I’m not in shape right now. I gained 10 pounds last year out of spite over my futile job search and now that I am employed I’m too tired, stressed and well lazy. It’s been a cold, dark and uninspiring winter. On a couple nice days I went for a run and received a bigger reminder of how out of shape I am. Heck, the dress I wore last week literally split on me at work! Fortunately, I had a blazer on and was able to fix it in the bathroom. This weekend after our aquarium adventure we hit the Banana Republic to get me a new pair of pants since my current pair are way too tight.
I don’t go on this way to complain, elicit sympathy or even to suggest I’ve embraced this new reality. I bring it up because people in my life are constantly telling me I look like I’ve lost weight. When I assure them I haven’t, they persist and say it must be muscle.
I get that people want to be complimentary and supportive but the truth is it bothers me. I’m fine with how I look. I want and plan to lose these extra pounds but I’m clearly not rushing into it. I go to the gym but not like I should and I’m not interested in running in the cold.
The fresh feminist in me is bothered by the fact that a compliment has to be centered not only on my appearance but on my weight in particular. Can’t I simply look good? Why do I have to have lost weight to garner flattery? And when it’s clearly established that I haven’t lost weight, why can’t the compliment be that I make these extra pounds look good?
Keep in mind, I’m not personally offended by any of the above; however, I do worry about the overall message society is sending to young girls. I had a lot of image problems growing up – heck I still do. Thankfully, I benefit from knowing better. I know I don’t look as bad as I might think I do and I know that models/actresses don’t look as good as we think they do. Young girls – especially little girls – don’t always know that. And I hate to think that young girls might not even think it’s enough to be pretty but that you have to be skinny and losing weight to boot.
For all of these reasons, I am conscious of the things I say to girls. I try not to make my first remarks about their appearance or outfit but about school and what book they are reading. It’s not easy because we are so accustomed to complimenting and commenting on people’s looks but as Maya Angelou said: “When you know better… you do better.”
The other side of this of course, is what you say to boys -feminism is all about equality after all. I remember reading once that while girls get complimented for the ‘wrong’ reasons, boys don’t get compliments at all. The rebel that I am, I will work to tell all girls that are strong and smart and boys that they are adorable and sweet. I’ll leave their weight out of it completely.
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