experienced weight discrimination herself and doesn’t want you to. All of that is irrelevant. She told you what she thinks, and now she’s just being unhelpful (at best) by repeating it. I agree with Alison’s advice.

    1. Quill*

      The only diet that needs to enter this conversation is an information diet. Stop feeding your mom information about your job search, because her advice does not help and she can’t seem to restrain herself from giving it.

  43. Dragoning*

    As a lefty who just ruined like five Christmas cards writing ten of them because “oops, smear” OP, 2, you have my strongest sympathies.

    The only answer to it is to be slow and careful–which is hard to do when taking meeting minutes.

    And also consider tilting the page so you’re approaching it at an angle. Helps a lot.

  44. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #4 – I’ve seen several people suggest muting the chats or putting your phone on DND. And while these are viable options, you need to talk to your manager FIRST. Tell your manager that you consider a text (vs and email) an urgent matter. If they don’t agree or it doesn’t stop, make sure they’re in agreement that you will not respond to texts after hours and then set up your phone accordingly.

  45. Quill*

    #1 Best of luck job hunting, some times the job market just *is* like that.

    #2 The only reason I have decent handwriting still, in my late 20’s, is that I had to keep lab notebooks on paper throughout undergrad and my last 5 years in the workforce, and I’ve had calligraphy lessons. (They were out of an ancient book and video combo I got at a rummage sale when people were still reselling their VHSes down the line to the last people on earth with working VHS players.)

    That said, a nice pen that flows evenly – think a fine tip gel pen instead of your standard office Bic – does wonders to elevate handwriting on cards, because the evenness of the flow is just cleaner and neater regardless of your actual handwriting. (They dry fast too, a concern for lefties.)

    Calligraphy class tips:
    – be aware of the middle of your page, usually by lightly penciling a line down it. This helps you keep your writing in a line & standardize your indents.
    – If your handwriting leans to the left and you don’t want it to, position the paper so that the top right corner is slightly (up to 1/2 inch) higher than the other top corner. If your handwriting slants right, do the same to the top left corner.
    – Write slower! Whether this means putting your pen down at every word to make sure you know what you’re saying so far and size up the remaining space, or just lifting the pen instead of continuing with a line of cursive letters that have started to unravel like a ramen noodle packet.
    – Practice. If you make to-do lists take the time to write neatly on them if you want to improve your handwriting overall.

  46. Dr. AK*

    LW4: Just mute the conversation! My in-laws have a family group text that is VERY annoying when chatter starts going. But I can’t leave the conversation for family-politics reasons. So I muted it. Now I never get notifications, but when I check my phone, I can see that the conversation has been active and read through it. As long as the texts you are getting from manager are non-urgent, I suggest muting to save you political capital for something else.

    1. Quill*

      I got added to an all-cousin halloween group chat on my mom’s side of the family, without knowing about it.

      I have 8 first cousins and 2 once removed cousins old enough to have cell phones. Aunts and uncles participating made the chat number rocket up to thirteen people, including me, in the group message.

      My phone was going banannas all day during halloween and I did not know why.

  47. Peaches*

    Haha, I can so relate to Alison’s response on #2. I found an essay I wrote in 6th grade at my parents’ house a few years ago and was SHOCKED out how amazing my handwriting was. 12-year-old me would blow 26-year-old me out of the water in a handwriting competition. I agree that we lose out penmanship skills as most of us don’t write nearly as much as we used to.

  48. textaphobic*

    Alison says: “Texting is an immediate medium; it interrupts what you’re doing to push messages at you, whereas email waits for you to check it.”

    I’m doing it wrong. I treat text messages the same way I treat email: I read ’em when I’m ready. Based on the amount of time I wait when I sent somebody else a text, seems like plenty of us don’t race to respond every time the iPhone pings.

    1. Koala dreams*

      I don’t think you are doing it wrong. Plenty of people have email pop up messages complete with ring tones, plenty of people doesn’t, and it’s the same for text messaging. I have a short ring for texts and none for email, and I don’t check either of them immediately if I’m busy, busy.

    2. Allypopx*

      Nah you’re not doing it wrong. But if you are on/near your phone text messages are much harder to silence or ignore than emails for most setups.

