Stop Telling Me I'm Too Skinny
Thursday, December 8, 2011Tweet
If you got here by Googling a question, you might like this follow-up post!
Here's a question for you:
If someone you hadn't seen in a while said to you, "You look like you've been eating quite well lately," would you be offended?
How about "You certainly have a lot of meat on those bones"?
How about "Look at how fat you are!"?
If you heard someone say this to someone else, would you tell them their comment was impolite?
Even though these kinds of comments are undoubtedly said, I think it's pretty well understood among most people that telling someone they are overweight is considered rude (unless you're, say, a doctor talking to a patient). It's insulting to tell someone they're fat, right?
What I want to know is, why is it considered a compliment to say the opposite?
"It looks like your wife/husband hasn't been feeding you!" "You need some meat on those bones!" "Look how skinny you are! Come eat some food."
I'm not talking about actual compliments, like if a friend who was on the heavier side loses some weight and you say, "Hey, look at you! You look great!" That's congratulating someone on being at or moving toward a healthy weight, and in certain contexts and relationships, that's appropriate.
I want to know this: Why is it considered an insult to comment on someone's body weight if they supposedly have too much of it, but a compliment to comment on someone's body weight if they supposedly don't have enough?
I've been blessed to have a healthy body weight my whole life. I can't think of a time when I was much under or over an appropriate weight for my height and age. And yet throughout my life, people -- particularly older relatives or family friends who I saw infrequently -- have felt the need to tell me I'm too skinny. And never has it been in a way that implied they were actually concerned about my weight. Like, nobody ever pulled me aside and said, "Jessica, I'm concerned about how thin you look." It was always in this teasing way that I believe was intended to be a compliment.
Growing up, I never heard anybody chastised for saying things like this the way I heard people chastised for commenting on someone being overweight. And so it never occurred to me, until I was an adult, to respond in an offended way, despite how uncomfortable it always made me.
The same thing goes for age. It's pretty well understood, I think, that telling someone they look old is not very polite. Yet Mike and I are both constantly -- constantly -- told how young we look. Again, usually by older adults, and intended as a compliment.
And again, I never say anything. Because no one wants to be the one to turn a friendly conversation suddenly serious or sour. And in cases where I've tried to respond in a way that indicates I don't like being so young-looking, I always get the same response: "Oh, you'll appreciate it when you're older."
Well, 1) maybe I won't look young for my age anymore when I'm older, and 2) this negates the actual issues that this causes for me currently, like the fact that I'm constantly mistaken for a student at the college where I work, or the fact that it makes it more difficult to be taken seriously when trying to go about daily business as an adult (eating at a restaurant, dealing with customer service, etc.).
Despite the complimentary intent of these kinds of remarks, I find them offensive. I don't see what good can come from taking a look at someone and telling them there's something lacking there, regardless of whether it's meant positively.
I guess it's not surprising when the magazines and advertisements we see seem to have two messages: "Here's how to be thinner!" and "Here's how to look younger!" Somehow it's been extrapolated from this that the skinnier and younger-looking the better.
I don't want to be told I'm a toothpick who looks like a teenager. I am a mature 26-year-old with a healthy body, and I'm proud of that.
Anyone else know what I mean? Do you have any suggestions for responding to these comments without completely trampling on the light-hearted spirit in which they're made?