Wish my body was password protected
Images via we heart it
After spending three days in the fog of a head-cold, I finally emerged Sunday and went out shopping with a friend. I spent a little more than intended on a cute Lululemon workout top (ahem, you know, for all the working out I do), a summery t-shirt, and on total impulse, a grey shawl with threads of sparkly silver running through it. There must a thousand good uses for that!
All was well (ie. no blog worthy material encountered), until my friend and I tried on some dresses and I was hit with a terrible bout of self-consciousness that caused me to run and hide in the changing room. Since I wasn’t trying on bathing suits or jeans, it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill body-shame at not looking like an air-brushed model. No, dresses are the one piece of clothing that almost never let me down.* And that’s precisely where my problem arose.
l have to preface this story by saying that to me people commenting on my body is akin to people commenting on my bank statement: there is nothing I’m especially ashamed of, but I wholeheartedly believe it’s no one’s business but my own. And just as with finances, casual comments about my weight feel utterly inappropriate to me (thoughtful discussion is another matter). This is not a decision that I came to after careful deliberation – it’s simply my gut reaction. And as it tends to go with gut reactions, most of what I say here is probably not terribly rational or well thought out. But hey, what’s a personal blog for if not sorting out your feelings about complicated things you haven’t quite come to grips with?
I emerged relatively unscathed from the body-image beat-down of young adulthood and as a result, I think I have a relatively healthy relationship with food and my body. And by ‘relatively healthy’ I mean that while I am quite aware of my weight and eating habits, I have never flitted on the edge of an eating disorder or suffered from serious body angst. It’s a bit sad that that qualifies as relatively healthy body-image in our society, but that’s how it seems to be.
Nevertheless, I have a strong reaction to comments about weight. Namely MY weight. “Oh looks like you’ve lost weight!” in my head sounds like “I examine your body closely enough to detect the absence (and therefore also the presence) of a handful of pounds and right now you look like you have a few less than last time!” And that seriously bothers me.
When I hear a comment like this, even from a close friend, a surge of defensiveness instantly wells up in me and I have to try really hard to give a nonchalant sounding response that still shuts down the discussion. It usually comes out as an ‘urmphf’ noise. For the same reason, I never offer a “you look like you’ve lost weight” to others even if I actually notice that they have (and I usually don’t – I only know once they tell me). I know some people would love nothing more than to hear it, but to get those words out of my mouth, I have to override all the little guards in my brain that work
hard to keep me from saying inappropriate things. I’ve tried, but it feels forced and wrong, so now I just don’t.
Back to the shopping expedition: I found a fun, loose-fitting summer dress and when I came out of the changing room in it, my friend and the salesperson helping us looked me up and down and then both proceeded to make self deprecating remarks about their own sizes. I know it was supposed to be complimentary, but it didn’t feel that way. I felt ganged up on. I felt ashamed that the body I happen to inhabit fits into a ‘small’, while theirs didn’t. That’s the objective reality and I didn’t think it needed to have a valuation placed on it. I quickly changed out of the dress and didn’t buy it (which was fortunate, see: shopping list above).
This is not at all a discussion about fat or skinny bashing. It is a little about the implicit message behind these comments that less weight = better. But mostly, it is about wondering how it came to be that comments about each others’ bodies became a totally acceptable topic of conversation, even among total strangers. Just because something is intended as a compliment doesn’t make it appropriate. After all, it’s not socially acceptable to say “my, those are expensive shoes you are wearing, you must have quite a lot of money! If only I had that kind of money!” but yet saying the equivalent about weight is quite normal. Has it always been this way? Or is it only today’s highly body-conscious, diet-fad obsessed society that has decided that our bodies are public projects, up for discussion?
What is your gut reaction to comments about your weight? I genuinely want to know if I’m the only freak on the planet who can’t stand to hear “you’ve lost weight.”
*As long as I don’t get near a sheath dress or most strapless dresses.