  49. Kix*

    Weight prejudice is real in the working world. I’ve experienced it directly. The best piece of advice I can offer is to not allow anyone to make you feel bad about who you are. I saw an interview with the singer Lizzo not too long ago and I wish she had been around when I was a teen because she is a great role model for fat people.

  50. Jan Levinson*

    #2 – When I was 13, the summer before 8th grade, I google searched “nice handwriting”, because I was envious of my female freinds who had what I considered perfect handwriting. I came across a front called “cute girl handwriting” and printed out an alphabet sheet in that font. I bought tracing paper and practiced tracing those letters all summer long. I came back in 8th grade with the handwriting I’d always desired, LOL. Now, at 27, I’ve long fallen off the wagon, with my handwriting being worse than it ever was, even in the pre-cute girl handwriting days. :)

    1. C Average*

      Your comment made me curious, so I Googled “cute girl handwriting.” Got lots of hits for the ubiquitous curly font you see on signs and t-shirts, as well as some handwriting tutorials and a compulsively readable Reddit thread about gender differences and handwriting.

  51. Allypopx*

    As someone who ALWAYS got crap from my teachers growing up about how terrible my handwriting was, I am so happy that has ended up being a relatively unimportant skill as an adult.

    That said, I have found that people are very impressed by my cursive (which is better than my printing but I’d still call average at best) because cursive is just…prettier, I guess? Probably harder for left-handed people in general but if you are printing and able to switch to cursive it may hide some sins, especially for quick notes and stuff.

    For holiday cards I say print them (even if they’re personalized, see if you can find an online template you like where you can type in the notes) and then just sign.

  52. Amethystmoon*

    #1, I empathize with you. I had a mother who was extremely fat-phobic. I wasn’t even that big as a kid, just a little overweight, and she would tell me things like I would never be hired, never be loved, never amount to anything, etc. This started when I was around 10-11, and continued even while I was being bullied in school. My passed away from cancer when I was in my junior year. I was bullied up until I left high school, and only got a break when I was a foreign exchange student my senior year. (Though for all I know, they could have been bullying me and I didn’t understand the words.)

    Her issues with appearance and other things caused me a lot of self hatred, suicidal ideation, and shyness for years, which it took things like doing Toastmasters to overcome, but I will say this — I have a good job with benefits, have been promoted several times, and I am not thin. (I’m about average for the upper Midwest for a middle-aged woman.) I will also say that because of shyness and self-esteem issues, it took me a good decade after college and many temp jobs to finally get a permanent job.

    Do something to raise your self-confidence while you’re looking for work. Toastmasters can actually be very good for networking. Don’t allow your mother to bring you down.

  53. Annabelle*

    LW 3: My mom also has this belief. If it’s not my weight, it’s my hair color, or tattoos, or makeup, or… you get the picture. But that’s just her dislike of how I choose to look, and as other commenters have said, she’s using the job search as a way to state her preference and try to get me to change.

    I totally understand your position, and trust me when I say that the majority of hiring managers won’t care as long as you’re good at your job. I’m in my third job now, and apart from my internship where I applied and interviewed, I’ve only gotten recruited for my subsequent roles. Surprising how little my appearance has to do with that, yes?

  54. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

    LW 1, I want to just join in the chorus of people saying UGH my mom too. While we are generally very close, its hard for her not to see every problem of mine as something that can be solved with losing weight: in high school, it wasn’t having a boyfriend, in college, it was vaguely “my health” (nevermind that my sister was also living an average college kid lifestyle of drinking/drugs/no sleep just doing it while thin). I could see her offering the same advice if i went to her with a job search problem. But I also want you to know I’m currently at my highest weight as an adult and also currently have the most agency in my career. Not saying the two are connected, but it’s also not a death sentence either.

    1. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      Society needs to put a stop to this narrative. Thin people have relationship and career problems as much as the next person. Also, I have heard secondhand stories from people who lost weight who – while they were generally happy with the weight loss outcome, were disappointed to see that many of their struggles remained rather than disappear into thin air. If anything, one friend of mine was very disillusioned when she learned exactly how superficial people are, and how differently they treated her when she lost weight despite the fact she was the same person.

