The memory is all too vivid.
A couple of months back I was attending a formal fundraiser, when I was greeted with open arms by an acquaintance whom I hadn’t seen in months. After the typical polite small talk had subsided, she proceeded to tell me that she found my social media content to be “inspiring,” particularly on days when she was struggling to get moving. Score.
Yet she wasn’t done.
“I see your posts,” she continued, “and I think to myself, ‘that skinny bitch. If I worked in a gym, I’d look like her.’”
I took a stiff sip of my cocktail. It tasted better than biting my tongue.
Because there was a litany of things I wanted to say to her. Like how I don’t just hang out in a gym all day, I own one, which means there’s this whole running-the-business thing that someone has to get done. But that aside, I was struck by the fact that I had just been called a bitch – to my face – and that it’s sadly become par for the course.
I mean could you imagine the censor-free version commentary out of my mouth, if the tables had been turned:
“Yeah, I see your posts and I think to myself, ‘that fat bitch. If I sat around all day, I’d have an ass like hers.’”
Did you just gasp? You should have. Because that’s a judgmental, discriminatory view point. One, that if actually spoken, would probably get you fired or publicly scorned.
So why is it okay to chastise someone for being fit? Is it acceptable because that which is being lamented is desirable? Because it’s believed that being fit is a luxury? That it’s assumed that nothing can hurt me because I appear to be strong?
I ask this having been on the receiving end of the “skinny bitch” comments for far too long. People have had no problem using the words to my face (i.e. “skinny bitch, you just wait until you get pregnant…”), outright admitting that they’ve judged me before getting to know me, as if my waist size was indicative of the quality of my soul.
Because apparently in the world of stereotypes, if “fat” equals “lazy,” being fit indicates you’re full of yourself and anti-everyone else.
To be clear, I don’t write this looking for sympathy. Quite the contrary, the last thing I think we need is more political correctness, which seems to abound. But I feel that if we’re going to doll out criticism, then we need to understand that doing so is a double-edged sword. And it’s one that’s jabbed from the seeds of our own insecurity, about the things that make us feel uncomfortable or less than satisfied about ourselves.
So before you open your mouth next time, know that someone is on the receiving end of your comments. You may choose to think what you want about them, but the reality is you know nothing about what it’s like to walk in their shoes.