“She has such a beautiful face. It’s just too bad she is SO heavy.”
I was buried in a trashy gossip magazine but those words immediately snapped me out of my “Celebrities – They’re Just Like US!” photo binge.
I didn’t look directly at her – she wasn’t even talking to me. By the time the sentence was past her lips she was on her way to the opposite side of the salon.
Set down in the spot she was just sitting in was another gossip magazine with a celebrity on the cover – the woman she was referencing with the beautiful face.
If I were a bolder woman, I would have stopped her right there.
“What do you mean its “too bad”?” I would ask.
Or maybe “Can you finish your thought?”
The woman was tall and thin and blonde, and I wondered if she could hear how disgusted she sounded when she said that line “It’s just too bad she is SO heavy.” She said it with almost a contempt, like the words “SO heavy” needed to be spat out before they reached her own body and made her fat by association.
I have to be honest. I instantly disliked this woman. I took issue with her tone of voice, her choice of words. How loudly she spoke in a room where there were certainly women of a variety of sizes other than zero. How condescending she sounded. I didn’t look up when she walked away but I pictured her with her nose in the air. I had to wonder if I was on the cover of that magazine what comments she might feel the need to publicly announce about my appearance.
But I have to be honest again. Might I have said something similar in recent years? It is entirely possible I had.
Might it be possible that the woman with her nose in the air grew up with her mother and aunties and grandmas, her friends and lovers and teachers and idols making similar statements around her? That she accepted that it had to be “too bad” that the woman was “SO heavy”? That any woman who looked that way must deserving of (at best) our pity and (at worst) our criticism?
Might it be possible that the woman who declared it was “too bad” might have been taught that a woman’s appearance is public property? That we all have a right and a mandate to help women look “the right way”? Might she be someone who looks to these magazines to reassure her that she is ok? That her body is acceptable? That SHE is acceptable?
Might this woman who made my blood pressure rise a little bit have made me feel a little angry because she reminded me of someone I used to know? Somebody just like me?
It is reassuring to me that I heard this comment and immediately bristled. I’d say that’s progress. I’d say it means I am growing when I hear words like these and don’t immediately internalize them and accept them as gospel. I think it means something that I wanted her to finish her sentence – its “too bad” …. WHY? Why is it too bad? I think we could all stand to ask ourselves – WHY is it “too bad”? And sit with the answer we come up with. I have a feeling we might not like it.
The way we speak about others says a lot about ourselves. It can reveal our inner struggles, our core beliefs, the messages we have been sent since we were children. The woman at the salon is a human being too, with real struggles and strengths and weaknesses and life experiences I know nothing about. But our words are powerful and the way we speak about each other influences the way our daughters and nieces and granddaughters will think about themselves. We can do better. Being a grown woman who feels the need to publicly shame another woman’s body for any reason? That’s what I think is “too bad”.