  55. Nicki Name*

    #2, every company I’ve worked at has gotten December gift baskets from vendors, and I assure you that barely legible messages of seasonal cheer are the norm. Don’t sweat it!

    (Solidarity to Alison as another former kid with beautiful handwriting which fell apart when computers became a big part of my life.)

  56. Meepmeep*

    OP1 – I’m skinny and white, and it still took me 4 months to find a job. It does take time.

    Do you have a support network? Is there anyone in your life who will be encouraging and positive when you tell them about your job search?

  57. Naomi*

    #1: It sounds like your job search is actually going great! A couple months isn’t that long, and you’re getting interviews and making it to the final stages, so you must be doing something right. Keep on doing what you’ve been doing, except stop telling your mom about it.

  58. blink14*

    OP #2 – I am also left-handed, I feel your pain! I actually found that writing with certain pen styles or pencil styles is really helpful to handwriting. A ball point pen with a thicker tip makes a huge difference for me and my writing is more fluid. I go with .7 lead in a mechanical pencil instead of .5. Sharpies make my handwriting look fantastic! I learned cursive in school but never really got the hang of it – writing left handed kind of makes you lose the tilt of the letters which is part of what makes it look nice. The thicker ball point pens really help me with that.

    When I really want to write well, I turn the paper almost perpendicular to my body – that helps me see if the text line is starting to drop down and it also makes me write more slowly and clearly.

    I had a left-handed notebook in middle school and it was the greatest thing I ever had. Left-handed solidarity!

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I am also left-handed and I’m lucky that we use notebooks that aren’t spiral-bound here. I just write in them from back to front and only on the left page so I don’t smudge. My boss thought I was writing in code because it’s easier for me to mirror-write when I have to write quickly (like Leonardo Da Vinci but I’m not a genius). My handwriting is actually fine but all but one of the men in my dept. have what I call serial-killer handwriting.

      1. blink14*

        hahaha i love this! I actually tend to read magazines backward because of how I flip pages with my left instead of right.

  59. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

    #1: Your job search progress sounds normal. Job searches are slow even in the best of times. In my experience, whenever someone gets multiple rejections, their family/friends start hypothesizing random reasons for the rejections when in reality, a lot of rejections are just down to dumb luck. Some companies get multiple good candidates and have to reject some of them. That being said, discrimination does exist in hiring to an extent, but for the time being, you want to be hired by a company that wouldn’t judge you for your weight or race or whatever.

  60. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    OP # 1: As sorry as I am to hear that your mother is bullying you about your weight especially in relation to your job search, I’m kinda relieved that I’m not the only one who is dealing with that same thing! My retired for almost 10 years, 65+, white father who suggested Craigslist as a place to search for jobs, keeps doing the same thing. Yes, I’m overweight, yes I’m working on it, but his comments are decidedly unhelpful. Literally the absolute last thing I need to hear when I’m prepping for an interview is that it doesn’t matter how awesome my resume & qualifications are, they won’t hire me because I’m fat! Allison’s advice is pretty spot on about just not sharing further information with your mother on this topic, but I’d like to add that if you have siblings they can be a great tool here. I vented to my sister about this issue, and she had a separate conversation with our father in which she pretty much went off and told him that his constant harping on my weight was alienating me to the point that I was avoiding talking to or seeing him. He’s shut up about it since.

  61. C Average*

    I remember those little folded notes in high school. All the cool girls in my class gave them to each other and occasionally to the boys.

    I wanted someone to write me one SO BAD, but no one ever did.

  62. PoppingINForThis*

    OP #1, I am so sorry. I have a daughter who, in my opinion and her own, could stand to lose about 30-40 pounds. She is also queer and presents as a butch lesbian. Also, she is an actress! Might she get certain jobs if she looked a certain way? Probably. Does she get great jobs anyway? Yup! Is it any of my business? No. Does she know she’s heavy? Yes, heavy people do.

    Do I think she is the most beautiful, charming 20-something in the world? You betcha.

    This is absolutely none of your mom’s business and the info diet is the way to go. I’m sure she’s a nice person otherwise, but yeeeesh.

