Tuesday, August 15, 2006


The Sizist (Sizeist?) World

I went to a new doctor a couple of years ago. I stood on the scale. The nurse weighed me. And she looked me up and down, and said "Oh! You don't look like you weigh that much!"

There's a friend of mine who is my height, and about my build, but slightly more slender, and I had always looked at her, and thought "I wish I was her size!" One day I thought she was wearing a really cute outfit, and she thought I was wearing a cute one, and we somehow ending up confessing that we were envious of the other. We hesitantly revealed our sizes. We wore the same one.

It makes me extremely uncomfortable when people make fun of, or criticize, fat people. I don't care how heavy someone is, it doesn't give one the right to belittle them. Even if they have a crappy diet and don't exercise, it's not your business. Because, chances are, if they are fat, they are unhappy, and are dealing with their own problems. They don't need your demons piled on top of theirs.

And this world is so strange. Some days I look in the mirror, and I just feel so...gross. So out of shape, so unattractive, so unlike a desirable human.

And other times, I look in the mirror, and I get mad. HOW dare this world consider me fat? Or overweight? Because to the world, and according to the tag on my clothes, I am. And I get these excuses from my friends - oh, it's just because you're tall - but it doesn't matter. (and I do not want any comments from people saying that I'm not fat. That is not the point of this.)

What am I? A 14. There, I said it - I took a page from my Levi-wearers' book. And maybe that will take away some of the power of the tag.

This body may be a 14. But my size-14 body walks me 20 minutes in the morning, and 20 minutes in the evening. It takes me across the pool under water, down 12 feet, across the bottom, and back. It carries groceries, mattresses, desks, sofas, books, boxes. So why am I so ashamed? So frightened to type this paragraph? What type of world do we live in, that's so full of conditional love that's based on how well you hide what you are?

And as Mel said, it's possible to be a skinny fat person, or, to take it one step further, a healthy fat person. Some people are naturally stocky, such as a couple in my apartment complex. Looking at them, you wouldn't think they're anything special. But I've seen them working out hardcore many a time.

We should banish the terms "fat" and "skinny" and exchange them for "healthy" and "unhealthy."

"Fat" has so many societal veils wrapped around it, it's so hard to tell what's really fat, and what's a mirage. But healthy? It makes for a clear case.

Am I fat? Depends on which society you ask.

Am I healthy? The numbers will be the same, whatever way you cut it.

Psh. We heart Gooface no matter her shape.
Great post. I've been every size under the sun from an 18 down to a 4, and I've experienced all the reactions that go along with those sizes--from the negative fat girl comments to the "compliments" about how skinny I am. It really does a number on your psyche, believe me. Even as a size 8 and as a person who eats healthy and exercises, I constantly wonder, am I fat? Does this make me look fat? All because I'm not a 2 or a 4. My body isn't made that way and I wouldn't be able to maintain that size and be healthy. And health is what the world should value.
I agree 100%, Meg! If you feel healthy, who cares what size you are! There's a great testimony to this in Fatema Mernissi's book Scheherazade Goes West, called the size-6 harem. Cross-cultural but still right to your point! You should get your hands on that book!
I feel your pain, homegal, albeit from the other end of the spectrum. It may sound ridiculous, but very skinny people catch a lot of grief too (and I'm not just talking slim...you've seen me before). And unlike our larger bretheren...people seem to think we don't mind being mocked to our face because of how "Ethiopean" we appear. I've always had a very slight frame and compounded with my height, I slightly resemble a giraffe on a hunger strike. I've also been a runner since I was like 13, and still participate in an endurance sport, so that doesn't help at all. I don't know if that helps or not. But just wanted to let you know that everyone is self-conscious about something physically...and when people give you shit for it, they're just trying to steer criticism away from their own inadequacies.
Everything you said is so true. And what some people don't understand (i.e., the media) is that a size is just a number, and can very depending on what brand you wear, what day of the week it is, etc. It is common to lose weight and build muscle at the same time, and that may only drop you one pant size, if even that. And while it is rewarding to have a healthy lifestyle and exercise routine, it should be to feel good about yourself, not to fit into a certain pant size.

I read somewhere that most women are a size 10 or 12, so I don't know where this idea of a size 2 being attractive comes from. I know plenty of women who are uber-skinny, and I'd like to tell them to PLEASE eat a burger. And most of the men that I know have admitted that they'd take an average-proportioned woman over a stick-figure.

I'd love to hear what some of your male commentors think about that.
Male commentor here. I gotta agree that I will take an average proportioned woman over a uber-skinny one any day of the week. Society sucks.
Had to write again after just returning from ANN TAYLOR LOFT on my lunch break where the norm on the rack and in the window is 4, the majority of the clothes on the rack are 6's and 8's and only the very, very occasional item is labeled 14. Nothing at all after 14 (I inquired since I'm now a reformed 18, fitting mostly into 16) - the tiny, bone-sticking-out-of-ribs salesgirl informed me that there MAY be some 16's over at the Georgetown store. What, are all the "bigger gals" clustering around M Street? Pouah, as they say in French. Pooh.

jamie: people are so foolish. They say how awesome you look as a 4, just because you're super skinny, and not realizing (or maybe they did realize...) that they were reinforcing the idea that skinny is better, and their love/positive vibes are dependent upon that. Does the world value health? I don't know. But we should make it so that our lives value it.

claud: thanks for reading + commenting! I'm going to pick up that book...cross-cultural is where it's at. It's funny to see where we're on the same page ("french women don't get fat") and where we differ (weight = wealth + prosperity) around the world.

jc: you, my friend, are the healthiest, most in-shape person that I know. And there's at least some sensitivity to overweight people - super skinny people get the mocking "POOR YOU, you can't gain weight. I feel soo bad." Screw them.

