Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Weighty Dilemma

I am a skinny person, and since this is considered a good thing, people think it’s okay to make comments about my weight. “How do you stay so skinny?” they’ll say, or “I wish I were that skinny.”

It makes me uncomfortable. Not only do I hate everyone in the room suddenly stopping to examine me, but what am I supposed to say in return? Am I supposed to argue that the person is skinny too? Do I just say thank you? Am I supposed to put myself down to appear modest?

I especially hate it when the person complimenting me is just as thin as I am. Some truly think they’re fat, but with others, I’m pretty sure they just want me to reassure them. I wish I could say, “Look in the mirror, sicko, and stop making me tell you what you look like.”

I got caught in a particularly awkward situation when I was in high school. Portland has a high population of Tongan people and for some reason they’re all LDS, so I had quite a few Tongan friends at church. One Sunday, two Tongan girls asked me to help them settle an argument.

“We need you to answer a question for us.” She pointed to her friend and then to herself. “Which of us is fatter?”

Now, Tongan standards of beauty are the complete opposite of ours. Not only is being large a good thing, but they dislike thin women. I’ve heard of men not wanting to date girls only because they’re too skinny. The two girls might as well have said, “Which of us is prettier?”

But I couldn’t be sure because they were second-generation Americans. They might have adjusted to our culture and changed their idea of beauty. They might have been asking, “Which of us is uglier?”

I had no idea how to respond to this question. I ended up saying the only thing I thought would apply to both situations: I shrugged and said, “I’m fatter than both of you.”

Then I ran away so they wouldn’t ask me more questions.

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post. You said a lot of things that I've been unable to say, in fear of sounding like I'm bragging (but you didn't sound braggy, don't worry. :))

    I, too, am petite. My old co-workers ALWAYS asked me how I could be so skinny, even pulling at my baggy clothes to make a point. But what do I say to them?

    Even worse, my latest manuscript has an overweight protagonist, and I am so fearful that somebody's going to take offense to it. I think I wrote it tastefully, but who knows...

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  2. I really need to let my imagination go to envision what you thin people go through. Obviously, I'm at the other end of the weight spectrum and have fantasized about being thin my whole life. At least you slim folks aren't accused of breaking furniture and you aren't charged extra when buying plane tickets. But as your post reveals, thin people have their problems too.

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  3. Loved this anecdote with the Tongan friends! That really is a predicament and I think you handled it perfectly!

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  4. I know that the last part of your post wasn't meant to be humorous, but seriously, what were you supposed to say? I can definitely see that as an awkward moment.

    As one on the heavier end, we deal with a different set of circumstances, the smile and congratulations for the baby - no, I'm not pregnant :-), the assumption that being fat equates to total laziness. But I also have some slender friends. Yes, I chose the word slender purposely because my friends do not like being called skinny. And honestly, I wouldn't want to make them any more uncomfortable than I've been in situations, so I respect their size.

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  5. We live in a weight obsessed society. I constantly get comments about my weight. I have just learned to roll it of my back. Having been both slender and full figured I know what you mean but when I get a comment I focus on how thankful I am to have a body that works. Just be thankful that you are a beautiful, bright, healthy girl and just roll with it because fat or thin someone will always have something to say about it.

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  6. My daughter is naturally very thin. She was subject to much staring and some unpleasant comments when we vacationed in Southern Italy. As you suggest, different cultures enforce conformity

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