I was at work the other day when a work colleague began talking about Cher. She picked up some magazine, and expressed relief that Cher had finally put on weight. “Finally she’s gained weight! She was way too skinny. It’s unhealthy to be skinny. I feel so much better now that I have more weight,” she explained to a colleague. “I used to be thin like that and it’s not healthy, I’m much stronger now. It’s not good to be skinny.”
“Oh yeah,” replied the colleague.
“It’s just so unhealthy to be skinny.”
And so on.
I was across the room working, and this conversation was filling my head. I was torn between three reactions:
One, Stand up and say “Hey!” since her skinny vendetta might as well have been a direct comment toward me and my own thin body type. There were only the three of us in the room, and it’s no secret that I’m skinny. I don’t need side-stepping comments about how my body-type is the wrong body-type.
Two, ignore it and realize that this is her problem. With her self-references, it was obvious she was working through her own stuff. “It’s her problem, not your problem,” I kept repeating over and over. So, I tried to ignore it and totally failed. It might be her problem, but my ears were hearing an attack upon my body.
Three, join in the Cher bashing. It was so tempting. Deflect the conversation away from my own insecurities and focus it back on Cher. God, I almost did it too – I almost raised my voice to trash talk Cher, and then I realized the only reason I’d be doing that was to protect myself.
So I said nothing. I said nothing and just fumed all day. My emotions are like dominos when they get tipped over. I started off feeling as though she’d been ridiculous, then I felt that hot anger, followed by a bizarre desire to just cry it out, and then, once I was able to text several gotta-vent comments to my husband about the experience, I was able to move on. But for the rest of that day, any time I had to take off my cardigan and expose my shoulders, arms and chest, I felt acute awareness of my skinny body.
Bottom line: bashing people for being skinny is not cool. And I just want to type that aloud on my keyboard.
This is the part where some people probably say, “Oh, I feel sooooo “sorry” for you being “too skinny”” since folks who are thin aren’t encouraged to complain about their body image, and that’s generally the feedback I hear.
But why can’t we talk through our emotions without being judged, and without judging others? Why do we have a built-in tendency to use other people’s experiences as a statement upon ourselves (as I did while listening, and as she did while looking at Cher)?
So, I’m skinny. There are reasons for this, very normal reasons and less normal reasons. I’ve been skinny my whole life. And when I had a breast removed and chemotherapy, I got even thinner. Now that I’ve gained some of my body back, I feel pretty good about it, and even looking at my chest in the mirror makes me feel proud and beautiful. Funny that it took a stupid string of comments to make me want to cover up. Obviously there is a window of insecurity within my own body image.
Anyhow, I just want to say that it’s okay to be skinny if you are skinny. It’s okay to gain or lose weight in healthy ways, and for reasons that are often beyond our control. It’s okay to have wrinkles or a baby face. It’s okay to stand up straight. it’s okay to chew your nails. It’s okay to style your hair. It’s okay to go without makeup.
It’s okay to say you love your body.
It’s okay to say you struggle with your body image, too, whatever shape you are.
And it was okay for me to feel really, really pissed off when I heard all that garbage being said.
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