If you know anything about me, it’s that I am plugged into social media all the time. If you’ve seen a meme or news story, there’s a good chance I’ve already seen it. Some of that is because I have a smartphone that allows me to check social media and news sites all day long (think of all the wait time there is in a day). Mostly it’s because not only am I very curious but I’m also easily distracted. (Think Squirrel! and you have me at about half intensity. Just ask Mister Soandso.) You also know that I sometimes use profanity. Today is one of those times. Proceed with caution, yo.
So this morning, I checked in on Twitter as I waited for the coffee to do its thing. I follow a gent by the name of Matt Staggs. Mostly he posts cool stories he finds on the internet, but sometimes he posts stuff that’s going on in his life. And this morning he tweeted about what was going on in his life right at that moment.
Matt walked into his favorite coffee shop, Cups Flowood, and witnessed a customer berating the barista, Susan, about her weight. Berating as in “How much do you weigh? Do you go to art museums? Would you call yourself Rubenesque?”
For the record, Matt posted Susan’s picture on Twitter and I can say with 100% certainty that she is adorable. But even if she weighed hundreds of pounds over whatever the hell is a healthy BMI, who asks a person that sort of thing? I suppose the man in question could possibly be on a social disorder spectrum, but my guess is that any diagnosis needed would simply be this: the guy is an ass.
Let me put this out there in very simple terms: don’t talk about people’s bodies. Ever. Because when you do, you hurt them. No matter how they respond – perhaps with a laugh or by ignoring you, you have hurt them. And that makes you no better than the bullies stealing lunch money of yesteryear or the bullies spreading lies on the internet of today.
This isn’t the first story about commenting on other people’s bodies I’ve heard this week. If I looked for it, I’d probably be able to do a 15 second web search and come up with 100s of stories. Just this week I read on Facebook about a woman snidely commenting to her friend that the woman in line ahead of them should be ashamed to wear yoga pants with a “ass that size.” The woman in question turned around and told the snarky bitch that she was actually feeling pretty good in her yoga pants and about the size of her ass seeing as how she had recently lost 80 pounds through hard work.
Stories like Susan’s and the yoga-pants lady are everywhere. In fact, each of us has our own. A time when somebody decided to tear us down by being mean.
I once dated a young man who worked very hard at wooing me. When he decided that he’d rather go back to his old girlfriend, he told me that she was better for him and that he had decided that my body just wasn’t good enough for him to be with, although I did “have a pretty face.” Yeah, the door hit him in the ass on his way out too.
And while I chalked it up to a college boy who was immature and not worth my time, and it has become a standing joke between my husband and I, it did hurt.
Because it hurts to be judged. No matter who you are, what gender you are, what size you are, how you are.
And as someone who has battled a variety of eating disorders since I was 11 years old, that hurt is an ache that never, ever leaves. Every day I look in the mirror I see what that mean frat-boy saw…someone not worthy enough, regardless of my “pretty face”. As if the sum of the other parts was too great a deficit to overcome.
I look at Matt’s tiny digital picture of Susan, standing there behind the counter at the place where she goes to work every day making other people feel better via a cup of coffee or whatever they need, and my heart breaks. Because no matter how many people tell Susan that she is beautiful or how much someone loves her and adores her just the way she is, she will always remember the day that some guy asked her if she goes to museums based on her size.
Susan, I’m sorry. I’m sorry we live in a world where people can tear us down and then walk away without another thought. I’m sorry that as women we are always judged as “better” based on the number on our jeans. I’m sorry that our worth comes down not to the deeds we do and the people we help, but by our size.
I have a 9 year old daughter. Today she is a tiny little thing. She is healthy and athletic and thinks of her body as just the thing that makes it so she can spin on the bars at the playground or run after a soccer ball. Her body is just the vehicle for getting her where she wants to go.
I really hope that she never learns to hate her body enough to starve it. I really hope she never learns to sit on the sidelines rather than run simply because she worries that people will judge her. And I really hope she never has a stranger make fun of her body.
But if a stranger ever does, she has my permission to kick him/her in the ass.