  63. Cori*

    OP#2 – as a fellow leftie, I feel you. I was a teacher in a time when blackboards were used a whole lot more than they are now. I sucked at writing on the board! And I am not even a ‘true’ leftie in the sense that I wrap my hand around the pen and write with my wrist at a 90 degree angle. It is rare that lefties have truly beautiful handwriting, but as Alison says, as long as it is not illegible, you should be fine.

  64. Jaybeetee*

    LW2: I’m not left-handed, but I’ve always had horrible handwriting – my parents’ writing isn’t great either, so I suppose I come by it honestly. I still have my “License to use a Pen” certificate my teacher gave to each of us in the third grade, whenever our handwriting became good enough that she trusted us to write with pen – mine was dated to June of that year, I was one of the last kids to get one, and probably she just felt like she couldn’t exclude me. In high school, when other girls had pretty round handwriting, mine was still sloppy unless I wrote very slowly. As an adult, I don’t particularly care, though I do get a bit self-conscious at work sometimes if my manager needs to see something of mine with hand-written notes, which still looks like a 10-year-old boy wrote it. That said, my writing is *legible*, just not particularly good-looking, and I’ve never encountered issues with it in any job. I figure as long as people can read what you write, no one cares too much about how “pretty” it is.

  65. Weight Issues too*

    OP #1: I’ve been actively looking for a year now and I feel my weight holds me back. I maybe feeling less confident about myself that’s why I do bad at interviews – then eventually fail them. So, it’s my issue about my appearance.
    But I also think there are really discrimination happening with regards to weight, specially for jobs in the private sector.

  66. Shoes On My Cat*

    OP#2: Lefty here! I categorically refused to learn the ‘slant writing’ and ‘cramped hand’ lefty writing system so my letters do get smeared. Better ink does help, but the biggest thing has been writing on white boards. Ugh!! I do it daily for work and it’s taught me how to reduce the pressure of the side of my hand against the writing surface (for those who wear eyeliner & mascara, imagine applying without touching your face as a guide) — this has tended toward me putting less pressure on paper as well, which in combination with lefty ink pens, gives me almost no “smearage.” Also, when I do cards, I used a homemade guide I trim to fit inside the envelope with heavily inked black lines that show through the envelope. That helps me write in a straight line. Lastly, I only do 5 cards at a time. That’s my limit for careful addressing. Hope that helps!

  67. Mockingdragon*

    #1, if it helps. I do community theater at over 250 lbs, where I have been told to my face that I wasn’t cast because I was too fat. I got a rejection once after a callback audition that had seemed to go very well and I was devastated and convinced it was my size. My boyfriend told me that if they were going to cut me because of my size, they wouldn’t have called me back for the second audition. I didn’t get any larger in between. That helped a bit…If a company is really not going to hire you because you’re fat, they wouldn’t bring you so far into the process.

    Nth-ing the information diet. Mother can’t comment on job searches she doesn’t know about.

  68. Retired Lady*

    #2—It’s a coincidence that this letter was posted today. I’m planning to write out some Christmas cards and just this morning thought I wished my handwriting were better (like when I was younger and the nuns were checking my homework). So I plan to practice better penmanship (not to the level of calligraphy) not as a penance or chore but as a skill to be perfected. I agree that as long as your handwriting is legible that’s the most important part, but if you’re self conscious about it maybe thinking about it as an art form will make it a fun challenge.

  69. RBGFan*

    OP1: I think covert discrimination does happen and it sucks! I am also an overweight queer person. Just continue to do your best job wise.

    That said, I have been inspired to be healthier lose some weight after seeing a coworker struggle with her weight and health issues, but also mainly because of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is 84ish and still works out and eats healthy! That is because it’s important to her to be around as long as possible to make positive change. I find that although praising someone at any size makes one feel better in the moment, it can remove the impetus to change. And given that our community has a demonstrably higher obesity rate and attendant problems, I find any rhetoric that would encourage people like us to live shorter lives somewhat homophobic in itself.

    Be awesome. Hopefully for a long time!

  70. amaira*

    #2 – Coincidentally, I am both left-handed *and* a calligrapher (hobbyist, but good enough to get commissions on occasion)!