Just as I hate fat comments, I hate hating on skinny people. And if someone has an eating disorder that makes them extra-skinny, they should be able to get help.

cp: Life is supposed to feel good. Diets are based on deprivation. If someone likes a burger, she should sink her teeth into it, instead of a burger-flavored protein bar! I need to start working out to be healthier (need. to. run. at least. a mile.), and eating better will make me feel better.

As I see it, America needs to do a few things.

1) Cut down on portion sizes. All of this extra food is making gluttons out of us.
2) Create a more active society. Cut down on sprawl, so to encourage more walking + biking.
3) Fix school lunches. Make organic fruits and vegetables mainstream. Get rid of that microwave + fryer in the "kitchen" of the cafeteria!
holy moly! two comments while I was commenting.

TK! Whoo!: I think what's essential is a happy person. A happy super skinny girl is just as appealing as a happy "normal" girl. Right?

No one wants to hang out with someone who is a downer about their weight, and is always counting calories for fear of gaining an ounce.

claud: Nothing is more demoralizing than going into a store and them not having your size. It's like, "WTF?" Ann Taylor needs to figure out where her profit is at, and stop focusing on a narrow window of "ideal" sizes.

I love your M St. imagery. :-)
i-66: not to comment three times in a row on my own posting...but I had meant to say "thanks!" and "right back at ya!"
Size schmize.

Smile, confidence, chutzpah.

I seem to write that a lot.
Wombat: well, it's easy to "size schmize" ...and then it's real, and there are all these messages telling you what you should and should not look like.

But that's when smile, confidence, and chutzpah come in. And beat society soundly, making it run back to Hollywood, with its tale between its legs.

Oh, and I bought *the* sweater last night! It's beautiful. Perfect for a romp in the leaves.
Lucky romped leaves.
One hting I think that people forget is that the opposite sex judges people by attractivness, not by sizes. I don't say "oh, that girl isn't good enough for me because she's a size 17," it's all about how you look, and it has alot more to do with someone's smile and attitude.

As a side note: "It takes me across the pool under water, down 12 feet, across the bottom, and back."

Why do I have a feeling you have been working at that?
I used to work at Ann Taylor Loft, and I can confirm that the mannequins do in fact wear size four. And when I worked there (several years ago) they only went up to size 14. A friend of mine came to visit me at the store, she was a size 16 (or something) and I felt bad...but later I went to Lane Bryant with her and the salesgirl was unbelievably rude to me be for being "too little". You really can't win.
bub: yes, it takes a lot of lung power, and I'm damn proud of it!

And what else am I supposed to do when I'm swimming alone? It gets so. boring. And a bit sad!

anon: thanks for commenting! Isn't it funny how we're trained to be rude to one another, based on size? The LB woman was probably really bitter at you being a skinny little thing, and coming into HER store, where they're supposed to be safe from the pressures of skinny people. Societal pressures are not your fault, and every skinny person should be innocent until proven mean!

(On a sidenote, I've been to Lane Bryant a few times, and they have really cool stuff. Just saying!)
I personally hate it when people compliment me on my stunning physique.
There’s a male here whose taste in women has somehow been affected by "society." Am I seriously the only male that reads this blog that is willing to say that he likes well....small women? I am attracted to skinny women. Said and done. Am i a bad person for that? I honestly have no idea about sizes or what a good weight is for a certain height but I know what I’m attracted to. Big breasts? eh. not so interested. Small waists are very attractive to me. Some people like the ghetto butt. Ish. not me. There was actually an Oprah on yesterday about 3 and 4 year old girls that were obsessed with their weight and looks. (I’m in a transitional phase thus the watching) Just old enough to talk and they say, no I’m not eating cause I don’t want to be fat.” That is CRAZY. Looks are one small characteristic of a person's aesthetics. How one chooses to handle their deficiency in whatever quality is up to them. Me? I work out a lot because I want to have a good body. Working out for no other reason but to look good is pretty pathetic and I could be doing much more meaningful work in my spare time.
Xander: nothing is wrong in preferring a certain type! We all have our ideal, the body that we're most attracted to. And it's all good, as long as we're not jerks to those who don't fit that mold.

And who is to say that one activity is better than another? I spend my spare time blogging. You spend your spare time working out.

Maybe we should get together and work on a plan for world peace?
Meg - I really enjoyed your post!! I think that you're right about people needing to look more at "healthy" than weight. I have known several very active, healthy larger people, and also many skinny, unactive and unhealthy smaller people.

However, most people usually do look and JUDGE people based on their size. And if we had a way to change that in society, we probably could come up with world peace on your blog. :)
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