    For smudges – I work mostly with India ink, which takes forever to dry and is very waterproof, so mistakes are unforgiving. Whenever possible, I write from the bottom line up. This is especially easy with addressing envelopes, when you know the formatting ahead of time and don’t need to draft them. In addition, if the ink is taking forever to dry and the project allows it, I will write in batches – so, all the City/State/postal code lines on ten envelopes, then back to add the street addresses on them, then back to the person’s name.

    For handwriting – I’ve been doing the calligraphy thing for about fifteen years. I’ve noticed that when I get into a good rhythm with my arm/wrist movements, I make a lot fewer mistakes. It’ll sound silly, but warm up your writing hand. Good warm-ups include a long series of loops that you try to make as uniform as possible, or a good flowing letter like a lowercase n or u, repeated until it feels more automatic. Your arm will keep that rhythm as you write, and even if your handwriting isn’t great, it will be more uniform. That’s really 95% of what makes handwriting look good in the first place.

    Hope this helped!

  71. Tinker*

    LW1 — A lot of folks have given good advice about what to do — information diets and management techniques and such like. A thing I’d add to that is directly to the matter of mindset: it is okay to think of an opinion as unfounded and to discount it, even if the person having it is older than you or your parent.

    When some older people get the impression that younger people are not necessarily hanging on their every word, they seem to feel wounded in some way by that and sometimes react by leaning on their age to bolster their case — the “kids these days think they know everything well they’ll learn soon enough ho ho ho ho” kind of deal. If, for instance, you intensely want to avoid being seen as foolish by people of higher status, it’s easy to get hooked in by that — are you a silly child who doesn’t mind, or are you a wise adult?

    Thing is though, looking at adults from the perspective of another adult, it’s not like we’re anything like faultless paragons of perfectly ordered life — we misunderstand things, we make mistakes, we get our egos unduly invested in things, we have moments of laziness, et cetera. Two conclusions extend from that:

    — Sometimes the reason why what someone is telling you appears to be wrong is because it is.
    — Mistakes are an ordinary part of life and you don’t have to do everything optimally before you are allowed to have your own judgments of things.

    It’s easier said than done to not be affected by judgmental statements from someone like a parent, and this doesn’t mean that they don’t have a responsibility to control themselves (actually, particularly if they’re claiming a vast gulf of experience in their favor, their responsibility is greater), but still: working towards the state where you freely make your own decisions even if your parent is persistent in spouting apparent bullshit is something that you’re allowed to do.

  72. animaniactoo*

    LW3, I don’t know if anyone has brought this up in one of the comments above, but if your handwriting has always been awful and never risen much above looking like it was written by someone in elementary school, take a look at dysgraphia. The main reason to take a look is not because having bad handwriting is an issue, but because there are some other associated issues with dysgraphia that may be more of an issue and figuring that out might be useful in tacking them.

    1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      Oops. That was supposed to be a reply to this post way up-thread (which also provided a link to the pens).

      December 13, 2019 at 12:19 am
      #2. Better pens will help. My leftie friend loves these pens…

  73. AKchic*

    I’ve come back to this one a few times, because I knew I wanted to say something, but I wasn’t quite sure how to articulate it.

    LW1: With your mother, everyone else has been on the money with the Information Diet. Unfortunately, I think she’s going to notice that she is no longer in your confidence about your job search, and will ask you about it. You should be prepared for that. I’m a very blunt person (who also has an overly critical mother (and grandmother, okay… every woman in my family is a negative, hyper-critical drain) and would really have no problem telling someone that I’ve stopped discussing my search with them because they take the opportunity to point out their problem with my weight when that wasn’t the topic at hand in the first place.
    Or, you can give your mother one last shot, in order to confront your mother with her habit (yes, it’s a habit) and ask why your weight is such a problem for her.

  74. Lefty*

    LW #2
    I’ve found it really helpful to find pens with quick-drying ink. (My current go-to pen is a Zebra Sarasa.) Once I stopped worrying about smudging, I think my whole hand relaxed and my writing is much more legible—until I’m stuck using someone else’s pen!

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